This Week in ECAC Hockey: Nov. 29, 2007

So long, unbeaten streak. The St. Cloud State Huskies finally vanquished the Clarkson Golden Knights on their home ice, after 19 games and a year and two weeks without a defeat.

The longest current home unbeaten streak in the ECAC now belongs to…you’ll never believe this…Union, who have played four straight at the Achilles Center without a loss. Clarkson still holds the longest such streak in league play, of course, with 16 straight tilts and counting at Cheel without a defeat.

So Long, Big Apple

If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

So the question posed to the Big Red regarding their trip to the Big Apple is…can they now contend on a greater stage, because they actually made it to New York City? Or have we misinterpreted the line?

Given the pounding they endured at the hands of sub-.500 Boston University, it seems as though Cornell has a ways to go before booking airfare for Denver.

The up-and-down Terriers took a quick look at the Red, and found a way to win. While Harvard triumphed by hitting with a vigor equal to that of the visiting Ithacans two weeks ago, BU preferred to shirk the issue altogether. Cornell head coach Mike Schafer has preached physicality and strength since day one this season, and the Terriers countered by beating the Big Red forwards to the corners on dump-ins, and generally keeping the play toward the middle of the ice.

A three-to-one advantage for Cornell in the stands didn’t translate into such dominance on the ice at Madison Square Garden last Saturday, as Cornell was forced to play away from the boards, where they have found success so far this season. The Red defense didn’t clear the front of Ben Scrivens’ crease very effectively; combined with a few big rebounds, the Bostonians put three quick goals behind the sophomore goalie around the midpoint of the first period.

This isn’t intended as a recap; Mindy Drexel already did a fine job with that. Rather, it’s a foreboding assessment of Cornell’s play in two of the last three games. Even against a young Dartmouth team, Scrivens faced more shots than the Big Green’s Mike Devine.

Hold onto your hats, Lynah faithful; you might be in for a turbulent ride.

Congrats and Encouragement

While it may not seem like much, I’d personally like to congratulate the fans at Cornell, Harvard and Clarkson for hitting at least 90 percent average capacity so far this season.

It’s no surprise that the Lynah Faithful lead the pack; they numbered a good 10,000 strong in NYC last weekend, if not more, and — artificially or not — no one in the nation has a better capacity rate than Cornell’s 109.3 percent (nearly 4,200 fans a game in an arena for 3,836).

Clarkson is falling only a few hundred fans short of a sellout each game, as is Harvard, which is especially impressive given the competing attractions in greater Boston.

However, is there any excuse for Quinnipiac’s 83 percent average? A second-year, first-rate facility that seats nearly 3,300 should draw better than the 2,725 it’s getting now. Saints fans! You have a modest 3,000-seat arena and the defending regular-season champs on the ice. And you’re going to sit back and let Clarkson out-draw you by 450 fans a game?

Colgate, Brown and Princeton bring up the rear in the league, each drawing between 60 and 70 percent of their arenas’ respective capacities. To have a look for yourself, check it out. We think of everything here at USCHO.

Don’t accuse me of looking for filler; I believe passionately that it is the atmosphere that makes sports — any sport, anywhere — truly great. ECAC Hockey teams play in by far the smallest venues of the four major conferences; that fact is in and of itself a detriment to recruiting and, therefore, success.

The scholastics speak for themselves in this league, and the coaches and campuses are second to none. But is it so hard to believe that the aura surrounding RPI hockey, Yale hockey, Dartmouth hockey…feeling the boards quiver with the sheer volume of the crowd…can mean so much to the strength and energy of a program?

Your team, your game — for once — is in your hands.

The UC

References to The OC haven’t been topical in some time. The Dutchmen, on the other hand, are working hard to keep the UC material as relevant as ever.

While the rest of the league has a half-dozen conference games or more in its rear-view, Union and Rensselaer are content to play catch-up later on.

“We’re not out of it by any means,” said Union coach Nate Leaman.

The coach pointed out that four of the team’s six, pre-break games are on the road, and that the Dutch are outshooting opponents by a 32-21 average.

“[Opposing goaltenders] have stopped about .961 [percent] of our shots, while we’re at .865,” said the coach. “It’s just a matter of playing a 60-minute game.”

Leaman stated that Corey Milan will get the nod on Friday night, with Saturday’s starter yet to be determined. Milan stopped 50 of 55 shots at UMass last Sunday in a 5-2 loss, a game of which Leaman said “it was like we were still in exams”.

“We were making a lot of mental errors,” the coach said of his team’s only game since Union College’s exam period.

While the squad won’t have many point-games under its belt by New Year’s, the Garnet and White aren’t about to get rusty all over again. Union tangos with Hockey East foes Providence and Northeastern next weekend, then hosts Nebraska-Omaha to wrap up the fall schedule.

Improving, Tout Suite!

So is the ‘Tute sweet? Well, according to coach Seth Appert, RPI isn’t too sweet yet.

In a tie and loss in their own tournament, the Engineers simply couldn’t cobble together a complete effort.

“We had 46 shots [against American International], and six or seven others that hit the post. We created enough offense, we just didn’t finish,” said Appert.

Against Notre Dame, the Engineers were considerably more restrained. Despite only 18 total shots — and a mere deuce in the third period — the home team had a 3-0 lead on the top-flight Irish. Then the bottom fell out.

“We need to find ways to win close games,” said the coach after the eventual 4-3 loss. “Our problem is with experience. Our seniors and juniors haven’t won many games with RPI…they haven’t played in many big games.”

“You can not run from [disappointment],” he said. It must always teach a lesson.

Behind a defensive corps composed entirely of freshmen and sophomores, goaltenders Mathias Lange and Jordan Alford have been nothing short of stellar. Each has a goals-against average under two, and a save percentage over .930. Spectacular stuff guarding Troy’s twine.

Three’s a Crowd

Quinnipiac and Princeton tangled in an unusual regular-season three-fer last week, with QU taking two and Princeton grabbing a game for itself. Fortunately for the Tigers, one of the Bobcat wins counted as a non-conference game…hence the quirk-of-schedule.

“It certainly was unusual,” said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold. “Both of us had back-to-back off weekends, so why not get the game done while the kids are on Thanksgiving break,” he said, instead of shoe-horning a non-conference game into a busy spring schedule.

There’s a phrase that reads, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” There are examples to back this up everywhere, both in the sports world and elsewhere. This series didn’t disappoint.

“The second and third games were much more physical. There were certainly some agitators on both teams,” Pecknold said of the combined 46 penalties in the three tilts.

Now thoroughly sick of each other, the travel partners have quite a while before they may meet again. Anybody say best-of-three?


Rensselaer head coach Seth Appert marked John Kennedy as “hopeful” for last weekend’s tournament. Unfortunately, he has yet to recover from a nagging injury, and is doubtful for this weekend as well.

Union’s Luke Cain is still unavailable, said coach Nate Leaman.

Quinnipiac is pretty banged up, despite Bud Fisher’s return. Junior forward Mark Nelson is out indefinitely. Sophomore blueliner Sami Liimatainen is a “maybe” for this weekend, along with senior forward Dan Travis and defensive classmate Matt Sorteberg.