Crucial ECAC Games Mark the Final Home Regular-Season Contests and Senior Night

101 goals, 333 points, 69 wins, and those totals will increase. The legacy left behind by the class of 2017 is yet to be determined, but if their season, and St. Lawrence careers, ended now, they will have lead St. Lawrence to four incredibly successful and productive years.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and while the season isn’t yet finished, Friday and Saturday will mark the final regular season games at Appleton Arena for Alex Dahl, Eric Sweetman, Ben Masella, Mike Graham, Gavin Bayreuther, Drew Smolcynski and Woody Hudson. In a fitting tribute to the success the seniors have brought St. Lawrence, the games will be of critical importance to the Saints hope of a regular season title and an auto-bid to the national tournament.

And before we continue, we should recognize the efforts of Nick Bayruns, the eighth senior on the team. He might not have scored any goals, but the team could not function without him, and he will be sorely missed next year. 

Before they can add banners to their legacy, the seniors, and the rest of the Saints, must first deal with Colgate and Cornell, who visit Appleton Arena this weekend for the final regular season games on campus this season.

Cornell, who is tied with Saints for third in the ECAC with 25 points, is one of the top teams in the ECAC. They’ve already beaten SLU once this season, and the Big Red can’t be underestimated. Mike Schafer is veteran coach who knows how to get the most out of his teams, and no game against Cornell is ever easer. Don’t expect Friday night to be an easier.

Cornell, like SLU, boasts one of the league’s best goaltenders in Mitch Gillam, and a defensive corps that is as good at keeping the puck out of their own net as the Saints are. Much like SLU, Cornell’s offense doesn’t come from a few dynamic players, but rather, from everyone on the roster. Mitch Vanderlaan paces the offense with 20 points in 25 games, but ten players are in double digits for the Big Red. That depth allows them to average 3.04 goals per game, and with a defense that only allows 2.20 GPG, Cornell is a tough team to beat, by a 1-0 score or a 4-0 score.

Because the Saints and Big Red are such similar teams, they tend to play to close outcomes, as was the case in a 3-2 Cornell win at Lynah Rink in January. Ben Finkelstein had two points for the Saints, as did Nolan Gluchowski, and for the Saints to get back on track after a two game losing streak, the defense needs to get back into the fray. Defenders have combined for two assists over the last two games, and the Saints have only managed two goals in a pair of 3-1 losses. If players like Bayreuther and Finkelstein play well and produce for the Saints, SLU should be able to grab a massive win for the ECAC and PWR standings before it’s on to Colgate.

Since dispatching SLU in overtime in the semifinals of the 2015 ECAC tournament in Lake Placid, Colgate has had trouble finding wins, finishing in the bottom four of the league last year and well on their way to another lost season. They opened a new rink this season (finally), but the wins have not come.

Charlie Finn, after posting strong rookie and sophomore campaigns, has looked overworked at some points, and outmatched at others. His stats have taken a serious hit the last two seasons since losing the ECAC championship, and the losses of Kevin Lough, Ryan Johnston and Spiro Goulakos on the blue line over the last two seasons certainly didn’t help.

Their offense was still decent last year, but with the Spink twins and Mike Borkowski no longer in the locker room, very little has gone right for the Red Raiders. Lead in scoring by rookie Bobb McMann, no one on the Raiders has 20 points for the season. They lack depth and barely scratch two goals a game overall, and fail to score twice each game in league play.

With a struggling defense and a struggling offense, it should be no surprise that Colgate is… well, struggling. They’re 8-17-5 on the season and 6-10-2 in ECAC play. The Raiders are in ninth place, one point behind Princeton, and with three tough games to finish, along with one against RPI, it’s unlikely that Class of ’65 rink will see men’s playoff hockey in its inaugural season.

SLU downed Colgate 3-0 in Hamilton, and should be able to outskate the Raiders at home as well. Colgate isn’t exactly what you would call a powerhouse on the road, with a 2-10-2 record, while the Saints are pretty strong at home, winning 10-of-13 contests at Appleton. This game should go in SLU’s favor as long as they show up to the game.

This is a big weekend for the Saints, who need to win out and get help from Harvard in order to win the ECAC. They'll be much closer to that goal if they can beat Cornell and Colgate, which will also go a long way in improving their PairWise ranking of 19th, 5 spots below where it needs to be. 14th should all but guarantee them a spot in the national tournament, and that's not undoable with games against Cornell and Harvard yet to be played. 

Senior night will mark the end of an era for St. Lawrence hockey, one that saw the program win on a consistent basis. The team will continue to do so after the 7 seniors depart Canton, but they will have left their mark on the team, a mark they still haven't finished crafting. We'll get a clearer picture of what it might look like this weekend.