On Faceoffs and Playoffs

Last weekend, Union scored three goals in 6:29 to draw within 4-3 of host Harvard. The only problem was that the Dutchmen’s third goal, scored by defenseman and All-American candidate Mike Schreiber, lit the lamp with merely 3.4 seconds remaining.

Going for broke, Union coach Nate Leaman elected to keep goalie Corey Milan on the pine and set up his six skaters for the desperation draw at center-ice. With a center taking the draw, the five remaining Dutchmen lined up on the red line to the right-wing side.

The strategy was certainly unusual, if not ultimately successful.

“I didn’t have a time-out, and we didn’t have enough time to script it,” said Leaman. “That’s stuff you think about during the summer.”

Leaman preferred to keep us guessing at the design details of his “onside kick” formation, but he made up for his secrecy with a gem of a tactical tale from years past.

Relating a story from his days as a Harvard assistant, Leaman recalled a game against Yale when new Sacred Heart head coach C.J. Marottolo was still an assistant with the Bulldogs.

With a draw at the Yale blue line against the Bulldogs’ bench, Marottolo showed his genius as a tactician: the Blue & White won the draw, and the short-side winger promptly hopped the boards onto his bench. A player at the far end of the pine vaulted the dasher behind the oblivious Crimson defense, received a breakout pass and was off to the races on an uncontested breakaway.

Faceoff plays are often overlooked by the average fan, but sometimes those under-appreciated sets will positively drop your jaw.

ECAC Hockey Playoff Update

A Saturday afternoon amendment to this week’s “What We Know”: Yale beat St. Lawrence to knot the season series, negating head-to-head as a tiebreaker. Rensselaer beat Quinnipiac to take that tiebreaker, Union topped Princeton to claim the same advantage, and Brown beat Clarkson to wrest the head-to-head there. Cornell’s white-wash of Harvard gave the Big Red the season sweep, and Colgate’s tie at Dartmouth gave the Raiders the edge as well.

Final Standings Update

• Clarkson (8 points) can finish no higher than 10th, therefore assuring a first-round road trip.

• Dartmouth (12 points) and Princeton (14) can finish no higher than seventh.

• Brown (15 points) can finish no higher than fifth – out of contention for the bye – but no lower than 11th.

• Harvard (17 points) and Quinnipiac (18 ) can finish no higher than fourth, but no lower than 11th.

• St. Lawrence (20 points each) can finish between fourth and ninth.

• Colgate (20 points) can finish as high as third or as low as ninth.

• Rensselaer (22 points) can finish between first and eighth, insuring the Engineers of a first-round home series, if not a bye.

• Union (26 points), Yale and Cornell (28 each) have also clinched a bye week, but nothing more: either team could wind up as low as a No. 4 seed.