This Week in the ECAC: Feb. 26, 2004

With one weekend left, the ECAC standings are as tight as always. It is what makes the league fascinating to watch year in and year out and what makes each game monumental. Given that as a backdrop, let’s dive right into where things stand heading into what promises to be an exciting set of games over two nights.

Colgate Raiders (28 points) — Losers of only two games in 2004, the Raiders have vaulted to the top of the standings with consistent play between the pipes and on offense, where sophomores Jon Smyth (19-18-37) and Kyle Wilson (13-17-30) have formed a deadly one-two punch down the stretch. They finish the season at home where they are 9-4-1, but location doesn’t matter this season as Colgate is 9-4-4 on the road. They’ve allowed more than three goals in a game just twice since early December and barring a pair of upsets should win the ECAC regular-season title.

Highest Finish: 1st
Lowest Finish: 3rd
February Record: 3-1-2
Current Streak: 3-0-0
Key Stat: 15-0-0 when leading after two periods
Intangible: Get them early. The Raiders are only 4-5-3 when their opponents score first.

Brown Bears (26 pts) — The Bears have picked a bad time to go into a slump, suffering their first back-to-back losses since December. The result? They no longer control their own destiny for the top spot. Two points behind Colgate, they’ll need help to finish first. Yann Danis can shut teams down with regularity, making him the most dangerous player in the conference. Rookie Brian Ihnacak (10-18-28), junior Les Haggett (5-21-26) and senior Brent Robinson (10-15-25) are the keys up front, with production dropping off considerably after them.

Highest Finish: 1st
Lowest Finish: 5th
February Record: 2-3-1
Current Streak: 0-3-1
Key Stat: 20.3% power play, 90.1% penalty kill overall
Intangible: Fans can beat the traffic. The Bears are 0-7-0 when trailing after two periods.

Cornell Big Red (25 pts) — Undefeated in league play in 2003. Forgotten during a 2-5-1 January. Back to within striking distance of first place. It’s been an up-and-down season, but defense and goaltending win and Cornell still has both. As defending ECAC champs, the tournament title goes through them regardless of where they finish in the standings. Sophomore Matt Moulson (16-15-31) carried the offense through a rash of injuries, but he has help again in Ryan Vesce (9-15-24) and rookie Byron Bitz (5-14-19).

Highest Finish: 1st
Lowest Finish: 5th
February Record: 5-1-0
Current Streak: 0-1-0
Key Stat: 4-5-5 overall at home
Intangible: Go-to guy. Moulson is the only player with double-digit goals.

Dartmouth Big Green (25 pts) — Only two wins since late January, but, guess what, three ties. Sophomore Hugh Jessiman (16-16-32) and junior Lee Stempniak (14-17-31) are off their near-50 point pace of last season, but remain a dangerous combination. Stud rookie defenseman Grant Lewis (3-21-24) adds an interesting dimension to the team. Sophomore netminder Dan Yacey put up impressive numbers early, but has returned to Earth with a 2.68 goals against average (GAA) in ECAC play — ninth in the league.

Highest Finish: 1st
Lowest Finish: 5th
February Record: 2-1-3
Current Streak: 2-0-3
Key Stat: Trailed for only 164:12 in ECAC play (13.3% of minutes played).
Intangible: Wait and see. This will be Yacey’s first foray into the postseason as the number-one netminder.

Rensselaer Engineers (23 pts) — Followed up impressive month and a half with two critical home losses to teams RPI is trying to catch. Can still secure a first-round but will need help. Senior netminder Nathan Marsters is one of the best in the league with a 1.99 GAA and .926 save percentage. Sophomores Kevin Croxton (13-19-32) and Kirk MacDonald (13-14-27) are always dangerous, as is senior blueliner Scott Basiuk, who has seven power-play goals overall. Allowed nine goals in early-season split against Yale and Princeton, this weekend’s opponents.

Highest Finish: 3rd
Lowest Finish: 7th
February Record: 3-3-0
Current Streak: 0-2-0
Key Stat: 7-9-0 overall in one-goal games
Intangible: Dominant D early. Have allowed just eight goals in first periods of 20 ECAC games.

Yale Bulldogs (20 pts) — Cursed by our claims that they were “for real” after an undefeated January, the Elis have nosedived this month. Not a club to shut down opponents, they managed to win with offense and timely saves … for a while. Offense alone rarely wins down the stretch as evidenced by the fact that they’ve scored more than three goals in a game just once in February — and that was a 7-5 loss. Facing RPI and Union at home to wrap up the regular season — two teams they’ve beaten already this season.

Highest Finish: 5th
Lowest Finish: 8th
February Record: 1-5-0
Current Streak: 0-3-0
Key Stat: Outscored 117-82 overall and have allowed the most goals of any ECAC team (79).
Intangible: Not so special. Power play is at 15.7% with a league-worst 75.5% penalty kill.

Harvard Crimson (20 pts) — Could the late-season streak be a repeat of 2002’s title run? We’ll see soon enough. Much like two seasons ago, the Crimson are getting healthy at the right time, but the preseason No. 1 has no shot at a first-round bye, and ends the season with critical home games against UVM and Dartmouth. The penalty killing unit will be tested in a major way against the Big Green. Junior Tom Cavanagh (13-12-25) is the lone double-digit goal scorer … there were five last season.

Highest Finish: 5th
Lowest Finish: 9th
February Record: 3-2-1
Current Streak: 2-0-1
Key Stat: Once-lethal power play is connecting at 14.1% clip in league games.
Intangible: MIA. Senior Tim Pettit’s 2003 numbers: 17-30-47. His 2004 numbers: 7-16-23.

St. Lawrence Saints (17 pts) — The good news is they win and score at home. The bad news is they finish the year on the road. If they can match their season total for road wins (two) this weekend, they’ll head home for the opening round of the playoffs with a hot goaltender, junior Mike McKenna, in hand. Could be a good formula for advancing, but they need to earn big points this weekend at Cornell and Colgate — who they beat 5-1 in November.

Highest Finish: 6th
Lowest Finish: 11th
February Record: 2-2-2
Current Streak: 1-0-1
Key Stat: 6-12-0 in games decided by one or two goals.
Intangible: Top heavy. First line of senior Rich Peverley and sophomores T.J. Trevelyan and John Zeiler has accounted for 101 points this season. Second line has 35.

Clarkson Golden Knights (16 pts) – Promising rebuilding year may turn into coach George Roll’s first losing season as a bench boss. Losers of seven of nine, the Knights need help if they are to return to Cheel Arena for the first round, otherwise they could be at SLU in a week. The Knights are 4-5-2 on the road with games at Colgate and Cornell this weekend — teams they have yet to beat this year. Desperately need top line of Mac Faulkner-Mike Sullivan-Chris Blight to return to form.

Highest Finish: 7th
Lowest Finish: 11th
February Record: 1-5-0
Current Streak: 1-0-0
Key Stat: Own the league’s worst power play at 12.2%
Intangible: Mr. Nice Guy? Rookie defenseman Matt Nickerson has pulled back on his temper. The result is three points since late December.

Union Dutchmen (15 pts) — This is an extremely young team which can match last season’s win total with a sweep this weekend. They’ll have to get through Yale and Princeton to do it — teams against which they’ve only scored once this season, though that was during the Dutchmen’s midseason misery. At 5-3-1 since late January, sophomore netminder Kris Mayotte has been one of the catalysts. The workhorse netminder has played every minute of his team’s ECAC contests thus far, allowing just one goal in last weekend’s split. Juniors Jordan Webb (10-13-23) and Joel Beal (8-15-23) lead the offense, but they’ll need the early-season version of sophomore Scott Seney (13-7-20) to re-emerge this weekend.

Highest Finish: 8th
Lowest Finish: 12th
February Record: 3-2-1
Current Streak: 1-0-0
Key Stat: Outscored 18-9 in first periods of ECAC play.
Intangible: Falling behind. Have trailed 13 times after 20 minutes (1-11-1 in those games) and 14 times going into the third period (0-13-1).

Vermont Catamounts (13 pts) — The hottest team in the league — yes, it’s true — has turned its season around this month, but dug itself too big a hole to climb out of. As a result, the Cats cannot earn home ice this weekend. A 2-11-1 road mark is the bad news; the good news is they also have a red-hot netminder in sophomore Travis Russell. Junior Brady Leisenring and senior Jeff Miles are tied for the team lead with 33 points, while sophomore co-captain Jaime Sifers leads the blueliners with 16. They’ll need a huge effort this weekend — and help — to move up in the standings.

Highest Finish: 9th
Lowest Finish: 12th
February Record: 4-1-1
Current Streak: 4-0-0
Key Stat: 7-4-2 when allowing two goals or less.
Intangible: Late Bloomers. Have allowed opponents to score first in 21 games this season and have lost 16 of those.

Princeton Tigers (12 pts) — Earned five wins in 2003, none since. That’s the Tigers’ season in a nutshell. Well, that and the fact that they’ve been outscored by 53 goals overall and 28 in the ECAC. What’s worse is that their top scorer, sophomore Patrick Neundorfer, has only seven tallies. Finish the season at home against RPI and Union, who the Tigers scored eight goals against in a December split, while sporting a 3-7-1 mark in Baker Rink. Could get out of the basement, but will need help.

Highest Finish: 10th
Lowest Finish: 12th
February Record: 0-4-1
Current Streak: 0-4-1
Key Stat: 4-2-0 in league play when scoring first.
Intangible: Anemic offense. Have not scored more than two goals in a game since January 10.

Final Finishes

Courtesy of Tim Danehy, the ECAC’s statistical expert, and UVM’s Director of Athletic Communications Gordon Woodworth, here are the possible finishes for each team based on outcomes this weekend.

First, the highlights. Having already clinched a first-round bye, Colgate controls its own destiny for the top spot. Brown, Cornell and Dartmouth control their fates for a bye, while Rensselaer needs at least two points and help in order to finish in the top four. Yale has assured itself of home ice in the first round, while Harvard needs one point and St. Lawrence three in order to host a playoff series next weekend. Clarkson and Union each need at least two points and help for home ice, while Vermont and Princeton are destined for road games.

Now, onto the more detailed scenarios.


  • Finishes No. 1 with two, three or four points
  • Finishes No. 1-2 with one point
  • Finishes No. 1-3 with zero points


  • No. 1-2 with three or four points
  • No. 2-4 with two points
  • No. 2-5 with one point
  • No. 3-5 with zero points


  • No. 1-3 with four points
  • No. 2-4 with three points
  • No. 3-5 with one or two points
  • No. 4-5 with zero points


  • No. 1-2 with four points
  • No. 2-4 with two or three points
  • No. 3-5 with one or zero points


  • No. 5-7 with three or four points
  • No. 6-7 with one or two points
  • No. 7-8 with zero points


  • No. 3-5 with three or four points
  • No. 4-5 with two points
  • No. 5-7 with one or zero points


  • No. 5-6 with four points
  • No. 5-7 with three points
  • No. 6-7 with one or two points
  • No. 6-9 with zero points

    St. Lawrence

  • No. 6-8 with four points
  • No. 8 with three points
  • No. 8-10 with one or two points
  • No. 8-11 with zero points


  • No. 7-9 with four points
  • No. 8-10 with two or three points
  • No. 9-11 with one or zero points


  • No. 8-10 with three or four points
  • No. 8-11 with two points
  • No. 9-12 with one point
  • No. 10-12 with zero points


  • No. 9-11 with four points
  • No. 9-12 with three points
  • No. 10-12 with two points
  • No. 11-12 with one or zero points


  • No. 10-12 with three or four points
  • No. 11-12 with one or two points
  • No. 12 with zero points

    As Always, Goalies Are Key

    Traditionally, the ECAC has been home to some of the best goaltenders in the country. This season has continued the trend, including the emergence of young netminders who have, at times, carried their clubs. Down the stretch, the goalies have been key, and the result is some late-season movement by teams that were all but forgotten early in the year.

    Brown’s Yann Danis is the measuring stick by which other netminders are judged in the ECAC. He’s been lights-out for most of his senior year, but has lost three in a row as the Bears have fallen out of first place. Danis has allowed 11 goals in those three games after giving up just 13 in the previous seven. Apparently, the Hobey Baker candidate really is human. That said, Danis still leads the ECAC in wins (12), save percentage (.946) and shutouts (four), and is second with a 1.75 GAA.

    The Colgate Raiders’ rise through the ECAC — they were predicted to finish in the middle of the pack — has been led by junior Steve Silverthorn, who has made his mark this season. He’s fifth in the league in GAA (2.10) and eighth with a .916 save percentage. Overall, his GAA is 1.94 with a .921 save percentage.

    “I rank him as one of the candidates for best player in the league,” said his coach Stan Moore. “He had a very good season last year, but this year the team is playing better in front of him.

    “His attention to detail is very high. Even in practice he wants to make all the saves. When he doesn’t, he takes it personally. He even apologizes when we don’t win. He’ll come up to us, almost sheepishly, and say ‘I’m sorry for giving up those goals.’ If he gives up four and we ask him which ones he should have stopped, he’ll say all of them.”

    Cornell rookie David McKee has not allowed more than two goals in a game since January 9 and has not lost a game when he’s allowed three or more since November 22. Since then, he’s lost six times, but it hasn’t been because of a plethora of goals against. In those six defeats, the Big Red were shutout three times. He leads the ECAC with a 1.40 GAA and four shutouts, while ranking second in save percentage (.937) and wins (11). He allowed just one goal in Saturday’s loss to Union, but had won five straight before that.

    In Burlington, sophomore Travis Russell has pulled the Catamounts onto his back and lifted them out of last place with the longest active winning streak in the ECAC. Four straight victories have helped UVM become a dangerous team, especially in the playoffs when a hot netminder can take you a long way. Russell has a 2.92 GAA and .903 save percentage in league play, but in his last four games he’s posted a 1.00 GAA and .966 save percentage. This is no two-weekend fluke, though, as the Vermont native is on a 5-2-1 run with a 1.48 GAA and .949 save percentage.

    “Right now,” he said last weekend, “with the confidence I have, if I see the puck, I’m going to stop it.”

    At St. Lawrence, junior Mike McKenna has taken over the starting duties with seven consecutive starts, posting a 1.70 GAA and .944 save percentage over that span. He’s 3-2-2 in those games, including his third shutout of the season in the win over Brown — the most in a campaign for a Saints’ netminder since Jeremy Symington in 2001.

    “He’s been playing real well lately,” said St. Lawrence coach Joe Marsh. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence and at the top of his game.

    “The big thing is that he’s seeing the puck real well in traffic and is communicating with his defense. He’s more consistent with the saves he should make and is making the big saves too. We would like to see that continue. It may be a subtle difference from early this year, but it is pretty telling in the statistics.”

    Vermont’s Gilligan Honored

    Former UVM coach Mike Gilligan, who coached the Catamounts for 19 seasons, was honored in a ceremony before the Yale game last weekend. A winner of 279 games while at Vermont, Gilligan posted 419 victories over his 26-year coaching career.

    Among the honors bestowed to him was a framed Vermont hockey jersey with his name on the back and the number “419,” a street sign denoting “Mike Gilligan Way” outside of Gutterson Fieldhouse and a leased vehicle for as long as he is at Vermont. The street sign will also be a permanent addition to the UVM Hockey Hall of Honor.

    In addition, the Mike Gilligan Award will be presented beginning this season to the Catamounts men’s hockey player who distinguishes himself through leadership on and off the ice and through service to the community. The award will be presented by the Friends of UVM Hockey.

    Current Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon, in his first season in Burlington, called Gilligan a mentor of his, an example for a young coach in the beginning stages of his career.

    “I find it very difficult to put into words how much of an impact Mike Gilligan has had on me in my short time here at Vermont,” explained Sneddon. “I have been asked by several people what it is like to follow a legendary coach, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not the winning that will be the most difficult task, but rather being measured next to Mike as a person, not just a coach.

    “His compassion for people, his sincere approach, and his outgoing personality make him a very special person. I know that living up to that standard is nearly impossible for anyone.”

    Former Catamount Jeff Schulman, the senior associate director of athletics at UVM, added to the praise of his one-time coach who continues to work with the Vermont athletic department.

    “Mike is a special person who has made an impact on many people’s lives but none more than the players he coached,” said Schulman. “I think what made Mike such a special coach was that every one of his players knew that he cared more about us as people than he did as players. That is truly rare in Division I athletics. [He] is without question one of the most universally well-liked and respected college hockey coaches in the country and I’m always proud to tell people that I played for him.”

    In Case You Missed It

  • Brown’s first goal against Clarkson snapped the Bears’ scoreless streak at just over 160 minutes. They had not scored since early in the third period of their February 13 2-2 tie against Union.
  • With 42 career wins, Brown senior Yann Danis needs just one more win to tie the school record for victories in a career.
  • Clarkson’s win over Brown snapped the Knights’ longest losing streak in 21 years, a six- game stretch.
  • Senior Tristan Lush has yet to miss a game for Clarkson in his collegiate career and is three shy of the school record.
  • Colgate picked up its first weekend road sweep since the 1999-2000 season at Princeton and Yale. It was also the Raiders’ first weekend sweep at Union and Rensselaer since 1997-98.
  • With their win over Union, the Raiders won in Schenectady for the first time in four years. The series sweep over the Dutchmen was Colgate’s first since the 1998-99 campaign. Overall, the Raiders have completed five series sweeps, including Brown, Cornell, Princeton and Rensselaer.
  • Cornell improved to 8-0-0 when leading after one period and 11-0-0 when leading after two.
  • Former Big Red netminder Jean-Marc Pelletier earned his first NHL win over the weekend, making 26 saves in the Phoenix Coyotes’ 3-2 win over Columbus.
  • Dartmouth junior Lee Stempniak became the 30th player in school history to record 100 points in his career. It is the first time since 1979 that a Big Green player has reached the milestone in just his third season.
  • In four games against Princeton and Yale, Dartmouth has gone 10-18 on the power play while holding the two opponents to 6-23.
  • Dartmouth had over 40 shots in both games last weekend, the ninth time it has accomplished that feat this season.
  • Harvard’s game against St. Lawrence was the first ECAC contest this season in which the Crimson allowed 30 or more shots. The Saints fired 40 pucks at the Harvard net.
  • Crimson senior Kenny Turano returned to the lineup February 9, three weeks sooner than expected after suffering a broken ankle early in the season. He has three points in his last three games.
  • Harvard goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris is now 3-0-2 in his career against the Saints with a 1.55 goals against average and .956 save percentage.
  • Rensselaer saw its 12-game streak of scoring at least one power-play goal scored snapped last Friday night.
  • Engineers’ sophomore Kirk MacDonald was held without a point over the weekend — the first time he’s been held pointless in back-to-back games all season.
  • St. Lawrence’s three-point weekend was its most successful since a December home sweep over UMass-Lowell and New Hampshire.
  • The Saints went 2-6 on the power play against Brown, the league’s best penalty kill unit, and held the Bears’ scoreless in seven opportunities. The Bears entered the game with the ECAC’s most effective extra-man squad.
  • Sophomore T.J. Trevelyan’s 21st goal of the season snapped SLU’s scoreless streak of 165 minutes against Harvard. Trevelyan left the game after scoring with a concussion suffered on a hit by a Crimson player.
  • Union is 8-2-3 this season with senior captain Glenn Sanders in the lineup. Sanders, who missed 16 games due to a ruptured spleen suffered against Dartmouth on November 14th, unexpectedly returned to the lineup for the stretch run.
  • Vermont improved to 4-1-1 this month and is 5-2-1 in its last eight games.
  • Catamounts senior Jeff Miles extended his scoring streak to four games during which he has three goals and eight points. He now has 123 career points in 128 games all-time at UVM.

    What’s On Tap

    Second-place Brown (14-8-5, 12-6-2 ECAC) and sixth-place Harvard (11-13-3, 9-9-2) host third-place Dartmouth (11-7-9, 9-4-7) and 11th-place Vermont (8-19-4, 6-13-1). The Bears lead their series against the Big Green 60-59-6 all-time and a victory Friday would give Brown the Ivy League Championship for the first time since 1995. Dartmouth, however, has beaten the Bears three times in a row. The Catamounts lead their all-time series over Brown 26-24-5, but the Bears have won five straight versus UVM.

    The Crimson lead their series against the Catamounts 32-21-1 all-time, with wins in the last six meetings. The Crimson hold a 114-51-8 edge all-time against the Big Green, with a seven-game unbeaten streak (6-0-1). Dartmouth has won just once in the last 17 meetings (1-13-3) dating back to 1996.

    First-place and No. 13 Colgate (18-9-5, 13-5-2) and third-place Cornell (13-8-6, 11-6-3) play hosts to ninth-place Clarkson (12-15-5, 7-11-2) and eighth-place St. Lawrence (11-17-6, 7-10-3). The Knights lead the overall series against the Raiders by a 75-38-8 margin, including a 22-20-3 mark at Starr Rink. Clarkson, which has shutout Colgate in three of the last five games, has not lost in Hamilton since 1999. The Knights also lead the all-time series against the Big Red, 44-41-9, but Cornell is 8-1-1 against Clarkson over the last 10 games and 4-0-1 in the last five.

    The Saints lead the overall series with Colgate, 56-50-3, but the Raiders hold a 27-21-2 advantage at home. SLU is 2-3-1 in its last six games at Starr Rink and will be looking for its first sweep of the season series since 2000-01. The Big Red hold a 45-36-5 advantage in the all-time series against SLU. Cornell won both games last year and is 4-0-1 versus the Saints in the last five contests.

    Last-place Princeton (5-20-2, 5-13-2) and sixth-place Yale (12-15-0, 10-10-0) host fifth-place Rensselaer (17-13-2, 11-8-1) and tenth-place Union (13-14-5, 6-11-3). The Engineers are 54-22-8 all-time against the Tigers, including 19-11-5 in Hobey Baker Rink. Princeton is 17-9-3 all-time versus the Dutchmen, with a 10-4-1 home mark.

    Yale leads its series against Union 16-7-2, including an Eli win in Schenectady in December. The Bulldogs have won three straight versus Union. Meanwhile, RPI is 44-31-5 against the Bulldogs, but has lost the last three against Yale.