Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Know Your Enemy: St. Lawrence

The North Country teams don't finish at the bottom of the table very frequently, so when it happens, it's a bit of a shocking experience. Clarkson did it in the 2009-10 season, and this week's team very nearly did it last year, narrowly avoiding the basement, which they haven't seen since 1980, but enduring a difficult season nonetheless.

St. Lawrence
Nickname: Saints
Location: Canton, NY
Founded: 1856
Conference: ECAC
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: 2007
Last Frozen Four: 2000
Coach: Joe Marsh (27th season)
2010-11 Record: 13-22-5 (6-15-1 ECAC, 11th place)
Series: SLU leads, 75-51-6
First Game: January 3, 1951 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: January 8, 2011 (Troy, NY)
Last SLU win: February 18, 2011 (Canton, NY)

2011-12 games: November 5, 2011 (Canton, NY); January 27, 2012 (Troy, NY)

Key players: D Peter Child, sr.; F Jacob Drewiske, sr.; D Jordan Dewey, jr.; F Kyle Flanagan, jr.; D George Hughes, jr.; D Justin Baker, so.; F Greg Carey, so.; F Kyle Essery, so.; D Pat Raley, so.; G Matt Weninger, so.; F Alex Hagen, fr.; F Gunnar Hughes, fr.

Key losses: F Aaron Bogosian, F Nick Pitsikoulis, F Sean Flanagan, F Jared Keller, D Matt Raley

Previous KYE installment:
Last year we predicted that St. Lawrence might have a rough year, and even the great Joe Marsh was unable to keep that from becoming the reality in Canton. With a freshman goaltender and a relatively young defensive corps, the Saints went winless in October while giving up a ton of goals. After a shocking sweep of Colgate and Cornell - shocking at the time, though Cornell got off to a very slow start themselves and Colgate ultimately kept SLU out of the cellar - the Saints struggled through the rest of the year, taking no more than two points on any given league weekend.

There were flashes of potential from the Saints late in the season, however, especially a game in Canton that the Engineers got to witness firsthand in February. RPI made a few mistakes against St. Lawrence in that tilt, but by and large, it was a game that was more won by St. Lawrence than lost by the Tute. Most notable in that contest was a pair of goals scored by rookie forward Greg Carey, who led the Saints in scoring with 23 goals and 40 points (and was WaP's choice for rookie of the year).

Weninger had some serious growing pains in net, but he did pick up three of his seven wins in March, helping backstop the Saints to a first-round upset of Princeton and a game one victory over the eventual ECAC champions, Yale. But for a St. Lawrence team that regularly gave up three or more goals - an eye-popping 26 times last year - the defense needs to be stronger. Matt Raley's departure won't make that easy, and Child is the only senior defenseman on the squad, which will have largely the same defensive corps as last year, just a year older.

Offensively, Carey does have some assistance with Kyle Flanagan and Drewiske, though they're going to be needed to pick up the slack left by the departure of Bogosian and Pitsikoulis, who combined for 25 goals last year. Essery may be ready for a solid second campaign as well.

In the end, Weninger's growth may dictate whether the Saints are able to make a run or whether they will largely resemble their rivals up Route 11, just with more offensive spark. Carey could be a legitimate star in this league in the years to come, and sometimes that's all you need to get a few goals and sneak out with wins like they did against the Engineers in February. If Weninger and his defense can be more consistent, St. Lawrence will be a dangerous team to play - they might not blow you away, but they'll certainly make you work.

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