This Week in the ECAC: Jan. 1, 2004

Happy New Year! Here’s hoping 2004 is healthy, happy and successful for all of our readers and their families.

As we tack up our new calendars, it means we are one step closer to the stretch drive in the ECAC. The holiday tournaments are over and, given the performance of the league overall in those games, it couldn’t have come any sooner.

Today, though, is the day when we all start working our way down those lists of resolutions that we’ll undoubtedly stray from by, oh, February. Much to our delight (and hopefully yours) we recently uncovered the New Year’s resolutions of players, coaches, teams and fans. Let’s take a look.

Brian Ihnacak, Brown — To continue his torrid pace leading Brown and all ECAC rookies in scoring.

Yann Danis, Brown — To continue his dominating play and capture the Hobey Baker Award — a fitting end to a tremendous college career.

Clarkson, Rensselaer and St. Lawrence — To defeat the current threat posed by the Division III committee so the trio of proud ECAC programs can get back to worrying about on-ice issues.

Matt Nickerson, Clarkson — To cut down on the trips to the penalty box and the shots into opposing benches so that we can all see the level of his talent.

Colgate — To change Adam Mitchell’s first name to “Kyle” so that the top line becomes Kyle Wilson-Kyle Doyle-“Kyle” Mitchell.

Colgate, Part Two — To change Darryl McKinnon’s last name to “Smyth,” thereby making the second line Jon Smyth-Darryl “Smyth”-Ryan Smyth.

Cornell Fans — To buy up all tickets to all road games for the next 10 years before ticket policies start changing all over the ECAC.

Cornell and Dartmouth — To be granted an extra five minutes of overtime so they can both put an end to the preposterous number of ties thus far (five for each team).

Bob Gaudet, Dartmouth — To capture the ECAC Championship that eluded him in 1993 and that he’s been inching closer to the last two years.

Dartmouth Fans — To have two more years of Hugh Jessiman to enjoy skating up and down the wing. Heck, he’s young and was drafted by the New York Rangers, which means that GM Glen Sather will bury him in the minors with Dominic Moore.

Harvard — To find an answer, any answer, to the mystery that this season has become.

Mark Mazzoleni, Harvard — To find a “happy place” when he gets asked for the 12,453rd time: “What’s wrong with this team?”

John Daigneau, Harvard — To get an opportunity to redeem himself and display the talent that had Mark Mazzoleni thinking he’d have a goaltending duo this season.

Chris Owen, Princeton — To find the scoring touch that allowed him 17 goals last season.

Len Quesnelle, Princeton — To drive radio announcers over the edge by putting Grant Goeckner-Zoeller, Neil Stevenson-Moore and Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer on the same line.

Nick Economakos, Rensselaer — To score 20 goals in the second half just so we can say Economakos over and over again. Try it, it’s fun!

Conrad Barnes, Rensselaer — To make a return to television in his most famous role, “Mr. Drummond.” Oh wait, that’s Conrad Bain.

St. Lawrence — To have a strong second half for Joe Marsh’s sake as much as for North Country fans.

Andrzej Sandrzyk, St. Lawrence — To add another “z,” “j” or “k” to his name just to see the look on announcers’ faces.

Nate Leaman and Union Fans — Increased support from the college’s Administration so that the Dutchmen can grow as a program.

Glenn Sanders, Union — To return to good health after having his spleen removed just six games into his senior campaign. Hopefully, the captain will be able to redshirt the year and return next season.

Vermont — To continue its recent hot streak through 2004 and into Hockey East.

Jeff Miles and Brady Leisenring, Vermont — To make everyone outside of Burlington realize that they are both point-per-game players.

Joe Zappala, Yale — To finally make everyone stop asking about Chris Higgins’ departure. He’s on his way …

Brown, Dartmouth, Cornell, Harvard, Princeton and Yale — To finally make good on the annual rumor of splitting from the ECAC. It’s the only way to salvage anything from the unfortunate mess this league has become.

Tourney Misery

The concept of holiday tournaments is a traditional and exciting part of the college hockey season and an experience not to be missed. That is, of course, unless you are the majority of this year’s ECAC teams. Aside from Cornell’s Everblades Classic championship, most league squads didn’t fare too well.

Vermont and Dartmouth each went 1-0-1 in the Catamounts’ tournament, the Sheraton/Bank North Classic, but didn’t play each other. RPI was the only other ECAC team to host a tournament — the Rensselaer/HSBC Holiday Hockey Tournament — and it played gracious host by losing the opening contest and the consolation game. In the same tourney, Colgate split its two games, losing to Northeastern, but defeating the Engineers.

Union lost both of its games at the Badger Showdown by a combined score of 13-4, while Princeton was swept in the Dodge Holiday Classic in Minneapolis by a 14-3 score. At the Denver Cup, Yale also lost twice.

Brown received rude treatment on the road at the Subway Holiday Classic in Grand Forks when it was upset by Wayne State in overtime and tied Findlay. The Bears won the shootout over the Oilers, but it goes down as a tie in the books. Brown is also now 0-2-2 since starting the season with just one loss.

Finally, at the inaugural Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Pot, both Clarkson and Harvard lost their opening-round games and ended up tying in the consolation matchup. St. Lawrence, meanwhile, did not participate in a holiday tournament for the third straight season.

Hockey East or Bust

The biggest news heading into the holiday season was Vermont’s decision to pursue entry into Hockey East. For years, the Ivies have been rumored to be the programs interested in splitting from the league, so when the Catamounts issued their news it came as a surprise to many.

On many levels, however, the move makes sense for them. They already have longstanding relationships with HE schools for non-conference games — with New Hampshire, Boston University, Boston College, Massachusetts, Northeastern and Maine on their 2003-04 schedule. In addition, their status as a state school fits in better with HE teams than the private colleges of the ECAC.

Another key component UVM considered is the D-III issue facing Clarkson, Rensselaer and St. Lawrence. The fallout from the negative decision everyone expects could seriously impact the league and make an already messy ECAC even murkier.

Reactions and responses are continuing to build and with the D-III decision just around the corner, a move may be the best thing for the Catamounts — if HE accepts them, that is. Stay tuned, a lot of issues are coming to a head this month and there will be much more to report on this story in the weeks ahead.

Can’t We Just Expand the League Schedule?

Warning: What follows is a compilation of information so gruesome and graphic that some of our more sensitive readers may want to turn away.

Ok, you’ve been warned.

This has not been a good year for the ECAC in non-conference games. We know, we know … some of you are saying, “well, what else is new?” Trust us, though, this season is especially bad.

Headed into this weekend’s action, the ECAC is a combined 29-43-20 overall in non-league games. Ouch! That’s almost as bad as our record in weekly predictions. Almost. No one’s been that bad.

On the bright side, the league is 18-12-11 at home. Unfortunately, the 12 teams are 5-8-2 on neutral ice and a deplorable 6-23-7 in visiting rinks.

The ECAC has a winning record against only one conference, holding an 8-1-2 lead in contests against Atlantic Hockey, including 7-1-2 at home. Against College Hockey America, the ECAC is 4-2-4 with the losses coming on neutral ice.

Now the really bad news.

Against the WCHA, the ECAC is 4-11-3. Versus the CCHA, it’s 6-8-5 — including 1-4-3 at home — and against Hockey East the ECAC is 7-21-6, with 16 losses away from home.

What’s the big thrill of non-conference games again?

What’s On Tap

Brown (6-3-3, 6-2-1 ECAC) travels to Rensselaer (8-7-2, 3-2-1) and Union (7-7-3, 2-3-1) this weekend for the Bears’ fifth and sixth consecutive road games. RPI leads the all-time series with a commanding 40-16-4 record against Brown. The Bears hold a 13-7-5 advantage in the all-time series against the Dutchmen, having split last season’s games. Hobey Baker candidate Yann Danis is 2-2-0 with a 2.77 GAA and .899 save percentage against Union.

Harvard (6-7-2, 4-5-1) joins its Rhode Island travel partner for a journey to New York’s Capital Region. The Crimson have won four straight over the Dutchmen, who are coached this season by former Harvard assistant Nate Leaman. The Crimson lead the all-time series 19-3-2. Against the Engineers, Harvard has won three in a row in Troy and holds a 38-28-2 advantage over RPI overall.

Clarkson (6-7-4, 3-3-1) hosts Mercyhurst (7-7-1, 4-3-0 Atlantic Hockey) for a pair this weekend. The Knights have won all three games in the all-time series, beginning with a 2-1 victory in 2000. This season, however, the Lakers have proven to be a much tougher foe, having defeated No. 12 Ohio State and tied No. 10 Cornell — both on the road. The games in Potsdam will also mark the end of Mercyhurst’s monstrous 10-game road trip.

St. Lawrence (6-10-3, 2-5-0) begins a six-game road trip when it travels west for games against No. 5 Denver (13-6-3, 5-6-3 WCHA) and Colorado College (9-4-3, 4-4-2 WCHA). The Saints have lost both games they’ve played against the Pioneers, once in the 1961 NCAA Championship game and again this season in the finals of the Lefty McFadden Invitational. The Tigers have won all four previous games against SLU, including three times in the NCAA Tournament (1955, 1999, 2001).

Princeton (5-11-0, 5-6-0) hosts Merrimack (5-10-3, 2-6-3 Hockey East) this weekend, marking the seventh and eighth games between the clubs all-time. The Tigers have not lost any of the previous six, posting a 4-0-2 mark against the Warriors. The last four contests between the teams have taken place after Merrimack joined Hockey East and Princeton is 3-0-1 in those games.

Vermont (2-11-3, 0-6-0) travels to No. 13 Dartmouth (5-2-5, 3-0-3) on Friday for the first of a home-and-home series that will be completed next weekend. The Catamounts then move on to play No. 4 Maine (12-4-1, 6-2-1 HE) on Sunday on neutral ice in Portland. Vermont is 2-0-1 since going winless to start the season and holds a 37-17-5 advantage over the Big Green in their all-time series. Dartmouth, meanwhile, has run into the opposite problem, posting a 1-2-2 mark since starting the season without a loss at 4-0-3. The Big Green already have five ties on the year, matching the club record set in Bob Gaudet’s first year as coach (1997-98). Under Gaudet, Dartmouth is 9-12-5 in games following a tie.

Colgate (8-7-2, 3-3-0) wraps up its non-conference schedule with a Saturday night game at Niagara (10-8-1, 6-0-0 CHA). The Raiders are 5-4-2 in non-ECAC games this season and have won three of their last four. Colgate leads the all-time series 3-2-0, but this will be its first game in the Purple Eagles’ home rink. Interestingly, four of the games have been played on neutral ice.

Yale (5-10-0, 5-5-0) plays its third straight non-conference game when it travels to No. 7 New Hampshire (11-6-2, 5-3-2 HE). The Wildcats lead the all-time series 16-10-0. This is the fifth consecutive season the two clubs have met. The teams have split the previous four games including the Elis’ shocker over then-No. 1 UNH, 4-3, on the road in November 2000. The Wildcats have won the last two games against Yale by a combined 10-3 score.

Next Week

In our next column, we’ll offer up our 2003 awards, have a reader’s perspective on the plethora of ties this season and preview the Cornell-Harvard “Ticketgate” game.