This Week in the ECAC: January 10, 1997

ECAC PREVIEW: Jan. 10-11, 1997 ECAC Preview: Jan. 10-11, 1997 by Jayson Moy

There is a saying about television serials that can be applied to the ECAC: if you miss an episode, you have no idea what is going on when you tune back in.

In this case, an episode is a weekend, and in the topsy-turvy world of the ECAC, a lot has changed — once again.

As always, there are winners and losers in each full weekend of ECAC action, and this weekend there were three big winners: Vermont, Union and Colgate. All three swept their weekend opponents, thus earning the vital four points apiece: Vermont over Harvard and Brown, Union over Yale and Princeton, and Colgate over Clarkson and St. Lawrence.

There were also the teams that got swept — Yale to Union and RPI, and Brown to Vermont and Dartmouth.

And then there are those that only managed one point, such as Cornell, and St. Lawrence, and five teams earned two points (RPI, Clarkson, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton). All of this created a lot of movement in the ECAC standings, but Princeton remains on top of the league.

ECAC Standings

It’s time for some teams to catch up on the number of games played, and it’s also time for some teams to play their last league games for a few weeks. Despite a limited slate of action this week, but there are some interesting matchups.

Vermont (12-5-0, 4-3-0 ECAC, T-8th) and Dartmouth (8-5-0, 3-4-0 ECAC, 11th) at Princeton (12-4-2, 7-3-1 ECAC, 1st) Friday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.-5 p.m., Baker Rink, Princeton, N.J. Dartmouth (8-5-0, 3-4-0 ECAC, 11th) and Vermont (12-5-0, 4-3-0 ECAC, T-8th) at Yale (4-8-2, 3-7-1 ECAC, 10th) Friday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.-7 p.m., Ingalls Rink, New Haven, Conn.

Dartmouth lost ground this past weekend, tumbling to eleventh place with a split. Nonetheless, the Big Green were not far from a sweep, beating Brown 6-4 and then losing in overtime to Harvard, 3-2.

The Big Green will once again throw the freshman goaltending pair of Jason Wong and Eric Almon at ECAC foes this weekend. Wong continues to lead the ECAC with a 2.46 GAA, and Almon made 43 saves in the overtime loss.

Look for the Big Green to continue their splendid penalty killing this weekend. After allowing nine power play chances in the two games this weekend, the Big Green did not allow a single power-play goal. Overall the penalty-kill is at 84.5 percent, and the Big Green have scored four shorthanded goals.

The Catamounts of Vermont earned their first sweep in ECAC action this past weekend with victories over Harvard and Brown, 5-1 and 4-3, respectively. In the process, Vermont broke a five-game Friday losing streak.

"We feel better about life in general," said head coach Mike Gilligan.

Eric Perrin scored four goals this weekend, including a hat trick against Harvard. This was part of a six-point weekend. His partner Martin St. Louis added four assists.

"They are our go-to guys," said Gilligan. "And we’ve spread out some scoring." That scoring was represented this past weekend by Stephane Piche (two goals), Matt Sanders, Jan Kloboucek and Eric Lundin. But the Cats have a tough test as they travel to Princeton and Yale this weekend.

"[Princeton’s] forwards will swarm us, and their defense is underrated," said Gilligan. "And Yale has a great first forward line.

"Both Princeton and Yale have played better hockey than people have thought. We expect that they’re better teams than they’ve had in recent years."

Princeton’s 6-0 shutout of RPI gave the Tigers first place, but a 6-4 loss to Union did not allow the Tigers to extend their lead.

"When you look at it closely, we’re on top," said head coach Don Cahoon. "When you take a good, hard look, we’re in the middle of the pack."

While sitting atop the standings, the Tigers trail RPI, percentage-wise, for first place. The "middle of the pack" refers to special teams, where the Tigers are eighth on the power play (19.8 percent) and sixth on the penalty-kill (82.6 percent).

"We have a lot of areas we want to improve upon," said Cahoon. "We want to do a good job with our special teams, but there’s room to improve there."

Dartmouth held Brown and Harvard without a power-play goal, and Vermont’s potent power play — featuring the French Connection of St. Louis and Perrin — has Cahoon worried.

"They’re five hundred points into their career, so I don’t know if you can keep them in check. Last year (on Feb. 24) we played them very well five-on-five, and I think St. Louis scored three shorthanded goals. In the third period, I wanted to decline penalties."

In fact, it wasn’t quite three shorthanded goals. The last one came just as a penalty ended, but all three came on breakaways, and in similar style, with St. Louis breaking off the bench or the penalty box, receiving a pass at center ice, and going in alone on the goalie. No matter how you slice it, it was an incredible performance.

Yale lost ground quickly in the ECAC, falling from third to tenth in just two weekends. Losses to Union, 2-1, and RPI, 7-2, did not help the Bulldogs.

Yale’s top line was mentioned by Mike Gilligan as a line to be careful of. But last weekend the line of Matt Cumming, Jeff Hamilton and Geoff Kufta was held to one point, a goal by Kufta against RPI. Hamilton, nevertheless, has emerged as the favorite for the ECAC Rookie of the Year.

While Yale seems to have turned some things around, it needs to improve its special-teams play. Yale is dead last on the penalty-kill in the ECAC, both overall and in the league. The PK is at 72.5 percent overall, and 67.4 percent in the league. With good power plays facing the Bulldogs this weekend, these numbers must pick up.

Meanwhile, the power play is not faring well either, at 19.7 percent overall and 19.2 percent in the ECAC. The Bulldogs have scored five fewer goals on the power play than they have given up.

PICKS: Vermont at Princeton: Both of the coaches said it above, noting the swarming forwards of Princeton and the great line of the French Connection. There is also the spread of scoring that Vermont will hope to get. Defense plays a role, but this game is won on special teams. It’s a close one, but we have to go with the resurgent Catamounts. Vermont 5 Princeton 2

Dartmouth at Yale: Another game that will be won on special teams, and Dartmouth has the better of the units. Dartmouth 6 Yale 2

Dartmouth at Princeton: The swarming forwards of Princeton are too much for Dartmouth, but the Big Green will keep it close. Princeton 3 Dartmouth 2

Vermont at Yale: Yale continues to lose distance to the rest of the pack. Vermont 7 Yale 1

Union (9-8-1, 4-4-1 ECAC, 7th) and RPI (10-5-2, 5-2-1 ECAC, 5th) at Harvard (6-8-2, 5-5-2 ECAC, 4th) Friday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.-7 p.m., Bright Hockey Center, Cambridge, Mass.

RPI (10-5-2, 5-2-1 ECAC, 5th) and Union (9-8-1, 4-4-1 ECAC, 7th) at Brown (2-12-1, 1-9-1 ECAC, 12th) Friday-Saturday, 7:30p.m.-7 p.m., Meehan Auditorium, Providence, R.I.

Union was one of the big winners in the ECAC last weekend with its victories over Yale and Princeton, which propelled the Dutchmen up into seventh place.

Union finally got a key ingredient going this past weekend — balanced scoring. Of the eight goals scored this weekend, there were seven different goalscorers. Of significance was that the Dutchmen’s two leading goal scorers, John Sicinski and Brent Ozarowski, did not score at all, meaning others were picking up the offense, something that Union was sorely lacking.

Combining the offense with Union’s defense — the Dutchmen have allowed the fewest goals in ECAC play — and the spectacular goaltending of Trevor Koenig, and the Dutchmen are to be feared.

RPI’s seven-game unbeaten streak was unceremoniously broken when Princeton pitched a shutout; but then RPI came back with a 7-2 whitewashing of Yale. RPI’s two ECAC losses are both shutouts.

Injuries will continue to hurt RPI with Mark Murphy nursing a sore shoulder. Murphy was the second-leading scorer for the Engineers before the RPI tournament, but has now fallen to sixth.

The good news from the injury is that other Engineers have picked up the scoring slack. The first line of Eric Healey, Alain St. Hilaire and Matt Garver continues to be red hot, combining for three goals in the win over Yale.

The other lines have also picked up the scoring pace, most notably Doug Battaglia, Steve Caley and ECAC Rookie of the Week Pete Gardiner. Battaglia added his fourth goal in as many games on Saturday, and Gardiner picked up a goal and three assists.

Harvard came close to getting swept on the weekend before scoring three unanswered goals, including the overtime winner by Doug Sproule to beat Dartmouth 3-2. The Crimson had lost to Vermont 5-1 the night before.

Harvard’s offensive woes continue with four goals scored over the weekend. Harvard is now averaging 2.375 goals per game, a league-low.

It also seems that the Crimson’s power play woes may be on again. After starting the season two-for-two, Harvard followed up with no power play goals in 55 chances, before a 5-for-13 streak ensued. But in Harvard’s last four games, the Crimson have no power-play goals in 13 chances.

Crimson fans should see J.R. Prestifilippo in goal once again this weekend. He has started all 12 ECAC games for the Crimson, and has a 2.71 GAA, and a .898 save percentage. His 2.71 GAA is very solid, but dims in view of Harvard 2.50 goals per game. That could spell disaster for the Crimson.

The Bears of Brown played Vermont tough, but once again came out on the short end of the stick, losing 4-3. Coupled with the 6-4 loss to Dartmouth, and the Bears see the distance between the rest of the league and themselves widening. In order to get back on track in the league this weekend, the Bears must continue certain things.

One of those is balanced scoring. Six different Bears scored goals this weekend, and Brown is starting to get its offensive stars scoring together. Damian Prescott and Mike Flynn both scored on the weekend, and one gets the sense that Brown could be ready to break out.

Another area is the power play. The Bears lead the ECAC in power-play percentage with a 25.3 percent mark.

"Our power play has actually been moving the puck very well, and we generate shots on it," said Brown coach Bob Gaudet. "But the puck hasn’t been fired in the back of the net as much as we’d like. We’ve had plenty of opportunities on it."

Areas of weakness include the defense, which can lead to mental weakness, according to Gaudet.

"We’re actually a pretty solid hockey team," he said. "What happens is, in a game we get down by a goal or a couple of goals, and the guys work really hard, and then mentally we seem to go south a little bit."

PICKS: Union at Harvard: Harvard has shut out Union for three consecutive games. There is a revenge factor here — the last time Union used that emotion, it beat Princeton last week. Vengeance is a great tool, and it works here. Union 4 Harvard 2

RPI at Brown: Same deal here, but Brown doesn’t have the defense to stop the speedy RPI forwards. Also, Mark Murphy is expected back, and that only means bad news for the Bears. RPI 6 Brown 2

RPI at Harvard: RPI usually has trouble with defensive, swarming teams. Unfortunately for them, Harvard isn’t one of those. RPI 5 Harvard 2

Union at Brown: If Brown can play defense, it will stop Union. If Union can play offense, it will stop Brown. Which is the choice? The latter. Union 3 Brown 1

St. Lawrence (8-9-2, 3-4-2 ECAC, T-8th) and Clarkson (10-7-0, 5-4-0 ECAC, 6th) at New Hampshire (15-4-0, 10-2-0 Hockey East, 2nd) Friday-Saturday, 7 p.m., Whittemore Center, Durham, N.H.

Clarkson (10-7-0, 5-4-0 ECAC, 6th) and St. Lawrence (8-9-2, 3-4-2 ECAC, T-8th) at Mass-Lowell (9-9-0, 7-5-0 Hockey East, 3rd) Friday-Saturday, 7 p.m., Tully Forum, North Billerica, Mass.

Clarkson almost had three points this weekend, but an overtime loss to Colgate, 3-2, prevented that. Clarkson defeated Cornell soundly, 5-2, the next evening.

The offensive stars for the Golden Knights continue to take turns. Last weekend it was Chris Clark. Clark tallied five goals: two against Colgate, and the hat trick against Cornell.

For Clarkson to continue to move in the standings, it must get offensive from everywhere, as the Golden Knights have shown they can.

The power play also continues to click for Clarkson. The Golden Knights lead the league with a 26.9 percent mark. This past weekend the they were five of ten with the man advantage.

The Saints found life good again after the return of Clint Owen from a suspension. Two tournament titles and a hard fought 1-1 tie against Cornell were the immediate results. A seven-game unbeaten streak ended with a 4-2 loss to Colgate the next evening.

Unfortunately for the Saints, Owen went down with an injury against Cornell. It is not known if he will be available this weekend or not.

New Hampshire’s 14-game winning streak came to an abrupt end against Boston University this past weekend with two losses, 9-4, and 3-2 in overtime.

The story that accompanies can be summed up in three words — offense, offense, offense.

Six Wildcats have more than 20 points on the season: Jason Krog (12-20–32), Mark Mowers (14-13–27), Eric Boguniecki (10-16–26), Eric Nickulas (16-9–25), Tom Nolan (11-11–22) and Derek Bekar (11-10–21). Those numbers should make any opposing coach cringe when he has to face this Wildcat team.

Mass-Lowell split a pair of games this weekend, defeating Boston College 6-4, and losing to Maine 8-5.

Lowell got some good offense from a number of people this past weekend. Ryan Sandholm scored three times and freshman Greg Koehler scored twice. Goals were also added by Craig Brown, John Campbell, Kevin Bertram, Chris Bell, Marc Salsman and Neil Donovan.

Martin Fillion was sharp on Friday, but was chased from the nets by Maine on Saturday evening.

PICKS: St. Lawrence at New Hampshire: Can St. Lawrence stop UNH’s offense? Not after a motivating sweep by BU. New Hampshire 7 St. Lawrence 3

Clarkson at UMass-Lowell: There is a balance of scoring power from both ends, but the superstar in Todd White helps Clarkson to a win. Clarkson 5 Mass-Lowell 3

Clarkson at New Hampshire: This one should be an offensive showcase of talent and skating. New Hampshire 9 Clarkson 7

St. Lawrence at UMass-Lowell: Clint Owen can make a difference, and he will if he plays. St. Lawrence 4 Mass-Lowell 2 if Owen plays; if not, Mass-Lowell 4 St. Lawrence 2

Army (9-8-1, 2-8-1 major D-I) at Colgate (10-7-1, 6-4-1 ECAC, 3rd) and Cornell (8-4-2, 6-3-2 ECAC, 2nd) Friday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.-7 p.m., Starr Rink and Lynah Rink, Hamilton and Ithaca, N.Y.

Army returned to action last weekend after a one-month layoff, and lost to Merrimack 5-1. The Cadets are led on offense by Frank Fede (10-14–24), Andy Lundbohm (8-10–18), Greg Buckmeier (5-12–17) and Bill Morrison (5-11–16).

In goal is Daryl Chamberlain, and, as chronicled before, Chamberlain is having a sub-par season so far. His 3.95 GAA and .873 save percentage are well below his career averages.

Colgate was a big winner this weekend, gaining four points with victories over Clarkson and St. Lawrence.

One of the keys that Colgate hopes to take into this weekend is its ability to stay out of the penalty box. The Red Raiders were concerned about taking too many penalties, and this past weekend only gave opponents six power plays. This is a marked improvement over the past several weeks.

Dan Brenzavich was also spectacular this weekend. He stopped 79 of 83 shots and was named the ECAC Player of the Week. We can expect Brenzavich to continue his run this weekend, though we might also see freshman Shep Harder in net.

Cornell is in trouble in the ECAC, all of a sudden. Despite only gaining two points in its last four ECAC games, it has only fallen to second place in the standings. This past weekend saw a tie against St. Lawrence and a loss to Clarkson.

Part of it has to do with Cornell’s power play. The Big Red have fallen more than five percentage points in their last four games in the ECAC. The special teams were the single most important factor in the Big Red’s run to the NCAA Tournament last year.

It definitely has nothing to do with sophomore goalie Jean-Marc Pelletier. He made 37 saves against St. Lawrence and was named to the ECAC honor roll this week. Pelletier has a sparkling 2.44 GAA and a .924 save percentage, second-best among ECAC goaltenders.

Cornell did bounce back from its one-point weekend with an impressive 3-3 tie at No. 1 Michigan in Ann Arbor on Tuesday night. It’s a far cry from last year, when the Red were pummelled, 11-0, by eventual national runner-up Colorado College during a mid-season non-league game.

PICKS: Army at Colgate: Colgate has too much firepower for the Cadets. Colgate 7 Army 1

Army at Cornell: Cornell has too much firepower for the Cadets. Cornell 7 Army 1

There is a light slate of ECAC action as the teams wind down for exams and catch up on games in hand.

Next week in the ECAC (league games in bold):

Friday, Jan. 17 and Saturday, Jan. 18 Clarkson/St. Lawrence at Dartmouth/Vermont Air Force at Brown

Saturday, Jan. 18 Union at RPI Cornell at Colgate Niagara at Yale Colgate at Bowling Green

Tuesday, Jan. 21 Yale at UMass-Lowell Dartmouth at Providence

Jayson Moy is the ECAC Correspondent for US College Hockey Online.

Copyright 1996 Jayson Moy . All Rights Reserved.

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