For St. Lawrence coach Morris, back in the NCAA has ‘been an eye-opener’

Kyle Hayton (St. Lawrence - 27). (Shelley M. Szwast)
Kyle Hayton will need to be steady and solid for St. Lawrence this season with new coach Mark Morris behind the bench (photo: Shelley M. Szwast).

Mark Morris’ first win as St. Lawrence’s head coach came against a school that didn’t even a have Division I hockey program during his last stint as a collegiate coach.

The Saints’ 6-3 win over Penn State on Oct. 7 was Morris’ first NCAA win since 2002. He spent the 14 years since then as a coach AHL and NHL after being let go by Clarkson three games into the 2002-03 season.

New competition isn’t the only thing that’s changed for Morris, who took over as the Golden Knights’ coach in 1989.

“It’s been an eye-opener for me; it’s been quite a while since I’ve been back in the college game,” said Morris, who was hired at St. Lawrence on May 3 following Greg Carvel’s departure for Massachusetts. “It’s certainly a lot different than it was in the past; we’re recruiting younger players and things of that nature.”

On the ice, Morris inherited a talented group of players that has advanced to the ECAC championship weekend two seasons in a row.

St. Lawrence is off to a 3-1 start this season, thanks to a balanced offense and goalie Kyle Hayton, who is poised to be the top goaltender in ECAC Hockey this year. The Saints also have one of better skating defensive groups in the league.

“It’s a nice situation to come into,” said Morris, who is the only coach to win 300 college and 300 professional games.

Morris, a Massena, N.Y. native who played at Colgate and was an assistant at St. Lawrence under Joe Marsh from 1985 to 1988, is excited to be back in the collegiate game after a lengthy absence.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Morris said. “I’ve always been interested in the ECAC, especially watching the last 14 years how the league has grown and progressed. I think about the fact that some of these programs continue to be in the hunt for national prominence. It’s really heartwarming to see that the league has remained strong and being able to look at the personalities and people that I’ve been associated with in the past. It brings a great amount of pride to myself and I’m also glad to have the opportunity to be back in college hockey.”

Big Red helping out

Cornell’s season doesn’t officially start until Oct. 28, when it travels to face Merrimack, but the Big Red kept plenty busy in the offseason.

Members and friends of the hockey program spent part of the summer on a mission trip in the Dominican Republic. It’s the fourth time since 2009 the team have traveled to the country.

During its trip, members from Cornell have built schools and churches for residents of the Dominican Republic.

“We’re really seen the quality of life improve,” Big Red coach Mike Schafer said, adding that the government has helped build on to the schools that were built during previous trips. “It’s always an experience for our people to go down and see the quality of life. This past year, we were able to bring down computers and 22 bags of shoes and clothes. It was a just a phenomenal experience.”

But while trip presents a chance for Cornell to do some good on the island, it also gives Schafer a chance to get to know his players better.

“The biggest thing is getting to know the players in a five-day span [and] I get to know them better in those five days then I do during a whole year,” he said. “No phones, no electricity, no nothing. It’s a tremendous experience to see them grow.”

Part of that growth comes by being able to see people live their lives without the things that most Americans take for granted.

“To see the relationships that the people have down there; they have nothing,” Schafer said. “They teach us really what kind of relationships we should be having in the United States. It’s a tremendous experience and something that we hope to continue for many years.”

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Around the league

• Despite the graduation of Jason Kasdorf, Rensselaer looked to be set in goal with sophomore Cam Hackett, who filled in admirably for a stretch last season when Kasdorf was out with an injury. But it’s been sophomore Chase Perry, a Detroit draft pick and Colorado College transfer, who has started the first three game of the season for the Engineers. Perry has an .886 save percentage, but he’s not the only culprit for the team’s 0-3 start. RPI has scored five goals thus far and is 1-for-19 on the power play. The goals likely won’t come in bunches for the Engineers this season, but its defense and goaltending should be strong.

• St. Lawrence defenseman Gavin Bayreuther (player), Clarkson forward Devin Brosseau (rookie), and Hayton (goalie) were named ECAC Hockey’s weekly award winners by the league on Tuesday.

• Jimmy Vesey and Rob O’Gara met plenty of times on the ice during their careers at Harvard and Yale, respectfully. Now it looks like the two will play against each other for the fifth straight season – only this time in the NHL. Vesey, who signed with the New York Rangers after a much-publicized free agency this past summer, has played in all three of the Rangers’ games so far, scoring his first NHL goal Monday against San Jose. Meanwhile, injuries to Boston’s defense gave O’Gara an opportunity to make the Bruins’ opening-night roster. He’s played in each of the Bruins’ first three games. New York and Boston meet for the first time this year on Oct. 26.

• Finally, former Connecticut coach and current Franklin Pierce coach Bruce Marshall passed away last weekend. I began my career at USCHO as an arena reporter at UConn, covering every home game for a team that 7-27-3. Despite being a new reporter straight out of college, Marshall was always respectful and helpful after games, despite what must have been a frustrating season. Marshall was honored with a moment of silence prior to Quinnipiac’s game against the Huskies on Wednesday night.

 

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