This Week in the ECAC: January 17, 1997

ECAC PREVIEW: Jan. 17-21, 1997 ECAC Preview: Jan. 17-21, 1997 by Jayson Moy

The ECAC world is turning once again, thanks to the past weekend’s action.

Only one team managed to get through the weekend with four points — the Vermont Catamounts. Every other team in league action came away with two points, except for Dartmouth, which was swept.

Vermont was the big mover. Four points catapults the Cats into an enviable position: sixth place, with games in hand over every single team ahead of them, from five (Harvard) to one (RPI). In fact, Vermont is in first place in terms of won-loss percentage.

Princeton remained on top of the ECAC, and temporarily widened its lead over inactive Cornell to three points. The Big Red, however, defeated Colgate on Tuesday, 3-2, to complete a season sweep of their travel partner and move back within a point of first with one game in hand.

RPI missed a chance to move into second, but Harvard’s defeat of RPI propelled the Crimson into third.

ECAC Standings

The next two weeks represent catch-up time for teams with games in hand. ECAC action involves six such teams this weekend.

Clarkson (12-7-0, 5-4-0 ECAC, 8th) and St. Lawrence (8-11-2, 3-4-2 ECAC, 10th) at Dartmouth (8-7-0, 3-6-0 ECAC, 11th) Friday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.-7 p.m., Thompson Arena, Hanover, N.H.

St. Lawrence (8-11-2, 3-4-2 ECAC, 10th) and Clarkson (12-7-0, 5-4-0 ECAC, 8th) at No. 8 Vermont (14-6-0, 6-3-0 ECAC, 6th) Friday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.-7 p.m., Gutterson Fieldhouse, Burlington, Vt.

Clarkson continued its domination of Hockey East teams with a weekend sweep of Mass-Lowell and New Hampshire, 5-0 and 5-2 respectively.

The two wins give the Golden Knights four in their last six contests, and one of the keys has been Todd White (pictured at right). The ECAC Player of the Week tallied four goals on the weekend, and has 13 points in his last six games. He is one of the leaders in the nation with 2.05 points per game.

Another top performer has been goaltender Dan Murphy (below). A second-team All-American last year, Murphy stopped 63 of 65 shots, earned his second shutout of the season against Mass-Lowell, and defeated UNH. Murphy has a GAA of 2.60 and a save percentage of .916.

But while White and Murphy have been on fire, head coach Mark Morris sees some things for his team to work on in the upcoming week as it prepares for Dartmouth and Vermont.

"We’ve been working on trying to be a more consistent team," he said. "We’ve beaten some of the better teams and we get in trouble with some of them, and we have to be more thorough."

The Golden Knights face a tough test this weekend at Dartmouth and Vermont. The game against the Catamounts is the marquee matchup on the ECAC docket this weekend.

"We played a similar game with an explosive team against UNH," Morris said. "We’re going to go right at them.

"Anytime you play them (Vermont star forwards Martin St. Louis and Eric Perrin), they’re always a threat. We’re going to try and take away their defensemen so that they can’t handle the puck."

The game against Vermont is Saturday, and Morris is cautioning his team not to overlook Dartmouth.

"Right now, we’re only looking at Dartmouth on Friday night," Morris said. "It’s always a tough league game, and we know that it will be a tough two points. We’ll concentrate on Vermont after Friday night’s game."

The Saints of St. Lawrence have the same teams this weekend. The Saints lost two on the road, 7-2 against UNH and 4-3 (OT) to Lowell.

"We lost a little discipline at Lowell," said head coach Joe Marsh. "It was a tough loss to take. At UNH, there was a five-goal difference, but we played well, and we didn’t finish."

Marsh expects Clint Owen in the nets this weekend. Owen was recovering from an aggravated groin this past weekend and did not play.

"He (Owen) certainly makes a big difference," said Marsh. "He solidifies our position, but it’s going to take a lot more than him. We know we have to continually play well."

The Saints get the tough task of Vermont on Friday night, and, as is usually the case, the conversation turned towards St. Louis and Perrin.

"We pay close attention to them," said Marsh. "I think you have to have a couple of lines that can try to stay with them, and pay attention to them. It gets tough because when you’re on the road, you don’t have the last line change. As for shadowing them, it’s hard to say. You have to pay attention to the other players as well. We don’t like to play clutch and grab, but you have to play defense."

Dartmouth awaits the Saints on Saturday.

"We squeaked by them at the tournament (a 3-2 win in the championship of the Auld Lang Syne Tournament)," Marsh said. "They’ve got good team speed, and it should be a battle between two similar teams. Our guys certainly know how tough a trip this is."

Vermont has won four straight ECAC contests and moved to sixth in the league standings. The Cats look to continue the momentum after sweeping Princeton and Yale, 3-2 and 3-0.

"We’re not sneaking up on anyone anymore," said head coach Mike Gilligan.

Vermont is continuing to get scoring from St. Louis and Perrin, but have seen a lift in scoring from others, too.

Two freshmen, Matt Sanders and Benoit Lampron, scored this past weekend. Sanders had a goal against Princeton, and Lampron scored his first two career goals against Yale. Lampron was rewarded for his performance with the ECAC Rookie of the Week award. Vermont also got goals from defensemen Jon Sorg and Pavel Navrat.

Look at the statistics, and take a wild guess at who is leading the ECAC in goaltending. It’s senior goaltender Tim Thomas.

In nine league games, Thomas has bounced right back to where he was predicted to be — the top of the goaltending statistics. Thomas leads the league in GAA (2.46) and save percentage (.925) following his 10th career shutout last Saturday, a school record.

Thomas made 25 saves against Yale to break Dave Reece’s mark of nine (1968-71), set back when the Cats were playing in the Division II ranks. He also is setting his sights at Vermont’s career GAA record of 2.76 (John Kiely, 1971-74) and career save percentage record of .908 (Christian Soucy, 1991-93).

Dartmouth missed a chance to move up in the standings by losing two league games this weekend to Yale and Princeton, 5-4 and 4-2 respectively. Now the Big Green face a big test in Clarkson and St. Lawrence.

"For us it’s a huge weekend," said head coach Roger Demment. "Especially after the huge setback we suffered this weekend."

Dartmouth faces Clarkson and Todd White on Friday. White is a huge concern for Demment, who has an interesting way to stop the All-America candidate.

"We’ll give him a bus ticket out of town," Demment joked. "We’ll try to keep him out with our checking line. I’m not sure which line I’m going to use. I have a couple of lines I want to try."

St. Lawrence is next in line for Dartmouth.

"We faced Clint Owen in the championship game (of the Auld Lang Syne)," said Demment. "I thought we had the better of the play, and we expect the same game, a tight one."

PICKS: Clarkson at Dartmouth: Whether Dartmouth can use a checking line against White and succeed is a huge question. White is on fire, and so is Clarkson — par for the course in the second half of the season. Clarkson 7 Dartmouth 3

St. Lawrence at Vermont: Owen does make a difference, but with Thomas hot in goal, it will take offense for the Saints to win. Vermont forges up the standings. Vermont 4 St. Lawrence 1

St. Lawrence at Dartmouth: Demment is right to expect a tight game. The freshman goaltending of Dartmouth has slipped a little in the past few games. St. Lawrence 2 Dartmouth 1

Clarkson at Vermont: Offense and more offense in this game. Oh yes, let’s not forget about Murphy and Thomas. Defense and more defense in this game. Which one is it? And who’s better at it? It’s a draw. Vermont 3 Clarkson 3

Union (11-8-1, 5-5-1 ECAC, 7th) at RPI (11-7-2, 6-3-1 ECAC, T-4th) Saturday, 7 p.m., RPI Fieldhouse, Troy, N.Y.

Union had a six-game winning streak after defeating Harvard 4-2 on Friday evening. It was snapped the next night when Brown took the game 4-2.

Union won the first meeting between the two teams with a 2-0 shutout. Trevor Koenig was spectacular in goal and the defense of Union played strong.

Craig Reckin and Russ Monteith scored those two goals, on Scott Prekaski. Both were of the fluke variety, one off a defenseman, and the other slipping through in slow motion. Union must continue to play strong defense in this heated rivalry.

RPI has now lost three of its last five. Wins over Brown and Yale are counterweighted with losses to Princeton, Harvard and Boston College.

One of the Engineers’ problems has been taking penalties at inopportune times. The Engineers have cut short a total of eight power plays in the last five games with penalties.

"You take a penalty, it kind of swings the momentum," said RPI coach Dan Fridgen. "At that point of the game you want to be thinking about offense, but when you take a penalty you’re thinking about defense."

RPI has also not taken advantage of opportunities to score in recent games.

"When you get opportunities to capitalize, you have to be mentally prepared to capitalize on those opportunities," said Fridgen. "When we’re hungrier, we can dictate the situations instead of being tentative."

PICK: Both teams are having trouble on offense. For Union it’s not a new story, for RPI it is. The last time RPI had trouble scoring, it was shutout three straight times. Union was in the middle of that shutout sandwich. RPI has home advantage here and it helps, but it’s still a low scoring game. RPI 3 Union 1

Air Force (6-12-1, 0-9-0 major D-I) at Brown (3-13-1, 2-10-1 ECAC, 12th) Friday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.-7 p.m., Meehan Auditorium, Providence, R.I.

To say that the Air Force Academy had a good weekend would be an understatement. The Falcons swept the Villanova Wildcats (one of the nation’s weakest programs on any level), 7-1 and 9-0.

The win on Friday marked a milestone for head coach Chuck Delich. Delich reached 155 wins, making him the all-time leader at Air Force. He surpasses John Matchefts in his 12th season at the helm.

In its whitewashing of Villanova, the Falcons outshot their opposition 133-18, with 11 different goal-scorers.

Brown got a much-needed win on Saturday by downing Union 4-2. It was only the Bears’ third win of the season, and could not have come at a better time. Brown takes a break in the ECAC schedule before coming back in two weeks, and it starts with some non-conference games.

Brian Audette took to the nets for the Union game and made 43 saves as he stopped the six-game winning streak of the Dutchmen. The Bears took a 3-0 lead before the Dutchmen came back, but Adrian Smith closed the door with an empty-net goal.

Adrian Smith was on fire this weekend, tallying five points — two assists against RPI, and one goal and two assists against the Dutchmen.

PICKS: Brown gets two more needed wins and starts to get untracked. Brown in a sweep: 7-2, 5-1

Niagara (10-6-2, 0-2-0 major D-I) at Yale (5-9-2, 4-7-1 ECAC, 9th) Saturday, 3 p.m., Ingalls Rink, New Haven, Conn.

Niagara is playing a Division III ECAC West schedule in its first season as a Division I team, and as a new ice hockey program. The school has recently made overtures about forming a new Division I hockey conference, with schools like Villanova, Quinnipiac, Sacred Heart and Iona.

Head coach Blaise MacDonald knows that there is a lot of work to be done with the new program, but he likes what he sees so far.

"It’s been going much better than I anticipated," said MacDonald. "I have a team of 25 freshmen, and that’s what makes it a great year to this point. They’ve shown that they’re very coachable, they want to learn, and that’s how they approach every game."

"The toughest part is that there are no upperclassmen," he added. "Sometimes on the bench I have to be the coach, cheerleader, and the captain of the team."

The Purple Eagles face their second major Division I opponent in Yale on Saturday. They earlier dropped a pair of games to Air Force.

"(Playing Yale) will be a huge difference," McDonald said. "This will be an eye-opener for our kids. We haven’t played that level of competition. The speed and transition game will be the toughest. It will help us next year. We’re playing 12 games against Division I teams.

"We’re just going to break the game down in segments. Warm-ups, then five minutes a period. It’s easier for a young team to focus on small segments. We’re going to make mistakes. It’s just what you do with those mistakes."

Yale has seen its fortunes rise and fall in its last 12 games. After upsetting Cornell, 4-3, it has won three times — Brown, Air Force and Dartmouth — and tied powerful Boston University. The Bulldogs have also lost seven games. In the span, the Bulldogs have gone from third place in the ECAC to ninth.

A once-hot Jeff Hamilton has only had three points since the beginning of December, all in the Denver Cup tournament. Keith McCullough has taken over the scoring lead from Hamilton with two goals on Friday evening against Dartmouth in a 5-4 win. His efforts were noticed on the ECAC Honor Roll this week.

PICK: Yale is struggling, but Niagara is young, and not Division I caliber yet. Yale 6 Niagara 1

Colgate (11-8-1, 6-5-1 ECAC, T-4th) at Bowling Green (11-11-2, 7-9-2 CCHA, 5th) Saturday, 7 p.m., BGSU Ice Arena, Bowling Green, Oh.

Colgate put on an offensive show after falling behind Army 5-1 on Friday. Four goals starting in the latter stages of the second period gave Colgate a chance to win it in overtime. Then John Dance, a defenseman, came up with the game-winner at 2:49 of the extra period.

Colgate has started to get on track after suffering through some rough times in the ECAC, despite a loss Tuesday to Cornell. The Red Raiders were one of the teams that swept its last ECAC weekend, and they played strong games against Clarkson and St. Lawrence in the wins.

In order for Colgate to be successful, it needs to have Mike Harder and company going. Harder was strong on Friday night; he scored the game-tying goal with less than four minutes remaining.

Bowling Green has certainly seen the ups and downs this season. After starting off 6-0, the Falcons are 4-11-2. That’s been a mystery to head coach Buddy Powers — missed opportunities and chances have hurt, but there are some positives.

"Our team all year long has been this way," said Powers. "We have great periods, we don’t give up any good chances.

"I’m more concerned with our club," Powers continued. "You continue to see things, you can’t expect things to change like that."

PICK: Colgate has a long way to go for one road game. Despite this, the Red Raiders are playing with more consistency than the Falcons. Colgate 5 Bowling Green 2

Yale (5-9-2, 4-7-1 ECAC, 9th) at UMass-Lowell (10-10-0, 7-5-0 Hockey East, 3rd) Tuesday, 7 p.m., Tully Forum, N. Billerica, Mass.

Yale is previewed above.

After getting shut out by Clarkson 5-0, the River Hawks rebounded with a 4-3 overtime win over St. Lawrence. Freshman Greg Koehler continues to garner support for Hockey East Rookie of the Year honors, scoring the overtime goal with 41 seconds remaining.

Lowell enters its toughest part of the season. Fourteen games remain for the River Hawks — six of them against UNH and BU, the top two teams in the league. There are also three games remaining against Providence, a team right behind Lowell.

After two exhausting games with UNH this weekend, Lowell must come back against Yale. Two different styles await the team — UNH’s explosive offense will be countered by the tenacious forecheck of Yale.

PICK: Fatigue will play a factor for Lowell, and Yale tries to continue to get on track. Lowell 4 Yale 4

Dartmouth (8-7-0, 3-6-0 ECAC, 11th) at Providence (8-12-1, 6-6-1 Hockey East, 4th) Tuesday, 7 p.m., Schneider Arena, Providence, R.I.

Dartmouth is previewed above.

The Providence Friars are struggling to find consistency in their play. The Friars helped themselves with a 5-4 win over Northeastern and a 5-1 win over UMass-Amherst last weekend, snapping a seven-game winless streak.

"We’re playing together as a team, that’s number one," said coach Paul Pooley, reflecting on the differences between his team’s play now and during the slump. "But we’re also working harder. We’re working harder in practices and we’re working harder in games. We’re being more physical and we’re being rewarded for that."

The Friars will come into the game with a tough pair against Maine behind it, and it could lead to some fatigue.

PICK: It should be a defensive game with a lot of forecheck. Both teams are playing its third game in five nights. The difference — Dartmouth’s first two are at home, Providence’s are at Maine. Dartmouth 4 Providence 2

There is a light slate of ECAC action next weekend, and all league games involve travel partners playing each other. There is also a solid group of non-conference games on the schedule.

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

Friday, Jan. 24 Ferris State at Cornell

Saturday, Jan. 25 St. Lawrence at Clarkson RPI at Union Dartmouth at Vermont Ferris State at Cornell Providence at Brown Yale at Army

Tuesday, Jan. 28 New Hampshire at Harvard UMass-Lowell at Colgate

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

Copyright 1996 Jayson Moy . All Rights Reserved.

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