This Week in the ECACHL: Nov. 3, 2005

One of the biggest surprises in the ECACHL last weekend was the success that the Princeton Tigers enjoyed, winning their season opener on the road in South Bend against the Fighting Irish.

The Tigers were outshot 17-2 in the first period of Friday night’s 5-3 win over the Irish, largely due to the amount of time they spent in the penalty box. Notre Dame had 10 power plays on the night, a span of time that included more than half of the first period because of a series of Princeton miscues — an interference call, a hooking, a major for hitting from behind assessed to freshman forward Will Harvey, and a bench minor for too many men on the ice.

“We ran into a lot of penalties, we were down five-on-three and down for a five-minute penalty,” said Princeton coach Guy Gadowsky. “We had a penalty-filled first period but when we killed it with great goaltending we gained a little momentum.”

In the second period, the Tigers took advantage on the power play, converting on two of their seven chances and scoring three quick goals to take a 4-2 lead into the third. Freshman B.J. Slapsky stopped 34 of 37 shots while in net and Princeton held on for a 5-3 victory and a positive start to the season.

“We played a lot better on Saturday, on the whole,” Gadowsky said.

On Saturday, though, the Tigers couldn’t pull off another upset. The game was more competitive; instead of being outshot by a large margin, the Tigers kept pace with the Irish and again turned in a strong effort on the penalty kill, holding Notre Dame to one score in eight chances. Senior netminder Eric Leroux allowed only two goals on 30 shots. Unfortunately for the Tigers, his counterpart across the ice — freshman Jordan Pearce — stopped all 27 shots sent his way.

“They had excellent goaltending and we had good goaltending, and that was the difference,” concluded Gadowsky.

A Grand Event

Although it seems like we’ve been welcoming the Bobcats to the league for a full five years, first-year ECACHL member Quinnipiac hosts its first league game on Friday night against the Crimson. The game will take place at the Hartford Civic Center, a 30-minute ride from the Bobcats’ campus. But given the level of excitement at Quinnipiac, a big crowd is expected.

“We’re very excited about playing Harvard at the Civic Center,” said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold. “The Civic Center is a great venue.”

“The guys are really excited; our whole campus is really excited,” he continued. “We’re sending down 20 busloads of kids [to the Civic Center], and we’re having an alumni game down there in the afternoon and expecting a big crowd for that.

“It’s our ECAC opener, our ECAC inauguration. It’s a big event for Quinnipiac University — the school is very excited. It’s a game for my team, but for the school this is a whole big event.”

As for the hockey game itself, Pecknold admits that opening up against Harvard and Dartmouth will be a challenge.

“Both Dartmouth and Harvard are very good hockey teams,” he said. “They have very, very good defensemen. Harvard and Dartmouth are teams, I think, in the top three or four in our league.

“It’s a tough weekend to open up with, but you’ve got to play them at some point.”

Schafer to Sit Following Post-Loss ‘Incident’

Cornell coach Mike Schafer will have plenty of time to take in the sights and sounds of scenic New Haven, Conn., on Friday night, should he so desire, because he won’t be allowed to assume his customary place on the Cornell bench as the Big Red faces off against Yale.

Schafer’s newfound free time is not of his own volition, but was handed down by ECACHL commissioner Steve Hagwell in response to an on-ice incident at Lynah Rink following the Cornell-Michigan State game on Saturday night. Schafer’s one-game suspension was announced by the ECACHL on Thursday afternoon, removing Schafer from his perch atop the pine for Friday’s clash.

There have been a number of confused and conflicting reports about what actually happened, but the commissioner’s main concern apparently came from reports that Schafer made physical contact and was verbally confrontational with some of the Spartan players. The statement (quoted below) from Cornell athletic director Andy Noel released by the University in response to Schafer’s suspension was surprisingly informative, both in detail and in tone, and underscored the fact that not everyone is in agreement on exactly what transpired following Saturday night’s game.

“The Cornell Department of Athletics and Physical Education respects the authority of the ECACHL. Coach Schafer tried to calm a situation before it escalated. He regrets grabbing the jersey of an opposing player in an attempt to guide the team safely off the ice. We addressed this matter internally, and with this suspension consider the matter closed. Mike is a tremendous teacher of young men and a great role model in our community. We continue to offer Mike and his program our unwavering support.”

(For more on the postgame incident and the ensuing controversy, check out “This Week in the CCHA,” by my colleague, Paula Weston.)

This is not the first time that the fiery Schafer has drawn a suspension from the league; on January 20, 2004, the league suspended him for a lively (and profanity-laden) postgame interview following a 2-0 home loss to Rensselaer.

Schafer was incensed with the calls and non-calls by referee Joel Dupree, and according to Schafer, Dupree spotted a number of infractions for obstruction, but missed potential dangerous plays like a boarding call and a slash. I’ve included some snippets from Schafer’s passionate soliloquy on the state of refereeing in the league below.

We’ve got an official who calls ‘obstruction-interference’ when one of our best players, our leading scorer [Matt Moulson], gets hit head-first into the boards,” said Schafer. “What the [bleep] is obstruction-interference when a guy is hit head first into the boards? That’s not obstruction-interference, it’s a damn hit from behind. …

That’s two of the most horse[bleep] refereed games back to back since I’ve been associated as a head coach in this league, and it’s damn embarrassing. … You’ve got three players in the last three games [at Lynah], a slash to the jaw, a hit from behind, a slash to the hand, another hit from behind, are all [bleeping] hurt because these guys won’t protect the student-athlete. I’m not asking for judgment calls, I’m asking them to protect the damn players in the game.

But There is a Small Silver Lining

The only bright spot that I can find about Schafer’s suspension is that he won’t have to take the bench in Ingalls Rink, a place that has been considerably short of hospitable during his tenure at Cornell.

Schafer has amassed a 200-104-34 record over the past decade as head coach at Cornell, but the Big Red has struggled at Ingalls, going 4-5-1 over that stretch. For comparison, Cornell has managed a 5-3-2 record against St. Lawrence at Appleton Arena, a 5-4-1 record at the Achilles Center against Colgate, and an 8-2-0 record against Harvard at the Bright Hockey Center.

Commissioner’s Cup Update

The ECACHL won the inaugural Commissioner’s Cup series a year ago, and this year the league has picked up right where it left off.

The Commissioner’s Cup, a collaborative effort among the commissioners of college hockey’s six conferences, goes to the league whose teams amass the best record against opponents from other conferences in specifically designated Commissioner’s Cup games.

A year ago there were 21 designated games, with each league competing in seven contests. The ECACHL accumulated 12 points by winning six of its seven games, and officially won the Cup on January 14.

This year the number of designated games was expanded to 33; each conference participates in 11 contests, playing five home games, five away games, and one game at a neutral site. Through six games thus far, the ECACHL is 5-1-0, good for 10 points and a slim two-point lead over Atlantic Hockey.

The league’s next Commissioner’s Cup series game is scheduled for November 25, when the Brown Bears travel to take on the St. Cloud State Huskies.

ECACHL Honor Roll

Player of the Week

The ECACHL player of the week is Cornell senior captain Matt Moulson, who scored five points during his team’s weekend split against Michigan State.

Moulson, who was a unanimous selection for the ECACHL’s preseason All-League Team, scored his team’s first points of the season on a power-play goal at 11:36 of the first period. He added an assist on a power-play goal in the second that gave the Big Red a 2-1 lead, and capped off his night with an empty-netter to ice the season opener.

The next night Moulson again scored his team’s first goal, again on the power play, this time at 11:03 of the initial period. He later assisted on a power-play goal in the third.

The Big Red’s leading scorer the past two seasons, Moulson has been especially effective leading Cornell’s dominant power-play unit. A dozen of his 20 goals last season came while on the man advantage.

Goaltender of the Week

Senior Kris Mayotte went 2-0-0 over the weekend, with wins over Bentley and Massachusetts-Lowell. Against Bentley he stopped 27 shots and allowed only one goal. Against the River Hawks he allowed only three goals, including two on the power play, but stopped 36 of the 39 shots he faced to guide the Dutchmen to the win.

“Kris Mayotte is a very good goaltender,” said Union coach Nate Leaman. “He really made saves we needed down the stretch versus Lowell.”

Mayotte’s performance is all the more remarkable considering his early-season struggles; he was the team’s opening-night starter against Colorado College in the Ice Breaker Invitational, allowing six goals on 32 shots and taking the loss. The next night against Air Force he was pulled before the third period, having allowed four goals on 31 shots.

Since that difficult first weekend, though, Mayotte has buckled down. He started three of his team’s four games since, and has gone 3-0-0 and brought his goals against average down near 2.00.

From a Player’s Point of View

Jon Smyth, the senior captain of the Colgate Raiders, recently started an online blog which he plans to update multiple times per week with his perspective on Colgate, the academics and extracurriculars of college, and, of course, plenty of thoughts on college hockey.

For college hockey fans who have become accustomed to reading the press-box perspective of the writers here at and other college hockey sites, Smyth’s blog is worth visiting to see the difference that an on-ice perspective can make.