February 9, 2007
Team-First Mentality Sustains Saints

By Joe Gladziszewski

As is the case with most college upperclassmen, a group of good friends at St. Lawrence share a house near campus. This group of four happens to be seniors on the men's hockey team, and this house happens to be one of the most important reasons for the Saints being atop the ECAC Hockey League standings.

ECAC Hockey League Notebook

Drew Bagnall and St. Lawrence are atop the ECACHL standings.

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It's not the actual structure that's been significant, but rather the doorways, and those are almost always left open to teammates. Team captains Drew Bagnall and Kyle Rank, and fellow seniors Andrzej Sandrzyk and Max Taylor live there.

The upperclassmen instituted a welcoming attitude from the start of the year, and it didn't matter if the activity was a softball game or a movie, working out, or just hanging out, everyone was invited to participate. It helped develop strong team chemistry even before practices officially started. Incoming freshmen knew they stood on equal ground with veteran players. It was all part of the plan.

"We knew we were going to be a young team, and our senior class has the same mental approach as to how the team should run," Bagnall said. "We realized that their role on the team would be crucial to our success, and we wanted to adopt the team mentality as soon as possible."

That has helped St. Lawrence hold on to the top spot in the ECACHL standings for as long as they have. The Saints are currently in first place, and whenever they've shown signs of a collapse, they're responded with strong efforts. Such was the case last weekend, when Colgate scored five goals in the third period and rallied for a 6-2 win. The Saints came right back on Saturday and won at Cornell, 2-1.

Coach Joe Marsh said that the team has been focused on individual games, and hasn't been caught up in the standings and their lofty perch in the ECACHL. They don't feel like the team to beat, even though they have been for several weeks.

"I don't think we necessarily feel that, I think we're just trying to play with the responsibility that comes with it," Marsh said. "The wins that we've had, I think we've earned them. We're not here because we were rated here; we've played hard and won a lot of one-goal games."

Marsh also said that his team's leadership has been top notch, and Bagnall said that the team-first mentality has helped the Saints bounce back from losses and keep things going in a positive direction.

"It has a lot to do with leadership, and I'm not talking about myself, more the coaching staff and the other guys on the team," Bagnall said. "The younger guys have responded to that and realized that we all have team goals and there aren't any individuals. Everyone is on the same page."


Colgate's second-half push: The Colgate Raiders are 5-3-2 in their last 10 ECAC Hockey League games after starting the season with a 1-4-1 league record. Even the recent losses at Cornell and versus Clarkson were strong efforts for the Raiders, who have been playing some of their best and most consistent hockey of the season.

Two things have helped Colgate. The first is that the team's most important players are hitting their stride. Junior forward Tyler Burton has eight points in his last five games and senior forward Jesse Winchester has 11 points in his last six.

"I think we put the pressure on each other to rise up," Winchester said. "You've got to play with an edge and you've got to expect big things out of yourself. Both of us do that and sometimes it works out."

The other thing is that Colgate has re-emphasized fundamentals and not making big mistakes. Two crucial mistakes against Clarkson led to a pair of Golden Knights goals and a 2-1 loss for Colgate.

"We've been talking about it, and we've been working on it. It's the message we've been sending since after the break," Coach Don Vaughan said. "It's about the process, and we've got to continue to work on it and not find a way to make those mistakes."

Colgate is looking forward to the end of the regular season and hopes that it is pointed in the right direction for the playoffs.

"Mike Gilligan (ex-Vermont coach) used to say that in this league if you win the right two games in March, you've had a great season. It's going to come down to that," Vaughan said. "You want to set yourself up by getting the home ice advantage and the bye, and we're hoping that's still an option for us. We've got to keep working and keep doing what we're doing because we're definitely playing better."


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Dartmouth at Quinnipiac (Fri.)
Is there anything better than two talented teams playing in a sold-out building with the postseason in the near future? We like this match up for several reasons, as the winner will get some crucial points in the race for a top-four spot in the standings.

While You're There: Plan on taking in a game on Saturday in the Capital District. It's about a two-and-a-half hour drive from Quinnipiac to RPI or Union, and the Engineers host Cornell and the Dutchmen host Colgate on Saturday.

Stick Salute

Colgate's Ethan Cox helped organize last weekend's festivities at Colgate's home games, which raised money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and also honored a young Brookfield, N.Y. resident that is a brain cancer patient. Eight-year-old Miranda Hadlock dropped the ceremonial opening puck for Saturday's game against Clarkson, and the hockey program raised more than $750 for Make-A-Wish, with additional funds to be donated from the team's alternate-jersey sale.

Bench Minor

Harvard won't say much about it publicly, so I'll mention it here. Their schedule coming off of an exam break was brutal. It started with road games at three of the best teams in the league, then two home games against Union and RPI, and then a Monday night semifinal against Boston College.

• Like their travel partners in Canton, the Clarkson Golden Knights have shown the ability to bounce back from losses "We blistered our guys pretty good in the video session, similar to after the St. Cloud Series," Clarkson coach George Roll said about last week's loss at Cornell and follow-up victory at Colgate. "The guys responded with a pretty good effort."

One thing that Clarkson achieved in that win was holding on to a one-goal lead over the last 20 minutes.

"We've done a great job with that," Roll said. "The last four or five games we've been playing from behind so we haven't had to do that. When we've had a lead we've done a nice job of keeping it simple, playing the chips and getting the pucks out, and doing a good job around our net. The more you're in those battles, you gain confidence."

• Yale's Sean Backman was named the ECACHL Player and Rookie of the Week after scoring five goals and adding an assist in games against Quinnipiac and Princeton.

• Union's opponents would be wise to stay out of the penalty box. The Dutchmen set a single-season school record by scoring their 39th power-play goal of the year, and 45 percent of Union's scoring has come on the power play.

• Good karma: Colgate's Ethan Cox helped out with some charitable work (see Stick Salute) and also scored his first two collegiate goals last weekend.

• Jared Seminoff, who has been one of Cornell's best players this year, missed the first two games of his career with mononucleosis last weekend. The sophomore defenseman had played in 56 straight games to start his career.

• Quinnipiac senior defenseman Reid Cashman is six assists shy of setting the program's career record for assists. He currently has 108 assists in his career.

• Rensselaer will honor former coach Ned Harkness prior to Friday night's game against Colgate. Harkness will be added to the Ring of Honor at Houston Field House.

• Brown has been impressive on special teams recently, scoring three power-play goals in a 6-3 win over Quinnipiac on Saturday. The Bears also killed off 17-of-19 short-handed situations over the weekend and tallied a short-handed goal.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report. Joe Gladziszewski can be reached at gladdy@insidecollegehockey.com.