coach Bob Gaudet was worried. He expressed concern about
his team's ability to keep the puck out of its net as he
spoke at the Pepsi Arena in Albany, commenting just minutes
after finding out his club was picked to finish third in
the league's preseason polls by ECAC coaches and media.
Gaudet's concerns weren't unfounded. On the blueline, Dartmouth
lost 101 man-games among the departed trio of Trevor Byrne,
Pete Summerfelt, and P.J. Martin. Many of those games were
played in front of fellow senior, goaltender Nick Boucher
(27 games played).
Gaudet's preseason premonitions have thus far proven to
be off-base. Dartmouth's defensive work is the biggest reason
for the Big Green holding the distinction of being the nation's
last undefeated team (2-0-3). They've allowed just six goals
in five games.
Chief among the reasons for Dartmouth's success in the defensive
end of the rink is junior goaltender Dan Yacey. You would
be hard-pressed to find a cooler customer anywhere in college
hockey. In the midst of frantic goalmouth scrambles, Yacey
is unfazed. He holds a strong position –
pads pressed to the ice, shoulders square and upright –
before covering the puck with his catching glove in a steady,
and goaltender Dan Yacey have allowed six goals in five
very composed. He just plays with a calmness. He plays the
angles," Gaudet said of his stalwart between the pipes.
"The puck seems to hit him in the chest a lot and it
sticks to him like Velcro. This year, he came in and he's
just been really comfortable from the preseason on. There's
just something about him, there's an air about him now that
he's just really comfortable in the position."
Yacey's manner can only help a defense corps that's learning
on the job. Two freshmen and three sophomores regularly
join senior Brian Van Abel on the Big Green blue line.
"That seems to be the thing with Dartmouth, at least
since I've been here. Every season the things that we're
supposed to lack the most seem to be the best," Yacey
said. "Last year after losing a big senior class we
were supposed to be a little rough around the edges offensively
and guys stepped up like Jessiman, Oulette, and Stempniak
respond with a whole bunch of goals. This year we were supposed
to be a little lacking defensively. We seem to prove the
analysts wrong. We pride ourselves on that."
In a refreshing change from the defensive-minded trend that's
consumed hockey at all levels, Dartmouth's defensive stinginess
doesn't come as a result of giving up on offensive chances.
There's room to be both aggressive and responsible, and
Dartmouth is a perfect example.
"If we're learning this (defensive) part of it, we
have to keep up with it. We're learning the defensive side
of it. We're an aggressive team. It's not like we're sitting
back and trapping teams. We're getting after it. We're getting
opportunities, it's just not flying in for us," Gaudet
With three ties and a one-goal victory, Dartmouth hasn't
had much margin for error. The lone two-goal win, a 3-1
win over Brown, included an empty-net goal. Yacey sees his
team's early-season nailbiters as a training ground for
what Dartmouth hopes will be an extended run through the
how the game is played these days. It's a lot tighter checking,
guys cycle it from the corners, guys are getting hooked
and all that. It's just the way the game goes. It's a good
thing, because we're playing basically playoff hockey right
now. We're not scoring five goals and that's not going to
happen in the playoffs. We're playing good 'D' and if we're
going to win games, we're going to win games like that.
Hopefully we'll keep it rolling throughout the
AND HEARD IN THE ECAC
up – We would be remiss
in any discussion of solid defensive play without also shedding
some light on the Rensselaer Engineers, and a rock-solid
weekend in defeating Vermont 7-1 before Saturday's 1-1 tie
Leading the way for the RPI defense is senior captain Scott
Basiuk, who, along with partner Alexander Valentin spent
a great portion of Saturday's encounter matched up against
Dartmouth's big line of Stempniak, Oulette, and Jessiman.
Basiuk, in particular, kept close watch of Jessiman and
noticed that as the game wore on, the Big Green big line
was annoyed by a lack of tremendous opportunities.
"I think they probably were getting frustrated. They're
not used to not scoring for a whole weekend. Those are three
good players, probably three of the top players in the league.
They've got a good club over there, but we worked hard and
shut them down," Basiuk said.
Things are starting to change for the better in Troy, where
RPI has lost only once in its last seven games, posting
a 4-1-2 record. Last season, the months of January and February
were particularly brutal as the Engineers managed only two
wins in 16 games. Included in that stretch was a seven-game
losing streak, all of which were conference games.
The team got a spark with a first-round playoff win over
Union, and used that to motivate itself during the off-season.
Early success has been the result. The Engineers get their
stiffest test to date by entertaining St. Cloud State for
a pair at Houston Field House this weekend.
built going into the playoffs last year, and we built all
over the summer and the fall, every guy came back stronger
than ever. We were ready to go right from the first day
of lifts. We've got St. Cloud next week and they're probably
one of the best teams in the country right now. It's going
to be a great test and we'll see what we've got against
them," Basiuk said.
boys – Both Union and Minnesota Duluth have
made appearances in
the INCH Power Rankings
during the first two months of the season. They have since
dropped from the rankings, primarily due to some inconsistent
performances. UMD won four games in a row before dropping
three straight. Union started 4-0-1 before getting smoked
by New Hampshire.
latest edition, INCH staffers have granted the Dutchmen
and Bulldogs Bubble-licious status This weekend, these sides
match up against each other and we may learn a little more
about each team's true worthiness to be counted among the
Great Weekend Getaway
Lawrence at Clarkson (Sat.)
The stakes are always a little higher when
travel partners meet in conference play. St. Lawrence
makes the 10-mile trip across Route 11 on Saturday
night to visit Clarkson's Cheel Arena. Both teams
could use a lift in the early-season standings, making
these two points very valuable to each side.
While you're there: West Potsdam will be the site
of the sixth annual "Hobble Gobble" on Saturday
morning, a road racing event where participants predict
their time of finish prior to running either a four-mile
or seven-mile course. The 10 runners finishing closest
to their predicted times win a free turkey.
There are no bonus points
awarded for creativity, but credit Clarkson
senior captain Tristan Lush for trusting
his instincts against Cornell. While working a cycle
play out of the left wing corner, Lush carried the
puck up the wall. Instead of dropping the puck back
down to the corner, as most people expected, Lush
spun a shot from the half-board toward the Cornell
net where it caught Big Red defenders and goaltender
David McKee off guard. Lush said it's a play he's
worked on in practice, and his work was rewarded with
a big goal.
the other side for the Golden Knights, some unfortunate
circumstances for Clarkson freshman defenseman
Michael Grenzy, whose two turnovers in the
Golden Knights' zone directly led to Cornell's goals
in a 2-2 tie. Compounding the rookie's hard-luck evening
was that the games were televised to the majority
of central and northern New York.
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• The turning point in Princeton's
big win at Harvard? Early in the third
period, with Princeton enjoying a two-man advantage, Harvard's
Dennis Packard had a short-handed breakaway. Tiger goalie
Eric Leroux made the most important of his 41 saves, keeping
the deficit at 2-0. Princeton then rattled off four straight
goals to pull off a stunning upset on enemy ice.
Harvard's Dov Grumet-Morris returned to the nets
for Saturday's game against Yale and was very solid. He
gave the team it's best goaltending effort of the year (25
saves) at an important time.
Colgate snapped an eight-game winless streak
against Clarkson in style, with a 6-1 win
at Cheel Arena on Saturday night. Sophomore forward Jon
Smyth scored four of the Raider goals and has been reaping
a bounty of conference and national honors.
Kevin Sneddon's return to the Capital District as coach
of the Vermont Catamounts received plenty
of attention in Albany-area media. UVM was blasted by RPI
7-1 and lost to Union 5-1, where Sneddon
coached for the previous six seasons,
The game-worn jersey auction that coincided with RPI's
inaugural "Black Friday" game raised $6,600. Proceeds
benefitted the school's athletics department. It was a success
on the ice as well. The Engineers scored seven goals, something
they hadn't done in almost
exactly three years. RPI defeated Massachusetts 9-2 on Nov.
Most teams take a break from conference play this weekend
and it sets up some interesting non-conference matchups.
There's the big WCHA trip to New York's Capital District
as St. Cloud State visits
Rensselaer and Minnesota Duluth darkens
the doors at Union's Messa Rink. It's also
Silver Puck Weekend at Colgate. At Lynah
Rink, Cornell hopes for a change in fortune
against the CCHA when Bowling
Green and Ohio State visit. Western Michigan got a win and
a tie there in mid-November.
Brown's offense came to life in a big way,
with huge victories over
Yale (6-0) and Princeton
(5-1). Part of the reason for increased output was the return
of junior Les Haggett, who missed the first three games
of the year. Haggett was the team's second leading scorer
as a sophomore with 33 points. He stepped right in and recorded
five points over the weekend, all coming on the power play.
As you may know, Union assistant coach
Tony Gasparini played his college hockey at Minnesota Duluth,
where he spent most of his four years as the team's backup
netminder. His alma mater comes calling this weekend.
Here's a clause that you don't want to read in your favorite
team's game notes, courtesy of Steve Conn. "Yale's
lone goal of the weekend..."