December 1, 2006
Different Ways to Get Things Back on Track

By Joe Gladziszewski

Winning streaks are fun. The attitudes around practices are good, the teasing one-liners roll off the tongue more quickly during bus rides, and a buzz runs through the bench on game night. It's fun to play hockey.

ECAC Hockey League Notebook

Colgate coach Don Vaughan was looking for answers when his team went seven games in a row without a win. Concentrating on the process, not the results, proved to be successful.

National TV Schedule

But hockey is a fickle sport. Things change quickly, and just as much fun as a winning streak can be, the sting of a slump can strike quickly.

One of the biggest challenges that coaches and players face is identifying what's gone wrong and determining a solution.

That has been the case recently for Clarkson and Colgate. The Golden Knights, after a 6-1-1 start, suffered a four-game losing streak that included particularly poor performances at St. Cloud State. Colgate, the preseason choice by coaches and media members to win the ECAC Hockey League, is under .500 on the year and the Raiders' performance has fallen well short of expectations.

The good news for both teams is that they showed signs of breaking out of their streaks last weekend. Clarkson handily defeated Bowling Green and also knocked off nationally-ranked Miami. Colgate put together a two-game winning streak before losing to Niagara.

"For us, we went back to work," Clarkson head coach George Roll said about his team's approach to battling out of the losing streak. "We didn't give them any days off. We were on them in practice and every time we made a mistake we stopped them and showed them, and we grinded it out this whole week of practice. We didn't take any shortcuts and didn't allow them to take any shortcuts."

"When you lose games, and you lose and you play well, as a coach you can accept that," Roll said. "But the way we were losing, in our eyes, was unacceptable. The question in our eyes was why your guys weren't motivated and the first finger I pointed was at myself and what I'm doing."

The detail-oriented practices were one approach taken by Clarkson, but there were psychological ploys as well. The players' lounge near the locker room was closed for the week and the team's radio was shut off. Assistant coach Jean-Francois Houle purchased several dozen wood sticks and every player on the team used the old-fashioned models in practice. The reasoning was to remind the Knights that luxuries are earned, not just simply granted.

Colgate's run of poor results extended over the better part of a month. The Raiders were on a seven-game winless streak before breaking it with wins at Princeton and against Ohio State. Since the slump was prolonged, there were major changes. Bag skates, extra video work, shinny and breakaway drills, and days off were all a part of the regular practice routine.

"It's interesting you ask the question because we tried all of the above over about a three-week period," Raider coach Don Vaughan said. "We went hard on them and tried to get them to respond that way, and then we coddled them a little bit, and then we even took some time off."

Many parts of hockey are counterintuitive. Trying too hard to make a great play usually results in bad decisions and turnovers. Increasing effort usually brings doubt along with it, and a lack of confidence.

"We've seen a lot of that in the last couple of weeks, and it comes from a good place. Guys try to do it all by themselves and try to take the team on their shoulders, but you can't play this game by yourself. It's just a natural reaction. You see it at every level of hockey," Vaughan said.

"What it came down to for us, is we just started over. We had a mini training camp and just psychologically started over. Slump cycles are really strange things, and the most important thing is that you have to focus on the process. You have to get back to getting them to feel comfortable about the drill, about the process, about the work ethic. You can't start thinking about the Ws, you have to focus on your job at that particular moment in time, and I think the confidence will build from there."

Another part of a slump that is rarely mentioned is the burdens that players and teams face outside of hockey. Particularly in the ECAC Hockey League, student-athletes are at excellent institutions taking difficult classes. Many of them are learning to live on their own, hundreds of miles from where they grew up.

The Thanksgiving holiday brought a respite from classes on Clarkson's campus and helped them refocus their hockey minds, with assistance from the coaching staff. The methodology worked that time, and good times were being had once again.


Out of their league: Rensselaer and Union visit Cornell and Colgate for games this weekend. It gives RPI and Union a chance to make up some of the seven fewer league games they've played than Harvard and Dartmouth.

It's an adjustment for first-year Rensselaer coach Seth Appert.

"I don't like it. I don't know if it's good or bad for us, because I haven't been through the league but it is what it is," RPI coach Seth Appert said. "The Ivy Leagues have certain schedules and finals and things along those lines, and so does our travel partner. But I don't think it's a healthy situation for the league, generally, to have Harvard with nine games played and we have two."

We've discussed scheduling problems that some of the non-Ivy League teams face regarding out-of-conference games, but this wrinkle within the 22-game league schedule makes for strange standings at this time of the year.

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Clarkson at Yale (Fri.)
St. Lawrence at Yale (Sat.)

It's hard to believe that anyone would have guessed that Yale and St. Lawrence would have a combined ECACHL record of 7-1-0 heading into the month of December. St. Lawrence puts its perfect 4-0-0 ECACHL mark on the line at Brown on Friday and at Yale on Saturday. Clarkson has some momentum after last week's sweep.

While You're There: Visit Yale's Peabody Museum, which is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and check out the "Great Hall of Dinosaurs" exhibit. The museum is located at 170 Peabody Ave.

Stick Salute

Clarkson players used wooden sticks in practice last week as a disciplinary measure, but Nick Dodge and Chris D'Alvise decided to use the wooden branches in the wins over Bowling Green and Miami.

Bench Minor

Harvard, Colgate, and Princeton are the only teams in the ECAC Hockey League that have a sub-.500 overall record.


• Union's T.J. Fox carries a six-game point streak into this weekend's action and has 11 points during the streak. Augie DiMarzo was dismissed from Union's team by head coach Nate Leaman. DiMarzo, a sophomore forward, ranked tied for third on the team in scoring at the time of his dismissal. He was Union's second-leading scorer as a freshman last year, with 23 points in 37 games.

• Brown freshman goalie Dan Rosen has started four of the Bears' last five games and has been sensational, winning three of the four games with the lone loss being a 1-0 defeat at Dartmouth. Rosen has allowed just six goals in those four starts despite seeing plenty of shots. He's averaged 33.25 saves per game in the same stretch, and has a .957 save percentage.

• Already without the services of Grant Lewis, Dartmouth defenseman Ben Lovejoy missed Saturday's game with a shoulder injury. The Big Green adjusted by moving junior forward J.T. Wyman back to the blue line for the 3-3 tie against Quinnipiac.

• Princeton's 4-2 win at Harvard improves an impressive 6-3-2 record for the Tigers at Harvard's Bright Hockey Center in the 11 games played there between the teams since the start of the 1996-97 season.

• Topher Scott has a seven-game point streak for Cornell and has recorded at least one point in eight of the team's 10 games so far.

• St. Lawrence and Clarkson begin a stretch of three games in five days. It starts when the North Country travel partners visit Yale and Princeton this weekend. The Golden Knights and Saints then meet on Tuesday at Cheel Arena in Potsdam.

• Vermont defeated Harvard in overtime on Tuesday in a coaching matchup between former Crimson teammates Kevin Sneddon and Ted Donato. Sneddon, most will remember, was a longtime ECAC Hockey League coach at Union and Vermont. He's got the Catamounts in second place in Hockey East with a 5-1-1 league mark and an 8-4-0 overall record.

• The stat of the week comes courtesy of Quinnipiac's games at Harvard (a 4-2 loss) and Dartmouth (a 3-3 tie). The Bobcats were outshot by an identical total in both games, 29-24.

• The seven members of Yale's class of 2010 have had a significant impact on the team's 6-2-1 start. When healthy, all seven have dressed each night. Rookie Sean Backman leads the team with nine points and the newcomers have accounted for 14 goals and 30 points.

• ECAC Hockey League members have posted a 9-5-1 record in non-league games since Thanksgiving.

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