Dartmouth finally got its first win of the season on Saturday night, as it downed Harvard in the only league game of the weekend. ECAC teams went 5-5-0 in non-league games, which was mediocre but the non-conference slate has to date been successful with a 36-21-5 record. With the good non-league record comes good positioning in the Krach and Pairwise rankings where five league teams sit pretty heading into the break. The latter is most important in figuring out the NCAA tournament rankings, and the ECAC has five within the top 16.
This weekend features the last full conference game slate until next month as teams will head on holiday and exam breaks. There are a plethora of great games this weekend, as the Battle of the North Country will take center stage when Clarkson and St. Lawrence play a home and home series between two of the biggest surprises within the conference this so far. Also there is just a little matchup that features Quinnipiac and Union at Messa on Saturday. Those teams are currently first and in a tie for second within the conference so it should be quite the matchup in Schenectady. Without further ado there a bunch of story-lines and thoughts to be brought up.
Princeton is decimated and needs the break in the worst way
There is no team in the conference that needs the break more than Princeton. On Sunday, the Tigers dressed 10 forwards, a defenseman as a center and a walk-on defenseman. Among the injuries it is currently nursing, Andrew Calof and Tyler Magueri are the biggest because of what they mean to the team, as its leading scorers. Calof was a preseason All ECAC selection and many expected him to compete for the ECAC player of the year award.
Joining Maugeri and Calof on the mend are Mike Ambrosia, Jonathan Liau, Ben Foster, Kevin Liss and Kevin Ross. Currently five forwards and three defensemen are injured, which is causing coach Prier to do a lot of line juggling as guys have been in and out of the lineup. According to Eye On the Tigers blogger, Jashvina Shah, Calof, Foster, Davis and Magueri are all out until at least Christmas, while Ambrosia and Liau are out indefintely. No updates are given on the timetables for Liss and Ross.
To say the Tigers need the break is an understatement. On Sunday against Michigan State, it was trounced 8-2 by a team that has struggled on the year. It was the first time Princeton has allowed eight goals since 2007 and it never was in the contest really, it was scored on early and often. It looked like a tired bunch in disarray because so many skaters were in new, unfamiliar roles.
Injuries do a lot more than leave gaping holes and put less experienced, less skilled players in the lineup, it also puts guys into roles that they are not used to and roles that they may have never expected. With the top scorers out in Calof and Magueri, Princeton has struggled for wins. Last weekend the team rallied around to defeat a real strong Quinnipiac team, and a lot can be said for that. Until all the injuries are healed Princeton will go without an identity and will be an unknown heading into the second half. Andrew Calof will make the Tigers immediately better and as guys come back the roles will become clear and cut. Until then though, Princeton will continue to heal. This weekend it will travel to Union and Rensselaer, no easy task for even a full roster of players.
Dartmouth Getting Its First Win is a Relief for Them
Dartmouth was reeling. Sitting at 0-8-0 its season was going nowhere fast. Losses were mounting and mounting fast for a team that many thought was going to be good. Hell I had them fourth in my preseason poll, and Dartmouth achieved a fifth place in the preseason media poll. But we seemed to be wrong or were we?
Coming into last weekend, Dartmouth had two weeks off and it was two weeks well spent, as it looked like a brand new team. Because I live in NH, I see the Big Green the most out of all ECAC teams and in all honesty I wasn’t sure that the team I was watching was the same one I watched against St. Lawrence and Clarkson. The interior defense was the biggest difference that I saw, as Harvard was unable to get anything within the center of the ice and when it did Big Green defenders were all over the puck to knock it away. That was its biggest issue just two weeks ago, but on this night it wasn’t there. If anything the team I saw on the ice on Saturday was the team many of us thought Dartmouth would be this season.
Time off can be good or bad for a team, but obviously the chance to get away from the ice and away from the thoughts of not having a win was good for Dartmouth. The first one is always the toughest is the adage that is thrown around a lot, and it had certainly struggled to attain it. Just as winning is contagious, so is losing. That was the main issue for Dartmouth, it was hardly a lack of skill or will it was more a lack of confidence in themselves. During the two weeks, players had exams and were away from hockey for most of it, which was probably the best thing for the players.
A lot can be said of a team that is 0-8-0, but tough willed and minded has to be two of them. It was trying times in Hanover and it was visible from coach Bob Gaudet, but his coaching from the bench on Saturday night showed the world he hadn’t given up on this team. His team responded to the coaching, many times I could hear it from the Thompson Arena press box.
Now that the proverbial monkey is off the back, look for Dartmouth to pick up even more wins. It certainly has the talent. If one player needs to turn his season around its Tyler Sikura. If it can get his scoring back, the Big Green will be fine and dangerous to any team down the stretch.
My Calendar was Marked Weeks Ago, This Weekend’s Battle of the North Country Will be Special
One of the biggest rivalries in College Hockey will take center stage this weekend, as North Country rivals St Lawrence and Clarkson will play a home and home. The two schools are separated by 10 miles and 13 minutes of driving. Clarkson has been the biggest surprise of the season and sitting at 10-3-1 it is in good shape going forward. St. Lawrence has struggled at times at 8-6-2 but its offense is dynamic and it is coming off of a great road series, which saw them win and lose, against North Dakota, a series in which it dominated for long stretches.
With the teams so close together the rivalry would be natural, but it is also one of longest in college hockey as it dates back to 1925. The series, historically has been heavily tilted towards Clarkson as the Golden Knights lead the all time series 118-65-10 in 193 all-time meetings between the schools. To say there is a lot of history between the schools would be an understatement of mass proportions, but the recent history has surprisingly been owned by Clarkson, despite its struggles in the past few years. The Golden Knights are 6-1-1 in the last eight meeting between the schools.
This year the rivalry will be tested to the brink, as both teams have been good this season and have impressed at times. Both times I have seen St. Lawrence I have left with the thought they are better than its record and Clarkson has just found ways to win. One of the most interesting aspects of this game is that it will feature two teams that are as far opposite in style than say the British and the Americans in the American Revolution, and even then both those sides may have liked each other more than these two teams do. Whereas there was hope of a treaty to end the Revolution, doubtful we will get one in this series but we will get handshakes at the end of the second game I suppose, which will show us the respect the two teams have for each other. In the end, though, the big, defensive Clarkson team will face a fast, dynamic, offensive machine in St. Lawrence for two.
With so little room separating the teams in the ECAC standings, this is crucial not only to the national picture where Clarkson sits highly ranked but also to the conference picture. These games could end up being the difference at the end, and one should expect a tournament style atmosphere in both buildings. Both Appleton and Cheel will be rocking, where Clarkson and St. Lawrence can once again prove how big their rivalry is. The fact both teams come into this one as top teams will only put icing on the cake for the rivalry. It should be a great two game series, one that is special in many ways.