UNION WINS IMPORTANT AREAS
You’ll never be cheated by effort whenever Union or St. Lawrence takes the ice. That knowledge inspired the expectation that Friday’s late semifinal would be a game of battles in the important parts of the ice. Expectations were met, and Union went on to a 3-1 win over St. Lawrence in the second semifinal of the ECAC Hockey Championship at Times Union Center in downtown Albany.
Fittingly, the Dutchmen scored their first two goals on plays in which they won the puck in the corner or on the half boards and made centering passes to the front of the St. Lawrence net. The game was won, however, in the 20-foot area in front of Union’s net, where the Dutchmen defense did a great job of tying up sticks of St. Lawrence forwards and blocking shots in front of freshman goalie Keith Kinkaid.
According to the shot charts that were kept by the official scorers at the tournament, the Saints attempted 24 shots in the game from the points or outside the tops of the circles. In almost every instance, at least one Saint forward was stationed in front of Kinkaid. Union was credited with 12 blocked shots over the three periods.
“In practice we always work on blocking shots. We’re a great blocking-shot team and the guys form a pocket around the net to help me and we just battled all night long,” Kinkaid said.
Senior defenseman Mike Schreiber was a first-team All-ECAC Hockey selection and a finalist for the league’s best defensive defenseman award. Even though St. Lawrence outshot Union 30-19 in the game, Schreiber was happy that the shots they allowed didn’t come from dangerous areas.
“They outshot us tonight, there’s no secret there, but we really pride ourselves on really boxing out around the net. If they have perimeter shots, that’s OK,” Schreiber said. “Keith, he’s a good enough goalie that he’s going to control that rebound, he’s going to secure it. If we can just box out as well as we can, and have sticks and they can’t get a whack at the rebound then we’ve done our job.”
At the offensive end for Union, Stephane Boileau set up the game’s opening goal midway through the first when he won the puck in the left wing corner and spun a centering pass to a streaking Luke Cain in the slot, who scored from close range.
The go-ahead goal in the third had some similarities. Boileau was in on the boards after a faceoff in the St. Lawrence zone. He got the puck and laid it off for Jason Walters on the half-wall. Walters sent a shot to the front that was deflected in by Adam Presizniuk.
Two goals for, none against, in the area right in front of the net. Union’s success came as expected.
THE CHANT IS CHANGING
The raucous Lynah Faithful have regularly saluted their senior goalie with chants of “SCRI-VENS, SCRI-VENS” throughout the latter part of the season. The chant was a little different Friday afternoon in Albany. After one of his 23 saves in a shutout performance, the Faithful chanted “HO-BEY BA-KER”.
While Locke Jillson, John Esposito and Riley Nash scored for Cornell the goaltender was once again the team’s best player in a 3-0 win over Brown in the opening semifinal of the ECAC Hockey Championship at Times Union Center in downtown Albany.
Scrivens was named as one of 10 finalists for college hockey’s most prestigious individual honor Thursday night and is playing the best hockey of his career for the Big Red. His second-straight shutout was his sixth of the season and he is now tied for first in Cornell history with 18 career zeroes.
He was at his best in the third period. Cornell held a 1-0 lead when he made a good save early in the third on a shot from the slot by Brown’s Chris Zaires. After the Big Red went up 2-0, Scrivens stopped a short-handed breakaway by Bobby Farnham, and then made another save later in the period on a close-in chance by Jack Maclellan, who tried a deke.
It’s not just the job that Cornell’s goalie is doing, but how he’s doing it. Senior defenseman Brendon Nash has played in front of Scrivens in more than 100 games during their careers. He hesitated in saying that Scrivens is at his best right now, because of how consistent he’s always been.
“He always plays like this. He comes out ready to play in every game and he stops a lot of the shots he faces. He was really on his game tonight,” Nash said, and added that Scrivens is a reliable co-worker in the defensive zone.
“It’s really good. He loves to communicate out there, he loves talking to us, letting us know what’s going on out there. We always know that he’s going to make the save and where the rebound is usually going to go. He’s pretty good at controlling those. It’s pretty simple and it makes it easy on us when we know what he wants to do and he knows what we want to do.”
Freshman defenseman Braden Birch has just one year of experience playing with Scrivens, but knows that there’s a tremendous asset backstopping the Big Red.
“As a defenseman I love playing with Ben back there, and having full trust in your goaltender knowing that he’s going to keep you in the game and win you some games,” Birch said. “You feel a lot more comfortable and he’s a great goalie, one of the best I’ve ever played with. He’s a pretty special goalie and I’m happy to have him on our team.”
Scrivens has a 1.83 goals-against average (second nationally) and a .935 save percentage (tied for first nationally). Even if he continues to play this way, the Hobey Baker trophy might not end up in his hands. However, other more significant team-related trophies could, beginning with Saturday’s league championship game.
SEEN AND HEARD AT TIMES UNION CENTER
• Several in-arena advertisements were read promoting the 2011 ECAC Hockey Championship at the Boardwalk Convention Center in Atlantic City, and each time it was read, the announcement was booed by those in attendance in downtown Albany.
• St. Lawrence had its best chance to take the lead in the third period when defenseman Pete Child put a shot through traffic that hit the right post and was cleared to safety by Union. The Dutchmen went ahead about 30 seconds later on Adam Presizniuk’s goal.
• Two of Cornell’s three goals on Brown sophomore goalie Mike Clemente were roofed wristers under the crossbar. Locke Jillson’s opener with 4:25 left in the second period from the left wing circle went in and out so fast that they took another look on video review. The water bottle flipped, so it was definitely a good one, even though the goal judge never turned the light on. Riley Nash’s third-period goal from the high slot got through a Brown defenseman and beat Clemente over the blocker.
• Brown senior Aaron Volpatti was one of the team’s leaders and the Bears took great strides this season. “Obviously it’s a huge step for the program,” Volpatti said. “Did we achieve (all of) our goals this season? Absolutely not. But one of our goals as a senior class was we wanted this to be one of the years that we changed the culture of Brown hockey, and we did that.”
• It is the second consecutive season that a team will play for its first ECAC Hockey Championship. Union’s maiden voyage is Saturday night and they can hope it goes as well as Yale’s initial championship game appearance went last year – a 5-0 win against Cornell.
• St. Lawrence coach Joe Marsh was joined in the postgame press conference by senior forward Travis Vermeulen, who was named as the league’s best defensive forward earlier in the week and was saluted as INCH’s Breakthrough Player in our season-ending notebook. Marsh said that Vermeulen would be a member of his all-time St. Lawrence team if he were naming one (and he’s been the coach of that program for 25 years) based on Vermeulen’s incredible work ethic. “He’s never taken a day off in four years, and that’s not just Friday and Saturday nights, that’s every day,” Marsh said.
• Brown got off to a strong start in the game and had its best sustained pressure in the first 12 minutes. The Bears forechecked Cornell’s defensemen hard and generated chances. Brown outshot the Big Red 11-6 in the first period.
• Notable alumni sighting: Former St. Lawrence defenseman Shawn Fensel was in attendance for the Saints’ semifinal game.
PLUSSES AND MINUSES
Attendance was announced at 5,703 for the semifinal games. It may not have been one of the highest-attended ECAC Hockey events in downtown Albany, but all of the fans brought great energy. It felt full and there’s little doubt that tomorrow’s championship between Cornell and Union will draw their large and boisterous support groups and make for a great hockey event.
Best pep band song of the night, Cornell’s take on “What Would Brian Boitano Do?” from the South Park Movie. Of course, close friends of INCH may recall and substitute the alternate lyrics to “What Would Brian Gionta Do?”
Players commented that the arena conditions were difficult because of warm temperatures. Dressing rooms, benches, and the playing surface were all significantly warmer than teams are used to in their home rinks. I’ll bet fans didn’t mind one bit. The temperature in downtown Albany was right around 70 degrees when the first game started. I’m sure tailgate parties took full advantage of the sun.
INCH’S THREE STARS OF THE NIGHT
3. Derek Keller, St. Lawrence – The Saints’ minute-eating defenseman played almost half of the game and stood out on the blue line for St. Lawrence. He also scored a heck of a goal to knot the score 1-1 late in the second period. Keller dragged the puck inside of a sliding forward and roofed a wrister under the crossbar.
2. Ben Scrivens, Cornell – He’s making all of the saves, and he’s making them look somewhat easy. Scrivens is in control of his positioning, tracking the puck well and is very settled on rush chances as well as net-mouth scrambles.
1. Stephanie Boileau, Union – Boileau brought energy early and got in deep on the forecheck. He won two puck battles on the wall and earned assists on Union’s first two goals of the game.
Cornell and Union meet for the third time this season and the Big Red have a win and a tie in the season series, but Union outshot Cornell in both games. Riley Nash has four points on Cornell’s six goals in the season series. Mario Valery-Trabucco has two of Union’s three goals in the season series.
St. Lawrence and Brown meet in the consolation game. Unlike past seasons in ECAC Hockey, there are virtually no national tournament implications in this game but it will be a much-deserved and well-earned final game for two groups of seniors that have left a positive mark on the direction of each program.