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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hockey Log

Underhand giants await in Adirondacks

PC Men kick things off by visiting ECAC’s pre-season superpowers

By Al Daniel

The Clarkson and St. Lawrence men’s hockey teams, together with the freshest USA Today poll, have done all that they can to make a sound introductory statement in Week 1 of the 2007-08 campaign.

The natural rivals, pried apart by a mere 10 miles in the most gradient portion of rustic New York State, broke the ice on their season last Sunday at Appleton Arena. It was the ultimate carry-over from last season’s stretch drive as the host Saints –defending regular season champion- prevailed by a mere ice chip on both the goal count (3-2) and shot count (30-29).

As a reward, the October 8 edition of the aforementioned poll thickened the teams’ picture of parity and promise by nationally ranking St. Lawrence 12th and reigning ECAC playoff champion Clarkson 13th.

Of course, recent and distant history alike will still at first dim these two clubs, who welcome the Friars back-to-back this weekend, with skepticism simply owing to their ECAC label. The Saints are one of only two ECAC representatives to have reached the Frozen Four (2000 at the then-Providence Civic Center) in the last decade (Cornell 2003). The conference has not seen so much as a title game appearance since 1990’s Colgate, or an NCAA trophy since Ted Donato’s Harvard Crimson delivered in 1989.

But, as it happens, that more or less puts them in the same realm as the Friars, who, superficially speaking, still have an inclusive ambiguity hovering over their 2007-08 aura. So far, PC’s clearest impression on the public eye has come from last Sunday’s Black-White game. The prime highlight of that contest ended up being none other than resilient goaltending hopeful Ryan Simpson –in the back seat behind fellow returnees Tyler Sims and Chris Mannix all last season- led the way toward muting a much-hyped remodeled offense.

With that, plus general peer-to-peer buzz that has lately circulated, in mind, stats and seniority may just give way to indefinite night-to-night experimentation by coach Tim Army and guesses by buffs in the area of cage assignments. And then there’s the still unattended, popular demand to see the gunsmiths –new and seasoned- break out their blades for real.

Chances are, though, it will take teams like this new black-and-silver roster and aspirant giant UMass-Amherst, whose weekend agenda flip-flops’ that of the Friars and will thus start with a vengeance-thirsty Golden Knights (UMass prevailed in a first round NCAA encounter 1-0) , and their supplementing east coast league about as much time to set a fixed image as the New England autumn.

Beyond Campus

Two-time national runner-up Boston College, currently rated #2 in the nation behind North Dakota and their beacon core generally intact save for Brian Boyle and Cory Schneider, starts all over again in a tangle with the always glimmering Michigan (ranked #9 by USA Today) at the St. Paul, Minn.-based Icebreaker Cup Friday…#15-ranked Maine will pay a two-game visit to Denver, who comes in at #10 despite the two teeth-kicking failures to reach the NCAA bracket in their immediate past.

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