This Week in the ECAC: December 8, 1999

The Curse Of USCHO

Much has been made of this within the last few days, mainly about the fact that the school that leads off in this space each week winds up biting the dust at least once the following weekend.

Now before you point fingers at us, let’s take a look at the cold, hard facts.

Exhibit A — Last weekend we featured the Red Raiders of Colgate in this spot. The Red Raiders promptly went out and dropped games to Yale and Princeton last weekend.

Exhibit B — Two weeks before that this column featured St. Lawrence. The Saints then lost a pair to Cornell and Colgate.

Exhibit C — The week before that, the Dutchmen of Union made an appearance here. You guessed it — the Dutchmen lost to St. Lawrence that weekend. They did win against Clarkson, though.

Exhibit D — It was Brad Tapper and the Rensselaer Engineers. They promptly lost to Colgate after defeating Cornell.

Exhibit E — The Crimson of Harvard were featured on October 27. Hey, they won that weekend in their only game!

Exhibit F — Before that there was no team featured up top.

So, the Crimson started us off strong, but since then, we’ve become the jinx — or so the evidence says.

Now, I know it looks bad, but believe us, if we had a hidden agenda, we’d feature non-ECAC teams here every week. So with that in mind, we’d like to make mention of:

Michigan State, Bowling Green, Northern Michigan, Michigan, Alaska-Fairbanks, Miami, Western Michigan, Lake Superior State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Nebraska-Omaha, Ferris State, Bemidji State, Niagara, Air Force, Alabama-Huntsville, Army, Findlay, Wayne State, Quinnipiac, Fairfield, Sacred Heart, Holy Cross, Connecticut, Canisius, Iona, Mercyhurst, AIC, Bentley, St. Cloud, Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota, Denver, Michigan Tech, Wisconsin, Alaska-Anchorage, Colorado College, Minnesota State- Mankato, North Dakota, Northeastern, Mass-Lowell, Mass-Amherst, Providence, Merrimack, Boston College, Boston University, New Hampshire and Maine.

A note to ECAC fans: if you wish to keep your team from being the headliner in this column, please notify Becky and Jayson as to the amount of your donation.

Wait Until Next Year

Last week Yale senior captain Jeff Hamilton decided to opt for a hardship waiver, and will sit out the rest of the 1999-2000 season.

That’s bad news for all ECAC fans, as Hamilton is one of the most exciting players in the league and the country. Hamilton was a Hobey Baker Finalist last winter, a second-team Titan/AHCA All-American, first-team All-ECAC and the Ivy League Player of the Year. He owns school records for both season and career game-winning goals, ranks eighth on Yale’s all-time scoring list and needs 43 points to become the all-time leader.

Hamilton sat out the first five games of the season due to a suspension for violating an NCAA rule prohibiting play in another league during the academic calendar, and returned to play against Dartmouth November 13. On the second shift of his game back, he got hurt and sat out the next game against Princeton with an abdominal muscle injury.

He returned to the lineup the following Tuesday and played the full game against the Tigers, but sat the next two in the Festival of Lights Tournament.

This past week, Hamilton decided to take the medical-hardship waiver.

“It has been very difficult to watch our team and not be able to participate, and this decision was even more painful than the injury itself,” said Hamilton. “Leaving the team and my senior classmates is one of the most troubling things I’ve ever experienced. I hope to heal quickly and train in preparation for a strong season next winter.”

“This injury is likely to keep him out the rest of the season, and the pain is interfering with his daily living,” said Barry Goldberg, director of Yale sports medicine. “Since November 13th, he has been significantly affected both on the ice and in his academic life. I think it is appropriate to rest the injury and not take any chances this year.”

“It was a difficult decision for Jeff Hamilton to make given his physical condition and the disjointed nature of his senior year. I believe he did what is best for him,” said Yale head coach Tim Taylor. “He has an opportunity to rewind his senior clock and start with a fresh slate, which seems like the right thing to do. Everyone at Yale understands and supports his decision. It will be a challenge without him this year, but we look forward to having him next season.”

As of this moment it is unclear whether or not Hamilton will be eligible for the full 2000- 2001 schedule when he returns next fall. At the time we went to press, the question of whether Hamilton has to re-serve the five-game suspension next season has not been answered. Stay tuned here, as we will hope to have an answer next week.

Head West, Young Tigers

If consistency is what Princeton was looking for, consistency is what the Tigers may have found. After bouncing from win to loss to win to loss, the Tigers have strung a few quality victories together and now find themselves with a promising 3-2-3 ECAC record heading into this weekend’s non-conference clashes with Bemidji State.

It was by virtue of a 10-goal offensive output and 61 saves by the newly anointed Princeton savior, Dave Stathos, that the Tigers knocked off Cornell and then Colgate in their home barn. Now with a struggling 3-10-1 team standing between it and a four-game winning streak, it’s looking pretty good for the Tigers.

Head coach Don “Toot” Cahoon, who only weeks ago said that he never knew which team was going to take the ice from one period to the next, is now becoming increasingly comfortable with his team … especially his goalie. Stathos has been the most consistent netminder for the Tigers thus far, but Cahoon made his decision to start the sophomore after witnessing a rising confidence during practice the week before. The decision to start Stathos for three straight games was new, as Cahoon had been staying true to the Stathos-Craig Bradley rotation.

“We had a short discussion,” Cahoon said of Stathos, who posts .912 save percentage and a 2.94 goals-against average coming into this weekend. “[Stathos] had a great week of practice. You have the hot hand here. You play the hot hand while it is there.”

His performance against the Big Red on Friday night included nearly six minutes during the third period in which Cornell, down 4-1 at the time, pulled goalie Matt Underhill in favor of a sixth skater. During that period, Stathos and the Tigers allowed the Big Red to light the lamp once more, but that was it.

“He has been sharp,” the seventh-year coach continued. “[Against Cornell], he was the difference. He made all the stops he was supposed to make and stole a few.”

Stathos was good, but he did get some help on the other end of the ice. The streaky Tigers had seven different goal-scorers on the weekend, including multiple-goal outings by Josh Roberts and Brad Parsons.

This weekend was a breakout for Roberts, who was given a chance to skate on the top line with Shane Campbell and Kirk Lamb on Friday night after Chris Corrinet left the game midway through the second period. Roberts made his mark quickly when he wristed a shot past Underhill just minutes into the third period. Prior to that tally, Roberts had posted only one goal in 31 games.

“I got a chance and finally capitalized,” said Roberts, who lit the lamp again with 1:20 left in the game. “Coach gave me a chance before with those guys, but I blew it. I had a different attitude (against Cornell). I was more focused. I owe it all to they guys who passed it to me. I just drove my wing and got open twice.”

Parsons is another who has shown increased confidence this season. He has been trying to shoulder the offensive load for the team this season, and so far has five goals and five assists to show for his effort.

Much like Parsons, Darren Yopyk had scored one goal in 33 games heading into the weekend, where he tallied two. But as all the players seem to agree, the consistency in net, thanks to Stathos, is affecting every facet of their game.

“Stathos played real well,” said Benoit Morin. “When you see him make two or three saves in a row you feel like you owe him, and you play harder.”

Although the Tigers would love to step on the ice at Baker Rink and repeat last weekend’s performance, they will have to learn how to win on the road, beginning this weekend against Bemidji State. With another trip to Notre Dame the next weekend, the Tigers won’t return to their home ice until they take on Queens University in an exhibition contest on December 30.

Thanks to Len Bardsley of the Trenton (N.J.) Times for his contributions this week.