This Week in ECAC Hockey: Nov. 15, 2007

Clarkson: No, of course I don’t want to break up! It’s just …

Colgate: Then what is it? Why are you pulling away so much, so soon? I don’t understand!

Clarkson: I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be mean here …

Colgate: It’s too early for this! We are destined to be so much more to each other!

Clarkson: Darling! Please … let’s just call it a “trial separation,” ok?

Jump to five months later: a baby in a crib, with golden hair and piercing maroon eyes …

Don’t you worry, folks; it’s still November, and this ECAC melodrama has only just begun …

Saints’ Fortunes Mixed On, Off The Ice

Right out of the gate, two wins.

But right on the heels of the victories, three straight losses and a skid in which SLU dropped five of six.

Now on the right side of a three-point weekend, Joe Marsh and St. Lawrence are hoping to have rebounded from a 1-3-0 start in ECAC Hockey. Yet after taking a close win at Princeton and drawing even at Quinnipiac, there is still so much more on the minds of the Saints than the upcoming homestand against Brown and Yale.

Matt Generous returned to the St. Lawrence lineup last weekend after missing four games.

“Getting him back was a real nice shot in the arm for us,” said Marsh, who foresees a smooth re-acclimation between Generous and his teammates on the ice this weekend.

Senior Justin Pesony, married last year, took time off to witness the birth of his first child last weekend. Following the delivery of his healthy daughter, Pesony returned for an MRI on his injured ankle. Suffice to say, he is unavailable for the time being.

Sophomore forward Travis Vermeulen is still out. Fifth-year senior Pat Muir had hernia surgery Wednesday — his second major injury of his SLU career, following a medical-redshirt freshman year. After appearing in only eight games his first three full seasons, he had already skated in four so far.

In a more unusual roster scratch, Marsh himself will surrender his post to associate head coach Chris Wells for Friday night’s game. Marsh drove from Canton to his hometown of Lynn, Mass., to attend a benefit function for a lifelong friend who has been diagnosed with ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Clearly, there have been much more important things to worry about recently than hockey.

That said, Marsh is pleased with how his team is coming along, despite the 4-5-1 record.

“I like this team a lot. I know we had higher expectations … but we’ve played some very good competition,” he said.

Looking back at last weekend, Marsh praised his charges for what he thinks is “going to be a very tough road trip” in the league this year. The new combination of Sean Flanagan and Nick Pitsikoulas flanking Jared Keller resulted in two go-ahead goals at Princeton, including the career-firsts for Keller and Pitsikoulas.

All four Saints goalies have played this year as well, and the fact that they’ve each played either two or three full games makes the fact even more unusual.

“We want to give everyone in the locker room a chance to contribute,” Marsh said of his goaltenders, as well as of his team at large.

Likely riding a rotation of grad student John Hallas and sophomore Alex Petizian for now, SLU looks practically guaranteed of always having a hot glove waiting in the wings.

Marsh … or Wells … is likely giving Petizian the nod on Friday against Brown, against whom Marsh said it is critical to generate second and third chances around the net.

“Brown keeps coming up with [goalies] who are lights-out,” said the veteran coach, with regards to former stars like Yann Danis and Adam D’Alba, and a nod to current standout Dan Rosen. “We’ve got to support the puck well [this weekend].”

Fear And Loathing, Volume CXXVI

Game number V for both teams, and it’s grudge-match time already. The Big Red Menace heads for the People’s Republic of Cambridge to put its three-game winning streak on the line, while Harvard tries to make it two in a row over the Ithacans and stretch its own W streak to four as well.

“The team that controls [its] emotions is the team that usually wins these kinds of games,” said Cornell (class of ’86) coach Mike Schafer.

“[This year] we’re finding ways to win games, when last year it felt like we found ways to lose,” said Harvard (class of ’91) coach Ted Donato.

Cornell emphasizes a strong, physical game, and has thus far avoided the trap of confusing emotional aggression with physical play. The Big Red have averaged exactly one more power-play chance per game than their opposition so far this season, and scored three times in eight opportunities in beating Brown 4-1 on Saturday. The fourth and final Cornell goal was scored five-on-six: Brown had lifted Rosen for the extra attacker.

Harvard, meanwhile, plays a quick, high-pressure game, and Donato likes to recruit defensemen who can really move the puck.

“We’re a very good skating team … and we’ve added more size,” said the coach.

The Crimson have also benefited from stellar goaltending early on, as sophomore Kyle Richter has performed brilliantly with a .975 save percentage and an 0.752 goals-against average. Yes, you read that right: 0.752. Oh, or were you gasping at the .975?

“We’ve had exceptional goaltending … it allows you to learn some lessons while still winning [games],” said Donato.

“We knew he was capable of being an outstanding goalie for us [when we recruited him]. This year, he’s more comfortable … he is seeing the puck very well,” he assessed.

For Cornell, Brendon Nash and Tyler Mugford are scratches for this weekend, but both are projected to be healthy for BU next week. Harvard-wise, Donato declared his team universally good-to-go.

It may be an interesting — read, excessively Cornell-friendly — atmosphere at Bright Friday evening, as Harvard’s band and presumably many students and alumni will be Yale-bound for Saturday’s edition of The Game.

Rolling With The Punches

Loss, loss, tie, tie, loss, loss.

Two goals, zero, two, three, zero, zero.

Well, wouldn’t be you upset if you coached this team? So would I … but not Union’s Nate Leaman.

“I’m not disappointed with how our team is playing,” he stated. “We’re playing good defense [20 goals against, 13 at even-strength over that stretch], keeping the shot [totals] low … we’ve outshot our opponents in every game but one,” he pointed out.

As the Dutchmen hit the books instead of the boards for exam week, their coach is both pleased and puzzled by his team’s performances to date. But the extra practice time notwithstanding, what Leaman is most happy with now is the chance to rest up players like Josh Coyle, who has only played three games this season as the team’s top returning scorer.

“I’ve been really happy with how our team’s been playing,” continued the coach. “We’re pretty young, and learning how to win in this league is pretty tough.”

One player who won’t benefit much from the break, however, is freshman winger Luke Cain. He went down with a season-ending broken ankle last weekend, and Leaman said that the program had already applied for a redshirt waiver for the talented forward.

Despite only tallying two goals and an assist in seven games, Cain “was consistently one of the top forwards … he was the best forward in the Dartmouth game,” Leaman lamented.

And as for the spotty showing between the Union pipes? Leaman is at a loss for words.

“We have the potential to be a lot better,” is all he said of Corey Milan and Justin Mrazek’s recent troubles.

“I have great confidence in the guys we have,” he said.

369 Days And Counting …

That’s how long it has been since Clarkson last lost a game at Cheel Arena. Riding a 4-1-0 start in ECAC play, the Knights are high on returning to home-sweet-Potsdam.

“Any time you can split on the road … and you always hope to sweep at home, [you’re in good shape],” said head coach George Roll.

For you trivia buffs, the last team to beat the Golden Knights on home ice was Princeton on November 11, 2006. For the record, that was the final game of a dismal home stretch for Roll and the boys, who fell to Quinnipiac the previous night, and also lost to the U.S. Under-18 team and Lake Superior in the span of a month.

The Knights’ Cheel record since? A smooth 15-0-3.

Why Coaches Are Smarter Than Us

Dartmouth split with Union and Rensselaer last weekend, beating the Dutchmen 4-0 Friday and losing 7-4 to the Engineers on Saturday.

Bob Gaudet was there for the whole 120 minutes, and came away with a surprising assessment.

“We played better on Saturday than on Friday,” he said, to my amazement. “I thought Union played very well against us; it should’ve been a one-goal game.”

Dartmouth just converted on an inordinate number of opportunities, said the seasoned coach.

Of the shootout with RPI, however, Gaudet said, “I like the way our kids played in every way but the score.”

The Green are feeling a bit more pink now too, to the coach’s relief.

“[John] Gibson is out, but making good progress,” Gaudet said of the third-year defenseman. Gibson isn’t practicing with the team just yet, but is skating again, said the coach. “[Jonathon] Wolter is back, and [Peter] Boldt is back to [playing like] himself,” continued Gaudet, speaking of his frosh defenseman and sophomore forward, respectively.


Rensselaer defenseman John Kennedy will “hopefully be back next week,” according to head coach Seth Appert. RPI is idle until next weekend, when the Engineers host American International in the first round of the Rensselaer Holiday Hockey Tournament. Alabama-Huntsville and Notre Dame finish out the quartet.

Defenseman Philippe Paquet re-injured his knee, and is out indefinitely for the Golden Knights. The junior has totaled two assists in three games so far this season.

Princeton forward Landis Stankievech will miss Saturday’s game at Quinnipiac, for — of all reasons — a Rhodes Scholarship interview. Only in the ECAC …