This Week in the ECAC: Oct. 10, 2002

The Battle Begins In Earnest

Four teams get under way for the first time this season, while one gets ready for its second battle. The ECAC season is underway, meaning that it’s time to get back to the rinks and get those engines roaring.

Giving It Another Shot

Vermont took a 3-0 lead on Northeastern, then saw it disappear as the Huskies came back to tie the game. The collapse was something that Mike Gilligan wasn’t pleased with, and the Cats are now winless in 13 straight games.

Still, there was optimism.

Said Gilligan, “I was disappointed that it was a come-from-behind tie, but I think they feel pretty good that they can play.”

That feeling-pretty-good was something that he saw as well.

“I was really happy with a lot of things,” said Gilligan. “I thought our second period was our best period, and then we got a little bit away from our forecheck. We gave up that goal on the power play from the middle point on a tough bounce, and that hurt. But not as much as in the third period when we turned the puck over at their blue line and we couldn’t get it deep into the zone. I think we ran out of a little bit of steam.

“The second-period defense was the best team defense we have played in two years. We felt comfortable in our own zone and we didn’t chase. We played solid team defense and that’s what we’ve got to do.”

The Cats saw four freshmen in the lineup against Northeastern. Expect more versus New Hampshire on Saturday.

“I liked a lot of young guys,” said Gilligan. “I’m excited about the freshmen. I liked the way all four played [against NU] and next week you’ll see [Phil] Youngclaus. He and [Jamie] Sifers are two exciting young defensemen. I didn’t dress Youngclaus because I wanted to see some of the older guys out there as well. We’ll be rotating a bunch of kids in and out of the lineup for the first six games. You’ll also be seeing Travis Russell in the net next Saturday.”

Tourney Time

The Ice Breaker and the Maverick Stampede are upon us. This year, Rensselaer heads to the Ice Breaker to take on host Wisconsin, along with Boston University and Northern Michigan, while Colgate takes on Stampede host Nebraska-Omaha along with Denver and Northern Michigan.

The Engineers will play minus two All-Americans and with an undefined scoring punch. Suffice to say, it should be quite a challenge.

“To be honest, our whole schedule will be a challenge,” coach Dan Fridgen said. “Every game will be a challenge and I’m hoping that those challenges will make us a better team in the long run because that means you’re going to face some adversity. How you handle adversity really determines what kind of team you’re going to be.”

Meanwhile, the Raiders head to Omaha, where they know they will take on Denver, picked by many to win the NCAA championship, or Michigan State, another national power.

“With a young team, we may be a little ambitious with our schedule in terms of opening up in Omaha with Michigan State and Denver,” said head coach Don Vaughan. “I still think that’s how we get better. Our guys have to realize that they can be alongside these guys. We deserve to be there and belong there.”

The Saints Head West. Again.

The St. Lawrence Saints travel to Ohio to start the season, but going West is no new experience for SLU. Last season the Saints started in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for two straight weekends. This time, it’s CCHA foe Miami.

The Saints were close last year to a totally different season, thanks to 20 one-goal games. With new faces coming in, and some familiar ones returning, the trips are beneficial for Joe Marsh and his team.

“We’ll undoubtedly try some different combinations in the early nonleague games,” said Marsh. “We want to win them, but we also want to see as many guys as we can in game conditions and prepare ourselves for the start of league competition.”

Union Starts

The Dutchmen had a heartbreaker as the season ended last year, missing the playoffs by the slightest of hairs. Thanks to the ECAC’s all-inclusive playoff format this season, they won’t have to worry about that.

Regardless, with a young team, head coach Kevin Sneddon is expecting that this will be a different year. The Dutchmen head off to Providence and Merrimack to open up the season, where Sneddon knows that it will be tough to start.

“We wanted to challenge ourselves,” he said. “With a young team we wanted to see where we are made of and going up against Providence, you know [coach] Paul [Pooley] is going to have his team ready, and then go right back and play Merrimack the next day, those two games will provide us with valuable experience, prepare us for more nonconference games and then ultimately, league play.”

Hey, Wait A Minute!

The Olympic-style 15-second faceoff rule is new to the ECAC — and there was no doubt about it for those at the Northeastern-Vermont game. Referee Scott Hansen’s officiating crew, which included Robert Melanson and Glen Cooke, was under the directive to drop the puck no matter what, and they sure did.

In some instances, one or both of the faceoff men were not set, or ready at all. The puck still dropped. It was something to get used to for the players.

“We showed the video to the guys; we tried to put everything in with just one week of practice, and the rules emphasize it,” said Gilligan. “So they’re putting the puck down even if the kids aren’t there. Both teams got caught.”

With another week under their belts, we’ll see how teams fare with the new faceoff rule — as well as how some long-winded color commentators might feel.

Coming Soon!

The Iron Columnists return …