This Week in the ECAC: January 16, 1998

Only Yale seems to be distancing itself from anybody. The Bulldogs, despite only gaining one point this weekend, are now five points ahead of Harvard, six points ahead of Colgate, seven points ahead of Princeton, eight points ahead of Rensselaer, and nine points ahead of Clarkson and Cornell. Huh?

But remember, the Bulldogs have played half of their ECAC schedule, 11 games, already. Only Harvard and Brown, at 12 apiece, have played more games in-conference than the Bulldogs. Ah, I get it now.

Brown and Rensselaer were the big winners this past weekend, as each of those teams took three points in ECAC action. Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth, Princeton and Vermont took two points each, and Union was the only active team to get shut out of the point action.

January means catch-up time for ECAC teams, starting this weekend.

Last weeks predictions: 4-6 Year to date: 61-52, .539, 3rd

Clarkson (8-5-2, 4-2-1 ECAC, T-6th) and St. Lawrence (3-11-1, 2-4-1 ECAC, T-10th) at Dartmouth (5-6-3, 2-6-1 ECAC, T-10th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Thompson Arena, Hanover, NH St. Lawrence (3-11-1, 2-4-1 ECAC, T-10th) and Clarkson (8-5-2, 4-2-1 ECAC, T-6th) at Vermont(6-10-2, 3-4-2 ECAC, 9th) Friday – Saturday, 8 pm – 7 pm, Gutterson Fieldhouse, Burlington, Vt.

Clarkson and St. Lawrence both had their games cancelled due to inclement weather in the North Country this past weekend. That weather wreaked havoc then, and continues to do so, forcing the North Country pair to switch their schedules around. This series was intended to be played in Potsdam and Canton, but instead will be moved to Burlington and Hanover.

Since no games were played last weekend, we refer you to last week.

St. Lawrence is coming off of two losses at the Great Lakes Invitational. At the tournament the Saints faced another team in the top ten, 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."

Eric Heffler earned an All-Tournament spot as the goaltender, despite not winning 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 about 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….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 goaltenders 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. These four games were his 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. "There isn’t a controversy. 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."

Vermont picked up two points this past weekend, defeating Princeton and losing to Yale. It seems that the Cats have started to pick up from a horrendous start to their season, and just in time. The Cats have only one non-conference game left, as the rest of their schedule is within the ECAC.

The win over Princeton was UVM’s first at home this season. Stephane Piche had two goals in the win, and the Cats’ four other goals came from four players: Justin Martin, Jason Hamilton, Jason Reid and Phillippe Choiniere. Choiniere and freshman defenseman Andreas Moborg also lit the lamp in the loss to Yale on Saturday afternoon.

But the Cats lost three players from their roster in December. Forwards Jonathan Roy and Chris Page, along with defenseman Simon Tremblay, left the team. Tremblay, the Cats most experienced defenseman coming into the season, left to play in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Dartmouth also garnered two points this past weekend with a victory over Yale, the Big Green’s first league victory (and third overall) since opening weekend, when they defeated Union.

Curtis Wilgosh scored twice against Princeton on Friday, and Jon Sturgis and Ryan Chaytors also netted pucks. In the win over Yale, the Big Green got goals from Jeremiah Buckley, Tom Ruzzo, Charlie Retter and Matt Giedt.

Jason Wong saw action both nights in goal, making 25 saves against Princeton and 28 against Yale.

PICKS: Clarkson at Dartmouth: Clarkson, 6-3 St. Lawrence at Vermont: St. Lawrence, 5-2 St. Lawrence at Dartmouth: Dartmouth, 4-3 Clarkson at Vermont: Vermont, 4-2

Colgate (12-5-1, 6-2-0 ECAC, 3rd) at Cornell (7-4-2, 4-3-1 ECAC, T-6th) Saturday, 7 pm, Lynah Rink, Ithaca, NY Cornell at Colgate Monday, 7:30 pm, Starr Rink, Hamilton, NY

Round one of this rivalry took place last Saturday at the Nassau Coliseum, where Cornell and Colgate skated to a 2-2 tie.

Larry Pierce gave Cornell the lead in the first period. Bill Baaki tied the game for Colgate in the second, but Pierce’s second score gave the Big Red the lead back. Dan Wildfong tied it at two with less than two minutes to go in the second, and the teams played to the draw in the third.

With a win this weekend, Colgate netminder Dan Brenzavich can become the school’s all-time victory leader. He already holds Colgate’s mark for saves.

PICKS: Colgate at Cornell: Cornell, 5-3 Cornell at Colgate: Colgate, 6-3

Rensselaer (9-7-2, 4-4-2 ECAC, 5th) at Union (3-14-2, 2-7-1 ECAC, T-10th) Saturday, 7 pm, Achilles Rink, Schenectady, NY

It’s the Capital District Rivalry, the Route 7 Series, the Crosstown Clash, etc., etc.

This will be the second time that these two teams meet this season, with Rensselaer winning the first — a non-conference game — 3-2 on a Jean-Francois Gosselin goal with less than a minute to play.

Rensselaer has gone unbeaten in its last three games (1-0-2), while Union has not won since Dec. 5 when it defeated Cornell. Since then the Dutchmen are 0-6-1.

In its last six games, Union has gone into the third period either ahead or tied. The Dutchmen are 0-5-1 in those games, having scored just one third-period goal. They were up 2-1 against Harvard going into the third before losing in OT, 3-2.

"The key to it is to not make it devastating," said head coach Stan Moore on the third period collapses. "One of the things we’ve done with the players is to explain the things we need to do to get better, challenge them with the idea of playing harder. I don’t think it’s physical. Right now, it’s probably from the neck up. It’s something that’s very correctable, but it starts now. It has to start as soon as possible."

Rensselaer came out of the weekend with three points, and head coach Dan Fridgen hopes it’s a starting point.

"I don’t think we’re playing the way we’re capable of playing yet," he said. "To come out of the weekend with three out of four points not playing the way we’re capable of playing as a team, hey, that’s pretty good.

"We’ve got to tighten up in our own end as far as defense is concerned, and the goaltenders, thank God, have been there to make the saves for us."

Both teams had players leave their teams during the past month. Mauro DiPaolo departed the Engineers to play in Halifax, and Union lost Sean Nolan and Daniel Pugen. Pugen has left school and Nolan is gone for personal reasons.

PICK:Rensselaer, 4-2

Yale (12-4-0, 9-2-0 ECAC, 1st) at UMass-Lowell (8-8-2, 5-5-2 Hockey East, T-6th) Saturday, 7 pm, Tully Forum, Billerica, Mass.

Yale got stung a little bit on Sunday. The Bulldogs lost the third period to Dartmouth, and thereby lost the game, but defeated Vermont on Saturday afternoon for two points. The ‘Dogs remain on top of the ECAC and have widened their lead to five points.

Jeff Hamilton was named the ECAC Player of the Week with five points on the weekend, tallying a goal and an assist against Vermont, and a goal and two assists against Dartmouth.

Yale is first in the league in power-play conversion rate (20.3 percent) and is second in the league on the penalty kill (87.2 percent). Yale has only allowed six power-play goals in league action — all of them in the third period.

UMass-Lowell is led by Greg Koehler (14-8–22), who leads the team in scoring and is among the leaders in Hockey East with nine HEA goals. Jeff Boulanger (8-8–16), Shannon Basaraba (5-10-15) and Chris Bell (7-8–15) also bolster the River Hawk attack.

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

PICK: Yale, 4-3

Northeastern (10-6-2, 6-4-2 Hockey East, T-1st) at Brown (4-11-1, 4-7-1 ECAC, T-6th) Tuesday, 7:30 pm, Meehan Auditorium, Providence, RI

Brown is coming off of its most successful weekend in the ECAC thus far. The Bears took three points with a victory over Union and a tie against Rensselaer.

"The guys are really playing well right now," said head coach Roger Grillo. "We’re doing some good things. We’re moving the puck well, guys are working extremely hard and its a credit to the guys hard work in practice."

The Bears now take a break from the ECAC schedule with three non-conference games.

"Our non-conference schedule this season is very difficult," said Grillo. "We’ve played Boston University, Minnesota, Notre Dame and Boston College. Now we’ve got Northeastern, Providence and UMass-Lowell, and only one of those games is at home. It’s a tough go for us."

Northeastern remains in a tie for first place in Hockey East, surprising many people, and despite losing its latest contest, 6-4, to Providence. The Huskies and Friars were tied at four going into the third period before Providence scored twice to take the game.

Please refer to the Hockey East preview for more information on the Huskies.

PICK: Northeastern, 5-2

Most teams finish their non-conference schedules next week, as there is only one ECAC contest in the lot.

Next week’s schedule (ECAC Games in bold): Friday, January 23 Union at Army Cornell at Western Michigan Rensselaer at Ferris State Denver at Vermont

Saturday, January 24 Clarkson at St. Lawrence Army at Yale Rensselaer at Western Michigan Cornell at Ferris State Denver at Dartmouth Brown at New Hampshire

Tuesday, January 27 Dartmouth at UMass-Lowell