The end of January always means light ECAC action, and indeed, there are only three sets of games this weekend. Travel partners Colgate and Cornell square off, and the North Country duo of Clarkson and St. Lawrence host Vermont and Dartmouth. Why are these important games? They are games in hand, and those teams are trying to catch league-leading Harvard. Here are their chances.
North Country Catchup
Vermont has four games in hand. Dartmouth has five. Clarkson and St. Lawrence have six. It’s time to play catchup to league leader Harvard, and it starts in the North Country this weekend when the four teams hook up. If the Crimson are looking anywhere this weekend besides the books, it’s at the North Country scores.
Vermont was hot coming into 2001. The Cats were 5-0-0 in the ECAC and looking like they could be the dominant team. Two weekends later, the Cats are 5-3-1 in the ECAC and are looking to put the streak to bed.
The Cats dropped two overtime games this weekend, 3-2, to Cornell and Colgate, leaving coach Mike Gilligan with one thought.
“I’m not happy,” he told the Burlington Free Press. “If I was happy, I should be locked up.”
The Cats are hoping to make Gilligan happy this weekend.
On the other side of the 2001 docket are the Big Green of Dartmouth, now 3-0-1 in 2001 after a weekend sweep of Colgate and Cornell. With the seven points, the Big Green can make a huge jump in the standings.
“Our kids really wanted it. They wanted it bad. They deserved it,” said coach Bob Gaudet after Saturday’s win over Cornell. “They worked unbelievably hard, and I thought we played a very smart hockey game.”
The Big Green are now 6-2-1 in their last nine games and perhaps have turned the corner, ready to take the next step in the process.
Clarkson is another team that swept the recent ECAC weekend. Wins over Rensselaer and Union were much-needed by the Golden Knights as they moved above the .500 mark with the win on Friday. Coach Mark Morris was pleased with his team’s effort, but still cautious.
“It’s been kind of a dismal start for us so far, and we realize that we’re awfully young,” he said. “We’ve got lots to learn and there’s a lot of weight on the shoulders of our upperclassmen right now with all the departures that we have had. We just have to use the talent we’ve got and teach the young guys how to play at this pace.”
And the sweep has a lot of people whispering that the Knights are starting what seems to be their annual second half run.
“I think there’s a mystique that follows us around, and if it’s still there we’ll take it,” said Morris. “We’re a work in progress, we’re no world-beaters; that’s for sure. We’re going to try to win as many games as we can to put us in a good position.”
St. Lawrence split the weekend with a win at Union and a loss at Rensselaer. The Saints are still under .500, but coach Joe Marsh knows that the best could be yet to come.
“We’ve just got to keep plugging but we also have to recognize some of the things we have done to help us improve,” he said. “I think we are improving, we had some setbacks tonight, but we have improved over the last month and we have to be cognizant that there are huge momentum swings in a hockey game. Normally in hockey it’s a lot of little things that tend to add up and we have to be conscious of doing those little things.
“Our team is still in the developmental stage now. There’s a long way to go yet, and the effort is there. It’s important to recognize what we need to work on, but certainly what we’ve done right, and why that’s helped us.”
The Central New York Battle
Both teams were the victims of Dartmouth this past weekend, but also put down Vermont in overtime. When the two meet in Ithaca on Thursday and in Hamilton on Saturday, it should be quite interesting.
The Red Raiders dropped to Dartmouth, 3-2, on Friday night and remained winless on the road.
“We’re at a point now where we can’t over-think things,” coach Don Vaughan said after the game. “We just have to start playing loose and try to keep it fun somehow. We need to play desperate. We’re in a situation where we have to string some wins together. We want to claw our way back into it.”
The Red Raiders started the clawing with a 3-2 overtime win over Vermont the next evening, their first road win of the season. They will try to make it two on Thursday against a Cornell team that won 3-2 in overtime, but dropped a 4-1 game to Dartmouth on Saturday evening, its first ECAC loss since its opener on November 10 at Union.
“Dartmouth deserved to win,” said coach Mike Schafer. “I thought they worked hard. I thought they had good pressure on us. But I can’t be too unsatisfied with a split on the road.”
Back On Track
One team looking to extend its recent winning streak this weekend is Yale. After being destroyed in a two-game series against Michigan State the week before, the Elis returned to ECAC action and enjoyed a weekend sweep of Brown and Harvard. The nine goals scored on the weekend was a welcome sign to head coach Tim Taylor, who was forced to watch from afar — from the World Junior Championships in Moscow — while his team was shut out by the Spartans.
“The point I was making to them was that we have been giving up over four goals a game and to win we are going to have to score five goals a game. That’s not going to happen against good teams,” said Taylor, whose team posted a season-high six goals en route to a 6-1 win over Brown on Friday night. “Of course after we won 6-1, I looked a little bit of a liar, but against [Harvard], that was more the kind of the way you have to play to win.”
The major difference for the team was the play of its special teams. Five of the Spartans’ nine goals against Yale came on the power play. Taylor responded in practice the next week by keeping drills short and focused. The result was a 100-percent success rate (8-for-8) for the penalty-kill unit against Harvard and Brown.
“This was a great Yale weekend because we really played well defensively,” said Taylor. “Danny Lombard is a real strong goaltender, but his numbers this year are much different then his numbers last year. It’s not that he has changed, we changed mentally in front of him. We had an awful lot of trouble in penalty killing. We went to Michigan State last weekend and 5-on-5 the game was pretty even, but penalty killing just wasn’t there. I think that we gave up five power-play goals that weekend. We addressed it this past week.”
This week, the team will take a brief break from ECAC play to compete in a nonconference game against Holy Cross. Although the repercussions are minimal for Yale, Taylor understands that his band of players runs on momentum.
“From a coaching standpoint, when you address certain things and they respond it’s really rewarding,” said Taylor. “From their perspective, I think that they now believe in themselves a little more. Sometimes when things start to go bad, things turn off. Now I think that they believe that we are preaching the right gospel.”
To See An Old Friend
The Rensselaer Engineers are headed to Bowling Green to take on former head coach Buddy Powers’ Falcon squad as the ECAC team highest in the USCHO.com poll, at No. 13. However, the Engineers might be shorthanded come this weekend as Nolan Graham and Carson Butterwick may still be out of the lineup.
The Engineers split this past weekend, losing to Clarkson but defeating St. Lawrence, and will get a break in the ECAC schedule with this pair of games.
“We’re banged up a little bit and we needed guys to step up and raise their level of play and intensity, and that’s what I thought they did,” said coach Dan Fridgen after Saturday’s win. “It was a solid team effort.”
“The win is extremely important to us knowing that we were undermanned and we had an extremely frustrating loss last night,” said Marc Cavosie, who had four goals on the weekend. “We came out and played a real solid game and got the win.”
Off To Minnesota
One team enjoying its longest winning streak of the year is Brown. Following another dismal performance on Friday night — this time in the form of a 6-1 loss against Yale — the Bears rebounded with a solid and surprising 5-3 win over Princeton at Hobey Baker Rink.
More importantly, however, Roger Grillo’s team posted a second consecutive win this past Tuesday against Umass-Lowell. Although a two-game unbeaten streak is modest at best, it’s a great sign for a team that had yet to string any type of winning streak together this season. Heading into the Yale-Princeton series, Brown’s only wins had come against Providence and Union. But despite the streak, Grillo reflected back to Tuesday’s game and is cautious.
“We played terrible for the last 10 minutes of the second period,” he said. “There were other times we were just hanging on too. We can’t have big chunks of time like that in Minnesota or we’ll be in trouble.”
The team will now face its final nonconference weekend as it takes on St. Cloud and Minnesota on the road.
The Idle Ones
Harvard and Princeton could not have asked for a better time to take a long sojourn. Unlike the rest of their league partners, these two Ivy League teams will have the next two weeks off from hockey in order to prepare for their bout of winter session final exams. This mid-January break marks the final gap in play for the league. Come February, all ECAC teams will embark on the final half of their league schedule.
The Tigers, who have been mentally dismantled over the past few weeks by heartbreaking losses, will look to refill their emotional gas tanks and gear up for their final 10 league games. Princeton began the season with a string of ECAC wins to take over second place in the league standings. Nonconference losses against teams such as New Hampshire, Bowling Green, Wisconsin and North Dakota have cut short any Tiger momentum and sent the team into a tailspin.
Since the win against Union which boosted it into second place, Princeton has gone 0-8 and currently sits in sixth place. Two of those losses came this past weekend as the team was swept by Harvard and Brown. Against the Crimson, the Tigers jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but once again could not pull out the victory.
“We need a ‘W’ in the biggest way,” coach Len Quensnelle said. “We have three weeks off for exams now. It’ll be a good time to get things together and get back on the right track.”
Although the Crimson are enjoying a successful run through the first half of the ECAC schedule and currently hold a four-point lead in the league, the coaching staff and players are thankful to have a few weeks off for some rest and relaxation. With depth never being its strong suit, Harvard will use this time to let players recuperate after a long first half of the season which saw many of the team’s top players struggle through injuries.
In their final game before the exam break against Yale, the Crimson played without their top two freshmen — Tim Pettit and Tyler Kolarik. Pettit was injured in practice right before the team left for the road trip, while Kolarik suffered a knee injury on Friday night against Princeton. Many of the Crimson players on the ice last weekend were battling through nagging injuries of their own, which makes this break even more fortuitous.
“To be honest, the timing of the break couldn’t be better for us right now,” said Harvard head coach Mark Mazzoleni. “We have some people who probably need two to three weeks away from real heavy contact or else they’re just going to keep aggravating these things. As must as this is going to challenge them mentally, physically we need it right now.”
The Crimson will return to action on January 27 when they face New Brunswick in an exhibition contest at Bright Hockey Center.
If It’s So Easy, You Try It
Amazingly enough, the Iron Columnists are still undefeated. Will we fall this week?
The contest thus far:
Becky and Jayson d. Vic Brzozowski – (10-2-2) – (8-5-1)
Becky and Jayson d. Tayt Brooks – (7-7-1) – (5-9-1)
Becky and Jayson d. Michele Kelley – (5-4-3) – (2-7-3)
Becky and Jayson d. C.J. Poux – (9-4-2) – (6-7-2)
Becky and Jayson d. Shawn Natole – (5-8-0) – (3-10-0)
If memory serves us right, there is only one ECAC team in New Hampshire. That team has an alum at the head of the bench, looking to restore the glory of his past years with the newest edition of the Big Green. Julian Saltman, show us what the Dartmouth fans bring into USCHO Stadium to try and defeat the Iron Columnists. Whose picks will reign supreme?
Thursday, January 18
Colgate at Cornell
Julian’s Pick – The Big Red rebounds in style. Cornell 4, Colgate 2
Becky and Jayson – Cornell 3, Colgate 1
Friday, January 19
Dartmouth at Clarkson
Julian’s Pick – I have to pick my Big Green. Dartmouth 4, Clarkson 3
Becky and Jayson – Dartmouth 6, Clarkson 5
Vermont at St. Lawrence
Julian’s Pick – UVM should turn it around in style. Vermont 4, St. Lawrence 1
Becky and Jayson – St. Lawrence 5, Vermont 3
Brown at St. Cloud
Julian’s Pick – No chance for the Bears. St. Cloud 6, Brown 1
Becky and Jayson – St. Cloud 4, Brown 3
Rensselaer at Bowling Green
Julian’s Pick – Rensselaer 3, Bowling Green 1
Becky and Jayson – Rensselaer 4, Bowling Green 2
Saturday, January 20
Dartmouth at St. Lawrence
Julian’s Pick – Green train keeps a-rollin’. Dartmouth 4, St. Lawrence 2
Becky and Jayson – Dartmouth 5, St. Lawrence 3
Vermont at Clarkson
Julian’s Pick – Golden Knights pull it out. Clarkson 3, Vermont 2, ot
Becky and Jayson – Clarkson 4, Vermont 2
Cornell at Colgate
Julian’s Pick – Close, but no cigar for Colgate. Cornell 4, Colgate 3
Becky and Jayson – Colgate 5, Cornell 2
Holy Cross at Yale
Julian’s Pick – Yale 4, Holy Cross 2
Becky and Jayson – Yale 7, Holy Cross 2
Brown at St. Cloud
Julian’s Pick – Please. St. Cloud 7, Brown 1
Becky and Jayson – St. Cloud 5, Brown 2
Rensselaer at Bowling Green
Julian’s Pick – Rensselaer 3, Bowling Green 0
Becky and Jayson – Rensselaer 5, Bowling Green 4
Connecticut at Union
Julian’s Pick – A needed win for Union. Union 5, Connecticut 2
Becky and Jayson – Union 4, Connecticut 2
Tuesday, January 23
Brown at Minnesota Julian’s Pick – The Bears are gluttons for punishment. Minnesota 5, Brown 2 Becky and Jayson – Minnesota 6, Brown 2
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 Julian bites the dust.
Thanks to Sean Peden and David Sherzer for their contributions this week.