Saints Open Playoffs at Princeton
St. Lawrence University's men's hockey team will be out to make a third straight appearance in the ECAC Hockey championship round when it embarks on the 2011 playoffs on Friday, but it will have to do it the long way, both literally and figuratively.
The Saints, who finished the ECAC season in 11th place, will play at sixth-place Princeton in a best of three first round series beginning Friday night at 7 pm. The two teams are the geographically most distant in the league and will meet in the playoffs for the fifth time in the history of each program, but for the first time in historic Hobey Baker Rink.
The series will include game two on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. and should a game three be needed, it will be played Sunday at 4 pm. All games will be broadcast on WLFE 95.3 and will be carried on a pay-per-view basis by America One, available through the websites of the competing teams.
The Saints are 5-0-1 in six prior tournament games against Princeton, sweeping a 1988 series 5-1 and 10-1 at Appleton Arena, winning a one-game quarterfinal 6-3 in 1992 and sweeping a 2005 first round series 7-0 and 4-2. The other meeting between the two teams was the 2009 third place game which ended in a 2-2 tie. SLU has won three straight ECAC playoff series, beating Quinnipiac in the 2009 quarterfinals at Appleton Arena, taking out Clarkson 2-1 in the first round at Appleton and sweeping Colgate on the road in the quarterfinals last season.
Princeton, which finished the regular season in a three-way tie for fourth in the standings, but dropped to sixth after tie-breakers, swept the Saints in the regular season, winning 5-1 in Princeton in November on the strength of a four-goal flurry in the second half of the second period and taking a 5-3 decision in Canton in the Jan. 28 rematch, building a 4-1 lead before the Saints got it back to 4-3 early in the third.
The Friday meeting will be the 85th between the two teams with the Saints holding a 56-20-8 series lead which includes an all time record of 29-11-4 at Hobey Baker Rink. The Saints had won two straight at Princeton prior to the November loss earlier this season.
Freshman Greg Carey, a leading candidate for the ECAC Rookie of the Year award, leads the Saints in scoring heading into the playoffs with 18 goals and 16 assists for 34 points in 34 games. He is the first rookie to lead the Saints in scoring during the regular season since Paul Castron in 1982-83. Carey also leads the team in power play goals with eight and shared the team lead in ECAC scoring with 20 points on 11 goals and nine assists.
Sophomore Kyle Flanagan is second in scoring with 31 points on 10 goals and 21 assists and is among the ECAC leaders in assists. He also leads in special teams points with five power play goals, a shorthanded goal and eight power play assists and two shorthanded assists. Seniors Aaron Bogosian and Nick Pitsikoulis are the other Saints in double figures in goals, Bogosian with 13 goals and 12 assists for 25 points in 29 games which includes three power play goals, two shorthanded goals and three game winners. Pitsikoulis, who is enjoying the best offensive season of his career, has ten goals and five assists for 15 points in 27 games. Bogosian has five goals and two assists in his last seven games while Pitsikoulis has scored six of his ten goals in his last 11 starts.
A quartet of goaltenders have seen action for the Saints this season and all have had at least one start. Junior Robby Moss has played in 13 games and has a 3.10 goals against average, a .906 save percentage and a 5-5-2 record while freshman Matt Weninger has played in 22 games, starting 20 and has a 2.62 goals against average with a .909 save percentage and 4-13-2 record. Junior Joe Spadaccini has played in five games and started one with a 2.71 goals against average and a .868 save percentage to go with a 1-0-0 record while sophomore David Grilk is 0-1 in two appearances with a 6.31 goals against average and a .838 save percentage. None of the Saint goaltenders have prior collegiate playoff experience.
The Saints will take the league's best penalty kill into the Princeton series, leading the ECAC overall at 87.2 percent (150 of 172) on the penalty kill, which ranks fifth in the nation. The Saint power play has improved down the stretch and is now scoring at a 19.7 percent rate (29 of 147) which ranks fourth among ECAC teams. A total of 21 players have seen time on the powr play this season with 17 scoring points and 11 with at least one power play goal.