In the master plan of his hockey life, this wasn’t exactly what Dartmouth’s Hugh Jessiman envisioned when he put the New York Rangers on hold and returned to Hanover for his junior year.
But when the power forward tore the deltoid ligament in his right ankle after the hinge turned into his body while being checked during his team’s 3-0 loss to Princeton (1-2-1, 1-1-0 ECACHL) on Saturday, it likely signaled the end of his season.
“This is a tough one,” said Dartmouth (2-2-0, 1-1-0) coach Bob Gaudet. “He’s a great kid and a special talent. I’m close to him because I’ve known him for a long time. He feels bad, but he’s moving on.”
“It’s basically like 10 weeks I have ahead of me, and after that, another four weeks of rehab,” Jessiman explained Wednesday night to The Journal News‘ (NY) Andrew Gross.
As expected, though, the Darien, Conn., native isn’t about to give his concession speech to this campaign just yet.
“I basically explained to them (the doctors) that if you think the whole thing will take 16 weeks,” said Jessiman to the News. “I’ll be back in 12-13 weeks. I want to accelerate the rehab process.
“I’ve definitely gotten over the initial frustration. It’s obviously tough. You’re so used to looking in the mirror and seeing the body you’ve developed in the weight room or on the bike. You want to believe you’re strong.”
Dartmouth doctors initially diagnosed the injury, but recommended Jessiman search for a second opinion. According to the News, that’s when he contacted the Rangers, who made available their team physician and orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Andrew Feldman.
“He’s the guy who worked on Brian Leetch’s ankle,” Jessiman told the News. “He said, just in terms of a full recovery, it should not be in any way career threatening.”
Dr. Feldman will perform the surgery Friday in New York.
“The procedure is not that involved,” explained Gaudet, “but it is the rehab and the waiting for time to pass before he can put pressure on the ankle that takes so long.”
In the meantime, though, Jessiman has come up with a way to stay involved on a day-today basis with his fellow Big Green.
“He wants to coach,” said Gaudet. “He can help push some of the young guys and help the older guys too. He has a great feel for the game.”
Gaudet wasn’t surprised at Jessiman’s offer, either.
“No, not at all, knowing Hugh. I’m quite pleased that he had that mindset. That’s who we know Hugh as.
“He has so much respect from his teammates because of how he prepares for game situations. The guys will adapt to [Jessiman’s new role] because of that respect. He’s not just going to pat guys on the back, he’s going to be a guy who can push others a little more.”
As Gaudet points out, the new role will be a win-win situation.
“Of course, we’d rather have him on the ice, but this will be good for Hugh too; to be with the team. It will be great for me and the staff too.”
While Jessiman had only two points in four games before the injury, he scored a combined 39 goals and 80 points in his first two seasons for Gaudet.
“It remains to be seen what we do,” said the bench boss about his team’s necessary adjustments. “We’ll have to do without 25-30 goals … and that’s just from one guy. The other guys, not just one or two, but a group of them will need to elevate their play.
“The power play, regular shifts and line combinations will all change. Hugh was killing penalties, too, with the way the game is going these days. It changes our team pretty dramatically, but the guys adapt and so do we.”
The Big Green will need to, and quickly, since ECACHL clubs can rarely afford to lose precious points in the standings. Despite a .500 record after four games, Dartmouth is expected to battle for the regular-season crown and challenge once again for the tournament title.
And even before Jessiman’s injury, Gaudet’s offense was struggling to find the back of the net in spite of a multitude of opportunities. In 240 minutes of hockey this season, the Big Green have posted 182 shots, that’s an average of 45.5 per game and includes a 55-shot outburst against Yale on Friday. Unfortunately, for Dartmouth, it had scored only 10 times — that’s an average of just 2.5 goals per game and a shooting percentage of 5.5%.
One reason for the tremendous shot advantage is a strong crop of forwards, but the Big Green may also be getting a boost from the new emphasis on opening up the game.
“We’re seeing less of those scrums pinning two or three men in the corners,” said Gaudet, “which is a good thing for us and for the game in general.
“We all need to understand as players, coaches and, quite honestly, as referees, that there are parts of the game that hold greater priority. Over time, we’ll see that these penalties will not be taken, that the players will adjust and that the referees will be more consistent.
“My hope is that as time goes on, there will be less power plays than more. It’s never good to see 12 power plays in a game. But it’s a long process … there are some growing pains, but it’s starting to clean up a bit.”
Four By Four
After the first weekend of league action, four squads are undefeated in the ECACHL thanks to impressive home sweeps. No. 14 Colgate, No. 8 Cornell, Union and Vermont each made early statements by combining for eight wins, 35 goals scored and only 12 allowed.
The Raiders, out to prove last year’s regular-season title was no fluke, have jumped out to a 7-2-0 mark overall. They rebounded from a shocking loss to Army with a 3-2 overtime victory against Brown (0-2-1, 0-2-1) and 4-1 triumph over Harvard (0-2-1, 0-2-1) last weekend.
Five Colgate (7-2-0, 2-0-0) skaters have at least eight points each, including leading scorers junior Jon Smyth (6-4-10) and sophomore defenseman Mike Campaner (1-9-10) — one of the most underrated players in the league. The Raiders can also boast of ranking second in the nation with four shorthanded goals.
Then there’s that guy between the pipes. Senior Steve Silverthorn is 7-1-0 with a 2.10 goals against average (GAA) and .915 save percentage — allowing two goals or less in six of his eight starts.
His team travels to Massachusetts-Lowell (3-2-0, 0-2-0 HE) for a one-game showdown on Friday. The Raiders are 5-2-0 this season in non-conference games, but lost in overtime in their only contest against a Hockey East team (4-3 to Northeastern) thus far.
The Big Red, at 4-0-0 overall, are the only undefeated team left in the land, having allowed just four goals this season.
That’s not surprising.
What is a bit of a shock, however, are the 23 tallies Cornell (4-0-0, 2-0-0) has put up, including three games in which it has posted a seven-spot.
Even better news for Big Red fans is that the offense is coming from multiple sources. Amazingly, only one skater has yet to record a point while seven players are averaging at least a point per game — including leading scorer Matt Moulson (4-3-7).
Overall, Cornell leads the nation in team offense (5.75 goals per game) and power play effectiveness (30.8%). It also leads the country in team defense (1.00 goals against) and penalty killing success (95.8%).
It helps having sophomore David McKee, the reigning ECACHL Goaltender of the Week. He’s played well early and has posted a 1.04 GAA and .946 save percentage.
No wonder the Big Red has yet to lose.
Another test is on the way for Cornell, though, as it heads to East Lansing to face off against Michigan State (4-4-0, 3-3-0 CCHA) for games on Friday night and Sunday afternoon. This is the first contest between the two squads since Mike Schafer’s coaching debut in 1995 — a 6-2 loss.
Meanwhile, second-year coach Nate Leaman has the Union Dutchmen (3-5-0, 2-0-0) on a roll with three wins in its last four games.
“I think we’ve been playing really good hockey all season,” said Leaman. “There was only one game, against Bowling Green, where I thought we came out flat. Besides that, I like the team and how we played, but we hadn’t been finishing.
That changed last weekend with a 10-goal outburst in a come-from-behind win over then nationally-ranked St. Lawrence (5-4-1, 1-1-0), followed by a 4-1 bit of revenge over Clarkson (2-6-0, 0-2-0) — which bounced the Dutchmen from the first round of the playoffs last season.
The win over a streaking Saints team was especially impressive.
“It helped us to have played Colorado College earlier this year,” said Leaman about his team’s opening losses on the road. “Both CC and St. Lawrence had tremendous team speed. They were the hottest team in the nation with a top line that is the best in our league.”
A year ago, the Dutchmen jumped out to a fast start only to suffer through a series of injuries and personnel issues that took the wind out of the club’s sails. This year, however, Leaman thinks he has a different set of skills to work with.
“Things are much different this year,” explained the coach. “We’re much faster and it’s a group that is starting to play like a team. We’re getting great leadership from Scott Seney and Jordan Webb.
“When we were behind in games early in the year, we did things individually and took long shifts. Not anymore. Now we’re playing as a team.
“The turning point came against UMass-Lowell. We hit some posts in the second period and went into the third down 2-0. But we said in the locker room between periods that we needed to stay positive and not get frustrated. We didn’t win — we lost 3-2 — but we came out strong in the third period and scored early. The guys then saw that as long as they stick together, they can win.”
Which is what Union has done since the UML contest, thanks in no small part to leading point-getters Webb (7-1-8), Seney (1-7-8) and ECACHL Player of the Week Jonathan Poirier (5-3-8). Another boost has come from rookie netminder Justin Mrazek, who despite his 1-2-0 record has allowed only four goals in three games. His .951 save percentage is second in the country and his 1.36 GAA ranks fourth in the nation.
Not to be outdone, Vermont (4-4-1, 2-0-0) has won two in a row and is undefeated in its last four games (3-0-1). This from a team that didn’t win its first game in the 2003-04 campaign until December 20 and had to wait until the end of January to capture its fourth victory.
Offensively, the Catamounts’ Scott Mifsud is having a career year. After posting 12 goals and 25 points in 35 games last season, Mifsud has tallied seven goals and 13 points in just nine contests — including a hat trick in UVM’s 7-1 thrashing of Yale (0-4-0, 0-2-0) last Saturday.
“I thought we played a very good game against Yale,” said head coach Kevin Sneddon. “The game came down to special teams. We were five-for-seven on the power play and perfect on our kill. That’s going to win you hockey games, plain and simple.”
One night earlier, against Princeton (1-2-1, 1-1-0), the Catamounts had to rely on their newest weapon.
“We had a tough win on Friday night against a much improved Princeton team,” said Sneddon. “Guy Gadowsky has really improved their team’s offensive play and we gave up some Grade A opportunities. If it wasn’t for Joe Fallon, Princeton wins that game.”
Fallon, the ECACHL Rookie of the Week, has been exceptional in his short time in Burlington. He’s 4-2-1 with a 2.20 GAA and .923 save percentage and has yanked the starting job away from junior Travis Russell. Fallon also is tied for first in the country with two shutouts. Not bad for a rookie.
He and his teammates will get another shot at building upon their recent success when the Cats travel to the North Country.
“After watching St. Lawrence play on video,” explained Sneddon, “we know we have a tough task. I’m very impressed with their team speed and overall skill. Coach [Joe] Marsh has his team flying right now. We’ll need to be extremely strong from a defensive perspective and, at the same time, generate shots with traffic on [goaltender] Mike McKenna.”
The next evening, UVM faces a struggling rival in Potsdam.
“As for Clarkson,” said Sneddon, “it’s always tough playing the Knights in their barn. We had two great hockey games with them last season (a 3-2 OT loss and a 2-0 win), and I expect the same close game this Saturday night.”
Welcome to the Club
Welcome to ECACHL hockey, Guy Gadowsky.
After going 0-1-1 in the season’s first weekend — allowing 12 goals, while scoring seven — the Tigers clamped down with two nights of excellent goaltending and team defense. The result was a 3-0 shutout over Dartmouth and just a pair of goals against over the two contests.
For Gadowsky, in his inaugural year at Princeton and in the ECACHL, it was his first victory in his new home.
“We worked extremely hard,” he said, “and received excellent goaltending. That’s really the reason we won.”
Junior netminder Eric Leroux, who played very well at times last season, is an undefeated 1-0-1 with a 2.40 GAA and .938 save percentage (tenth in the country). Sophomore backup B.J. Sklapsky, meanwhile, has a 1.25 GAA and .950 save percentage — both third in the nation — in a little over 90 minutes of action.
Returning as the top two scorers from a team that tallied only 62 times in 31 contests last season, junior Patrick Neundorfer (3-1-4) and sophomore Grant Goeckner-Zoeller (2-2-4) are averaging a point per game. Last year, they scored eight and five goals, respectively.
“We’re learning every game. You can train in practice all you want, but adapting to the game situations is what matters.
“We’re still learning about our identity.”
The Tigers hit the road this weekend to face Ivy rivals Harvard and Brown, but Gadowsky isn’t sure what to expect from his opponents — especially since he’s seeing most of these ECACHL squads for the first time.
“We’re much more concerned about what we’re doing,” he said. “But we look forward to playing these two historically successful programs and seeing where we are.”
According to Gadowsky, Leroux will be in goal Friday against Brown, but after that, “we’ll play it by ear.”
A pair of travel partners is set to square off in the next week when Union and Rensselaer (5-3-1, 1-1-0) battle it out this weekend and Clarkson and St. Lawrence face each other on Wednesday.
“I’ve only been through it once,” said Leaman about his team’s games against RPI, “but games in a rivalry are emotional. We need to make sure that we do not play emotionally, but instead play smart and stay focused from shift to shift.
“We need to focus on the ice and not on the scoreboard.”
The scoreboard is something that the Engineers are quite familiar with. Coach Dan Fridgen has once again assembled a talented sextet that is averaging 4.11 goals scored per game — good for fourth-best in the nation.
Leading the way are three players who are already in double-digits in points. Senior Nick Economakos (3-11-14) and junior Kevin Croxton (4-11-15) are tied for second in the country in assists. Junior Kirk MacDonald (10-5-15) has also picked up where he left off last season when he scored 15 goals and 39 points.
“MacDonald is leading the nation in goals,” Leaman said about the forward who is also tied for first in the country in power-play tallies with six.
“That’s a great thing for our league,” continued Leaman, “to have a guy leading the country in scoring. They have a good top line and a very good power play quarterbacked by [Brad] Farynuk (1-5-6).
“You have to give credit to Dan Fridgen. They are a very consistent team and patient. They don’t press a lot, but instead wait for you to make a mistake. We’ll need to be patient too.
“All of the games in the league are emotional. All of them are battles. Our goal is to come out of each weekend with points. The most consistent team will be the most successful.”
The Capital Region revival begins Friday in Troy’s Houston Fieldhouse before switching over to Messa Rink in Union’s Achilles Center.
In the North Country, what is always a high-profile contest will be played in the middle of the week at Appleton Arena. The schedule change was requested by St. Lawrence because of campus activities planned for the following weekend.
The early results for the two heated rivals could not be more different. While the Saints have been knocking off ranked opponents and even spent some time in the Top 15 themselves, the Knights can’t seem to get out of their own way.
“I didn’t think we played that poorly,” said Knights’ head coach George Roll about his team’s two road losses last weekend. “The games could have gone either way, but we hurt ourselves with little mistakes.
“We’re in a similar stretch as last year. We’re finding ways to lose instead of win. The guys worked hard this week; they certainly haven’t folded their tents. The guys are excited to play and not too down about the slow start.”
As for the impending game against the Saints, Roll said he hasn’t given it much thought.
“We won’t worry about St. Lawrence until Sunday night and Joe [Marsh] will tell you the same thing.”
The Knights are led up front by senior Mac Faulkner’s five goals and classmates Jay Latulippe and Chris Blight’s eight points. Rookies Nick Dodge (3-2-5) and Shawn Weller (2-2-4 in four games) have made immediate impact.
As for the Saints, they’ve earned a lot of play in this space because of their strong performance at all ends of the ice. Marsh has raved about his special teams and for good reason.
“[They] were a big factor all weekend,” he said after the Saints rallied for a 3-2 win at RPI last Saturday.
“The power play cashed in a couple of times and had some other great chances and the penalty kill did a great job as well. I thought Drew Bagnall and Jim Hakewill had particularly big nights for us defensively both in five-on-five and special teams situations.”
While the power play has paced the Saints at times, they are also tied for fifth in the nation with three shorthanded markers.
They also boast what many consider to be the best line in the ECACHL: senior Stace Page (2-3-5) centering junior classmates T.J. Trevelyan (5-7-12) and John Zeiler (4-7-11).
Then there is the contest between netminders that, at this point in the season, isn’t even close. SLU’s Mike McKenna (5-4-1, 2.95, .908) has carried his team to some of its biggest wins in years and, as he’s shown on a regular basis, can shut down any club.
The Knights, on the other hand, have yet to find a rhythm in net with any of their goalies. Junior Dustin Traylen has been a mystery. After posting a 2.57 GAA and 15 wins last season, the Kirkland, Quebec native is 0-4-0 with a 3.55 GAA and .873 save percentage. Rookie David Leggio owns both of Clarkson’s wins on the year, but he has a 4.30 GAA and .877 save percentage.
Brown hosts Princeton and Yale this weekend, with the Bears and Elis each searching for their first victories of the season. Brown leads its all-time series over the Tigers, 76-51-5, after sweeping the series last year. Despite dropping both games last season, it is the Bulldogs who hold the advantage over the Bears, 75-66-7.
Harvard is also looking for its first win this year under rookie coach Ted Donato. It leads both all-time series against this weekend’s opponents: 128-69-17 over Yale (CSTV’s Game of the Week) and 138-48-9 against Princeton. Last season, however, the Crimson and Bulldogs split their series, while the Tigers swept Harvard. Princeton has won three straight against the Crimson, is 5-1-1 in its last seven against them, and is 10-4-1 in its last 15 versus Harvard.
Clarkson welcomes Dartmouth and Vermont into Cheel Arena this weekend for a critical set of games for all clubs. The Knights lead the all-time match-up against the Big Green, 58-17-5, as well as over UVM, 51-24-1. Clarkson split its games with the Cats last season, while losing to and tying Dartmouth. No opposing team has won more games at Cheel than UVM, which has gone 8-11-0 in the 13 years of the building’s existence.
Travel partner St. Lawrence leads both series as well, 41-31-3 over the Catamounts and 46-26-6 against the Big Green. UVM, however, has won the last two contests against the Saints in Appleton Arena. Meanwhile, SLU has posted a 4-0-2 mark against Dartmouth in Canton over the last six head-to-head contests. The Saints split last season’s series with UVM, while managing only a tie against the Big Green.
Colgate hits the road to visit UMass-Lowell in the first game between the teams since the River Hawks’ 7-4 win in 2002. UML leads the all-time series 8-5-0. Cornell has a pair away from Ithaca, battling Michigan State. The teams have met only three times prior to this Friday with the Spartans holding a 2-1-0 edge.
Rensselaer and Union square off in Troy on Friday and in Schenectady on Saturday. RPI swept the season series in 2003-04 and leads the all-time series 41-10-6. Each team will be ending lengthy homestands, five games for RPI and six for the Dutchmen, as the Engineers look to extend their 5-0-1 streak over their travel partners.
St. Lawrence hosts the Golden Knights in the middle of next week for the 165 contests between the schools that sit a mere 10 miles from each other along Route 11. Clarkson leads all-time 03-54-7, but split the 2003-04 season series with SLU. The Knights were last shutout by the Saints in 1993, while Clarkson last turned the stingy trick in 1998 — almost five years to the day.
Harvard remains home to host the nation’s top-ranked team, Boston College (4-1-0, 2-0-0 HE) on Tuesday evening in a locally-televised game (Comcast’s CN8). The Eagles lead the all-time series, 61-41-5, and have not lost to the Crimson since the 1998-99 season.