Archive for the 'ECAC' Category

Three Things I Think: ECAC 12/5

Monday, December 5th, 2016

Another week and another great weekend of conference play, for some teams. Harvard swept in the North Country, doing so in fine fashion outscoring SLU and Clarkson by an aggregate of 11-5. Union also picked up a sweep of Princeton and Quinnipiac on the road. The loss by the Bobcats marked their first home loss, within ECAC play, since December 6, 2014 against Harvard. Princeton picked up a dramatic 6-5 win over RPI on Saturday night, in a game it trailed 4-1 and stormed back to win in overtime. It was the Tigers’ first ECAC win of the year and it bumped them up to ninth in the league standings.

Cornell picked up an impressive home sweep of Miami over the weekend, as it defeated the Red Hawks 4-1 on Friday night and a 2-1 victory on Saturday. The Big Red join a mess of ECAC teams in the Pairwise top 20. Five of the top 20 teams hail from the ECAC, as Harvard (4th), Union (14), Quinnpiac (15), Cornell (16) and St. Lawrence (18) all find a spot among the 20 best in college hockey, according to the numbers. Clarkson also sits on the outside looking in at 22 in those ratings. The interconference record of 33-33-9 is fourth among the other conferences, but in recent weeks that has been improving. There are many key games in upcoming weeks, that can change that and one can assume the progression of some teams will bode well for the non-conference window, which starts this weekend for many teams.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts of the week: (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC 11/29

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

It seems like it has been forever since I have done one of these, because well it has been. I hope everyone had a great holiday and was able to check out some of the great hockey over the last two weekends. I was in the UK the week before the Friendship Four and for the people that crossed the pond for the SLU/Quinnipiac visit to Belfast, I am sure that was a great experience because Europe is such a great place to visit, no matter where you are.

In watching the games the last few weekends, there seems to be a big divide between the top half of the league and the bottom half. Struggling teams such as Yale, Brown, RPI and Princeton seem to be struggling to keep up with the offense of teams like SLU, Harvard, Quinnipiac, Union, Cornell and Clarkson. SLU and Clarkson are unbeaten in a combined 16 games, with the Saints unbeaten in nine and the Golden Knights without a loss in seven games. Quinnipiac is unbeaten in five league games, but dropped a 5-1 decision to Vermont on Saturday in Belfast.

To speak to this lack of parity so far, one can look at the records of the top teams in comparison to the bottom of the league. SLU, Quinnipiac, Clarkson and Union are a combined 18-3-6 in ECAC play thus far, with the Saints still undefeated approaching the halfway mark. SLU already has an 11 point lead on the bottom team in the league, Princeton, and a nine point lead on ninth place, Yale. One team near the bottom will make a run, it always happens but the difference between top and bottom certainly seems larger then normal.

Without further ado here are my thoughts for the week, which includes St. Lawrence, Clarkson and Princeton. (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC 11/15

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

Another great weekend and many standouts have started to take shape. Quinnipiac, Cornell and Clarkson all took home four points, while SLU continued its hot ECAC start picking up three. Although, it is too early to start making assumptions it appears that those four teams and Harvard are standouts. I will talk about why I included the Crimson in that list below. RPI, Colgate and Yale have struggled in the early season. Yale probably the biggest surprise in that list, but it seems like it should have been expected with all the losses it had in the offseason.

After defeating Yale at Ingalls rink on Friday night, Colgate struggled to find traction at Brown the next evening. The Bears picked up their first win of the season in the process and now only Princeton is without a win in the ECAC this year. I still feel as though Princeton is much improved and the possession stats in the early going will show that. It is always tough for a young Ivy team to find traction, I assume they are just off to a slow start.  It held tough against Harvard on Friday night, until it fell off late. It picked up a tie against a Dartmouth team that has found some great results in the early going on Saturday and I feel as though the Tigers will still pick up more wins than the last few seasons. It will be interesting to see how they progress. RPI, Brown,Princeton and Colgate are a combined 5-22-6 on the season, with each having a similar possession problem that puts them under a ton of pressure.

Dartmouth slowed a bit in a loss and a tie to Quinnipiac and Princeton, respectively. The Big Green held an early lead against the Bobcats on Friday night, but key penalties cost them dearly. Once QU got the lead, Dartmouth struggled to find the early game rhythm. They ended up dropping that game, with Devin Buffalo making 48 saves in a 6-3 loss. Mike Vecchione’s unreal start slowed a bit over the weekend with just a pair of assists, but he has been really good and still leads the nation in both goals and points. Union had a tough weekend, but still lead the league, with a loss and a tie on the weekend. Without further ado, here are my thoughts.

Watch Out For Harvard

One of the things that have plagued Harvard over the years, has been the inability to move the puck through the neutral zone from the defensive end of the ice to the offense. Interestingly enough, the one year Patrick McNally provided that wrinkle, the Crimson won the ECAC championship. This season, along with the plethora of talent up front, the Crimson have added two pieces on the blue-line that have instantly made them better not only in the defensive end but also on offense, which makes Harvard extremely dangerous.

For 40 minutes, Harvard utterly dominated Quinnipiac on Saturday. In the first 13 or so minutes of the second period, QU probably had about a minute in the Harvard zone in that time frame. The Crimson sent many shots, 33 in fact towards the QU net but were just unable to bury it. It is very rare for any team to do that to the Bobcats and it has probably been Harvard’s biggest bane against them in recent seasons. It is much like they have done in many games in the early going, including a Colgate game which it sent over 90 shots towards the net. For Harvard, all this is an improvement and it is all because the defense is that much better.

It is rare, a defensive talent like Adam Fox comes into the league. As a freshman, he is well rounded. On Saturday, in a big game, he played first pair minutes played on the power play and killed penalties. Him and John Marino, have fit well into a team that struggled for consistency in its own zone the past couple of seasons.

Technically, on the sheet, Marino, was paired with Wiley Sherman on the top pair and Fox on the second with Jacob Olson. Fox and Olson played a ton on Saturday, both played really well and both were noticable. Marino did as well but Fox was clearly a standout, with the amount he was playing. Both freshmen can move the puck, with Fox being very confident at all aspects of his defensive game. This should only lead to a boom in posession, and it already has. The Crimson are fourth in the country in corsi for, at 58.5%. Last year Harvard was midpack and against decent hockey teams, it struggled mightily. This is mostly because the defense does better limiting chances, while it also does better on getting the puck to the neutral zone.

As I said above, Harvard has struggled to move the puck from defense to offense over the years, this season the fruits of this new found wealth will probably be a good thing. Despite losing to Quinnipiac, it was the better team. It was nice to see a Harvard team move the puck from defense to offense, despite the struggles to finish and get those opportunities late.

One should watch Harvard, they still have a ton of talent up front and Merrick Madsen in net. Madsen seemed a bit off on Saturday, but he will get out of the funk. Harvard is an extremely dangerous looking team and if anything fun to watch.

Cornell Finds its Way

I remember looking at the scores early Friday and at that point saying well maybe Cornell isn’t the team I thought they were. But I checked again about an hour later, to realize they had scored the next four goals against Brown to take a 4-1 lead. The Big Red held on to defeat the Bears 4-2, to pick up the first win of the young season. On Saturday, Cornell find its rhythm in a big way, scoring six times in a 6-3 win.

Although Yale seems down, scoring six against that system is a big positive for Cornell. There was always the question of where the scoring would come from for the Big Red but it had arguably the best first line returnig in college hockey. Although, Jeff Kubiak remains sidelined with an injury, Jake Weidner has been fitting in with Mitch Vanderlaan and Anthony Angello just fine. In Saturday’s game, Vanderlaan scored a hat- trick, which was the first one for Cornell in over five years.

Despite a slow start over the few weeks, I still felt the Big Red would turn a corner. It still has Mitch Gillam in net and its defense will always be good. It appears that the early season troubles have passed and if Cornell can continue to score like they did over they weekend, they too are a team to watch.

Yale Swept

Given where Yale has been in the past five seasons, it probably would have been a shock that they would have started a season 1-3-0 in league play. But here we are as the Bulldogs were swept by Colgate and Cornell over the weekend. Even in its one win, it took a remarkable comeback against a struggling RPI team just to tie it and eventually win it. To say the Bulldogs have struggled defensively and in net would be an understatement.

Although the Elis have possessed the puck a ton and have taken many shots, they have struggled to keep the few chances out of its net. This is a common theme with most teams that struggled in situational defending and teams that have shaky goaltending. It is second in the country in corsi for at 61.3%, but it is 50th in the country in goals against per game played. It allows 3.60 per game, while its goaltender Patrick Spano has a 3.45 GAA and a .879 save percentage. Spano was never going to match the numbers of Alex Lyon, who departed in the offseason for the Flyers, but it was expected that he would hold the fort. It certainly doesn’t help him, Yale lost its top three defensemen to graduation and its fourth to a career ending injury. There was always going to be growing pains, but it is still surprising.

Yale has more talent up front this year than it has in recent seasons, but there are notable holes on the blueline. It is able to generate the pressure it has been able to, but it makes sense the defense wouldn’t be able to hold up to pressure the other way. The offense is scoring at the same rate it was last season and just a tick higher than it did the year prior. Everyone figured, Yale would be a top offense in the ECAC, but I didn’t think it would be. Everyone seems to have forgotten just how much offense, Yale’s defense contributed over the last few years. It has been a catalyst and now those pieces are gone the struggles will be there. So far, it is seventh in the ECAC in scoring with 2.80 per game. John Hayden has scored five goals in his first five games and has a been a big piece.

Although Yale has scored at the same rate this year, its goals against per game has skyrocketed. Last season the Elis led NCAA hockey, allowing just 1.78 goals per game. This year, that number has blossomed to 3.60 against per game. It is easy to pinpoint the troubles so far. They will probably continue, as the schedule gets even tougher. It is just interesting to see Yale in this position after two years of being the best in the nation.

Three Things I Think: ECAC 11/7

Monday, November 7th, 2016

Entering conference play with a clean slate is always a nice beginning to the season.We probably didn’t learn much over the weekend, because it is so early in the season and most teams are getting into their systems with new faces. While Harvard looked really good in both games, it only escaped the weekend with a win and a tie. Ditto to Dartmouth, that has surprisingly begun its season 2-0-1 overall and 1-0-1 in ECAC play. Cornell has struggled in its three games to begin its season, while SLU came up with a big weekend sweep of Quinnipiac and Princeton. For the Saints, it appears that its stalwart netminder, Kyle Hayton, has left his early season struggles behind him. Over the weekend Hayton had two shutouts, stopping everything the Tigers and Bobcats threw at his net. Hayton with the two shutouts, set the SLU program record for shutouts in his career, as the junior now has 10.

Union has rocketed out of the starting gate with a 4-0-0 record in ECAC play, while rival RPI is 1-3-0 after it defeated Brown on Friday night. Union is a tad of a surprise but they have, arguably, the best offense in the conference and right up there with Harvard. There will always be questions about its defense and goaltending, but at least so far it has been able to score enough goals, most nights to not have to worry about that. The Dutchmen have scored the most goals in college hockey, with 45, and scores more than four goals a game (4.09). Its top line, which I will write more about in a feature on Mike Vecchione this week, has been dynamite and has put itself into conversation of the best line in the country. The statistics can certainly prove that. If the Dutchmen can get better in its own zone, it will be a serious contender in the ECAC this year, but then again that will be deterrent. (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC 11/1

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

The Ivy League schools began play over the weekend. For some, it proved to be a rough night. For others, there were moments that showed hey they may have something to add. For Dartmouth, the one game it played had to be a big momentum boost for the coming weeks heading towards ECAC play. All told, the Ivies had a 4-4-0 record on the weekend, including the Big Green’s win over Michigan on Saturday night.

Union swept RPI in the opening league games of the 2016 season, continuing their hot start. The Dutchmen are now 6-1-1 on the season. Their offense is led by rejuvenated senior Mike Vecchione, who has 10 goals on the year and the game-winner against the Engineers on Saturday. The only team that has defeated Rick Bennett’s charges this season was Michigan at Yost. They will play at Holy Cross tonight, which has a win against Providence and defeated Brown on Friday, 3-0.

The league has in some senses struggled this season in non-conference play, but it was probably never going to equal last year’s impressive non-conference season. So many teams are young and have players in new roles. Other than a 5-1-3 record against the Atlantic, the ECAC has a record of 13-19-4 against the BIG and Hockey East. It has been tough sledding in some games, but with the Ivies back I suspect it will all get better. I also totally expect Clarkson and SLU to break their respective slumps at some point. Both teams have a good number of talented players. Without further ado here are my thoughts of the week: (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC 10/25

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

Another week, another week and another mixed bag for ECAC teams in non-conference play. Quinnipiac dropped the game of the week at Boston University, SLU was swept by Providence and Lowell. Clarkson had a good weekend with a win and a tie at Providence and Lowell. Union swept Niagara and RIT, while RPI picked up a victory . For some teams it was a tough weekend and for others they are making noise, like Clarkson picking up a win and a tie on the road against two tournament quality teams.

The Ivies will begin play this weekend. Harvard will travel to Arizona State, COrnell to Merrimack, Dartmouth will host Michigan, Brown is at Holy Cross, Princeton goes to Michigan State and Yale has Sacred Heart at Ingalls. These games are often interesting because you have teams playing their first games that are playing teams that have already played six games this season. In the case of Dartmouth it will have its hand full with a new look Michigan team.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts of the week (more…)

Making A Case To Do Away (Or Change) With ECAC Travel Partners

Monday, October 17th, 2016

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful North Country, taking in a game at Clarkson and St. Lawrence. If you’ve never made the trip, it’s highly recommended, especially in the fall where the temperatures aren’t too cold and the scenery is second to none.

Not to mention you get to take in two awesome college hockey buildings. There’s not another building in the country like Appleton Arena.

But this weekend got me thinking … is the ECAC travel partner concept outdated? Do coaches even like it?

(more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC, 10/16

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

The first weeks of the regular season are past us and for the non-Ivy league schools some trends are taking shape. We are about a week and a half away from when the Ivy League schools begin play. Harvard and Cornell will each open their seasons on Friday October, 28th against Arizona State and Merrimack, respectively. Conference play will begin the next weekend, with Quinnipiac/Clarkson probably the best matchup in the first week. This weekend there will be many intriguing non-conference matchups, which I will delve on later in the week in my weekend preview blog.

The league as a whole had a good weekend in non-conference and some younger players are coming forward, while some newer trusted hands are also breaking out. While the league has no one that remains undefeated, St. Lawrence and Quinnipiac again look poised to be near the top. SLU after a struggle in the opener, has looked lights out in the past three games, winning going away in each. Clarkson has been a tad inconsistent over the first couple weeks. Colgate, is having some expected bumps early on, RPI is surprisingly as well. Quinnipiac has been hit or miss in the early going and Union has had a decent start to the year with a win and a loss at Michigan, with a win and draw against AIC and Sacred Heart over the weekend. Clarkson split its two weekends against Hockey East foes. All told over the first two weekends ECAC teams have gone 9-9-4. (more…)

The Right Choice For St. Lawrence

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

When I first heard Mark Morris’ name pop up, it was early in the process. I included Morris in my preliminary look at candidates that should be involved. It was based mostly on his North Country connections. I said then and I will say here, Mark Morris was the best, most seasoned candidate that wanted this job. Remember, I have seen all the candidates and I say this with plenty of confidence.

Now here we are with the former Clarkson coach, who led that program to new heights, being announced as the head coach at the Golden Knights’ biggest rival St. Lawrence… Who would have ever thought this was even remotely possible about ten seasons ago, five or even last year?

I suggest you read CHN editor Adam Wodon’s piece last week on why this move was a move SLU should make. There we were getting the idea that this was happening and he wanted to start the conversation on it… Enjoy the other perspective, while you read mine… He comes from a past perspective on this, having reported on Clarkson during his firing, while I come from the present having watched Morris’ work with Manchester.

It was hardly a shock when I learned Mark Morris applied for the job (I was the first to report that), it was not a shock when I learned he was the favorite and it certainly wasn’t a surprise to me that he quickly went to the top of the list of candidates. A guy with 300 wins as a college hockey coach, 9 appearances to the NCAA tournament and 374 wins at the AHL level should have never been dismissed.

His success speaks loudly of the person that he is. Quite frankly, accept it or not, everywhere he has gone he has won. If you polled people about a coaching hire, I would assume they would say they want someone that could win and win a lot.

Why would St. Lawrence, a place close to his home, be any different? Morris wanted this job, because it offered him a way to be closer to his family that he has been away from for over a decade. For what it is worth, isn’t that something that would  make a guy strive to be better? He wants this to work, he wants to prove Clarkson was wrong for firing him over a decade ago and of course isn’t there a lot of pride in knowing he will be around a school that is close to home, where his friends and family will be around for every game? I would think so…

Of course the character and coaching style were always going to be in question. Will there be a loss or more among the current roster and commits, I assume so because it happens in nearly every coaching change. Know what I say to that? A player that leaves a program in this regard probably doesn’t want to be in that program to begin with. Ya coaches play a huge role in where a player goes, but if they truly want to be there they will stay and attempt to learn, regardless of who the coach is.

Any player that wants to successful would want to play under Morris. He has developed players at every level. Just look at the Los Angeles Kings for example, he built those Stanley cups in Manchester, New Hampshire when he was the coach of the Kings AHL affiliate, the Monarchs. Many of those players that he coached in Manchester, ended up winning two cups in LA. During the 2014-15 LA Stanley Cup run, 13 of those players had played for Morris in Manchester and in 2012, 14 were former Monarchs. Of course many of his players at Clarkson also went on to successful careers, which should not be forgotten.

Now there are many SLU fans that won’t like this move. That is fine, of course, but at the end of the day if they really support the program they will come around to really love this guy as a coach. There may be a difficult transition for those that don’t think this is right, because he is a Clarkson guy, but eventually those ties will be forgotten, to some degree.

They may not like to hear it, but this was the best move for St. Lawrence not only from a coaching perspective but a marketing perspective as well. The Saints brand will now be easier to sell in the North Country, as a whole, and heck as a program Durocher hit a home run here because there may be many locals that weren’t drawn to SLU that now will be. You have to think too, Morris was affordable because of his local ties and the fact he wanted to be home (I do not know).

Of course comes the issue of age, with Morris being 58. Times have changed and those who think Morris will retire at 65 are probably mistaken. If he is successful, I assume he will be around for a while. I don’t even question whether he will be successful, I totally expect him to take the current roster to new heights this coming season. He will be around longer than those other guys that are younger than him and he is the best coach that was available.

It seems like a win for SLU, in my book because we just saw what happened when a promising coach that was an alum just did, he left for supposed greener and bigger pastures. I respect Carvel’s decision, as a friend of his, but at the end of the day it shows just what the SLU job has become, a stepping stone in the hockey world.

One of the things that draws me to St. Lawrence is the camaraderie of the area and the close knit nature of the community. In recent weeks, as this move started to become likely I have seen a lot of divisive, unhappy fans and alums come to the forefront. It concerns me, because this is one of the ECAC’s premier programs. I really hope that everyone can rally around this move, whether they like it or not, and support their Saints. I hope the players can appreciate why this move would be made and I also hope they realize how much they are learning from this guy who can teach them a lot.

My hope of course, is that SLU is the same place that I have come to love as a reporter. I know where I will be when Clarkson and SLU play for the first time this season. By then, I hope all SLU fans are behind this move and are unchanged in their opinions of the program. It seems like a large task, but it will happen and I hope it is sooner rather than later. The Saints will always be the Saints, or they should be…

What’s Next for St. Lawrence

Friday, April 1st, 2016

This week has been an unexpected one at St. Lawrence. When Greg Carvel took the head coaching job at UMass, he left his alma mater and the school that he grew up following. I am not sure I can fully explain how much of a shock this was to those around the program, in the administration and even the players. None of which had any idea this was coming. What made it even more unexpected, was that Carvel recently signed a five year extension to coach the Saints team that he had heading in the right direction. When opportunities arise, human nature tells us to jump at it, which is exactly what Carvel did and kudos to him.

Right now, SLU will look to pick up the pieces in a situation that is rare in a college hockey. Unlike most jobs that come open in college hockey the cupboard is half full, so to say.

The Saints have a great nucleus returning that will make the job attractive to a coach that may just be looking for an opportunity. It has, arguably, the best three defensemen in the ECAC returning next year, as Gavin Bayreuther, Eric Sweetman and Nolan Gluchowski all return. Of course the other piece, is also the most important.  Its stud goaltender, Kyle Hayton will return for his junior season. Hayton, will enter the season as a Richter Award favorite and on the Hobey Watch List. Heck, I have already started at looking at preseason and this should be a top four team in the league, regardless of what happens. (more…)