This Week in the ECACHL: Dec. 7, 2006

Somebody get me a bottle of your finest Andre; the home teams have won!

That’s right; for the first time all season, the Hosts claimed a weekend of league play with a 5-3-1 record over those upstart Visitors. Ohh, how we hate those Visitors.

Colgate went 2-0-0 at Starr to lead the pack with wins over Union and Rensselaer. Cornell took a tie with its win, while Brown split. Yale didn’t much enjoy the comforts of home, dropping contests to Clarkson and St. Lawrence.

Clarkson actually claimed six points on its extended weekend, with two road wins (Yale and Brown) and a W in the home travel-buddy tilt against St. Lawrence.

The weekly update: visitors leading, 23-14-5. No change from last week, as Quinnipiac, St. Lawrence and Rensselaer are still undefeated at home. None of those teams hosted this past weekend.

Taking care of business

The ECACHL boasts two of the nation’s elite goaltenders, and a handful of others who are hanging around the fringes of Greatness’ proverbial fairway. If they can finish the way they’ve started, golf may be the last thing on their collective minds come March.

Freshman Dan Rosen swooped in and took the reins from a struggling Mark Sibbald at Brown in mid-November. Hoping to put a jolt into his team, Roger Grillo’s change in the crease looks like nothing short of genius.

Rosen, 19, merely leads the nation in save percentage, stopping darned near 96 percent of all shots in seven appearances and 395 minutes. He’s 4-2-0 with nine goals against, good for a 1.37 goals-against average … did I mention that’s also tops in the country?

Rosen’s worst performance to date was his three-goal, 35-save starting debut against Wayne State. Not that the Bears had cause to sweat that evening; the Warriors were never closer than their 3-1 deficit midway through the game. Since then, Rosen has started all but one of Brown’s six games, surrendering six goals in those five outings.

Somehow, two of those starts have ended in losses for the first-year bruin: a 1-0 loss at Dartmouth, and a 2-1 home loss to Clarkson. In those two games alone, Rosen made 70 saves. So long as he doesn’t get burned out on bailing his offensively-challenged team out of trouble, Rosen could have a very legitimate shot at Rookie — or Goaltender — of the Year for the league.

Clarkson’s David Leggio has a bit more experience than the tenderfoot Rosen. The junior ‘keeper started 26 games for the Knights in his first two seasons, and has tacked another 15 on so far already. He’s sixth in the nation in save percentage with a .929 mark, and 18th with a 2.28 goals-against average.

Leggio holds an excellent 10-3-1 record, including a shutout of visiting Bowling Green on November 24th. The 22-year-old Buffalo native is no Ryan Miller yet, but his save rate has consistently improved in his time with Clarkson, and he has only allowed more than three goals twice all year. Compare that to the nine two-goals-or-fewer performances, and it’s clear that Leggio is a top-flight ‘tender.

Catching up with Clarkson

Staying in a Clarkson state of mind, the Knights go into the winter break on a five-game winning streak, right on the heels of a four-game losing skid. They’re tied for first in the league by winning percentage, and second in points at 5-2-0.

“[The streak] is certainly a credit to how hard we’ve worked after the weekend at St. Cloud,” said head coach George Roll, referring to 4-0 and 7-2 losses at the hands of the Huskies. “We were certainly humbled out there.”

Roll said that the biggest difference between the Knights of a month ago and the Knights of last weekend is the team’s newfound commitment to defense.

In the four losses, the Knights had the gilt blown off them, surrendering 20 goals while scoring only eight. However, in the five games since, Leggio and Clarkson have tightened the screws and allowed only five goals. The offense-laden team scored 18 in those five contests as well, but Roll is considerably more pleased with his team’s play in its own zone than on the other end of the ice.

“We can now win games 2-0, 3-1, which we couldn’t do a month ago,” he said. “The one thing that you can control — in any sport — is how hard you work defensively. Maybe we concentrated too much on the offensive end, coaches included,” he supposed.

While goalies Kyle McNulty and Leggio were each tagged with two losses during the skid, Roll declines to blame the goaltending as a compounding factor in the slide.

“The losing streak wasn’t reflective of the goaltending,” he stated.

While the D has improved, the special teams have remained the bread-and-butter of the Knights’ offensive scheme.

“We changed the power play a bit,” Roll said. “We’re going with what we feel are our best five guys [Nick Dodge, David Cayer, Steve Zalewski, Shawn Weller and Grant Clitsome], whereas we used to have two even units.”

Now, he said, they have the primary unit and the secondary squad. The Knights lead the ECACHL in both power-play (25 percent) and penalty-kill (92.2 percent) productivity in league games, though Roll is still seeking improvement in one area: penalties taken.

“We gotta limit the penalties,” he said of his oft-boxed team — nearly 28 minutes per game. “Eventually it’s gonna catch up with us.”

The Knights enjoy an extended breather until December 29, when they meet Wisconsin in the opening round of the Badger Showdown.

Bobcats still in transition

Head coach Rand Pecknold’s feelings about his team after 14 games can be summed up pretty succinctly:

“We’re happy,” he said, “… to a point.”

Quinnipiac is in a four-way tie for second place with two more league games to play before the break. The ‘Cats host struggling Union and Rensselaer at the soon-to-be-obsolete Northford Ice Pavilion, as final touches are made to the new TD Banknorth Sports Center on the QU campus.

But before the Bobcats can taste success in their new digs, they must first recapture the intensity and drive they possessed earlier in the season.

Case in point: their last two games, at Harvard and Dartmouth before last week’s bye.

“We just got outworked both nights, which we as a team cannot accept,” said Pecknold. “When a team has some success, they get complacent; that’s about as well as I can put it.”

Pecknold has been happy with his special-teams units, however. The QU PP is third in the league in overall effectiveness, scoring just shy of 20 percent of the time. Not to be outdone, the ‘kill is tops in the ECACHL, with an 89 percent success rate overall (not just league games).

“The power play has been very good, and the penalty kill as well,” said the coach. “Last year, the power play was fifth or sixth in the league, and we were 11th on the penalty kill, which was just unacceptable. Now, we’re first in the league.”

Where QU is at its most significant crossroads, according to Pecknold, is defensively.

“To generalize, we’re a very good offensive team, but we need to get better defensively. Probably our best defensive forward [senior assistant captain Michael Bordieri] is out, possibly for the year … You can win with a great offense to a point, but not championships,” Pecknold concluded.

(Freshman Chris Meyers — not to be confused with Chris Myers — is also out for the season, while first-year blueliner Sami Liimatainen has been cleared to play, but is not in game shape just yet.)

The bench boss analyzed his forwards as being inadequate at anticipating turnovers, bad bounces and the like.

“They’re always going, going, going,” he said.

Despite what he identified as a major improvement in gap control, Pecknold needs his team to find that “commitment to play defensively,” he said.

On the brighter side, Quinnipiac has one of the deepest offenses in the league. In the mid-November sweep of Colgate and Cornell, the Bobcats scored eight goals, not a one of them coming from the top line of Bryan Leitch, Ben Nelson and Jamie Bates.

“We don’t need to rely on [freshman and leading scorer Brandon] Wong to score,” said the coach. “We have three lines that can score; that kind of balance is important.”


I’m very disappointed in all of you. Only four responses to last week’s question? I’m going to ask again, and won’t post a new question ’til I hear from a representative of every school.

If it were up to you to retire one number (clarification: belonging to an individual, not just a prolific number) that is as-of-yet available to your team, what number (belonging to whom)? And obviously, why?

I know there’s a whole Big House worth of cubicle-critters out there with nothing better to do with your Fridays than harass me, and wait for the evening’s games. So get on it. [email protected]