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ECAC to Pepsi Top Story of '02

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, January 1, 2003

It's the first College Hockey Notebook of the new year. Hopefully, 2003 will be just as exciting as 2002.

With that in mind, here are this reporter's top five stories of the past year.

  • No. 1 - ECAC tournament moves to Albany: During the March 2001 ECAC tournament, conference Commissioner Phil Buttafuoco announced that a deal was made to keep the tourney in Lake Placid. However, it was only a handshake agreement. A contract was never signed.

    In May, it became apparent that the 10-year relationship with Lake Placid was over. That was when it was learned that Pepsi Arena was in negotiations with Buttafuoco to move the tournament there.

    The announcement of a three-year deal with the Pepsi came in June.

    "The Lake Placid verbal relationship was one that was developing," Buttafuoco said at the June 18 press conference. "We had to look at relationships we had in the ECAC, relationships that ORDA [Olympic Regional Development Authority] had as an organization and also relations ORDA had with the USOC [United States Olympic Committee]. We had to look at our strategic planning process and what was, for the future of the conference, best for the ECAC both on and off the ice."

    "A lot of what we do off the ice affects our ability to succeed on the ice. We recognize that. Those issues were identified in our strategic planning process. This is one of the results of that process."

    Location was an important factor in moving the tournament. Ten of the 12 schools are within 200 miles of Albany. Only five schools were within 200 miles of Lake Placid.

    For Belber, it was the culmination of a process that started eight years ago, when he was part of a committee to try and get the tournament moved to Albany.

    "I feel very good," Belber said. "I remember being part of the group that went up to Lake Placid. We very much tried to lure them down and provide them with unique opportunities in Albany. At that time, they were happy where they were. Frankly, I think Lake Placid did a real good job up there."

    "But I think the conference is trying to grow. This facility, more of a centrally located venue within their school territory, offers more in that regard. We have more sponsor contacts and ability to market, perhaps, than Lake Placid does."

  • No. 2 - Mark Morris fired: What was supposed to be an innocent, fun game of three-on-three hockey after a Nov. 2 practice resulted in the end of Mark Morris' coaching career at Clarkson.

    Morris was put on administrative leave shortly after he was accused of striking Zach Schwann, a Shenendehowa graduate, during the three-on-three. Over a week later, Clarkson fired Morris because he refused to cooperate with the school's investigation.

    "The university initiated a thorough investigation, utilizing the services of an independent interviewer, in order to determine an appropriate response to the incident," Clarkson president Denny Brown said. "Mr. Morris refused to participate in the investigation, despite repeated attempts by the university to secure his cooperation."

    "The facts collected from other witnesses to the incident indicated clear evidence of conduct by Mr. Morris that was inappropriate for a Clarkson faculty or staff member. This, coupled with Mr. Morris' unwillingness to participate in the process, left the university with no choice but to terminate his employment."

    Morris held a press conference to explain why he refused to cooperate.

    "This was a done deal before the investigation even started, or so it appeared," Morris said. "Clarkson had contacted their attorney about my termination before the investigation was started. After obtaining legal advice, I chose not to participate in the investigation because it was not independent. It was conducted by Clarkson's own law firm, which had already been consulted about my termination."

    The situation turned ugly when American Hockey Coaches Association executive director Joe Bertagna wrote a letter to the editor of the Potsdam-Massena Daily Courier-Observer, criticizing Brown's handling of the situation.

    Brown fired back by publicizing what allegedly happened. He also demanded a retraction and an apology from Bertagna.

  • No. 3 - Marc Cavosie: It was an outstanding 2001-02 season for Rensselaer junior forward Marc Cavosie.

    The Cohoes native led the team in scoring with 23 goals and 27 assists. Cavosie became the first RPI player since Bob Brinkworth in 1964 to be named ECAC Player of the Year. Cavosie was also named a first-team All-America and was a Hobey Baker Award finalist.

    In May, Cavosie decided to skip his senior season and signed with the NHL's Minnesota Wild.

  • No. 4 - Harvard wins ECAC title: Harvard was an inconsistent team during the regular season, but the Crimson turned it on in the playoffs.

    They swept Brown in the first round, winning the second game in double overtime. They eliminated Clarkson in the semifinals in one overtime. Then they upset top-seeded Cornell, 4-3, in double overtime to win the title.

  • No. 5 - Minnesota captures NCAA crown: Playing in front of a raucous home crowd at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota won its first NCAA title since 1979 with a dramatic 4-3 overtime victory over Maine.

    Trailing, 3-2, late in the game, the Gophers sent the game into overtime on Matt Koalska's goal with 52.4 seconds left. Grant Poultny's power-play goal with 3:12 left in overtime won it for Minnesota.

Kemp leaves

RPI freshman forward Greg Kemp left the team during the Christmas break. Coach Dan Fridgen said Kemp, who is from Loudonville, will play junior hockey for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the United States Hockey League.

Kemp made his debut Sunday, picking up a penalty in the RoughRiders' 5-2 win over the Chicago Steel.

"[Kemp] came in here with a great attitude," RoughRiders coach Mark Carlson said in a statement. "He's got the ability to go back to RPI. Right now, he's here for a reason, to improve some things."

Kemp didn't have a point in five games for the Engineers.

"I think he really wanted to play, and he lost his confidence a little bit," Fridgen said. "He's still young. This will provide him with some extra seasoning."

RPI gets recruit

The Engineers have landed their first recruit for next season.

Oren Eizenman, a 17-year-old forward for the Wexford Raiders of the Ontario Provincial Junior "a" Hockey League, has given RPI a verbal commitment. Eizenman, who is 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, is the Raiders' second-leading scorer with 24 goals and 21 assists in 36 games.

Slap shots

Pierre Thibault, a defenseman for RPI from 1977 to 1981, died Christmas Day of a massive heart attack. He was 43....

The ECAC went 6-13-1 in Christmas tournaments. Dartmouth was the only team to make it to a tournament final. The Big Green won the Auld Lang Syne championship. Herb Jessiman scored four goals in Sunday's 10-2 win over UMass-Lowell in the title game. Clarkson, Colgate, Cornell and RPI finished last in their tournaments....

Yale coach Tim Taylor earned his 300th career win Saturday when the Bulldogs beat Bowling Green, 5-1, in the Dodge Holiday Classic consolation game....

Yale forward Chris Higgins scored two short-handed goals, leading Team U.S.A. to a 3-1 victory Saturday over Switzerland in the World Junior Championships....

In other World Junior news, Cornell goalie David LeNeveu made 13 saves in Team Canada's 4-1 win Sunday over Germany.