Your mission, Mr. Marsh, should you choose to accept it, is to go to the hockey rink of the team ranked number three in the country...the only team in Division I nationally which is undefeated at home...and win not one, but two games.
It may not be Mission Impossible for Coach Joe Marsh and St. Lawrence University's men's hockey team as it heads to Yale for a best-of-three ECAC quarterfinal series, but some of the numbers make it Mission Improbable...the upstart Saints, seeded 11th in the ECAC tournament, will play a team which leads all Division I teams in scoring offense at 4.28 goals per game, is second in the nation in team defense, allowing 2.14 goals per game (creating a nation's best 2.14 scoring margin), has the nation's best winning percentage and is 15-0-1 on its home ice.
A trio of rookies came through for the Saints in games two and three of their first round series at Princeton, Greg Carey and Kyle Essery providing all the goals and Matt Weninger coming through with his first two collegiate post-season wins as a goaltender, including a 48-save performance in the deciding game three, a 2-1 win. Carey scored two goals and Essery scored his first collegiate game winner in the third period as the Saints kept their series alive with a 3-2 win in game two after Princeton won game one 4-1, and then Carey, the ECAC Rookie of the Week for the sixth time this season following the weekend series, and Essery each scored in the first period and Weninger made it stand up for a 2-1 win with his big performance which included 24 third period saves.
The Saints advanced, along with two other lower seeded teams, to the quarterfinals and drew Yale when 12th-seeded Colgate upended RPI in double overtime in a Sunday game three. That sent Colgate to regular season champion Union, the Saints to Yale and Harvard, which upended Clarkson in two, to third seeded Dartmouth. Quinnipiac, the only team to hold its seed in a series sweep of Brown, will play at Cornell in the other weekend quarterfinal series. The winners of the upcoming quarterfinals will advance to Atlantic City, NJ for the ECAC semifinals and finals on March 18-19.
The Princeton series win was the Saints' fourth straight ECAC best-of-three series win and their second straight on the road. The game three win on Sunday was the first road win in an elimination game in program history.
The Saints and Yale will meet for the 13th time in ECAC playoff action when the quarterfinals begin on Friday night and the Saints hold a 6-4-2 edge in the ECAC post-season series between the two teams. The last time the two teams met at Ingalls Rink in the post-season, the Saints won two 4-3 overtime games to advance to the quarterfinals in 2004. Yale won a quarterfinal series in New Haven in 1986, Joe Marsh's first year behind the Saint bench and the Saints swept Yale in the quarterfinals in 1989. The two teams tied the first two games and Yale won the series with a 4-1 game three win in the 1998 quarterfinals. The Saints also beat Yale in a 1967 quarterfinal and beat the Elis in the 1987 semifinals. Yale won the last ECAC tournament meeting between the two teams, a 4-3 victory in the 2009 semifinals. The two teams also have one NCAA tournament meeting, Yale winning 4-1 in the 1952 third place game, the first ever meeting between the two programs.
The two teams split the season series this year, Yale winning 4-1 in New Haven and the Saints pulling a 3-2 upset in Canton. They are 3-3-1 in the last seven meetings, with Yale holding a 3-0-1 edge in games in New Haven since 2007. The Saints are 24-12-5 all time at Ingalls Rink and 28-12-5 all time in games in New Haven against Yale. Overall, the Saints lead 56-27-8 in the series which began with the NCAA tournament meeting in 1952.
Carey, a leading candidate for ECAC Rookie of the Year honors, will lead the Saints into the Yale series. The Saint freshman wing is fifth nationally in points per game among rookies with 21 goals and 16 assists in 37 games for a point per game and is tied for first nationally among all rookies in goal scoring with 21. He is tied for seventh among all Division I players in power play goals with 10. Sophomore Kyle Flanagan is second in scoring for the Saints with 11 goals and 22 assists for 33 points in 36 games while senior captain Aaron Bogosian has 13 goals and 12 assists for 25 points in 32 games. George Hughes leads the Saint defense in scoring with four goals and 16 assists for 20 points while senior Nick Pitsikoulis is the other Saint in double figures in goals with 10 and five assists for 15 points in 30 games.
Weninger, who stopped 96 of 100 shots faced after coming in midway through game one of the first round playoff series, is the likely starter in goal for the Saints and brings a 2.51 goals against average and a .916 save percentage into the weekend. He and the Saint defense will have to be sharp as they face a Yale offense which includes three players in the top 12 in overall scoring among all ECAC players and six players with double digit goal output. Yale also has goaltender Ryan Rondeau, who has a 1.97 goals against average and a .928 save percentage...both numbers ranking among the best in the nation.