This Week in the ECAC: Jan. 15, 2004

In a matter of weeks we’ve witnessed two of the biggest news stories to pass through the ECAC in years. With Vermont’s move to Hockey East progressing from speculation to official, it cleared the way for the Proposal 65 battle to take center stage.

On Monday, after months of hard work, uncertainty and nervous anticipation, the vote to decide whether St. Lawrence, Rensselaer and Clarkson (as well as Colorado College) would be able to keep giving scholarships as a part of their “play-up” Division I status in hockey finally arrived.

The amendment to make the waiver permanent passed by an overwhelming majority, as did the new version of Proposal 65 (rephrased based on the amendment’s passage), which prohibits other schools from being granted “play-up” status in the future.

“This is an affirmation,” said RPI President Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, “of a main tenet of the NCAA philosophy: to protect and support the autonomy of each member institution.

“Our men’s hockey team can now continue to recruit the high-level student-athletes that Rensselaer attracts. The vote also allows us to launch our plan to move our women’s ice hockey team to Division I status.”

At Clarkson, where the Knights are in their first year of Division I women’s hockey, President Tony Collins said that with the issue now part of NCAA regulations, he doesn’t expect to have to fight this battle again.

“We felt confident,” he said. “But it was all based on the last person you spoke to. If they said they were with us, we were confident. If they said they were against us, we would panic.”

“Anything could have happened,” added Clarkson athletic director Sean Frazier. “This is the culmination of four, five months of a tremendous amount of work and effort. It took a lot to get to people and explain what the passage would have meant.”

Dr. Jackson also acknowledged the amount of individuals involved in the successful campaign to retain the waiver.

“There are numerous people to thank,” she said, “for the positive outcome of the NCAA vote: our colleagues at Clarkson, Colorado College, Hartwick, Johns Hopkins, SUNY at Oneonta, Rutgers University-Newark and St. Lawrence, the institutions we worked with closely on amendment 65-1.

“We are especially grateful for the strong support of thousands of Rensselaer alumni, students, faculty, staff, hockey players past and present, and fans from the Capital Region and around the world. We could not have prevailed without them.” Additional words of appreciation were also echoing throughout St. Lawrence’s campus.

“I was assured we would have a good hearing on our amendment,” said SLU athletic director Margie Strait, “when the faculty athletic representatives and student advisory committees stepped forth in our favor.

“St. Lawrence and the other seven schools owe a debt of gratitude to those schools in our conference, those we compete against in New York State and others across the nation for their support of our cause and we appreciate their assistance.”

Well, perhaps not all of the schools the Saints compete against.

While the majority of reactions were those of elation, the tone was different in Schenectady, where Union president Roger Hull voted to eliminate the grandfathered waiver.

In comments appearing in Adam Wodon’s recent column, Hull made it clear that, to him, being successful was having a winning percentage of .400. When the Dutchmen made it to .500, “I was tremendously proud of them.”


If that doesn’t say a boatload about the current and future status of Union hockey, nothing ever will. With all due respect to the Dutchmen, who play their hearts out, and to Nate Leaman (a nicer person you will not meet) and his staff, if I’m the ECAC and I see those comments I have to ask, “Do we want a team whose administration clearly has no desire to be truly successful in this conference?”

No. Not if the league wants to be taken seriously.

This is the most obvious proof yet that the Union administration isn’t concerned about building a winning program. Sure, they’d love it if Leaman could surprise the experts and lead the Dutchmen to a run at an ECAC title. But, clearly, they are just as pleased if that doesn’t happen.

A lot of fans and athletic department officials throughout the league are upset that Hull voted against SLU, RPI and Clarkson. They should be more upset about how his revealing comments do nothing but embarrass and diminish the legitimacy of the ECAC.

Brown Starts Danis’ Hobey Push

In what is quickly become a Hobey Baker-type season for Brown goaltender Yann Danis, the Bears have officially started their campaign to increase exposure for their netminder by launching a Web site dedicated to him:

The senior from St. Jerome, Quebec, leads the nation in goals against average (1.42) and save percentage (.953), and is tied for tops in shutouts (four). An All-American last season, Danis also holds school records for career shutouts (12), shutouts in a season (five), saves in a season (1,043), consecutive home wins (10), save percentage in a season (.938) and goals against average in a season (1.86).

The Web site features a biography of the goalie, as well as statistics, career highlights, a photo gallery, news clippings, a “Yann Danis Journal,” information on the campaign and video clips.

“[He’s] made the biggest impact on the resurgence of Brown hockey, ” said his coach Roger Grillo. “His combination of talent, character, personality and commitment to being a student-athlete makes him the prototypical Hobey Baker candidate. He’s the best player I’ve had the opportunity to coach.”

Only two goaltenders have won the award in its 21-year history: Michigan State’s Ryan Miller (2001) and Minnesota’s Robb Stauber (1988).

Fans can vote for their favorite players in the Hobey Baker race by visiting the Hobey Baker website. The 10 finalists will be announced in March, with the winner being named during the Frozen Four in Boston.

Central Scouting Releases Rankings

The NHL’s Central Scouting Service released its midterm rankings for players eligible for the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. The rankings include the top 240 skaters and 30 netminders in North America.

Eight players from six of the league’s schools represent the ECAC in the rankings.

Dartmouth rookie Grant Lewis is the highest-ranked ECAC player at 29th. He leads the Big Green defensemen in scoring with a pair of goals and 13 assists in 15 games. He’s also second in the nation in points per game by blueliners.

Brown freshman Brian Ihnacak is 57th on the list. He leads the Bears — and the nation’s rookies — in scoring with nine goals and 13 assists in 16 games. Colgate sophomore Kyle Wilson (10-11-21, 20 games) is 60th; Cornell freshman Mitch Carefoot (1-1-2, 15 games) is 115th; Dartmouth rookie defenseman Rob Jarvis (0-1-1, three games) is 129th; Yale’s freshman blueliner Shawn Mole (0 points, 15 games) is 164th; Union rookie defenseman Olivier Bouchard (4-6-10, 21 games) is 188th; and the Raiders’ sophomore Ryan Smyth (1-10-11, 20 games) is 234th.

The 2004 NHL Entry Draft will be held June 26-27 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The rumors about rookie Matt Nickerson leaving Clarkson have been intense for some time now. He’s struggled to rein in his aggressive style of play and its cost him numerous trips to the penalty box. On the flip side, however, he’s shown significant flashes of why the Dallas Stars selected him in the NHL Entry Draft.

Everything came to a head a few weeks ago, though, when Nickerson’s name was added to the roster of the Lincoln Stars, members of the United States Hockey League. The move caught everyone off guard, but no one more so than Nickerson himself.

“It didn’t come from me,” he said to Watertown Daily Times writer Cap Carey about the rumors, “and I’d like to know who it’s coming from. It starts to get under my skin, but you can’t let it bother you. I hear about it every day and some guys on the team have asked me.”

We did some snooping around and discovered that the Stars had heard some of the same things we had.

Mark Derowitsch of the Lincoln Journal Star reported that when the Stars defenseman Morgan Simonson was sent home to recover from his second concussion, the club made its move on Nickerson.

“Nickerson was rumored to be unhappy at Clarkson,” Derowitsch wrote, “which is why [Lincoln] took a chance and added the rugged defenseman to the Stars’ protected list. The chances of Nickerson ever playing in Lincoln … are slim.”

Nickerson went on to tell Carey, “I made a commitment here, and I’m going to stick with it and stick to my word.”

Chances are, however, we may be down this road again.

In Case You Missed It

Brown, which ranks first in the nation in penalty killing (92.7%) and team defense (1.56 goals against per game) and second on the power play (27.2%), split its home series against Colgate and Cornell last weekend. The Bears, however, are a dominant 22-3-5 at home over their last 30 games.

Dartmouth ranks third in the nation in penalty minutes per game (22.07), but Clarkson, which ranks seventh (20.00), has taken 171 penalties to the Big Green’s 136. The Knights’ infractions have totaled 420 minutes, while Dartmouth’s sum has translated into 331 minutes.

Former Vermont star Patrick Sharp notched his first NHL point recently when he assisted on a Philadelphia Flyers’ goal in a win against Florida. With Philly star Keith Primeau injured, Sharp could see more ice time in the weeks to come.

Harvard’s recent losses to Rensselaer and Cornell marked the first time in two years that the Crimson dropped back-to-back ECAC games. The last time was the final weekend of 2001-02 — losses at Yale and Princeton.

Engineers’ head coach Dan Fridgen returns to his alma mater, Colgate, Friday night. Fridgen was a star for the Raiders in the early 1980s. He is fourth on the school’s all-time scoring list with 192 points, first in goals (114) and second in penalty minutes (387). Fridgen also holds the single-season Colgate records for points (68 in 1980-81), goals (38 in 1981-82), power play goals (12 in 1981-82) and penalty minutes (164 in 1980-81).

Princeton’s rookie netminder Eric Leroux made 24 saves in the Tigers’ 5-1 loss to Merrimack on January 2. He stopped 14 shots in the first period, 10 in the second and none in the third, making for an interesting line in the boxscore for saves: 14-10-0. The Warriors scored on both of their shots against Leroux in the final stanza.

In New England, Patriots fever is apparently hitting some harder than others. A Crimson fan called the Harvard athletics office to request that last Saturday’s game against Colgate be moved to the afternoon so that fans could watch the Pats evening playoff tilt against Tennessee. You’ve gotta admire the guts of the caller. The response from an athletics staffer: “No one who has to work the game is overly thrilled either, but unfortunately there is nothing we can do about it.”

St. Lawrence’s goal against Colorado College on January 3 snapped a road scoreless streak that lasted 251:54. Previously, the Saints’ last tally away from Appleton Arena was John Zeiler’s power play goal at Clarkson. On the same Colorado road trip, a snowstorm caused a lengthy layover in Chicago. When the team finally arrived in Syracuse for the bus ride up to Canton, the luggage was nowhere to be found. The luggage was sent by truck from Chicago to Syracuse and made its way back to Canton two days later.

Another Tragic Loss

Unfortunately, Monday wasn’t a completely joyous day for college hockey. Jim Greenidge, a former sports information director at Rensselaer, passed away from a heart attack at the age of 55.

Most recently, Greenidge had been writing for the Boston Globe and covered the occasional Harvard Crimson game. It was on those nights that I shared space with him in the Bright Hockey Center press box. We talked from time to time, between whistles and while waiting for postgame interviews to commence.

We should all know better by know, but it continues to be a shock when real life pops the bubble that sports exists within. We see fellow journalists all the time at the rink and just assume they’ll be there the next time we walk up to the press box. The loss of Greenidge made us take pause for many reasons, not the least of which is that he’ll be dearly missed.

His funeral will be held at the Spears Funeral Home on Western Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts, this Friday, January 16.

What’s On Tap

St. Lawrence (6-13-4, 2-6-1 ECAC) and Clarkson (9-8-4, 4-4-1) visit New England this weekend for games at Vermont (3-13-3, 1-7-0) and Dartmouth (6-4-5, 4-1-3). The Saints lead the all-time series with the Catamounts 41-30-3, but UVM is 16-12-2 at Gutterson against their North Country guest. SLU also leads the series against Dartmouth, 46-19-1. The Golden Knights hold the upper hand over the Big Green as well, 58-16-4, and have topped UVM to the tune of a 49-23-1 mark in the series. Vermont, however, has had the last laugh recently, eliminating Clarkson from postseason action in two of the last three seasons.

Rensselaer (11-8-2, 6-3-1), the league’s only team with double-digit wins, and Union (7- 11-3, 2-7-1) hop on their respective buses for a short road trip to Colgate (9-8-3, 4-4-0) and No. 10 Cornell (7-3-5, 5-1-2). The Engineers hold a 50-39-2 advantage in the all-time series against the Raiders, but have lost three in a row. RPI coach Dan Fridgen, a Colgate graduate, is 8-11-2 versus his alma mater. Rensselaer trails the Big Red in their series, 28-46-3, with seven straight losses against Cornell. The Dutchmen trail the Big Red 19-8-3 all-time and were swept last season by a combined 9-1 score. Union is also behind in its series with Colgate, 25-11-1, and has won only once in 17 trips to Hamilton.

No. 14 Brown (9-4-3, 9-3-1) plays three times in five days starting with a home tilt against Connecticut (5-9-4, 2-5-3 Atlantic Hockey). The Bears have defeated the Huskies all four times they’ve played each other. Brown travels to No. 9 New Hampshire (13-7-3, 6-3-3) Saturday seeking its first non-conference victory of the season (0-1-2). The Wildcats lead the all-time series 18-13-1. Merrimack (7-12-3, 2-8-3 Hockey East) makes a visit to Providence, R.I., on Tuesday to square off against Brown. The Bears will be looking to even their all-time record against the Warriors, which currently stands at 2-3-1.

Yale (5-9-4, 2-5-3) plays host to in-state opponents Connecticut on Saturday. The Bulldogs lead their series 3-0-0, including a 4-3 home win last January. It will be the Elis’ last non-conference contest of the season.