Archive for the 'ECAC' Category

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…)

SLU Defeats Rival Clarkson in Overtime to Take a 1-0 QF Series Lead

Saturday, March 12th, 2016

Canton, NY - It is almost as if SLU and Clarkson are a mirror image of each other; in all actuality they are. On Friday night, the rivals separated by just 11 miles played a thriling game that could only be capped off with an overtime game, where Brian Ward ended it on a 3 on 1 break. The Saints took a 1-0 series lead against the Golden Knights in a series it could end on Saturday night, one that could send them back to Lake Placid and the ECAC Final Four for the second time in two seasons.

The crowd was raucous before the game, but it quickly got louder as SLU took an early lead just four minutes, 57 seconds into the tilt. Nolan Gluchowski sent a shot intentionally wide and Alexander Dahl got a pretty tip to put the Saints fans in a frenzy. Ten minutes later, Perry D’Arisso got off a wicked wrister from the faceoff dot to tie the score at one.

The second period was much of the same from both teams, as Clarkson in some ways dominated play and SLU counter-attacked. The Golden Knights got the only goal of the period, when Nick Pierog retrieved a puck as he came out of the penalty box, deked Kyle Hayton and backhanded it home to give Clarkson the 2-1 lead after 2. The Saints came on strong in the third period and had a  golden opportuity early in the period, when Jacob Pritchard found a puck all alone in front on his backhand missing a wide open net by a few feet. At the 6:59 mark of the third, Pritchard made amends by by tying the score on a scrum in front of the net.

The overtime period, much like the game, provided back and forth action, until Ward ended it by looking to pass and finding an empty slot on the glove-side of Greg Lewis. SLU is now 8-2-1 in its last 11 games, while Clarkson fell for the first time in the tournament.

Box Score

Metrics (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC 2/24

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

As always the regular season hits its last weekend really quick, but here we are. Quinnipiac should clinch the Cleary Cup on Friday against Brown, but ya know Bruno has wrecked the dreams of Bobcats fans before and so has Saturday opponent, Yale, who could steal the Cleary Cup from its New Haven rival. Of course this script was written in Atlantic City and Pittsburgh in the year 2013, so it couldn’t possibly be relived? I doubt it, but stranger things have happened. QU has had a great season, but of late Yale has been better, so I am interested to see what happens this weekend.

Yale has a bye locked up and Harvard needs just a point this weekend to clinch one. The mess in the standings begins behind them. St. Lawrence currently has the fourth spot and is followed just one point behind by Dartmouth and RPI. Cornell also has a chance at the bye and sits two points back of SLU. The Saints and Dartmouth have a huge opportunity to make hay on Friday as the two of them will meet in a defacto bye championship game, well not really because good ole RPI and Cornell could sneak past if the two tie. I will take the Saints at home, because they have been really good in Canton this year.

Union still has a chance to host a first round series, as it sits in ninth just three points behind Clarkson. I find this comeback as unlikely but who knows I guess. What we do know is that Colgate, Brown and Princeton will be travelling in the first round of the ECAC tournament.

In terms of the pairwise, four ECAC would be in if the tournament started today. Quinnipiac remains in its lofty position at the top, Yale has climbed all the way to seventh with its great run of form, Harvard is in 12th but has a little cushion and Cornell after a strong weekend has moved into the 14th position. Of course, the Big Red shouldn’t rest on its laurels because someone could make the tournament that shouldn’t. Right  now both the WCHA and AHA champions would be out of the top 16. Check out this article on the current tournament picture(more…)

Yale and SLU Play an Interesting One at Ingalls

Saturday, February 20th, 2016

It could have been billed as a matchup of two of the best goalies in college hockey, Kyle Hayton and Alex Lyon, but it turned out to be something else. Both Hayton and Lyon had their struggles, although Hayton was the better of the two most of the night.  Yale got a late winner with about a minute remaining from Ryan Obuchowski on a two on one pass from Joe Snively. Yale continued its hot streak defeating St. Lawrence, 4-3.

Yale had a marked advantage in shots and possession for much of the first two periods, but the Saints came on late despite allowing Yale a late winner.The Bulldogs outshot its opponent, 34-19 and out-attempted them 66-38 .In the thrid period the Saints held an 8-6 shot advantage, as it was the better team after Yale took a 3-2 lead.

The Bulldogs have now won six in a row and have just one loss since December 5th, a stretch of 15 games that has seen them go 12-1-2. Yale also clinched a first round bye and a home series in the ECAC quarterfinals. Yale still has a shot at the ECAC regular season crown, but it sits five points behind rival Quinnipiac with just three games to go. The two will play in Hamden next week, which might not mean much in terms of the standings if the Bobcats clinch tonight with a win.

St. Lawrence, who had also been hot, dropped its second game to Yale in about a month. The Saints entered with a six game run of their own, at 5-0-1. It is in a tie for the all important fourth place in the ECAC standings with Dartmouth. Those two will play next week in Canton, which could decide the last team that gets a bye. (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC 2/15

Monday, February 15th, 2016

The most surprising result of the weekend was obviously Quinnipiac dropping its first league game, but it was inevitable that it would drop a game. The Bobcats still have a comfortable lead in the ECAC standings, up five points on New Haven rival, Yale. The Bulldogs are hard charging to the race and it has become the team that we thought it would be in the preseason. it has five straight wins and has just one loss in its past 14 games. Harvard, who sits in third is two points back, dropping a game against RPI on Friday and rebounding on Saturday.

St. Lawrence had the most impressive weekend in the league, as it became the giant slayer in finally taking down the league undefeated Bobcats who had just a loss entering the week. The weekend sweep moved the Saints into the  final bye position and leaves it two points clear of Dartmouth and RPI who share the fifth place spot. Clarkson and plunging Cornell are the other two teams in contention for the byes, as the Golden Knights are three points back and the Big Red are four points back. It seems unlikely that either of those teams can recover, because it would have to gain points and pass 3-4 teams to get the bye. Union, who sits five points behind eighth is the only team that can mathematically get to eighth from the bottom four, but it is unlikely. Colgate, Brown and Princeton are assured of travelling the first round of the ECAC tournament. (more…)

Quinnipiac’s First Conference Loss Almost Seemed Inevitable

Saturday, February 13th, 2016

It was bound to happen and in all honesty Quinnipiac’s first loss in the ECAC has been brewing for some time. The Bobcats probably should have lost a few games in recent weeks. There was the miracle goal with 9.8 seconds left against RPI, which probably was put in by an Engineer defender, that provided a tie in that game. Then there was the comeback against Dartmouth from down three goals in the third period, which wasn’t all that special but more of a bloodbath. Before those games it was a win against Princeton, where it trailed by a pair in the second period.

To say the Bobcats were playing well, would have been a wrong assumption, but the fact they got this far without a conference loss is notable and an accomplishment. Since the break, whether it be complacency or overconfidence or peaking too early, QU just hasn’t been the team that it was in the first half of the season. (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC 2/9

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

Another interesting week hit the ECAC over the weekend, as Quinnipiac continued to remain unbeaten and Clarkson continued its hot streak. Quinnipiac, Clarkson and Yale have a combined for just two losses in their last 30 games. Those three teams are making hay within the league standings, with Quinnipiac running away with the lead. Harvard has struggled recently and it is now tied with Yale for second in the league, seven points behind the Bobcats for the league lead.

One of the interesting aspects of the ECAC standings right now, is that the top eight is pretty much figured out. Clarkson and Cornell are in a tie for seventh, with 17 points. That mark is six points up on ninth place Union. Although it is mathematically possible for a team from the bottom four to catch up with the top eight, it seems unlikely with just six games remaining in the regular season. This should make the battle for the top four and the byes all the more interesting, as positions two to seven in the standings are separated by just four points. One should look at Yale and Clarkson as the favorites to take two of the top four. This would leave the other position to Harvard, Dartmouth, RPI and SLU. The Engineers, Saints and the Big Green are currently tied for the fourth position. Without further ado here are my thoughts for the week. (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC 2/3

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

Separation from positions two through eight is hard come by in the ECAC standings right now, but the only tie in the league is 11th where Princeton and Colgate are tied with eight points. The seven teams between 2-8 have a progressive seven point difference. Harvard has 19 points, RPI has 18, while each of the teams below them have one less point until reaching ninth place Union which is three points behind eighth place Clarkson. Dartmouth and Quinnipiac played an interesting, 7-5 game in Hanover on Friday night and the Bobcats remained undefeated in ECAC play. Right now Quinnipiac, is running away with the league (6pts up) and it is time to acknowledge that fact.

I think the biggest question going forward is not the title race, but whether or not Quinnipiac can finish the season with less than two losses on the season in league play. Both of these numbers would be historically significant, because the league has only seen less than two losses ten times, with most of them happening before the 1980’s arrived. The last team to have one loss in ECAC play, was 1984-85 RPI. That RPI team went 20-1-0 in the ECAC, losing its first game to St. Lawrence and then ran the table with 20 straight wins. There has been only one team in ECAC play that went undefeated, which was 1969-70 Cornell that went 21-0-0. That Cornell team is often the bench mark of college hockey, as it also holds the distinction of being the only team that finished a season undefeated, 29-0-0. Although Quinnipiac also has more ties, finishing with  less than two losses would be a monumental feat to say the least. The Bobcats have played 14 games and are 11-0-3 with eight games remaining in the ECAC. It has been a historic run for Quinnipiac thus far, who are 20-1-5 overall this year.

The national picture has gotten better in recent weeks, despite teams dropping. Quinnipiac is the clear number one in the pairwise and will be even if it starts dropping games, while Harvard is seventh. Those two are joined by Yale, Rensselaer, Dartmouth and Cornell in the top 16. All four of those teams are in jeopardy with losses over the next few weeks, as Dartmouth and Cornell are 15 and 16, while Yale and RPI are right in front of them at 13 and 14. If the tournament, started today four league teams would be in, while two others would just miss out. All in all, this is fine but we also know how much of a grind the ECAC is. (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC 1/26

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

The league standings started to take shape over the weekend and some teams certainly made the most of their opportunities against teams near them. Harvard outclassed Cornell at Lynah on Saturday, which saw them build on a good win at Colgate on Friday night. Dartmouth continued its resurgence with a weekend sweep opposite of Harvard, while Clarkson and Yale picked up three points. Quinnipiac still has a wide margin in the league standings, followed by Harvard, RPI, Yale and Dartmouth. The Big Green are now 7-1-0 since the break and are on a current five game winning streak, including four against conference opponents.

Over the weekend I got to visit the two Central New York rinks and had a good time in doing so, certainly both share interesting histories and a certain charm. It is always tough to see old barns close, like Starr, and I really enjoyed that rink. Cornell of course had quite the atmosphere for the Harvard game, but it was quelled fast as Harvard never looked challenged by the Big Red.  Cornell is winless in its last four and is dropping fast, as its offense has sputtered in recent weeks. (more…)