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This Week in the ECAC

College Hockey:
This Week in ECAC Hockey: Feb. 5, 2009

Out West there’s brawling, the CHA’s falling, the North Country’s calling, pink’s oh-so-dahling, and the temperature’s falling …

… my rhymes are appalling. Enough with the stalling!

Reactions to Western Incidents

Unless you’ve been living in … well, ok, anywhere without college hockey … for the last couple weeks, you’ve doubtlessly caught wind of the events that recently went down in the CCHA and WCHA.

To whit, Denver coach George Gwozdecky was ejected from a game against North Dakota, and proceeded to walk across the ice to chat with/berate (depending on your point of view) the officials before returning to his bench, and his locker room. (He also coached via headset from the press box after his dismissal, which led to a one-game suspension. What’s next, a fake mustache and a pair of sunglasses?)

And out in Michigan, beleaguered Wolverine Steve Kampfer was assaulted for the second time this season. First it was one of his own school’s football players; now it’s Michigan State’s Andrew Conboy and Corey Tropp. Both players were suspended for the remainder of the season by MSU; Conboy elected to leave school in the wake of the judgment.

So how is it that the East has been spared these kinds of shameful occurrences so far?

“It’s not that we’ve been able to avoid them, it’s perhaps that on the grand scale … our punishments, or our suspensions have not been as earth-shattering or as headline-making,” said ECAC Hockey Director of Officiating Paul Stewart. “We did have a suspension of a player last week (Rensselaer’s Erik Burgdoerfer) … and there are several plays that last weekend have been reviewed, and forthcoming will be some supplemental discipline.”

ECAC Hockey, Atlantic Hockey, Hockey East, and even the American Hockey League (AHL, farm league to the NHL) share officials, which leads to a sense of uniformity and continuity across the region.

“I think that these guys are starting to affect one another, and I think that can be for the good. [Heads of officiating Eugene Binda in the AHA, Hockey East's Richard Decaprio, and I] have been around officiating for a long time, and are able to get across a message of what this game is supposed to be about.”

In a game that runs on emotion and split-second decisions, however, Stewart and league commissioner Steve Hagwell agree that there is little that can be done in the way of prevention; it’s a matter of reaction that best defines their system.

“In the heat of the moment, things are going to happen, and you deal with things as they do [happen],” said Hagwell. “If I was taking the other side of the coin in the argument, [these incidents are] rare, and that’s why they are front-page news. Just for games that we assign officials for, we have 200-plus games a year, on the men’s and women’s side, and how often [do these situations] happen? It doesn’t happen very often. Do they occur? Sure. Do we have issues that happen and incidents that occur that we have to deal with? Sure. But for the most part, student-athletes in our league and the other leagues play hard, play within the rules and treat each other with respect 99 percent of the time.”

Stewart, a veteran player and career official, is also working with the Russian KHL to train and develop their own officials, and sees a stark difference between theirs and ours. He stresses that an important component — possibly the only component — of incident prevention is in the referees’ ability to assess and defuse situations before they combust.

“We encourage our officials to use a little bit more of their human feeling, and … to bring their experience — as great or as little as it might be — into the game situations so that there’s some degree of understanding between the coaches and the players and the officials on what’s going on out there,” he said. “You know it’s easy to stick by the book. Watching the Russians referee, they’ve only ever read the book, and they don’t necessarily interpret the book.

“The end result is that we’ve had pretty good cooperation from the coaches and the players, and I think the officials, and to that end it’s pretty good. It’s not perfect, but never will it be. There appears to be a general satisfaction with where we’re going, but not necessarily where we’re at.”

For the record, when ECAC Hockey hands down a punishment, there is of course a protocol that both leads and follows the decision. First, Stewart is apprised of the incident in question. He then gathers evidence in the form of eyewitness testimony from coaches or league administrators who were present, as well as video whenever possible. Stewart then makes a recommendation to Hagwell, who will then make his decision.

The offender’s program is notified, and has the right to appeal to the Executive Committee, which is composed of three administrators from within the league. The committee then holds the power to uphold, reduce, or rescind the Commissioner’s decision.

Whither the CHA?

The CHA is soon to be no more. The four-team mini-league — composed of Alabama-Huntsville, Bemidji State, Niagara and Robert Morris — is breaking up as the teams seek admittance into the remaining five leagues. At the present time, BSU has applied to join the WCHA; Niagara and RMU have received approval to join Atlantic Hockey, and Alabama-Huntsville is awaiting word on its applications to both the WCHA and CCHA.

Obviously, the ECAC appears unaffected as far as membership is concerned.

“We talked about expansion recently, given the changing landscape of college hockey,” said the Commish. “Having added Quinnipiac a few years back, at that time we said we wanted to let things settle and see how it goes, and right now … from a league standpoint, we’re comfortable with 12 teams and certainly things can change down the road, but we’re comfortable where we are right now.”

North Country Showdown

Another year, another rivalry weekend in the Great White North.

This time around, St. Lawrence is riding a three-game winning streak and feeling pretty good about its chances. The Saints are 7-2-1 since the break, scoring 43 goals to their opponents’ 25 … and in case you hadn’t heard, they laid a whoopin’ on imposing Cornell, hammering the Big Red 8-1 last Friday.

The Golden Knights, meanwhile, are finally getting healthy. Despite a loss and tie last weekend, ‘Tech is still 4-1-1 in its last six, potting 17 goals in the process (including four consecutive 4-3 victories, three of which came in overtime).

“I guess the best way to look at it is we’re in the thick of it and we never thought we weren’t,” said Saints head coach Joe Marsh, “and I’d think that Clarkson feels the same way. They played very well against Cornell and they’re playing hard, and we were fortunate to win the first two games (in early January). So there’s a certain incentive there, and these games have a little more to them because these are the league games, you know?”

Clarkson head coach George Roll places less credit for his team’s turnaround on its health than on its work habits.

“I think our work ethic’s good, and that’s been the difference more than anything. Injuries, that’s part of the game, and there’s no excuse for how we played early in the year. But I think we’re a much better team than we were three weeks ago or four weeks ago,” he said.

“I think we got to the point where we weren’t going to allow guys to get away with it. I think we held guys accountable, where if they didn’t work they weren’t going to play, and we had to sit a couple guys and I think they got the message through to the rest of the team. All the little things that go into winning hockey games, we’d gotten away from. We’re not doing those things anymore.”

Both coaches heaped praise on their seniors for leading the way through choppy starts.

“Our seniors have played extremely well — Chris D’Alvise, Shea Guthrie, and Phil Paquet — in the last couple weeks [Paquet] is finally healthy and playing the way he’s capable,” said Roll. “I do attribute a lot of [our play] to our leaders, our upperclassmen. Our juniors and seniors have made a commitment that they’re not going to go out on a bad note, and they’ve been the ones that have been around for us.”

“If you look at the strength of our team, we’ve got some pretty good seniors,” echoed Marsh. “(Brock) McBride, (Kevin) DeVirgilio … McBride’s playing out of his mind, and he’s a great defensive forward on top of that. He’s a tremendous competitor.

“With (senior forward Casey) Parenteau out, we’ll rely pretty heavily on DeVirgilio and McBride. If you look back at our D-corps, we have four senior defensemen who can shoot the puck. (Zach) Miscovik obviously has fabulous numbers, he’s creating goals. We scored I think almost 30 goals from our defense; that’s a pretty good number from your d-corps, over a goal a game. We’ve been a pretty good offensive transition team, but we have to be as good if not better going the other way.”

Parenteau is likely out for the season, according to his coach. The Minnesotan had a career-high 15 assists, with eight goals in 26 games before getting hurt against Colgate on Saturday. Parenteau is currently second on the team in scoring.

“It’s a tough injury for us; Parenteau’s had a great year and is a really good two-way player; good penalty-killing, good power-play guy, real intelligent guy … you just feel so bad for him, and that line had been really clicking. So I guess the big thing is we just keep working,” lamented Marsh.

Clarkson will be seeking revenge for last month’s non-conference sweep at the hands of its North Country neighbors, and with the surging Saints offense now in a state of transition, it may be the perfect opportunity for the Knights to get a couple back in the win column.

“Three weeks ago, they swept us. We played very poorly down there, and they played very well. Again we struggled to score goals, but these are the ones that matter,” said Roll. “Both league games, and both teams have an opportunity to move up so I think it’s a pivotal weekend for both teams.”

“We have a lot of respect for Clarkson. I think they’re a much better team than their record shows,” said Marsh.

If these teams know anyone, it’s each other. Lace ‘em up tight, this show never disappoints.

Award Nominees

Congrats to a number of national award candidates representing ECAC Hockey.

Colgate’s Ethan Cox is one of 21 nominees for the BNY Mellon Hockey Humanitarian Award again this year, after being a finalist in last year’s voting. An integral member of Hamilton’s community service sector, the junior has raised over $12,000 in cash and donated items, and has helped other programs raise $25,000 for the American Cancer Society.

Dartmouth sophomore Adam Estoclet, Brown junior Dan Rosen, Yale junior Sean Backman, and Quinnipiac senior David Marshall are among 16 nominees for the 2009 Walter Brown Award, presented annually to the best American-born college hockey player in New England.

To save our best for last, the Hobey Baker candidates: Mark Arcobello and Sean Backman from Yale; Harvard’s Alex Biega; Union Dutchmen Lane Caffaro and Adam Presizniuk; Zane Kalemba, Mark Magnowski and Brett Wilson of Princeton; Bryan Leitch from Quinnipiac; Brock McBride at St. Lawrence; and of course Cornell’s Ben Scrivens. Cast your votes early and often at www.HobeyBaker.com/voting.

Pink at the Rink

ECAC Hockey is running another year of Pink at the Rink to benefit the American Cancer Society and Hockey Coaches Care.

This time around, teams will don special black-and-pink jerseys for their home games between February 20th and 28th. The sweaters are up for auction at www.ECACHockeyCoachesVsCancer.com, starting at 9 a.m. Feb. 6 and running through 5 p.m. March 4. Players will autograph their own game-worn jerseys, which start at $150 and will also be open for bidding in arena concourse lobbies. The promotion is also slated to feature sales of bracelets, 50/50 drawings, and more.

Coaches will be wearing their most stylish pink neckties over these two weekends as well. Don’t be afraid to bid, fellas: not only are these jerseys one-of-a-kind and game-worn, but they’ll also exhibit your fashionable, sensitive side. Ladies, the apparel works for you too; the pink is a cute, classy touch, and the jersey itself demonstrates your incredibly desirable love of ECAC hockey.

It’s a win-win-win, the league’s first-ever six-point weekends.

USCHO covers the ECAC all week long on the ECAC Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.


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