This is an awkward time of year, when there’s a lot of hockey being played but few reasonable assessments to be made. So let’s go with some less team-specific material this time, and give the league another weekend to clean itself up a bit before we pass any judgments.
The Rookie Report
Whether you’re a full-time or face-time kinda fan, there are some new names and numbers on the ice this season that bear watching. Here are a few freshmen making the most of their first year in college. (Ivy fans: before you jump down my throat, please realize that it’s hard to declare anyone “The Next Noah Welch” after six games, much less two. Patience.)
Spencer Heichman, Quinnipiac No. 44
Heichman leads the league’s rookie class in scoring so far with two goals and three assists. He has scored in each of his first four games, including the game-winning goal over American International and a shorthanded tally at Massachusetts-Lowell. The travel-sized five-six, 160-pound bullet hasn’t shirked his defensive responsibilities either, accumulating a plus-4 rating so far.
Austin Smith, Colgate No. 9
Colgate’s early cause cÃƒÂ©lÃƒÂ¨bre potted his first collegiate goal against Bentley, and has complemented that with three assists in four appearances. He’s showing up in the scoresheet so far, but only in the right places: he’s yet to see an ECAC penalty box. He’s not too big, but he compensates with speed, agility and vision.
Kelly Zajac, Union No. 21
The Dutchmen’s steal of a forward may only have three points in five games, but if you’ll recall from previous columns, his first game didn’t last long. Zajac has already scored two goals on seven shots, and is tied for third on the team at plus-3. He’s quick, he’s smart, and he’ll burn you in very un-freshman-type ways.
Alex Killorn, Harvard No. 21
This blue-chip recruit is fitting right in so far. His numbers aren’t extraordinary just yet (two assists in two games), but his play has been equal to that of veteran teammates and opponents. He looks extremely composed and confident out there, both with the puck and without.
Matt Hoyle, Harvard No. 34
He’s only two games in, of course, but so far Hoyle has been anything but questionable in Harvard’s blue paint. In surrendering lone goals to Dartmouth and Rensselaer, Hoyle has the early lead among the league’s netminders in overall save percentage (.966). He’s pretty sizable at six-two, and is technically sound and composed in early reviews. His lateral movement hasn’t been tested too much yet, but I’d be willing to hazard that whatever he might lack in quickness, he’ll make up for in technique.
Nick Pisellini, Quinnipiac No. 29
Could we have a goaltending controversy on our hands? The freshman Pisellini is second to Hoyle in save percentage right now at .952, and has allowed exactly one goal to each of his three opponents (AIC, UMass-Lowell and Connecticut). Workhorse Bud Fisher struggled in his two appearances thus far, allowing six goals on 42 shots to Union, and three goals on nine shots before being yanked against UML. Inconsistent goaltending has been one of the program’s primary shortcomings in the last year or two, and coach Rand Pecknold will assuredly play whoever he has to in order to settle his unpredictable team.
Paul Karpowich, Clarkson No. 30
He has appeared in each of Clarkson’s four games so far, starting three of them. That’s not even as impressive as the fact that his first two games were on the road (a win at RIT and a loss at Niagara), followed by back-to-back complete-game ties at home against the top-ranked Tigers of Colorado College. Talk about performing under pressure; the six-foot-two native of Thunder Bay, Ont. (I just love that name) has stopped 110 of 119 shots for a .924 save percentage and a 2.45 goals-against rate. Not a bad showing for a rookie.
ECAC Uni Watch
Some news and views on the colors we hold so dear.
Honoring Ned Harkness
Cornell and Rensselaer — two programs that legendary coach Ned Harkness helped put on the map — will honor his passing with commemorative additions to their regular uniforms. The Big Red will be wearing an “NH” sticker on the backs of their helmets this season (as will the lacrosse team), while the Engineers elected to don a black “Ned” shoulder patch.
RPI rolls out its sixth annual Black Friday jerseys this weekend against Harvard. The relatively recent tradition occasions the team’s ECAC home opener, and — apart from the game itself — is highlighted by the one-time-only appearance of black sweaters. The design changes from year to year, and is kept secret enough that even the players don’t know what they’ll be wearing until game night. (“They will be black, I can promise you that,” winked head coach Seth Appert.) The ultimate aesthetic is the joint brainchild of Appert, equipment manager Dana McGuane, and friend Mike Ehmcke, working with Phantom Wear — a Canadian apparel company owned by RPI alumnus Doug Shepherd.
In the stands, the ‘Tute faithful are encouraged to match the team’s hue, and any student doing so (wearing a black article of clothing) is granted free admission. Think “Big Red Freakout,” but in a more sinister tone. The team’s game-worn jerseys are then made available to the public: the seniors’ tops are auctioned off, while the rest are raffled.
Heads up at Clarkson
The Golden Knights altered their attire significantly this year, from the top on down. For starters, the defending regular-season champions ditched their green helmets in favor of yellow, which they’d worn in the past. (I refuse to call them gold, because … well … they’re not gold. Consider it a pet peeve when teams like the Green Bay Packers or Boston Bruins refer to one of their signature colors as “gold,” when it’s clearly yellow.) The Knights also traded out the interlocking “CU” on the front of their sweaters and subbed in a knight’s head, reminiscent of their icon from a few years back. They even changed socks (but did they have to add that white stripe around the knees? It just screams “volleyball” to me).
And that’s not all. The ever-patient Gary Mikel in ‘Tech’s Athletic Media Relations department also cued me in on a new alternate, which will likely debut in January. The piece will be yellow with “Clarkson” angling down the front, Rangers-style. Its appearance will be at coach George Roll’s discretion.
Tigers can change their stripes
Feeling frisky in the wake of their best season ever, the Princeton Tigers made some changes to their snappy-looking duds. While the road blacks remain the same, the home whites have been altered a bit: gone is the Canadiens-style (and
Colgate has altered both sets of unis as well. First off, the material has been swapped: the sweaters are now have more of a natural fabric look, as opposed to the artificial mesh appearance of years past. The home top has lost its gray (silver) stripes, but kept a bit of the edging around the numbers and letters. The maroon road jersey now features white lettering with gray trim, instead of the other way around.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Quinnipiac is sticking with the same white/yellow/blue alignment of last year. For those who missed the pattern, the Bobcats will wear their blues on the road, the whites on Friday home games, and the yellow alternate-style on Saturdays at the ‘Bank. Sunday and weekday games? Who knows; call it a game-time decision.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Harvard’s eagle-eyed Assistant Sports Information Director Casey Hart pointed me in the direction of a couple noteworthy nameplates in the Crimson’s opening games. It turns out that in their early-season haste, both Dartmouth and Rensselaer misspelled a couple players’ names. It seems Big Green senior Connor Shields’ surname was sewn on “Sheilds” (they’ve had four years to get that right, haven’t they?) and — more forgivably, perhaps — Engineers’ freshman backup goalie Joe Harkenrider read “Hakrenrider” on his back. I would’ve provided photographic evidence, but I didn’t have my camera on me.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Brown’s uniform earns high and low marks all at the same time. It hasn’t changed anything since last year, which is fine because I really like the script crest and the simple but distinctive color scheme … but my goodness, hasn’t anyone ever told them that dark brown and black don’t jive? Invest in some brown helmets and pants (or shells). Please. That’s really all that’s in the way of a really snazzy outfit. (No, it doesn’t bother me that they “borrowed” the jersey template from Boston University … as did Holy Cross.)
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ With Princeton, Quinnipiac, and — if only once — RPI now boasting third (or “alternate”) jerseys, what are the odds that a visiting team will forget to pack its home whites at some point this year? At least no other team in the league wears predominantly orange or yellow roads, so disaster seems unlikely.
Following the Leader
While the CCHA, Women’s Hockey East, and Women’s WCHA have adopted NHL-style shootouts as a gimmick to boost fan interest (is there really any other reason?), ECAC Hockey has — as of yet — passed on the idea. I hope to hear some of the costs and benefits of such a decision from Those at the Top, but that will have to wait until another week. Just for your information, though, any game that is decided in a shootout goes down as a tie in the NCAA’s eyes. That doesn’t make it meaningless by any stretch … it will have league playoff implications of course … but shootouts in the CCHA, etc. have no bearing on ECAC programs.
Changes that the league did implement, however, include the universal four-ref system and new icing and penalty rules.
Data from the new officiating arrangement are still inconclusive, but suffice to say there are an awful lot of penalties being called right now, and we all hope that both the players and the officials will find some consistency within the system sooner rather than later.
When a team ices a puck, given the new rules, the offending team is no longer allowed to change its lines: the players who were out when the puck was iced must stay out, just like in the NHL. This acts as a further discouragement against the play, along with the preexisting condition that the faceoff occurs in the offending team’s end.
Another pro-inspired change now dictates that a penalized team must take the faceoff proceeding the call in its own end, just like an icing call. The rules used to stipulate that the faceoff following a penalty call would take place at whichever dot was closest the last touch; now, the offending team is punished that much more with the risky draw location. (Did you know: in the “old days,” even minor penalties had to be served in their entireties, whether or not the power play scored? The ravenous power-play machine of the mid-century Montreal Canadiens led to the change in policy.)
Get it Right
… how to sound educated and, let’s face it, a bit elitist at the rink.
Quick team pronunciation guides:
Brownschidle — BROWN-shy-dull … Buvinow — BOO-vuh-now … Clemente — CLAH-men-tee … Connauton — cuh-NAW-ton … McMonagle — mack-MON-a-gull … Muncy — MUN-sea … Noiles — NOYLS … Pietrus — PEA-truss … Sibbald — SIB-bald … Slais — SLAYS … Thunell — thu-NELL … Zolnierczyk — ZOLL-ner-chick
Borowiecki — BOAR-uh-VESS-key … Cayer — KAI-yay … Daddario — duh-DARE-e-oh … D’Alvise — DELL-vees … Karpowich — CAR-poh-witch … Kosziwka — kuh-ZOO-kuh … LaVeau — LA-voh … Paquet — PAH-ket … Pizzo — PEA-zo … Rufenach — ROOF-uh-neck … Tuohimaa — TOO-uh-he-ma
Bessette — bess-SET … Bogdanich — BOG-duh-nich … Brisebois — BREEZE-bwah … Firman — FUR-man … McIntyre — MACK-in-tire … McNamara — MACK-nuh-MARE-uh … Nasca — NASS-kuh … Poplawski — puh-PLAW-skee … Prockow — PRO-cow
Devin — DEV-in … DiLeo — duh-LEE-oh … Garrow — GARE-oh … Krueger — CREW-ger … Roeszler — ROSS-ler … Scali — SKAL-ee
More coming next week.