This Week in the ECAC: Nov. 28, 2002

It’s a logjam atop the ECAC.

As the weekends have gone by, Cornell, Harvard and Yale have jumped to the top of the heap, but Brown and Dartmouth are right behind, and it’s close behind those teams as well. Dartmouth knocked off No. 1 Boston College on Tuesday, but let’s get back to league play! It’s much too exciting right now …

Green Is The Color

It’s the holidays, which means that it’s time for the Grinch, who happens to be green — like maybe a Christmas tree, except for those of you who have one of those inhuman, blasphemous white or pink or red trees.

Or like the Big Green of Dartmouth.

Coming off of a weekend sweep of Yale and Princeton, the Big Green took down No. 1 Boston College on Tuesday night.

“The guys have a lot of pride in what they represent and by that I mean Dartmouth,” said head coach Bob Gaudet Wednesday. “It’s not always going to happen where you get the bounce. Sometimes you play hard and great and you don’t get the win. As a coach you have to have a sense that it’s a little bit bigger. Last night’s win was a huge win for our program. It helps us more than it hurts Boston College, they’re going to win a lot of games.”

Lately Dartmouth has been winning a lot of games; the Big Green are on a five-game winning streak and find themselves in a nice position within the ECAC as they head into a four-game stretch in the next month outside of league play.

“We lost our first couple, but I thought we played well,” said Gaudet. “We played good hockey and I’m not talking about a moral victory with a young team, I’m just talking as a coach with a young team that we played well and competed hard.

“After that we need to come home and we needed to come back with some solid efforts and build off of it and we did. We played good hockey and we played so-so hockey, but we found a way to win. I think that put us in decent standing in the league and hopefully when the new year rolls around we’ll be healthy and a more mature hockey team.”

After a game this weekend at Massachusetts, the Big Green head to exams, and an exhibition against the U.S. Under-18 Team before hosting the Auld Lang Syne Classic and then jumping back into league play when 2003 rolls around.

“We need to work on consistency,” said Gaudet. “We need to work on the here and now. I’m sure we’ll win some and lose some in this stretch, but hopefully we’ll continue to come together as a team. I think the biggest thing for me is that the guys enjoy each other and they’re proud of the uniform they wear, and they represent it well. I’ve said that after ‘L’s too; we need to work hard to hone our skills.”

The Big Green have gotten a consistent performance in net during the winning streak.

“[Nick Boucher and Darren Gastrock] have been doing a good job,” said Gaudet. “Bouch has found a way to get wins and make some crucial saves for us. Darren is the same way, they make key plays that make turning points of the game. So much in goaltending people get over-involved in the technical side of it.

“I like to see guys battle, be out of position and dive back across to stop a puck or make a key save. If you let in a bad one, you let in a bad one — find a way to stop one you shouldn’t. And that’s what they’ve been doing. Dan Yacey is also a good goalie — we just haven’t found the time for him yet.”

Some had pointed to Dartmouth as being in a rebuilding year with heavy graduation losses from last season, but the Big Green have found themselves with key contributions from younger players and seniors alike.

Seniors Mike Murray, Pete Summerfelt and Trevor Byrne are in the top six of scoring for the Big Green; sophomore Lee Stempniak leads the team in that statistic, followed closely by freshmen Mike Ouellette and Hugh Jessiman. Eric Przepiorka and Max Guimond have also contributed heavily to the Big Green offense.

“It’s been said that the young players mature in the new year rather than the first half, and I’ve been pleased by their effort in the first half,” said Gaudet. “If we can get some more consistentcy, we’ll have a pretty solid hockey team, but I am sure there will be ups and downs.”

A team picked ninth by the coaches in the preseason poll could be proving all of them wrong.

Way To Go, Dudes

Sitting underneath the radar is a Union team that heads to Harvard and Brown with five ECAC points and games in hand.

Before the start of the season, many foresaw that Union’s rise or fall would be predicated on the goaltending with loss of Brandon Snee to graduation.

Head coach Kevin Sneddon brought in two freshman goaltenders in Kris Mayotte and Tim Roth and before the season began, he had two goalies with different personalities, but the same goal of winning.

“We have a little bit of California and a little bit of Wall Street,” he said of Mayotte and Roth, respectively.

Mayotte’s personality has shone through off the ice, but on the ice, Mayotte, from Finleyville, Pa., has been behind four of Union’s ECAC points. Overall Mayotte is 5-0-1 and this past weekend shutout Connecticut for his first collegiate shutout.

“It was an easy night again — it seems like every time I come up to talk to you guys there’s not much to talk about,” joked Mayotte afterward. “The defense and d-zone coverage, being able to see every shot, it makes my job easy.

“It’s good to get something like a shutout and to shut the door. You don’t want them all the time but you take what you can get sometimes.”

“He’s kind of having a dream start for a freshman,” said Sneddon. “He’s a game goalie and he hates to be scored on.”

Mayotte, who has faced 212 shots in seven games, is living up to what he wanted to do.

“That’s why I came here. They brought me here to win games,” he said. “I’m getting into the groove, I’m feeling confident and confidence is important for a goalie. I just try to go from game to game with as much confidence as possible.

“I don’t know what else to say, I don’t face many shots and I don’t face many scoring opportunities. The ones I do, I give up rebounds and the guys clear it out; they take care of me.”

They did take care of Mayotte Sunday in an 8-0 romp over Connecticut. What makes that result even more impressive is the fact that Union is smack-dab in the middle of finals.

“They’re wearing the hat of student all week and I tip my hat to them,” said Sneddon. “You wonder if they can leave that outside of the rink and play 60 minutes and stay focused, and they worked hard.

“I’m glad our offense came alive. If you’re going to score that many goals, you hope that it’s not just one line scoring it.”

There were 15 different Dutchmen with points on Sunday and between that and Mayotte in goal, the Dutchmen head into an ECAC weekend with momentum.

“We held UConn to just 15 shots on goal and I’m more impressed with that than I am with the offense,” said Sneddon. “Going into league play next weekend against a Harvard team that’s just offensively dynamic we’ll have to have our ‘A’ game defensively.”

A Full Tank?

This weekend Rensselaer also heads to New England to take on Brown and Harvard — maybe with a full complement of players. The Engineers saw Kirk MacDonald play for the first time this past weekend against Mercyhurst.

“I thought [MacDonald] played real well,” said Engineer head coach Dan Fridgen. “I thought he and Scott [Basiuk] did a fantastic job of keeping in shape while not in the lineup. I asked Kirk how he was feeling in the third period and he said, ‘Great,’ and now he’s got some game legs under him, which is important going into the league weekend.

“We’ve missed his presence because he’s an excellent player and he works real hard and it was nice to get him in the lineup and he certainly was champing at the bit to get in the lineup.”

The Engineers also expect assistant captain Basiuk back on Friday against Brown. Basiuk has been out since the third game of the season. In just one and one-half games this season, Basiuk has a goal and two assists and should provide a boost to an Engineer offense that had been struggling.

It’s Our Turn

Yes, we made light of the fact that we’d love to get back to league play. Perhaps some of that is because of a 1-11-3 record against Hockey East this season, with the lone win coming Tuesday when the Big Green knocked off BC.

Well, let’s take another shot at it. There are some good games this weekend and ECAC-Hockey East matchups abound: Cornell hosting Boston University for two, Clarkson and St. Lawrence going to Northeastern and Providence, and Dartmouth and Princeton taking on Massachusetts.

And then there’s next weekend when Clarkson and St. Lawrence take on Massachusetts-Lowell and New Hampshire, BU faces Rensselaer, BC plays Harvard, and Princeton takes on Massachusetts again.

Let’s go ECAC!

The Best and Worst

Another edition of our best and worst returns.

The BestDartmouth

Kudos to the team that knocked off the No. 1 squad in the nation and picked up the league’s first win over Hockey East this season.

The WorstBrown

The Bears had the tables turned on them this weekend. The Bears were shut out twice, something that hasn’t happened since the 1960-61 season.

Happy, Happy

A Happy Thanksgiving to all, thanks to all of you for reading so far and we hope that you enjoy. Meanwhile, we’ll turn the reins over to Mike Volonnino next week to take care of all your ECAC needs.

Thanks to Dan Weinberg for his contributions this week.