Down the stretch they come …
With the flipping of the calendar to February, we’ve entered the stretch drive of the ECACHL regular season. This is the time of year when teams jump up the standings or slide down them on a nightly basis. The time when we all start coming up with the magic numbers of points teams need to get a first-round bye or home ice.
There’s nothing like this time of year.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at how each team measures up heading into the final month of positioning and critical battles. Below is a breakdown of overall and league records; records against teams over .500; offense, defense and special teams rankings; the records of the remaining opponents for each club; and notes on the team.
A few notes. For teams with multiple games remaining against the same opponent, that opponent’s record is counted only once. Also, for Harvard, the records of neither Boston College nor Boston University are included since it is not known at this point who the Crimson will play on the second night of the Beanpot.
Record: 11-6-3, 6-5-2 ECACHL (T-6th place)
Record vs. +.500: 2-4-2
ECACHL Offense: 2.85 goals for per game (8th), 20.2 percent power play (8th)
ECACHL Defense: 2.85 goals against per game (6th), 74.4 percent penalty kill (11th)
Record of Remaining Opponents: 81-83-13, .494 winning percentage
Notes: Have won three in a row and are unbeaten over its last five contests (4-0-1) … Senior Mike Meech leads the Bears in scoring with 18 points … Meech and sophomore Brian Ihnacak share the team lead in goals (nine) … Rookie netminder Adam D’Alba is 9-2-2 with a 1.74 GAA and is tied for tops in the nation with a .941 save percentage … Since the 2000-01 season, Brown has a 12-15-4 record in the month of February, including a 3-4-1 mark that cost them a first place finish last season … Five of its final nine games are on the road.
Clarkson Golden Knights
Record: 8-16-2, 4-9-1 (T-9th)
Record vs. +.500: 3-7-2
ECACHL Offense: 2.14 GF (12th), 14.0 PP (11th)
ECACHL Defense: 2.93 GA (7th), 82.8 PK (5th)
Record of Remaining Opponents: 93-70-14, .565
Notes: Once upon a time, this month belonged to the Knights, but those days are a distant memory. Despite a 7-1-0 February in 2001, they are only 16-14-2 over the last four campaigns … Senior Jay Latulippe leads the club with 24 points … Rookie Steve Zalewski has a team-best 11 goals … Junior Dustin Traylen, who backstopped the Knights postseason run a year ago, is 4-9-1 with a 2.73 GAA and .910 save percentage … Four of its last eight games are at home … Have lost two of three and four of its last six.
Record: 19-7-0, 11-3-0 (2nd)
Record vs. +.500: 7-3-0
ECACHL Offense: 2.86 GF (7th), 21.2 PP (5th)
ECACHL Defense: 1.79 GA (3rd), 86.5 PK (3rd)
Record of Remaining Opponents: 66-96-10, .413
Notes: Have lost two of its last three, but have won seven of its last nine … Since 2000-01, Colgate is 19-11-3 in the year’s shortest month … Have posted three consecutive winning Februarys, including a 4-2-2 mark last season that carried the Raiders to the regular season title … Junior Jon Smyth leads the team with 25 points and is tied with sophomore defenseman Mike Campaner with 14 assists … Senior Steve Silverthorn is 18-6-0, with a 1.95 GAA and .916 save percentage … Five of the Raiders’ final eight games are away from Starr Rink.
Cornell Big Red
Record: 15-4-2, 11-2-1 (1st)
Record vs. +.500: 7-4-2
ECACHL Offense: 3.14 GF (T-3rd), 26.4 PP (1st)
ECACHL Defense: 1.36 GA (1st), 88.2 PK (2nd)
Record of Remaining Opponents: 70-99-8, .418
Notes: Currently enjoying a six-game winning streak … Junior Matt Moulson leads the club with 15 goals and 23 points, as well as 10 power-play tallies … Classmate Shane Hynes is tops in assists with 15 … February is “Cornell time” as it has posted a league-best 23 wins (23-6-3) over the last four seasons and has lost only twice in the last three years … Sophomore David McKee is tied for the national lead with a 1.43 GAA and sports a 15-4-2 record with a .935 save percentage … Three of the Big Red’s eight remaining games are at home.
Dartmouth Big Green
Record: 11-8-2, 8-6-0 (5th)
Record vs. +.500: 6-4-2
ECACHL Offense: 3.14 GF (T-3rd), 18.8 PP (9th)
ECACHL Defense: 2.21 GA (5th), 85.4 PK (4th)
Record of Remaining Opponents: 54-70-10, .440
Notes: Has won three straight and five of its last six … The Big Green has the most ties in February play with seven since 2000-01 and sports a 14-10-7 mark in that span … Senior Lee Stempniak leads the team with 22 points, while rookie Nick Johnson has scored a Big Green-best 10 markers … Senior Dan Yacey has won his last three games and is 5-5-1 with a 2.04 GAA and .919 save percentage … Four of its final eight games are at home.
Record: 13-5-2, 10-4-1 (3rd)
Record vs. +.500: 5-4-2
ECACHL Offense: 3.33 GF (2nd), 21.8 PP (4th)
ECACHL Defense: 2.07 GA (4th), 81.0 PK (6th)
Record of Remaining Opponents: 78-80-17, .494
Notes: Harvard has won four straight after an 0-2-1 stretch … Saving its best for March, the Crimson has had only one winning February since the 2000-01 season (6-2-1 in 2002-03) and is 15-18-3 over that time … Senior Tom Cavanagh leads the team with seven goals, 14 assists and 21 points … Classmate Dov Grumet-Morris is tied for the nation’s lead in save percentage (.941) to go along with an 11-4-2 record and 1.75 GAA … Four of its final nine games are at the Bright Hockey Center, where the Crimson are 8-1-0.
Record: 6-14-1, 4-10-0 (11th)
Record vs. +.500: 2-8-1
ECACHL Offense: 2.93 GF (6th), 24.6 PP (2nd)
ECACHL Defense: 4.14 GA (11th), 75.0 PK (10th)
Record of Remaining Opponents: 102-89-13, .532
Notes: Have lost two straight and four of its last five … The Tigers have not won a February game since 2002 and are 7-19-5 since the 2000-01 campaign … Junior Dustin Sproat leads the ECACHL in scoring (22 points) and is tops on his club with 13 goals and 28 points overall … Sophomore Grant Goeckner-Zoeller owns a team-best 19 helpers … Junior Eric Leroux is 4-7-1 with a 3.56 GAA and .895 save percentage … Four of its final eight games are away from Hobey Baker Rink.
Record: 11-16-2, 4-11-1 (T-9th)
Record vs. +.500: 1-10-1
ECACHL Offense: 2.38 GF (10th), 20.4 PP (T-6th)
ECACHL Defense: 3.56 GA (10th), 76.8 PK (9th)
Record of Remaining Opponents: 79-60-14, .562
Notes: Have lost two in a row and seven of its last nine games … Junior Kirk MacDonald leads the Engineers with 13 goals and 26 points … Classmate Kevin Croxton is tops with 19 assists … Senior Andrew Martin sports a 6-11-1 record with a 3.02 GAA and .894 save percentage … Own a 15-14-3 record in the month of February since the 2000-01 season … Five of its last seven games are at home.
St. Lawrence Saints
Record: 13-12-1, 7-7-0 (T-6th)
Record vs. +.500: 3-10-0
ECACHL Offense: 3.50 GF (1st), 20.4 PP (T-6th)
ECACHL Defense: 3.07 GA (8th), 80.2 PK (7th)
Record of Remaining Opponents: 93-70-14, .565
Notes: Have lost two straight and three of its last four after a five-game winning streak … Sport a 13-14-5 record in Februarys over the last four seasons and have not had a winning short month since 2000-01 … Junior T.J. Trevelyan leads the Saints with 31 points and 16 goals … Classmate John Zeiler has a team-best 16 helpers … Senior Mike McKenna owns an 11-11-1 record with a 2.86 GAA and .908 save percentage … Play four of its final eight games in Appleton Arena.
Record: 10-17-1, 7-10-0 (T-6th)
Record vs. +.500: 2-15-0
ECACHL Offense: 2.24 GF (11th), 12.5 PP (12th)
ECACHL Defense: 3.53 GA (9th), 79.0 PK (8th)
Record of Remaining Opponents: 66-55-12, .541
Notes: Have lost seven in a row — all ECACHL games — and eight of its last nine. This was after starting the season 6-0-0 in conference play … Senior Jordan Webb leads the team with 14 goals and 22 assists … Junior Scott Seney has a team-high 14 assists … Have posted a 15-13-3 record in Februarys since the 2000-01 campaign, including 5-2-1 last season … Junior Kris Mayotte is 6-7-1 with a 3.52 GAA and .889 save percentage, while rookie Justin Mrazek is 4-10-0 with a 2.51 GAA and .901 save percentage … Four of its last six games are at home.
Record: 15-9-3, 9-4-2 (3rd)
Record vs. +.500: 4-7-1
ECACHL Offense: 3.07 GF (5th), 24.2 PP (3rd)
ECACHL Defense: 1.73 GA (2nd), 89.4 PK (1st)
Record of Remaining Opponents: 54-70-10, .440
Notes: Tied with Yale for the most losses over the last four Februarys (20) and own a 9-20-2 mark in that span … Last season marked its only winning short month (5-2-1) over the last four campaigns … Have won two in a row after a three-game losing streak … Senior Scott Mifsud is tops on the Catamounts with 16 goals, 21 assists and 37 points, including 10 markers on the man-advantage … Rookie Joe Fallon is 11-6-3 with a 2.20 GAA and .917 save percentage … Three of its final seven contests are away from Gutterson Fieldhouse.
Record: 3-17-1, 2-12-0 (12th)
Record vs. +.500: 0-12-1
ECACHL Offense: 2.50 (9th), 15.7 PP (10th)
ECACHL Defense: 4.57 (12th), 66.7 PK (12th)
Record of Remaining Opponents: 102-89-13, .532
Notes: Sport a 12-20-0 record in Februarys since the 2000-01 season … Have lost two straight and four of its last five … Sophomore Brad Mills and junior Christian Jensen are tied for the Elis lead in goals (10), while Mills is tops with 21 points … Sophomore Matt Modelski owns all three of Yale’s wins (3-7-1) and sports a 3.89 GAA and .892 save percentage … Play four of its final eight games on the road, where it will be seeking its first win away from New Haven this season.
First Place On the Line
Players and coaches on both sides may have spent most of this week downplaying what is sure to be an intense and exciting weekend of hockey, but we know better. This is home-and-home. This is a rivalry. This is a battle for first place. This is Cornell and Colgate.
“For a lot of fans and some players,” said Raiders coach Don Vaughan, “this game, regardless of the standings, takes on greater meaning. It’s fun. That’s the way it should be.
“Staying focused will be a challenge for both teams. Ithaca is a little bigger, but certainly in [nl]Hamilton, which is a small town, it is hard to escape it.”
The series opens Friday night in the village of Hamilton located in New York’s Madison County and boasting a population of slightly over 3,500.
No. 11 Colgate, which has always enjoyed an advantage at Starr Rink, is 11-4-0 at home this season having outscored its opponents 47-31. Cornell, meanwhile, is just 3-3-2 on the road, but has allowed only 11 goals in those games.
The second-place Raiders, defending ECAC Regular Season champions, are different from last year’s squad despite many familiar faces on the roster.
Last season, five players finished the year with 12 or more goals. This season, only two players have 11 or more tallies — junior Jon Smyth, who is again leading the team in points (11-14-25), and rookie Tyler Burton (12-9-21). It is a more balanced offense this year and a club that has improved in its own zone.
“I’m really happy with the effort put forth in our end,” said Vaughan, whose team has lost two of its last three but has not lost two in a row since November 2003.
“We’re playing well defensively,” continued the coach. “We’re not going to score a lot of goals, so we better take care of our own end.”
The Raiders accomplish that mission with responsible forwards and with a set of underrated blueliners led by senior Joey Mormina. Undoubtedly one of the best defensemen in the league, Mormina is averaging 30 minutes of ice time per game and contributes on both sides of the puck.
Another ingredient to Colgate’s success — it is on the verge its first back-to-back 20-win seasons in the program’s history — has been the play of its special teams. In 2005, the Raiders have failed to score a power play goal in just two of its 10 games.
“A lot of our offense is happening on the power play and special teams,” explained Vaughan, “but we need to shore it up. The power play had been inconsistent.
“Clarkson shut us down (in a 3-1 loss last Saturday). At the end of the game, that was the difference. Special teams are a big part of our game.”
The same can be said of No. 6 Cornell, which has scored 27 of its 68 goals (40 percent) this season with the man-advantage, and plays host to the Raiders on Saturday in the Finger Lakes Region of the Empire State.
The City of Ithaca, in New York’s Tompkins County, is home to just over 29,000 residents and two colleges that look out at each other from separate hills with a culturally diverse downtown area between them. On the far hill as one drives into Ithaca from the south sits Lynah Rink, one of the most intimidating places to play and watch a game if you aren’t rooting for the team in home whites.
After a tough 2003-04 campaign at Lynah, the Big Red are back to their winning ways at home with a perfect 11-0-0 record thus far. They were 15-0-0 in Ithaca two seasons ago.
“We’re trying to keep things in perspective,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer, “and not get too excited. We’re not going around beating our chests. We try to not get too high or too low.”
Winners of six straight and eight of its last nine, Cornell brings a more balanced offense than in years past to this big weekend of hockey. After leading scorer Matt Moulson’s 15 goals, no other player has more than six.
“Obviously,” said Schafer, “when you can go head-to-head in a battle for first place, it’s big. It’ll be two tough games that will have ramifications for first place.
“Everybody is looking forward to it.”
Even so, Schafer is the first person to downplay the significance of the weekend’s games.
“There are still eight games left,” he said.
“It’s just two points,” Vaughan concurred in reference to the importance of each contest.
While the Raiders rely upon senior Steve Silverthorn (18-6-0, 1.95 GAA, .916 save percentage) to provide consistently solid goaltending, Cornell has a pretty good netminder as well.
Sophomore David McKee (15-4-2, 1.43, .935) remains one of the better guardians of the goal in the country. In January, he posted a 7-1-0 mark with a ridiculous 0.99 GAA and .953 save percentage. That level of effectiveness works in tandem with a solid group of blueliners and smart, defense-minded forwards.
“We have so much respect for them,” admitted Vaughan. “Mike has done such a good job focusing them on defense.
“A big reason that you don’t get a lot shots against them is because they spend a lot of time with the puck in your end. They are aggressive in the offensive zone. People overlook that.
“They have a lot of the ingredients to be successful in the league and in the NCAAs.”
According to Schafer, though, the Vaughan’s sextet is pretty similar to his.
“They mirror us in statistics,” explained Schafer. “They have great goaltending, a tough defense and they stay patient. Look at their roster … they have nine seniors which means they have good leadership and their goaltender is playing well. With that combination, you will have great success.”
Cornell, despite sweeping Clarkson and St. Lawrence last weekend, was without two of its regular defensemen — rookie Sasha Pokulok and junior Jon Gleed.
“We hope we will have them back,” said Schafer. “That they heal fast enough.”
If not, the Big Red’s bench boss will not hesitate to throw sophomores Dan Glover and Evan Salmela back out on the ice for the second weekend in a row.
“They ate up minutes in critical areas,” Schafer explained. “Evan played on the power play and Dan played on the penalty kill. They can play against an opponents’ top line. They’ve been waiting for the opportunity.”
Clearly, the teams are pretty evenly matched. When that’s the case, games usually turn on one play or a special teams goal.
“I expect a lot of momentum shifts,” said Vaughan. “The teams will go back and forth, up and down. That’s the way it should be. It’ll be great college hockey.”
Colgate has won three of its last four against Cornell, including both games last season.
Try, Try Again
In addition to exciting league action, this month offers up one of the best tournaments in college hockey, the 53rd annual Beanpot. Of course, for the ECACHL’s lone representative — Harvard — the traditional tourney has been more of a nightmare.
The Crimson’s consolation game victory in 2003 is the only win the team has enjoyed since 2000 — both against Northeastern — and Harvard has not won an opening-round contest since 1998. What’s worse, the last title Harvard won was in 1993 when it defeated Boston University, 4-2.
Arguably, though, this season could be the Crimson’s best opportunity to snag the title than any in recent memory. It isn’t because its opponents are any weaker — BU, Boston College and Northeastern are all strong this season. Instead, it has more to do with how well the Crimson is playing heading into the tournament and the fact that Harvard has already beaten the Terriers and Eagles this season.
Those wins were tremendously significant for the team’s confidence as it faces off against its Hockey East and Beanpot rivals again on the next two Mondays.
“Certainly, there’s a pride factor when you play not just against Hockey East,” said Crimson coach Ted Donato earlier this season, “but great programs like … BU and BC.
“It’s a challenge for us …we want to show that we can play hockey in Cambridge too.”
In back-to-back weeks last November, Harvard defeated BU and BC by a combined 5-2 score. On November 16, rookie Jon Pelle scored two of the Crimson’s three power play goals to defeat the Eagles at the Bright Hockey Center.
On November 23, Harvard traveled to BU for its final game at Walter Brown Arena. The Crimson made it a memorable experience by scoring two second-period goals to rally for a 2-1 victory. Grumet-Morris posted 30 stops for the victory, his second over the Terriers in as many years.
“Obviously, it’s a big win for us,” said Grumet-Morris after the win over BU. “Crosstown rivals, we’re always in competition with them during regular season and postseason and the Beanpot as well as in recruiting battles, so it helps our prestige.”
Monday’s opening night game against Northeastern will be Harvard’s first against the Huskies this season. The Crimson lost to them last year in the Beanpot consolation game.
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In Case You Missed It …
• Brown scored seven power play goals in its weekend sweep of Yale and Princeton.
• The Bears’ Sean Hurley has 14 points this season, he most by a Brown rookie defenseman since Josh Barker’s 15 in the 1998-99 campaign.
• Clarkson posted its fifth straight win at Starr Rink and improved its shutout streak on Colgate’s home ice to 233:23 before allowing a goal — the Raiders’ first at home against the Knights since 2000-01.
• Clarkson’s 4-4-0 January was its best month this season.
• Colgate freshman defenseman Matt Torti scored his first collegiate goal against the Knights.
• Raiders’ rookie Tyler Burton leads all ECACHL rookies with 15 points in league play and has a conference-best four game-winning goals overall.
• Ten of Cornell’s Matt Moulson’s 15 goals have come on the power play.
• The Big Red leads the nation in team defense, allowing just 1.48 goals per game.
• Dartmouth’s two wins over the weekend marked its first league sweep since 2003.
• Because of injuries and departures, every Big Green player on the roster has now seen action after rookie blueliner Will Boardman played against Union.
• Harvard won its first two games after an exam break for the first time since the 1995-96 season — it went 2-8-2 over that span.
• Four of the five players on the Crimson’s top power play unit have at least 10 points with the man-advantage this season — Noah Welch (11), Tom Cavanagh (11), Andrew Lederman (11) and Jon Pelle (10).
• Princeton’s win over Bentley — its sixth of the season — surpassed its total from a year ago.
• Tigers junior Dustin Sproat leads the ECACHL in conference points (22). No Princeton players has finished the season first in league points since John Messuri turned the trick (39 points) in the 1987-88 campaign.
• Rensselaer junior Kirk MacDonald scored his first and the team’s second shorthanded goal of the year on Saturday.
• SLU senior Stace Page assisted on the Saints’ lone goal over the weekend. He now has seven goals and six assists in the last five games.
• St. Lawrence sophomore defenseman Drew Bagnall leads ECACHL blueliners with seven overall goals.
• Union is 1-8-0 in its last nine games and has been shutout three times over that stretch, in addition to scoring just one goal in five other games.
• Vermont’s sweep of Union and RPI were its first since the Catamounts’ Frozen Four campaign of 1995-96. UVM’s 15 wins are its most since 1996-97.
• Yale scored five power play goals over the weekend, but allowed eight combined to Harvard and Brown.
Scott Weighart contributed to this column.