the dawn of a new era in ECAC hockey in 2002-03.
the first time in league history, all 12 teams will make
the playoffs. And there will be a new site for the conference's
final four tournament. After a 10-year stay in Lake Placid,
the tournament begins a three-year run at Pepsi Arena in
Albany, N.Y. The arena has hosted two NCAA Frozen Fours
and four East Regionals.
tournament's move from the quaint village that was home
to the Miracle on Ice during the 1980 Winter Olympics to
the capital of New York state created controversy. During
the 2001 tournament, ECAC commissioner Phil Buttafuoco announced
a five-year deal to keep the tournament in Lake Placid.
However, that deal was never signed.
Lake Placid verbal relationship was one that was developing,"
Buttafuoco said. "We had to look at relationships we
had in the ECAC, relationships that ORDA (Olympic Regional
Development Authority) had as an organization and also relations
ORDA had with the USOC (United States Olympic Committee).
We had to look at our strategic planning process and what
was – for the future of the conference – what
was best for the ECAC both on and off the ice."
Pepsi seats 14,000 to 15,000 for hockey. Lake Placid's Olympic
Center has a capacity of 7,700.
was an important factor, too. Ten schools are less than
200 miles from Albany. Only five schools were within 200
miles of Lake Placid.
ECAC's playoff format is unique. Unlike the CCHA and WCHA,
the other two leagues in which every team makes the playoffs,
the ECAC will have two rounds of best-of-three series. The
top four teams will receive a first-round bye, and teams
that finish five through eight will host first-round series.
The winners advance to the best-of-three quarterfinals.
Those winners advance to the semifinals.
other change is the increased number of regular-season games
the six non-Ivy League schools (Clarkson, Colgate, Rensselaer,
St. Lawrence, Union and Vermont) can play, from 32 to 34.
Rensselaer will be playing 36 games thanks to its participation
in the Ice Breaker Invitational, an NCAA-exempt tourney.
wasn't expected to do much last season. The coaches and
media picked the Bears to finish last. But the Bears rode
the hot goaltending of Yann Danis (11-10-2, 1.68, .938)
to a tie for sixth place, and they played Harvard tough
in the first round of the playoffs before losing to the
eventual tournament champions. This season, the coaches
selected Brown to finish fourth, and the media has it fifth.
If the Bears can find some scoring, they will make the coaches
and media look good.
FOR A FALL
lost its top two scorers, Marc Cavosie and Matt Murley.
They combined for 47 goals and 49 assists, helping Rensselaer
lead the ECAC in scoring with 120 goals. Cavosie, the ECAC
Player of the Year, gave up his senior season and signed
with the Minnesota Wild. Murley graduated, and is in the
Pittsburgh Penguins organization. The Engineers have just
one returning player, Carson Butterwick (13-13-26), who
scored more than 10 goals last season. If he doesn't get
any help, it could be a long year for Rensselaer.
was a struggling team with no direction when Mike
Schafer was hired by his alma mater (he's a 1986
graduate) in the summer of 1995. All Schafer has done is
re-established the Cornell program as one of the best in
the nation. The Big Red won back-to-back ECAC tournament
titles in 1996 and 1997, and were finalists last year after
running away with the ECAC regular-season title with a 17-3-2
have their top five scorers returning, including Hobey finalist
Doug Murray (11-21-32), and one of the league's best goalies
in David LeNeveu (11-2-1, 1.50, .936). Credit for the program's
resurgence goes to Schafer, who is 126-83-24 in his seven
years at the helm.
ON THE HOT SEAT
Mike Gilligan survived the hazing scandal
that shut down the program during the 1999-2000 season and
got the 10th-seeded Catamounts to the 2001 ECAC tournament
final five. He remains on the job even though Vermont finished
last in 2001-02 with a 3-18-1 league record and were 3-26-3
overall. But Gilligan lost his leading scorer, Patrick Sharp,
who bolted for the Philadelphia Flyers. A Gilligan ally,
athletic director, Rick Farnham, will retire next June.
And Gutterson Fieldhouse, usually one of the most intimidating
places to play, was quiet last season as fans stayed away.
Another bad season could spell doom for Gilligan after 19
ACT TO FOLLOW
it came to inter-conference play last season, the ECAC was
awful. It posted a dismal 34-62-7 record. Only four teams
(Brown, Cornell, Rensselaer and Union) posted winning records.
Vermont was 0-8-1, the only team which didn't win an inter-conference
game. There is no way the ECAC can be that bad again.
If a winning inter-conference record is out of reach, the
12 teams should at least be a little bit better in that
call here between Cornell senior defenseman Doug Murray
and Yale sophomore forward Chris Higgins. Higgins won the
ECAC Rookie of the Year award after leading all freshmen
with 14 goals and 17 assists. He is a very talented offensive
the pick here is Murray. He is a brute
force, both on offense and defense. He stands 6-foot-3 and
weighs 230 pounds, so he can throw ferocious body checks.
But he also can score. He tied for the team lead in scoring
with 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists). How do you stop this
guy? You can't.
Carson Butterwick was lost in the shadow
of Marc Cavosie and Matt Murley last season. He finished
on the team in scoring with 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists).
In addition to his scoring, the 6-0, 210-pound forward is
a punishing checker, and is tough to knock off his skates.
He will be counted on to lead the Engineers in their transition
from the Cavosie-Murley era.
is always a tough call because players who perform so well
in juniors sometimes struggle making the move to college
hockey. That shouldn't be the case with Yale freshman forward
Jeff Hristovski. Playing for the Brampton
Capitals of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League,
Hristovski led the league in scoring with 55 goals and 47
assists and was the Western Division MVP. He could give
Yale its second straight ECAC Rookie of the Year award.
IT DOWN – Six things you can take to the bank in the
ECAC this season:
will win the ECAC regular season title, but it will be a
closer race than last year.
four teams that will make it to Albany are Clarkson, Cornell,
Harvard and St. Lawrence.
Cornell will beat Clarkson to win the tournament title.
will finish ahead of its Rensselaer, its New York State
Capital Region rival, for the first time since it became
a Division I program in 1991.
Chris Higgins and Cornell's Doug Murray will be finalists
for the Hobey Baker Award.
not having a regular-season TV contract last year, the ECAC
will have a game of the week package this season.
will get to the NCAA Frozen Four.
YOU AT TOURNEY TIME