Happy New Year to all and for some ECAC teams, the new year is a chance to turn things around or to try to keep the momentum going. At this point in time, let’s take a look at the 12 ECAC teams as 2001 hits.
Harvard (6-7-1, 5-3-1 ECAC, 1st)
The Crimson seems to be transforming into a competitive squad under Mark Mazzoleni’s tutelage. Despite the two recent losses to Colorado College over holiday break, Harvard has shown marked improvement both defensively and offensively through its first 14 games. The freshmen class, highlighted by Tyler Kolarik, Rob Fried and Tim Pettit, has already made an impact and will only get better over time.
Veteran players such as Chris Bala, Steve Moore, Peter Capouch and Dom Moore have also returned to the lineup stronger and quicker than ever before. The only drawbacks for the Crimson at this stage are health and depth — especially on the defensive end.
Limitations such as these can be overlooked against weaker teams, but the Colorado series made it very clear that Harvard, although getting closer each season, is still a few years away from being a real powerhouse.
First Half MVP – Oliver Jonas. After three years of patiently waiting in the wings, Oliver Jonas took over between the Harvard pipes this season. With a depleted defensive corps returning for the Crimson and not really knowing what to expect from Jonas, the senior netminder has more than proven his importance to this team. Jonas has posted a 2.83 goals-against-average, .920 save percentage and is averaging 33 saves per game. To put his numbers in perspective, if he plays in 13 more games, at the same pace, he will break the single-season record (844 by J.R. Prestifillippo in 96-97).
Surprise of the First Half – The penalty kill. The importance of the Crimson’s shorthanded unit cannot be overstated. The team has not only neutralized its opponents advantage (as of December 17, the Crimson’s penalty kill was ranked fourth in the nation with a 91% success rate), but it has turned its shorthanded unit into an offensive weapon with four shorthanded tallies to its credit.
High Point of the First Half – Breaking into the national rankings. The Crimson achieved that feat after knocking off Clarkson and Brown over a two-week period.
Low Point of the First Half – Blowing a three-goal lead late in the game to Vermont and losing in the waning seconds of regulation. The Crimson had played a great game for 60 minutes before falling victim to tired legs and a pumped up UVM squad. With only five healthy defensemen on the ice (Graham Morrell left the game midway through the second period after reinjuring his shoulder), the Crimson allowed four unanswered goals in final period. The team has dropped three in a row since that loss.
Vermont (9-4-0, 5-0-0 ECAC, T-2nd)
A little less than a year ago at this time, the Vermont players were cleaning out their lockers and heading into one of the most trying spring semesters of their lives. Fast forward and you’ll find a bunch of jubilant young players who are enjoying hockey more than ever before.
Defying all the critics, the Catamounts have bounced back from their controversial 1999-2000 season to rise into the national rankings. It has been consistent hockey which has allowed Vermont to post nine wins thus far, including five in ECAC play. We figured that redemption for a season lost would keep this team alive for the first half of the year. In the midst of another winning streak, it appears that redemption has been replaced by sheer momentum.
First Half MVP – J.F. Caudron. Vermont head coach Mike Gilligan says that Caudron has “offensive flair.” Whatever you choose to call it, the senior forward has picked up the scoring reigns for the Catamounts and currently leads his team with nine goals and 10 assists. More importantly, Caudron has proven to be an offensive stalwart as he has figured into the scoring in all games thus far.
Surprise of the First Half – A 9-2 record over the past two months. No one really figured that Vermont would be a contender, let alone a midseason favorite for regular season champion. The Catamounts have single-handedly proven that the ECAC is once again the most unpredictable conference in the country.
High Point of the First Half – The 5-3 come-from-behind victory over Harvard in front of a sold-out Gutterson Fieldhouse. Following that victory – one in which the team scored four unanswered goals in the third period — the Vermont players were partying as if they had just won the national championship. That celebration was not only about a fifth conference win. It was also affirmation for the players and coaches that they were a legitimate contender. That contest was one of the first in which the players were forced to dig deep and find a way to win down the stretch.
Low Point of the First Half – Facing the rowdy crowds and inquisitive media this season was perhaps the most challenging and intimidating experience for the Vermont players. The anxiety over returning to the ice after having a season suspended increased exponentially by sarcastic jeers from opposing crowds and the multitude of questions asked by the media each day. Unlike the other players in the league, the Catamounts were not always allowed the luxury of looking forward, for they were always drawn back into the past.
Princeton (5-7-3, 4-4-2 ECAC, T-2nd)
The Tigers weren’t strapped with high expectations this season and perhaps that’s the reason why some are surprised to see the team’s name amidst the top the ECAC standings right now.
The key has been that where they have faltered, they have also managed to stay on their feet. Want some evidence? Home ties against St. Lawrence and Clarkson; a home and home split with Yale; weekend splits with Dartmouth/Vermont and Colgate/Cornell. They still aren’t the best team in the league, but they have managed to pull out a positive every weekend. And considering how tightly contested this league is year-in and year-out, that may count for something down the line.
First Half MVP – Kirk Lamb. There is no denying that Kirk Lamb has played true to his billing. Two years ago, Lamb suited up midway through the season and showed signs of offensive potential. Princeton faithful promised that he would emerge as the Tigers offensive weapon. As a senior captain, Lamb is certainly leading the way for the Tigers and proving himself a consummate playmaker. Lamb currently leads all teammates with 18 points, including three power-play goals. More importantly, Lamb continues to be the emotional leader for this squad.
Surprise of the First Half – The goaltending tandem of Dave Stathos and Nate Nomeland has proven to be an effective combination for Quesnelle. Stathos came out this year as the starter and quickly showed that he was capable of having a strong year as evidenced by the 77 saves he made en route to a two-point weekend against Clarkson and St. Lawrence. As a sophomore, Nomeland has come up big at times as well. As you may recall, Nomeland was the man between the pipes during Princeton’s victories against Dartmouth and Colgate. They may not be in the same category as the Roy-Hughes combo of ECAC past, but they have kept Princeton afloat so far this season.
High Point of the First Half – Hanging on in the third period to beat Yale, 3-1, in front of a rowdy sold-out crowd at the Whale. Heading into that contest, the Tigers had lost three games in the previous two weeks in the final minutes of regulation. That crucial league win against their travel partner helped the Tigers shrug off what had been their third period curse.
Low Point of the First Half – Unfortunately for the Tigers, the low point has to be the team’s current non-league slide. The consecutive third period losses earlier this season were tough, but the team has given up 23 goals in the last four games. Most recently, the Tigers were pounded with 60 shots by North Dakota en route to a 5-4 loss in the consolation game of the Badger Showdown. In-league games have never looked so good.
Cornell (6-4-2, 4-1-1 ECAC, 4th)
The Big Red went down as the first “Big Four” school to lose to the MAAC, but that is now in the distant past. At 4-1-1 in the ECAC and allowing the fewest goals, the Big Red are poised to take the second half by storm and move back to the top of the ECAC.
First Half MVP – The goaltending trio of Ian Burt, Matt Underhill and Chris Gartman. Burt has a 1.79 GAA and a .922 save percentage, Underhill has a 1.96 GAA and a .919 save percentage and Gartman has a 2.79 GAA and a .900 save percentage. Those three have allowed the Big Red to work through scoring difficulties and pushed the Red to wins. In six ECAC games, the trio has allowed seven goals, Burt’s GAA is 0.48, Underhill’s 1.34 and Gartman’s 2.00.
Surprise of the First Half – A pretty consistent three-goaltender rotation. It hasn’t been a perfect rotation, but Burt, and Gartman have all gotten at least two starts on the season. Lately Gartman looks like the possible man out, so we’ll see if the second half continues with the time-sharing.
High Point of the First Half – A home sweep of Yale and Princeton at the beginning of December. The sweep set the Big Red up nicely in the ECAC at 4-1-1 and with games in hand, the Big Red can go get the others in the league in the second half.
Low Point of the First Half – The opening game of the season and the 5-3 loss to Sacred Heart. The Big Red became the first “Big Four” school to lose to a MAAC school and will forever go down in the annals of college hockey for it.
Yale (6-6-0, 4-6-0 ECAC, 5th)
It’s sort of been up and down for Yale thus far in the season. The season opened with wins over nationally ranked Boston College and New Hampshire, and then a four game tailspin ended with the last game before the break and a win over Union. The Elis went into the break on a high note and are hoping to capitalize on that, but they face Michigan State to open up the second half. Talk about daunting.
First Half MVP – Jeff Hamilton. Is there any other choice besides Jeff Hamilton? The senior forward returned to college hockey as if he never lost a step. Hamilton leads the league with 22 points as he anchors one of the best offensive lines in the league. Hamilton is averaging 1.83 points per game and has scored in all but two games this year. Those two games also happen to represent two ECAC losses for the Elis against Cornell and Vermont. It’s the same story as two years ago, Hamilton is the lynch pin for the Elis. As Jeff Hamilton goes, so goes Yale.
Surprise of the First Half – The fact that Dan Lombard has played every single game and that no one else has seen action between the pipes for the Bulldogs. We guess he’ll be the stalwart back there and right now he’s got a 6-6-0 record, a .881 save percentage and a 3.89 GAA.
High Point of the First Half – A nice 5-2 start to the season with wins over Boston College and New Hampshire to start out the season. The Bulldogs cracked the polls and were exceeding everyone’s predictions. But that was followed by a four game losing streak.
Low Point of the First Half – That four-game losing streak — all within the ECAC. The Bulldogs lost the back end of a home and home, at home, against Princeton, then got swept at Cornell and Colgate, and dropped a game to Rensselaer in which they were leading 3-1 headed into the third, tied it at 4-4 in the third, but lost it with 1:06 remaining. The Bulldogs did rebound the next night with a 4-3 win over Union.
Union (6-5-3, 3-2-1 ECAC, T-6th)
The Dutchmen moved as high as No. 11 in the USCHO.com poll in November, but right after that, the Dutchmen have only won one game. They have gone 1-4-3 since that No. 11 ranking and were winless in December and are now searching for the answers that seemed there in November.
First Half MVP – Brandon Snee. If it wasn’t for him, no one knows where the Dutchmen would be. Despite the 6-4-3 record, he has a .920 save percentage and a 2.49 GAA. He has stood on his head and given the Dutchmen a chance each and every night. Note that the Dutchmen’s last four losses have all been by one goal.
Surprise of the First Half – The 6-1-1 start. No one expected the Dutchmen to have six wins before December. But it happened and it made believers out of fans, observers and most importantly the Dutchmen. The Dutchmen are hoping to get back to that point in the second half.
High Point of the First Half – Killing off three five-on-three power plays in the third period and scoring twice to break a 2-2 tie in defeating Rensselaer to open up the ECAC season. The Dutchmen showed grit and determination as they opened up the ECAC on a high note.
Low Point of the First Half – The recent 1-4-3 streak. Sure the Dutchmen lost 8-0 to Providence, but the inability to win lately and four one-goal losses are giving the Dutchmen an ill feeling right now.
Rensselaer (9-4-1, 3-2-1 ECAC, T-6th)
The Engineers started out the season up and then down and then up and then down. The Engineers started the season at 3-3 before putting together their most recent string of 6-1-1 heading into 2001. Despite the loss this past week in their own tournament, the Engineers are coming together.
First Half MVP – Matt Murley. Murley has put together a fantastic season thus far, gathering 13 goals and 10 assists. His 13 goals surpasses last year’s goal total of nine and he remains the major offensive threat on the number one line with Nolan Graham and Carson Butterwick.
Surprise of the First Half – Jim Vickers. Vickers has come out of nowhere to lead all Engineer defensemen in scoring (4-10– 14) after finishing his first two seasons with a total of six assists. A pleasant surprise for the Engineers back on the blueline.
High Point of the First Half – A four goal comeback in the third period to defeat Yale, 5-4. Matt Murley’s goal with 1:06 left in the game gave the Engineers the win after entering the third period down 3-1 and looking left for the dead. The Engineers went on to explode for four goals in the first period the next night against Princeton for a ECAC weekend sweep heading into the holidays.
Low Point of the First Half – The inability to convert on three separate five-on-three oppportunities in the third period and then allowing a power play goal in that third period to lose to Union, 4-2, after a 2-2 tie going into the third period.
St. Lawrence (5-7-3, 2-1-2 ECAC, 8th)
The first half of the season saw the Saints take on a murderous schedule with only four games at home and games on the road at powerhouses Maine, North Dakota and Michigan. The Saints though, are 2-1-2 in the ECAC and that’s where it will count in the second half of the season. The Saints are getting great play from their upperclassmen and the underclassmen are starting to contribute and the Saints should be a force in the second half.
First Half MVP – Erik Anderson. The senior captain leads by example. He makes those around him better and he makes the team gel. He can take over a game and he can get the Saints to where they want to be. He is the man in Canton right now.
Surprise of the First Half – There were no real big surprises for the Saints in the first half. Perhaps the biggest “surprise” would be that those wondering who would fill the shoes of Derek Gustafson have seen that Jeremy Symington is up to the challenge.
High Point of the First Half – Winning the Rensselaer/HSBC Holiday Hockey Tournament. The first semester of games was tough for the Saints, but the two wins in Troy show that the Saints will be a force come the second half of the season.
Low Point of the First Half – Getting pasted by Clarkson, 7-2, at home in November. The Saints were in this game early, but it went south from there. The Saints are looking at a certain Tuesday night in February to exact revenge.
Clarkson (5-5-3, 1-2-2 ECAC, T-9th)
The Golden Knights are young and learning as the season goes on. They’ve been up and down all season showing signs of brilliance and signs of youth at the same time. They are a hard team to judge right now, but as everyone knows, the Knights will be there in the second half.
First Half MVP – Kent Huskins. He leads by example on the blueline. He leads the team in scoring (2-11–13) and has held his team through each game this season.
Surprise of the First Half – The emergence of Dave Reid as an offensive force from the blueline. The sophomore is tied with defense-mate Huskins for the lead in points in the season.
High Point of the First Half – Going over to the barn of arch-rival St. Lawrence and spanking them, 7-2. The Knights led 3-1 after one period and never looked back with Shawn Grant playing marvelously in goal.
Low Point of the First Half – A one point home weekend at the beginning of December where the Knights tied Brown and lost to Harvard.
Colgate (3-11-3, 2-4-0 ECAC, T-9th)
It has been a rough first half of the season for the Red Raiders. It started out great as the Red Raiders tied Michigan in the Ice Breaker and then were tied with New Hampshire through two periods of play and then things started to fall apart. Colgate has won three times this season, wins coming over Sacred Heart, Brown and Yale. The Red Raiders know that things can only go up in the second half.
First Half MVP – Sean Nolan and Cory Murphy. The two lead the Red Raiders and if not for them, things might even be bleaker for the Red Raiders at the present moment.
Surprise of the First Half – Scooter Smith. He didn’t make a huge impact last year as a freshman, but this year he has seven goals and 10 assists and is third on the team in scoring. The Red Raiders have come to rely on him and his future continues to look bright.
High Point of the First Half – A 6-2 win over Yale at home to close out the ECAC season in the first half. The Red Raiders badly needed to recover and found themselves scoring in bunches as they bested the Bulldogs at Starr.
Low Point of the First Half – After gaining momentum with the 6-2 win over Yale, the Red Raiders were shellacked at UMass-Lowell, 7-2.
Dartmouth (4-7-0, 1-3-0 ECAC, T-11th)
It hasn’t exactly been the dream season that Dartmouth was hoping for back in September. For the first time in years, the Big Green finally appeared ready to break into the top echelon of the league. Four months later, the team has only two points, sits at the bottom of standings alongside Brown and is wondering what happened. Despite the record, the team has shown signs of marked improvement over the past few weeks. Head coach Bob Gaudet possesses the ingredients of a solid team — it’s just taking longer to mold the pieces together. Look for the Big Green to dig itself out of its first half hole come 2001.
First Half MVP – Trevor Byrne. The sophomore defenseman is probably the main reason that the Big Green can do what they do. He controls the blue line and in turn controls how the Big Green attack. Case in point, Byrne made the play that set up the overtime goal against Maine.
Surprise of the First Half – The team’s record. The coaches predicted that Dartmouth would finish seventh, while we said that they had a decent chance to steal the title. No matter what side of the fence you were on back in September, no one expected the Big Green to struggle as they have through the 2000 portion of their season.
High Point of the First Half – The 2-1 overtime win over Maine. The Big Green were 1-5 heading into this game and played marvelously on their own ice. Pete Summerfelt scored the goal and with that game, the Big Green are 3-2 since then and starting to find their rythym. A great win, especially coming off of the …
Low Point of the First Half – The 6-0 loss to Princeton. That defeat capped off a 0-for weekend for the Big Green and dropped them to 1-3 in league games and 1-5 overall. The most frustrating part of that game was that Dartmouth didn’t play that badly. They simply got behind early and started pressing. It was a clear sign that the Big Green players were reeling, and much like their fans, could not understand why they were struggling so much.
Brown (1-8-2, 0-6-2 ECAC, T-11th)
The Bears are tied for last place in the league standings. The team had two moments in which it looked like it may break through and start winning some games, but to no avail. With almost half of the season gone, the Bears are staring at a 0-6-2 league record. The team isn’t loaded with talent, but they are certainly a better team that they have shown thus far. Do or die time has come about quickly for the Bears. With four straight ECAC games coming up in January, the team will have to make a move quickly or else kiss good-bye its chances of making the playoffs.
First Half MVP – Matt Kohansky. He’s the only Brown player who has broken double digits in scoring.
Surprise of the First Half – After opening the season with a disappointing 3-0 loss to Harvard, the Bears turned around and beat nationally ranked Providence the next evening. A victory for Brown is always welcome, but one against a cross-town rival is even sweeter. The five-goal output also gave the team some hope that its offense could finish — something which was a huge question mark for Grillo entering this season.
High Point of the First Half – Going to the North Country and gaining two points on the road from Clarkson and St. Lawrence was a huge boost for Brown. It’s not often that a team can walk away from the North Country with six goals and two ties.
Low Point of the First Half – Not capitalizing on the momentum generated by the Providence win. Since that 5-0 win over the Friars, the Bears are winless in their last nine games and have been outscored by their opponents, 39-20.
If It’s So Easy, You Try It
The contest is back. Try and beat us — three have tried, three have failed.
The contest thus far:
Becky and Jayson d. Vic Brzozowski (10-2-2) – (8-5-1) Becky and Jayson d. Tayt Brooks (7-7-1) – (5-9-1) Becky and Jayson d. Michele Kelley (5-4-3) – (2-7-3)
If memory serves us right, there is a school in New Jersey with fans and players who want to make Hobey proud. This week, the challenger is a fan of the Princeton Tigers, C.J. Poux, and he steps into USCHO Stadium to try and defeat the Iron Columnists.
Friday, January 5
Rensselaer at Brown
C.J.’s Pick – My daughter and money went to RPI now they start paying me back. Rensselaer 4, Brown 2
Becky and Jayson – Rensselaer 5, Brown 2
Union at Harvard
C.J.’s Pick – Union not scoring well on the road. Harvard 3, Union 2
Becky and Jayson – Harvard 5, Union 1
Vermont at Dartmouth
C.J.’s Pick – Revenge factor … Nah! Vermont 3, Dartmouth 2
Becky and Jayson – Dartmouth 4, Vermont 2
Clarkson at MSU-Mankato
C.J.’s Pick – MSU-Mankato makes it six straight. MSU-Mankato 4, Clarkson 2
Becky and Jayson – Clarkson 5, MSU-Mankato 2
Yale at Michigan State
C.J.’s Pick – MSU lost its only game before Yale’s season started … Yale hasn’t played in almost a month. Michigan State 4, Yale 1
Becky and Jayson – Michigan State 5, Yale 2
Bowling Green at Princeton
C.J.’s Pick – If my Tigers can only get through the first period! Princeton 4, Bowling Green 3
Becky and Jayson – Princeton 5, Bowling Green 4
Saturday, January 6
Rensselaer at Harvard
C.J.’s Pick – What a weekend to watch college hockey at Bright! Rensselaer 4, Harvard 2
Becky and Jayson – Rensselaer 3, Harvard 0
Union at Brown
C.J.’s Pick – Brown’s woes continue. Union 3, Brown 1
Becky and Jayson – Union 4, Brown 2
Dartmouth at Vermont
C.J.’s Pick – Third game between these teams in a row … Hat trick in games for Vermont … Who scheduled this? Vermont 3, Dartmouth 1
Becky and Jayson – Vermont 6, Dartmouth 2
Clarkson at MSU-Mankato
C.J.’s Pick – Is Clarkson starting the usual second half of the season run? Clarkson 3, MSU-Mankato 2
Becky and Jayson – Clarkson 4, MSU-Mankato 2
Yale at Michigan State
C.J.’s Pick – Yale comes close to another big scalp. Michigan State 3, Yale 2
Becky and Jayson – Michigan State 4, Yale 1
Bowling Green at Princeton
C.J.’s Pick – Needed sweep for Tigers. Princeton 5, Bowling Green 2
Becky and Jayson – Bowling Green 4, Princeton 2
Mercyhurst at Colgate
C.J.’s Pick – Lakers play another ECAC team well. Mercyhurst 3, Colgate 2
Becky and Jayson – Colgate 4, Mercyhurst 1
Quinnipiac at Cornell
C.J.’s Pick – Cornell has played 10 of 12 at home … Quinnipiac is playing its eighth straight road game. Cornell 2, Quinnipiac 1
Becky and Jayson – Cornell 3, Quinnipiac 1
Tuesday, January 9
UMass-Lowell at Union
C.J.’s Pick – Union is back home! Union 4, UMass-Lowell 3
Becky and Jayson – UMass-Lowell 4, Union 2
And remember that if you are interested in putting your money where your mouth is, drop us an e-mail to be eligible to be chosen when C.J. bites the dust.
USCHO covers the ECAC all week long on the ECAC Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.