This Week in the ECAC: November 14, 1997

League action kicked off this past weekend, and three teams came out perfect.

Rensselaer, Yale and Cornell all swept their weekend series, while Princeton won one and tied one. The Engineers disposed of Dartmouth and Vermont, 7-1 and 7-2; Yale dispatched Clarkson and St. Lawrence, 2-1 and 3-0; Cornell took care of Harvard and Brown, 5-2 and 4-3. Meanwhile, Princeton and St. Lawrence tied, 2-2, before the Friars came back to top Clarkson, 3-2.

This time around, some teams continue their league play, while others take a week off before heading back into ECAC action.

The road to Placid has kicked off…

Colgate (4-2-0, 1-1-0 ECAC, T-5th) and No. 7 Cornell (3-0-0, 2-0-0 ECAC, T-1st) at Vermont (1-5-0, 0-2-0 ECAC, T-10th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Gutterson Fieldhouse, Burlington, Vt.

No. 7 Cornell (3-0-0, 2-0-0 ECAC, T-1st) and Colgate (4-2-0, 1-1-0 ECAC, T-5th) at Dartmouth (2-1-0, 1-1-0 ECAC, T-5th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7:30 pm, Thompson Arena, Hanover, N.H.

Vermont knew that it would be missing some of its offense this year, including two All-Americans up front. The past ECAC weekend was the exclamation point on that thought, as the Catamounts were shut out by Union, and scored only two goals against Rensselaer.

"We’ve had a lot of trouble scoring five-on-five," said head coach Mike Gilligan. "The two goals that we got (Saturday) were two of six goals that we’ve [gotten] at even strength all year long. We have to learn to go to the net a little bit stronger than we have been."

The Cats have been outscored so far by a margin of 25-12, and before last weekend, only seven Cats had scored — two of them defensemen. The only Cat to score on the weekend was Jason Hamilton, and he got his first goals of the season.

Dartmouth rebounded from a dreadful game against Rensselaer to shut out Union on Saturday, 4-0. Eric Almon got his first career shutout and Tom Ruzzo scored two goals on the weekend for the Big Green.

The win was Bob Gaudet’s first ECAC victory at his alma mater, and he was plenty relieved after Saturday’s game.

"We didn’t have our `A’ game on Friday night," he told Ken Schott of the Schenectady, N.Y., Gazette. "Out guys gutted it out and really wanted it….We needed something to get going."

Almon will continue in the nets, especially after his strong showing on Saturday night. Jason Wong will continue to sit as his knee heals, but if Almon continues to play like he does, it could be a long time before Wong sees the ice.

Colgate came from behind to defeat Brown on Friday evening, but could not repeat that accomplishment against Harvard on Saturday. Each time, the Red Raiders fell behind by three goals in the early going.

"It’s tough to keep coming back when we spot a team three goals," Colgate coach Don Vaughan said. "We did it against Brown, but we can’t do it every time and expect to win."

The Red Raiders continue to put goals on the board — including four from Dru Burgess — but three power plays against them in the Harvard game has Vaughan concerned.

"The penalty kill is something we need to work on," Vaughan said. "We did a good job with it on Friday, but we can’t continue to take bad penalties and get away with it."

The Big Red of Cornell started defense of their ECAC championship with a sweep of Harvard and Brown. One of the unusual things on the weekend was that the Big Red played with only four defensemen, due to injuries.

"It’s tough with only four defensemen, trying to play catch-up hockey all night long," head coach Mike Schafer said. "The whole team showed a lot of character at the end, especially Jason [Dailey], in terms of executing."

While the games were not pretty, they were still wins, and the Big Red seem to be growing stronger with every game that they play.

PICKS: Colgate at Vermont: Vermont continues to struggle. Colgate 4, Vermont 2 Cornell at Dartmouth: Gaudet’s home debut does not end well. Cornell 4, Dartmouth 2 Cornell at Vermont: The Big Red need defensemen on this sheet, but they get it done. Cornell 3, Vermont 1 Colgate at Dartmouth: Ah, that home win for Gaudet. Dartmouth 5, Colgate 3

Princeton (3-0-1, 1-0-1 ECAC, 4th) and Yale (3-0-0, 2-0-0 ECAC, T-1st) at Harvard (1-1-0, 1-1-0 ECAC, T-5th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Bright Hockey Center, Cambridge, Mass.

Yale (3-0-0, 2-0-0 ECAC, T-1st) and Princeton (3-0-1, 1-0-1 ECAC, 4th) at Brown (0-2-0, 0-2-0 ECAC, T-10th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Meehan Auditorium, Providence, R.I.

The Brown Bears debuted a new head coach this past weekend, and almost pulled two victories out of the hat. New coach Roger Grillo had the Bears playing well, something that will be capitalized on in the future. Brown had leads late in both games, but just could not close it out.

"You never want to give up goals late in the period," Grillo said after Friday’s game. "This is a game of huge momentum, and we gave them too much there at the end of the first period."

Colgate came back from a three-goal deficit to defeat the Bears on Friday. On Saturday, the Bears held a one-goal lead over Cornell with less than five minutes to play, and the Big Red scored three goals to win that game as well.

The Crimson of Harvard started the season with a loss to rival Cornell but came back to defeat Colgate on Saturday. In the win, Trevor Allman netted a hat trick, and the Crimson special teams came up with three power-play goals and a shorthander.

Harvard also put up a power-play goal against Cornell, and a shorthander as well. The Crimson have scored eight goals on the season, six of them on special teams. Last season, HU did not start out particularly well on special teams, especially the power play, so this could be an early indication that the Crimson are going to have a better season.

Harvard lost both games last season to Princeton, and split the series against Yale.

Princeton remains undefeated after four games, at 3-0-1. The Tigers got goals from freshmen Shane Campbell and Chris Corrinet. All told, the Tigers had goals from five different players on the weekend

Erasmo Saltarelli played both games, making 25 saves on Friday against St. Lawrence and 27 against Clarkson. Princeton is hoping to match last year’s hot ECAC start of 6-2-1, and it seems like the Tigers are on their way.

The Bulldogs of Yale have surprised a few people with their 2-0-0 start in the ECAC. That’s a surprise to some, but not to others — this Bulldog team is their best since the 1992 season, according to head coach Tim Taylor.

ECAC Goaltender of the Week Alex Westlund picked up both wins last weekend. He allowed only one goal, including his second career shutout, against St. Lawrence on Saturday. Westlund has only allowed two goals so far this season.

Jeff Hamilton, Cory Shea, Ben Stafford, Mark Turco and Geoff Kufta scored on the weekend, giving the Bulldogs a solid attack.

PICKS: Princeton at Harvard: That Princeton defense gets it done. Princeton 3, Harvard 1 Yale at Brown: Grillo continues to wait. Yale 4, Brown 2 Yale at Harvard: Harvard earns the split. Harvard 3, Yale 2 Princeton at Brown: That defense is tough. Princeton 2, Brown 1

St. Lawrence (1-4-1, 0-1-1 ECAC, 9th) at Clarkson (2-3-1, 0-2-0 ECAC, T-10th) Saturday, 7:30 pm, Cheel Arena, Potsdam, NY

St. Lawrence tied Princeton on Friday and then was shut out by Yale on Saturday in its ECAC season-debut weekend. One of the big questions facing the Saints was the goaltending. Last week head coach Joe Marsh said that Eric Heffler would start against Princeton, and Heffler stood tall against the Tigers.

"Heff really came up big for us," said Marsh. "It was a good hockey game that both teams probably thought they should have won. I know we had some outstanding chances that came up empty, and Heff robbed them a few times along the way as well."

On Saturday Marsh went with freshman Jeremy Symington. He played well also, but Marsh pointed to other factors that played a role.

"You have to give Yale a lot of credit," said Marsh. "We didn’t play as well as we are capable of playing, but a good part of that was due to Yale’s forechecking and backchecking. They won a lot of the little battles. It was a good lesson for us, and hopefully it’s one we will put to use."

Clarkson opened the season with two losses to Yale and Princeton, leaving a lot of fans in Potsdam scratching their heads. The Golden Knights scored only three goals on the weekend, from three different players. Balance in scoring is what the Knights were looking for, but more volume is what they really need.

Dan Murphy was solid in net once again — allowing only four goals — but that was not enough to bring his team to victory.

This matchup is one that is eagerly anticipated between the athletes, fans and communities. With the close proximity of the two schools, there is a huge rivalry between the two teams. Clarkson has had the better of the series, leading 94-47-6 all-time. St. Lawrence dealt the Knights their first loss ever at Cheel Arena in 1991, but since then Clarkson has won every game between the two at Cheel.

Clarkson has traditionally come on strong after playing St. Lawrence at home. Looking at the last five years, after the Knights have beaten the Saints at home, the next ten games are pretty impressive. In 1993, the Knights went 8-1-1, and in 1994, 6-2-2. Then it’s 7-2-1, 6-2-2, and last year, 9-1-0. That’s a combined record of 36-8-6.

PICK: Clarkson always gets it together for the Saints. Clarkson 6, St. Lawrence 3

Niagara (2-0-0, 0-0-0 against major Division I) at Rensselaer (5-2-0, 2-0-0 ECAC, T-1st) Saturday, 7 pm, Houston Fieldhouse, Troy, NY

Niagara head coach Blaise McDonald has put together a tougher schedule this year, with six Division I conference-aligned opponents. Rensselaer is the first on the list of teams to face the Purple Eagles.

That’s not an easy task for the Eagles to take on., but this is the first step in becoming a fully-aligned D-I club, and playing ECAC and Hockey East teams will only benefit Niagara in the future.

The Rensselaer Engineers are on a roll. They blew out Dartmouth and Vermont in their first two ECAC games, and outplayed Union in a non-conference game on Tuesday.

"No matter who you have on your schedule, you want to put your best foot forward," said Engineer head coach Dan Fridgen. "We’re looking for consistency; we don’t want to be complacent at all."

The Engineers have gotten massive numbers from their top line over the last four games. Alain St. Hilaire, Eric Healey and Matt Garver have put up 31 points over their last four games, including 22 in the two ECAC games. St. Hilaire was named ECAC Player of the Week for his efforts.

"With the way they started, people wondered about them," said Fridgen. "But you just have to stay confident and work hard, and sooner or later you’ll get your chances."

It looks like the Engineers are beginning to get the wheels going, and seem to be showing people why they were picked first in the ECAC.

PICK: Blaise wonders who put these guys on the schedule. Rensselaer 9, Niagara 2

UMass-Amherst (1-4-0, 0-3-0 Hockey East) at Union (1-5-0, 1-1-0 ECAC, T-5th) Saturday, 7 pm, Achilles Rink, Schenectady, NY

Union got in the win column Friday evening, with a 1-0 victory over Vermont. Unfortunately for them, the Dutchmen were shut out the following evening against Dartmouth. The Dutchmen also lost on Tuesday evening to the Rensselaer Engineers in a non-league game.

Union was outshot 50-20 in Tuesday’s game, and inexperience showed on the game-winning goal, which came with just 21 seconds left on the clock after freshman Bryant Westerman lost his man. After the game, Westerman stood up in the locker room and "paid the piper" to head coach Stan Moore. Moore was thoroughly impressed with his young forward.

"If I can get every player to take that kind of responsibility for their play, or if every worker in every factory, or every teacher in every school stood up and said `my bad’ when the time came it would be a better world to live in and you would have people committed," he said.

"You would also have staff and supporters say, ‘Okay, let’s see if we can do it better.’ If other people buy into the way Bryant buys into it, we’ll have a better team for it."

Moore knows that there is a lot of work to do with his young team, and doesn’t want to give them any false pretenses.

"We don’t want them to walk away with the false impression that we played with a nationally-ranked team," he said after Tuesday’s game. "I don’t want them to get [that idea], because it impedes the learning process, and I want them to get better — and they will."

The Minutemen of UMass-Amherst have had a rough go at it in the beginning. The Minutemen have not won a Hockey East contest (0-3-0), and dropped a decision to Nebraska-Omaha this past weekend. The Minutemen now have the dubious distinction of being the first D-I conference-aligned team to fall to the Mavericks.

For more information on the Minutemen, please refer to this week’s Hockey East Preview.

PICK: Union wins a low-scoring game. Union 2, UMass-Amherst 1

Harvard (1-1-0, 1-1-0 ECAC, T-5th) at No. 9 Boston College (5-1-0, 3-1-0 Hockey East) Tuesday, 7 pm, Kelley Rink, Chestnut Hill, Mass.

For information on Harvard, please refer earlier in this preview.

The Eagles of Boston College are currently ranked ninth in the USCHO Poll after back to back wins over New Hampshire. They are led by junior Marty Reasoner, a Hobey Baker candidate, and are letting their youth do the talking.

For more on the Eagles, please refer to this week’s Hockey East Preview.

PICK: The Eagles are soaring. Boston College 5, Harvard 2