The ups and downs continued for ECAC clubs last weekend as they battled their way through tough nonconference opponents.
Colgate beat No. 14 Ferris State in the Raiders’ home opener. Union swept a pair at home to move to 3-0-0, the Dutchmen’s best start in their Division I history. Vermont and Rensselaer mounted late rallies to earn ties at home. Clarkson took three of four points on the road for its most successful opening weekend since 1999.
On the down side, both Colgate and St. Lawrence lost their Saturday contests.
That brings us to this weekend, when 11 ECAC clubs strap on the skates. The Raiders are off, but after just a week of practice, all six Ivies open their seasons with home exhibition contests.
With that …
At one end of the rink stood nationally-ranked Ferris State, the defending CCHA regular-season champs, with three games under their belts. The Raiders stood at the other end having played just once (a 3-3 tie at Northeastern), but with a strong game plan to slow the Bulldogs’ attack.
“I think our own physicality took their offense away,” said Colgate interim coach Stan Moore. “We talked about being physical. You hear all the time, ‘Hit them, hit them, hit them,’ but you need to know why. You do it to condition your opponent. To get them to possibly make mistakes because they anticipate being hit. The first guy [into the offensive zone] is physical, the second guy supports him and the third guy reads the play and decides whether to go in or stay back.”
The strategy worked for Moore’s club as they pulled off the 5-3 win on Friday. But things didn’t start off as planned.
“The first game was a more wide-open offensive game,” said Moore, “and that probably favored Ferris State. We were down 2-0, but got on the board with a power-play goal, which we were happy to do. Then we scored early in the third period and took the lead [with another goal].”
The goal, just 21 seconds into the final frame, provided the Raiders with a huge lift. And despite a defensive miscue that led to the Bulldogs tying the game at three, Colgate’s four third-period tallies were the difference.
“It’s always a momentum shift when you score or get scored upon in the first and last minutes of a period,” explained Moore. “Unless you are the one scoring, we always tell our players to look up at the scoreboard and see the time. As coaches, it is our responsibility to put the players out there to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Ferris State came back with a strong effort on Saturday, adjusting to Colgate’s style of play to secure the split as it continues its five-game road trip this week.
“Saturday was a much better played game,” said Moore, “and to their credit, Ferris said ‘OK, so this is how they are going to play,’ and responded to our physicalness. To do that on the second night of a road trip, to show that they wanted to come out and challenge, that was impressive.
“It was a tighter game. We always talk about how college hockey games are like playoff games and in the playoffs that gets ratcheted up. Well, that’s the way it felt.
“This is a game of inches, we know that, but it was a game of millimeters on Saturday.”
Despite senior David Cann’s strong performance in the season opener, junior Steve Silverthorn was given the start Friday and earned an encore appearance the next night.
“I expected that after Cann put in minutes, I wanted to get Steve some time and give him the start at home. He didn’t start well, but he finished well. He became more determined after [giving up] the two goals,” said Moore.
“You need to be able to adjust and be adjustable when you’re given suggestions and he did. A large part of that is trust and Shep Harder (a former standout Colgate netminder and current assistant) has done a great job of having the ears of both goaltenders.
“After Steve played so well, it wasn’t difficult to start him the second night. He actually had a better quality of play on Friday, though, but it was like the Maytag repairman for both goaltenders on Saturday: neither had a lot of work.”
Silverthorn made 37 saves on the weekend and will certainly make Moore’s decision more difficult when the Raiders return to the ice in November.
In the meantime, Moore says he will “change things up a bit” in practice over the next two weeks as the Raiders continue to work on elements of their game.
“Some days are like MTV,” he said, “it’s a grind out there and you go after it. Systematically, we’re good, but I’d like to see us fight through games a bit more. Not to always assume that all games will have a flow. Some games will be messy. We need to adjust to mess. The teams that can do that well will be the most successful.”
They have two more wins than any other ECAC team. They average 4.3 goals per game while allowing just two per contest. The power play is clicking at 26.3%. The penalty killing is 19-for-19. Five players are averaging a point per game and their leading scorer already has eight points.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the 2003-04 Union Dutchmen.
“We’re off to a good start,” said rookie head coach Nate Leaman, “but it is a long season.”
Way to kill our excitement, coach.
OK, OK, it is a long season and it’s only three games, but c’mon, can’t we even be a little excited about the fast start? We love darkhorses and these Dutchmen are just that — picked to finish 11th by the coaches and ninth by the media. We’d love to see them exceed expectations. That’s what makes the ECAC so much fun each year.
Aren’t you at least a little excited, coach? Can you give us one small “whoo-hoo?”
“We’ll take it game-by-game,” he said. “This weekend will be a good test to see where we’re at.”
And so it goes, but we’re keeping our ticket punched for the Dutchmen bandwagon.
We now return you to good ol’ fashioned reporting.
The Dutchmen reached this point with a pair of home wins last weekend against Merrimack (3-1) and AIC (6-3) in games that, according to Leaman, were tougher than the scores indicated.
“Against Merrimack, we played well in the third period,” he said. “They only had four shots. It was definitely our best period. We made some real good decisions with the puck, some good reads. We finished the body well and were playing together. It was tough for them to get any momentum.”
Union returned to the ice for an afternoon game against AIC the next day, adding a new hurdle to its eventual success.
“It was a mentally tough game,” Leaman said. “It was tough for us to play twice in less than 24 hours. We were not sharp mentally. We played well in the first and third periods, but they outplayed us in the second.”
In situations where the mental edge is missing, just how do a coach and his team battle through it while fighting for the win?
“You keep things as simple as possible,” explained Leaman. “You get the puck to the net, dump it into the zone and quickly move it out of your zone.”
Union will face another series of tough tests this weekend. As Leaman points out, they have back-to-back road games and will be facing Bowling Green’s talented junior netminder Jordan Sigalet — he of the 56 saves in the team’s lone win (vs. Notre Dame).
“They have excellent goaltending,” said Leaman of this week’s opponents. “Sigalet is good and they have good team speed.
“This is going to be a big, big contest for us … both games will. We have to be extremely smart and make good decisions with the puck. It all starts there.”
Union will also need to continue to receive the kind of strong goaltending from the sophomore duo of Kris Mayotte and Tim Roth that has helped them to their unblemished record.
Mayotte, who nabbed the win against Merrimack, has a 1.00 goals against average (GAA) and .958 save percentage. Roth is 2-0-0 with a 2.50 GAA and .904 save percentage.
“Tim’s played two of our three games,” said Leaman, “but we have a competition there. We will evaluate who starts this weekend after two practices, our final one here (Wednesday) and Thursday out there.”
What Leaman does know already is where his offense will come from. While the coach continues to stress a balanced scoring effort, he loves what he’s seeing from Scott Seney. The sophomore, who was named ECAC Player of the Week (see below), leads the team with four goals and eight points and has been a major force on the ice.
“He’s a big guy who is winning a lot of battles,” Leaman said about the 6-3, 220-pounder. “Two of his assists this weekend came from winning a battle on the wall and passing the puck up. He’s a very skilled center that sees things very well. He has a knack around the net and is a big leader for us.”
Fit to Be Tied
Vermont and Rensselaer both skated to ties last weekend, each trailing at some point in the third period. But, as is often the case in sports, one coach was pleased with his tie while the other was disappointed.
“We played a pretty good game all the way around,” said UVM coach Kevin Sneddon about his team’s come-from-behind 2-2 tie against No. 8 Boston University. “Both teams played physical. [BU] played stronger on offense, cycling the puck and challenging the net, but we were quicker and more explosive going up ice.”
The Catamounts once again received solid goaltending from Travis Russell, who made 27 saves, and now has a 2.95 GAA and .908 save percentage in three contests.
“I thought he played a strong game,” said Sneddon, adding that Russell kept UVM in the contest until the Catamounts were able to tie it midway through the third while on the man advantage.
“We finally scored a clutch power-play goal after struggling a bit,” Sneddon said. “It was good to get the monkey off our back.”
The Catamounts had been 1-13 on the power play coming in. They exited the game at 2-20.
“The biggest difference for us, though,” continued Sneddon, “was that we competed hard for 65 minutes. We can’t say we did that in our games against UNH and BC. We had lapses in those games.”
Vermont plays St. Francis Xavier in an exhibition game Sunday before traveling to Michigan Tech for a pair over the Halloween weekend. A week later, they open the ECAC season by hosting Harvard and Brown.
“The biggest challenge now is to not take a step back,” said Sneddon. “We need to continue to play good, sound team defense and find a way to create more scoring opportunities on the power play and five-on-five. We’re turning down shots we should be taking. We need to be a lot more hungry for loose pucks.”
Meanwhile, in New York’s Capital District, Rensselaer coach Dan Fridgen was nowhere near as pleased with the effort of his Engineers in their home opener. His club fell behind 4-1 against Connecticut before scoring three unanswered goals to salvage the tie.
“We scored one within the first minute,” explained Fridgen, “and sometimes when that happens teams begin to roll. [Our] players thought it would be easy and stopped doing the little things.
“Give UConn a lot of credit, though. They have a lot of freshmen and they are hungry and work real hard. We really didn’t handle getting that first goal that well.”
Not that we could ever solve this age-old sports mystery, but the Engineers’ play for most of the game — save for the final 11 minutes — does beg the question of why it is that teams let up on their opponents.
“If we had the answers,” Fridgen said, “you would bottle it and make a lot of money. That’s a secret that lives within the players. And if you’d ask them, they’d probably tell you they don’t know.”
Fridgen didn’t say much to his club between the second and third periods, but he did shorten his bench. He played three lines and four defensemen and watched as ECAC Rookie of the Week winner Oren Eizenman lifted his club to salvage the deadlock.
“We look at the whole thing,” said Fridgen, “as a learning experience as a team, to understand what it takes to win.”
Rensselaer hopes to build off that surge as it plays host to Army in the Engineers’ only contest this weekend.
“Army is very consistent year-to-year,” said Fridgen. “They are well-coached and are a hard working, physical and disciplined team. They keep coming at you regardless of the score, whether they are in the lead or behind.
“We need to be ready to match their intensity and pay attention to and do the little things.”
A New Beginning
With an exhibition game in its back pocket, Clarkson set out to change recent history with a solid opening weekend. Thanks to the work of ECAC Goaltender of the Week Dustin Traylen, the Golden Knights had their best debut since a pair of wins at Northern Michigan back in the previous century (1999).
“To come away with three of four points in a tough place to play was good,” said head coach George Roll, “but we still have a long way to go.”
To that end, it is worth noting, since we’ve dipped into history already, that Clarkson followed up those Northern Michigan wins with an 0-2-7 run. Ouch!
Back to this season …
“Friday night we didn’t play well for two periods,” said head coach George Roll, “but Traylen kept us in the game. We didn’t put on a great effort, but we stayed disciplined and came back with four unanswered goals to win.
“Saturday we played well in stretches and when we didn’t Traylen was there to bail us out and keep us in it. Unfortunately, we gave up a late goal on a bad clear.”
Roll was also impressed with intangibles.
“The win gave our guys a lot of confidence,” he said. “The older guys were saying that they had never come from behind like that since they’ve been here.
“The whole attitude around the program has changed. The bottom line is that they are having fun. That’s more important than the wins and losses and everyone seems to be enjoying coming to the rink and playing the game.”
They will need that enthusiasm this weekend as No. 10 Colorado College rolls into Potsdam with an undefeated mark (2-0-0).
“I’ll be honest with you: we don’t know a lot about Colorado,” said Roll, “but we’re more concerned about our own performance. We’re still concentrating on execution and special teams.
“They are a quality team and are certainly more skilled than us so we’ll have to play a tight defensive game. We gave up too many shots this weekend (81). That’s one of our biggest concerns. If we do that against Colorado, it’ll be a much different result.”
The Knights will take on the Tigers without rookie defenseman Matt Curley, who is out a month with a second degree shoulder separation. Sophomore John Sullivan is recovering from a slash to the wrist, but Roll is unsure whether he’ll be back for Friday night’s contest.
In their place, Roll said the Knights will insert speedy freshman forwards Max Kolu and Brodie Rutherglen into the lineup.
Saints’ Tests Continue
After an impressive season-opening win against Miami, St. Lawrence has struggled to find consistency as it battles through a wave of injuries. To make matters worse, they’ve all hit during the Saints’ difficult nonconference slate of games. The latest result of the bad timing? A 5-1 loss at Massachusetts, which moved to 3-0-0, their best start since moving to Division I.
“We certainly got a giant wakeup call against Massachusetts,” said SLU coach Joe Marsh. “They played well, particularly in the second period. They are a fast team, really good on the transition.
“We didn’t play the way we needed to against them. Our special teams are still struggling. We got one, but it was too late to make a difference.”
Life doesn’t get any easier for the Saints this weekend.
“Now we’re going from the frying pan, into the fire with Maine coming in,” continued Marsh. “We addressed those things we noticed in the game and there’s room to make others see that we’re a better team than what we showed against Massachusetts.
“The intangibles, work ethic and discipline are the things we addressed right away. We told them that we have a tremendous amount of work to do, but let’s have some fun doing it.
“We’re 1-2-2, but we have 31 games, a major portion of our schedule left. We always play a tough nonconference schedule and there’s a reason we play it.”
That schedule is giving the healthy Saints a chance to play against top competition, something Marsh preaches as important to his players’ development. They’ll all be tested again this weekend against No. 5 Maine.
“We need to be quick to the puck and read the play defensively,” explained Marsh. “We had a tremendous amount of turnovers against Massachusetts, we need to be better disciplined with the puck.
“We’ll look to battle every shift and will be looking to measure ourselves versus a great team. Against them, you find out in a hurry what your strengths and weaknesses are. They are the type of team where we need everybody.
“Hopefully, returning home and playing Maine can generate a lot of energy, but we need to create our own and not wait for other things to happen to do that. If we create some positive energy, that will carry us.”
Continued strong play from netminder Kevin Ackley will help too.
“He’s done a good job for us,” said Marsh. “We’re relying on him pretty heavily. We need his solid presence right now. [Junior Mike] McKenna saw some time against Massachusetts and played well. We need him to start pushing Kevin a bit. Competition is good.
“Who knows, we may see them both this weekend, but we’re probably going to start Kevin on Friday.”
Health-wise, junior captain Josh Anderson is still out with a shoulder injury and classmate defenseman Matt Macdonald is also still sidelined. There’s no set timetable for either player’s return and, in Anderson’s case, Marsh said that they have no desire to rush him back.
“He keeps himself in terrific shape, so I have no doubt when he returns he can step right in.”
For the coach, all of these speed bumps are part of what happens this time of year.
“Early in the season, you address a lot of issues,” he said. “There’s no reason to panic. It doesn’t hurt to get a wake-up call, the key is how you respond.”
They’ll have their chance on Friday.
With only days of practice, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton and Yale hit the ice for exhibition games that will serve as final tune-ups before the ones that count begin in earnest over Halloween weekend.
“We’re hoping to get the opportunity to see some of our young guys,” said Bears coach Roger Grillo. “We’ll see how we respond to an opponent and not just playing each other in practice. We’ll be looking at everything as we need to set line combinations, defense pairings and special teams.”
The only setback of note for Brown will be the absence of offensive threat Les Haggett, who had his knee scoped and will be out for at least a week.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, Princeton coach Len Quesnelle begins his quest to turn around the Tigers’ fortunes.
“We’ve gotten the engine started,” he said, referring to time spent in practice, “now we just need to make it stronger.
“We’ll find out where we are technically. We have a short window before St. Cloud (October 31 and November 1), so we need to focus on our systems. Everyone was really focused on the importance of stressing defense all summer and through practice so far. We need to be.”
Harvard’s Mark Mazzoleni looks at the upcoming exhibition contest as a way to evaluate talent as well.
“We’ll look at the younger players. We already know what the older players can do. We’ll see if last year’s freshmen and sophomores have taken the step up.”
A Response to “Ticket-Gate”
A few weeks ago, we discussed Harvard’s decision to not sell single-game tickets to this season’s Cornell contest. At the time, none of the Cornell representatives we contacted responded to our questions, but we’ve since heard back from one of them.
Tom Pasniewski is the director of programming for the Cornell Club of Boston, a non-profit organization serving the approximately 9,000 Cornell alumni in the Boston metropolitan area. In his role with the Club, Pasniewski plans and oversees a staff that designs and executes nearly every aspect of the 30-40 events it runs each year.
“In my capacity as a fan,” he explained, “I think that the policy is meant to draw more Harvard fans and not necessarily keep Cornell fans out … but when you single out one game, it appears very unfair.
“It’s hard not to think that Cornell is being singled out. You have Boston University on the schedule with thousands of students from BU in Boston and they can buy tickets to that game without having to buy for another game.”
An excellent point, and one we tossed back into the lap of Harvard Ticket Manager Erin Hobin-Audet, a BU grad herself.
“We studied several games before we chose which ones to include in a package,” she explained. “We didn’t necessarily single the Cornell game out.
“Yale, BU and Cornell are all big games for us, but the timing played a role. By choosing Cornell, the package has a game in November, December, January and February.”
Switching hats, Pasniewski continued.
“In my role as a board member of the Club, I must say that Harvard has been very generous to the Cornell Club of Boston in the past.
“ECAC policy requires a school to give 200 tickets to a game [to the visiting team] plus 25 for the visiting band. In the past, 100 tickets have gone to Cornell and the Cornell Club has been allowed to purchase a varying number of tickets, but in excess of the remaining 100.”
And what does the Club do with those tickets?
“[They] are sold later, as the game time approaches, to members of the Club, their families and friends. This is our biggest event of the year and we have in the past always been able to purchase more than 100 tickets. So, this, too, is a change from past years.
“[Our] members are given a window period during which they may purchase tickets from the Club to the game by phone or mail. This typically sells out our entire block of tickets. We take extra pains to be sure that members are not buying for students or non-members. Not that we don’t want Cornell students to come to the game, but we have to be sure that all our members who want tickets can get them and most years, we can’t even do that.
Despite rumors to the contrary, Pasniewski assured us that the Club never sells tickets for more than what Harvard normally charges the general public ($12). Tickets are purchased from Harvard at the group rate of $8.
“Harvard offers group discounts based on varying levels of the number of tickets purchased, explained Pasniewski. “Part of that discount is passed along to our members. [Any] profits that we make on ticket sales are used to fund a large pre-game gathering, traditionally held on Harvard property, which we pay Harvard to do and which we are reconsidering in light of this new ticket policy.
“Within their rights? Yes. Fair? No.”
While he also admits that he can see the motivation for Harvard’s new policy, Pasniewski, like the rest of us, is curious to see what will happen when the doors swing open for the game in January.
“For years, Lynah Rink at Cornell has been consistently sold out and a very difficult place to get a ticket. I think now that Harvard is playing hockey on a higher plane, they want more tickets for their fans.
“Whether their fans come remains to be seen. This game is at a time when classes are not in session.”
According to Hobin-Audet, the game takes place during Harvard’s “Reading Period,” the week students return to campus to study for finals.
“I’m sure by Friday night,” she said with a laugh, “they’ll be looking for something to do.”
So will we … stay tuned.
And the Winners Are …
Three new faces popped up in the ECAC’s weekly awards this time around. Union’s Scott Seney was named Player of the Week as he compiled two goals and five points on the weekend.
“He’s been a great plus to the team,” said Leaman. “He’s good on the defensive side of the game as well. He’s very aware of what he needs to do and plays in all situations for us. That’s what you want from your big players.”
Rookie of the Week honors went to the Engineers’ Oren Eizenman, who nearly singlehandedly carried Rensselaer to its 4-4 tie with a pair of goals in the third period.
“He’s a good player,” said Fridgen. “He sees the ice well and plays both ends of the ice equally as hard. He’s still feeling his way through as a freshman, but he took charge on offense and we needed it. Some of our upperclassmen weren’t doing it. It’s great for a coaching staff to see that.”
Between the pipes, Clarkson’s Dustin Traylen earned Goaltender of the Week accolades for his 78-save effort over the weekend.
“We watched game tape of him in the spring,” said Roll, “and noticed that last year he was spectacular at times and other times he wasn’t. We talked to him about conditioning and dedication and, to his credit, he came back much stronger this year. He played 125 minutes this weekend and that’s an example of his conditioning.”
(Players named to the weekly Honor Roll are listed in the sidebar.)