Learns Lessons From Canadian Voyage
Years from now, when people look back on Union's
2007-08 season, the overall record of the team won't include
three contests in the Canadian Maritimes but they may prove
to be some of the most important games played on the Dutchmen's
sophomore forward Mario Valery-Trabucco has six goals
and 12 points through 19 games.
Instead of participating in a holiday tournament
at another American college or university, Union headed
to Fredericton, New Brunswick for two games against the
University of New Brunswick and one against St. Thomas University.
The trip gave Union a chance to play three games in three
nights against good competition – UNB defeated New
Hampshire and Maine earlier this year – and allowed
Union's coaching staff to get a look at several lineup combinations
by awarding quality minutes to a number of different players.
Union coach Nate Leaman challenged his team
to play with poise on that trip, which he described as "composure
in all circumstances," and the players responded. Strong
third-period efforts were especially pleasing to Leaman
as his team faced 16 conference games over the final two
months of the regular season. In ECAC Hockey, where games
are close and points are difficult to earn, a good third
period is often the difference between success and failure.
Since returning to NCAA play, Union is a perfect
4-0-0 including last weekend's home sweep of Colgate and
Cornell. The Dutchmen made a one-goal lead stand up in the
third period against the Raiders and broke a 1-1 tie with
an early third-period goal against the Big Red and held
on for the final 16 minutes.
Those league wins gave Union an 8-8-3 overall
record and 3-3-2 ECAC Hockey mark, moving the Dutchmen into
a tie for eighth place in the standings, despite having
played the fewest games of any ECAC team. Talk about standing
and home-ice has been uncommon this year, as several coaches
have been more apt to focus on "the process" or
"taking one game at a time" or "playing our
best at the end of the year."
Union's taken a different approach, and embraced
the standings, despite ranking near the bottom of the table
for most of the season. A big part of that is because the
Dutchmen only played six league games prior to last weekend's
series. Now is the time that they're making up some of those
games in hand, and after the win over Colgate, the Union
coaching staff re-ordered the standings for the team and
directly addressed it in preparation for the Cornell game.
They ranked teams via league standings points per game played,
and Cornell was in first.
"We have to use the standings. One of
the major things is that we only played six games before
Christmas and we're trying to see how we measure up and
we want to have a feel and a pulse on what areas we can
improve," Leaman said.
Union has 14 games remaining in its schedule.
All of them are ECAC Hockey games, but the Dutchmen will
travel outside of the state of New York just twice, for
the closing weekend of the year at Yale and Brown.
His team responded with a gritty win over
Cornell when it withstood a Big Red barrage in the early
going, grabbed a couple of key goals, and made strong defensive
plays when needed – especially in the third period.
Third-period success? Check.
Consider those games in New Brunswick a success.
SEEN AND HEARD IN ECAC HOCKEY
Spreading Wealth Sparks Wins:
The Quinnipiac Bobcats own the nation's longest unbeaten
streak with an 8-0-1 record in their last nine games. During
that run, Quinnipiac has scored three or more goals in eight
of the games, with the other being a 2-1 win over Western
Michigan at the Catamount Cup in Vermont. One reason why
Quinnipiac is scoring so many goals is that they're not
relying on just a few players to get the job done.
The line of Brandon Wong, Jean-Marc Beaudoin,
and Dan Travis picked up the slack last weekend; but at
other times the duo of Ben Nelson and Bryan Leitch joined
up with Jamie Bates or David Marshall to carry the load.
When not on the Nelson line, Marshall and Eric Lampe have
done nice work as a forward group.
"We've got three lines that we can count
on for scoring," Quinnpiac coach Rand Pecknold said.
"It doesn't have to be just one group."
Defensively, Quinnipiac is a better team than
they were last year, and juniors Dan Henningson and Andy
Meyer have led the way. Reid Cashman graduated, and returning
senior Matt Sorteberg was lost for the season due to injury
in late November, pressing Henningson and Meyer into an
increased role. They have responded by playing a greater
number of minutes and playing at a high level in front of
three goaltenders that have played significant minutes this
Special teams play has also boosted the Bobcats,
who rank first in the league in overall power play and second
in penalty killing. Their rank isn't as high when considering
conference-only games, but that's OK with Quinnipiac, because
they tend to look at things from an overall perspective.
"Every game is so important when it comes
to NCAA tournament consideration if you want to make it
as an at-large team," Pecknold said. "Every game
means so much, both in the league and the non-conference
games that you have to treat them all as important if your
objectives and goals are to make the NCAA Tournament."
Quinnipiac will have an opportunity to enhance
its NCAA tournament chances and extend its unbeaten streak
on Saturday when the Bobcats visit Holy Cross of Atlantic
Hockey. Next weekend, Niagara visits Quinnipiac for a pair
Great Weekend Getaway
at Union (Fri.)
Union at Rensselaer (Sat.)
The Albany-area teams have developed a nice rivalry,
highlighted by their games on the ice but accented
by meetings in other sports in the Division III Liberty
League. The teams enter the weekend tied for eighth
place. Fans of both sides have easy travel to each
rink, ensuring a lively atmosphere in both barns.
While You're There: It's early enough
in the season to maintain full-out optimism of your
favorite team making the league's championship weekend
in downtown Albany, but not too early to head down
to Pearl Street to scout potential bar stools, restaurant
tables, or accommodations.
Justin Mrazek made an uncommon save that combined
relevance, balance, and concentration late in Saturday's
2-1 Dutchmen win over Cornell. In the closing minutes,
as Union protected the lead, a scrum near the crease
ended with a stick of a Cornell player wedged into
Mrazek's goalie skate between the blade and the boot.
It hindered Mrazek's ability to get to his feet, but
he had the awareness to kick out his right pad to
deflect a point shot and keep the lead.
players from the 12 schools in ECAC Hockey are averaging
better than a point per game so far this season, and
seven of those players represent just three teams.
Where are the goals?
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM
OF THE BAG
• ECAC Hockey will be featured on ESPNU
for the second straight week, as Sunday's 4 p.m. game at
Cornell when the Big Red host Clarkson will be shown on
the cable network.
• St. Lawrence and Dartmouth put on
an entertaining show last week on ESPNU with several momentum
changes, lots of goals, and impressive performances by SLU's
Brock McBride and Dartmouth's J.T. Wyman. It may not have
been the prettiest game from a coach's perspective, but
was enjoyable to watch.
• Travis Vermeulen of the Saints scored
two short-handed goals in the third period of that win over
Dartmouth, becoming the first player in ECAC Hockey history
to score two shorties in the same period and the first since
Jayson Greyerbiehl achieved the feat for Colgate in 1989.
• That loss by Dartmouth fell in between
a win over Clarkson and Tuesday's victory at Boston University.
The Big Green have another non-league test this weekend
when they face New Hampshire at the Verizon Wireless Arena
in Manchester, N.H.
• ECAC Hockey has launched a live scores
page suited for mobile devices on its Web site, in conjunction
with online services partner PrestoSports. Point your Web
browser on your mobile device to: www.ecachockey.com/m
• Rensselaer's Erik Burgdoerfer will
miss Friday's game against Union while he serves a one-game
suspension, which was issued by ECAC Hockey on Thursday.
Burgdoerfer was assessed a game disqualification for a checking-from-behind
penalty in last Friday's game against Cornell. The DQ meant
that he missed last Saturday's game against Colgate and
will miss an additional game this weekend.
• A note if you're planning to see Brown's
home game against Merrimack on Sunday. The start time is
1 p.m., not 4 p.m. as was originally published. (Patriots
• Goaltender Mathias Lange has started
five straight games for RPI.
• Colgate will wear special alternate
sweaters this weekend for home games against Clarkson and
St. Lawrence. The jerseys are being sold for $250 each to
benefit ECAC Hockey Coaches vs. Cancer and the American
Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) Hockey Coaches Care fund.
• Where does Clarkson sign up for the
Beanpot? Last week's win over Harvard was Clarkson's sixth
in a row and they have an active winning streak of 10 games
over Boston College. They did, however lose their last game
against Northeastern (2002-03 season) and split a home-and-home
with Boston University in the '97-'98 and '98-'99 seasons.
• Yale goalie Alec Richards made his
first start of the season in a 3-0 loss to Quinnipiac and
was victimized by some bad luck, as the first goal he allowed
was a centering pass that eventually deflected into the
net off of a skate. Sean Backman has a goal in six straight
games for the Bulldogs.
• Union has been dividing playing time
between freshman Corey Milan and senior Justin Mrazek and
will likely stick with that pattern in the coming weeks,
as the team and goaltenders have responded well to the situation.
• Princeton and Harvard are on exam
break and don't play again until late January, as the Tigers
return to action on Jan. 29 at Robert Morris and Harvard
plays at Dartmouth on Jan. 26.