This Week in the ECAC: December 4, 1998

This is it — the final set of ECAC league games until the new year is upon us. There are eight games on tap for this coming weekend, and all may shake the standings heading into exams and the holidays.

Last weekend there were only two ECAC matchups on the slate. Harvard got its first points of the ECAC season with a tie at Brown, and then defeated Rensselaer on Tuesday evening for its first ECAC win.

In non-league action, the ECAC saw ten games against Hockey East opponents. The big winners were Clarkson and Princeton, as both those teams took a pair of games. Clarkson topped Boston University and Boston College, and Princeton went over Providence and Merrimack.

Those same Hockey East schools would deal two other ECAC teams two losses on the weekend. Yale lost to both Providence and Merrimack, and St. Lawrence lost to Boston College and Boston University.

Finally, Vermont defeated Mass-Lowell in the Governor’s Cup, but dropped the championship game to Maine, leading the ECAC and Hockey East to a 5-5 split on the weekend.

In other non-conference action, Niagara tied Union and defeated Rensselaer, while Colgate defeated Cornell at the Nassau Coliseum in a non-conference tilt and Dartmouth split a pair of games at Nebraska-Omaha. This week’s ECAC honorees:

ECAC Player of the Week — Steve Moore, Harvard ECAC Rookie of the Week — Don Richardson, Vermont ECAC Goaltender of the Week — Shawn Grant, Clarkson

Take a close look at the ECAC Standings right now, because they might look a little different on Sunday.

Last Week: 9-8 Season to Date: 37-32, .536

Clarkson (3-6-0, 1-2-0 ECAC, T-9th) and St. Lawrence (6-4-0, 2-1-0 ECAC, T-5th) at Harvard (2-6-1, 0-6-1 ECAC, 12th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7:00 pm, Bright Hockey Center, Boston, MA St. Lawrence (6-4-0, 2-1-0 ECAC, T-5th) and Clarkson (3-6-0, 1-2-0 ECAC, T-9th) at Brown (1-3-2, 1-3-2 ECAC, T-5th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7:00 pm, Meehan Auditorium, Providence, RI

The reason Clarkson, which sports an aesthetically displeasing 2-7 overall record, is receiving votes in the USCHO poll was clearly evident this past weekend in Cheel Arena.

After slowly fighting through an early-season bout of growing pains, the Golden Knights seemed to blossom into the team everyone thought they would be this past weekend by delivering two convincing back-to-back victories over Boston University and Boston College.

For once, Clarkson coach Mark Morris had nice words for his youthful netminder, Shawn Grant, who held the Hockey East powers to three goals while amassing 51 saves in two games. In addition, the weekend also lay witness to the re-emergence of sophomores Erik Cole and Willie Mitchell, who found the offensive touch for the first time this season.

Against the Terriers, a rebound off a Mitchell shot landed right on the stick of Matt Reid for the game-winner at the 14:09 mark of the second period, while Cole added a goal in the final stanza to cap off the victory.

The following night Cole combined for Clarkson’s first tally against the Eagles, then assisted Philippe Roy on the power play for the deciding goal.

"We, the coaching staff, are proud of our guys," Morris said following his team’s 2-1 victory over the Eagles. "They worked hard to get things to go our way….Tonight was a good test."

Eric Heffler has just about monopolized the ECAC’s Goaltender of the Week awards this year, but for the first time this season, the St. Lawrence netminder couldn’t lead his team to a win as the Saints were swept by visiting Boston College and Boston University.

After a tightly-contested 40 minutes of hockey on Friday night, the Eagles exploded for five goals in the final stanza, allowing the visitors to exit the North Country with a win. In the losing effort, Heffler knocked away 27 shots before giving way to backup Sean Coakley, who made seven saves and allowed one goal in just under eight minutes of play.

"We played well for 40 minutes, but they turned it up a notch in the third period and we couldn’t go with them," said St. Lawrence head coach Joe Marsh, whose team lost to BC earlier in the season at the Icebreaker Cup. "They have a lot of game experience and we have a young team which made some mistakes early in the third. BC is a team you don’t want to get into a special-teams shootout with because of its offensive talent, and we took a couple of penalties which hurt us."

The following night against the Terriers, Heffler once again finished with 27 saves, but it was not enough for the Saints, who fell to Jack Parker’s team, 2-1. It was the first sign of a letdown for Marsh’s team, who had roared out of the starting gates as a legitimate force in the ECAC.

Now, the team has a golden opportunity to return to its winning ways as it heads south to face Harvard and Brown, two teams struggling to find their way through league play.

"Saturday night’s game was a frustrating one in that we played with good intensity, generated a lot of chances, but couldn’t finish things off when it came to scoring, "Marsh said. "We had a ton of power play opportunities, and should have done a lot better in that area…but the weekend was a learning experience for us, and if we can continue that kind of effort, the rest will take care of itself."

To say that the road ahead for Harvard looks bleak is quite an understatement for a team that currently holds a 0-6-1 record in league play with two of its toughest opponents on deck this weekend.

The injury-plagued Crimson appeared to have turned an important corner last weekend, defeating Boston University for the first time since 1983, then following up that performance four days later with a come-from-behind 4-4 tie against Brown at Meehan Auditorium.

That positive streak quickly came to an end in Houston Fieldhouse, where RPI crushed Harvard, 7-4, continuing what has become a familiar trend in ECAC play.

Scoring goals against Harvard has indeed been a textbook maneuver for opposing teams and the Crimson, still without injured Ben Storey (mono) and Chris Bala (broken wrist), don’t seem to be heading in the right direction.

"We have really struggled defensively," said Harvard head coach Ronn Tomassoni. "We are making mistakes and blunders that are killing us. Right now we are really missing Storey."

The loss of Bala, who was injured in the second period against the Terriers, is perhaps the greatest loss for the team. Without him flanking linemate Steve Moore on the first line, the responsibility of pulling the offensive load has fallen directly on the shoulders of Moore. On Friday night, the Crimson’s attack will be even more anemic without captain Craig Adams, who will be serving the game disqualification he received on Tuesday night after a brawl against the Engineers.

"We really need to work hard to get ourselves back into this season," Tomassoni said. "Our kids need to play hard every time they step on the ice, because they are judged by each shift."

The Brown Bears are coming off a week during which they collected a crucial league point. The problem was that it came against Harvard, in a game where the Bears entered the final period with a seemingly secure 3-0 lead.

Harvard deposited three unanswered goals in the third period, and only a six-on-five desperation tally by James Duval at the 18:56 mark forced the contest into overtime.

The one thing that might have made head coach Roger Grillo happy was his team’s penalty-killing unit — the bane of his existence up to this point — which held the Crimson down in five of six power-play opportunities.

Heading into a weekend when Brown hosts St. Lawrence and Clarkson, the play of Scott Stirling will come to the forefront. After beginning the season on a tear, the netminder has shown some signs of vulnerability. Despite collecting 35 saves against Harvard, Stirling was shaky in the third period, when he let up four goals in nine minutes.

Picks: Clarkson at Harvard — The most dangerous sentiment overwhelming the Harvard players right now is a lack of confidence, and the surging Golden Knights will do little to raise the Crimson’s morale. Against RPI, Harvard’s best offensive unit on the ice was the fourth line. When that happens, wins rarely follow. Clarkson 6, Harvard 2 St. Lawrence at Brown — Brown is a dangerous team whose record isn’t entirely indicative of how it has played. The Bears were a formidable challenge to both Cornell and Colgate when they visited Meehan, and the same will be true on Friday night when the Saints make their way to Providence. Look for Heffler to outduel Stirling for the victory. St. Lawrence 3, Brown 2 St. Lawrence at Harvard — The Saints will no doubt go marching right past the Crimson at Bright Hockey Center. Unlike Clarkson, St. Lawrence doesn’t have the firepower to produce a rout, but it will be in control of the contest throughout. St. Lawrence 4, Harvard 1 Clarkson at Brown — Clarkson has found its way through the toughest part of its season, and it appears that they have returned to a form similar to the one which led to Lake Placid last season. Brown will battle valiantly in its own rink, but in the end will become a mere bump in the road for the Golden Knights. Clarkson 4, Brown 1

Union (2-6-1, 1-2-0 ECAC, T-9th) and Rensselaer (5-4-0, 2-2-0 ECAC, T-5th) at Cornell (5-2-0, 3-1-0 ECAC, T-3rd) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7:00 pm, Lynah Rink, Ithaca, NY Rensselaer (5-4-0, 2-2-0 ECAC, T-5th) and Union (2-6-1, 1-2-0 ECAC, T-9th) at Colgate (6-2-0, 4-0-0 ECAC, 1st) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7:00 pm, Starr Rink, Hamilton, NY

Union tied Niagara on Saturday evening 3-3. After the Purple Eagles jumped out to a quick lead, the Dutchmen came back strong in the third period to tie the game with two goals. Freshman Brandon Snee got his second straight start and his first at Achilles Rink.

"We made a couple of errors on defense and [Snee] saved us," head coach Kevin Sneddon said after the game. "It was a gutsy effort. In the first we played real hard and we were making simple plays and going to the net. In the second period we got out of that."

The Dutchmen allowed two goals in that second period, but scored twice in the third to come back — something they also did earlier in the season. The Dutchmen came back with a flurry of goals to beat Niagara in the first game of the season and tied up Rensselaer two weeks later in the third period.

After losing to Niagara 3-2, the Rensselaer Engineers came back on Tuesday evening to defeat Harvard 7-4. The line of the evening was Danny Riva (2-3–5) centering Matt Murley (1-3–4) and Brad Tapper (2-1–3). Unfortunately for the Engineers, Riva was given a game disqualification following a fight with Harvard’s Craig Adams towards the end of the game.

Riva, the second leading scorer for the Engineers with 16 points (7- 9–16), will now be ineligible for Friday’s game against Colgate. With third line center Steve Caley questionable because of an undisclosed injury, what will head coach Dan Fridgen do on Friday?

"I’ve got a couple of days to think about it," he said.

Despite the victory, Fridgen was not in a good mood following the game, mainly due to the melee.

"If I seem disappointed, it’s because of the penalties," he said. "We’re in a situation where we can’t afford to lose anybody but now it’s an opportunity for other guys to step up and provide leadership."

Cornell played travel partners Colgate at the Nassau Coliseum last weekend, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Red Raiders. The difference for the Big Red was special teams.

"Give them credit on the special teams, they beat us tonight," head coach Mike Schafer said. "They had two power-play goals, and we didn’t have any."

The special teams was just one of the areas affected by the injury bug which has plagued Schafer’s team over the last two seasons, especially on defense — the Big Red used only four defensemen for most of the game. Among the wounded for the Big Red are Larry Pierce (broken hand) and Rick Sacchetti (leg injury).

Sacchetti’s loss necessitated the shift of Cornell’s iron man, Kyle Knopp, back to defense for some portions of the game.

Nonetheless, head coach Mike Schafer would not use that as an excuse, and pointed towards his forwards for more production and a bigger impact on the game.

"I don’t think that we competed very hard…and I was pretty disappointed with the play of a lot of our forwards," he said. "We only had four defensemen play the game and those guys were pretty tired towards the end of the game. I don’t think that our forwards paid the price tonight to give us a chance to win the game."

"We are definitely disappointed with our effort, we play only 30 games a year and to not come out and play for one of them — you have no answers for it," defenseman Jeff Burgoyne said. "The only positive that can be taken from this is that when we started to play well, we handled them and took it to them down low. It makes us realize that when we come to play and when we work hard, we can beat a team like [Colgate]."

The winning team from that contest, Colgate, is now riding a five-game winning streak. The Red Raiders are also leading the ECAC, but as with any evening in the ECAC, everyone knows that can change as quickly as it happened.

The Red Raiders have gotten to first because of a combination of from goaltending to offense. In the nets, Shep Harder and Jason LeFevre have both played two league games, with almost identical records. Both goaltenders have a GAA of 2.00, and Harder has a .909 save percentage while LeFevre has a .923 save percentage.

Factor in Andy McDonald leading the league in scoring with nine points (4-5–9), an offense that has averaged 5.50 goals per game, a power-play unit that has succeeded 23.1 percent of the time and that leads to victory — something that the Red Raiders have done for the first four ECAC games.

Picks: Union at Cornell — The Dutchmen have fared very well against Cornell in the past. Last season the Dutchmen swept the series, own a three-game winning streak and are undefeated against the Big Red in the last four meetings. The streak ends. Cornell 3, Union 1 Rensselaer at Colgate — With a banged-up center and another sitting out a DQ, the Engineers will find it tough to win faceoffs on Friday. Because of that, the Red Raiders have a decided edge, and go to 5-0-0 in the ECAC. Colgate 6, Rensselaer 2 Rensselaer at Cornell — The name of this game will be defense. It will be tough with the forwards getting into the act to support their young defensemen. Look for a low-scoring game as it could be either team. Cornell 3, Rensselaer 2 Union at Colgate — The Red Raiders have not let in many goals. The Dutchmen have a hard time scoring goals. You figure it out. Colgate 5, Union 2

Yale (2-4-0, 2-2-0 ECAC, T-5th) vs. Princeton (5-1-1, 3-0-1 ECAC, 2nd) Friday, 7:30 pm, Ingalls Rink, New Haven, CT Saturday, 7:00 pm, Hobey Baker Rink, Princeton, NJ

It’s always a good sign when a coach can afford to be disappointed after his team knocked off a strong Hockey East squad on the road.

Well, that was exactly the state of Princeton coach Don "Toot" Cahoon following his team’s 6-5 defeat of the Providence Friars. The victory, which was the Tigers’ fourth of the year, was not the first thing on the coach’s mind — he was more disturbed by the fact that his team had surrendered three power-play goals.

"Everyone is having success against us," said Cahoon of his penalty-killing unit. "It’s not like we didn’t have enough practice out there. You know, right now it’s hard to think about individuals when the team just played as badly as it did tonight."

That problem was remedied in the next contest against Merrimack, where Jeff Halpern and Scott Bertoli figured into three of the Tigers four goals en route to a 4-1 win over Merrimack at Hobey Baker Rink.

After the Friars loss, Cahoon said he had trouble talking about individuals because team had played so badly. Such was not the case on Sunday night.

"You can’t put your finger on what it is that Jeff really represents out there because he does so many things," Cahoon said. "He distributes the puck. He puts good shots on the net. At some points, he quarterbacks the power play. You can use him in man- down situations. He has become very dependable defensively in his own end. He will lay the body on someone. He just does so many different things."

With each game, the team appears to be getting stronger — most notably the Tigers’ first line of Halpern, Bertoli, and Benoit Moran. In addition, the Acosta brothers, J.P. and Michael, have found the scoring touch, combining for two goals in two games.

After a stellar second weekend of ECAC play in which Yale swept Brown and Harvard, the Elis were dealt a setback, swept by Hockey East foes Merrimack and Providence, 6-3 and 5-3.

Both Trevor Hangar, making his first start of the season, and Alex Westlund came up losers. Merrimack raced out to a 3-0 lead and never looked back, and Providence scored four unanswered goals after Yale got on the board first to start the game.

The Bulldog offense is once again led by Jeff Hamilton, who leads the league in goals scored with five. Hamilton sat out the game against Providence, but is expected back in the lineup against the Tigers this weekend.

Jay Quenville made the Honor Roll this past weekend for his two-goal effort against Merrimack.

Picks: Princeton will be challenged by Hamilton and the Bulldogs, but with the home-ice advantage, the Tigers should be able to take the second game of the home-and-away series to the bank after Yale keeps its end of the series. Yale 3-2, Princeton 5-2

New Brunswick (7-5-1, 1st McAdam Division, AUAA) at Vermont (7-4-0, 3-1-0 ECAC, T-3rd) Saturday, 2:00 pm, Gutterson Fieldhouse, Burlington, VT

Vermont ran into a tough Maine team in the championship game of the Governor’s Cup last weekend after defeating Mass-Lowell in overtime. The Cats dropped a 2-0 decision to the Black Bears after their OT win.

"[Maine] didn’t give us many opportunities at all," said head coach Mike Gilligan. "I can’t remember three good scoring chances. A lot of the shots were misleading. We were a step behind them all night long, most obviously in the first period. I don’t know if we ever did play with them tonight."

One bright spot for the Cats was freshman Don Richardson, who scored twice on Friday, including the overtime winner, and earned ECAC Rookie of the Week honors.

"I watched [Steve] Kariya in the early game. I’m praying that Donnie ends up playing like him," said Gilligan. "Hopefully he [Richardson] was watching the same thing; I think he could emulate a lot of the stuff he does out there."

New Brunswick comes into the Gut on Saturday afternoon for its third matchup with an ECAC team. The Varsity Reds defeated Princeton earlier in the season 11-4 as the Reds took advantage of numerous Tiger follies, and then lost to Brown 10-0 after suffering injuries the night before against the Tigers which led the Varsity Reds to play with just 16 skaters and their backup goaltender.

Pick: The Varsity Reds, the defending Canadian university champions, are tough, and they just moved into first place in their division with a win and a tie over Prince Edward Island on the road this past weekend — but it’s still not enough. Vermont 6, New Brunswick 2

With the holidays upon us quicker than you can say "Pops" Hendrickson, the schedule also gets shorter.

Next week in the ECAC: Friday, December 11 Providence at Dartmouth Niagara at Clarkson Ferris State at St. Lawrence Colgate at Minnesota-Duluth

Saturday, December 12 Ferris State at Clarkson Colgate at Minnesota-Duluth

Thanks to the Dave Hendrickson, Rich Tibbetts, Jason Frank and Jason Patton for their contributions to this preview.

All photographs used by permission of the appropriate Sports Information Departments. Any reproduction without authorization is prohibited.

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

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