October 26, 2012

ECAC Journal: Saints look to gain national legitimacy

By Dan Guttenplan

Greg Carvel is the first to admit there was nothing comfortable about splitting the interim head coach tag with Mike Hurlbut last year at St. Lawrence University. 

Greg Carvel's Saints have won three of their first four games this season. (Photo: St. Lawrence University Athletics)

“It was a very unique and strange circumstance,” says Carvel of the co-coach label that served as a temporary resolution to longtime coach Joe Marsh's (Lynn, Mass.) year-long medical leave. “Even day one of being on campus, Joe was on medical disability. I was asked to co-coach with Mike, and although it worked well, there was still a question at the end of the day as to who was making the calls.”

Marsh retired at the end of the season, and the “unique and strange” situation was remedied when Carvel was named the sole head coach of the team last spring. He has since implemented a program that relies heavily on new technology, something that wasn't utilized under Marsh. Carvel has experience as a video coach in the NHL with the Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators. Both teams went to the Stanley Cup when Carvel served as an assistant coach.

“Joe was an old-school coach,” Carvel says. “That worked well with him, and St. Lawrence is what it is because of Joe. I was a video coach in the NHL, so I use the technology that allowed me to work my way up as an assistant. I break down video to prepare for teams, and I use individual video of my own players for development breakdown.”

Whatever Carvel is doing is working. St. Lawrence struggled to a 14-19-3 record last season with the unsettled coaching staff. This year, with basically the same group of players, the Saints are 3-1. Last weekend, they swept a two-game series at University of Maine, outscoring the Black Bears 10-1.

“The start has been huge,” Carvel says. “I asked the players at the end of last season to rededicate their focus to the program. They've bought in completely. When they sacrifice a lot, it's nice to have immediate rewards. Two tough wins on the road give us legitimacy in the national picture. It helps with recruiting because kids want to see how you're doing on a given weekend.”

Making the start all the more impressive is that St. Lawrence was shorthanded on the recruiting trail last season during Marsh's medical leave.

“It was definitely a disadvantage,” Carvel says. “We had a two-man staff doing what three men do. Mike and I did our best to share the recruiting, but we didn't have the man-power on the road. We're finding that my NHL experience is a huge draw for kids who might not have otherwise been interested in St. Lawrence. We have a new coach, Kris Mayotte, who is bringing some really innovative ideas to recruiting.”

Player of the Week

Matt Weninger, St. Lawrence University

The junior had 30 saves in a 5-0 shutout at Maine Friday night and followed that up with a 36-save effort in a 5-1 win Saturday. Weninger was the key to Maine's 0-for-14 effort on the power play.

Game of the Week

Colorado College at Cornell, Oct. 26 and 27

Cornell will open its season with eight of its top nine scorers from last season returning. The Big Red advanced to the ECAC Hockey semifinals last year for the fifth season in a row. Colorado College (3-1-0) is fresh off a two-game sweep of Clarkson last weekend.

Power Rankings

1. Cornell (0-0-0): Sophomores Joel Lowry and reigning ECAC Hockey and Ivy League Rookie of the Year Brian Ferlin will look to build on promising debuts, when they tied senior Greg Miller for the most points on the team in ECAC Hockey contests. 

2. Union (2-1-0): The Dutchmen had last weekend off before traveling to American International and UConn this weekend.

3. Quinnipiac (3-1-1): Senior Eric Hartzell has been lights-out in net. Last weekend, he posted a 1-0-1 record against Ohio State with a 1.00 GAA.

4. Harvard (0-0-0): Harvard will host Bentley in its opener Saturday night. The Crimson set an NCAA record for ties last season. Let's hope that trend doesn't continue in the opener.

5. St. Lawrence (3-1-0): Two weeks into the season, St. Lawrence forward Kyle Flanagan has twice been named ECAC Hockey Player of the Week.

6. RPI (1-1-2): The Engineers will welcome a weekend off after playing three overtime games in a row.

7. Dartmouth (0-0-0): The Big Green will open their season against Yale in the Ivy Showcase Friday night at Brown. The only way to hold their ground in this list of power rankings is to win the tournament.

8. Yale (0-0-0): The Elis will only play six games – including scrimmages – before Nov. 23.

9. Princeton (0-0-0): Princeton struggled defensively in two preseason losses to Guelph.

10. Clarkson (0-3-0): Clarkson opened its season with two 5-4 losses to Colorado College, which wasn't a big deal, but who can explain the 3-1 loss to Holy Cross last weekend?

11. Colgate (2-3-0): The first real test for the depleted Raiders will be Saturday night against Quinnipiac on Cape Cod.

12. Brown (0-0-0): The Bears will be happy to earn two points this weekend in the Ivy Showcase.

Dan Guttenplan can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @thx4playing.