February 3, 2005
Bottoming Out

By Joe Gladziszewski

ECACHL Notebook

Jordan Webb and the Dutchmen have struggled lately.

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The statistics of the game fairly represent what happened on Tuesday night at Union’s Messa Rink. Harvard won 8-1. The Crimson led 3-0 after five minutes of hockey and chased the starting goalie. Or, you can listen to Union coach Nate Leaman’s post-game summary:

“You can’t come out and lay a bigger egg than we laid tonight,” he said. “It could be next to impossible to come out and lay a bigger egg.”

But Leaman also said this:

“It sounds strange, I know, but tonight’s game really helps us. Tonight’s game might have saved our season, to be honest.”

These quotes came in the aftermath of that drubbing by nationally ranked Harvard, on home ice, during a locally televised game. And a post-game meeting in the Union dressing room that lasted for over an hour.

The Dutchmen are mired in a seven-game losing streak and are just 1-10 in their last 11 ECACHL games. The scores of the last three losses have been 8-1, 7-1, and 5-1. It just can’t get any worse.

“Believe it or not, I think in order to take the right strides, sometimes you’ve got to hit rock-bottom and we’re definitely on the bottom right now. If we were a fish, we’d be a carp or a catfish. We’re against it,” Leaman said. “But there’s only one way to go, and it’s up. I think sometimes when you’re learning how to win, this can teach you how to win.”

Leaman didn’t go into the details of what was discussed in the meeting. He said there was an equal exchange between the players and the coaching staff.

“It was very positive. It wasn’t like a rough, battling meeting. We know that we’ve kind of hit a rock-bottom low and we talked about solutions.”

The perplexing part of Union’s slide down the ECACHL standings in Leaman’s eyes is that there’s a sense of desire and commitment to turning things around. Over the last couple of weeks, players have been excited and motivated to get things back on track, which wasn’t the case last season during a similar rough stretch.

“We’ve been practicing so well. It sounds amazing, but we’ve been competing so well and executing so well,” Leaman said. “One bad thing happens and it just steamrolls, and collapses on us. It’s been bewildering a bit. The guys come to the rink and they’re pumped. They want to be there and they’re beating the crap out of each other in practice. Then we go out in the game and we’re timid.”

Translating the practice energy into game efficiency is the task at hand for the Dutchmen, with six games remaining in the regular season, beginning with Friday’s home game against Holy Cross.


Different Feeling for Brown – If you turn the calendar back one year, you would find a Brown team that was poised to win the regular-season title. Once February came around, the Bears stumbled home and needed a win in the final game to get a top-four spot in the standings and home ice for the quarterfinals.

With a steady performance in the ECACHL throughout the season, Brown is in position to make a run at a top-four spot again this year. Since solidifying a young defense corps early in the season – three freshmen start on the blueline – and with Adam D’Alba providing exceptional goaltending, the Bears have maintained their status in the upper-half of the league when many people expected them to struggle.

There’s no fear of another February collapse from Brown coach Roger Grillo because of the solid defense and the team’s ability to get scoring from a variety of sources. Eight Bears have double-digit point totals through just 20 games.

“We’re in a much different spot. Last year we struggled with the pressure and anxiety a little bit. This is a dramatically different team emotionally and physically,” he said.

Last year, Brent Robinson, Brian Ihnacak, and Les Haggett were the offensive leaders. The next two players on the scoring charts were defensemen with half as many points as the top trio.

“We weren’t balanced last year and when three guys down the stretch dried up, we dried up,” Grillo said.

It’s not the case this year. Take the past weekend for example, when Mike Meech scored four goals and took over the team scoring lead from Brian Ihnacak (see Fries). Meech is a senior that had a career-high 10 points one year ago. As a sophomore he played in half of Brown’s games. Earlier this week, Grillo added an “A” to the front of Meech’s sweater as a reward for what he’s contributed in leadership.

Turnaround at Clarkson. Again. – Brown is intent on not repeating last year’s fate, while Clarkson is trying to recapture it. The Golden Knights hit their stride at the end of the year and made a playoff run to the championship game after finishing in ninth place.

The keys to that playoff run were work ethic, following the game plan, and keeping things simple. Clarkson did all of those things last weekend in a close loss at Cornell and an upset win over Colgate.

“When we went on our run at the end of last season, we started to do pay attention to the little things,” coach George Roll said.

Could this, finally, be the indication that Clarkson has righted its ship? Are they now going to play to their potential? Those are the questions that must be answered on the ice this weekend when Yale and Princeton visit Cheel Arena.

“There have been times earlier this season when I thought we were in a position to turn it around and it never happened. We played well at New Hampshire and Lowell and against Ohio State, but didn’t build from that,” Roll said. “For whatever reason, we’ve played to the level of our opponents a little bit. We knew we had to play well at Cornell and Colgate and we did, and now our challenge is to carry that effort into this weekend’s games.”

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Vermont at Brown (Fri.); Dartmouth at Brown (Sat.)
Cornell and Colgate are fighting it out for first and second place this weekend, but these games in Providence are just as important. These teams currently sit in fourth, fifth, and sixth and only the top-four teams earn a first-round bye in the playoffs and home-ice advantage for the quarterfinal series.

While You’re There: I heard something about a football game on Sunday. Rhode Island might be a fun place to watch the Patriots try to win the Super Bowl, since most people there think they’re from Boston anyway.

Stick Salute

Sunday practice after two losses might sound like a cruel coach’s punishment. But that’s not why the Princeton Tigers were on the ice. The team conducted a youth hockey clinic at the Essex Club in Peapack, N.J. which has an outdoor rink. It was great for the kids, and great for Princeton.

Bench Minor

Here’s a note from Yale: “The Blue had its best conference weekend set if you look at the fact that they were outshot by just one, 57-56.”


Brown’s most prolific offensive player through the last year and a half, Brian Ihnacak, sat out last weekend’s games at Yale and Princeton. Grillo said that it was his decision to keep Ihnacak out of the lineup. It wasn’t a disciplinary action or academics-related.

Cornell held form on home ice at Lynah Rink and took over first place from Colgate with help from Clarkson’s upset win at Starr Rink. The Raiders get a chance to reclaim the top spot on home ice Friday, when they host the Big Red. The teams will square off in Ithaca on Saturday. Friday’s game will be broadcast live on Time Warner Sports channel 26 in central and northern New York.

• The most difficult part of Dartmouth senior Jon Ostapyk’s Humanitarian Award candidacy was convincing the player to go along with the nomination. Ostapyk has coordinated Dartmouth’s annual toy drive for the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth for the last three years and leads other athletes from across campus in the Big Green Readers program, where student-athletes read to elementary school students.

Harvard’s official athletics site is hosting a Beanpot-specific site, with information on the teams, tournament history, television, radio, and broadcast details, and other news on the tournament. Check it out at www.gocrimson.com/beanpot.

• Another item to check out on the Web is a profile of Dartmouth senior goaltender Dan Yacey, from the Big Green’s official site.

RPI seniors Nick Economakos, Matt McNeely, and Blake Pickett missed last week’s games after being suspended for consuming alcohol on the team bus following a pair of wins at Clarkson and St. Lawrence. All three will be back in the RPI lineup this weekend.

• After facing Dartmouth on Friday night, Harvard takes on Northeastern Monday in the Beanpot. The Crimson and Huskies have been the underdogs in this tournament in recent years, but that suits Harvard senior defenseman Ryan Lannon just fine.

“No matter how much success we have we're still the underdogs,” he said. “You read the articles, and they say Northeastern is going to win or BC or BU. They don't mention Harvard. It's good motivation. I'd rather be the underdog every day.”

St. Lawrence’s road losses at Cornell and Colgate marked just the first time this season that the Saints were swept in an ECACHL road weekend.

Harvard goalie Dov Grumet-Morris played in his 100th career game earlier this week. He is just the third goalie to reach that milestone in Harvard’s 107-year hockey history.

Vermont’s Scott Mifsud had five points last weekend to move over 100 points for his career at Vermont.

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

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