January 15, 2004
Sigh of Relief

By Joe Gladziszewski

 ECAC Notebook

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Atlantic Hockey/CHA Notebook

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Vermont's departure from the ECAC and move to Hockey East, combined with Monday's vote by NCAA Division III institutions that could have stripped the ability of three ECAC schools to offer scholarships in their men's Division I hockey programs, left the ECAC with some doubt and uncertainty at this time last week.

Good news came from Monday's vote, which allowed Clarkson, Rensselaer, and St. Lawrence to maintain their "play-up" status as scholarship-offering Division I programs at Divsion III instittutions.

"We're elated that the NCAA membership has acknowledged the rich history and tradition at these eight schools, especially the three in our league," ECAC Commissioner Phil Buttafuoco said Monday afternoon.

Buttafuoco called the sentiment on the floor of the NCAA Convention in Nashville "a spirit of compassion" for the would-be affected ECAC schools, and five others including the Colorado College men's hockey team and the Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse team.

"Our gut feeling from working the hallways and meeting with presidents and athletic directors over the last few days was one of cautious optimism. They had really good feelings toward the programs," Buttafuoco said.

Clarkson, RPI, and St. Lawrence were granted the privelege of offering these scholarships through a waiver during the 1982-83 season, and this year's proposed legislation was the biggest challenge to that waiver. Monday's vote elimites the immediate concern about this issue coming up in the future.

Reaction from two of the affected head coaches was, not surprisingly, very postive.

Dan Fridgen, head coach at Rensselaer, said the recruiting battles were intense during the time of uncertainty surrounding Proposal 65.

"When you're fighting these recruiting wars they can become battles. Any time one institution has any information, they'll use it against another institution. We found that a lot of the information out there was misinformation. For example, some people were saying that we would be a Division III (hockey) team starting in 2008, which was just not true. It definitely affected us with specific recruits, now we can move forward," he said.

Fridgen also took time to address an argument made by some proponents of Proposal 65 – that having a Division I program gives a school's Division III programs a competitive advantage.

"I find it very difficult to believe that our football team made it to the semifinals of the NCAA Division III Football Championships because there's a Division I hockey team at the school that offers scholarships."

Clarkson coach George Roll said the vote will alleviate some recruiting problems.

"Obviously it is a big thing for us to go out recruiting and to be able to offer scholarships. We have not been able to do that for the '05-'06 class. We have been waiting on the decision to see where it goes, and it certainly will make our lives a whole lot easier," he said.


Filling In –
One of the big questions surrounding Yale was the team's ability to replace a large senior class and the scoring void left when Chris Higgins left school early to sign with the Montreal Canadiens. Yale sophomore forward Joe Zappala has stepped up his scoring, especially when it matters most.

Zappala leads the nation in game-winning goals with six. He had the game winners in Yale's wins over Clarkson and St. Lawrence last weekend. The goal against SLU came with 24 seconds remaining in overtime in a 4-3 win. The Bulldogs are on a three-game winning streak since two consecutive losses at the Wells Fargo Denver Cup during the holidays. Things got back on track with a road upset of New Hampshire.

"We hit rock bottom at that point. We were playing pretty well we just couldn't put anything in the net," Zappala said of the Denver trip. "Since then, we've regrouped in every area and have played really solid."

Zappala's linemates include senior Ryan Steeves at center, the team's returning leading scorer, and fellow sophomore Jeff Hristovski. With Zappala, Hristovski, and Christian Jensen setting the pace, the sophomore class leads Yale in scoring with 64 points, nearly double the output of the senior class (36 points).

Replacing the graduating class and Higgins' 41-point season wasn't discussed in the Bulldog dressing room. "We didn't talk about it," Zappala said. "It was an unmentioned fact around our team, but for us to win, we knew everyone was going to have to do a little more as an individual."

Alumni Reaction – A devastating knee injury in the 1999-2000 season and three subsequent pro seasons in Finland, followed by this year's tenure with the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears hasn't kept celebrated Vermont alum Eric Perrin from keeping tabs on his alma mater.

He spent this past offseason working out in Burlington with Martin St. Louis, and training with Vermont strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman.

Perrin weighed in on UVM's move to Hockey East, and was complimentary toward the ECAC.

"That can only be good," Perrin said of the move. "Everybody talks about BU, BC, Maine, and UNH, and it seems like all of those teams always wind up in the top-10. I have to say, though, that the ECAC has some great teams also. When we were there I remember there were some great teams with a lot of great players that have gone on to the NHL. You can't bring down the ECAC too much. It's a great league. In any case, it will be a great move for Vermont and bring it to maybe a little bit higher level against those teams that are in the top 10."

Perrin ranks in the top-10 in the American Hockey League scoring charts and was named as a starter for the Canadian All-Stars in the upcoming AHL All-Star Classic in Grand Rapids, Mich. on Feb. 8-9.

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Brown at New Hampshire (Sat.)
The ECAC league leaders travel to the Whittemore Center for a league game ... err ... it just seems like UNH is an ECAC team. Saturday's game will be the eighth of the year for UNH against ECAC teams. They're 5-2-0 so far in those contests. Vermont, Cornell, Dartmouth, and Colgate have played just eight league games heading into this weekend.

Stick Salute

Cornell goaltender David McKee, a recipient of criticism from some corners early in the season after replacing All-American David LeNeveu, was the recipient of the CSTV/Hockey Commissioners' Association Rookie of the Month award for December. He stopped 82 of 88 shots for a .932 save percentage.

Bench Minors

• It's hard to figure out Dartmouth's loss to Vermont. Of course, UVM is an improving team, but Dartmouth is contending for a league title and dropped a game against the last-place team. The timing of the loss didn't help either, with fellow championship chasers Cornell and Brown both losing over the weekend.

Some Cornell fans were frustrated by Brown's clutching and grabbing style in the Big Red's 2-1 loss against the Bears on Saturday. Go ahead and read that sentence again, ECAC fans. Cornell fans frustrated by clutching and grabbing.

Goal Getters – Rensselaer was mired in a three-game losing streak, including back-to-back losses in its own tournament, before beating Harvard on Jan. 3 and sweeping Union this past weekend.

The difference was quite simple, and that was scoring goals. Coach Dan Fridgen said the Engineers needed to get hungry around the net.

"When we came back after the break we lost a little bit of our scoring touch. It was obvious that we needed to do a little more scoring, and we weren't getting those scrappy kinds of goals that you need to get, garbage goals if you will," he said.

Another factor was a string of fine goaltending efforts against the Engineers. RPI suffered consecutive one-goal losses to Mercyhurst, Colgate, and Brown despite having a shots-on-goal advantage in the game.

Nathan Marsters has given Rensselaer steady goaltending all season and made 45 saves on 47 shots, allowing one goal in each game against Union last week.


• It's not been a good week in Hanover. First, a loss to last-place Vermont followed by an injury to senior defenseman Brian Van Abel among upperclassmen, took a hit when Van Abel suffered an ankle injury during a practice over the weekend. He missed Tuesday's 5-0 loss to New Hampshire at Manchester's Verizon Wireless Arena. Van Abel watched Tuesday's game on crutches, and it's likely that he'll miss this weekend's games against Clarkson and St. Lawrence.

• Eight ECAC players are listed in the mid-term rankings by the NHL's Central Scouting Service. Dartmouth defenseman Grant Lewis is the highest-rated player from the league at 29th. Brown forward Brian Ihnacak (57), Colgate forward Kyle Wilson (60), Cornell forward Mitch Carefoot (115), Dartmouth defenseman Rob Jarvis (129), Yale defensman Shawn Mole (164), Union forward Olivier Bouchard (188), and Colgate forward Ryan Smyth (234) are also listed among the top draft-eligible North American skaters.

St. Lawrence's win over Miami at the Lefty McFadden Invitational opened some eyes. Since then, however, the Saints haven't won away from Appleton Arena. SLU is 0-9-2 in road and neutral site games, and has been outscored 42-18 away from their home building.

• One might think that Syracuse University basketball coach Jim Boeheim is a consultant for the Rensselaer Holiday Hockey Classic. After featuring an uninspiring trio of guests this year, (Colgate, Northeastern, Mercyhurst), next year's slate includes Sacred Heart and Air Force, and a yet to be named replacement for Findlay. Ken Schott of the Schenectady Daily Gazette reports that the tournament will be moved from Christmas to Thanksgiving next season.

• Matt Moulson's hat trick for Cornell in a 5-3 win over Harvard was the first by a Harvard opponent in two seasons.

Colgate is 3-2 against ranked teams this year, with two victories over Brown and another against Ferris State. Losses to Ferris State and Ohio State are the blemishes.

• A reminder that Saturday's Yale contest against Connecticut is a 5:30 p.m. start at Ingalls Rink.

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

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