We give thanks, that you, the loyal reader, have come back once again to find out more about the world of the ECAC. And that you haven’t sent us nasty mail as of yet.
Thank you very much and we also wish every a Happy Thanksgiving out there.
Without further ado…
Around The League
The Catamounts continue their dream start, and last week was particularly memorable. Vermont cracked the Top 15, currently sit atop the ECAC standings with a 5-2-0 record and have given head coach Mike Gilligan another first in his career at Vermont: never before in his 17-year stint as head coach of the Catamounts has his team won its first three league contests.
“Andrew Allen has done just what we have asked him to,” Gilligan said of his goaltender’s significance to the 3-0 ECAC start. “We are playing well defensively as a team, and getting points from all over the place.”
The Cats followed up the weekend performance with a 5-3 win over UMass-Amherst, breaking a tie in the third period.
Now the Cats host MSU-Mankato and Minnesota- Duluth — the first games ECAC teams will play against the WCHA this year — and Gilligan is looking cautiously forward to the weekend.
“If we can continue to do well, these games will be very important to us come tournament time, and may help our national ranking eventually,” he said.
The big story for Yale has been the first line. Everyone knew that Jeff Hamilton’s return was going to improve the offense, but who really expected the trio of Hamilton, Ben Stafford and Nick Deschenes to combine for 34 points after only seven games? That figure translates into 47.8% of the team’s scoring output.
Sophomore Deschenes, who finished with 15 points in 29 games last season, summed it up best after he scored two goals last weekend in a 5-4 win over Dartmouth.
“It’s kind of been made easy for me,” he said. “Jeff and Ben control the puck a lot and make smart plays. If I’m just positioned right, I’m bound to get some opportunities.”
The team has exploded to an impressive start and has shown few moments of vulnerability along the way. An overtime loss to St. Lawrence and a tough 5-2 loss against Vermont in the Gut are its only blemishes in its 5-2-0 record. Now Yale will get a chance to finish off a sweep of road partner Princeton, whom it edged out 4-3 on Tuesday night, as it hosts the Tigers this Saturday night in the rematch.
On Tuesday night, the Bulldogs were never behind, going ahead by one goal only to be tied by the Tigers each time except the last. The fourth time, freshman defenseman Jeff Dwyer scored with 1:56 remaining in the third period to give Yale the win.
Saturday’s rematch should be no different.
Other than the score, the most comforting statistic for the Harvard coaches following a 4-3 win over Boston University was the “4-for-8” listed in the power-play column. A sigh of relief or a flat-out “Hallelujah” could be heard from all corners of the locker room as the Crimson finally broke out of a wretched slump which saw its power-play percentage drop to a dismal 6.7 percent.
“It was 6.7 percent coming in, so I don’t know if there’s a Pee Wee power play that’s worse than that,” said Harvard head coach Mark Mazzoleni. “We just changed some things [on Tuesday night], and all we did was shoot the puck.”
Harvard can only hope that its power-play unit is as successful on Saturday night. The Eagles enter Bright Hockey Center with top honors in almost all Hockey East offensive categories. It will be one offensive-minded team against another.
This trio of teams, better known as 75 percent of the Syracuse Invitational field, has already had its share of highs, lows and mediums.
The Clarkson Golden Knights are on a high. They went into Appleton Arena last Saturday and took it right to the St. Lawrence Saints — scoring seven goals, their highest output of the season. And nothing is better for a Knight fan than beating the Saints in Canton.
“We had a whole year to think about this game,” said head coach Mark Morris. “We prepared really well for it. To see the kids really respond and be that thorough was extremely gratifying.
“Our freshmen are really starting to contribute. Their confidence is growing immensely. They bring an element of speed and finesse to the game and they are tenacious checkers. A whole lot of youthful exuberance is starting to pay off for us. Tonight our veterans kicked it up a notch as well. I am sure they wanted to put in a strong effort, especially after the episode we had over here last year.”
Colgate is on sort of a low. After defeating Brown on Friday, the Red Raiders fell to Harvard in the Silver Puck game, and now stand at 2-6-2 and 1-3-0 in the ECAC. The Syracuse Invitational starts on Saturday; the Raiders are hoping to use that extra day to begin defense of their SIT crown.
“Resting is the best thing we can do right now,” head coach Don Vaughan said. “Our bench is short and we’re banged up. After a few days off, we’ll come back and try to get back in sync. We’ve been getting some bad breaks, but we can’t use that as an excuse. It’s our job as a team to find a way through it.”
Cornell is sort of in the medium. The Big Red sandwiched a 2-0 win over Brown with two 1-1 ties against Harvard and Maine. They are also at a medium in their record, at 2-2-2, but head coach Mike Schafer thinks that Cornell may be hitting its stride.
“Our guys played very well tonight and played the kind of hockey we’re capable of playing,” he said after the tie against Maine. “We learned some good lessons as you do against good teams.
“We have to prove that we belong in the same category as the University of Maine.”
The travel partners will host Mercyhurst this weekend, and the Dutchmen also travel to take on UMass-Lowell in the first of their two games this year.
Union has been idle since cracking into the USCHO.com poll in the 15th position last week, and after the past weekend climbed to 13.
Rensselaer comes off giving UMass- Amherst a 9-2 drubbing on Saturday evening, pushing the Engineers back above .500. The Engineers, who saw Matt Murley score four times in the first period, notched five on the power play after starting out the season with five power-play goals in 43 chances.
“The one thing about the power play is that it takes time,” said head coach Dan Fridgen. “It’s time, if you keep working at it, it’s going to come. We weren’t pushing the panic button and sooner or later it happens.”
The Saints are 2-3-2 on the season after a 7-2 loss to Clarkson Saturday evening, and it doesn’t get any easier for the Saints. They head to Grand Forks to take on the defending NCAA champions for a set.
Last season around this time the Saints were in the midst of a stretch that saw them floundering and went out to Madison to take on Wisconsin for a pair. The Saints lost the first game and tied the second, and head coach Joe Marsh gives that outcome credit for turning around last season. He’s hoping that this series may do the same.
“We’ve got a lot of hockey to play and it’s important to see how we respond,” he said. “We’ve got some big games coming up to finish the semester and it’s important that we compete as best we can.”
When the Saints come back they host Harvard and Brown before heading right back out for a pair at Michigan.
The Brown Bears just can’t seem to get a break this season. They play a tough game in front of a rowdy Cornell crowd and then they see the game winner deflect off a skate in front of the net. The next night, Brown scores four goals and throws 40 shots at Jason LeFevre, but is left with a 6-4 loss.
The best news for the Big Green is that it won’t have to face off against any more league opponents for at least another week. Head coach Bob Gaudet has been trying to figure out his team for the past several weeks, but to no avail. Except for a hard-fought win over Brown, Dartmouth has not lived up to its preseason billing. In fact, the Big Green has been the most erratic team in the league.
After pulling out a tough 4-3 overtime win over Brown one night, the team turned around and played a lackluster three periods of hockey en route to a 5-2 loss to Harvard. It was much of the same the next weekend when the Big Green fought tooth-and-nail against Yale and then fell flat on its back the next night with a 6-0 loss to Princeton There is a distinct glimmer of hope under the 1-5-0 record, however, which makes you not want to count out the Big Green just yet. Take last weekend, for instance. Dartmouth lost both games on the road, but outshot its opponents by a 78-49 margin.
“I liked everything but the score,” said Gaudet following the loss to the Tigers. “But the score is the bottom line. And this is a bottom-line business. I think we’ll find our way.”
Dartmouth will get a chance to find its way without league repercussions as it faces off against Maine on Saturday night in Hanover after Maine takes on Brown Friday.
You can call it corny if you want, but we thought we would run down at least one thing that each team can be thankful for at this point in the season. We know that it’s early, but it’s that time of the year.
Brown – The Providence win. That sole victory for the Bears gave Grillo’s team a taste of success — something that the players desperately needed after winning only six games last year.
Clarkson – The reemergence of Shawn Grant. After a lackluster sophomore season, the junior has a .915 save percentage and a 2.73 GAA, and is 3-1-0.
Colgate – The power play. Colgate has 15 out of 34 total goals. Sean Nolan leads with six.
Cornell – Depth. If it wasn’t for the depth, Cornell wouldn’t be at full strength and definitely not at .500 right now.
Dartmouth – A Long Season. Few expected the Big Green to struggle as they have through six games, winning only one contest along the way. Gaudet is convinced that his team will find its way — it just needs some time to figure things out. Luckily, time is one thing on Dartmouth’s side at this point.
Harvard – The power play — at least in the last game against Boston University, in which Harvard scored all four of its goals with an odd man on the ice. This mini-explosion was a welcome surprise after the team entered the game with a league-worst 6.7% success rate.
Princeton – Kirk Lamb. The senior captain has been an integral part of Princeton’s early-season success with a team-leading 11 points, including a league-high nine assists.
Rensselaer – Matt Murley and Marc Cavosie. The two have scored 14 of the Engineers’ 27 goals this season.
St. Lawrence – Senior scoring. The Saints have only had five goals out of 21 from underclassmen.
Union – Brandon Snee and third-period play. Snee has a .925 save percentage and a 2.29 GAA. The Dutchmen have outscored their opponents 9-2 in their wins this season.
Vermont – Andrew Allen and J.F. Caudron. Both players have provided stability on either end of the ice. Caudron has been an anchor on the first line with a team-high 10 points, while Allen has held his own with a 2.58 goals against average and a .925 save percentage.
Yale – Jeff Hamilton. The senior has proven his worth already with 14 points in seven games. More importantly, he has given new life to linemates Ben Stafford and Nick Deschenes, who are posting career-best numbers thus far.
If It’s So Easy, You Try It
Well, week one of our competition is over and Vic went down. It wasn’t that easy, was it, Vic? Vic was above .500 with a 8-5-1 record last week, but his downfall was Saturday as we took it to him with a 10-2-2 record.
Vic gracefully conceded defeat after Saturday’s games and now we welcome challenger number two. Tayt Brooks, a St. Lawrence fan, has been chosen to take us on.
So without any further hesitation, here we go, complete with Tayt’s comments.
Fri. – Sat., Nov. 24 – 25
St. Lawrence at North Dakota
Tayt – The Skating Saints make their first trip to Grand Forks since ’87. SLU is still trying to find itself while the Sioux know they’re the defending champs. North Dakota 5, St. Lawrence 2 on Friday. SLU was not playing well a year ago when it went to Wisconsin. A big 6-6 tie really got the team fired up from there on in. Plan on the SLU offense coming alive and finishing in a shootout win. St. Lawrence 6, North Dakota 5 on Saturday.
Becky and Jayson – North Dakota sweeps. 5-2, 6-3
Friday, November 24
Mercyhurst at Union
Tayt – Union is on a roll and wants to do themselves and the rest of the ECAC proud. It’s at home, so Union wins it. Union 3, Mercyhurst 2
Becky and Jayson – Union 4, Mercyhurst 2
Maine at Brown
Tayt – In the battle of the Bears, look for Maine to win this easily. Maine 6, Brown 0
Becky and Jayson – Maine 7, Brown 4
Saturday, November 25
Princeton at Yale
Tayt – Jeff Hamilton makes his presence felt. Bulldogs nip the Tigers. Yale 4, Princeton 3
Becky and Jayson – Yale 3, Princeton 2
Mercyhurst at Rensselaer
Tayt – Will anyone be at the Houston Fieldhouse for this one? Oh yeah, Jayson will be there. RPI’s offense is in gear and they take this one. Rensselaer 6, Mercyhurst 0
Becky and Jayson – Rensselaer 5, Mercyhurst 3
Maine at Dartmouth
Tayt – The Big Green really haven’t gotten going yet. Will Boucher settle down? Not enough for this one. Maine 3, Dartmouth 2
Becky and Jayson – Dartmouth 4, Maine 1
Boston College at Harvard
Tayt – Can Harvard make Hockey East cry this week? I say yes: Crimson win. Harvard 4, Boston College 3 Becky and Jayson – Boston College 5, Harvard 3
Union at UMass-Lowell
Tayt – Is it possible that Union will be 7-1 after this weekend? The world must be upside-down, because they will be. Union 2, UMass-Lowell 1
Becky and Jayson – UMass-Lowell 4, Union 3
Colgate vs. Niagara
Tayt – Colgate needs a win, and they are close to home. Colgate 4, Niagara 2
Becky and Jayson – Colgate 4, Niagara 2
Clarkson vs. Cornell
Tayt – Hmm, can I actually get over my hate of Clarkson to pick them? No, the Big Red win. Cornell 2, Clarkson 1
Becky and Jayson – Clarkson 3, Cornell 2
Sheraton/Howard Bank Classic
MSU-Mankato at Vermont
Tayt – The Elephants are dead and the Catamounts are back. Vermont 5, MSU-Mankato 2
Becky and Jayson – Vermont 4, MSU-Mankato 1
Sunday, November 26
Caveat: If the first-round matchups are predicted wrong, these can’t be right…
Tayt Consolation – The Golden Knights frighten Niagara off the ice with their new away puke-yellow jerseys. Yes, Clarkson wins this one in a forfeit.Clarkson 1, Niagara 0
Championship – Cornell starts to gear up. Colgate is not the same team it was last year. Cornell 4, Colgate 2
Becky and Jayson – Cornell 3, Niagara 1 in the consolation. Clarkson 4, Colgate 3 in the championship.
Sheraton/Howard Bank Classic
Minnesota-Duluth at Vermont
Tayt – The ECAC will be making some dents in the polls. Gilligan and the Skipper are happy this weekend as UVM sweeps. Vermont 3, Minnesota-Duluth 1
Becky and Jayson – Minnesota-Duluth 2, Vermont 1
And remember that if you are interested in putting your money where your mouth is, drop us an email to be eligible to be chosen when Tayt bites the dust.
Thanks this week to Steve Marsi, Scott Weighart and Dave Sherzer for their contributions