ECAC Preview: Jan. 31-Feb. 3, 1997 by Jayson Moy
The color red. On this weekend of Chinese New Year, it symbolizes good fortune. One wears red to bring good luck to oneself and one’s family.
Oh yes, one more thing. Red is also the primary color of the two teams situated in first place in the ECAC standings — Cornell and RPI. Those two will need all the fortune they can get when they take to the ice and try to hang on to the lead this coming weekend.
It was a wild weekend in the ECAC, with Cornell and RPI emerging atop the standings. Both teams swept their opponents: Princeton and Yale, and Harvard and Brown, respectively — the first time since November that both swept an ECAC weekend.
Vermont won the rematch with Clarkson, and with another victory on Saturday against St. Lawrence, the Cats reached third place. Princeton’s win on Saturday over Colgate helped it remain tied for third place. Clarkson’s split this weekend left the Golden Knights in fifth.
With only six points separating the league’s top eight teams, every contest is an exciting one. The marquee matchups this week occur on Saturday: first, the USCHO Game of the Week, RPI at Clarkson, and then Cornell at Vermont.
We also have our first possible playoff clinches this week. If RPI and Cornell can get a combination of four points involving Yale and Dartmouth, both teams are in.
RPI (14-7-3, 9-3-2 ECAC, T-1st) and Union (13-9-2, 6-6-2 ECAC, T-7th) at St. Lawrence (9-15-2, 4-8-2 ECAC, 9th) Friday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.-7 p.m., Appleton Arena, Canton, N.Y.
Union (13-9-2, 6-6-2 ECAC, T-7th) and RPI (14-7-3, 9-3-2 ECAC, T-1st) at Clarkson (16-8-0, 9-5-0 ECAC, 5th) Friday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m. – 7 p.m., Cheel Arena, Potsdam, N.Y.
RPI is in a tie for first place, after a weekend sweep of Harvard and Brown, 5-2 and 6-1 respectively. On Friday, the Engineers let Harvard get out to a 2-0 lead 1:25 into the first period.
"We spotted them two goals on the first two shifts of the game," said head coach Dan Fridgen. "I thought we did a good job of chipping away and not losing our composure.
"Even though its tough playing comeback hockey, it happened so early in the game, you just gotta realize there’s a lot of the game left and just chip away."
RPI came back to win it, and freshman goaltender Scott Prekaski made 64 consecutive saves in his ECAC Rookie of the Week performance, his second of the season.
Saturday was nothing like Friday, when RPI jumped on the board with an Eric Healey goal 12 seconds into the game.
"I thought, right from the drop of the puck, the guys were ready to play the game," said Fridgen. "It certainly showed."
Healey moved up to third in the ECAC scoring race with five points on the weekend. Among those were his 50th career goal and 100th career point.
Meanwhile, Union came from a 2-0 deficit of its own, this one in the third period, to defeat Brown on Friday night, 4-2.
"We’re happy we could come from behind to get a victory," said head coach Stan Moore. "We haven’t done that all season long." The next evening, Union trounced Army 8-1.
"We decided to squeeze five periods of hockey into three periods," said Moore. "We only played 15 solid minutes of hockey the night before."
This coming weekend will be Moore’s first North Country trip as a head coach.
"It’s my home area," said the Massena, N.Y. native. "It will be delightful to go back there.
"I remember watching games at Walker and Appleton when I was a kid," he reminisced about the old Clarkson rink and St. Lawrence’s rink. "It’s a toss-up as to which has the best atmosphere."
Union’s opponent Friday is Clarkson, the school where his father, Stan Moore Sr., played hockey.
Against the Golden Knights, the younger Moore is hoping for a goaltending game, and he might just get it, since Trevor Koenig and Dan Murphy are two of the statistical leaders in the ECAC.
St. Lawrence jumped on Dartmouth 6-1 on Friday, and endured its second one-goal loss to Vermont the night after.
"It was a great hockey game," said head coach Joe Marsh about the Vermont matchup. "In the first two periods, we couldn’t have played any better. It would have been nice to get a couple of points from the game [though]."
Marsh knows that this weekend will be a tough one.
"RPI’s had a phenomenal year," he said. "They’re capable offensively. Union is a very tough team. They’re strong, physical and they have great goaltending."
"Hopefully we’ll emphasize the positives from last weekend," said Marsh. "It’ll be whether we’re able to muster some offense. We’re spreading out our scoring pretty well, but we have to emphasize defense first. We’re also not really burying them either.
"I think we’re a better team than our record shows."
The Golden Knights of Clarkson were also victims of Vermont this past weekend.
"It was their turn," said head coach Mark Morris. "(Tim) Thomas was sensational, he was dynamite. We dominated the game. We stole one there (a 2-1 win two weeks ago at Vermont), they stole one here."
Clarkson then rebounded with a 6-4 win over a pesky Dartmouth squad.
"Saturday we came out flat," said Morris. "After we got on the scoresheet, we seemed to come alive."
Clarkson shut out RPI 4-0 in the teams’ first meeting, and were upset by Union 2-1.
"(Union’s) got a strong club with their 12 seniors," said Morris. "We have three seniors that play regularly, and some of our younger guys have to keep their heads.
"RPI’s going great; they’ve turned things around. There’s no doubt that they’ll be a sharper club this time around.
"We’d like to continue to play solid hockey, and there’s no doubt we’d like to get other guys (than Todd White and Chris Clark) into the scoring."
PICKS: RPI at St. Lawrence: This game has traditionally been low-scoring at Appleton. With either Scott Prekaski or Joel Laing in net facing Clint Owen, it could be again. RPI 3 St. Lawrence 1
Union at Clarkson: These two battled to a 2-1 game at Achilles Rink. As Stan Moore points out, what you hope for you don’t always get. This one will be high-scoring, and Clarkson has the edge there. Clarkson 7 Union 5
Union at St. Lawrence: This is where the goaltending game will occur. With Appleton as the arena, and atmosphere playing a role, the teams battle to a tough tie. Union 2 St. Lawrence 2
RPI at Clarkson: One of the marquee matchups on the ECAC agenda this week, as the two highest offenses in the ECAC go after each other at Cheel. RPI has only won once in the 90′s in Potsdam, but are 1-1-1 at Cheel Arena. RPI has also not swept a series in the North Country since 1984-85, the Engineers’ last NCAA championship season.
But Todd White is a force, and it’s up to RPI’s defense to hold him down. RPI has already defeated Vermont and Cornell on the road, so the crowd may not be a factor. Also, Clarkson has a better road record than a home record. Which way to go with this one? Everything points against RPI. Clarkson 4 RPI 3
Cornell (12-5-4, 9-3-2 ECAC, T-1st) and Colgate (13-10-1, 7-6-1 ECAC, 6th) at Dartmouth (9-11-1, 4-9-1 ECAC, T-10th) Friday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.-7 p.m., Thompson Arena, Hanover, N.H.
Colgate (13-10-1, 7-6-1 ECAC, 6th) and Cornell (12-5-4, 9-3-2 ECAC, T-1st) at Vermont (17-6-1, 9-4-1 ECAC, T-3rd) Friday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.-7 p.m., Gutterson Fieldhouse, Burlington, Vt.
Cornell’s weekend sweep of Princeton and Yale vaulted the Big Red into first place for the second time this season, and they did it by getting contributions from many different players.
On offense, Keith Peach had two goals in the 4-2 win over Princeton. On defense, it was Jean-Marc Pelletier earning his first career shutout, making 28 saves in the 5-0 win over Yale.
Earlier in the year Cornell swept Vermont and Dartmouth, 6-4 and 6-3 respectively. This time around, the Big Red head to Vermont and Dartmouth for the weekend.
The Big Red have not lost to Vermont in the Cathouse since the 1990-91 season, and not in Hanover since the 1992-93 season. Cornell is 5-2-3 in its last 10 games and 4-0-2 the last three seasons on this road trip.
Colgate managed two points this past weekend, defeating Yale 5-2, but losing to Princeton by the same score. Mike Harder had a goal and two assists against Yale, but was held pointless against the Tigers.
This weekend the Red Raiders go to Gutterson Fieldhouse, where they have not scored a goal in two years. In the last two games at the Cathouse, Colgate has been shut out, 7-0 and 3-0, victims of Vermont goaltender Tim Thomas.
Dartmouth was swept on the weekend by St. Lawrence and Clarkson, 6-1 and 6-4 respectively.
"Friday we did not play well," said head coach Roger Demment. "We had trouble getting the right skate on the right foot.
"We played a good game on Saturday," he added, "But they scored on the power play when it we had a 2-0 lead. Three of the six goals were on tip-ins or deflections."
Dartmouth heads home this weekend, to play during its annual Winter Carnival.
"Playing in out home rink is good," Demment said. "It’s Winter Carnival weekend, and the crowd should be excited. In our own rink, playing the way we do there, we certainly have to play defensive hockey, and if we can, we’ll get a couple of points.
"Solid defense is what we’re after," he added. "We’re giving up too many goals. We thought we’d have trouble scoring this year, but that hasn’t been a problem."
The Big Green have scored 49 goals in ECAC play, but have given up the second-most in the league: 63.
"This was the first time I can remember sweeping this trip," remarked Vermont head coach Mike Gilligan, on the wins at Clarkson and St. Lawrence.
There’s good reason for that: it was the first time it has ever happened. Never before have the Catamounts swept the Golden Knights and Saints on the road.
Gilligan is feeling better about his team while it climbs the ECAC standings.
"We’re making fewer unforced errors than we were," he said. "Even though we may spend a lot of time in our own end, I’m a lot more comfortable with it than I was at the beginning of the year."
Cornell and Colgate are on the Cats’ docket this weekend.
"Cornell has good balance, and good team defense," said Gilligan. "And with Mike Harder (of Colgate) I won’t try to get my fourth line get caught out there against him."
PICKS: Cornell at Dartmouth: Cornell will find a way to score against Dartmouth — actually, the Big Red always seem to find a way to score. Cornell 5 Dartmouth 3
Colgate at Vermont: Colgate will find a way to score at Vermont, too, but not enough. Vermont 6 Colgate 3
Colgate at Dartmouth: Can Dartmouth play the defense to stop Mike Harder? Colgate 5 Dartmouth 2
Cornell at Vermont: Four balanced lines to throw at the French Connection. If Cornell can slow down the neutral zone, it can shut them down. Vermont 4 Cornell 2
Yale (7-13-2, 4-10-1 ECAC, T-10th) at Harvard (7-11-2, 6-7-2 ECAC, T-7th) Friday, 7:30 p.m., Bright Hockey Center, Cambridge, Mass.
Yale dropped a pair this past weekend to Colgate and Cornell.
The Bulldogs have continued to struggle to get scoring in the ECAC; in their six league games in 1997, they have only managed 10 goals. Included in this total is a five-goal performance in a win over Dartmouth, Yale’s only ECAC win in 1997, and two shutouts.
Speaking of trouble scoring goals, the Crimson of Harvard came back after a three-week layoff with a good performance against UNH:five goals. Harvard also started strong against RPI, scoring two goals in 1:25 to open up the game, but failed to hold on to the lead. In the Beanpot against BU, Harvard scored one goal.
Despite this, head coach Ronn Tomassoni feels good about his club.
"What I liked about my players tonight is that we’re gaining more and more confidence," he said after Friday’s game at RPI. "We’re playing well. We think we can play with anyone, [and] this team’s ready to go on a roll."
PICK: On paper, this looks like a low-scoring affair. The two teams battled to a 2-2 tie earlier this season. Yale 2 Harvard 2
Princeton (14-6-2, 9-5-1 ECAC, T-3rd) at Brown (5-15-2, 2-12-1 ECAC, 12th) Saturday, 2 p.m., Meehan Auditorium, Providence, R.I.
Princeton lost its first-place standing after falling to Cornell on Friday night. The Tigers responded with a 5-2 victory over Colgate the next night.
"We did not play well against Cornell," said head coach Don Cahoon. "We looked like a team that was off for 20 days, but that’s not an excuse.
"I have to applaud the kids on Saturday. They realized they did not play well and made a concerted effort on Saturday."
Princeton is at a slight disadvantage, only playing one game this weekend. That game in hand might put the Tigers further back in the standings if they do not get points.
"All we’ve got to do is the best we can do," said Cahoon about the single game.
Brown is in last place, and continues to fight adversity. The Bears lost Adrian Smith to a knee injury against Union. They also lost Tyler Garrow to injury. The Bears have seven games left to try to make the playoffs.
"Brown is fighting for their lives," said Cahoon. "We’ve been in that situation before, and you can only go out and take care of things."
PICK: Brown tied Princeton earlier this season, but without Smith, the offense loses one of its hottest players. Princeton 4 Brown 1
The Beanpot — Consolation Game Harvard (7-11-2, 6-7-2 ECAC, T-7th) vs. Northeastern (6-19-2, 2-13-1 Hockey East, 9th) Monday, 5 p.m., Fleet Center, Boston, Mass.
No one likes to play in a consolation game, especially the consolation of the Beanpot.
Northeastern broke a string of seven straight consolation games with a victory over Harvard in the semifinals last year. Also, Harvard is in its third straight consolation game, and is looking for its first victory in seven games in the Beanpot.
These two teams have met once this season already, with Harvard winning 4-3.
PICK: Will there be scoring here? Both teams were 1-1 going into the third period in the Beanpot semis before letting it get away. Therefore, the third period will be the key. Harvard 3 Northeastern 1
Hold onto your hats, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages. Three weeks to go, and everybody is even in games played. Troy, Princeton, and Ithaca are the cities of note next week.
Next week in the ECAC:
Friday, Feb. 14: Clarkson at Princeton St. Lawrence at Yale Dartmouth at RPI Vermont at Union Harvard at Cornell Brown at Colgate
Saturday, Feb. 15: Clarkson at Yale St. Lawrence at Princeton Dartmouth at Union Vermont at RPI Harvard at Colgate Brown at Cornell
Jayson Moy is the ECAC Correspondent for US College Hockey Online.
Copyright 1996 Jayson Moy . All Rights Reserved.
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USCHO covers the ECAC all week long on the ECAC Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.