As though it weren’t enough that only half of the league has commenced the regular season, this past week only four of those six active teams played NCAA games. Time to stretch for material and lean heavy on the quotes! Oh, wait, that was supposed to be strictly internal monologue.
Mile High in the Rear View
Hey, did you hear? RPI played a pair in Denver, of all places… where Engineers’ head coach Seth Appert was an assistant just last year! Can’t believe that didn’t generate any buzz.
Seriously though, the media attention was on par with a Papal visit, but on a college hockey scale… which means faster organ music, beer instead of wine, and fewer nuns… I’m presuming.
The Engineers turned some heads in splitting the weekend with DU, though Appert stopped short of “pleased” when assessing his team’s performance.
“We probably played a better game on Saturday than we did on Friday,” he said. “Glenn Fisher played outstanding in goal, and [Denver’s] speed and puck possession kinda took control as the game went on.”
Appert noted that the Pioneers’ speed, faceoff advantage and puck possession wore down RPI over the course of the weekend, resulting in penalties and — eventually — DU’s three third-period goals that sealed Saturday’s affair.
Did Appert’s personal familiarity with George Gwozdecky’s Pios aid the ‘Tute?
“It gave us an advantage,” he said, “but it’s not like football, where the plays start and stop all the time. That kind of strategic advantage is minimized in hockey, where the game is more free-flowing.”
“I think it gave our guys more confidence,” he said, but in regards to having coached Denver’s goalies personally, “you can see that didn’t really seem to matter too much.”
Jordan Alford played splendidly on Friday night, stopping 38 shots in a 2-1 victory. The third-year netminder may see more opportunities to shine than in his previous seasons (18 total games).
“We’re not ready to declare a number-one goalie,” said Appert. “It’s a fresh slate with this new coaching staff… we’re only three games into the season.”
Mathias Lange best be wary, and solid.
Adjustments Spur Clarkson Split
Clarkson split a pair at home with Lake State, thanks to some special-teams adjustments.
“We were too passive [on the penalty kill] on Friday,” assessed Knights coach George Roll, speaking of the Lakers’ 5-1 victory. “We gave them too much time to make plays.”
Every one of the game’s six goals was scored with the five-on-four man advantage, and LSSU converted on five of eight power plays. Roll insisted that he wasn’t upset with the officiating-Clarkson had seven power-play opportunities of its own — or even with the penalties being taken.
“It’s just a natural reaction when you’ve been beat to lift a stick or to give a tug, and our guys just have to get used to the new rules,” said Roll.
Rather, Roll placed a fair amount of the blame on himself.
“The preparation wasn’t as good on Friday,” he said.
The 22-hour turnaround was impressive, however.
“We didn’t allow them time on the power play on Saturday,” he said. “We really used our speed to our advantage.”
Pestering and badgering the visitors at every moment, the Knights’ shorthanded squad pressured the Lakers’ power-play unit as they had declined to do the previous evening. The only goal Kyle McNulty and the Golden Knights surrendered Saturday night was in a third-period five-on-three, with Clarkson already up five-nil.
Lake Superior State went one for nine with the advantage, while Clarkson potted a quartet in 14 PP opportunities.
Dartmouth finished the ’05-06 regular season at the top of the league, and on top of the world. The Big Green averaged close to three and a half goals per game, and hadn’t lost consecutive games since early December.
Bob Gaudet’s boys charged into the playoffs and right over Yale in the quarterfinals, in straight sets, so to speak.
Then, it happened.
The Crimson Incident.
In a result that will long be remembered in the hearts and minds of the faithful, whether it’s a D on the sweater or an H on the cap, Harvard hit Dartmouth head-on in Albany, and barely felt a jostle as they steamrolled the Green 10-1. Mike Devine was chased from the pipes after two periods and six goals; Dan Goulding didn’t fare much better in allowing four more tallies on a dozen shots.
There was no fatal flaw, no Achilles’ heel on Gaudet’s squad that day; rather, what happened was “a fluke game against a very good team,” he said.
Hence, he did not see cause for overhauling his team or his program this year. However, the graduation of Mike Ouellette, Eric Przepiorka, Sean Offers and Garret Overlock have necessitated some significant tinkering as the Green gear up for a Crimson visit on Friday night.
“We lost our first- and second-line centers,” Gaudet pointed out, as well as two top defensemen. “We have guys who can take over those positions, but now it’s about finding the right line combinations and chemistry.”
Gaudet indicated that some of the veteran wingers may see time at center this season, including second-year forward Connor Shields.
Mike Devine is pegged as Big D’s number-one goaltender.
“He had an excellent year last year,” Gaudet said of his junior netminder, who posted a .915 save percentage last season.
Union Preparing for Battle
Nate Leaman and the Dutch On Ice don’t have any easy games.
The Union program is recovering from a decade of mediocre performances and a lifetime of playoff disappointments, and the league has yet to award points out of pity.
The Dutchmen haven’t had a winning season since 1996-97, in Stan Moore’s first year behind the bench. They’ve finished .500 twice — once under current Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon, as well as last year under Leaman. The Schenectady institution is optimistic that in Leaman’s fourth season at the Achilles Center, Union might finally rediscover the keys to victory.
Freshmen Shaun Williams and Mike Wakita each suffered torn MCLs early in the season, setting back team development a bit. The defenseman Wakita had surgery nearly three weeks ago, and will probably be available again in another two weeks’ time. Williams, however, just went under the knife last Friday; the goalkeeper’s timetable is unknown.
Thus for the short term, Union’s roster is cut from 11 freshmen to nine, which is still a remarkably young squad.
“It’s a growing process,” Leaman said, but he’s already seen some very positive signs.
“Jason Walters is a very very good hockey player,” he said. “He generates a lot of scoring chances” that just haven’t ended up in the back of the net so far this season.
The 5-foot-10, 20-year-old Ontario import already has two goals and an assist in four games, including the game-winner in the 6-5 decision over Ferris State.
Through six games, Clarkson has seven players who are averaging a point per game or better. Junior Steve Zalewski leads the team (and the league) with six goals so far, though teammate David Cayer is hot on his heels with five of his own.
Quinnipiac forward David Marshall has shown no early signs of a sophomore slump, earning three goals and two assists in four games. “Mr. A” — as in, assist-master and captain Reid Cashman — is still looking for his groove with only a pair of helpers thus far, after averaging more than a point a game in each of his last two seasons.