Timely goaltending and strong special-teams play enabled Princeton and St. Lawrence — two teams at opposite ends of the ECACHL standings — to sweep their opponents last weekend. The wins elevated the Saints ahead of Colgate and Harvard and into first place in the ECACHL standings, while the Tigers moved from the bottom of the standings into a tie for ninth with Yale.
Princeton and SLU weren’t the only teams to get strong play between the pipes over the weekend; Cornell’s David McKee and Union’s Kris Mayotte both pitched shutouts on Friday night to make sure their respective teams salvaged at least two points on the weekend.
After a tough 4-3 loss to St. Lawrence on Friday, Rensselaer managed to land on the sweet side of the same score the next night against Clarkson to produce a weekend split. Brown and Yale, both of whom had games in the middle of last week against nonconference foes, also split their points as they battled to a 3-3 tie during a Saturday matinee at Ingalls Rink.
Dartmouth was held without a win last weekend, though it only had one game on the schedule. And Quinnipiac and Clarkson did not fare as well as their travel partners; the Bobcats and the Golden Knights each lost both games over the weekend.
This weekend’s most interesting contests will likely occur in upstate New York as Clarkson and St. Lawrence travel to face Colgate and Cornell. With three of the four teams ranked in the USCHO.com/CSTV Top 20 — and the fourth, Clarkson, having only recently fallen out — the games promise to be exciting and competitive.
And as the season enters the stretch run, this weekend’s outcome could have a major role in the final standings. Unsurprisingly, the same four ECACHL teams that are ranked are also the four atop the league. Harvard is tied for second place with 15 points, but the Crimson has played four more games than Colgate, Cornell or St. Lawrence.
If one team were to sweep the others this weekend — especially if the team was St. Lawrence or Colgate — that team would have a leg up on its competitors for the regular-season title. If all the teams were to win one game apiece, that could also affect the race for the league title by opening the door for teams like Rensselaer or Union.
In this space last week I noted the often bizarre but always exciting happenings in a Dartmouth-UNH game, and this year’s contest, last Saturday night at the Verizon Wireless Centre in Manchester, N.H., did not disappoint.
Last year’s 9-8 Dartmouth win, which featured four unanswered goals in the third period, may have been the most shocking finish in the five-year history of the Battle of the RiverStone Cup, but the back-and-forth of this year’s contest produced a fantastic hockey game for every one of the 7,018 fans in attendance (it’s a tribute to the popularity of college hockey in the Granite State that the teams were able to draw that many when they were competing directly against the broadcast of the New England Patriots’ playoff game).
Unlike last year where the teams scored in bunches, this year’s scoring went in lockstep: UNH, then Dartmouth. UNH, then Dartmouth. UNH, then … Dartmouth tied the game at 1 late in the first, but UNH got the lead back right away on an unassisted goal from Jerry Pollastrone at 18:02.
Come the start of the second, Dartmouth converted on a power play to knot the score at 2. And again UNH responded late in the period to regain the lead when talented forward Daniel Winnik scored a 5-on-3 power-play goal at 18:05. The pattern held true in the third, with Dartmouth evening the score at 3 two minutes in and UNH regaining the lead late, this time on a goal from Brian Pouliot at 16:36.
With goaltender Mike Devine on the bench in favor of an extra attacker, Dartmouth’s Eric Przepiorka tied the game at 4 with 45 seconds left in regulation. Then the Wildcats’ Jacob Micflikier was given a golden opportunity to win the game for his team after he was hauled down a breakaway. Micflikier couldn’t convert on the penalty shot, but he popped home the rebound of linemate Brett Hemingway’s shot at 19:45 to win the game for the Wildcats.
In five short years, a competitive rivalry has developed between Dartmouth and UNH that produces a great game, year in and year out. This pairing is one of the most successful examples of an nonconference game that is scheduled each year and benefits not only both teams but also the college hockey community.
• Cornell’s David McKee stopped 21 shots on Friday night in the Big Red’s 6-0 shutout of Quinnipiac. Though it only marked McKee’s second shutout of the year, it was the 17th of his career, an ECACHL record that the junior can improve any time he takes the ice.
A Hobey Baker finalist last year when he compiled a 27-5-3 record with 10 shutouts, a 1.24 goals against average, and a .947 save percentage, McKee has struggled at times this season, though he still is near the top of the league in every goaltending category with an 11-4-2 record, a 2.06 goals against average, and .905 save percentage.
• Union senior netminder Kris Mayotte earned his fifth shutout of the season on Friday night against Clarkson; he stopped 34 shots and all 11 of the Golden Knights’ power plays to help his team to the 5-0 win.
Entering this season, Mayotte had only five career shutouts, but he has doubled his total thanks to strong play in games against Quinnipiac, Wayne State, RIT, and Canisius.
As the schedule heats up during the stretch run, there will be a number of games broadcast on local or national television. This weekend both games at Colgate, on Friday versus Clarkson and on Saturday against St. Lawrence, will be broadcast on Time Warner cable in New York. And next weekend Time Warner will air the Brown-Colgate contest live from Hamilton, with a tape-delayed broadcast going out on ESPNU at 10:30 p.m. that evening.
The following weekend, Time Warner and ESPNU will broadcast Cornell’s trip into Hamilton to face Colgate on Friday night. And on Saturday, CN8 will air a 2 p.m. matinee showing of UConn at Yale in a game that may well decide whether the ECACHL repeats as Commissioners’ Cup champion.
Harvard alumnus Noah Welch, the captain of last year’s Crimson squad and a first team All-American, has been voted as a starting defenseman in the American Hockey League All-Star game on February 1 in Manitoba.
Welch was drafted in the second round in 2001 by the Pittsburgh Penguins and is currently playing for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. He is enjoying a strong season with 11 points on four goals and seven assists, a plus-16 rating, and 25 penalty minutes.
As a four-year starter for Harvard, Welch concluded his career in Cambridge with 23 goals, 52 assists, and the school’s career record for penalties (131 in total, though he fell a couple of majors shy of the career record for penalty minutes).
ECACHL Honor Roll
As has become common practice, any team that sweeps its opponents is well-represented on the Honor Roll announced by the ECACHL each Monday. This past Monday, following Princeton’s pair of home wins over Colgate and Cornell, the league selected junior forward Grant Goeckner-Zoeller as its Player of the Week and Tiger netminder Eric Leroux as its Goaltender of the Week. That represents the fourth time this season that the two main honorees have come from the same team in any given week.
St. Lawrence also swept last weekend, and freshman defenseman Zach Miskovic was named Rookie of the Week after scoring his first career goal.
Player of the Week
Princeton’s leading scorer, forward Grant Goeckner-Zoeller, was named the league’s POTW after scoring three crucial goals over the weekend. With the scores, Goeckner-Zoeller is riding a four-game points streak with four goals and two assists. The Tigers have gone 2-1-1 over that stretch.
In Friday’s 5-3 win over Colgate, Goeckner-Zoeller started the scoring off midway through the first period with a power play goal. He maneuvered by two Colgate defenders and beat netminder Mark Dekanich on a quick shot to his right. Colgate evened the score at 1 later in the period, and the two teams traded goals in the second to lock the score again at 2-2.
Goeckner-Zoeller’s second goal of the night wasn’t nearly as pretty; it came off a loose puck following a scramble in front of Dekanich. That second power-play goal, at 18:44 of the second, gave Princeton a 3-2 lead and set the stage for Darrell Powe’s game-winning goal just 16 seconds later at 19:00 of the second.
The following night against Cornell, Goeckner-Zoeller scored an even-strength breakaway goal at 15:57 of the third to add some insurance to Princeton’s lead over Cornell.
Through 20 games this season Goeckner-Zoeller has 10 goals — four on the power play — and six assists. As a freshman he led the Tigers in points with five goals and 15 assists and was second on the team last year with six goals and 26 assists.
Goaltender of the Week
Princeton goaltender Eric Leroux had an historic Saturday night; he recorded his second shutout of the season and now has two shutouts in each his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.
But that wasn’t the historic part of Leroux’s weekend; the fact that made history was that the team on the opposite side of the box score against whom Leroux kept putting up zeroes was the Cornell Big Red. Leroux was the first Princeton goaltender to shut out Cornell in 42 years!
Through 12 games this season, Leroux has compiled a 4-8-0 record with a 2.39 goals against average and a save percentage of .923. He has split time in net with junior B.J. Sklapsky for the past two seasons, though Leroux’s strong play in net this year lead to seven straights starts over late November, December and early January.
Rookie of the Week
Miskovic scored the first goal of his college career on Saturday night in St. Lawrence’s 3-0 win at Union. Up 1-0 with less than five minutes left in the third period, the Saints moved the puck crisply around the Dutchmen’s zone. Center T.J. Trevelyan moved the puck to winger Mike Zbriger, who fed Miskovic for a hard one-timer for the right faceoff circle; that insurance goal gave the Saints a 2-0 lead and captain Mike Madill added an empty-net goal at 19:59 to ice the game.
Through 22 games this season, Miskovic has been credited with eight assists and has become an important part of the Saints’ penalty kill.
Record Versus Nonconference Foes
There was only one nonconference game on the calendar last weekend, and it turned out to be an exciting one as UNH defeated Dartmouth 5-4 in the closing seconds Saturday. The win dropped the ECACHL’s record against teams from Hockey East under .500 for the season.
The Wildcats have been particularly problematic for ECACHL teams, accounting for three losses in four games. While Yale was soundly beaten by UNH, both St. Lawrence and Dartmouth lost by one goal. The league’s only win against UNH came from Harvard, which clung to a 1-0 lead in the game’s waning minutes under a blistering Wildcat attack.
Thankfully, though, UNH does not appear on the calendars of any ECACHL teams for the remainder of the season and the nonconference games over the next two weeks are against teams from the two newest conferences. Dartmouth continues a slate of nonconference games this weekend by hosting Sacred Heart and Holy Cross, both from Atlantic Hockey. Quinnipiac, meanwhile, will travel to RIT for a pair and then hosts the CHA-leading Purple Eagles of Niagara.
vs. AH 11-4-1
vs. CCHA 4-12-3
vs. CHA 10-3-2
vs. Hockey East 13-14-1
vs. WCHA 4-9-4
vs. Independent 7-1-0 (RIT)
USCHO.com/CSTV Division I Men’s Poll (Jan. 16)
No. 8 Cornell — Cornell finished Friday night with an impressive 6-0 win over Quinnipiac, but was stymied the next night by Eric Leroux, this week’s ECACHL Goaltender of the Week. Though it was on the road, the Big Red’s loss might have dropped the team further in the polls but for the struggles of some of the teams immediately behind Cornell.
No. 10 St. Lawrence — Two strong wins on the road convinced voters that SLU’s stumble against Clarkson at the Corel Centre in Ottawa was nothing to be concerned about. The Saints have an opportunity to make a major push into the Top 10 if they can produce another road sweep.
No. 15 Harvard — A couple more weeks of Reading and Exam Period and the Crimson might make the Top 10! Idle last weekend, the Crimson moved up two spots thanks to the struggles of teams above it in the rankings. The Crimson is off again this weekend and finally takes to the ice again for the last weekend in January.
No. 17 Colgate — The Raiders split on the road last week, losing 5-3 to Princeton on Friday night and then returning the next night with a solid 3-1 win over Quinnipiac. The Raiders have struggled since their exam-period break, finishing that seven-game stretch with a 1-4-2 record. With home games the next two weekends, Colgate has a real opportunity to improve its place in the standings. If the team doesn’t make the most of its opportunities against St. Lawrence and Clarkson, then this may be the last week that the Raiders are part of the national poll.
For the first time in quite a while, an ECACHL team fell out of this week’s Top 20 poll; the league has four teams in the poll instead of five for the first time since November 14. Slotted in last week’s poll at No. 14, the Clarkson Golden Knights suffered a precipitous fall that, in my opinion, was disproportionate to the level of the team’s losses.
While Union and Rensselaer are not nationally-ranked teams, both are quality opponents and are tough to face off against, especially in their own venues. I found it puzzling that a week after the Golden Knights jumped from No. 18 to No. 14, they fell out of the Top 20 entirely.