This Week in the ECAC: January 9, 1998

The past weekend saw Vermont achieve its first conference victory of the season; in fact, the Catamounts garnered their first two ECAC wins.

Yale took sole possession of first place with a sweep of Rensselaer and Union. Brown, Harvard and Princeton each picked up victories, and Rensselaer gathered one point. Union and Dartmouth were the hard-luck losers on the weekend, both getting swept.

Last week’s predictions: 4-10 Note: Last weekend, this writer became the first in USCHO history to correctly predict a tie. Yes, I am patting myself on the back for that one — everyone else is shooting me for my other picks. And by the way, I didn’t predict Northeastern to win the Mariucci Classic.

Year to date: 57-46, .553, 3rd

Yale (11-3-0, 8-1-0 ECAC, 1st) and Princeton (9-3-4, 3-3-3 ECAC, T-4th) at Vermont (5-9-2, 2-3-2 ECAC, T-8th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Gutterson Fieldhouse, Burlington, Vt. Princeton (9-3-4, 3-3-3 ECAC, T-4th) and Yale (11-3-0, 8-1-0 ECAC, 1st) at Dartmouth (4-5-3, 1-4-1 ECAC, 12th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Thompson Arena, Hanover, N.H.

Vermont was a big winner the past weekend with two wins, 4-2 over Brown and 4-3 versus Harvard — the first two for the Catamounts in the ECAC this year.

"We’ve played a couple of pretty good games and this gives us a good feeling," said head coach Mike Gilligan. "All during the week now during practice, it will give us some confidence for the next weekend."

The sweep came on the heels of a disappointing Sheraton/US Airways tournament, a tournament in which the Cats lost both of their games. But That tourney came on the heels of a one-month layoff for Vermont.

"The break was too long," said Gilligan. "We stood around in our own building and were beaten soundly by Providence and Bowling Green. I think that we finally got going last weekend. The competition is what finally got us going."

Speaking of going, freshman goaltender Andrew Allen picked up both wins, and for his efforts was named ECAC Rookie of the Week as well as ECAC Goaltender of the Week.

And not only the wins and the honors: Allen had the game-winning goal against Harvard. After a centering pass by Harvard’s Henry Higdon went the length of the ice and into an empty net, Allen, the last Cat to touch the puck, was given credit for the goal.

"(Allen’s) been real strong and he’s only really had one so-so game," said Gilligan. "He’s greatly improving as the season goes on. Right now he’s the number-one goaltender because of his play and because of the fact that (James) Tierney’s condition — where he’s sore after every game and unable to go every weekend."

Dartmouth impressed many people when it won the Sheraton/US Airways Classic over the holiday break. When the Big Green returned to ECAC action, they lost two games, including Friday to Harvard.

"The way the team performed, I really can’t ask much more," said head coach Bob Gaudet. "We generated some good offense and we’ve been playing well lately. Were getting there. It just would have been nice to win (Friday)."

The next evening, the Big Green came from behind to force overtime, but were stymied by Brown in the extra session.

Gaudet believes that his team is ready to go on a roll, and since he has taken over, the team has consistently gotten better efforts and performances as the season has gone by.

Yale is sitting atop the ECAC and its lead is expanding. After a weekend sweep of Rensselaer and Union, Yale had a four-point edge on idle Colgate.

"That’s the team that’s been beating Clarkson and winning at Lynah Rink," said head coach Tim Taylor. "We can be pretty strong defensively and we’ve been managing to hold everybody’s top players in check all year. A lot of that credit goes to Ray Giroux and Daryl Jones. I usually try to get them out there against the top lines. It’s been the key to our success."

The Bulldogs not only have been sitting atop the ECAC because of defense, but also has gotten some offense to go with the defensive pressure.

"I think that’s the way we have to play, and we know it," said Taylor about his teams performance over the weekend. "I was thrilled that we got four goals. One of our goals for each game is to score four, (and when we do) we should win.

We’ve had a lot of games this year which were 2-1, 3-2, and we’ve had problems scoring four goals. Then when we spot a team two goals like we did against Lake Superior, the guys realize that it’s a big mountain to climb. This was more of our style. We shut them down and that got the momentum going and made us believe in ourselves again."

Princeton picked up three points on the weekend in the ECAC after a stunning upset of number-one Boston University last Tuesday evening. The Tigers fell behind in both games last weekend, but came back to defeat Union and tie Rensselaer.

"We showed some character, we battled from two goals down and we gave ourselves a chance to win the game," said head coach Don Cahoon about Saturday’s tie. "We battled from being down one goal (against Union) to grind out a win, and we battled from behind on Tuesday night. (Those} are three games in a row where we showed some character."

The ECAC’s overall leading scorer, Jeff Halpern, scored the insurance tally in the win over Union and the game-tying goal against Rensselaer. Halpern has seven goals and nine assists in his last nine games and leads the league with 25 points (12-13).

PICKS: Yale at Vermont: The two-game Cat winning streak is broken. Yale 4, Vermont 2 Princeton at Dartmouth: The Tigers extend their unbeaten streak. Princeton 4, Dartmouth 1 Princeton at Vermont: See above for Princeton. Princeton 5, Vermont 2 Yale at Dartmouth: Yale keeps first place, and is pulling away. Yale 3, Dartmouth 1

Harvard (5-8-2, 5-4-1 ECAC, 3rd) and Brown (3-11-0, 3-7-0 ECAC, T-8th) at Rensselaer (8-7-1, 3-4-1 ECAC, 7th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Houston Fieldhouse, Troy, N.Y. Brown (3-11-0, 3-7-0 ECAC, T-8th) and Harvard (5-8-2, 5-4-1 ECAC, 3rd) at Union (3-12-2, 2-5-1 ECAC, T-10th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 – 7 pm, Achilles Rink, Schenectady, N.Y.

Harvard comes into this weekend without all-everything goaltender J.R. Prestifilippo. He came down with a case of mononucleosis, and is out indefinitely. Without Prestifilippo last week, the Crimson split a pair of games, defeating Dartmouth and losing to Vermont.

"J.R. wasn’t at the top of his game in Wisconsin and when we came back home and had him tested, we found out why," head coach Ronn Tomassoni said Friday. "And plus, we have not had an easy schedule thus far. It seems like every time we’re playing someone, they are either ranked in the top ten or coming off a high, so (Dartmouth) was a huge win for us.

"Considering all the things that have happened to us in the past week, this was a big win for us," Tomassoni added. "The kids hung in there tough and showed a lot of character once again, but his time it was a ‘W’ — and it’s always better when it’s a ‘W.’"

The next evening the Crimson allowed a goal with a minute to go in the game against Vermont which broke a 2-2 tie. Two more were scored after that, but unfortunately for the Crimson, each team had one.

"I thought that we were just outstanding in that third period," Tomassoni said. "That may have been our best period of the year, but unfortunately we don’t have a lot to show for it."

Brown recovered to win in overtime against Dartmouth on Saturday evening. The Bears held a two-goal lead with 4:07 remaining in the third period but the Big Green came back to tie it. The previous evening, the Bears dropped a 4-2 decision to Vermont in the first game between Vermont coach Mike Gilligan and his former assistant, Roger Grillo.

Damian Prescott was named the ECAC Player of the Week for his efforts on the weekend. Prescott figured in the scoring on six of the eight Bear goals, with three goals and three assists. The six points moved Prescott into third place in league scoring with 14 points (8-6).

The arrival of Mike Bent is paying dividends already for the Bears. Bent had a goal and an assist in the Mariucci Classic, and assists on both Brown goals Friday.

Union is 0-4-1 in its last five games — losses to Princeton and Yale this past weekend, a loss and a tie to Mankato State, and a loss to Colgate. The Dutchmen have scored just 10 goals in that span.

Mark Szucs has goals in three of the last four games, and Charlie Moxham scored two in the loss to Yale on Saturday. The Dutchmen have played 17 games, but not one player is in the top 25 in overall scoring. Freshman Bryan Yackel is the leading scorer with 11 points (3-8).

In the ECAC, only one Dutchman has more than three points, freshman Clark Jones (2-3–5). Meanwhile, Moxham’s two goals this past weekend give him the team lead with three. Only three other players have three points — Yackel (1-2–3), Brent Ozarowski (2-1–3), and Mark Will (0-3–3).

Trevor Koenig is ranked 20th in the NCAA in save percentage. This could be a little deceiving because Koenig has faced 113 shots in the last three games, allowing 11 goals. Over 12 games, Koenig has made an average of 32.2 saves per game. In the ECAC, Koenig has played every single contest, and has an average of 30.63 saves per game.

Rensselaer gained one point in the ECAC this past weekend with a loss to Yale and a tie against Princeton. Head coach Dan Fridgen was not pleased with the weekend swing.

"We as a team have to realize that if we are going to win games we have to play as a team collectively," he said. "In order for us to be successful everybody’s got to be come ready to play, and play well, and be efficient. We’ve got to be more efficient, from capitalizing in penalties to playing well in our zone."

Despite the way the weekend went, Fridgen isn’t necessarily planning a shakeup.

"I don’t think it’s a matter of changing things up," he countered. "It’s a matter of staying on track with what we have, and maybe we’ll revamp or remold it a little bit, but as far as to what we are trying to accomplish, it’s not going to change much there."

The ECAC’s second-leading scorer, Alain St. Hilaire, went down with an injury against Princeton. His status was unknown at press time. St. Hilaire is a bulwark of the offense for the Engineers, but Fridgen wants others to pick up the scoring load.

"You can’t look for certain guys to score all the time," he said. "This is a team where we need some balance. If we’re not getting balance, we’re not going to win hockey games. If we’re not getting balanced scoring, then we have to prevent goals."

PICKS: Harvard at Rensselaer: Home cooking is what the Engineers need. Rensselaer 7, Harvard 3 Brown at Union: I bet you I can do it two weeks in a row. Brown 3, Union 3 Brown at Rensselaer: The Engineers here as well. Rensselaer 6, Brown 4 Harvard at Union: The Crimson continue in the top half of the league. Harvard 4, Union 1

New Hampshire(14-4-1, 6-3-1 Hockey East, 2nd) and UMass-Lowell(8-8-2, 5-5-2 Hockey East, T-4th) at St. Lawrence (3-11-1, 2-4-1 ECAC, T-10th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Appleton Arena, Canton, N.Y. UMass-Lowell (8-8-2, 5-5-2 Hockey East, T-4th) and New Hampshire (14-4-1, 6-3-1 Hockey East, 2nd) at Clarkson (8-5-2, 4-2-1 ECAC, T- 4th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Cheel Arena, Potsdam, N.Y.

St. Lawrence is coming off of two losses at the Great Lakes Invitational, in which the Saints faced a team in the top ten in Michigan and battled tough in a consolation loss to Michigan Tech.

"We took a couple of bad penalties and made a couple of coverage mistakes that cost us, but at least we were able to snap out of it a little bit offensively," said head coach Joe Marsh. "It was a good experience for us, and hopefully one we can build on to come up with a strong finishing run."

SLU goaltender Eric Heffler earned an all-tournament spot, but did not win a game.

"Heff gave us a chance to win those games, and you can’t ask for more than that from a goaltender," said Marsh. "He has been playing with a lot of confidence and playing very well. He got hurt a little bit late in the second period against Michigan, but played through it and had a strong third period.

"He showed us and the folks in Detroit a lot, and the all-tourney spot is a reflection of just how impressive he was. There were a couple of potential All-Americas in Michigan’s Marty Turco and Michigan State’s Chad Alban, who both played very well, but you don’t see many performances like the one Eric turned in."

The Saints record is not very impressive, but Marsh paints a different story, one of how the Saints will head into the rest of the season.

"When people look at our record, they think we are struggling…but we’ve really played some competitive games against some very good competition," he said. "Sure, it would be great to have won a few of these games, and I think we are all a little frustrated because we have come close so many times, but they will help us down the road.

"If we can continue to play at the level we are playing, we’ll get our share of wins in the stretch run. We’re going to gear it up for New Hampshire and Lowell, and then really concentrate on making a move in the ECAC standings. There is a lot of hockey left, and I think we can make a big move."

Clarkson rebounded with a consolation victory over Niagara in the Syracuse Invitational after losing to Minnesota-Duluth in the opening round.

The past few games for the Golden Knights may have ignited a goaltender controversy. One of the best in the nation, Dan Murphy, has struggled all season, and in the last few games, senior Chris Bernard has played well.

Bernard has won his last four starts, against Boston College, Harvard, Brown and Niagara — the only starts in his career. Coincidentally, those are the Clarkson wins in the last five games. So the big question is: Who is in goal for Clarkson this coming weekend?

"I couldn’t tell you because it’s day-to-day right now," said head coach Mark Morris.

So there is a controversy — or maybe there isn’t.

"No, there isn’t a controversy," said Morris emphatically. "Sure, Dan Murphy’s been watching Chris Bernard play goal and it’s a little different. Every time you are faced with a different challenge. Chemistry is altered and you have to find the right chemistry, and each year you hope that your team can gain."

New Hampshire keeps rolling along, despite losing to Miami in the Denver Cup championship. The Wildcats earned a weekend off after topping Colorado College 5-3, dropping the title tilt to the RedHawks 4-2, and winning a New Year’s Eve battle, 6-2 at Nebraska-Omaha.

UMass-Lowell took an 8-4 decision over Merrimack this past Sunday in a wild game which saw 15 different River Hawks put up points during the bombardment.

For more information on the Wildcats and River Hawks please refer to the Hockey East preview.

PICKS: New Hampshire at St. Lawrence: St. Lawrence loses to another top-ten team. New Hampshire 5, St. Lawrence 3 UMass-Lowell at Clarkson: The Knights take this one. Clarkson 5, UMass-Lowell 2 UMass-Lowell at St. Lawrence: Home ice. St. Lawrence 4, UMass-Lowell 3 New Hampshire at Clarkson: Clarkson has been hot, but not here. New Hampshire 6, Clarkson 4

Cornell (7-4-1, 4-3-1 ECAC, T-4th) vs. Colgate (11-5-0, 8-2-0 ECAC, 2nd)(Non-Conference Game) Saturday, 6 pm, Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, N.Y. Colgate (11-5-0, 8-2-0 ECAC, 2nd) at Merrimack (7-10-1, 2-7-0 Hockey East, 8th) Sunday, 2 pm, Volpe Center, North Andover, Mass.

How did this one come about? A non-conference game on Long Island, of all places?

This is the first of three meetings between the Big Red and the Red Raiders in the span of nine days. The two travel partners are playing a preliminary-round game before their war in ECAC league play next weekend.

Colgate lost to UMass-Lowell 7-1 on Friday evening, falling behind 3-0 after one period, and not faring much better in the second en route to the loss. The Red Raiders bounced back on Sunday afternoon with a 3-2 win at Providence. The league’s scoring leader, Jed Whitchurch, had a hand in all three goals, all on the power play.

Cornell finished fifth in the Gryphon Invitational. The Big Red lost in the first round to the defending CIAU champions Guelph, falling behind 3-1 at the end of the first period as head coach Mike Schafer was ejected from that game. The Big Red came back to defeat Wilfred Laurier and then Waterloo to capture the fifth-place finish.

Merrimack comes off of a shellacking by UMass-Lowell last Sunday, and this coming weekend’s tilt with Colgate seems to indicate one thing — Air Vaughan versus Air Anderson. Merrimack boasts the nation’s goals-per-game leader in Kris Porter (1.22 goals per game), and Colgate has the ECAC’s leading attack offensively.

For more on Merrimack please refer to the Hockey East preview.

PICKS: Cornell vs. Colgate: Sit down — I can’t see past the hair spray in your hair! Cornell 3, Colgate 2 Colgate at Merrimack: Will the red light be burned out? Merrimack 8, Colgate 6

Next week, it’s going to get slow again, with only a few ECAC games.

(ECAC Games in bold) Friday, January 16 Dartmouth at St. Lawrence Vermont at Clarkson Northeastern at Brown

Saturday, January 17 Vermont at St. Lawrence Dartmouth at Clarkson Rensselaer at Union Colgate at Cornell Yale at UMass-Lowell

Monday, January 19 Cornell at Colgate