This Week In The ECAC: March 7, 2002

There Are Winners And Losers

Well, it’s all over, it’s time for the second season to begin. And with the last weekend concluded, it’s time for a quick look at who won and who lost last weekend.

The Winners

Cornell — The Big Red win two more and are ready for the playoffs.

Rensselaer — The Engineers got two points from a team they had to pass and then the Engineers got help from Union, Yale, and Brown to take the fifth and final home ice spot.

Princeton — Four huge points move the Tigers up to sixth in the standings and in the process, Princeton passed two teams.

St. Lawrence — The Saints got four points and made the playoffs, something that was not a lock.

Yale — A weekend sweep and the Bulldogs make the playoffs on a hot streak.

Clarkson — A weekend sweep and the Knights secured second place in the ECAC.


Vermont — The bright side is that the season is over.

Union — What once was a promising chance at home ice and the playoffs is now an ended season, despite one win this past weekend.

Colgate — The Raiders were in the driver’s seat for home ice coming into the weekend. They left in seventh place.

Brown — Just one falter by Colgate and one point for Brown and home ice was theirs. They got zero points and wound up eighth.

We Did Okay

Dartmouth — The Big Green got swept this weekend, but with everything going on around them, still got home ice.

Harvard — Home ice, despite getting swept.

Yale at Cornell

Season Series
11/30 — Cornell 1, @Yale 1
02/09 — @Cornell 3, Yale 2

Only Playoff Matchups
1992 ECAC Quarterfinal — Cornell 4, @Yale 1
1986 ECAC Semifinal — Cornell 3, Yale 2, ot
1985 ECAC Quarterfinals — @Cornell, 9-2, 4-2

The Big Red and the Bulldogs met this past weekend and the Bulldogs needed four straight wins in order to reach the postseason — and they got it. It ended with a big win over Brown at home and propelled Yale into the playoffs.

“To get back-to-back sweeps to end the season is a testament to the character and resiliency of this team,” Yale head coach Tim Taylor said. “We are a damn good tenth-place hockey team.”

The Bulldogs were bolstered by the fact that their lineup was relatively healthy. Nick Deschenes was back this past weekend after suffering a thigh injury, and he contributed to the cause. Evan Wax also was back and Chris Higgins made his presence known, especially after two goals in the waning moments of a 4-3 win over Harvard on Friday night.

The Big Red also swept this past weekend and finished the regular season nine points up on second-place Clarkson. An impressive regular season for the Big Red and also the first 20-win regular season for the Big Red since 1977-78.

But as anyone will tell you, the playoffs are what counts.

“The playoffs are the most important time of the year,” said Big Red coach Mike Schafer. “It’s a great accomplishment [20 wins] and it shows consistency and contribution, great commitment and sacrifice, but this is the time of year that hockey players live and die for.

“We built our team around the playoffs. I like a big strong physical team because you have to win two of three. Now Yale has to play us and the punishment that we’ll give them will carry over from Friday night to Saturday night and we’re the ones that will benefit from our physical play. You have to look at it as a 120-minute game and what you do in the first 60 makes a difference.”

"We built our team around the playoffs. I like a big strong physical team because you have to win two of three."

— Mike Schafer

There is no doubt that the Big Red have the stingiest defense in the ECAC and will use that and the Lynah advantage to their fullest as they look to get back to Lake Placid and the championship game. In order to do that, they must stop Higgins and company from wheeling by playing solid defense.

“Our guys all know who he is and we’ve had a lot of success going into the games and I feel comfortable with any lines facing him,” said Schafer on the match-up between Higgins, et. al., and the Big Red. “The combinations remind me very much of the teams we won the two ECAC Championships with. I couldn’t care less who matches up defensively during the game and that’s what makes a good defensive team and we don’t have a weak link in the middle or on defense. We just have to wear that hockey team down over the course of two evenings.”

So look for a tough physical game from the Big Red with opportunistic scoring. The Big Red will look to capitalize on the power play, which is beginning to pick up steam again and hold the skating dominant Bulldogs.

The Pick: Cornell in two, 3-1 and 4-2

St. Lawrence at Clarkson

Season Series
11/03 — @Clarkson 7, St. Lawrence 6, OT
01/29 — @St. Lawrence 6, Clarkson 5

Last Playoff Matchups
1999 ECAC Championship — Clarkson 3, St. Lawrence 2
1993 ECAC Quarterfinals — @Clarkson, 3-1, 5-3
1991 ECAC Championship — Clarkson 5, St. Lawrence 4
1990 ECAC Quarterfinals — @Clarkson, 4-1, 5-2

What else can you say? It’s the North Country Battle with a trip to Lake Placid on the line. There are no words to sum it up, except, maybe, that this will be one great battle.

The Knights closed out the season with a sweep of Vermont and Dartmouth, giving Clarkson second place in the ECAC.

“We are pleased to end up in the situation that we are in, especially since it was such a wacky season for us,” said Clarkson head coach Mark Morris. “It is a brand new hockey season now that playoff time has rolled around. It is the first time this year that will be able to play with a full lineup since our opening weekend.”

Meanwhile the Saints took seven points in the last two weekends to secure a spot in the playoffs and wound up as the ninth seed.

“Our playoffs started with the Dartmouth and Vermont games,” said Saint head coach Joe Marsh. “We were in a situation where we had to win to keep playing, and the guys came through with two performances at playoff intensity.

“Making the playoffs was important for the seniors and is important for the younger guys who haven’t experienced it yet. And earning a spot with the type of effort we put forth against Dartmouth and Vermont makes it a little sweeter.”

The North Country loves when this happens (except for the hotels) but make no mistake, this is a battle that will live up to all of the hype, especially after the two one-goal games that these two teams split this season.

“With the way the league was this season in terms of being close and competitive, there won’t be any easy playoff series,” said Marsh. “I think both teams are looking forward to a good series. There’s always a little extra adrenaline when we play each other.”

“We look forward to the upcoming series against St. Lawrence,” said Morris. “We have an opportunity right now to make up for a six-goal second period that we had when we visited them earlier this winter. We hope to set the record straight this time. I know we have a lot of things to prove to get back to Lake Placid and take a crack at the ECAC title. The league is so close that we feel we have as good an opportunity to win the ECAC Tournament as anybody in the league.

“If we can do that there will be an opportunity to find our way into the NCAA Tournament again. This past weekend was a good step in the right direction and we positioned ourselves to take a run. With a little luck and a lot of hard work we are hoping that we saved our best for last.”

You can throw out systems and everything in the book when these two play, though it will be a basis for a strong game. Goaltending and timely scoring will win these games for the team moving to Lake Placid.

The Pick: Clarkson in three, 4-3, 4-5, 3-2

Brown at Harvard

Season Series
11/03 — Brown 4, @Harvard 2
12/08 — Harvard 5, @Brown 2

Only Playoff Matchups
1994 ECAC Semifinal — Harvard 5, Brown 1
1993 ECAC Semifinal — Brown 3, Harvard 1
1987 ECAC Quarterfinals — @Harvard, 6-2, 5-2
1971 ECAC Quarterfinal — @Harvard 4, Brown 3

Instead of pontificating about the excitement of a road-partner match-up — the first for these schools since 1994 — let’s address the real story here. No matter how you look at it, we are witnessing one of the most remarkable comebacks for an ECAC program in recent memory. After finishing dead-last in almost everything last year, this Brown team has metamorphosized and now finds itself in a perfect position to extend its fortuitous ways to Lake Placid.

The team’s eighth-place finish in no way explains this phenomenon. This team has shown signs of potential all season long, beginning with its stunning victories over Wisconsin and St. Cloud. Anyone who uttered the word “fluke” after that was quickly proven wrong when the Bears returned to league play and posted six straight wins. The emergence of Yann Danis — hands-down the strongest netminder in the ECAC right now — has really provided a solid foundation for this team.

Brown’s most recent two losses against Princeton and Yale caused them to lose home-ice advantage for the playoffs, and it also lit a fire under the team.

“This was certainly a disappointing loss,” said Brown coach Roger Grillo. “After winning six in a row, we had a chance for home ice. We gave [Princeton] 20 minutes and you cannot do that in this league.”

For all the positive momentum that was generated from the second half of the season, the Bears have to be a bit put off (and most likely motivated) that they finished in eighth place. Couple that with the fact they will have to face off against third-place Harvard — a team that has won only two games since February 1st. Some things don’t make much sense, but they may also prove to be in Brown’s favor.

Harvard is a team that is reeling right now. The team hasn’t been winning and players are noticeably frustrated. Questions swirl around why this is happening, especially considering that players are — for the most part — healthy.

“The hockey gods were with us and we still finished third even though we didn’t do anything to help ourselves,” said Harvard junior Dominic Moore following his team’s 3-0 loss at Princeton. “Hopefully, we can turn it on in the playoffs.”

Harvard will certainly have to find a spark in order to get past Brown. Friday night’s game represents a grudge match between the two teams, with Harvard taking the last contest by a 5-2 margin back in early December.

“We have to forget about it,” said senior captain Peter Capouch. “What’s done is done, and we just have to focus on the playoffs. We’re going to have our hands full [with Brown], and we’re going to have to play our best hockey of the year.”

We couldn’t have summed it up better ourselves.

The Pick: Brown in two, 5-2, 3-2

Colgate at Dartmouth

Season Series
01/11 — @Colgate 3, Dartmouth 2
02/16 — @Dartmouth 4, Colgate 3

Only Playoff Matchup
1993 ECAC Preliminary Round — Colgate 4, @Dartmouth 3, 2OT

This playoff match-up may be the most exciting of them all. In one corner you have Dartmouth, a team that has finally showed signs of life, yet still reeks of vulnerability. Just look at the team’s past six games. The impressive home sweep of Colgate and Cornell was followed up by a four-game losing streak. The good news is that most of those games were close contests, but losses they still were.

“We’re not happy about losing,” said Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet. “But when the final buzzer sounds, it’s a new day. It’s a new season. We can put the season behind us and get ready to win in the playoffs.”

Standing in the other corner is a Colgate team that took everyone by surprise when it emerged from the ECAC cellar and made a run at a playoff spot. If you went back to the beginning of January, everyone expected Colgate to pack it up early. Not so quick, said Don Vaughan and his players, who ended the regular season just one point away from capturing home ice. Home ice!

“If you had told me back in December that we would have to win one game to secure home ice on the last weekend, I probably would have taken it,” said Vaughan. “We’ve come a long way, we’re still young, we’re learning every night and I’m thrilled to be in the playoffs. I think it’s up for grabs.”

When these two teams last faced off — just two weeks ago — it was a classic back-and-forth battle that required a Jamie Herrington last-second goal to end the deadlock. That victory also secured the Big Green a playoff spot, so motivation was at an all-time high.

“We played a real solid game up there a couple of weeks ago and both teams played a real good game,” said Vaughan. “I think we match up well and Bobby will have his guys prepared and we’ll be prepared. It should be a great weekend.”

Colgate is coming off a disappointing set of losses against Union and Rensselaer, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Raiders posted five wins in their last 10 league games to secure a playoff spot. After facing adversity and naysayers for most of the season, Colgate is ready to give the Big Green a run for their money up in Hanover.

“Our goal from day one has been to win the ECAC championship,” Gaudet said. “Now we’re in the show. We’ve been there before, so I think that experience will help us. We’ve got a good team.”

The Pick: Dartmouth in three, 3-5, 3-2, 6-2

Princeton at Rensselaer

Season Series
12/08 — Princeton 4, @Rensselaer 2
02/15 — Rensselear 5, @Princeton 3

Only Playoff Matchups
1999 ECAC Consolation — Rensselaer 6, Princeton 4
1997 ECAC Consolation — Rensselaer 8, Princeton 4
1995 ECAC Championship — Rensselaer 5, Princeton 1
1985 ECAC Quarterfinals — @Rensselaer, 7-2, 11-4

Last week, Rensselaer fans were rooting hard for Princeton because a Tiger win meant a chance at home ice for the Engineers. This weekend the sentiment oozing from the Rensselaer players isn’t as cordial as the two teams meet in the ECAC first round in Troy, N.Y.

The Tigers are about as high as they have been all season long. With their backs firmly up against the wall heading into the final stretch of the season, Len Quesnelle’s team came up big by posting a 4-0-1 record since a home loss to Rensselaer to cap off the regular season. That impressive stretch run not only assured the team of a playoff spot, but it also pushed the squad over the .500 mark for the first time all year long.

“This one felt good,” said Quesnelle following the team’s 3-0 blanking of Harvard last Saturday night. “We played hard two nights in a row and to finish the year 10-10-2 in the league is a big accomplishment. We have really come together as a team. If we continue to stay close we are going to have some chances in the postseason. This is a special team and a special run.”

If Princeton’s momentum can be matched, it may just be by the Engineers — a team that has certainly stepped up its level of play in the second half of the season. While some were calling Union the team of Capital District, Dan Fridgen and his staff and players were retooling their attack. With a healthy Matt Murley and Marc Cavosie in the lineup, Rensselaer has been the winner in seven of its last nine games and has scored 33 goals in that stretch. Over the last 14 games of the season, the Engineers have gone 9-3-2, scoring 3.42 goals a game and giving up exactly two goals per game.

“We’re getting real good contributions,” said Fridgen. “The defense played real well for us and we have to keep it going; the journey begins now. Compared to where we were and where we’ve been, we’ve come a long way.”

Capturing home ice was a critical accomplishment for the Engineers, especially considering that Rensselaer holds an 11-4-3 record at Houston Fieldhouse this season and is 5-8-1 on the road, and the fact that the Engineers were in last place in the ECAC heading into the last weekend of January when the streak started.

“I’m just real happy for the seniors that they get to come back and play more games here. That’s something we wanted to do all season,” said Fridgen. “About four or five weeks ago we left ourselves little room for error and I give these guys all the credit in the world. They battled back and faced adversity, and they got the job done.”

The Pick: Rensselaer in three, 2-3, 4-2, 5-3

Our Awards

Time to hand out our awards. We’ve seen quite a few games this season and this is based on what we saw, as well as reports and talks with others around the ECAC. Teams are listed in alphabetical order.

ECAC All-Stars First Team
F Marc Cavosie, Jr., Rensselaer
F Chris Higgins, Fr., Yale
F Matt Murley, Sr., Rensselaer
D Kerry Ellis-Toddington, Sr., Clarkson
D Doug Murray, Jr., Cornell
G Yann Danis, So., Brown

ECAC All-Stars Second Team
F Stephen Bâby, Jr., Cornell
F Jamie Herrington, Sr., Dartmouth
F Brett Nowak, Jr., Harvard
D Josh Barker, Sr., Brown
D Trevor Byrne, Jr., Dartmouth
G Matt Underhill, Sr., Cornell

ECAC All-Rookie Team
F Tom Cavanaugh, Harvard
F Chris Higgins, Yale
F Jay Latulippe, Clarkson
D Charlie Cook, Cornell
D Randy Jones, Clarkson
G David LeNeveu, Cornell

Rookie of the Year
At one point Chris Higgins was not the lock he was in the latter half of 2001. But with solid performances late in the season helping the Bulldogs to the playoffs, he gets our nod in a landslide.

Chris Higgins, Yale

Dryden Award
This is another hotly contested race, but in the end, he was the key to the playoff drive and had huge wins over nationally ranked teams and is the basis for the defense that the Brown Bears played.

Yann Danis, Brown

Defensive Forward of the Year
It’s hard to single out one person on the Cornell team as being above the others in terms of defense, but we have to look at the captain of the Big Red. He can play both ends of the ice and leads by example.

Stephen Bâby, Cornell

Defensive Defenseman of the Year
Look no further than the Big Red and the Ivy Player of the Year.

Doug Murray, Cornell

Coach of the Year
Neither preseason poll had the Cornell Big Red on top. All they did was run away with the ECAC title and the Cleary Cup. Nationally ranked for most of the second half of the season, it’s very deserved.

Mike Schafer, Cornell

Player of the Year
This is a tough choice. There are four contenders that come to mind. Matt Murley and Marc Cavosie of Rensselaer, Yann Danis of Brown, and Doug Murray of Cornell.

With Doug Murray winning the Ivy Player of the Year, we can eliminate Danis from the list of contenders. And only one of Murley and Cavosie will be nominated for Player of the Year. We’ll go with higher scorer.

A tough choice, but in the end, Cavosie led his team back, plays both ends of the ice, is on a 17 game point scoring streak and leads the league in offense and ranks statistically among the nations best.

Marc Cavosie, Rensselaer

Hobey Candidates
The ECAC will be represented when the finalists for the Hobey Baker Award are announced. Among those under consideration and those names that would not surprise us amongst the finalists are Cavosie, Murray, Murley, Ellis-Toddington, and Higgins.

It’s Over

Well, at the beginning of the year, we challenged you to pick the ECAC and see who was better at the predicting end of the ECAC. Well, if you remember, here were the picks:

Challenge		Range			Becky and Jayson

1. Clarkson (8)	1-4			1. Cornell
2. Harvard (14)	1-7			2. Dartmouth
3. Cornell (6)	1-6			3. Harvard
4. Dartmouth (4)	1-6			4. Clarkson
5. St. Lawrence	2-7			5. St. Lawrence
6. Rensselaer	2-10			6. Vermont
7. Vermont	5-10			7. Rensselaer
8. Union		8-11			8. Union
9. Colgate	7-12			9. Colgate
10. Yale		6-12			10. Yale
11. Princeton	7-12			11. Princeton
12. Brown	9-12			12. Brown

So how did we do? Who won this competition?

Let’s take the standings.

Here are the final standings based on playoff seeding:

1. Cornell
2. Clarkson
3. Harvard
4. Dartmouth
5. Rensselaer
6. Princeton
7. Colgate
8. Brown
9. St. Lawrence
10. Yale
11. Union
12. Vermont

Now let’s do our comparisons with the points in parentheses.

1. Cornell – Fans (2)/Becky and Jayson (0)
2. Clarkson – Fans (1)/Becky and Jayson (2)
3. Harvard – Fans (1)/Becky and Jayson (0)
4. Dartmouth – Fans (0)/Becky and Jayson (2)
5. Rensselaer – Fans (1)/Becky and Jayson (2)
6. Princeton – Fans (5)/Becky and Jayson (5)
7. Colgate – Fans (1)/Becky and Jayson (1)
8. Brown – Fans (4)/Becky and Jayson (4)
9. St. Lawrence – Fans (4)/Becky and Jayson (4)
10. Yale – Fans (0)/Becky and Jayson (0)
11. Union – Fans (3)/Becky and Jayson (3)
12. Vermont – Fans (5)/Becky and Jayson (6)

The Iron Columnists are humbled. The fans have defeated us, 29-27. Mind you, it took a whole collective of fans, but you did beat us. Our congratulations go out to you.

If It’s So Easy, You Try It

The Iron Columnists are coming back. Next season.

The competition this season:
Vic Brzozowksi t. The Iron Columnists – 7-2-1
The Iron Columnists d. Vic Brzozowksi8-3-1 to 7-4-1
Ben Flickinger d. The Iron Columnists – 11-4-2 to 10-5-2
The Iron Columnists d. Ben Flickinger5-1-4 to 4-2-4
John Beaber and Lisa McGill t. The Iron Columnists – 6-7-0
The Iron Columnists d. John Beaber and Lisa McGill7-5-3 to 6-6-3
Mike Johnson d. The Iron Columnists – 10-3-1 to 6-7-1
Mike Johnson t. The Iron Columnists – 5-5-2
Mike Johnson d. The Iron Columnists – 6-5-1 to 5-6-1
The Iron Columnists d. Mike Johnson7-3-2 to 3-7-2
Dave Bryan d. The Iron Columnists – 7-5-0 to 6-6-0

Yes, we ended the season on a loss and it will stick with us until next year.

Thanks this week to Ron Vaccarro, David Sherzer, and Mike Volonnino.