I think I might just start deciding my weekly predictions with coin flips. That quarter can’t be any worse at it than I am.
Once more, the home teams did me in. The host schools again failed to hold serve last weekend in what is traditionally a very home-friendly league. The visitors, as a collective, went 5-3-0 in league play this past weekend, driving the overall league home record down to 7-12-2.
Dartmouth had a big sweep on the road over Cornell and Colgate, while the Raiders as well as the Golden Knights of Clarkson each failed to secure a point at home. What’s equally astounding is that not a single contest went into extra time last week.
St. Lawrence is the ECACHL’s lone perfect team at 4-0-0 in league play, while preseason favorite Colgate is winless. Oddly enough, while Cornell, Dartmouth and Rensselaer represent the league in the latest polls, St. Lawrence is conspicuously absent.
And might I mention: fear the Wong. (The Bobcat freshman has five goals and two assists in four league games.)
Saints on high
In all the havoc and clamor of the early-season jockeying, perhaps it’s apropos that the Saints have risen above the chaos.
The surprise team of the month is perfect at home, perfect on the road, is winning in all sorts of ways, and has a week off for rest and polish.
“We haven’t gotten too caught up in the start,” said bench boss Joe Marsh of the young team’s successes. “We caught some breaks in league play, and made them count.”
The Saints have already skated 25 different players, including junior goaltender Justin Pesony and frosh netminders Kain Tisi and Alex Petizian.
“We have 16 first- and second-year players [to get in the mix],” said Marsh, “and we’re definitely heading in the right direction.”
Where it comes to the trio tending the twine, Marsh is pleased.
“All of our goalies have adopted a really good attitude; they support each other really well.”
“[Petizian] has done a real nice job for us so far… it’s tough [rotating the keepers]. It’s a good problem, but a problem nonetheless.”
The aforementioned Alex wrested the starting nod from Pesony earlier in the season, starting a team-high five games and winning four of them — including all three ECACHL starts.
On the other end of the ice, SLU has been downright saintly in helping sinners get back in the game. Marsh’s men have prematurely released penalized opponents from their two-minute commitments six times in 21 chances, for a nearly 29% power-play success rate.
The penalty kill is also at the top of its game, negating 21 of 24 opportunities for the other side.
Colgate fell to 0-3-1 last weekend, dropping home games to Dartmouth and Harvard. Head coach Don Vaughan isn’t printing up executive pardons for his players, either.
“This team is not playing well at the moment,” he began, “and there is no one reason or quick fix to this.”
Vaughan referenced some “glaring deficiencies,” most conspicuously on the power play, where opponents were granted individual two-minute vacations on a regular basis.
“Twelve percent isn’t going to cut it,” said Vaughan (only 4/44 — nine percent — in league competition).
Mostly, however, Vaughan has been frustrated by the inconsistency of his team.
“The effort is inconsistent… we haven’t played a full 60 minutes yet,” he said.
However, the 14th-year taskmaster is not about to let anyone forget how young the season and the team still are.
“We’ve got some pretty good minutes out of some of our younger guys,” he said, especially indicating David McIntyre, who has four goals and five assists in nine games. All four goals have come on the power play; he leads the team in that category.
The Raiders invade the southern reaches of ECACHL country this weekend, playing at Quinnipiac and Princeton. They will be without senior defenseman Mike Campaner, who is dealing with a recurring back problem. Jesse Winchester has been playing at less than 100% since coming back from an ankle aggravation in late October, but is steadily improving.
Vaughan is duly concerned with the state of his team, but the panic button is still stowed away in his attic somewhere.
“When we’re playing to our capability,” Vaughan said confidently, “we are a very good hockey team.”
Crimson coming around
Things seem to be picking up again for the Cambridge crew, as junior forward Paul Dufault is near full recovery for Harvard.
The 5-foot-9, 175-pound Bay State native scored eight goals with a side of 18 assists last season in 33 games, but hasn’t seen any time yet this year after suffering a broken leg. The 21-year-old was fourth on the team in conference and overall scoring last season, and will be a significant boost to the recovering Crimson upon his return. Coach Ted Donato is hopeful that Dufault will be ready to go this weekend.
Ryan Maki is equally probable after getting banged up at Cornell last Friday. The team’s leading scorer registered an assist against the Red, but was scratched Saturday night versus Colgate.
Donato is “leaning toward playing both” Kyle Richter and Justin Tobe this weekend.
The tandem has split time evenly through the team’s first half-dozen games, and each holds a 1-2-0 record. The freshman Richter has the better save percentage (.909) and goals-against average (2.72), but also has had the benefit of playing two of his three games at Bright.
Donato has also been thrilled with the play of Mike Taylor. The third-year forward “has played excellently for us,” he said. “We count on him for a number of different things, and he’s always there for us.”
Taylor and Richter each had strong showings against Boston College early last week, as well as up at Lynah, where Harvard lost despite dominating the Big Red for the better part of the game.
This ain’t no seat-of-our-pants blog, so we here at USCHO.com do our darnedest to get the facts right — so we don’t have to offer corrections as I’m doing now.
Despite what I thought to be thorough back-checking, Dartmouth goal-coach/consultant Ed Walsh is not the same Ed Walsh who played at Boston University in the early 1970s. This one played at Providence, a decade later. They just happen to be, clearly, incredibly similar … even to the extent that, according to hockeydb.com (an extensive database of current and former pro and amateur players), they both coached at Massachusetts-Lowell in the late ’90s.
Mike Richter played for two years at Wisconsin, whereas last week I referred to him as a former Bulldog. This wasn’t completely off the mark, though; Richter has been taking supplemental classes at Yale while assisting Keith Allain with coaching the team’s goaltending.
League members in the national spotlight: the aforementioned Brandon Wong is second only to Minnesota’s Kyle Okposo in rookie goal-scoring with eight in ten games. Okposo was the seventh overall pick in the 2006 NHL draft; Wong is as of yet unclaimed.
Rensselaer’s Jordan Alford is ninth in the nation in overall goals against average (1.92). Cornell’s Troy Davenport and St. Lawrence’s Petizian are also in the top 20. Alford is also fourth in the nation in save percentage, stopping 93.7% of all shots.
How’s this for bucking the trend: Six members of the ECACHL are among the nation’s top 20 scoring offenses. Clarkson and Brown are putting up more than four a game, while Quinnipiac is close. Cornell, Dartmouth and St. Lawrence are all scattered around the 3.5 mark.
Cornell is also among the top defensive teams in the country, along with Yale and RPI, with each surrendering fewer than two and a half goals per game.
I got very few responses from last week’s query, so I’ll dig into some older emails and try to answer some questions as best I can.
From Ben Handelman: Do you think Quinnipiac can steal the Southern Connecticut fan base and rise to be Southern Connecticut’s team of choice? Doesn’t everyone like upending a century of tradition (Yale)?
Difficult to say, as there are so many different variables to consider, including current fan base size and loyalty, team success, and external or circumstantial influences. However, I’d be willing to bet that with the new TD Banknorth Sports Center in place, the casual fans — those with no strong ties to either school — will find the Q awfully appealing.
The ‘Dogs and ‘Cats both strike me as programs back on the rise. However, I think that the new arena and the relative novelty of Quinnipiac as a solid big-time hockey program will make QU the more popular draw, at least in the short term.
From Pete Flanigan: I have to wonder why Appert is not going with Lange full time. The goaltender racked up the awards and kept RPI in games last season and now he has more experience. From what I saw of Alford in Albany, he did not impress. Do you think Appert is making a mistake?
Granted, this email is a week or two outdated, but it was certainly a concern among many Rensselaer fans earlier this year.
At the get-go, Appert stated that, given his limited firsthand knowledge of the qualities of his individual players, every spot was up for grabs, including — and especially — in the blue semi-arc. Alford has played surprisingly well, with wins at Denver, home against Princeton and Merrimack, and a tie with Union. Lange took the hard-luck loss at DU, the season-opening tie with Boston University, and took a win from Colgate and a tie from Quinnipiac.
RPI has only played eight games so far, and only two in league. It’s still awfully premature to pick a number-one goalie from the information so far, and I for one give Appert a lot of credit for ignoring convention and giving Alford his well-earned shot.
I also had a couple questions about the way league games are being officiated.
There are a few referees — Scott and Dave Hansen and Eugene Binda Jr., at least — who also officiate Hockey East games, and I’m not sure if there are other overlaps with the CHA, AHA, or anywhere else.
The “new rules” are an NCAA edict, and so theoretically, all the games in all the conferences should be getting called the same way. However, it does seem that the ECACHL has gone through a greater upheaval than most of the other leagues.
Boston College took a little while to adjust in its game against Harvard, as did Vermont at Dartmouth the previous week. In my opinion, it will be a gradual compromise between the ECACHL teams and their refs, and the EC’ refs and the general NCAA.
Soon enough, just like what’s happened with the NHL, the games with two dozen penalties should become the exception, rather than the rule.
Yeah, man, I want to hear all about that time you locked your friend’s little brother in the trunk with all that funky hockey gear that had been left there for two months. Gross. I’m at [email protected].