So far this young season — not counting exhibitions, games against independents and games against non-Division I opponents — the ECAC is 7-13-1. Of those seven wins, Clarkson has two of them over Bowling Green; Rensselaer defeated UMass-Lowell; Vermont beat Lake Superior State; Colgate and Cornell both upended Northeastern; and Colgate has the upset of the season thus far, at Michigan.
But then again, the ECAC started last season with a 10-11-0 nonconference record (same rules as above) going into the first weekend of the regular season. The ECAC wound up having its best-ever season against nonconference opponents.
A sign of things to come, or at least the ECAC hopes so.
But this week the ECAC regular season gets underway. All 12 teams are in the mix, and each gets a pair of games underneath its belt.
As our good friends from the world of Ultimate Fighting like to say, "Let’s Get It On!!!"
Harvard (0-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) and Brown (0-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) at No. 10 Cornell (1-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Lynah Rink, Ithaca, NY
Brown (0-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) and Harvard (0-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) at Colgate (3-1-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 5 pm, Starr Rink, Hamilton, NY
The Big Red of Cornell open up defense of their ECAC championship this weekend with a win over Northeastern already in hand. A 4-2 win is good news, isn’t it?
"I told our team that’s the worst game I’ve been associated with since I’ve been here," head coach Mike Schafer said. "We didn’t play very well and it was a situation where we got very lucky against a team that was very good."
Ryan Moynihan and Vinnie Auger both had good games, coming up with the tying and go-ahead goals for the Big Red against the Huskies.
"They came up big for us in the third period," said Schafer. "But that’s the only blessing of the weekend — the win."
That brings us to this weekend, and the beginning of the ECAC season. If you are Cornell, who better to start the season with than rival Harvard?
"The start of the season is even moreso important when you play a rival such as Harvard," said Schafer. "We had some success against [the Crimson] lately, and they’ll look to come in and play well."
The next night the Big Red face Brown — the head man there is former Vermont assistant Roger Grillo.
"They’ll probably have a lot of the characteristics that Vermont has," said Schafer about Brown.
There has been a concerted effort on the part of Schafer and Cornell to "clean up" Lynah Rink. Schafer and the university has asked that the Lynah Faithful dump five chants considered obscene. Saturday was the first night for the "new" Lynah Rink.
"We’ve been successful with it so far," said Schafer. "We’ve gotten rid of the profane chants, and we’ll hope it continues. But Harvard will be the true test."
Colgate has done some impressive work in its four non-conference games thus far: an upset of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and wins over Army and Northeastern.
"We’ve had a couple of decent outings," said a modest Don Vaughn. "We’ve been able to gain a little confidence that we needed because we graduated a lot of good seniors."
What has been impressive is the fact that the Red Raiders have gotten goals from seven different players, a balance that was in question before the season began.
"We have spread it out offensively," said Vaughn. "That is something that we were hoping for, and you had to expect that a few guys would step it up, especially guys like Dru Burgess and Andy MacDonald."
Burgess is tied for the league lead in goals with five, and MacDonald is riding a four-game scoring streak.
Another impressive factor has been the play of Dan Brenzavich. He had been questioned as the season was coming closer, but a 3-0-0 record so far has silenced a lot of critics.
"It was important for him to get off on a good note," said Vaughn. "He worked hard all summer, and he thought a lot about his game. In August you could tell that he was ready. In the immediate future, Danny has established himself."
As ECAC play starts, it’s a whole new ballgame, something that Vaughn echoed.
"The stakes are a little bit higher," he said. "There’s more pressure, for lack of a better word, so the games take on a whole new meaning."
The Red Raiders begin with Brown and Harvard this coming weekend. "Roger (Grillo, Brown’s head coach) has got great potential there," said Vaughn. "It’s hard to tell what you’re going to get with Brown because they haven’t played a game yet, who knows?
"Harvard’s got one o the best teams on paper," he added. "And Ronn (Tomassoni, Harvard’s head coach) is going to have them coming at us."
Speaking of Harvard, the Crimson also play their first official game this Friday at Cornell. The Crimson defeated McGill in an exhibition on Saturday, 5-2.
The Crimson scored three times in the second period, with goals from Geordie Hyland, Jamin Kerner and Graham Morrell. J.R. Prestifilippo made 15 saves in his two periods of action.
The Crimson are a team that is very young; they only have five seniors, but plenty of experience.
"We were in an old league last year with a young team," said Crimson head man Ronn Tomassoni. "This year we’re in a young league with a young team that’s old."
One of the seniors Tomassoni is counting on is captain Jeremiah McCarthy. The defenseman is a veteran of not only Harvard, but some international teams as well.
"McCarthy is an outstanding player," he said. "No one works harder than him, and he’s going to have a big year."
Everyone sees the talent that the Crimson have on their team, but it has yet to gel on the offensive side. It has been chronicled before, but the Crimson need to score more often this year than they did last year. Along the same lines, the special teams have to get going as well. A well-documented 0-for-57 stretch on the power play early in last year’s season still is embematic of an Achilles’ heel for the Crimson.
The Bears of Brown have a new head coach, and are looking for a better position in the ECAC standings. It’s actually the only way that they can go — the Bears finished last in the standings last year.
"There’s a quality group of players here," said head coach Roger Grillo. "We’re just trying to get things going in an upward position."
It’s a difficult road for Grillo because he did not recruit any of his players, and just finding out about them is a tough adjustment. "It’s a situation where we are getting to know them as hockey players," he said in Brown’s season preview. "When I was at Vermont, we didn’t cross over much in recruiting circles."
The first game in Grillo’s career as head coach will come at Colgate, and the Bears are just hoping to do what they can.
"We’re going to shoot for as high as we can," said Grillo. "The league is so competitive, and anyone can finish from first to last. The coaching’s too good, the recruiting is too good, and the quality of players is too good.
"Our league is as tough as any other league," he added. "We want to play quality teams, and we are playing quality teams in this league."
PICKS: Brown at Colgate: Grillo will have to wait for win number one. Colgate 5, Brown 2 Harvard at Cornell: The new and cleaner Lynah Rink. Against Harvard?! Cornell 4, Harvard 2 Harvard at Colgate: Colgate’s balanced scoring is the winner. Colgate 4, Harvard 2 Brown at Cornell: Grillo will have to wait for win number one. Cornell 6, Brown 2
Vermont (1-3-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) and Dartmouth (1-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) at Union (0-3-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Achilles Rink, Schenectady, NY
Dartmouth (1-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) and Vermont (1-3-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) at Rensselaer (2-2-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Houston Fieldhouse, Troy, NY
Bob Gaudet is the new man at the Dartmouth helm, and before the season began he stressed that he did not know his players very well, especially their hockey skills.
"It takes awhile to learn about them," said Gaudet after his team played one game. "They guys played hard (against Army on Friday), and we played a real solid game. We’re getting to know them, and we’ve definitely seen some good senior leadership."
One of those seniors is Jon Sturgis. Sturgis scored the first goal of the game against Army — shorthanded — and then he added another one to seal the 7-1 victory.
"He’s a quality hockey player and he shoots well from anywhere on the rink," said Gaudet. "He’s one of the most underrated players out there. He’s deceptively strong, and he’s a bigger kid than I thought he was."
Eric Almon started in goal and got the win. He was expected to share the goaltending load with fellow sophomore Jason Wong, but Wong has a twisted knee that is keeping him out of action. So it looks like Almon for now.
"Eric’s our goalie now," said Gaudet. "I don’t think I’ll play two goalies this weekend, but it will definitely be Eric on Friday and then we’ll see."
The Big Green open up against preseason number-one Rensselaer on the road, and then travel to Union. Playing the first ECAC game of the year against the league’s top-ranked team does not faze Gaudet.
"Well, you have to play them sometime, so why not now," he said. "RPI is tremendously skilled and experienced and they have great coaching. It’ll be a real tough test for us.
"That Union team is another team that is well coached," he added. "It’s tough (at Achilles Rink) because things happen very quickly. I don’t know what it is about that rink but it seems like (Union) is right on top of you."
Starting the season at 1-3-0 can get anybody down, but as any coach will tell you, there is always something that you can take away from games, even losses. It’s no different for Vermont head coach Mike Gilligan.
"I like what I’ve seen with some of the new guys," he said. "I also feel a lot better about our goaltending situation."
At the beginning of the season, Gilligan’s biggest worry was in the net. James Tierney started the first two games for the Catamounts before suffering a back injury, so last weekend freshman Andrew Allen and transfer Marty Phillips saw time in net. Allen picked up the first victory of the season for the Cats in a 3-2 win over Lake Superior State. This weekend, Tierney is still out, leaving Allen and Phillips in between the pipes to start the ECAC season.
"I hope to keep rotating three goalies until I find two that will platoon," said Gilligan.
Some of the new guys that Gilligan was referring to are Andreas Moborg, the ECAC Rookie of the Week, and Jerry Gernander. Moborg had a hand in all three Vermont goals on Friday, while Gernander picked up two goals on the weekend.
In all, five different Cats that scored on the weekend, which Grillo likes to see. "We’ve ground it out a little bit," he said. "We’ve got four lines that can compete out there. We don’t have one line that will blow you away like last year."
This weekend the Cats play their fourth and fifth games on the road of the young season, against Union and Rensselaer.
"It’ll be a good chance to see where we are, since league play is starting," said Gilligan. "We’ve been on the road for a lot of the games at the beginning, and the guys are excited.
"(Union and RPI) are two different types of teams and both will give us all we can handle."
Head coach Stan Moore knew that there would be growing pains with his young Union squad. With 13 freshmen, what else could one expect? After losses to Merrimack and UMass-Lowell this past weekend, the Dutchmen are still searching for their first win.
"Sure, we made strides in the third period, but the end result is still a loss," said freshman center Sheldon Pietrzykowski to the Schenectady (N.Y.) Gazette’s Ken Schott after Saturday’s loss to Merrimack. "We want that win, and we want it soon."
The Dutchmen are still searching for that combination that will give them their first wing. Moore has changed his lineups and still has not had success yet.
"We didn’t feel we were getting play at both ends from the lines," Moore said. "We had given up five goals in our first two games each, and really felt that we had to do something that would allow us to have some offensive ability, but at the same time, perhaps have some great presence down low in our end."
Changes were also made in goal against the River Hawks. Leeor Shtrom started instead of All-American Trevor Koenig, and not just because it was a non-conference game.
"I would do it in a league game if it helped our team play better," Moore said. "The idea is to put the best players you have on the ice. We’ve identified that with our team [and] let them know that we’re going to try and go with the best kids we have.
"It isn’t a head game. It isn’t a decision to try and get someone to learn to play well," he added. "Maybe they need a break, get a chance to evaluate, and come back to us stronger and more competitive for the next game."
And that also means in goal. Moore was pleased with Shtrom’s effort, and he will have a decision to make as to who starts the ECAC opener Friday against Vermont at Achilles.
"We’re just making sure that we have the right guy in the net," Moore said about starting Shtrom against the ‘Hawks. "I think Leeor has shown us that he deserves consideration for the next game. It’s always a delight for a coach to have a tough decision as to who you start in the net."
Over in Troy, the goaltending situation was in question, too, when Joel Laing started on Saturday against Army. Laing also started the previous game against New Hampshire, which meant that for only the second time in the last two years, the same goaltender started both games of the weekend for the Engineers. But there was no controversy there, just one simple thought.
"I thought that in this situation that we had to get Joel going," said head coach Dan Fridgen. "I wanted to get him a victory."
Laing picked up that first victory of the season against Army, 4-1, after a 5-4 loss the night before.
Other good signs for the Engineers came in the form of Eric Healey and Alain St. Hilaire’s first goals of the season.
"I believe it was good for them to get their first goals," said Fridgen. "Because when you start pressing you get frustrated, and when you get frustrated you start thinking about the little things, and you stop thinking about being successful. And one of the things that makes you successful is taking care of your own end and playing defensive hockey. Hey, when you’re pressing, you’re not playing defensive hockey.
"You have to get in there and make things happen," he added.
Fridgen is also stressing another theory — keeping things simple. "You have to try to keep the game as simple as you can," he said. "You try to take care of your own game. You have to simplify the game, [because] sometimes we’re our own worst enemy."
PICKS: Vermont at Union: Can Union find a combination? Vermont 3, Union 2 Dartmouth at Rensselaer: There’s a new attitude in Hanover, but the attitude in Troy is "win." Rensselaer 6, Dartmouth 2 Dartmouth at Union: The first ECAC win for Gaudet at Dartmouth. Dartmouth 4, Union 1 Vermont at Rensselaer: Only a shadow of what last year’s games were like. Rensselaer 5, Vermont 1
Clarkson (2-1-1, 0-0-0 ECAC) and St. Lawrence (1-3-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) at Yale (1-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Ingalls Rink, New Haven, Conn.
St. Lawrence (1-3-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) and Clarkson (2-1-1, 0-0-0 ECAC) at Princeton (2-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Hobey Baker Rink, Princeton, NJ
The Bulldogs scored two victories this past weekend, a 7-1 win over McGill and a 5-1 win over Air Force. The players of emphasis were the Jeffs — Jeff Glew, Jeff Brow and Jeff Hamilton.
In the win over Air Force, the three of them, along with captain Ray Giroux, scored four of the five goals, and have 11 of the 13 points scored by the Bulldogs so far on the season.
"We’ve got kids with great potential," said head coach Tim Taylor.
Taylor is hoping for some of his players to be in the 30-40 point range, and it looks like he has some off to a start to reach those goals.
A good start to the ECAC season would be nice, too.
"I think we’ve been through some tough times," said Taylor. "Compared to 1993, in terms of wins and losses and rankings and the prospects, and what everybody predicted last year, we hope to have some good times."
Princeton opened the season in Omaha, Neb., against the UNO Mavericks, and the Tigers swept the series 5-2 and 5-3. Matt Brush had two goals on Friday and Jeff Halpern had four points in Saturday’s win. Both were named to the ECAC Honor Roll this past week.
Casson Masters and Brian Horst also contributed to the scoring this past weekend. "We haven’t had a prohibitive scorer since I’ve been here," he said. "We have a nucleus of people back that will at least give us some type of competitive edge."
Erasmo Saltarelli was named the ECAC Goaltender of the Week for his two wins, making 26 and 32 saves in the games.
"He’s part of the same group back there," said Cahoon. "Saltarelli brings experience and he got a lot of experience last year."
The Saints of St. Lawrence dropped a pair of one-goal games to Miami this past weekend, but head coach Joe Marsh saw a lot of good things.
"I think we learned a lot of positive things about ourselves," he said. "We played two pretty good games against a good, nationally ranked team, and honestly had a shot at winning either one of them. We obviously would have liked a win, but the way we played and kept competing will help us down the road.
"These games were a good springboard to the start of our ECAC season at Princeton and Yale next weekend," Marsh added. "We can continue to build off the improvement we showed in just a week, and hopefully get the league season off to the right kind of start.
"I certainly feel a lot better today than I did a week ago."
The goaltending situation at St. Lawrence is something that continues to be discussed in Canton and around the ECAC. Marsh has now seen all three of his goaltenders, and has some decisions that he must make.
"Eric Heffler has had the best outing so far," said Marsh on the 2-1 loss to Miami. "He was really on in that game. Jeremy Symington played well in the second game against Miami, and we wanted to give him some time after he struggled so much against Colorado College (in the J.C.Penney Classic), that we wanted to get him out there again. But then again we threw him to the wolves against CC. And Sean Coakley played well in his time."
It’s a tough decision, no question.
"I really haven’t made a decision, but Heffler will definitely get one start," he said. "He will get the start against Princeton."
Meanwhile, the road warriors continue their swing against Yale and Princeton this weekend.
"We knew that the first three trips would be the longest ones of the year," said Marsh. "But a lot of times being on the road can bring you together. I really worried about the kids missing classes the most.
"Yale’s had a good start, and they are a lot like us in terms of talent…Princeton is top four, and they have great team speed."
Marsh has yet to get his first win of the season, but he still remains optimistic. "It’ll be tough this weekend," he said. "But the guys have worked hard and that’s all I can ask for."
The Golden Knights of Clarkson tied and lost to Ohio State this past weekend. Some consider that an upset, but not head coach Mark Morris.
"Ohio State is definitely an underrated team," he said. "They played two great games, and beat us.
"We were out of sync and with a lot of inexperience in positions that you have, you just want to gain knowledge," he added. "We had some injuries and we had to move a forward back to defense. These things happen when you’re not a deep hockey team."
Defenseman Nicholas Windsor has tendinitis and is day-to-day. The Knights have eight defensemen on their roster, and four of them are freshmen.
"We certainly are thin back there," Morris said. "And you want to work to make sure that you take full advantage of your opportunities, and it’s harder to."
The Knights’ ECAC season starts this weekend at Yale and Princeton.
"It’s hard to tell what to expect," said Morris. "We want to work and play our system against Yale. We certainly didn’t play our system at all last week. We can’t worry about our opposition right now."
PICKS: Clarkson at Yale: Tougher than one might imagine, but Clarkson pulls one out. Clarkson 4, Yale 3 St. Lawrence at Princeton: St. Lawrence gets it together here. St. Lawrence 3, Princeton 2 St. Lawrence at Yale: The Bulldogs get in the ECAC win column. Yale 4, St. Lawrence 2 Clarkson at Princeton: Princeton wins one at home. Princeton 4, Clarkson 3
The Capital Skate Classic II Rensselaer (2-2-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) vs. Union (0-3-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) Tuesday, 7:30 pm, Pepsi Arena, Albany, NY
The Capital District rivalry renews itself on Tuesday with a non-conference game at the Pepsi (nee Knickerbocker) Arena. It’s a lot different than it was last year. But is it really a rivalry?
"I’m from Massena, N.Y. What do I know about this rivalry?" said Union head coach Stan Moore last year during the ECAC quarterfinal series between the two teams.
There is a commercial playing on local television that has both Moore and Dan Fridgen stating that there is no rivalry between the two teams — each while wearing the other’s sweater.
Rensselaer and Union compete in the same conference in all other sports at the Division III level. A season is made when one team beats the other at any sport.
No rivalry? Right.
PICK: Too much of Rensselaer’s offense, and Union’s defense is not the same. Rensselaer 5, Union 2
Next week, some teams continue their ECAC seasons, while others go back to nonconference action. Here’s next week’s schedule:
ECAC Games: Friday, November 14 Colgate at Vermont Cornell at Dartmouth Princeton at Harvard Yale at Brown
Saturday, November 15 Colgate at Dartmouth Cornell at Vermont Princeton at Brown Yale at Harvard St. Lawrence at Clarkson
Nonconference Games: Saturday, November 15 UMass-Amherst at Union Niagara at Rensselaer
Tuesday, November 18 Harvard at Boston College