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SLU knows importance of ECAC Hockey opening weekend at Appleton

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CANTON — Following a disappointing league-opening road trip in which valuable “lessons were learned,” the St. Lawrence hockey team embarks on the home portion of its ECAC Hockey schedule.

After such a promising start, the Saints came away with only a point from two games on the road last weekend.

St. Lawrence (5-2-1, 0-1-1), ranked 16th nationally, looks forward to two games at home, starting with Princeton (2-2-0, 2-0-0) tonight and Quinnipiac (5-3-1, 2-0-0) on Saturday, with both games 7 p.m. starts at Appleton Arena.

“This is real important, especially after we weren’t able to get a win last weekend,” senior defenseman and assistant captain George Hughes said. “We have to really make an effort to be at our best at home.”

The Saints built a 3-0 lead at Brown on Friday night only to squander the advantage in a 3-3 tie.

“Friday felt like a loss because we were playing well and we had a 3-0 lead,” St. Lawrence senior captain Kyle Flanagan said. “So to end up tying them, obviously we still got a point, but we had two points in hand and we felt we gave that game away.

St. Lawrence then had a strong first period at Yale on Saturday, only to be beaten 4-2.

“We haven’t had to deal with much adversity yet, so (last) weekend was a good lesson for us,” said Flanagan, who continues to lead the nation with 15 points.

“It’s going to be a challenging weekend,” Carvel said. “But we need to get this home-ice advantage going and make it real tough for teams to come to the north country and play here.”

As the Saints are well aware, things rarely get any easier in the ECAC as they’ll face two teams who are coming off solid weekends.

Princeton and Quinnipiac opened up ECAC play with sweeps of No. 10 Cornell, as well as Colgate.

“They both had really good weekends,” Hughes said. “But I don’t think it’s going to be any different than playing Brown, we just need to get back to our game and do what we do best.”

“I watched Princeton play Colgate and they dominated that game,” Carvel said. “So they’re playing with a lot of confidence and they play hard and they play fast, which is what you would expect from a Bobby Prier-coached team. So we know what to expect, so we just have to make sure we match their work ethic and their energy.”

St. Lawrence swept both Princeton and Quinnipiac last season, defeating the Tigers 3-2 on the road and 4-1 at Appleton Arena, while winning 1-0 in overtime in Hamden, Conn., and 4-3 in Canton.

“They’re a good-sized team, they have good skill and their well coached,” Carvel said of Quinnipiac. “We did beat them twice last year, but they weren’t easy wins.”

The Saints, who finished ninth in the ECAC standings last year, were picked to finish sixth in the conference in both the coaches and media polls.

“It’s real important,” said Carvel, “because Dartmouth already has eight points in the league and we’re at the bottom of the standings, even though we’ve only played two games. It’s important for us not to get behind the eight-ball, because in the first half of the season we play the majority of our games on the road, so it’s important for us to win at home.”

SPECIAL TEAMS STILL STRONG

The Saints head into today ranked fourth in the nation in penalty-killing efficiency at 92.7 percent.

Despite their streak of not allowing a power-play goal being halted at four games, St. Lawrence has yielded only four man-advantage goals in eight games this season.

The Saints were held without a power-play goal from seven chances in the loss to Yale. Yale also had seven power-play opportunities against St. Lawrence which Carvel wasn’t pleased about.

“We have to win that special teams battle,” Carvel said. “Every game in the ECAC is close, from night to night there’s no easy game and no easy wins. Being part of being successful is being able to have the upper hand on special teams.”

FLANAGAN HONORED AGAIN

Flanagan is one of 20 men’s hockey candidates selected as finalists for the 2012-13 Senior CLASS Award. The award recognizes “student-athletes who excel both on and off the ice.”

To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence — community, classroom, character and competition.

Flanagan is joined on the list by fellow ECAC Hockey players Nick Bailen (Rensselaer), Danny Biega (Harvard) and Nick D’Agostino (Cornell). The list will be trimmed to 10 candidates at midseason.

ALL FOR A GOOD CAUSE

St. Lawrence players are participating in the month-long crusade against testicular cancer.

Instead of altering their uniforms with light blue, team members are taking part by growing facial hair.

Flanagan is sporting a moustache, which is growing in nicely.

The Saints’ coaching staff remains clean shaven, however, but not from a lack of awareness of the cause.

Sportswriter Chris Fitz Gerald covers St. Lawrence University hockey for the Times. He can be reached at cfitzgerald@wdt.net

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