The college hockey calendar is almost exactly opposite of the academic calendar each semester. On the rink, the beginning part of the year is when coaches, players, and teams are trying to come up with the right answers for a passing grade, whereas final exam week is the time for that process to take place in the classroom.
For the ECAC teams that have already started their games, the Q & A process has begun. In some cases, coaches are finding the answers quite easily, while in others, unexpected questions are coming to the fore.
At Rensselaer, coach Dan Fridgen didn't like what he saw from his Engineers in a pair of 5-2 losses to open the season on a Hockey East road trip. After losing to Boston University at Walter Brown, Fridgen was disappointed with his team's toughness in front of goaltender Nathan Marsters.
"We played soft in our end of the rink at times. We didn't make the opposition pay the price for standing in that prime real estate area," Fridgen told the Albany Times-Union. "We were pretty soft. That's certainly not the kind of hockey we're going to be playing."
RPI then visited Providence, and the defensive woes continued. Instead of coverage breakdowns, turnovers were the problem. The Engineers coughed up the puck and gave the Friars easy goals.
"In the first two periods, I think we had had 11 giveaways, and two of them resulted in direct goals," Fridgen said. "I wish we'd have had goals given to us that easily."
It's RPI's first 0-2 start since 1995.
AND HEARD IN THE ECAC
Got Goalie – Perhaps Vermont's biggest question mark entering the season was in the nets. The Catamounts lost workhorse Shawn Conschafter to graduation, who started 30 of UVM's 36 games one year ago.
One game that Conschafter didn't start was an early-season home date against the New Hampshire Wildcats, although at the time, then-freshman Travis Russell might have preferred that his senior counterpart got the nod. Russell was scorched for six goals by the Wildcats in an eventual 10-0 UNH victory. The story has a happy ending, as Russell performed very well in his second effort against UNH. The sophomore from Essex Junction, Vt., made 26 stops and kept his team in the game against a charged-up UNH group that was playing its home opener.
Russell made 36 saves against Boston College earlier in the year, but may get a break this weekend. Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon has yet to decide on a starting goalie for Saturday's visit by Boston University.
Green on the Blue – Clarkson began its season with a 4-1 exhibition game victory against the University of Toronto. Four freshmen blueliners saw significant playing time, with Nathan Beausoleil, Michael Grenzy, Matt Nickerson, and Matt Curley in the mix. Nickerson was also on the team's top power-play unit.
As a group, the defensemen did a decent job, allowing only 16 shots to reach the net manned by another freshman, Kyle McNulty, who made 15 saves and the Blues' only goal was scored on the power play. Freshman winger Mike Sullivan rounded out a six-pack of rookies in the Clarkson lineup. The Knights travel to Bemidji State for a two-game set this weekend.
Great Weekend Getaway
at Colgate (Fri.-Sat.)
Apologies to the Boston University-Vermont tilt at Gutterson, but UVM's tour against Hockey East powerhouses is already an old storyline. The defending CCHA champs come calling to Starr Rink in Hamilton, N.Y. as Colgate hosts Ferris State for a Friday-Saturday set. It's homecoming weekend at Colgate and the hockey games straddle a huge football tilt between the 'Gate and fellow unbeatens Yale.
While you're there: As the autumn turns to winter in upstate New York, be sure to warm up with a cup of coffee, tea, or other hot beverages at the Barge Canal Coffee Company.
Congrats to Nate Leaman and the Union Dutchmen. They went on the road and beat Niagara 4-2, giving Leaman his first Division I win as a head coach. They were also the only ECAC team to win last weekend as the league posted a 1-3-3 record. With Merrimack and American International visiting Achilles Rink this weekend, the Dutchmen have a strong chance to start the season with three consecutive victories.
St. Lawrence opened some eyes with a shutout victory over host Miami at the Lefty McFadden Invitational on the season's opening weekend. Since then, the Saints have lost to Denver and tied Wayne State twice. Blame the Saints' ineffective power play for the ties over the most recent weekend. SLU was 1-for-18 against the Warriors including an 0-for-10 performance in Saturday's 1-1 deadlock. For the season, the Saints are 2-for-32, an underwhelming 6.2 percent.
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
Wednesday marked the official start date of practices for the Ivy League schools, meaning that all 12 of the ECAC member institutions are on the ice in some form or another. It's about time. Exhibitions line the schedule for the Ivies next week, followed by the start of the NCAA schedule on Halloween weekend.
How do you get on the new coach's good side? Take a lesson from the senior line of Rob McFeeters, Tristan Lush, and Jean Desrochers. The veteran Clarkson trio accounted for three of the Knights four goals in an exhibition win over the University of Toronto at Cheel Arena. Desrochers scored twice and Lush also lit the lamp.
• At Colgate, they're hoping that sophomore Kyle Wilson is the answer to the question about replacing All-ECAC performer Scooter Smith. Wilson took over Smith's spot on a line with center Kyle Doyle and right wing Adam Mitchell. Wilson had no trouble adjusting to that role as he scored the game-tying goal and also contributed an assist against Northeastern on Saturday.
• The ECAC had 22 alums on NHL opening-day rosters, including six from Clarkson and five from Harvard.
Clarkson assistant coach Jean-Francois Houle and his wife Mia are the proud parents of a new member of the Golden Knight hockey family. Mia gave birth to Noah Luc Houle early Monday morning. It is expected that 6-pound, 5-ounce Noah will give Clarkson a verbal commitment, once he learns to speak.