This Week in the ECAC: October 31, 1997

Last weekend, heavy interconference action was the name of the game. The two teams just beginning their seasons — Union and St. Lawrence — also suffered their first defeats of the season. Union lost in overtime, 5-4 to Providence, while St. Lawrence was walloped by Colorado College 12-3. St. Lawrence came back the next day to defeat St. Thomas, 8-6, in the consolation game of the J.C. Penney Classic.

Two other teams (Princeton and Cornell) played exhibitions, and both won, 8-3 and 4-0 respectively.

Colgate won its second decision of the season, but needed overtime to do it, defeating Army 4-3.

Both Clarkson and Rensselaer picked up their first wins of the season. Clarkson swept Bowling Green on the road, 4-3 and 6-1, while Rensselaer defeated UMass-Lowell 4-2.

Vermont continued its hunt for a first win after a close game with Boston University, where the Catamounts suffered their second defeat, 3-2.

This week, the focus continues on the interleague games, with the CCHA and Hockey East the sources of ECAC opponents.

Three ECAC teams take on CCHA members, while four Hockey East teams will tangle with ECAC squads. There will also be exhibitions involving Harvard and Yale, and Yale and Dartmouth will take on the service academies.

Vermont (0-2-0) at Lake Superior State (0-3-1) Friday-Saturday, 7 p.m., Abel Arena, Sault Ste. Marie, MI

What has happened in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan? Well, for one thing, the Lake Superior State Lakers are 0-3-1 after losing to and tying U.P. rival Northern Michigan this past weekend.

With the departure of John Grahame, Scott Borek has relied on Rob Galatiuk in goal. Galatiuk made 22 and 33 saves in the two games against NMU.

Up front, the Lakers have depended on Jason Sessa and Terry Marchant for most of the offense, but there needs to be more of a balance in scoring.

For more on the Lakers, please click over to the CCHA Preview.

At Vermont, life is certainly different without the French Connection, as the Cats learned in their first two games. Scoring thus far has only come from two players, B.J. Kilbourne and Stephane Piche, and Kilbourne’s two goals were both on the power play.

That’s not to say that there is a lack of effort from the Catamounts. Against Boston University, the Cats outshot the Terriers 34-23, but failed to find the back of the net very often. Let’s also face it — the Cats have lost two games to two of the nation’s premier teams (both ranked in the top six).

James Tierney has been the goaltender of choice, throwing away all of the guessing and surmising that has been going on in this column, and elsewhere around Burlington. If that stays the course, Tierney should play at least one of the two games against the Lakers, while Andrew Allen may see action in the other. Then again, Tierney might be in net for both games, or neither.

PICKS: So what happens? Each team gets its first win.Lake State 4-3, Vermont 4-3

St. Lawrence (1-1-0) at No. 7 Miami (4-0-0) Friday-Saturday, 7 p.m., Goggin Ice Arena, Oxford, OH

Miami has been good — real good. Wins over Ohio State, Waterloo, and a sweep of Alaska-Fairbanks have the RedHawks on a course to repeat the success of last season.

Despite the loss of Randy Robitaille, the RedHawks are still very offensively gifted, thanks to such players as Vitali Andreev, Tim Leahy and Adam Copeland. Meanwhile don’t forget about Dan Boyle on defense, one of the most talented blueliner in the CCHA.

Adam Lord and Trevor Prior make a formidable duo in the nets for the RedHawks, though Lord was shaky, to say the least, on Saturday: he gave up three goals in the first 8:17 to the Nanooks — on only three shots — before being replaced by Prior, who pitched a shutout the rest of the way in a 6-3 Miami win. Lord should rebound, nonetheless.

For more on the Miami RedHawks, just click right over here, on the CCHA Preview.

The Saints gave up a lot of goals this past weekend — 18 of them to be exact. This might lead one to believe that goaltending could be a problem for Joe Marsh’s club.

With the departure of Clint Owen, the Saints were left with one returning goaltender with little game experience, and two freshmen goaltenders. Not a very enviable position for Saint fans.

Perhaps the Saints are hoping to outscore their opposition in shootouts, as was the case against St. Thomas. If they go that way, Paul DiFrancesco, the ECAC Player of the Week, should lead the charge. DiFrancesco tallied five goals over the weekend, and added two assists.

The road doesn’t get any easier because the Saints are playing a top-ten team once again, and Miami is one of the teams to beat in the CCHA. More than they can chew? Perhaps.

PICKS: The road-warrior Saints can’t match the ‘Hawks. Miami sweeps, 6-1 and 4-2

Ohio State (2-2-0) at No. 10 Clarkson (2-0-0) Friday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.-7 p.m., Cheel Arena, Potsdam, NY

The Buckeyes split a series with Merrimack this past weekend, coming back from Friday’s 7-2 loss to take a 5-3 decision on Sunday afternoon.

Despite the loss on Friday, OSU goaltender Ray Aho played a good game, and freshman Jeff Maund also performed well in the recap, making 32 saves in Sunday’s win.

The Buckeyes got goals from five different players on Sunday, plus two from Jason Selleke on Friday. That balance will have to be there this weekend against Clarkson as well.

For more on Ohio State, head over to the CCHA Preview.

The young shall inherit the earth, they say; but maybe it’s just Potsdam. Half of the Golden Knights’ goals this season have been scored by freshmen: Willie Mitchell has scored two and Murray Kuntz one, and the ECAC Rookie of the Week, Don Smith, has two.

Actually if one looks at it, the Knights got some balanced scoring this past weekend. Seven different Clarkson players scored, including Chris Clark, Dana Mulvihill, Carl Drakensjo, and two by Buddy Wallace. That team offense is something that head coach Mark Morris was looking for at the beginning of the season.

Another thing that Morris was seeking was consistency from goaltender Dan Murphy, who picked up wins 76 and 77 in his career last weekend, extending his school record for victories.

Discipline is another thing that Clarkson will work on this week. The Knights amassed over 100 penalty minutes last weekend, and Clarkson and Bowling Green combined for 206 total.

PICKS: Home cooking tastes just right for the Golden Knights. Clarkson sweeps, 7-2 and 5-1

Northeastern (2-0-0) at Colgate (2-1-0) Friday, 7:30 p.m., Starr Rink, Hamilton, NY Northeastern (2-0-0) at Cornell (0-0-0) Saturday, 7 p.m., Lynah Rink, Ithaca, NY

The Huskies are off to a 2-0-0 start with wins over Bowling Green and Providence. Sophomore goaltender Marc Robitaille has been the guiding force, as he shut out the Friars last Friday.

Justin Kearns, Scott Campbell and Todd Barclay lead the way up front for Northeastern; head coach Bruce Crowder seems to be on the way to reestablishing the Husky program.

For more on the Huskies, please check out the Hockey East Preview.

On the other side of the ice, Colgate needed an extra session to defeat Army, and that may have brought the Red Raiders back to earth after a great weekend at Michigan.

Dru Burgess netted a hat trick, including the overtime game-winning goal against the Cadets. Over three games in this young season, the Red Raiders have gotten scoring from a variety of different players.

The young defense of the Red Raiders is getting the job done, and it’s made life a lot easier for goaltenders Dan Brenzavich and Shep Harder.

Cornell begins its regular season looking to repeat as ECAC champions, and there is nothing right now to suggest that the Big Red won’t be there in the end again this year.

"I think we have enough returning players that we can make another run for another championship," said head coach Mike Schafer in Cornell’s season preview.

A lot of things have to come together for the three-peat, including the fact that new and returning players have to gel on a team which has experienced some turnover.

"The biggest thing is not the incoming recruits," said Schafer, "but the improvements within our team. But I like the blend of our players."

PICKS: Colgate continues its solid play, winning its home opener. Colgate 6, Northeastern 2. Next, Cornell leaves the Huskies winless in New York. Cornell 5, Northeastern 1

No. 5 New Hampshire (3-0-0) at Rensselaer (1-1-0) Friday, 7:30 p.m., Houston Fieldhouse, Troy, NY

New Hampshire can be counted on to produce fine play no matter what part of the country the Wildcats are in. Last weekend they swept a pair from Alaska-Anchorage to remained unbeaten on the young season.

The Wildcats are currently ranked fifth in the U.S. College Hockey Online Poll, and continue to make a point of proving that they are one of the best teams in the country.

For more on the Wildcats, please see the Hockey East Preview.

Over in RPI-land, the Engineers got in the win column last weekend with a 4-2 victory over UMass-Lowell in their home opener which gave head coach Dan Fridgen his 50th career win. The last time RPI won its home opener was in 1995 against McGill — the first career win for Fridgen.

The Engineers have returned to a philosophy that Fridgen teaches, something that was mentioned here last week.

"We were `dictatin’ and initiatin’,’" Fridgen said after Saturday’s game. "We were making things happen instead of waiting for things to happen, or hoping for things to happen."

Doug Battaglia, one of five seniors on the squad, scored twice in picking up where he left off last year — a year in which he tripled his goal total from the season before.

It seems that the Engineers now have two great offensive lines. In addition to the Eric Healey-Alain St. Hilaire-Matt Garver line, you can add Doug Battaglia-Steve Caley-Brad Tapper as an offensive force to be reckoned with.

"Doug and I know each other real well, and right off the bat, we wanted to ‘dictate and initiate’," said Caley about his line. "Brad added speed, and Doug went right to the net and we just clicked."

With one game under their belts, the Engineers have a lot to look forward to as the season progresses.

PICK: Talk about a great matchup; here we have two teams that will try to blow one another off the ice with offense. It’s close to a toss-up here, but with the home edge, it’s RPI. Rensselaer 4, New Hampshire 3

Dartmouth (0-0-0) at Army (2-1-0) Friday, 7:30 p.m., Tate Rink, West Point, NY Rensselaer (1-1-0) at Army (2-1-0) Saturday, 7 p.m., Tate Rink, West Point, NY

The Cadets had a good run at Colgate last week, falling in overtime 4-3. The Cadets always seem to be at their best playing teams at the Division I level, often in games they are not expected to win.

The two premier Cadets in terms of offense, Greg Buckmeier and Andy Lundbohm, have a new linemate in Jon Toftey. That trio combined for two of the three Cadet goals. Lundbohm is back earlier than expected from a wrist injury, which coaches feared would keep him out into November.

In goal, one can’t discount Daryl Chamberlain, the Army leader in career shutouts with 13, who is approaching the top levels of every goaltending category at the Academy.

Across the rink, Bob Gaudet hits the rinks in his new position — head coach of his alma mater. The former standout goaltender is itching to get on the ice, and this is his first opportunity. While the prospect is exciting, it is also very difficult.

"There’s untapped potential here," he said in Dartmouth’s season preview. "I’m real positive about these kids, but I don’t know them as hockey players."

Friday will be that time, because the Big Green hit the ice to start the season.

The Big Green brings back a group of players who collectively doubled their career point production numbers, with the leader being David Whitworth. Jon Sturgis, Ryan Chaytors, Jeremiah Buckley and Darren Wercinski will also be key contributors up front.

In the nets, Jason Wong and Eric Almon will battle it out. Who starts on Friday is still to be determined.

For information on the Engineers, see the Rensselaer-New Hampshire preview above.

PICKS: Bob Gaudet’s debut as Dartmouth head coach is successful, but only after a tight one. Dartmouth 3, Army 2. But in their next game, the Cadets can’t control the Engineers. Rensselaer 7, Army 1

Union (0-1-0) at Merrimack (1-1-0) Saturday, 7 p.m., Volpe Complex, North Andover, Mass. Union (0-1-0) at UMass-Lowell (1-1-0) Sunday, 2 p.m., Tully Forum, North Billerica, Mass.

Sandy Cohen was a force for the Warriors this past weekend — a hat trick on Friday against Ohio State, and one more goal on Sunday. Add two goals by HEA Player of the Week Casey Kesselring, and the Warriors have some snipers that have to be contended with.

Cris Classen and Tom Welby sure faced their share of shots, with Classen making 46 saves on Friday, and Welby 38 on Sunday.

The River Hawks opened the season with a 6-4 win over UMass-Amherst, then lost to Rensselaer 4-2 the following evening. The story for the ‘Hawks was Greg Koehler, last year’s Hockey East Rookie of the Year. He netted a hat trick against the Minutemen, and added a power-play goal against Rensselaer.

Martin Fillion played both evenings, making 19 saves against UMass-Amherst and 38 against the Engineers.

For more on the Warriors and River Hawks, please click right here: the Hockey East Preview.

As for the Dutchmen of Union, they lost a tight one in overtime to Providence, 5-4. Of Union’s 13 freshmen, 10 played in this game, and Dave Smith scored a goal and added an assist to make the ECAC Honor Roll this week.

The Dutchmen took leads on three separate occasions but could not hold onto them.

"It shows how important consistency is," said Union captain Charlie Moxham. "We got up on them, but you’ve got to keep playing consistent. That’s just a reflection of the level of experience that is missing."

"We did great things to get ahead," said head coach Stan Moore after the game, to the Schenectady Gazette’s Ken Schott. "But you saw an uncomfortable blend of new and returning player errors.

"But these are the things we decided we had to be aware of when the game was over. These are things we said we wanted to use as measuring sticks, and we felt we had to take learning out of it, one way or the other."

There are certainly going to be such ups and downs as the Dutchmen continue their season.

PICKS: A close one, but this time Koenig makes the difference as the Dutchmen learn. Union 3, Merrimack 2. Unfortunately, Union can’t make it two in a row. UMass-Lowell 4, Union 1

Air Force (1-0-0) at Yale (0-0-0) Saturday, 7 p.m., Ingalls Rink, New Haven, Conn.

New coach, new season, new results, right? Maybe, maybe not. That’s the situation in Colorado Springs, as the Air Force Academy has a new head coach in Frank Serratore.

A split this past weekend was a good result, right? Maybe, maybe not. That was the case this weekend, as Air Force split a pair of games against Nebraska-Omaha. The good news: the Falcons won their first game. The bad news: they lost their first game.

Dan Davies, a defenseman, scored three times this past weekend, but did not receive much help from his forwards. Meanwhile, in goal Aaron Ratfield made 38 and 28 saves in the two games.

Are things going to be different in Colorado Springs? Only time will tell.

The time may come soon with a trip to New Haven to face Yale. The Bulldogs split an exhibition pair with Brown, winning one 40-minute contest and losing the other.

"This is the best team since 1992-93 that we’ve had here," said head coach Tim Taylor. "We are returning experience and quality in all of our positions."

The team is led by defenseman Ray Giroux, a second team All-ECAC choice last year. "I feel that he’s a person who, when you look at it, is the total package. He’s a real quality college defenseman," said Taylor on Giroux. "I wouldn’t trade him for anybody.

"He’ll play a lot for me," Taylor added. "He’ll play in the 30-minute range per game, and he’ll double-shift all game long. We’ll utilize him everywhere."

Up front, the Bulldogs return plenty of scorers, but Taylor still thinks that there is one thing lacking.

"We feel we have a lot of kids with a lot of potential, but we need to get someone in the 30-40 point range," commented Taylor. "We realize that we have a long way to go on offense."

In goal the Bulldogs will go with Alex Westlund. He split time with Dan Choquette last year, but with two inexperienced backups, Westlund should shoulder the load.

"He’s gained a lot of confidence and knowledge over the last year," said Taylor. "He is going to be our number-one goaltender."

Taylor says that things are looking up, and that there is a sense of optimism in New Haven.

PICK: Yale gets the nod with the offense. Yale 7, Air Force 3

Princeton (0-0-0) at Nebraska-Omaha (1-2-0) Friday-Saturday, 8 p.m., Omaha Civic Auditorium, Omaha, Neb.

A split! Not a big cause for celebration, but for a team that is playing its first Division I games, that’s the biggest news. That team is Nebraska-Omaha, playing its first season of hockey at the Division I level.

The Mavericks split a series with Air Force, losing 4-2 on Friday night, and then coming back to defeat the Falcons 6-1 in a game postponed to Sunday.

The Mavericks went with two goaltenders this past weekend. John Mitchell made just eight saves on Friday on 12 Air Force shots in the loss. On Sunday, Rodney McLeod made 28 saves in the Mavericks’ first-ever Division I win.

Up front, the trio of Vic Sharma, Andrew Tortorella and Jesse Saarinen combined for eight points in the two games. Yes, it’s a new beginning in Omaha, but the Mavericks face a much tougher test this week in the Tigers of Princeton.

The Tigers seem to have a great package, on offense and defense. With the line of Jeff Halpern-Casson Masters-Scott Bertoli returning 83 points to lead the offense, and with an experienced defense coming back, the Tigers seem poised to repeat the great season they had last year.

One thing will be different — defenseman Dominique Auger will not be returning. The would-have-been sophomore is now playing the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and he will be sorely missed.

"That’s a void that we can’t fill right away," said head coach Don Cahoon in Princeton’s season preview. "Auger gave us a dimension that we didn’t [otherwise] have. Steve Shirreffs and Michael Acosta will be there, but I don’t know what will fill that void."

There will be three goaltenders battling for the number-one job again this season. Erasmo Saltarelli, Nick Rankin and Craig Bradley all saw time last season, and will be back to fill the same roles.

"To be honest, with goaltending you have to find a way," said Cahoon. "Whether it’s a platoon or a number-one guy. As the saying goes, you’re only as good as your goaltending."

PICKS: Too much, too soon, too little…Princeton sweeps, 7-2 and 8-3

McGill at Yale (0-0-0) Friday, 7:30 p.m., Ingalls Rink, New Haven, Conn. McGill at Harvard (0-0-0) Saturday, 7 p.m., Bright Hockey Center, Cambridge, Mass.

Harvard begins a season hoping to turn things around from last year, in which there were bright spots and there were dull spots.

The main bright spot was ECAC Rookie of the Year J.R. Prestifilippo. "(Prestifilippo) had an outstanding year," said head coach Ronn Tomassoni in Harvard’s season preview. "He’s a driven kid and he won’t rest on his past. The kid wants to win."

The rest of the defense for Harvard is also strong, led by Jeremiah McCarthy; also among seven blueliners coming back are Ben Story, Ethan Oberman and Matt Scorsune. But — there’s most always a "but," and for Harvard it’s offense.

"The biggest question mark is our offensive production," said Tomassoni. "When you don’t score it doesn’t give you a lot of leeway."

The Crimson were outscored by 21 goals last season, and were minus-13 goals in the power-play department.

"The power play needs to improve," said Tomassoni. "We need to be up around 20 percent."

For a look at Yale, please refer earlier in this preview. For a preview of McGill, I don’t know where you can refer.

PICKS: A McGill victory? Almost as plausible as Swaziland winning the World Cup. Yale 6, McGill 2 and Harvard 4, McGill 1

The ECAC regular season is upon us, and everyone gets into the act next weekend:

Friday, Nov. 7 Brown at Colgate Harvard at Cornell Clarkson at Yale St. Lawrence at Princeton Vermont at Union Dartmouth at Rensselaer

Saturday, Nov. 8 Brown at Cornell Harvard at Colgate Clarkson at Princeton St. Lawrence at Yale Vermont at Rensselaer Dartmouth at Union

Tuesday, Nov. 11 Rensselaer vs. Union (Pepsi Arena)