November 17, 2006
Taking a Break for Learning's Sake

By Joe Gladziszewski

Union didn't sweep a weekend series, or lose a heart-breaking game. They didn't knock off a team from another conference, and they're not mired in a long losing streak.

ECAC Hockey League Notebook

Sophomore Matt Cook has seven points on the season, he had only nine points in 31 games in his freshman year.

National TV Schedule

The Dutchmen didn't even play last weekend, and they don't play again until after Thanksgiving, but it's noteworthy because Union is going through what most teams in the ECAC Hockey League face at some point during the season. They're in an exam break, where hockey takes a step back and academics take a step forward.

At 3-3-2, Union isn't ecstatic or dismal. A pair of season-opening wins at Ferris State, and a 3-3 tie (shootout loss) in the Governor's Cup against RPI have been the highlights thus far. A pair of back-to-back losses in which Quinnipiac scored eight goals in each game caused concern.

But the exam break is a time to refocus and refresh, while taking care of academic obligations. It's also a good time to teach hockey things, instead of worrying about travel and upcoming opponents. Union has just two seniors among the 18 skaters in its most common lineup, and five juniors. That leaves 11 freshmen and sophomores dressed most nights, and that means there's lots to learn.

"As a coach, it probably comes at a decent time. With the win over Princeton, that helps a lot. We're a young team and there are a lot of things we want to work on and improve upon," head coach Nate Leaman said. "We're improving day-to-day, and the break comes at a good time overall."

One of the younger players that has helped Union so far is sophomore Matt Cook. He played in 31 games as a freshman and scored just nine points. He already has seven points this year through eight games and has played on a number of different line combinations, but found a spot on the left wing with better-known classmates T.J. Fox and Augie DiMarzo in Union's last game.

Cook, a New Jersey native, spent the summer in the Boston area working on his skating. According to Leaman, the skating improvement and workout regimen had a positive impact on other parts of Cook's game. His endurance is better, and his confidence grew.

"He's one of the hardest working players I've ever been around," Leaman said. "A lot of players go up and have a good game, but then they have a bad game and go back down. He had a couple of bad games, but he responded with several good games in a row. That's the type of kid he is, he works hard every day, and that's fun to watch as a coach."

Union's goaltending has been inconsistent. Junior Justin Mrazek and freshman Rich Sillery have shared the duties in net, and neither has been spectacular. In the second loss to Quinnipiac, the one that counts in the league standings, the Bobcats scored six goals on eight shots in the second period. Some of that blame goes to the goaltenders, but some credit must also go to Quinnipiac's skilled forwards.

It is an area of concern, and Union is working harder defensively to help the goaltenders, but their improvement is also at the forefront. Union returns to action after Thanksgiving with a pair of non-league games at home against two surprising teams — Army and Massachusetts.


Eastern Powers?: Here's a hypothetical situation. Let's say that one of the preseason league favorites from Hockey East – Boston College, Maine, Boston University, or UNH – was winless in its conference, and then went out and spanked a top team in the ECAC Hockey League by a score of, oh, I don't know, 4-0.

How would that be interpreted? That the winless Hockey East power is in such a position because of the overall strength of the league? And it just goes to show you that even the so-so teams in Hockey East are better than the best teams in the ECACHL?

It wasn't made-up when it happened the other way around last week. Harvard, which lost its first three ECACHL games, beat Boston College 4-0. BC entered that game with a 5-2-0 record, and was ranked in the top five nationally. Why didn't we hear that Harvard's in-league struggles were because of the number of quality teams in the ECACHL?

ECACHL teams have played 11 games this season against Hockey East members. The ECACHL teams have a 5-3-3 record in those games, and have won the last four meetings, including Harvard's win over Boston College and Yale's win at New Hampshire. Dartmouth beat Vermont and Rensselaer beat Merrimack in the other games of that four-game stretch.

These editorial comments and supporting facts aren't made to disparage Hockey East, or to claim that the ECAC Hockey League is a better conference. It is instead meant as a compliment to the competitive level that ECACHL teams have risen to in recent seasons. It's more difficult than ever to get points in the league.

We'll be able to revisit this conversation on Tuesday, when Harvard plays at Boston University. Maybe then, should a sub-.500 ECACHL team beat one of Hockey East's Big Four, it won't be interpreted as a fluke, but more as a representation of the strength of the league.

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Brown at Harvard (Fri.)
Yale at Harvard (Sat.)

The first game at Bright this weekend is the 147th between Brown and Harvard. They played their first varsity game in 1898. And when in Cambridge, don't begin to think that Cornell is Harvard's biggest rival. The game against Yale is always at the forefront, and even has more flair this year since two former Harvard and Yale players are now coaching at their alma maters.

While You're There: National media believe that The Game in college football is being played in Columbus, Ohio, but Ivy League followers know better. Harvard and Yale meet on the gridiron for the 123rd time on Saturday at noon at Harvard Stadium. Both teams are 7-2 and can claim a share of the Ivy League championship with a win.

Stick Salute

Let's salute the never-say-die attitude. Comeback wins were prominent last weekend, as Cornell rallied late to defeat Harvard and St. Lawrence did the same against Quinnipiac. Yale defeated Connecticut after falling behind in the first period.

Bench Minor

What's up with this logo for Clarkson hockey? It appears that a giant puck is attacking the knight from behind, and will strike him in the head, while the knight is doing an Iwo Jima reenactment with his stick.


• St. Lawrence freshman forward Sean Flanagan is a Canton native and has helped the Saints to their best start in ECACHL play in seven years. He scored his first collegiate goal in the second period, and then assisted on the game-winning goal in the Saints' 3-2 win over Quinnipiac.

• After defeating Connecticut, Yale is 4-1-0 on the year heading into this weekend's games at Dartmouth and Harvard. Last season, Yale didn't win its fourth game until the first week of January.

• The first period proved to be the key to Dartmouth's success in their first ever road sweep of Cornell and Colgate. The Big Green jumped out to a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes at Colgate on Friday, and then scored twice in the first period at Cornell on Saturday to take a 2-0 lead into the dressing room. Dartmouth has won all four of its games when it has scored at least once in the first period. In their two losses, they failed to score in the first period.

• Brown's top line of Sean Dersch, Sean Muncy, and Antonin Roux had three points each in a 7-3 win over Wayne State. Sean Hurley and Sean McMonagle join Dersch and Muncy on the Bears' roster.

• Colgate, the preseason pick by the coaches and media to win the league, has just one point in four league games. It's a testament to the earlier point about the strength of the league, but that doesn't make it feel any better. The Raiders are searching for answers.

"We'll find the answers, I just don't have them right this minute," coach Don Vaughan told the Utica Observer-Dispatch after the loss to Harvard. "Maybe it's a personnel thing, where we have to get some different guys in different situations. We're obviously not playing well, and we're in a rut. We're just not a very good hockey team right now."

• Last year Clarkson dominated at home, and struggled on the road. The opposite is true this year. While addressing the road woes, things haven't gone so well at Cheel Arena for the Golden Knights. They've lost four of their last five games at Cheel, including an exhibition game, and most recently dropped two league contests to Quinnipiac and Princeton.

"I think our mindset is different,"George Roll said in the team's weekly release. "We know we have to play well when we go on the road. We play a solid game when we are on the road. We execute our systems, limit the mistakes in our own zone and keep things simple. When we get at home, for whatever reason, we are turning the puck over and not taking care of the defensive zone."

• The loss to St. Lawrence ended a seven-game unbeaten streak for Quinnipiac. The Bobcats host Colgate and Cornell this weekend, and it marked coach Rand Pecknold's 400th career game behind the bench at Quinnipiac. The Colgate Raiders are a familiar opponent for Quinnipiac. The teams already met this season in the Governor's Cup, and also played a three-game series in the ECACHL playoffs last spring.

• Yale's Alec Richards, Cornell's Troy Davenport, and Dartmouth's Mike Devine have played all of their team's minutes in goal this year, not counting empty-net situations.

• All four of RPI's goals were power-play goals in a 4-1 win over Merrimack last Sunday.

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