This Week in ECAC Hockey: Jan. 10, 2008

A Tale of Two Home Games

Quinnipiac saw two-goal first-period leads disappear by the final horn in each of its two games last weekend. Fortunately for the Bobcats, they didn’t lose either game.

Playing host to Harvard on Friday night, the ‘Cats jumped all over the Crimson and goaltender Kyle Richter with three first-period goals on seven shots. Out to a 3-1 lead at the first intermission, QU crumpled under intense Crimson pressure in the second frame.

Harvard scored four-on-four and five-on-four (A.K.A. “power-play”) goals in the second, and played a solid road game en route to a 3-3 tie.

“We lost a lot of first-period battles [despite the score] … the defense was sluggish,” admitted coach Rand Pecknold. “We were just opportunistic,” he said, and concluded that “Harvard played a great road game.”

Against Dartmouth, the hosts found themselves on the other end of an early lead. The Big Green were up 2-0 with 45 minutes to play, again by way of four-on-four and power-play tallies. Quinnipiac scored before the end of a wild first period in which QU outshot the Green 12-11.

The Bobcats knotted the game in the second, but surrendered another tiebreaking goal four minutes into the third before roaring off with a 5-3 win.

“It was nice to battle back, but bad to be down [so early],” said Pecknold.

The ‘Cats hit the road for their next three games, including a Saturday-night showdown with Whitney Avenue neighbor Yale.

Which brings us to …

Watching Whitney

The Whitney Ave. rivalry (henceforth to be known as the Whitney War … or some variation thereof) has been a long time coming, and still has a little ways to go before matching the ferocity of, say, Harvard-Cornell or Clarkson-St. Lawrence.

“There’s definitely a rivalry with Yale,” said QU’s Pecknold. “The schools are only five or six miles apart … the games have been very intense.”

One interesting aspect of this local loathing is that in the seven years that Quinnipiac played D-I hockey before joining the ECAC, the two programs never met once.

“People kept asking me, ‘so when are you going to play Yale?’,” Pecknold recalled.

In the two and a half seasons since, QU has beaten the Bulldogs three times in four tries and has outscored them 21-12. Let’s see if the Eli can’t draw a little blood of their own.

Back to Basics

That’s the message that Harvard head coach Ted Donato is preaching this week.

“I think maybe we looked at long-term goals a little too much,” he said of his team. “We got away from what we were doing well: staying out of the box, running the power play, playing physical hockey.”

The Crimson are on an 0-5-2 skid dating back to a December 4 loss at Rensselaer. They’ve only scored 13 goals in that stretch, and only once potted more than two in a game (in last weekend’s aforementioned 3-3 draw with Quinnipiac). Meanwhile, the rearguard has surrendered twice as many — 26 — and has given up eight goals in 35 shorthanded situations.

The lowlight of the slide may have been the home 7-2 drubbing sustained at the hands of Beanpot rival Boston College. The Crimson allowed four power-play goals in 10 opportunities, and failed to mark Eagles sniper Nathan Gerbe, who scored four goals and added an assist for good measure.

“We’ve played well enough to win, but we’ve left the doors open to lose … and we have [lost],” said Donato of his team’s recent hardships. “We played a 50-minute game against Quinnipiac … and we were ahead at Princeton for [48] minutes. We tried to hold onto the lead, instead of adding to it,” he lamented.

“We’ve gotta get back to the basics. We played a lot of hockey at the end of November and in early December, and we got away from what we were doing.”

This weekend will pit the Crimson against last year’s first- and second-place finishers, Clarkson and St. Lawrence.

“Sometimes when you’re struggling, playing good hockey teams can be the best remedy,” Donato mused.

Harvard’s student population is also in the midst of the pre-exam reading period, and the big games may prove to be an effective outlet for so much mental stress. The Crimson have next weekend off, followed by a single game at Dartmouth on the 26th.

Just as the regular-season finish line becomes visible off in the distance, the Beanpot and league schedule conspire to really put Harvard to the test.

Familiar Face in a Different Place

When last we heard from Augie DiMarzo, the sophomore forward had been dismissed from Union College after playing seven games in the fall of 2006.

His separation from the hockey program and the institution at large was not for a lack of talent: in 44 games over two seasons, the agile DiMarzo netted eight goals with 22 assists. He finished second on the team in scoring as a freshman, and Union went 19-19-8 in his time as a member of the hockey program.

Since then, the 5’8″, 150-pound Connecticut native has been searching for a way to continue his hockey career. Union, on the other hand, has worked hard to dissociate from him entirely.

The fact of the matter is, DiMarzo left Schenectady on anything but good terms last year. Following an alleged incident on campus, the underclassman could’ve considered himself fortunate to stay out of prison. Union head coach Nate Leaman promptly cut DiMarzo from the team, and a student judiciary committee later ruled for DiMarzo’s expulsion.

Already barred from NCAA play for an academic year by transfer rules, Union also refused to grant his release to other ECAC hockey programs (standard practice given the circumstances). This meant that for one full year — the maximum length of time that his release could be withheld — Union’s league-mates were prohibited from communicating with DiMarzo in any way.

The 21-year-old returned home to southern Connecticut, and became a part-time student at Quinnipiac. According to Bobcats head coach Rand Pecknold, DiMarzo inquired of the hockey program, but was refuted on the grounds of Union’s non-release.

DiMarzo instead made his way to upstate New York, where he enrolled full-time at St. Lawrence.

Now two semesters separated from Union, DiMarzo is confirmed to be skating with the Saints, and is on track to become a full-time, game-playing member of the team next fall. (Even though he has not been a student at Union for a full year, transfer rules stipulate that an athlete must spend two full semesters at his new institution before he is eligible to play there.)

The four-in-five rule will still give DiMarzo the ’08-09 and ’09-10 seasons to play, and he would graduate SLU at the age of 24. DiMarzo’s drama may not be complete just yet, however: sources familiar with the situation have made it clear that Union policy prohibits expelled students from returning to campus in any capacity, including as a visiting student-athlete.

It should make for some interesting Saints-Dutchmen tilts in coming years, to say the least.

Coaches’ Corner

With last weekend’s St. Lawrence-UNH game on our minds, we went to the coaches wondering about NHL versus Olympic-sized rinks.

Not surprisingly, none of the league’s coaches specifically preferred the larger 100×200-foot Olympic sheets. Some said that they had no preference one way or the other, but all agreed that it definitely makes a difference: big ice means more skating, less hitting, and a lot more space … especially on a power play.

The second half of the two-part query, however, elicited some more passionate responses: should the NCAA regulate and standardize rink dimensions?

Feedback ranged from definitive “aye”s to more political “nay”s, but with different priorities in mind for each respondent.

One coach made the obvious point that many NCAA players have NHL aspirations, and should therefore be accustoming themselves to NHL dimensions. Perimeter play can counter perimeter play on the big ice as well, whereas the tighter nature of an NHL-style game encourages greater strength, quickness, decision-making and scoring.

Another coach believed that it should be up to each individual school to decide what’s best for its team and its program. It would be financially unrealistic to standardize all the existing rinks, and furthermore, the variability adds to the charm of college hockey, said one coach.

For what it’s worth, I personally believe that bigger ice is better for the players, and therefore the game. More space encourages more creativity and sharper skills: passes have to be that much crisper when they’re going 10 feet further. Trap-hockey would be much harder to play effectively, as would the dump-and-chase offense … of course, if there were no trap, there would be very little reason to ever dump-and-chase.

I strongly agree with one coach’s opinion, however, that all NCAA tournament games should be played on NHL ice. It’s the more common size for collegiate ice sheets, and it’s the size that the North American public is most familiar with.

Don’t even get me started on the NHL’s idea of changing the dimensions of the goal; this is a family-friendly column.


• St. Lawrence will be skating without Pat Muir for at least three more weeks. The senior forward is pointless in only four games this season, and is steadily recovering from a sports-hernia surgery. Goaltender Justin Pesony is still tending to a high-ankle sprain suffered in late November, and the team is hopeful that he’ll be back in a few weeks as well.

• Junior defenseman Jack Christian is doubtful for Harvard’s high-octane weekend, as is freshman goaltender Ryan Carroll.

• The Raiders are as healthy as they’ve been all year, but David McIntyre is still considered day-to-day after already missing the Badger Showdown over the winter break. The sophomore forward has scored four goals with 10 assists in 15 games thus far.