This Week in the ECACHL: Nov. 9, 2006

Wow, talk about a wild weekend.

The home teams went 3-7-2 in league play, with no sweeps. RPI was the only home team to take three points this weekend, while traditional powers Dartmouth and Harvard shockingly dropped all four home games between them.

Brown went blow-for-blow with visiting Colgate, and nearly doubled up the favored Raiders in shots, 50-27 in the 6-6 draw. The Crimson and Colgate are still winless in the EC’ in five combined games, while surprise teams Rensselaer, Quinnipiac and St. Lawrence are undefeated.

While it doesn’t mean a whole lot yet, it’s still significant that those three unbeatens were picked ninth, seventh and sixth respectively in the preseason coaches’ poll. Colgate and Harvard were picked one-two.

This season is absolutely ruining my predictions record. But it makes for fun writing, so it’s a fair trade.

On the road again

While we’re on the topic of all these crazy road wins, consider this: Cornell and Colgate, at 6-4-1, were the only teams in the ECACHL to finish with winning records on the road last year. Co-champ Dartmouth finished 4-5-2 outside Thompson’s friendly confines. Fortunately for the Green, it was 10-1 on familiar ice.

Cornell, St. Lawrence and Clarkson each enjoyed four-point weekends in hostile territory last weekend, and Quinnipiac took claimed three of four potential points in the standings.

Last year, St. Lawrence was 3-8-0 on the road. Quinnipiac 2-9-0; Clarkson, 1-10.

Cornell head coach Mike Schafer is correct in pointing out that teams are more vulnerable at home earlier in the year. However, these three teams now have more road wins between them after one full weekend of play than they did at the end of the entire season in ’05-06.

How times change. Or will we soon find out that the more they change, the more they stay the same? Stay tuned.

Never fear; Puckman’s still here!

There have been rumblings out of Troy lately about the noticeable absence of Puckman, the loveably simple mascot of the Engineers’ hockey program.

The long-time object of affection by the general college hockey community, and not just RPI fans, has become dissociated from the program a bit of late. He… it?… doesn’t appear on the front of the team’s sweaters anymore, relegated instead to a role as shoulder-patch, nor does Puckman any longer adorn Houston Field House’s center ice.

Is this the death of Puckman? Inquiring minds want to know.

Sports Information Director Kevin Beattie had the answers.

While phasing out the delightfully anthropomorphic character in certain areas, like the jerseys, the :flesh-and-blood” (maybe foam rubber and felt?) mascot is still alive and well, according to Beattie.

“We’ll still use it as a mascot, just not as a logo,” he said. “Puckman’s not going away, we’re just using him less prominently.”

Beattie referenced a hockey promotion in which Puckman figurines were handed out to those in attendance.

“I still see those things, in car and dorm windows, all over campus,” he said. “I love it.”

Many in the ECACHL community will recall past RPI mascots The Swarm, which immediately preceded Puckman, and the Redhawk, an unpopular early ’90s alternative, who now represents the rest of Rensselaer athletics.

If the hardhat-wearing, hockey-glove wearing, stick-wielding disc can survive even internal competition for his job, I think it’s safe to say that Puckman will be around for a long time to come.

The fine art of goalie coaching

If goalies have always been a little bit off-kilter, why should goal-coaching be any more standardized than its pupils?

The ECACHL features three head coaches who spent their playing days between the pipes.

Seth Appert played at Ferris State for four years before assistant-coaching at Denver, where he mentored the likes of championship and/or future NHL goaltenders Peter Mannino (’05 national champion), Adam Berkhoel (’00 Chicago Blackhawks draft pick, ’04 champion), Glenn Fisher (’02 Edmonton Oilers pick, ’04 and ’05 champion), and Wade Dubielewicz (current New York Islander). Appert is handling the goalie coaching himself at RPI, as well.

“[As a goalie], you have the opportunity your whole life to sit back and watch the game,” Appert said of his native position. “It unfolds in front of you; you develop a good sense of the game.”

Bob Gaudet at Dartmouth played for the Big Green between 1977 and ’81, and used to coach his own goaltenders as well, earlier on in his career.

“The details and administrative work can get pretty heavy though,” he said, and now defers the goalie work to professional goal coach (and former Boston University netminder) Ed Walsh. Gaudet also stated that while he can still relate to the goalie’s role in the game, he finds that the dramatic disparity between the current style and that he grew up playing make his advice a tad obsolete.

Yale’s Keith Allain played between the pipes at Yale, as well as professionally in Sweden before joining the coaching ranks.

Allain served as the St. Louis Blues’ goaltending coach for eight years before being named to his current position. Thanks in part to Allain’s services, in 1999-00 the Blues’ Roman Turek and Jamie McLennan allowed the fewest goals in the league.

Allain surrounds himself with an abundance of goaltending experience at Yale. NHL Hall of Famer Mike Richter, and a former Bulldog himself, is the official goal coach for the program, but assistant coach Kyle Wallack is also a former netminder, having played superbly at Springfield College.

Rand Pecknold, on the other hand, has never donned the pads, but still coaches his goalies… and with no small measure of success.

The former Connecticut College defender has sent each of his last two starting netminders to the NHL negotiating table. Jamie Holden (’05) played 14 games with the Cleveland Barons last season, and Justin Eddy (’04) played 37 with the Utah Grizzlies. Sophomore Bud Fisher is on the fast track as well, having started the lion’s share of the games last season, and finishing with a goals-against average just north of two and a half. His .910 save percentage this season is a few points better than last through eight games, and Pecknold is pleased with Fisher’s progress.

The QU coach also worked with Yale’s Wallack between ’99 and 2002, and works exclusively with the goalies for a half-hour before team practice, rather than after, as is the popular convention.

“It’s a lot more useful to work with them when they’re fresh, instead of when they’re tired after practice,” he said.

There are many ways to play the position of goaltender, and so too are there many ways to teach it.

Big Green holding down the fort

Despite injuries to linchpin defensemen Grant Lewis and John Gibson, Green coach Bob Gaudet remains unconcerned.

“We’re getting our young guys into the lineup more as a necessity than by design,” he allowed, but also said “You’re going to encounter adversity at some point throughout the year. Hopefully this is ours, and we’ll get through it.”

In the 6-3 loss to Clarkson, Gibson had his bell especially rung. Lewis is still an unknown, regarding whether he’ll play this weekend or not.

Like the rest of the league, Dartmouth is having to adjust to the way games are being officiated. Gaudet expressed a need to create a third power-play and penalty-kill line to give the conventional two-line system a breather.

“With 16 power-play opportunities (against Clarkson), some guys just didn’t play,” he said of the non-special-teams skaters.

Indicative of a fatigue factor, though certainly a credit to the Knights as well, the Green only mustered three goals in their 16 man-advantages.

“Guys run out of gas,” Gaudet said. “To [the observer], it may seem like, ‘Great, 16 power plays, how could you lose?’ But honestly, I’d like to see more five-on-five. It’s easier on our lineup; it maintains the flow of the game.”

While sophomore Dan Goulding is recovering from a somewhat chronic back problem, Gaudet maintained that the starting position is Mike Devine’s to lose.

State of Union

It’s been a rough start in a number of ways for the Dutchmen, but overall, head coach Nate Leaman is upbeat.

“This is pretty much where we thought we’d be” at this point in the season, he said.

Off for the next two weeks for exams, this is a chance for the Dutch to buckle down and straighten out some of the technical flaws that the staff has seen so far.

“We have two seniors, and 18 freshmen or sophomores,” said the coach.

Suffice to say, growing pains are expected. Some were felt in the 8-2 loss to Quinnipiac last Friday.

“Quinnipiac, they had something like eight goals in 22 shots,” Leaman said. “They had eight shots in the second period, and scored on six of them.”

Leaman didn’t heap the blame his netminders. “At least four of those [shots] were breakaways or [odd-man rushes],” he said.

However, Union rebounded on Saturday with a 4-3 win over visiting Princeton.

“The younger players are really beginning to play well,” said Leaman of the effort, “and [sophomores Lane] Caffaro and [T.J.] Fox have really taken steps forward.”

“[Freshman] Jason Walters is a player who makes everyone around him better,” said the coach of the Ontario import, already with two goals and three assists on the year.

Overall, Leaman is happy with his squad’s five-on-five play, but said that special teams are an area where the team has struggled early. While it’s only played two league games, Union will rise from the bottom of the league on the power play (six percent, 1/17, and two shorthanded goals against) and on the kill (11/15, 73%).

“Our strength is our depth at the forward position,” Leaman said, and as such, the scoring and backchecking will develop as the young team gains experience.

Defender Mike Wakita is skating again, but is not practicing fully with the team yet. He is recovering from a knee surgery a month and a half ago. Leaman has not decided how best to address the loss of goaltender Shaun Williams, in regards to his roster.

Augie DiMarzo got banged up a bit last weekend, but to reassure Union fans, it’s nothing that will keep him off the ice.


Yale’s Brad Mills has been out of action since the start of the season, with no timetable immediately available for his return. The senior forward may be encouraged to take his time, however, as Allain is quite pleased with the team’s depth and balance of attack.

Falling through the cracks, Cornell frosh forward Joe Scali has been “dinged up and unable to play” so far this season, according to Schafer. The nature of his dinged-up-ed-ness and his expected return date are unknown.

St. Lawrence’s Alex Petizian: 3-1-0, 0.939 save percentage, 1.68 goals-against. He’s a freshman. He’s good at the hockey.

In an admittedly limited sample size, Rensselaer, Cornell and Dartmouth are all drawing more than 4,000 fans a game. That’s ahead of current No. 4 Miami, No. 9 Notre Dame and No. 15 Alaska. RPI’s within a couple sellouts of No. 3 Boston College and No. 16 Northern Michigan.

Not that rankings will indicate drawing power — some schools just have small rinks — but who cares? Illegitimate comparisons are fun.

Interactive reading

Feedback, hooray.

Ben Handelman wrote in representing Quinnipiac, and recommended either the Cornell game on November 18 or the Yale-QU game on February 2. The former may seem a bit odd, but Ben urged me to check out the perplexing appeal of the bandbox Northford Ice Pavilion. Not only is it a bit of a temporary novelty, but the Bobcats hold an as-of-yet perfect 4-0-0 league record there, with wins over Dartmouth, Brown, Clarkson and Union.

As for the Yale game, Ben clued me into the fact that this rivalry is now based on more than proximity: “Quinnipiac students still haven’t gotten over an article written in the Yale Daily News that referred to Quinnipiac’s New Haven shuttle as the ‘[synonym for prostitute] bus’ and called Quinnipiac students [another synonym for prostitutes].”

Sounds like solid hatred in the making to me!

Chris Wainwright eventually suggested I check out just about every game left on Clarkson’s schedule, I got the expected Harvard-Cornell recommendation roughly twenty-five-dozen times, and a couple Yalies wrote in to praise Ingalls Rink itself (don’t fall for the Sally’s/Pepe’s pizza debate, says Doug London… it’s BAR all the way).

Dartmouth’s Brian Corcoran knows his way around Hanover, being an assistant equipment manager at the school, and recommended “the local debauchery shop known as Murphy’s on the Green” during the Ledyard National Bank Tournament just before New Year’s, when “the Big Green play host to the North Dakota Fighting Lawsuits” (should it be lawsiouxts?).

Finally, Brennan Veys had me salivating over the thought of Ithaca or Middle Ages Brewing Companies at Cornell’s Chapter House.

Thanks to all who wrote in, and I apologize to those whose questions I didn’t answer (which was, I suppose, all of them. It’s been a hectic week.) I’d like to get to them next week, as well as any others that the collective “you” decide to huck my way.

My next question is, what is the best tradition in the league?

Could be team tradition, fan tradition, whatever. Extra points if you nominate something that isn’t from your school/alma mater. Convince me, people.

If you have an Internet-acquainted monkey (who uses a typewriter anymore?), he/she can send abridged works of Shakespeare to [email protected].