CANTON Kyle Flanagan and the St. Lawrence hockey team entered this season with high hopes.
Led by Flanagan, the Saints have delivered thus far with a start that has drawn national recognition.
Flanagan, a senior captain, and fellow forward Greg Carey are ranked 1-2 in the country in points, and St. Lawrence is nationally ranked for the second consecutive week.
With a home-opening sweep of Alabama-Huntsville last weekend, the Saints (5-1-0), who are ranked 13th (U.S. College Hockey Online) and 14th (USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine) in the polls, are off to their best start in 13 years.
Now they know the real test is at hand as they begin ECAC Hockey play tonight at Brown and at Yale on Saturday night.
Obviously in the first four games to travel on the road like that and come out 3-1 was real big, Flanagan said, and to sweep at home here gave us a 5-1 record. So we feel pretty confident going into league play on the road.
Weve some good experience to start and hopefully we can just keep doing what weve been doing to be successful.
The start is nice and were getting some recognition nationally, St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel said. But by the endof the day in order for us to make the NCAA Tournament we have to do well in league play.
Flanagan, the Canton native, has led the charge with 15 points (6 goals-9 assists). Hes also tied for second in the country in goals and power-play goals (3), while Carey (6-7-13), a junior, stands second in points.
Its a great start for both of us, Flanagan said. But to have us both up there is a compliment to our team and a compliment to our coaches. Weve worked hard and weve been given the opportunity to put up points on the power play and five-on-five. Its great, but our goal is to win ECACs and have a good record.
Flanagan has already scored several highlight reel goals, according to Carvel.
Its pretty impressive to watch him play, Carvel said of Flanagan. He seems to get more confident with each game. Hes playing real well, and hes in a zone, and our team can see that. Hes our hardest-working guy, too so as a coach, thats a great captain to have.
Like Carey and senior defenseman and assistant captain George Hughes, Flanagan has at least a point in all six games so far this season.
Flanagan scored on a between-the-legs backhand shot as he lifted the puck over Alabama-Huntsville goalie John Griggs in a 3-0 St. Lawrence victory on Friday. The goal made the CBS Sports website, and hes featured as the sites leading candidate for the Hobey Baker Award.
Yet this early-season success comes after Carvel, in search of better offensive balance, juggled his lines only three games into the season.
After starting the campaign on a line with Carey and sophomore Chris Martin, Flanagan now centers a line with sophomores Gunnar Hughes and Patrick Doherty on the wings.
Carey and Martin now play the wings on a line centered by freshman Sean McGovern, with sophomores Tommy Thompson and juniors Kyle Essery comprising the third line providing St. Lawrence with all-around depth.
I think it gives us a more balanced attack five-on-five, Flanagan said. Teams cant just look at one line thats kind of been whats happened with us in the past, weve had just one good scoring line. Now we have two or three and now we have more guys scoring and more guys stepping up thats what you need if youre going to be successful.
The 1999-2000 St. Lawrence team engineered an 8-0-0 start en route to winning the ECAC championship.
These Saints hope this is a good omen, but know that the toughest work lies ahead, starting with conference play.
WENINGER MODEL OF CONSISTENCY
While St. Lawrence is off to a strong start offensively, Matt Weninger has been just as consistent in goal.
The junior goalie has vaulted into second place in the nation in goals against average (1.33) and is tied for first in save percentage.
Hes also tied for the lead nationally in shutouts (2). Weninger (5-1-0), who was honored as ECAC player of the week for the second time (along with being named the leagues goalie of the month in October), stopped 44 of 45 shots faced in recording two wins against Alabama-Huntsville.
Sportswriter Chris Fitz Gerald covers St. Lawrence University mens hockey for the Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org For more information, follow his blog, Saints Scrolls at www.watertowndailytimes.com