This Week in the ECAC: Feb. 5, 2004

Some random thoughts and musings as we count down the final month of the regular season …

  • Yale and Colgate are for real. This is no fluke, these teams are not going away so get used to seeing them at the top of the standings. We’ve already learned that Brown is for real and now Tim Taylor and Stan Moore have pulled their respective squads together for a run at the ECAC title.

    The Elis and the Raiders have each won six in a row. They are getting scoring from multiple lines, strong defense and excellent goaltending. And they have been since 2004 rolled around. Proven success over a period of time is a good indicator of how sharp a team is playing.

    Colgate also happens to be 5-2-0 this season against ranked opponents, which could bode well for NCAA play should the Raiders make it. Moore’s sextet is also 8-1-0 against the top six teams in the league, with its lone loss coming at the hands of — who else? — Yale.

    This is the ECAC, after all, where each year the pre-season polls are proven wrong by some team. This season, however, only Brown and Dartmouth seem to be living up to the predictions as top teams. Harvard and Cornell are struggling, but Yale, Colgate and Rensselaer have more than made up for it.

    Each team has eight games left in the regular season, four at home and four on the road. Third-place Yale plays first-place Brown this weekend, second-place Colgate on February 13 and third-place Dartmouth on the 21st. The Raiders are down with the Bears, but play the Big Green on Saturday, the Elis next weekend and the Engineers on the 21st. Those will be tough games, to be sure, and another test that will help shed additional light on just how far these teams may go come March.

    Speaking of the RPI …

  • The Engineers are 6-2-0 in their last eight games and the four goals they allowed last Friday was the most in a game since December 6. They’ve received excellent goaltending from Nathan Marsters of late and solid offensive contributions.

    The senior netminder was 6-3-0 in January with a 1.44 goals against average and a .939 save percentage. He also posted two shutouts — at Cornell and at home against Sacred Heart. For his RPI career, he’s second in games played (102) behind Neil Little’s 110 and minutes played (5869:50 to Little’s 6302:01). Marsters is also third in saves (2,745) and shutouts (eight), and fourth all-time in wins with 49.

    Offensively, ECAC Player of the Week Kirk MacDonald had 12 points (4-8-12) last month in just nine games. Fellow sophomore Kevin Croxton had six tallies and three assists in those same contests with all of his points coming on the power play. In fact, the Engineers have at least one power play goal in each of their last eight games, with five multiple power play goal games in that span.

    As if that wasn’t impressive enough, beware falling behind this team as they are 10-2-2 when they score first.

  • If ever there was a microcosm of how Harvard’s “season of potential” has turned to dust, Monday’s Beanpot loss to Boston College was it. From Noah Welch’s retaliation penalty 12 seconds (!) into the game to Tom Cavanagh’s accidental one-timer into his own net to Dov Grumet-Morris allowing a weak, backbreaking third goal, the problems were there for all to see.

    The Crimson have been a mysterious team all season. The preseason No. 1 pick in the ECAC Coaches’ and Media polls, they’ve looked like anything but favorites. Like last season, they continue to struggle to beat top teams, but have added the new element of losing to teams they should beat. The bad karma began with the Crimson’s four-goal third period collapse at home to Princeton in November and the cloud of misery that came with that loss has yet to lift.

    Harvard has had only one winning steak all season — think about that for a second — a three-game home stretch in which it defeated a then-struggling Yale, a mediocre Boston University and a St. Lawrence team that has only one road victory.

    The players have faith they can turn this season around, at least that’s what they’ve been saying for a few months now. They’ve pointed to particular games as moments that were to serve as turning points. There was the first Cornell game (a loss, although one of Harvard’s best games this season), the win over Massachusetts (which was followed by an 0-2-1 stretch), the second Cornell game (another loss), the Beanpot (which began with an embarrassing early performance that dug too big a hole to climb out of and led to yet another consolation game match-up).

    The one recent bright spot has been the return to form of backup netminder John Daigneau. His performance against BC (18 saves) in relief of Grumet-Morris pumped late life back into his club. This team desperately needs a spark. DESPERATELY. It needs to do something, anything. And while Grumet-Morris is certainly not at fault for how this season has unfolded, maybe its time coach Mark Mazzoleni throws Daigneau back into the fire. It’s a move worth trying. The team responded to the change on Monday — maybe it wasn’t a fluke.

  • Like countless fans of history and hockey, we’ve been waiting for the nation-wide premier of “Miracle,” the film that tells the story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team from coach Herb Brooks’ perspective.

    The performance of the Americans in Lake Placid changed the lives of countless kids who witnessed the event and served as a tremendous shot of confidence to a struggling, seemingly lost nation. I was too young to fully understand the political atmosphere of the time, but was certainly aware of the misery that existed. Life in New York City, where I grew up, in the 1970s was terrible. The city was bankrupt and the federal government had turned its back on it — something that is impossible to fathom happening today. That depression of wallets and psyche carried over into 1980 all over the country.

    The hostages. The gas lines. The Russians. We were a superpower in name only.

    Then this group of college kids came along and reminded the country of what was possible, both in sports and, more importantly, in life. Sports fans were hooked, but so were those who didn’t even know what that little black rubber disc was called.

    I remember the game very well. I remember the excitement, the emotion in the voices of announcers Al Michaels and Ken Dryden. It made me into a bigger hockey fan, but it also sticks with me to this day as a “goose-bump” moment. No matter where I am, when I’m reminded of the “Miracle on Ice,” that’s the reaction I have.

    A look around the office proves it. From the framed, autographed artwork commemorating the win over the Soviets and the gold medal victory over the Finns to the .wav file on my computer that plays the broadcast of the final ten seconds of the “Miracle” game each time I shut down my system. The file ends with Dryden’s voice in the background saying, simply, “unbelievable.”

    The impact of that game is why one of the biggest highlights of many a March was driving to Lake Placid for the ECAC tournament — a move the league was brilliant in making and just as boneheaded in screwing up. Each time I walked into that rink for the 10 years of the tourney’s existence in Lake Placid, I was overcome with waves of memories and emotion. It was the highlight of the season. You can have your Worcester, your Albany, your Providence … I’ll take Lake Placid any day.

    And while we’re supposed to be unbiased in this business, I freely admit that I’ll never get over my personal bitterness toward the league for shafting Lake Placid and taking that annual highlight away.

    But this is a weekend of excitement, of re-telling stories of where we were and how we felt. I’ll be there Friday night, on line with the rest of the Bostonians, my new home, who were also changed by the play of some of their local boys. It will be a chance to re-live the moment and another opportunity to be reminded of the thrill of what it is like ot watch our favorite college players skating in the Olympics. An opportunity we no longer have thanks to the NHL.

    The film will also serve as another in a long-line of deserving tribute to Brooks, who was involved in the early stages of the film before his untimely passing. This is more than a sports movie. It is a documentary, in a sense, of a master coach, an amazing collection of youngsters, and of the type of American political history that could someday be seen on The History Channel just as easily as ESPN Classic.

  • Don’t look now, but Union’s Kris Mayotte may just be Dartmouth’s biggest scare if the two teams meet up in the playoffs. In two career games against the Big Green at Thompson Arena — the most likely place for a playoff series between the clubs — the sophomore has yet to allow a goal.

    Remember, this a Dartmouth squad that is 5-1-2 in Hanover this season after going 14-4-0 a year ago. Mayotte’s performance has made Union the only team to win regular season games at Thompson in each of the last two campaigns.

  • St. Lawrence may just be gearing up for a run up the standings. The Saints have traditionally played well in February under head coach Joe Marsh’s guidance. In his previous 18 seasons as bench boos, SLU is 89-45-12 during the shortest month of the year, including 13 years in which they boasted a winning record. The Saints best record in individual Februarys? They’ve gone 7-1-0 on three occasions.
  • In his first start in nine games, Colgate’s backup goaltender David Cann shutdown a depleted Cornell squad to close out the Raiders’ weekend sweep of the Big Red. It was an impressive performance after such a long layoff, but Moore wasn’t surprised, telling us prior to the weekend that Cann “stays as prepared as he can be. He has been sharp in practice. It takes a special individual [to be a backup], not to crumble.” Talk about knowing your personnel.
  • With all due respect to the decision-makers at the ECAC with regard to its weekly awards and honor roll, we’d be remiss if didn’t point out a few players that were overlooked.

    For starters, Scott Mifsud had three points on the weekend, including a goal and an assist in the team’s win over Union. On the Dutchmen’s side, Jordan Webb posted four points (2g, 2a) and Joel Beal registered four assists in their weekend split.

    Between the pipes, Union’s Kris Mayotte was the most obvious player left off the list, especially after he made 35 saves in a road shutout of Dartmouth — the Big Green’s first home loss of the season. Finally, Steve Silverthorn was overlooked after posting 19 saves in his shutout of Cornell at Lynah. We know it goes into the books as a shared shutout because he was tossed with six seconds left in the game, but still, it was a worthy performance.

  • It’s time once again for Rensselaer’s annual Big Red Freakout! and this season, in addition to the traditional Ice House and game festivities, RPI is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the1954 National Championship team and its coach Ned Harkness. Among the players expected are co-captains Jim Shildneck and Frank Chiarelli, and Bob Fox, the starting goaltender.

    The festivities will begin with Friday’s contest against St. Lawrence. Saturday’s activities will include breakfast with the current team and the Annual Alumni Game. Following a pre-game meal with fans, the 1954 team will be honored prior to the match-up versus rival Clarkson. The game is being broadcast live for the twelfth season in a row as part of the satellite broadcast organized by the alumni associations of each institution, with official alumni gatherings in over 60 cities throughout the country.

    The Engineers will put a 13-game Freakout! unbeaten streak (9-0-4) on the line when they play the Golden Knights. All-time, RPI is 15-7-4 in Freakout! games.

    In Case You Missed It

    Did you know that Colgate’s Stan Moore has yet to lose to Cornell as a head coach? With The Raiders’ sweep, Moore improved his coaching record against the Big Red to 5-0-1, dating back to his days behind the Union bench.

    Rensselaer’s Dan Fridgen, in his 10th year as head coach in Troy, is one win shy of tying Ned Harkness for second place on the school’s all-time win list with 176. With a pair of home games this weekend, Fridgen could move ahead of Harkness on Saturday when, ironically enough, Harkness and his 1954 National Championship squad will be honored. Nice timing, eh?

    The Beanpot Hockey Hall of Fame inducted two graduates of participating schools last week. Harvard’s Bob Bland (1960-62) and BC’s Jim Logue (1959-61). Bland led the Crimson to Beanpot titles in 1960 and 1962. As a sophomore in 1960, the netminder earned victories against Northeastern in the opener and Boston University in the championship game to earn MVP honors.

    Cornell, which boasted a perfect 15-0-0 mark at home last season, is an amazing 2-5-5 at Lynah this season, including a current 1-3-1 stretch. On the flip side, Brown has lost just three times at Meehan Auditorium in its last 30 games.

    The win over Harvard marked earned Brown its first regular season series sweep over the Crimson since the 1978-79 campaign when the Bears won 2-1 and 7-3. With the win, Brown now needs just one victory for the program’s 700th all-time. For Harvard, the overtime loss was its first in the regular season in three years (nine games).

    While we’re on the subject, Colgate’s sweep of Cornell last weekend was the first time since 1999-2000 that it won each game it played against the Big Red. That year, the Raiders won twice in the regular season and captured a consolation game shutout in Lake Placid.

    Continuing with this theme, the Bulldogs’ North Country sweep last weekend was the first for the program since 1985-86.

    Cornell rookie netminder David McKee has a 1.91 goals against average, which ranks sixth nationally, and four shutouts, which is tied for second in the country. As a team, the Big Red has the nation’s fourth-best defense, holding opponents to just 1.95 goals per game.

    The Crimson’s six-year stint of not making it to the Beanpot championship is the program’s longest span without a title game appearance since the a stretch from 1982-87. Coach Mark Mazzoleni has a 2-7-0 record in Beanpot games as Harvard coach.

    Princeton is winless in its last nine games with its only point coming in a tie against St. Lawrence on January 9. The Tigers’ last victory was on December 16, a 2-1 win over Harvard at Baker Rink.

    St. Lawrence’s T.J. Trevelyan has taken over the ECAC overall goal-scoring lead with 18 tallies. He is on pace to become the first Saints player to score 20 or more goals in a season since current SLU assistant coach Bob Prier and then-freshman Brandon Dietrich turned the trick in the 1998-99 campaign.

    Vermont will honor the program’s ECAC Division II championship teams from 1972-73 and 1973-74 prior to Saturday’s contest against Cornell.

    UVM’s Brady Leisenring leads the Catamounts in goals (nine), assists (18) and points (27) in 25 games. At this rate, he’ll have the most points of any Cat since Martin St. Louis posted 60 in the 1996-97 season. In addition, Leisenring has yet to miss a game in his UVM career, skating in all 92 contests.

    Yale sophomore Joe Zappala leads the Elis in scoring(16-10-26) and is averaging more than a point per game. He leads the nation with eight game-winning goals, a single- season school record that bested Jeff Hamilton’s seven in 1997-98. Zappala also ranks fourth in the country and first in the ECAC in goals per game (0.76).

    With UMass-Lowell’s announcement that it was forfeiting nine games due to using an ineligible player, the Dutchmen picked up a victory in their overall standings. Union’s loss to the River Hawks on December 28 now moves from the “L” column into the “Ws.” How’s that for a belated Christmas present?

    What’s On Tap

    No. 15 Colgate (15-8-3, 10-4-0), ranked for the first time this season, and Cornell (8-7-6, 6-5-3), which dropped out of the top 15, travel to Northern New England for games at Vermont (4-18-3, 2-12-0) and third-place Dartmouth (9-6-6, 7-3-4). The Raiders lead the all leads the all-time series against UVM at Gutterson Fieldhouse, 13-11-2, but trail in their series versus the Big Green at Thompson Arena by a 17-14-0 margin. Colgate has not won in Hanover since February 25, 2000. Cornell holds a 63-36-2 record against Dartmouth all-time and a 30-12-7 overall advantage against Vermont, including two wins last year. The Big Red has won the last eight meetings in the series.

    St. Lawrence (9-15-4, 5-8-1) and Clarkson (11-10-5, 6-6-2) travel to New York’s Capital District for contests against Rensselaer (14-10-2, 8-5-1) and Union (10-12-4, 3-9-2). SLU leads the series against RPI by a 67-46-4 margin, including a 4-0 win in November. The Saints are 13-8-1 at the Houston Field House during coach Joe Marsh’s lengthy tenure. SLU leads the all-time series over Union 25-12-2 and the Saints are 9-3-0 at Achilles Rink since the Dutchmen moved back up to Division I. Clarkson leads the series versus Union, 18-5-4, and snapped a three-game winless streak against the Dutchmen with a win in November. The Knights also lead the all-time series against RPI, 75-37-6, including 13 wins in the last 18 contests. The Engineers defeated Clarkson in overtime in November.

    No. 12 Brown (12-5-4, 10-3-1) faces off against Princeton (5-16-1, 5-9-1) in New Jersey on Friday in a series led by the Bears, 75-51-5. Brown has won five straight over the Tigers, including four wins last season. The two teams tied in their first-ever meeting in 1899-1900. The first-place Bears head to New Haven for a key top-of-the-standings match-up against third-place Yale (11-10-0, 9-5-0). The Elis lead the all-time series 75- 65-7. The two teams first met in 1897-98, a 1-0 Brown win.

    Harvard (8-11-2, 6-8-1) travels to Yale to faceoff against its long-time rival on Friday. The Crimson lead the all-time series 129-69-17 heading into the 216th game between the programs. It ranks as the most-contested rivalry in the history of either school and is second only to the 332 baseball games played between Harvard and the Bulldogs. The Elis are 14-4-4 at home over the last two decades against the Crimson, including wins in four of the last six games at the Whale.

    ECAC Championship Ticket Information

    The 43rd annual ECAC Hockey Championship will take place March 19-20 at the Pepsi Arena in Albany, N.Y. The schedule of games will feature No. 4 vs. No. 1 on March 19 at 3:30 p.m., followed by No. 3 vs. No. 2 at 7 p.m. On March 20, the Third Place game begins at 3:30 p.m., with the Championship Game at 7 p.m.

    Tickets are on sale now in the following combinations: Adult All-Sessions (Four Games) – $52; Adult Single-Session (Two Games) – $30; Student All-Sessions (Four Games) – $45; Student Single-Session (Two Games) – $25. The prices include a commemorative championship program.

    All Session passes are on sale now at the Arena Box Office, on the Arena’s Web site and via Ticketmaster either by phone or on the Web at