This Week in the ECAC: Jan. 29, 2004

Brown is not only atop the ECAC standings, but the Bears have the best overall winning percentage (.650) of any of the 12 clubs.

Quick, without looking at the standings, who has the second-best winning percentage?

If you guessed the Colgate Raiders, pat yourself on the back.

The Raiders are owners of a .604 winning percentage — 12th-best in the nation — thanks to their 13-8-3 mark. In ECAC play, Colgate is tied for second place with Dartmouth, just three points behind Brown with a game at hand.

A season ago, the Raiders were streaky. They posted 17 victories, their most since winning 24 in 1999-2000 — which earned them a trip to the NCAA tournament for only the third time in the program’s history. Unfortunately for the Raiders, Colgate posted 19 losses last season, which followed 19 defeats in 2001-02 and 20 in 2000-01.

This season, the Raiders have been an up-and-down squad. Until this month, that is. January has been kind to Colgate. Since the calendar flipped to 2004, the Raiders are 5-1-1.

“We’re better than in the past,” explained interim head coach Stan Moore, “but we need to put more minutes of consistency on the board. We have the same concerns: consistency and penalty minutes.”

The Raiders rank fifth in the ECAC with 95 penalties and 18.58 minutes per league game.

“We either have to become very good at killing penalties,” said Moore, “or just not take them. Those are the only choices. And the players will have to decide what they want. I’d like to go with plan B and I think they would too.”

There are a variety of reasons for Colgate’s improved play, but one not to be taken lightly is that the shock of how the season began has dissipated.

Remember, it was in mid-September, less than a month before the season began, that long-time bench boss Don Vaughan announced he’d be stepping up into the interim athletic director’s role. That left the coaching duties to Moore and the team stunned.

Colgate jumped out to a 3-1-1 start to the season, but soon fell into a slide that saw them go 2-5- 1 through early December. The Raiders were struggling in numerous areas. They were losing close games and they were being beaten by two or three tallies in other contests.

All of that seemed to shift, however, after a huge 6-1 win over Brown at home. Including that win, the Raiders have gone 8-2-1 heading into this weekend.

After the win over the Bears, Moore told USCHO’s Alex Clark, “We don’t believe for one moment that a 40-minute game is the way to go. It’s got to be a 60-minute game.”

That’s a theme that Moore stresses game in and game out and the results of those efforts are starting to be realized.

“We’re better in terms of the number of minutes we’re playing,” he explained, “but we are not where we need to be. I think there is more in us; we have too many inconsistencies. We’re a good team, but it doesn’t matter if we can’t do it over 60 minutes or more.

“We ask for the same kinds of things in practice, with more responsibility placed on all the players to be more accountable.”

Not surprisingly, the combination of more consistent goaltending and improved offense has been a major key to the turnaround.

Over the last 11 games, Colgate has held opponents to two or fewer goals eight times, going 7-0-1. The improved play of junior netminder Steve Silverthorn has been the catalyst.

“He was formally offered the ball,” said Moore, “and told that it was ‘yours to drop.’ He’s shown a real competitive edge and he works hard at it.”

The biggest reason for his improvement?

“He’s challenging more,” Moore continued. “As a big guy (6-foot-1), it is easy to go down against most shooters, but he’s coming out more versus the better shooters we have in this league. He’s staying up too.

“Silverthorn has great feet and is very agile. On the fitness end, he’s starting to gain an edge. He was a boy, physically, when he came here.”

Moore also calls his top netminder “ultra-competitive,” as his continually improving 11-5-2 record, 1.99 goals against average and .920 save percentage indicate.

“Any goaltender worth his salt is that way,” stresses the coach.

On the scoreboard, the Raiders are receiving a balanced effort from several players, including points leaders, sophomores Jon Smyth (16-10-26) and Kyle Wilson (12-14-26), who have both made significant advances from their rookie seasons.

“Smyth just continues his run,” said Moore about the league’s top goal scorer (12) and this week’s ECAC Player of the Week. “We’re not sure how long it will go, but we just hope he stays healthy long enough.”

Senior Kyle Doyle (10-14-24) and junior Adam Mitchell (9-14-23) round out the team’s 20-point players.

What makes the Raiders more dangerous than some of their league brethren is that they have three defensemen who can and are making an impact on the scoreboard: senior Rob Brown (3- 12-15), junior Joey Mormina (2-10-12) and rookie Mike Campaner (3-6-9).

Campaner, who earned ECAC Rookie of the Week honors with his five-point weekend against Vermont and Dartmouth, ranks fourth in the league in defenseman scoring and fifth in scoring among freshmen.

“He was brought on to be support,” explained Moore, “but we challenged him after a few power plays on Saturday that he’s not a factor. Other teams knew that he wasn’t shooting so they’d take the other four players.”

The rookie responded with a power-play marker and a shorthanded goal.

“When he came back to the bench,” continued Moore, “assistant Andrew Dickson leaned over and told him, ‘Now you’re a factor.’

“People may underestimate him because of his size (5-8), but he keeps the game simple. He marks his guy and is not afraid to make a big hit at his own expense. I’ve seen him many times make a hit and go flying further than the other player.

“He’s a pretty complete player and we encourage him to add to his game. That’s our job as coaches and teachers, to take someone who is talented and have them become more talented.”

Colgate, and its collection of unheralded players, will be put to the test this weekend in a home-and-home series against Cornell. The clubs are separated by only one point in the standings with 10 games remaining.

“They’ve been on top of it for so long,” said Moore, “it’s like walking into David vs. Goliath for us.

“I like the way [Cornell coach] Mike [Schafer] runs his team, I like the physical play and the mix of players and skills. It’s a bit of an unknown for us against Cornell, though. They lost some players, but so did we. It’s our first time playing them and it’s a different year.”

Unlike other travel partners, these clubs play their two head-to-head games on the same weekend, adding to the intensity of the rivalry.

“It’s a different dynamic,” said Moore about the back-to-back contests. “I think it is good for teams to see other schools in the same weekend. But in this case, I think each team feels the other out and then makes adjustments the next night.

“They see everything you do and you see everything they do. You each see what you look like when you’re tired. It’s a bit of a flair almost like a playoff.”

But just how big is this rivalry?

“It’s important for the Colgate team to beat the Cornell team,” Moore explained, “but if their fans are any indication, it means a lot more than just a regular game.”

Considering how quickly ECAC standings change from game to game, there’s no such thing as a regular game this time of year.

“You hear, ‘you’re in second place,'” Moore said. “Yes, but what time is it, who do we play next, etcetera. My excitement is on Sunday, if we perform well. I can read the paper, smile and relax. If we have a bad weekend, it is all about refuge and rethinking.”

UVM Signs First Recruit for 2004-05

Vermont announced this week the signing New England Prep star Torrey Mitchell as its first official recruit for next season — the program’s final year in the ECAC before moving to Hockey East in 2005-06.

The Quebec native is a 5-11, 185-pound forward currently playing for the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut. He leads the team with 15 goals and 21 assists in just 15 games after having led the club in scoring last season (18-35-53 in 25 games).

“We were very pleased with his decision to join our family here,” said Catamounts’ coach Kevin Sneddon. “Torrey is an exceptional athlete with a very bright future in college hockey.

“Most importantly, he is a fantastic young man who will take advantage of every opportunity afforded him during his time at UVM. His decision to attend the University represents the beginning of a great recruiting class.”

A left-handed shot, Mitchell was recently rated 150th overall among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting Bureau’s midseason rankings for this season’s NHL entry draft.

“Torrey has impressed me with his work ethic and his leadership,” explained Hotchkiss coach Damon White. “He came to us last year as a very good player, but he has made a quantum leap this year, the result of his hard work in the weight room, becoming a much more explosive skater and a much stronger force in the corners and around the net.

“In practice and in the games he leads by example. I don’t think I have ever had a player who worked as hard as Torrey every single day. He has a bright future in this game.”

Prior to his time in prep school, Mitchell played for College Charles Lemoyne in the Quebec Midget AAA League where he was an All-League selection and playoff MVP, guiding his team to the league championship.

Vaughan to Return to Bench

Looking ahead to next season, Colgate announced on Thursday that Vaughan will return to the Raiders’ bench for the 2004-05 season. He will continue in his interim AD position until Colgate completes its search for a new director.

“After thinking it through and consulting with a number of people over the past two months,” explained Vaughan, “I have decided that I will not be a candidate for the full-time athletic director position. I plan to return to my duties as the head hockey coach beginning July 1.”

For Vaughan, the decision was based on his love of coaching.

“I am following my passion,” he said. “I continue to have a strong desire to coach and work with student athletes on a regular basis. I look forward to getting back on the ice with the hockey team and working under the new scholarship model that Colgate has adopted.”

In October, the University’s Board of Trustees made official the decision to award athletic scholarships in multiple sports, including 16 to men’s and women’s hockey over a four-year span. One month later, Colgate signed its first recruit under the new system, Tyler Burton of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League’s Chilliwack Chiefs.

“At a time when [we] had a real need for a director of athletics, [Vaughan] stepped in and has been managing that important division with the skill of a seasoned administrator,” said Colgate President Rebecca Chopp. “But Don has told us that his heart is with his team and we respect the desire of a dedicated and talented coach to get back behind the bench as soon as possible.”

Interim head coach Stan Moore will return to his previous duties as associate coach next season.

“Don could not be serving Colgate as interim director of athletics,” explained Chopp, “were it not for the willingness of [Moore] to take over Don’s coaching responsibilities. Stan is doing an excellent job, as [our] record shows.”

Vaughan agreed.

“Stan has done a great job stepping in,” he added, “and I look forward to working with him in the years ahead.”

As he prepares for his move back behind the bench, Vaughan will take with him a wealth of knowledge from his one-year stint in administration.

“The experience I have gained from serving as the interim AD,” he said, “is something that will help me for years to come.”

In Case You Missed It

UVM coach Kevin Sneddon made some pointed comments after his team’s loss to Cornell last weekend: “I told our guys two things after the game. One, we should have confidence that we can play against a team that is much more physically strong than us, and Cornell is at this point in terms of their physical presence. We’ve got to start learning that we can’t play timid in the first period. We’ve got to expect what they are going to bring and know we can handle it. The second thing I told them was, in the summertime, in the offseason, when they are training, any time they have a question whether they should work out harder, they just need to remember this night.”

Yale sophomore Zachary Mayer, who scored the team’s first goal this season, relays the following memory of last season. Clearly, he’s ready for a career in politics or, at least, public relations: “I think probably the most interesting fact about my freshman year is that I racked up a total of eight penalty minutes. In six years of high school and junior hockey, I’m pretty sure I had only four minutes in penalties. I’d like to point out, though, that they were all tremendous calls and that ECAC officials are always in position to get the call right. I just hope they keep up the good work this year.”

Cornell freshman netminder David McKee has posted four shutouts this season and his 1.90 goals against average is sixth in the nation. As a team, the Big Red are fourth in the country in defense, allowing just 1.95 goals per game.

Dartmouth’s win over Cornell was its first against a ranked opponent this season (1-3-2). Against the Ivies, the Big Green are 4-0-1.

RPI coach Dan Fridgen is two wins shy of tying Ned Harkness for second place on the school’s all-time win list with 176. Mike Addesa holds the mark with 186 victories.

SLU rookie center Kyle Rank has a four-game scoring streak during which he’s posted three goals and four assists. He’s more than doubled his production in just a few of weeks.

Jordan Webb’s hat trick last weekend was the first of his career and the first for Union since Kris Goodjohn connected on the trifecta on March 1, 2002 against Colgate.

What’s On Tap

Clarkson (10-9-5, 5-5-2) and St. Lawrence (8-14-4, 4-7-1) host Princeton (5-14-1, 5-7-1) and Yale (9-10-0, 7-5-0) for a critical weekend series. Five points separate the sixth-placed Elis and the ninth-placed Saints, with only one point separating the Knights and Tigers. Clarkson owns a current 13-game unbeaten streak (11-0-2) over Princeton and leads the all-time series 61-20-5. SLU leads its all-time series against Yale by a 46-22-7 margin, but will be looking to avoid getting swept in the season series for the first time since 1997-98. The Saints are unbeaten in their last three against the Tigers and hold a 46-13-6 advantage in the series. The Knights will look to avoid a Yale sweep themselves and snap their three-game losing streak to the Elis. Clarkson leads the all-time series 60-26-4.

Union (8-12-4, 2-8-2) and Rensselaer (13-9-2, 7-4-1) travel to New England to battle Vermont (3-17-3, 1-11-0) and Dartmouth (8-5-6, 6-2-4). The Catamounts lead the all-time series against the Dutchmen 14-10-2, including 11-3-0 at home. Separated by only one point in the standings, the Engineers-Big Green contest promises to be one of the weekend’s best. RPI leads the all-time series 33-18-4 over Dartmouth, but is 1-5-2 in its last eight against the Big Green and 0-5-1 in its last six in Hanover. Union trails its series against Dartmouth 11-16-2, but, like RPI, tied the Big Green 1-1 earlier this season. The Engineers lead UVM in the all-time series 31-27-7, including an existing 5-1-1 streak.

Colgate (13-8-3, 8-4-0) and No. 14 Cornell (8-5-6, 6-3-3) battle it out in a home-and-home series this weekend, beginning with the contest in Lynah Rink. The Big Red lead the all-time series 61- 51-8 with a 31-18-4 mark at home. The Raiders are 23-23-3 against Cornell in Hamilton. The two teams split the series last season.

Harvard (8-9-2, 6-7-1) travels to No. 13 Brown (11-5-4, 9-3-1) on Saturday for the 140th meeting between the clubs in what is the oldest rivalry in college hockey. The Crimson lead the all-time series, which began with a 6-0 Bears win in 1898, by a 96-35-8 margin. First-place Brown defeated Harvard 2-0 in this season’s opener. That shutout was just the third all-time by the Bears against the Crimson, but the second in the last two seasons.

Harvard moves on to play No. 2 Boston College (18-3-3, 11-1-2 Hockey East) in the opening round of the Beanpot on Monday. The Eagles will enter the tourney playing the best hockey of any of the four participants, but such streaks never seem to matter much in the Beanpot. The Crimson lost to BC earlier this season at the Heights and will be looking to make it into the finals for the first time in Mark Mazzoleni’s tenure behind the bench, and since 1998. BC owns 12 Beanpot titles and Harvard has 10. The victory advances a week later to play the winner of the Boston University-Northeastern matchup.