Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Know Your Enemy: St. Lawrence

It's been a tough couple of years in Canton, and it's probably very little coincidence that long-time head coach Joe Marsh's health concerns were a dominating topic over the last two years. Last year, those health issues led him to take a leave of absence from the team, and unfortunately, they have since led to his retirement. While Marsh's absence is a blow for the school (and for the league, which loses a true class act behind the bench), it will at least allow the program to move on to the next chapter on firm ground.

St. Lawrence
Nickname: Saints
Location: Canton, NY
Founded: 1856
Conference: ECAC
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: 2007
Last Frozen Four: 2000
Coach: Greg Carvel (1st season)
2011-12 Record: 14-19-3 (10-11-1 ECAC, 8th place)
Series: SLU leads, 76-52-6
First Game: January 3, 1951 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: January 27, 2012 (Troy, NY)
Last SLU win: November 5, 2011 (Canton, NY)

2012-13 games: February 8, 2013 (Canton, NY); March 2, 2013 (Troy, NY)

Key players: F Kyle Flanagan, sr.; D George Hughes, sr.; D Justin Baker, jr.; F Greg Carey, jr.; F Kyle Essery, jr.; D Pat Raley, jr.; G Matt Weninger, jr.; F Patrick Doherty, so.; F Gunnar Hughes, so.; F Chris Martin, so.; F Tommy Thompson, so.; F Matt Carey, fr.; F Alex Hagen, fr.; D Ross McMullan, fr.

Key losses: F Jacob Drewiske, D Peter Child, F Mark Armstrong

Previous KYE installments:
You can't get much more hot and cold than St. Lawrence last year. Five straight losses opened the season, then they won four out of five. Four straight losses followed, then they were unbeaten in six of seven. Another four losses in a row, then five wins in a row, and four losses in their last five games to end the season. Rollercoasters at Six Flags don't make you nearly that queasy.

So really, the question is this... will the real St. Lawrence please stand up?

SLU's early season troubles were at least identifiable by the monstrously difficult schedule they had early on, with three of those first five games coming against teams that would later play in the Frozen Four, a fourth coming against an NCAA team in Michigan, and the fifth played in front of 10,000 rabid RIT fans at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, but that doesn't account for bombs later in the season (giving up four goals to Brown comes to mind).

No, the Saints' real problem was in an inconsistent offense. The defense was practically never exceptional throughout the season, but on the occasions where the offense came alive, SLU looked very solid. But you've still got a problem when the defense can only keep the opponents under three goals on only three occasions after New Year's Day.

There's no question that Greg Carey and Kyle Flanagan, one and two on the team in scoring for the last two years, are two of the top forwards in the ECAC. Both are averaging just over a point per game for their careers thus far, which is never a bad sign. Their linemate, Martin, had a solid freshman outing. But by and large, teams that could shut down that line found themselves with a better than average chance at skating away with victory thanks to a porous defense.

Weninger has been very good at times for SLU, but he's been very rough as well. George Hughes is excellent at puck distribution, as his 20 assists last season would indicate, but besides him and Raley, there's not an overwhelming amount of solidity on that blue line in front of Weninger.

Greg Carey's younger brother Matt arrives on campus this fall, and he certainly has the potential to be just as good. McMullan promises size in the back at 6'5". Hagen, whose father also played at St. Lawrence, arrives from the BCHL, where he produced some OK numbers.

The bottom line for Greg Carvel in his first season has got to include not only getting the team's defensive affairs in order, but also in producing more offensive options for the Saints. If he can achieve both, this is a team that at least has the potential for a top-half finish, but if not, it's going to be a very difficult year in Canton and they'll be clawing and scraping to stay at home in the first round.

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