Time To Get Rocking
The ECAC is all set to go, as this weekend four more teams take to the ice for the first time this season.
The defending ECAC champion St. Lawrence Saints visit enemy ice, something that they will do a lot this season. The Vermont Catamounts return to the ice for the first time since January in front of a sold-out Gutterson Fieldhouse. The Clarkson Golden Knights travel to Ohio to start their season, the Rensselaer Engineers are guests of traditional rival Boston University. Finally, the Ice Breaker runner-up Colgate opens up at Starr Rink.
This season, the St. Lawrence Saints will spend a lot of time travelling. The Saints have a 32-game schedule, as is the norm in the ECAC (aside from the Ivy League schools) and of those 32 games, the Saints only play one nonconference home game. That comes the first weekend of November, when the Saints host Quinnipiac. In total, the Saints have 12 home games this season and will play 20 on the road.
Saint road contests include a pair at North Dakota, a pair at Michigan, a potential matchup with Maine in the Black Bear Classic, and a first-round meeting with Notre Dame in the Rensselaer/HSBC Holiday Hockey Tournament after opening the season this Friday at Northeastern.
“Some people thought I lost my mind a little bit,” joked head coach Joe Marsh. “We don’t have a lot of home games — maybe that’s a good thing, especially if we’re not playing well.”
But in all seriousness…
“It’s going to be tough and looking back at last year, that Wisconsin series was the better series in terms of what it did to our team — and we didn’t win a game,” Marsh added about the series. “It was a confidence-builder; the tie on that second night felt like a win, and it started our run.”
And what a run, as the Saints went 18-1-0 after that series until falling to Boston College in the national semifinal.
You would have to understand if the citizens of Burlington are anxious. After all, their Vermont Catamounts have not been on the ice since January 8. This Saturday the Cats and everyone in their community look to put the past behind them and get on with one of the lifelines of the UVM community — ice hockey.
“Last year was a pretty tough thing to go through,” said head coach Mike Gilligan. “But what it did do was show our great fans in Burlington how important hockey is to the community and the University.
“And the kids are dying — they’re hungry to play and I’m hungry to coach. The fans are hungry to get back in the building, so we’re very excited about what’s going to happen.”
It’s time to look at the Cats in the light of the 2000-2001 season. The Cats open up against some more Cats, the Ice Breaker champion New Hampshire Wildcats. Gilligan returns 18 players to a lineup that ended the season with a win and a tie.
But there is also a need to go back to the past, as the Cats will honor their 1969-1970 ECAC Division II champions, coached by Jim Cross. The entire team is expected to attend.
Confronting The Unknown
Both Clarkson and Rensselaer enter this season with a lot of questions, and when the two teams hit the ice this weekend perhaps some of those will be answered. At least, if you listen to head coaches Mark Morris and Dan Fridgen, they seem to have that on their minds.
— SLU coach Joe Marsh, on scheduling his squad’s road-heavy season
“This will be a teaching year,” said Engineer coach Fridgen.
“It will be a great year for us to do some coaching,” echoed the Golden Knights’ Morris.
The Engineers lost nine from their squad from last year, including five of their top seven scorers and their starting goaltending duo. Two freshman goaltenders and seven more freshman skaters will head into Walter Brown Arena against the seventh-ranked Boston University Terriers to experience their first taste of college hockey.
“We’ll tell early as far as where we stand,” said Fridgen. “BU is an excellent measuring stick. The last couple of years we’ve been able to get a victory and this year it will be a tough one. It’s going to be important that we learn quickly in order to be competitive in our league.”
The Golden Knights will also go on the road as they play a pair at Miami this weekend. The Knights return 18 this year, but only four of them are seniors, so with seven freshmen in the mix as well, the Knights certainly do have a lot of questions.
“We’re looking to improve and one of the best things about our profession is teaching things to people,” said Morris.
We’ve Only Just Begun
The Colgate Red Raiders have already played twice this season. They tied the second-ranked Michigan Wolverines at Yost in the Ice Breaker and advanced to the championship game by winning the shootout 2-0. The next night, the Red Raiders held the 2-1 lead late into the second period before New Hampshire came back to put it away at the beginning of the third.
“I thought it was pretty good for our first game,” said head coach Don Vaughan. “A lot of special-teams play is going to slow it down a bit. When the ice was good and we were playing five-on-five, for our first night, I thought it was pretty good.”
The special-teams factor was large. The Red Raiders had to contend with 19 shorthanded situations in 125 minutes of play and allowed two power play goals.
This week, the Red Raiders open at home against Sacred Heart.
USCHO covers the ECAC all week long on the ECAC Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.