This Week in the ECAC: October 17, 1997

The Red Raiders of Colgate travel to Ann Arbor to face the Wolverines of Michigan, the Catamounts of Vermont travel to take on the Wildcats of New Hampshire, and in the matchup of the week, two top-ten teams face off against each other in Boston.

The highlight of the young season will be the tenth-ranked Engineers of Rensselaer traveling to take on the number-four Terriers of Boston University at Walter Brown Arena.

No. 10 RPI (0-0-0) at No. 4 Boston University (0-0-0) Saturday, 7 p.m., Walter Brown Arena, Boston, Mass.

There is something brewing near Commonwealth Avenue on Saturday evening. The preseason number-one in the ECAC, Rensselaer, and the preseason number-one in Hockey East, Boston University, take to the ice to kick off their regular seasons.

The Terriers headed west last week for the Ice Breaker Invitational, and finished third. After losing to Michigan State in the first round, the Terriers came back to defeat Clarkson in the consolation game.

The Terriers have Chris Drury to turn to when it comes to leading an offensive attack. The Hobey Baker favorite had three goals and an assist last weekend in the Ice Breaker. He is paired on a line with Mike Sylvia and Tommi Degerman, and those three could be the best line in all of Hockey East — possibly in all of the nation.

On defense, Tom Poti leads the charge, both offensively and defensively. He had four points (2-2–4) last weekend, and played a solid defensive game.

With either Michel Larocque or Tom Noble in goal, the Terriers should be solid.

(For more information on Boston University, refer to the Hockey East Preview.)

Meanwhile the Engineers have yet to play a game, and a lot hinges on practices. While they are not game situations, head coach Dan Fridgen likes what he sees so far.

"The guys are back to having fun and they’ve done an outstanding job," he said. "They’ve gone out and they’ve worked hard. They’ve developed an outstanding work ethic as a team."

The Engineers have a Hobey Baker candidate in their own right in Eric Healey. Healey was a second team All-American last season, and a second team All-ECAC member behind the likes of Martin St. Louis, Mike Harder, and Todd White — all Hobey Baker finalists.

"Very few players have the vision of an Eric Healey," said Fridgen.

"But I feel like I’ve got a lot of good offensive players," he added. "I think there are skilled forwards on this team who know what it takes to work hard and are not afraid to mix it up and be physical, and that’s what we’re going to need."

Let’s also not forget that the Engineers return every single player from last year’s squad, something that has never happened at Rensselaer.

This was the team that lost 5-3 last year to this BU squad, with Bill Pierce and Shawn Bates scoring three of the five goals. Luckily for the Engineers, those two Terriers are no longer on the team.

The one difference between last year’s squad and this year’s Engineer squad is that the two freshmen added give the Engineers something that they sorely needed — depth.

Brad Tapper gives RPI depth and four solid lines, while Glenn Coupal adds depth on the blueline.

This one will be a humdinger.

PICK: The Engineers are strong, deep and fast, and can score from every position. The Terriers need someone besides Drury and Poti to score. Expect to see Danny Riva out there when Drury is out there, and if he can shut Drury down, the Engineers will take care of the rest. RPI 5 Boston University 4

Colgate (0-0-0) at No. 5 Michigan (0-0-0) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 p.m. – 7 p.m., Yost Ice Arena, Ann Arbor, Mich.

The Wolverines have been in a game situation already this year with their 3-2 win over Minnesota in the Hall of Fame Game.

Despite losing nine players from last years squad, the Wolverines still have a wealth of scoring with Bill Muckalt, Greg Crozier and Matt Herr.

On defense Michigan is a little green, but the Blue have a solid goaltending in senior Marty Turco. Turco is All-American material, and is one player that will not only keep you in games, but will also win you a few.

(For more on Michigan, refer to the CCHA Preview.)

The Red Raiders have to deal with the loss of their top two scorers, Hobey Baker Finalist Mike Harder and Dave DeBusschere.

The good news is that the Red Raiders return Rob Mara and Tim Loftsgard, the next two leading scorers on the team.

"We’ve got a number of guys in the program," said head coach Don Vaughn referring to scorers. "Some of the guys have played in the shadows."

The abovementioned will no longer be playing in the shadows because they will become the centerpiece of the Colgate offense.

On defense the Red Raiders are very green. The most experienced defenseman, Mark Holdridge, has played only 29 games in the last two seasons. The Red Raider defense will have to learn a lot on the ice, and they will have to learn it in a hurry.

In goal, the Red Raiders should split the series between senior Dan Brenzavich and sophomore Shep Harder. Vaughn acknowledges that a golatending battle is taking place.

"That’s the way we’re going to approach it," he said in Colgate’s season preview. "Danny is coming off of what people would consider a season below his standards, and Shep is also approching it differently.

"I’d like to go with one guy, though," he added.

This weekend could make the decision for Vaughn easier, or it can make it harder (no pun intended).

PICK: Even though Michigan has lost a lot, the Wolverine forwards should run around the inexperienced Red Raider defense, and Brenzavich and Harder will not have a fun time. A Michigan sweep, 7-2 and 5-1

Vermont (0-0-0) at No. 6 New Hampshire (0-0-0) Saturday, 7 p.m., Whittemore Center, Durham, NH

Two teams from last year’s NCAA tournament meet here, one slightly different, the other drastically different.

UNH returns the top line of Mark Mowers-Jason Krog-Tom Nolan, all of whom are offensive powerhouses. But wait, so are the rest of the Wildcat forwards.

There are some holes for the Wildcats to fill on defense, but the goaltending situation should be all set for the Wildcats with Sean Matile leading the way.

(For more on UNH, refer to the Hockey East Preview.)

Vermont has changed a lot on offense, defense, goaltending and behind the bench.

Martin St. Louis, Eric Perrin, J.C. Ruid and Matt Stelljes are gone, and so is a lot of the Catamount offense from the last four years.

Eric Hallman, Pavel Navrat, Jon Sorg and Jan Kloboucek, four of the six Cat defensive starters, are also gone.

In the net, Tim Thomas is no longer there providing the support. Roger Grillo, Vermont’s top assistant coach, is also gone.

"This is the biggest class we’ve graduated in a long time," said head coach Mike Gilligan in Vermont’s season preview. "[Grillo] was my biggest loss, because I gave him so much responsibility. [On the ice] the toughest loss might be in the net."

The young Catamount defense will certainly be tested against the high powered Wildcat offense Simon Tremblay will certainly get a lot of ice time in the first game of the season.

"We’re looking for more balance," said Gilligan about the offense. After relying heavily on the French Connection over the last four years, many more Catamounts will be expected to step up and score. The onus will fall on Stephane Piche to lead the scoring barrage.

In net, it’s going to be a battle. Andrew Allen is leading the way in the goaltender battle and expect to see him in the nets to begin the game. Whether he plays the entire game is up in the air. Marty Phillips or James Tierney might see some time as well in the goaltending battle.

PICK: The changes are too drastic right now to expect a lot out of the Catamounts. They may have it together, but the Wildcats have more experience right now. New Hampshire 6 Vermont 2

Things begin to heat up in earnest next week in the ECAC, with half of the teams in action

Friday-Saturday, October 24-25, Clarkson at Bowling Green Friday-Saturday, October 24-25, St. Lawrence (J.C. Penney Classic) Saturday, October 25, UMass-Lowell at RPI Saturday, October 25, Boston University at Vermont Saturday, October 25, Union at Providence Saturday, October 25, Colgate at Army

Jayson Moy is ECAC Correspondent for U.S. College Hockey Online.

Copyright 1997 Jayson Moy. All rights reserved. U.S. College Hockey Online