November 4, 2004
Starting Over in the ECACHL

By Joe Gladziszewski

 ECACHL Notebook

Scott Mifsud and Vermont are among the ECACHL competitors with impressive non-conference performances.

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It's always tough to get an early read on the pecking order in the ECAC Hockey League. Since the Ivy League teams begin practices after the other six member schools have already played several games, there is no single starting point to judge the teams from. The varying strength of opposition that each team faces makes comparisons difficult. Is Vermont's sub-.500 record against top competition more impressive than Cornell's blowouts of Army and Sacred Heart?

And so we arrive at this weekend, the start of ECACHL play, where those aforementioned problems are a thing of the past. Brown and Harvard began the conference schedule last week with a 2-2 tie, and this week sees all 12 member teams going against other conference opposition. The 22 ECACHL games that make up a team's schedule are particularly important for playoff positioning, and the best chance to win the conference tournament and earn an automatic spot in the NCAA Tournament.

As the ECACHL season hits full stride this weekend, we do know that four teams enter the league season with more optimism and momentum than others, while five others have seen both positives and negatives, and three more can use a fresh start within the league to erase the memories of a difficult beginning.

Looking Up: Four teams can feel particularly good about how things have gone thus far, beginning with Vermont, as the Catamounts proved they can play with anyone in the nation by getting a win and a tie on the road against then top-ranked Minnesota-Duluth. We'll take a closer look at the Catamounts later on.

Vermont's results at UMD were a huge surprise, and the early-season emergence of St. Lawrence is also a bit of a surprise. The Saints have gone up against the toughest schedule of any team in the entire country and have come out of it with a 4-3-1 record. They capped their great stretch of early-season play by sweeping Miami at Appleton Arena last weekend.

Cornell is perfect in two games thus far after blasting Army and Sacred Heart by identical 7-1 scored. The Big Red scored what would usually be considered a month's worth of goals by their recent standard in just a single weekend.

Finally, Rensselaer has found plenty of offense (30 goals in seven games) and stands at 4-2-1 after beating Mercyhurst on Saturday.

Jury's Out: As mentioned earlier, Brown and Harvard played a 2-2 tie to start the year. Brown's good news comes in the fact that a pair of freshmen (Paul Baier and Sean Hurley) scored the goals in that game. Harvard's optimism comes from a seven-goal surge against the U.S. Under-18 team and a four-point weekend from freshman Dave Watters.

Colgate rattled off a four-game winning streak to start the year and appeared ready to strongly defend its ECACHL regular-season championship of 2003-04 but the Raiders are just 1-2-0 since that time, including a 3-2 loss to Army on home ice.

Dartmouth joins Colgate among the favorites for the title this year and the Big Green had mixed results in its opening weekend of play. Dartmouth fell 2-1 to Quinnipiac and goaltender Jamie Holden. Dartmouth had a 43-11 shot advantage in the game.

Last week's notebook took a look at Princeton and the Tigers are continuing to show some offensive improvement after getting five in a tie against Alabama-Huntsville on Saturday.

Clean Slate: Big things were expected from Clarkson this year and the Golden Knights haven't lived up to those expectations with two wins in six games. The Knights did get a boost when highly-touted freshman Shawn Weller joined the lineup for the most recent pair of games after being cleared to participate by the NCAA Clearinghouse. He missed the first four Clarkson games and two exhibition games due to uncertainty regarding a high school mathematics course he took in ninth grade.

Union got its first win of the year but finds itself searching for offense again this year. The Dutchmen have just four even-strength goals in six games, and 10 total goals. That's a big reason for a 1-5-0 start.

Yale started its season with losses to Alabama-Huntsville and St. Cloud State, and allowed 15 goals in those games, while scoring just twice.


Lessons Learned – After earning a win and tie at Minnesota-Duluth, Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon wanted to talk about two losses to Niagara. One week before knocking off the top-ranked team in the country, the Catamounts were swept by Niagara.

"I think the most valuable lesson we learned was last weekend against Niagara. They are an excellent hockey club, and I think our guys took them a little lightly and we didn't execute our game plan. That was probably the most important weekend," Sneddon said.

"When you look at strength of schedule, with Maine and BU and the Bulldogs, our guys should feel confident that we can play with anyone in the country right now. But I think we learned a lot of lessons last weekend about ourselves, and that has helped us."

Sneddon said that the team applied lessons learned during those losses to the Purple Eagles and became a more composed, dedicated, complete hockey team. Players accepted roles and it paid off.

Friday's alright and Saturday's good, too – St. Lawrence's success over ranked opponents on Fridays (win at Michigan State, win at Maine, win vs. Miami) hasn't led to Saturday prosperity until this past weekend the Saints maintained Friday's momentum and completed the weekend sweep of the RedHawks. Prior to this week's Saturday win, the Saints were 0-3-1 in games played on Saturdays and Sundays.

As expected, T.J. Trevelyan (10 points in eight games) and John Zeiler pace the offense, and senior goaltender Mike McKenna has stopped 92 percent of the shots he's faced. Trevelyan had six points in the sweep of Miami and was the ECACHL Player of the Week.


Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Clarkson at Rensselaer (Fri.);
St. Lawrence at Rensselaer (Sat.)
Not only does it include a game against a hated rival, but RPI fans will celebrate Adam Oates Night and Black Friday when Clarkson visits. Saturday's game matches two of the surprise teams in the league thus far and both are playing well heading into the weekend.

While You're There: What college hockey fan doesn't love picking up a rare jersey? If you're headed to Friday's game, bring along some extra cash or that trusty credit card as the team's special black jerseys (including one worn by Oates during the ceremony) will be auctioned off during the game and presented to winning bidders immediately afterward.

Stick Salute

Kudos to Joe Fallon, a Bemidji, Minn. native who was a big reason for Vermont's success against Minnesota-Duluth. Fallon, a freshman goaltender, returned to his home state and stopped 69 shots from the Bulldogs while allowing just four goals during the weekend.

Bench Minor

You'd think that a 10-0 loss is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but for Yale it's becoming an annual event. For the second straight season, the Bulldogs were beaten 10-0 by a WCHA opponent. One year ago, it was a road game at North Dakota. This past weekend, St. Cloud State rolled over Yale in New Haven.

• Congratulations to RPI coach Dan Fridgen for becoming the all-time winningest coach in the program's illustrious hockey history. When the Engineers defeated Mercyhurst 5-0, Fridgen earned his 187th win behind the bench and passed Mike Adessa atop the coaching wins list.

• By tying Brown in his first official game behind the Harvard bench, Ted Donato kept up a Harvard tradition. None of the last 10 Harvard coaches has lost his coaching debut.

• Donato will lead his team into Cornell's Lynah Rink this weekend. The normally hostile environment for visiting teams becomes downright raucous when hated Harvard comes to town. This marks the second straight year that Cornell administration is asking fans not to throw fish on the ice prior to the start of the game, instead recommending that fans shower the ice with stuffed toys. The toys will be collected and donated to the "Cops, Kids, and Toys" program.

• Princeton junior captain Patrick Neundorfer had a hat trick in the 5-5 tie against Alabama-Huntsville, and freshmen Landis Stankievech and Erik Pridham had points in both games last weekend, their first two games as Tigers.

• It's the annual Silver Puck Weekend at Colgate, and that means that Saturday's game against Harvard will start at 4 p.m. The Silver Puck banquet will begin at 8 p.m. Colgate is celebrating its 75th year of varsity hockey.

• Harvard goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris stopped Brown's Brian Ihnacak on a penalty shot in last weekend's tie.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.

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