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Guessing Game Begins on Annual ECAC Awards

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, March 17, 2004

The ECAC menís awards season is upon us this week. While there wonít be a red carpet and paparazzi awaiting the potential winners when they gather Thursday night for the awards dinner at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Albany, there will be plenty of intrigue.

Who wins most of the awards is anybodyís guess. Player of the Year could be the biggest mystery. There are plenty of good candidates for Rookie of the Year, as well as the Defensive Defenseman.

Only one award is an easy choice. So, with that, hereís one reporterís choice for the leagueís year-end awards.

Coach of the Year

This is a no-brainer. Stan Moore wins this hands down.

Named interim coach of Colgate after Don Vaughan became the schoolís interim athletic director a month before the start of the season, Moore guided the Raiders to their first ECAC regular-season title since 1990 with a 14-6-2 league record. The Raiders were 19-10-5 overall during the regular season.

Moore will become the first interim head coach to win the award, which was instituted in 1987. It will be the second time Moore has won it. He earned his first in 1997 after leading Union to an 18-13-3 record and a program-best fifth-place finish in the ECAC in his first head coaching job.

Player of the Year

This isnít an easy call. Brown senior goalie Yann Danis appeared to have this award sewn up in early February with his outstanding play in lifting Brown to first place.

But the Bears stumbled down the stretch. An 0-3-1 skid, triggered by Unionís late third-period rally to earn a 2-2 tie Feb. 13, sent Danis and Brown into a free-fall. The Bears barely held on to a first-round bye spot, finishing third.

Still, no forward or defenseman emerged to supplant Danis. Therefore, Danis, who had a 1.70 goals-against average (1.63 in league games), will get the nod. He will become the second straight player to win the award even though his team didnít make it to the championship round. Forward Chris Higgins shared the award with Cornell goalie David LeNeveu, even though Yale was ousted in the quarterfinals last year.

Ken Dryden Award (Goalie of the Year)

So, does Danis also get this award? No.

Iím picking Colgate junior Steve Silverthorn to edge Danis, Rensselaer Polytechnic senior Nathan Marsters and Cornell freshman David McKee for the honor.

All four played well. McKee had the top GAA in league play (1.37) and overall games (1.68), but didnít dominate like Le-Neveu did. Marsters posted five shutouts and had a 1.85 GAA in ECAC games, and 2.06 overall.

But Silverthorn, who had a 1.91 GAA overall and 2.04 in league play, helped Colgate win the league. That is good enough for me. Rookie of the Year

Again, another tough choice.

McKee is a good candidate. Brown forward Brian Ihnacak (10-20-30) could have skated away with this award had Brown not collapsed.

Dartmouth defenseman Grant Lewis will grab this honor. He has been a steady player for the Big Green. He finished second in scoring among defensemen and rookies with three goals and 22 assists.

Defensive Defenseman

This may come down to St. Lawrenceís Ryan Glenn and Rensselaer Polytechnic Instituteís Scott Basiuk. The choice here is Basiuk, who helped lead the Engineers back from a disastrous 25-loss season last year to 22 wins this season.

Defensive Forward

Colgate sophomore Jon Smyth, who led the team in scoring this season while playing well on the defensive end, wins this honor.

Third game notes

Three ECAC tournament quarterfinal-round series needed to go to a third game. It is the first time since the playoff format was changed from a first-to-three points series to a best-of-three series in 2000 that that has happened.

The last time three series went the distance was the 1998 first round. Yale, after tying the first two games with St. Lawrence, beat the Saints, 4-1. After splitting the first two games with RPI, Cornell pulled out a 5-4 win at Houston Field House. Princeton won at Brown, 5-3, to win that series, four points to two.

The last time RPI played a third game of a playoff series was against Harvard in the first round of the 1999 tournament. The Engineers, who had lost the first game of the series, won the third game, 4-2, and advanced to the championship round in Lake Placid. . . .

This is the second straight year Dartmouth has played a third game. The Big Green beat Colgate, 5-2, in the decisive contest to earn at trip to Pepsi Arena.

Cornellís 5-1 loss to Clarkson Sunday marked just the second time that the Big Red lost a deciding game of a playoff series at home. The other was in 1988 when, after beating the Golden Knights to even the three-point series at two points each, they dropped the minigame, 1-0.

Major upsets

There were some significant upsets in other conference tournaments over the weekend.

Boston University, which needed an overtime win over New Hampshire on the final night of the season just to get the final spot in the Hockey East playoffs, stunned top-seeded Boston College in three games in the quarterfinals.

The Terriers won the opener, 3-2, last Thursday despite getting outshot, 30-10. The Eagles, who went 4-0 against BU during the regular season, evened the series Friday with a 4-0 win. On Saturday, BU scored three second-period goals to snap a 1-1 tie and win, 4-2.

Eighth-seeded Alaska-Anchorage, which had not won a WCHA playoff game in 22 tries, rocked third-seeded Wisconsin in three games in Madison, Wis. The Seawolves won the opener, 3-2, lost Game 2, 4-0, and then pulled out a 4-1 victory in the deciding contest to advance to the WCHA final five.

Last year, the Seawolves (13-21-3) were 1-28-7.

"Personally - I donít want to come out [as] selfish - Iím probably the happiest guy on Earth at this moment," Seawolves coach John Hill said. "This is a first for our program, and I think anyone who was here would say that this is no fluke."

The losses by BC and Wisconsin could affect where they will play in the NCAA tournament. The pairings will be announced Sunday.

BC was considered a shoo-in to be the top seed in the East Region, which will be played at Pepsi Arena next weekend. But that could be in question.

The Badgers could be sent to Albany instead of playing in the Midwest Regional in Grand Rapids, Mich.

During a conference call Monday, tournament committee chairman Ron Grahame said that itís too early to speculate on what may happen.

"Thereís still a number of games that need to be played," Grahame said. "The committee hasnít looked where the RPI [Ratings Percentage Index] is as far as formulating in their minds where teams might be going. We want [this] weekend to play out in terms of making a determination."

Niagara became the first team to earn a berth in the tournament. The Purple Eagles won the CHA tournament title Sunday with a 4-3 overtime victory over Bemidji State. New recruit

RPI has a new recruit for the 2005-06 season.

Left wing Kurtis Colling of the Mid-Western Junior B Hockey Leagueís Stratford Cullitons gave a verbal commitment last week. The 6-foot, 185-pound Cooling was the third-leading scorer on the team with 28 goals and 50 assists in 48 games.