This Week in the ECAC: November 6, 1998


Just one more week to go before the action in the ECAC really heats up, but the appetite is whetted this week with the first league game. Brown travels to Cambridge to play Harvard as the second century of this rivalry begins.

As for last week, it was success for Colgate and Rensselaer over Army, a split for Vermont against St. Cloud, and exhibition wins for Brown and Cornell. New Brunswick dumped Princeton with a Stone Cold Stunner, and Merrimack did the same with the Diamond Cutter to Union last weekend.

St. Lawrence defeated Colgate in a non-conference tilt in Buffalo, and remained in the number-ten spot in the U.S. College Hockey Online Poll.

ECAC Player of the Week — Phillippe Choiniere, Vermont ECAC Rookie of the Week — Andrew McPherson, Rensselaer ECAC Goaltender of the Week — Eric Heffler, St. Lawrence

This week, besides the ECAC battle between the Bears and the Crimson, Clarkson gets back into action with a pair at North Dakota, Cornell and Dartmouth prepare for Niagara, and Harvard also plays UMass-Amherst.

Add a non-conference trophy game between Rensselaer and Union, along with exhibition games for Yale, Dartmouth and Vermont, and Princeton’s regular-season debut against Boston University, and it should be a dandy as the league prepares to open up full force next weekend in a Battle Royal for the Scotty M. Whitelaw Trophy.

Last week: 6-3 Season to date: 11-9, .550

We tried to pick the Minnesota governor’s Race too. We went with Skip. Governor Body?!?

Pretty soon, we’ll put Hendrickson, Weston, Milewski and Doyle in the Inverted Body Vise.

Until then, welcome to the "Body Shop" and remember; Retaliate in ’98!

Brown (0-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) at Harvard (0-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) Friday, 7:30 pm, Alexander H. Bright Hockey Center, Cambridge, MA Harvard (0-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) at University of Massachusetts – Amherst (1-3-0, 1-2-0 Hockey East) Sunday, 5:00pm, William D. Mullins Center, Amherst, MA

The ECAC has slowly been revealing itself each week, and come Friday night at Bright Hockey Center, two more teams will emerge from the hibernation that is the offseason to do battle on the big white sheet.

Harvard will host Brown in not only the first league contest for each, but also the first regular-season game of any kind for the two teams. The Bears have a slight advantage on the Crimson in the experience department, as New Brunswick visited Providence one week ago and was promptly disposed of, 10-0.

Although the fates of entire seasons are rarely unveiled in exhibition contests, the New Brunswick matchup (and remember, New Brunswick only dressed 16 players for that game) allowed second-year coach Roger Grillo’s team to explore life without Damian Prescott, who took with him a large chunk of the Bears’ offense. Across the line, Brown suffered critical losses and will need to find unexpected heroes to fill in the gaps as the team embarks on a regular season which features 12 straight league contests.

One important element to Brown’s success will be junior goaltender Scott Stirling, who emerged as one of the most talented netminders in the league last season, finishing his sophomore campaign with the league’s top save percentage in ECAC contests (.933). Whether that second-half surge had anything to do with now-graduated blueliners Jimmy Andersson, D.J. Harding, and Bob Quinnell will be told very quickly against the Crimson, which boasts a potentially-dangerous offensive unit.

Led by the duo of Chris Bala and Steve Moore, Harvard appears to have finally found itself an attack deeper than two lines. Senior captain Craig Adams, who missed more than half of last season with a shoulder injury, is back on the first line with Bala and Moore and that trio, which perfectly combined the speed and playmaking ability of Bala and Moore with the aggressive, physical style of Adams, will no doubt pick up right where it left off offensively last December.

Look for the Crimson newcomers to also make an immediate impact against the Bears. The much-anticipated debut of US National Program product Kyle Clark may be overshadowed by another, significantly smaller rookie: 5-foot-9 Jared Cantanucci, who has turned quite a few heads during the preseason.

Pick: Despite its lack of exhibition contests, Harvard is still a bit banged-up physically, and come Friday night could be missing some key players. Still, there is enough talent embedded within the roster, starting with goalie J.R. Prestifilippo, to help the Crimson get the pinfall with its first victory of the season. Harvard 5, Brown 2

On Sunday, Harvard makes the trek to western Massachusetts to take on the Minutemen of UMass-Amherst. The Minutemen spilt a pair of games last weekend, defeating Merrimack on Friday, 3-2, and then dropping one to New Hampshire on Sunday.

The Minutemen have gotten some impressive play from Markus Helanen. Head coach Joe Mallen believes that Helanen is one of the finest goaltenders in Hockey East, if not the nation. For more on the Minutemen, click on over to Dave "The Beast From The (Hockey) East" Hendrickson’s Hockey East Preview.

Pick: The Crimson may be a little tired, but it will be enough to win a low-scoring affair at the Mullins Center. Harvard 3, UMass-Amherst 1

Clarkson (0-2-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) at North Dakota (2-0-0, 2-0-0 WCHA) Friday – Saturday, 8:35 pm, Ralph Engelstad Arena, Grand Forks, ND

After facing off against Northern Michigan in its season-opening weekend, one would think that the road gets easier for Clarkson. Not true.

The Golden Knights face one of the best teams in the nation, No. 2 North Dakota, this weekend in Engelstad Arena.

Mark Morris’ squad is still searching for its first win of the 1998-99 season after being swept by the Wildcats two weeks ago in Cheel Arena.

Despite playing with a defensive corps that struggled in its first game against then-undefeated Northern Michigan, the Golden Knights kept pace with their CCHA foe through more than two periods. Bryan Phillips’ blast in the third, over the glove of Clarkson netminder Shawn Grant, sealed the 6-5 victory.

"We made poor reads and decisions," said Morris following the loss. "We were more disappointed with some of our veterans. We have guys who are looking to improve their individual numbers, but they made too many mistakes."

The next night saw much of the same as Northern Michigan found just enough offensive punch to knock off the Golden Knights again. Offensively, Clarkson had a balanced scoring attack as five different players netted their first tallies of the season. Matt Reid was the high man with two goals and an assist, while Carl Drakensjo added two goals and Erik Cole finished the two-game series with a goal and three assists.

But it was the numerous odd-man rushes allowed by the Golden Knights which proved to be the difference. Much pressure was placed on the two Clarkson netminders, Grant and freshman Andrew Gibson, who are still battling for the starting nod. Although neither goalie produced a spectacular show, both were solid. Grant knocked away 24 shots the first contest, while Gibson followed up that performance with 18 saves the following night, leaving the question of a starter even more of a quandary for Morris.

North Dakota presents a formidable challenge for the Golden Knights. The Fighting Sioux jumped out to a 2-0 mark last week following two victories over Minnesota-Duluth. Clarkson will have to find a way to beat netminder Karl Goehring, who enters the contest with a 0.55 goals against average and a .984 save percentage.

The Sioux will be without five players due to suspensions from last Saturday’s WCHA penalty-fest, where clotheslines, body slams and piledrivers were definitely thought about. Plus, Jason Blake is with the U.S. National team in qualifications. For more on this situation, tune into Todd "The Phenom" Milewski’s WCHA Preview.

Picks: This WCHA powerhouse has been playing more and more like the North Dakota team of 1997, when it beat Boston University for the national championship. They may not go all the way come March, but despite having a short lineup on Friday, they will sweep the best the ECAC has to offer. North Dakota 3, Clarkson 2; North Dakota 4, Clarkson 3

Niagara (2-2-0, 2-2-0 vs. Division I) at Cornell (0-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) Friday, 7:00 pm, James Lynah Rink, Ithaca, NY Niagara (2-2-0, 2-2-0 vs. Division I) at Dartmouth (0-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) Sunday, 4:00 pm, Rupert Thompson Arena, Hanover, NH

Cornell started out the season with a 4-1 exhibition victory over Guelph at Lynah last Saturday. The story was freshman David Kozier, who tallied two of the four Big Red goals in the win. That proved a nice scene for Big Red fans, not least since head coach Mike Schafer had not counted on seeing the freshman in the lineup because of injury.

Bothered by those same injuries last season, the Big Red have gotten deeper, something Schafer had hoped would gel for him early on.

"You see the depth we have up front," he told the Cornell Daily Sun. "It’s pretty hard to tell the difference between what’s the first, second, third, fourth line. I think we have real good balance."

But on defense, it could be a case of not enough depth due to injuries again. David Adler appears out after back surgery, Shaun Peet is hampered by back problems and has not practiced yet, and Alex Gregory is back from his illness, but his status is still only probable for this weekend.

Schafer also put both of his goaltenders into the game against Guelph, Ian Burt and Matt Underhill.

"I didn’t think they [Burt and Underhill] got tested a whole lot," he said. "One area I thought they did a pretty good job in was covering up the rebounds of the shots they did have. The importance of those two guys doing that, of covering up rebounds and not giving second chances, that’s what I’m looking for out of our two goaltenders. Again, I didn’t think they got tested a whole lot, but I thought they did a solid job when they did."

Dartmouth will see its second game of the season against Niagara, having played Acadia the night before in an exhibition. Head coach Bob Gaudet is hoping that his young team will come together quickly.

"It’s a totally different team for us," he said. "We may have the youngest team in the country. We could be playing 8-10 freshmen in every game. This class is a really solid group of guys from top to bottom. We had seven forwards that graduated that played game in and game out. I am not sure we can fill those holes with guys that did not play as much last season. I don’t think we’re going to replace the scoring that we lost."

It will be tough for Gaudet’s squad, which will be without one of its goaltenders for a little while. Jason Wong had a tough time battling his diabetic condition last season, and while he is no longer struggling with it, he has taken some time off from the team to concentrate on his academics.

That leaves Eric Almon as the go-to guy in between the pipes for the Big Green.

"(Almon) had a real solid year for us last year," said Gaudet. "He’s a good-sized kid and he will build on last year because game in and game out he was solid. We’re so young up front that we’re going to need a guy like Almon to step up."

Niagara pulled off another upset last weekend, besting Ohio State 6-3 at the Buffalo Showcase. With the win, the Purple Eagles have now defeated two of the four teams that were in Boston for the NCAA championships last season.

Boston College and New Hampshire are not on the Eagles’ regular-season schedule.

"We went into the (Ohio State) game knowing they’re a better team than us," said head coach Blaise MacDonald. "We were going to stick to our game plan. If we did that, good things were going to happen."

And good things did happen. Led by P.J. Perry’s two goals and the goaltending of Greg Gardner, the Purple Eagles showed that they are a force to be reckoned with as the season moves along.

Picks: Niagara at Cornell: The Big Red start the season off right, with a pinfall victory over Niagara. Cornell 4, Niagara 2

Niagara at Dartmouth: With two young teams on the ice, the one with games under its belt gets the win. Niagara 5, Dartmouth 3

Princeton (0-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) at Boston University (0-4-0, 0-2-0 Hockey East) Friday, 7:00 pm, Walter Brown Arena, Boston, MA

They haven’t even played one regular-season game, yet everyone seems to be asking the same question, "What’s wrong with Princeton?"

Fortunately for the Tigers, the same query is being raised 300-plus miles north in Boston about its Friday night opponent, Boston University. Jack Parker and his Terriers, fresh off a weekend sweep by Providence, are off to one its worst starts in the program’s history. [To see what LaRocque is cooking, turn to Dave "The Body" Hendrickson’s Hockey East Preview for more information on the Terriers.]

"I know that BU program well and they will become a good team," said Princeton head coach Don "Toot" Cahoon, a former player and assistant coach for the Terriers. "They have lost a couple of superstars and are suffering from growing pains, but they have some guys who could emerge as those type of players. I expect that given the pride of the program, they will come out hard and try to right the ship. We have our hands full because I’m not sure how we’ll react to the game circumstance."

The Tigers came under fire after an 11-4 drubbing at the hands of New Brunswick in an exhibition contest held on a night that was supposed to honor the 1998 ECAC Championship team. If the meager 1,000 fans who showed up at Hobey Baker Rink that night didn’t spoil the flag-raising ceremony, the play of the Tigers certainly put a damper on the evenings festivities.

Princeton, never a team to explode out of the starting gates in early-season action, was humbled quickly by the defending Canadian collegiate champions. What makes the defeat even more troubling is that New Brunswick suffered a 10-0 defeat to Brown the following night.

"We had a different agenda. It was a night for celebrating the tournament from last year and people’s minds were away from the matter at hand, " said Cahoon of the debacle. "As a team, we were very undisciplined and we were not in it. We were 20 individuals and did not play together as a unit, but that’s exactly what exhibitions are for, to determine your strengths and weaknesses. It was useful, but it definitely wasn’t a lot to build off of."

Unfortunately, the loss to New Brunswick was more costly than the just the score relates. In the third period of that contest, Hobey Baker hopeful Jeff Halpern, who last season led the team with 53 points, including a school-record 28 goals, received an intent-to-injure disqualification and will be forced to miss Friday’s contest against the Terriers.

With Halpern out of the lineup, much of the scoring punch up front will be lost. In addition, considering the youth and the thus-far apparent weakness along the BU blue line, Halpern’s speed and agility with the puck would have wreaked havoc on the Terriers in their own end. In his absence, most of the offensive burden will fall on the shoulders on senior co-captain Syl Apps, who is considered more of a defensive forward, as well as Scott Bertoli.

"It will give us a good opportunity for other guys to step up," Cahoon said. "No team is an island, and you can’t settle around one person. It also makes a statement, and it’s a good lesson for us that you can’t take major infractions and get away with it."

After giving up 11 goals to New Brunswick, Cahoon has yet to find a permanent replacement for Erasmo Saltarelli. Looking at just the exhibition contest, picking between senior Nick Rankin (five goals on eight shots), junior Craig Bradley (three goals on 11 shots), and freshman Dave Stathos (3 goals on 12 shots) appears to be more like a game of Russian roulette than a search for a starter.

"You pick ’em," Cahoon said following the New Brunswick contest. "I thought the freshman, Stathos, was respectable. I’ll say that."

The seventh-year coach will wait until the last moment to name his latest victim….er…starter.

Pick: Before the season began, this matchup was slated as a battle between some of the best talent that the East has to offer. Now, it’s turned into a grudge match between two teams no one seems to know. It’s perhaps the coin-toss pick of the season, but the gut instinct is saying that the Terriers will nab their first win of the year. Princeton redeemed itself from its exhibition performance, but without Halpern, the offense will have troubling delivering a "W". Boston University 5, Princeton 4

Capital Skate Classic Union (1-2-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) vs. Rensselaer (2-1-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) Friday, 7:30 pm, Glens Falls Civic Center, Glens Falls, NY

The third annual Capital Skates Classic makes an appearance at its second different site and third different arena. Okay, so the Knickerbocker Arena and the Pepsi Arena are one and the same, but the new site this year is the home of Hacksaw Jim Duggan — Glens Falls, NY. Hoooooooooo!!!

For those of you unfamiliar with the Capital District area, Glens Falls is 45 miles north of Albany. It is the home of the Adirondack Red Wings of the AHL, the farm club for the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings, and the former site of the New York Rangers’ training camp.

Now that that’s out of the way, it’s time for the heated Capital District rivalry. These two teams are less than 10 miles apart, and they play each other in every other sport. Hockey is just another part of the rivalry. Union won the first classic, 2-0, and Rensselaer took the trophy home last year, 3-2.

For Union, it’s a chance to get back on track after two consecutive losses to Hockey East squads. The last, a 5-1 loss to Merrimack at home, the Dutchmen fell behind less than a minute into the game, and trailed by three goals after one period.

"I’m disappointed that we got outworked," said head coach Kevin Sneddon. "(Merrimack) played like they wanted to win and we weren’t prepared for them."

Sneddon will try to get his team up for another non-conference game before the start of the league schedule, and there is optimism despite the loss to Merrimack.

"I’m very confident in their ability; it’s always been there," Sneddon said. "It’s just a matter of putting our system to work, and the guys have adapted. Last year we played not to lose in the third period. This year we’re playing to win. You have to gain that confidence."

The Dutchmen will face Rensselaer, a 7-1 winner over Army on Saturday. The win was the Engineers’ best effort of the young season.

"They came out and they played real hard," said Engineer head coach Dan Fridgen. "From the drop of the puck they didn’t let up. I can’t remember a game where you had three freshmen scoring the first goal of their career, and two of them being defensemen. Hopefully that’s one of many for them. We rolled the four lines through and we rolled the six defensemen through, and everyone had a solid game for 60 minutes."

The Engineers had a four-goal lead after 11 minutes of play, and they never looked back. After getting blown out by Lowell, the Engineers came back. The object now for Fridgen and his club is to keep that up as the season moves along.

"We had a good game," he said. "That’s not to say we’re not going to have inconsistent games this year. We did a good job of putting that loss (against Lowell) behind us and getting on to the next opponent. You have a few days to enjoy this win, and then we get ready for Union."

Pick: If Rensselaer can come out and blitz Union like it did against Army, and like Merrimack did against Union, then the Engineers should go on to victory. The more experienced Engineers will pull the victory out in this steel cage match. Rensselaer 3, Union 2

Acadia at Vermont (2-2-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) Friday, 7:30 pm, Gutterson Field House, Burlington, VT Acadia at Dartmouth (0-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) Saturday, 7:00 pm, Rupert Thompson Arena, Hanover, NH McGill at Yale (0-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) Saturday, 7:00 pm, Ingalls Rink, New Haven, Conn.

Exhibitions, exhibitions. What’s one to do about exhibitions? Have fun at them. This will be an interlude in Vermont’s schedule, but it’s the first on-ice action for Dartmouth and Yale.

Vermont will look to hone the offense and defense, which has given the Cats a 2-2-0 record thus far, while Dartmouth tries to get its system in place with a host of young players and Yale will look to begin defending its regular-season ECAC title.

More on these three teams next week as they play league games.

Picks: Only the Dynamic Duo could pick an exhibition and lose. Not this week, as the Canadian schools job to the American schools. Vermont 6, Acadia 1, Dartmouth 4, Acadia 3 and Yale 6, McGill 1

Next week, it’s full swing into the ECAC season as everyone is involved in conference action.

Friday, November 13 Colgate at Brown Cornell at Harvard Yale at Clarkson Princeton at St. Lawrence Union at Vermont Rensselaer at Dartmouth

Saturday, November 14 Colgate at Harvard Cornell at Brown Yale at St. Lawrence Princeton at Clarkson Union at Dartmouth Rensselaer at Vermont

Thanks to USCHO’s game reporters for their contributions to this preview.

Becky Blaeser and Jayson Moy are ECAC Correspondents for U.S. College Hockey Online.

Copyright 1998 Becky Blaeser and Jayson Moy. All rights reserved.