A Tiger’s Tale
What adjectives describe Princeton’s Benoit Morin? Around the league many have been thrown about, good and bad. The senior has made quite an impression on his teammates, coaches and opponents over his three-plus years in a Tiger uniform, but this weekend he may make his imprint on the Princeton record books.
His career scoring statistics are not comparable to the likes of such Princeton greats as Andre Faust, Jeff Halpern and John Messuri, but Morin needs only two more penalty minutes to become Princeton’s all-time unofficial leader in that category. Princeton does not keep official records on PIMs, but officials at Princeton said that he is one minute shy of the mark. And to think he accomplished this feat after sitting out his first year for playing major junior.
“What a record,” Morin, the Montreal native, says with a laugh. “It’s not the type of record that I want everyone to know about, and that’s certainly not my goal.”
The penalty record may lead to a number of jabs in the Tiger locker room, but Morin’s career at Princeton has been no laughing matter. In his three years with the Tigers, Morin has experienced a spectrum of emotions with his team, and the biggest challenge for Morin and his senior class came this year. After losing arguably one of the best classes in Princeton history, which included Morin’s linemates Halpern and Scott Bertoli along with Syl Apps, Morin was left with a handful of underclassmen with little playing experience.
“There are a lot of young guys on our team and it’s our role to show them the way,” said Morin, whose team was picked to finish 11th in the preseason coaches poll. “Our senior class has had three winning teams in the past and this is the first year that we’ve kind of struggled, and we have to keep working hard. Coach (Don “Toot”) Cahoon is putting a lot of attention in practice and it’s very intense. Everything will work out all right, and I think we’ll be fine.”
Despite the fact that he is listed at a mere 5-10, 188 pounds, Morin plays a very physical game and he never misses an opportunity to deliver a crushing check. Whereas some college players shy away from the physical aspect of the game, Morin thrives upon the opportunity to make a statement each and every shift. In his mind, every player who steps on the ice should be looking over his shoulder expecting to take a hit. As one can imagine, it hasn’t made him the most popular player on the ice over the years.
“I don’t consider myself a chippy kind of player,” said Morin. “A lot of times I know I disturb a lot of the opposing players, and I think there are a lot of players that come after me to try to get me in the box. Sometimes that goes the other way though. They also wind up in the box and sometimes it helps our team.”
As a sophomore he was whistled for 105 minutes; last season he totaled 100 and thus far in this season he has been rung up for 91. Despite the relative sameness of those figures, Morin has seen a change in his discretion over the three years.
“My sophomore year I took a lot of dumb penalties and the coaches obviously weren’t happy about that,” Morin said. “I’ve been trying to work on that and I have improved a lot in the types of penalties that I have taken. I still take a few penalties, but I think the types are what is different. I’ve improved in that area.”
As a byproduct of his smarter play and expanded offensive role, Morin is currently tied for first on the team in points with 18 and is currently right on pace to reach the same point total he has achieved his first two seasons — 24 points.
“I think I’m a type of player that is aggressive every game,” Morin said. “I try to play both offense and defense as well as I can, and Coach has given me the chance to do both. Now I’m on the penalty kill and the power play.”
There is little doubt that at some point this weekend, the referee’s arm will shoot in the air and Morin will slowly make his way over to the penalty box. Princeton fans have come to expect that from the senior, but this time it will be a skate right into the Princeton record books.
Another Kick (Save) At It
You rarely get another chance at difficult records, but Rensselaer’s Joel Laing has a second opportunity this weekend to set a record — one he fell 1:13 short of last season.
Last season Laing headed into a game at Union with a chance to break Union’s All-America Trevor Koenig’s record of consecutive ECAC shutout minutes. Koenig set the record of 198:44 in the 1996-97 season, but a Jason Ralph goal stopped Laing just short of that mark.
It’s a difficult record to try to break, but Laing has another shot at it. This past weekend Laing shut out Dartmouth, 2-0, and the weekend before he did the same to Yale, 3-0. Prior to that, in a 6-2 victory over Princeton, Laing stopped the Tigers for the last 30:03 of the game. So Laing sits at 150:03 in terms of consecutive ECAC shutout minutes — 48:42 short of breaking the mark.
“When he gets into a zone, he’s tough to beat,” Engineer head coach Dan Fridgen said of his senior netminder. “He’s a gamer, he comes to play. He’s a guy in the locker room that comes up and leads.”
“I just try to go out and do my job,” said a modest Laing.
Laing will go for the record this Friday evening at home against Yale — which he blanked less than two weeks ago.
Winner Take All?
There are still four weeks left to go in the season, but could Friday’s matchup at Appleton Arena between St. Lawrence and Colgate be for first place in the ECAC and eventually an automatic bid to the NCAAS?
Consider this: Colgate is 5-0-1 in its last six, St. Lawrence 6-0-1 in its last seven. The Saints are first, the Red Raiders are second in the league. So, it should be a good one, right?
“I can see where this one will draw some fan interest,” said Saint head coach Joe Marsh. “We’ve had a great history of games against Colgate, with most of them being decided by one goal. But our main concern right now is maintaining the kind of focus and work ethic that we have shown in the last seven games.”
But the fan interest might wane a little because the Red Raiders will be missing two players from their lineup. Not just any players, mind you: Hobey Baker candidate, leading scorer and captain Andy McDonald and the third-leading scorer, forward Sean Nolan.
The two will be forced to sit out Friday’s game due to an altercation at the end of the second Cornell-Colgate game on January 29. In the waning seconds of that game, both teams got into a scrum that resulted in almost everyone on the ice receiving a game disqualification for fighting.
After a review of the tape by referee Tim Kotyra and the two head coaches after the game, Kotyra reversed his decision and only disqualified goaltender Shep Harder and Big Red forward Andrew McNiven.
The following Wednesday, the ECAC office reviewed the tape and handed out additional disqualifications to McDonald and Nolan, along with Big Red players Denis Ladouceur and Doug Stienstra. The teams immediately appealed the decision.
The ECAC advisory committee met this past Tuesday morning and upheld the disqualifications, rendering Stienstra and Ladouceur ineligible against Clarkson on Friday and McDonald and Nolan ineligible for Friday’s contest against St. Lawrence.
“I’m very disappointed with the executive committee’s decision,” said Red Raider head coach Don Vaughan. “However, now it’s an opportunity for other guys to step up and play different roles for us.”
It certainly would have been an interesting matchup with all combatants on the ice. Perhaps we’ll see it in the playoffs.
Ready To Roll Now?
The first three-game winning streak of the season has Clarkson Golden Knight fans wondering if this is the start of the roll that all have become accustomed to in February.
After a 4-0 shutout of Quinnipiac on Tuesday night followed 5-2 and 4-0 wins over Princeton and Yale, the Golden Knights are tied for seventh in the ECAC.
Freshman netminder Karl Mattson earned his first win on Friday night, and then he followed up with consecutive shutouts — a first for the Golden Knights since the 1972-73 season.
“We had a real solid effort this past weekend,” said head coach Mark Morris before the Quinnipiac game. “Most notably we played with a lot of purpose in our defensive end. We had stellar goaltending and we did a good job as a unit to minimize quality scoring chances.
“It was great to see Karl Mattson get his first taste of victory on Friday night and then to turn around and follow that up with a shutout was a big boost to his confidence.”
As we’ve said before, and I’m sure many around the league have said, it was only a matter of time.
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