This Week in the ECAC: November 21, 1997

Roger Grillo won his first game on Friday night when Brent Hoiness scored in overtime to give the Brown Bears a victory over Yale. The next evening, overtime bit Grillo and the Bears as Princeton took the sudden-death victory.

Harvard tied Princeton and lost to Yale, while Princeton took three points on the weekend with that tie and a win.

Cornell also skated away with three points, a victory over Dartmouth and a tie with Vermont. That tie gave Vermont its first ECAC point of the year, while Colgate swept a pair this weekend, winding up with wins over Vermont and Dartmouth.

In the North Country rivalry, the Golden Knights of Clarkson took a 4-2 lead in the third period of round one and held on to defeat St. Lawrence for their first ECAC points of the season.

Every team in the ECAC now has a point in-conference, and play continues this weekend with some key matchups: Rensselaer and Union travel to the North Country, and Princeton and Yale face Cornell and Colgate.

Can anyone pull away in this conference?

Last week’s picks: 5-6 (BC) Overall for the year: 37-19 (I’ve had fewer games to predict than my colleagues)

Rensselaer (6-2-0, 2-0-0 ECAC, 5th) and Union (1-6-0, 1-1-0 ECAC, T-7th) at St. Lawrence (1-5-1, 0-2-1 ECAC, T-11th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Appleton Arena, Canton, NY

Union (1-6-0, 1-1-0 ECAC, T-7th) and Rensselaer (6-2-0, 2-0-0 ECAC, 5th) at Clarkson (3-3-1, 1-2-0 ECAC, T-7th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Cheel Arena, Potsdam, NY

The Engineers looked like they were sleepwalking in their win over Niagara last Saturday evening, something that head coach Dan Fridgen did not like one bit.

"From a team perspective, we played just well enough to win," he said. "We could have done a better job of taking care of our own end.

"I hope it wasn’t a case of complacency," he added. "Maybe some of the guys were taking (Niagara) too lightly. It doesn’t matter who you are playing, you have to take care of your own end."

This coming weekend the Engineers are going to have to be at their best, because the North Country lies ahead. This is a weekend that the Engineers have traditionally not played very well; the last time they took more than two points was five years ago. The Engineers have not swept a weekend in the North Country in 13 years.

"There’s no doubt we have to play better in the North Country," said Fridgen. "It doesn’t matter where you’re playing, we’re looking for consistency, and you can’t get that if you don’t take of your own end."

The Dutchmen have been enrolled in the school of hard knocks thus far in the young season. The biggest key with a young squad is development: how that squad is learning. It’s real tough to learn when you’re losing, and the Dutchmen are losing.

"I think a little of the problem is inexperience," said head coach Stan Moore. "We’re probably just not as good as we were last year, in terms of our personnel, at this time. [The players] trying to learn these systems, whereas the fellows last year had played a lot of different systems. They pretty much knew how to make adjustments.

"We knew we were going to have our ups and downs."

The Dutchmen continue to have one problem widely perceived before the season began — a lot of trouble scoring. Union has scored 13 goals this season in seven games, and in the last four, the Dutchmen have five goals.

"Our offense has been dwindling," said captain Charlie Moxham. "We don’t want to push the panic button yet, because we have such a young team. But we have to change something here in order to get things done. I hate to say we have a lack of intensity, but we weren’t fighting though things (Saturday)."

The Saints finally get to play at home this weekend, and they open up against Rensselaer and Union. Not an easy task, according to head coach Joe Marsh.

"It doesn’t get any easier," said Marsh. "RPI is the preseason favorite to win the league and has been putting up some impressive offensive numbers, and Union has great goaltending and has shown that it can play with anyone.

"We need to continue to get the kind of effort we saw Saturday and capitalize on a couple of bounces. We are maturing as a team and doing a lot of things better than we did at the start, but we need to earn some rewards from our efforts to help us from a confidence standpoint."

On Saturday, the Saints lost a close one to Clarkson. St. Lawrence was unable to close the gap in the third period and dropped a 4-3 decision.

"We turned in a pretty good effort at times," said Marsh. "We endured some adversity during the game, but battled back and stayed right in the thick of it. I think Clarkson has some experience in winning the close games, and it helped them. That is something we need to learn to do."

On the upside, it looks like the Saints will not lose the services of Bob Prier. He went down hurt during the Clarkson game, but the training staff at St. Lawrence expects that he will play this weekend.

Clarkson has started the season slowly, but the Knights picked up their first ECAC points of the season with their victory over St. Lawrence. It was mentioned here last week that the Knights usually go on a tear after defeating St. Lawrence at home, something that may now happen again.

Dan Murphy continues to give Clarkson stellar goaltending, but that has been one of the few bright spots for the Knights so far this season.

A lot of attention is being focused on captain Chris Clark. Last season, Clark had his share of points playing with Todd White. This season, Clark is without White, and critics are suggesting that Clark is not the same player. Even though it’s early, the pressure is clearly on.

PICKS: Rensselaer at St. Lawrence: The first home game will give the Saints some help, but Rensselaer is clicking, and Heffler will have to come up big. Rensselaer 4, St. Lawrence 3 Union at Clarkson: The Dutchmen are young, and the Knights will pick up ECAC win number two. Clarkson 4, Union 1 Union at St. Lawrence: The Saints gain ECAC win number one. St. Lawrence 4, Union 2 Rensselaer at Clarkson: Rensselaer has not swept in the North Country since 1984-85, the Engineers’ last NCAA championship season. It happens this year (the sweep, that is). Rensselaer 5, Clarkson 3

Princeton (4-0-2, 2-0-2 ECAC, T-2nd) and Yale (4-1-0, 3-0-0 ECAC, T-2nd) at Cornell (4-0-1, 3-0-1 ECAC, 1st) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Lynah Rink, Ithaca, NY

Yale (4-1-0, 3-0-0 ECAC, T-2nd) and Princeton (4-0-2, 2-0-2 ECAC, T-2nd) at Colgate (6-2-0, 3-1-0 ECAC, T-2nd) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Starr Rink, Hamilton, NY

Colgate continues to score. The Red Raiders put 14 goals on the board last weekend, and Jed Whitchurch was named ECAC Player of the Week for his efforts.

The offense that the Red Raiders are putting up is a surprise to a lot of people, but it is exactly what head coach Don Vaughan needed. Balance in scoring was one of his keys before the season began, and it looks like that goal is being met.

"We’ve certainly spread it out," he said. "That’s something that we were hoping for, and you have to expect other guys to step it up."

It all seems to go back to that opening two-game series at Michigan, where the Red Raiders defeated the Wolverines — Michigan’s first home loss in over 30 games — and then played a close game in losing the next night.

"Those two games in Michigan helped us out," said Vaughan. "[They] gave the guys confidence that they could play with anyone."

Cornell remains undefeated in the ECAC, with a 3-0-1 mark after a win over Dartmouth and a tie against Vermont. The Big Red continue to shuffle players in and out of the lineup, and forwards continue to move back to the blue line as injuries strike defensemen.

"We had to make some moves with different guys, shuffling them around," said head coach Mike Schafer. "I thought all the freshmen did a good job in their first hostile environment (at Vermont)."

On Friday evening, the Big Green came up with the first goal of the game, but the Red came back with four unanswered goals to take the win.

"It’s obviously not what you want to do (allowing the first goal)," he said. "But our team has good character; they don’t give up when that first goal is [scored]."

Cornell has to hope that some of its injuries will heal, because undefeated Princeton and once-beaten Yale come calling this weekend.

Princeton comes in with a record of 4-0-2. The Tigers started strong last year, hovering around first place in the ECAC at this time. This year, they are in the same position. One of the last unbeaten teams in the nation, the Tigers are getting timely scoring, scoring from a number of players.

Seven different Tigers scored this past weekend, including Jeff Halpern, who scored the game-tying goal on Friday against Harvard, and Joey Pelle, who lit the lamp in overtime to defeat Brown.

The Yale Bulldogs have been a surprise with their strong start, but perhaps that shouldn’t be. First, goaltender Alex Westlund ended last season with a .916 save percentage and a 2.99 goals-against average; thus far, he has been showing that those numbers were not a fluke. In five games played, Westlund has allowed six goals. Not bad for a goaltender that many believed couldn’t be as strong this season.

The strong start has Yale off the right way — with confidence. "We feel that we have a lot of confidence as a team, and that we can skate with anybody," head coach Tim Taylor said.

PICKS: Princeton at Cornell: Princeton comes through with a win at tough Lynah Rink. Princeton 3, Cornell 2 Yale at Colgate: Can Westlund stop the offense of the Red Raiders? Colgate 3, Yale 2 Yale at Cornell: Cornell rebounds. Cornell 4, Yale 3 Princeton at Colgate: The Tigers continue their winning ways at Starr Rink. Princeton 4, Colgate 2

Vermont (1-6-1, 0-3-1 ECAC, T-11th) at Dartmouth (2-3-0, 1-3-0 ECAC, T-7th) Saturday, 7:30 pm, Thompson Arena, Hanover, NH

The Cats are still struggling to find a combination that might work, though some things seemed to come together against Cornell Saturday. The Cats fought to a 1-1 tie after being whitewashed by Colgate, 7-0, the night before.

In the last four games — all league contests — the Cats have had a lot of trouble scoring: three goals in those four. That’s a big cause of concern in Burlington. Worse yet, of those three goals, two were scored by Jason Hamilton against Rensselaer, and of those four games, two were shutouts against Vermont.

Saturday, netminder Andrew Allen played a spectacular game, holding Cornell to one goal. With James Tierney still uncertain with a back injury, it looks like Allen may get some more time in net.

Dartmouth gave up four goals and seven goals in two games last weekend. In four ECAC games, the Big Green have admitted a total of 18 goals, which is to say that defense is something that Big Green fans have found missing (except for one game, a shutout of Union).

Offense may also be a concern for the Green. In those same four games, eight goals have been scored. 18-8 is not a very good scoring ratio, and it’s one that has led to three losses in the young ECAC season.

In net, Eric Almon continues to get the starts, but Jason Wong has recovered from his injury, and the platoon system in Hanover may begin anew.

PICK: Dartmouth wins its first game at home. Dartmouth 4, Vermont 2

Brown (1-3-0, 1-3-0 ECAC, T-7th) at Boston University (5-1-0, 3-1-0 Hockey East, T-2nd) Friday, 7 pm, Walter Brown Arena, Boston, Mass.

The Brown Bears got their first win of the season against Yale on Friday evening, 3-2, and in the process earned Roger Grillo his first career victory as a head coach.

The Bears seem to be a different team this year: although they sport a 1-3-0 record, the Bears’ three losses have all come by one goal.

One of the main differences this year is that the Bears are scoring. Last year, the Bears were outscored by a total of 40 goals. This year, the Bears are only two goals behind their opponents.

Meanwhile, the Terriers split a weekend series with New Hampshire in an early-season Hockey East showdown. After getting shut out on Friday, the Terriers came back to double up the Wildcats, 4-2, on Saturday.

For more on Boston University, please refer to the Hockey East preview.

PICK: The Terriers. Boston University 6, Brown 2

Boston College (6-2-0, 4-2-0 Hockey East, 1st) at Brown (1-3-0, 1-3-0 ECAC, T-7th) Tuesday, 7 pm, Meehan Auditorium, Providence, RI

The Eagles continue their strong run, seeking to add to their win total against Brown. Last weekend, the Eagles split a series with Northeastern, winning the first of the pair, then losing in overtime.

For more information on Boston College, please refer to the Hockey East preview.

(Brown is previewed above.)

PICK: The Eagles. Boston College 6, Brown 2

Boston University (5-1-0, 3-1-0 Hockey East, T-2nd) at Harvard (1-2-1, 1-2-1 ECAC, 6th) Tuesday, 7 pm, Bright Hockey Center, Cambridge, Mass.

The Crimson of Harvard are a different team this year, and they showed it Friday.

"We battled back," said Harvard coach Ronn Tomassoni after Friday’s 3-3 tie with Princeton. "I think a year ago, we probably wouldn’t have tied this game up. It was a good one for us to come back like that and tie it up so late."

There is also a better attitude on the bench.

"I don’t think that there was any panic on the bench [when the Crimson were down late], which I think is a good sign," Tomassoni said. "We’re young, but I think that we have a little more experience, and it was like ‘OK boys, roll up the sleeves and keep working and it’ll come’."

One thing that has not changed is the outstanding play of goaltender J.R. Prestifilippo.

"As badly as we had played, it was still a 2-1 game going into that third period," Tomassoni said after a 3-1 loss to Yale. "We thought that we could win, and they took it to us in the third period. The only reason we had a chance at the very end was because of J.R."

For information on Boston University, please refer to the Hockey East preview.

PICK: The Terriers. Boston University 5, Harvard 3

UMass-Amherst (2-5-0, 0-4-0 Hockey East, 9th) at Vermont (1-6-1, 0-3-1 ECAC, T-11th) Tuesday, 7 pm, Gutterson Fieldhouse, Burlington, Ver.

The Minutemen took some time off from their Hockey East schedule the last two weeks, splitting a series at Nebraska-Omaha, and defeating Union last Saturday on the road. In between there was a game against archrival UMass-Lowell, which the Minutemen lost in overtime.

For more information on UMass-Amherst, please refer to the Hockey East preview.

(Vermont is previewed earlier.)

PICK: The Cats. Vermont 5, UMass-Amherst 3

Army (3-5-0, 0-5-0 vs. major D-I) at Princeton (4-0-2, 2-0-2 ECAC, T-2nd) Tuesday, 7:30 pm, Hobey Baker Rink, Princeton, NJ

In the five games that the U.S. Military Academy has played against conference-aligned Division I teams, the Cadets have not won, but have shown a good, concerted effort. One-goal losses to Colgate, UMass-Lowell (both in overtime) and Providence go along with a two-goal loss to Rensselaer thus far.

The Cadets play a rigid, protective style of hockey, based on defense and forechecking — much like the Princeton Tigers.

These two teams should play it very close, with a lot of work deep in each other’s zones. The Tigers are known for their aggressive forecheck, based on speed and size, and that formula has the Tigers undefeated on the young season.

PICK: The Tigers. Princeton 3, Army 1

There’s only one league game next week, so some teams play non-conference games, while others get a week off. ECAC games are in bold:

Friday, Nov. 28 Clarkson at Boston College St. Lawrence at Boston University Princeton at Merrimack Yale at Providence Union at Nebraska-Omaha

Saturday, Nov. 29 Harvard at Brown Clarkson at Boston University St. Lawrence at Boston College Merrimack at Yale Union at Nebraska-Omaha

Sunday, Nov. 30 Providence at Princeton Punch Imlach Tournament Colgate vs. York Cornell vs. Niagara

Friday-Saturday, Nov. 28-29 Vermont — Governor’s Cup


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