January 8, 2004
Now What?
Vermont's departure could lead to more changes in scheduling, membership

By Joe Gladziszewski

 ECAC Notebook

This week's schedule
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Atlantic Hockey/CHA Notebook

CCHA Notebook
Hockey East Notebook
WCHA Notebook

Vermont's less than surprising jump to Hockey East became official on Thursday and the ECAC is already in the process of sorting out its future, which could include the eradication of the league's familiar travel-partner scheduling system.

That would be welcome news to some of the league coaches in the area of scheduling. Due to the diversity of the member institutions in the conference, teams face different scheduling needs. Also, with a variance in exam periods between Princeton and Harvard and schools operating under the traditional two-semester system, the Tigers and Crimson won't be playing games in the coming weeks. Those scheduling factors lead to a large differential in games played through the first three months of the season. As it currently stands, Cornell and Colgate have played half as many games (six each) as Harvard (12).

Union head coach Nate Leaman, a former assistant at Harvard, has been on both sides of the issue.

"The league standings are deceiving," Leaman said. "I know that when we played Princeton and Yale, it was their 10th and 11th league games, while we were just playing our fifth and sixth games. When someone looks up the points in our league coaches get kind of frustrated. We're not sure what the solution is," Leaman said.

With a limit of 29 regular-season games, that leaves just seven non-league games for the Ivies, and in the case of a team like Harvard, the bulk of those non-league games are easily taken care of. Games against traditional regional rivals Boston College and Boston University, plus two Beanpot games and a holiday tournament consume six out of seven non-league games.

For the non-Ivies, which play a 34-game regular-season schedule, there are 12 spots in the schedule that must be filled. Coaches are finding it increasingly difficult to fill those gaps in the schedule. Upper-echelon teams are often reluctant to travel, preferring revenue-generating home games. Games against fledgling programs in College Hockey America or Atlantic Hockey could negatively impact a team's strength of schedule in computer rankings that help determine at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.

Certainly, the impact of Vermont's departure will be among the topics discussed throughout the season and at the annual coaches' meetings in Naples, Fla., in April. Moving from a travel-partner system to a weekend series system such as the ones in operation in the CCHA and WCHA would give the ECAC programs greater flexibility, which is a big perk considering the current differences between the league membership.

Of course, the future of the conference is still cloudy at best. The addition of new programs is possible, as hockey commissioner Phil Buttafuoco stated in a Thursday conference call. A membership committee comprised of five administrators from current ECAC institutions will explore the available options and the possibility of adding new members. Academic standards, a commitment to top-level college hockey, and geography are factors that the committee will consider.

Monday's vote at the NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tenn. regarding Proposition 65-1, a waiver that would allow Division III institutions to continue to offer athletic scholarships to select sports that play at the Division I level, directly affects Clarkson, Rensselaer and St. Lawrence. The outcome of the vote will set in motion another chain of events regarding league membership.


Bearing Down –
Little did anyone know just how deeply the Brown Bears would be affected by their failure to hold a 3-1 lead in the third period of a Dec. 4 game at Cornell. In that game, the Big Red scored a pair of third-period goals and earned a valuable point in the ECAC standings.

That 20-minute stretch sent the teams toward the holidays in different directions.

Cornell came back the next night and wrestled its way to a 1-0 win over Harvard, then won the Everblades College Classic for the first time in program history by beating Notre Dame and Ohio State.

Brown left Lynah Rink and went to Colgate, where the Raiders put six pucks past Yann Danis and chased the All-America candidate midway through the third period. A trip to Grand Forks furthered Brown's skid as the Bears fell in overtime to Wayne State and tied Findlay.

"There are probably a million reasons why we weren't playing well and I'm not sure that any of them matter. We got off course from what makes us successful," Brown coach Roger Grillo said of his team's December swoon. "With the parity across the nation in college hockey you've got to bring your A game as far as effort and intesity, and we weren't close."

That being said, Brown rebounded with a weekend sweep of conference foes at Rensselaer and Union last weekend. Nick Ringstad's power-play goal with 6:44 left was the only goal in Friday's win at RPI and turned momentum back in favor of the Bears.

Things fully came together for Brown with a 4-1 win at Union, which completed the cycle started against Cornell one month earlier.

"For the first two periods at Cornell we competed hard and played hard. Then we sat back a little bit in the third and that kind of sent us on a little bit of a tailspin. We got a little rattled," Grillo said. "We didn't turn it around until this past Saturday at Union."

Brown enters the weekend ranked 15th in the INCH Power Rankings, while Cornell's recent hot streak has propelled the Big Red into the top-10. Since Cornell has played five fewer conference games than Brown, the Bears could effectively negate the impact of one of those games in hand with a head-to-head win.

Union "up" take: These are not words one would expect to hear from the head coach of a team that's lost seven straight games: "I really like our team, and we've played well in our last four games. In two of the four we probably outplayed our opponent and the other two were losses to highly-ranked teams," Union coach Nate Leaman said.

For a team that was once 7-2-2 and resided in the INCH Power Rankings, an eight-game winless streak has knocked Union from the national conscience. Since Christmas, however, Leaman's seen signs of life from the Dutchmen. Two losses at the Badger Holiday Classic (8-1 to Wisconsin and 2-1 to UMass-Lowell) and defeats against Harvard (3-2) and Brown (4-1) included encouraging signs.

The players are persevering and learning lessons from mistakes made primarily at the defensive end of the ice.

"We're trying to find our way through this and we're staying together, sticking together. When you're in a stretch like this, you lose confidence and start trying to do other people's jobs," Leaman said.

A home-and-home series against Rensselaer this weekend provides an opportunity for Union to capture its first win since Nov. 15, a 5-1 victory over Vermont.

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Colgate at Brown (Fri.); Cornell at Brown (Sat.)
For once, Cornell's trip to Harvard is placed on the back burner, as the team to beat right now in the ECAC appears to be Brown. The teams tied 3-3 in their earlier meeting, and will take the ice at Meehan Auditorium where the Bears have been tough to beat over the last two years. Brown has an impressive 21-2-5 record over its last 28 home games.

While you're there: Anyone who's visited Providence for Frozen Fours and NCAA Regionals knows that it's a great spot for post-game refreshments. One of INCH's favorite spots, Murphy's, is located downtown near the Dunkin Donuts Center.

Stick Salute

Though the Vermont team is stationed in last place in the ECAC standings, the Catamounts are big winners in the greater Burlington area when it comes to community service.

Members of the Vermont men's hockey team spent Wednesday afternoon distributing teddy bears at a local hospital and nursing home. The teddy bears were collected during the men's hockey game vs. Connecticut on Dec. 20. Bears were also donated to the Ronald McDonald House in Burlington.

Also, on Dec. 31, the annual Skate With The Cats event raised $570 for the Colchester/Milton Rotary Club's Holiday Basket Project. The Vermont men's and women's hockey teams skated with local fans from 6-8 p.m. on New Year's Eve, and the crowd was reported to be the largest in event history.


Yale picked up its first non-conference win of the season in impressive fashion by knocking off New Hampshire 3-2 at the Whittemore Center on Saturday night. Yale sophomore Nate Jackson scored the game-winning goal late in the second period. Senior Ryan Steeves scored a short-handed goal, his third of the season, and has 12 points in Yale's last 10 games.

Goaltender Josh Gartner made 29 saves and earned high praise from coach Tim Taylor. "Our goalie was a huge part of the win," Taylor said. "We created a lot of good scoring opportunities and had a resilient defense but the key was Josh Gartner's performance."

• Coaches never have it easy, but Clarkson coach George Roll finally got a little break from the rigors of managing every single shift when the Golden Knights defeated Mercyhurst 8-2 on Saturday. "Our radio guy told me that it was the first game all year we've scored more than one goal in the first period, and it was definitely nice to have a night where that happened," Roll said.

• The Golden Knights will be without stalwart defenseman Matt Nickerson for Friday's game at Yale, as he'll serve the mandatory one-game suspension following his fighting penalty in Saturday's win over Mercyhurst.

• There were no ECAC players on the ice when the United States captured its first-ever gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Helsinki, Finland earlier this week although Harvard defensman Dylan Reese was a member of the team before an injury caused him to miss the tournament. However, the conference will be represented by four players, including two starters, at the AHL All-Star Classic in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Feb. 8-9.

Former Vermont standout Eric Perrin (Hershey Bears) was named a starting forward for Team Canada, and ex-Cornell goaltender David LeNeveu (Springfield Falcons) is also on the roster. The Planet USA starting lineup features Bridgeport Sound Tigers forward Jeff Hamilton, a Yale standout during his collegiate days. He'll be joined by Matt Murley, former Rensselaer Engineer and current member of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

• The Woonsocket Call reported this week that Union will be among the schools taking part in next year's Dunkin Donuts Coffee Pot tournament at Providence. The Dutchmen will join Holy Cross, Merrimack, and the host Providence Friars for the event.

• The athletic communications department at Brown launched its Hobey Baker campaign for goaltender Yann Danis this week. Visit www.yanndanis.com for a comprehensive look at the All-American goaltender.

• I'm pleased to report that no humans were in danger of being struck by errant golf shots last week on Tampa-area courses. An abundance of trees, bunkers, and lakes adequately protected other golfers from my wayward shots.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.

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