Five Ivies and a (premature) funeral

Rocky Iles

Yes, sure, of course, we’re only 60 minutes into Cornell’s season, but this may be the only opportunity for me to use this catchy sub-head.

While veteran head coach Mike Schafer lambasted his team’s effort, preparedness and decision-making in a stunning 5-4 season-opening loss to Mercyhurst at Lynah on Saturday, it should be noted – for whatever little it may be worth – that goalie Andy Iles wasn’t above criticism either. The sophomore goalie pitched, statistically, the second-worst game of his young career in allowing five goals on 19 shots. As for the lowest of his lows? That happened to be the last NCAA game he played prior: March 19 in Atlantic City, in which Iles surrendered five goals on 15 shots in the game’s opening 28:37. Yale won that game – the league championship game, as a matter of fact – 6-0.

Iles is a very sharp, talented student-athlete and I am in no way trying to vilify him for either of the aforementioned losses. If anything, I am pointing out a notable (if unfortunate – for Cornell, at least) exception to what has so far been Iles’ generally stellar play. Schafer didn’t crucify him after the game, nor did the local papers, as he was put in a few very challenging situations against the uppity Lakers (and for that matter, Yale).

All I’m sayin’ is, a .737 save percentage and a 5.09 goals against average is no way to start your year.

Shootout Redux

This year’s Ivy Shootout went to… I’m not really sure. Yale, I suppose? The Bulldogs went 1-0-1 in Hanover this weekend, followed by Dartmouth and Brown (1-1-0) and Princeton (0-1-1). Notes follow:

Brown: Youth is being served – or is youth doing the serving? – for Bruno early on, as three of Brown’s four goal-scorers this weekend were underclassmen: frosh Ryan Jacobson and Massimo Lamacchia and sophomore Garnet Hathaway each tallied in Saturday’s win over Princeton, drawing Bruno back to .500 after a hard-fought 2-1 loss to heavily favored (ya know, if anyone actually set odds on these things) Dartmouth. Brown actually out-shot the Big Green in Friday’s tilt, but couldn’t find the twine on six power-play opportunities. On the other side of the coin, the Bears snuffed all six Green PP opps, as well.

Dartmouth: The hosts went 0-10 on the weekend, scuttling a very real shot at an impressive tourney sweep of Brown and Yale. The Big Green whiffed on each of six Friday power plays, as mentioned above, and tacked on four more failed advantages against Yale in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat. On a positive note, senior goalie James Mello is off to a great start, stopping 47 of 50 shots on the weekend, including 24 of 25 against Bruno. Rookie forwards Tyler Sikura and Eric Neiley each potted their first collegiate goals, with Sikura’s late strike ending up as the game-winner on Friday.

Princeton: The Tigers were the only team to return home from the Granite State without a W, but a draw against Yale is no easy feat, and for that they should feel a bit of consolation. It was also nice to see that some of former coach Guy Gadowsky’s “shoot now, ask questions later” tactics survived the summer, as Princeton wired 67 shots on net over the weekend, including 39 versus Brown on Saturday. The Tigers took the losing end of the special-teams battles, going one for six on the PP but allowing two goals in eight shorthanded opportunities. Junior defenseman Michael Sdao (a personal favorite, as an Ottawa prospect) scored a goal each day, but he was also involved in a final-buzzer fracas with Brown’s Dennis Robertson that earned them each a five and a 10. No word yet on whether the league will suspend either of them for the throw-down. Sophomore goalie Sean Bonar stopped 28 of 30 shots in Friday’s tie; junior Mike Condon took the loss in allowing three goals on 26 shots Saturday.

Yale: The champs were handed something to think about on Friday as upstart Princeton stole a point (ok, there are no points given in non-conference games, I know). Not only did the Bulldogs – who have recently been the 2007 New England Patriots on Ice – only muster two goals in each of their tilts, but not a single player finished the weekend with multiple points. The special teams played pretty well, though, going two for eight on the advantage and blanking Princeton and Dartmouth in six combined power-play chances. (Plus, the Blue enjoyed more power plays than their opponents, which is a habit that last year’s team never fully developed.) Freshman forward Nicholas Weberg scored Yale’s first (D-I) goal of the season and ergo the first of his career against the Tigers, and for the moment it looks as though coach Keith Allain is leaning toward junior Jeff Malcolm to tend the cage: the heir-potential to Ryan Rondeau’s role saved 55 of 58 on the weekend.

One and done?

Rensselaer is in a bit of a funk.

An NCAA at-large bid last year, RPI has really put itself behind the eight ball if it hopes for a similar fate come March. An opening-weekend split with visiting Minnesota State in which the Engineers outscored the Mavericks 4-2 is all but forgotten now, washed out by the wake of a five-game goal-starved struggle.

The ‘Tute offense is gasping like a landed trout, sputtering out merely four goals in its last five games – all losses. The lack off scoring support is wearing on the defense and goaltending as well (or maybe it’s the other way around?) to the tune of 19 goals against over that stretch. Losing games by a goal over and over again is depressing, but 4-0, 2-0, 5-2, 4-1, 4-1? Scoring a goal or fewer in five of seven games to start the season is a hell of a honeymoon. It might be a good time for the team to have a trial separation.

To be fair, coach Seth Appert – no babe in the woods – likes the way his guys are playing, and all accounts have them flying around the ice playing a punishing, bruising breed of hockey that is sure to yield positive results in time. RPI doesn’t schedule cupcakes, and there’s little shame in dropping those five games to three teams each ranked in the top half-dozen in the nation (at Ferris State and Notre Dame, home against Colorado College). The team has suffered some major injuries already this year to the likes of forwards Greg Burgdoerfer, Marty O’Grady and Brock Higgs, which ain’t exactly helping matters in the goal department. Appert is positive and enthusiastic to a fault, and he’s the man I’d want behind my bench in a slump, to be sure.

The defense and the goaltending tandem of junior Bryce Merriam and rookie Scott Diebold look worse by the results than they actually are, as RPI has surrendered six empty-net goals already. (RPI’s team GAA is actually only 2.14, when you subtract the ENGs.) The offense is really the biggest concern, and it seems to me a bit unfair to dismiss the Engineers before they’re tested against the rest of the ECAC.

I only did it to make a point.