CANTON Already one of the storied hockey programs in the nation, St. Lawrence Universitys mens hockey team is closing in on a milestone.
The Saints are two victories away from reaching the 1,000-win mark. When accomplished, SLU would become just the 16th team in the nation and sixth in ECAC Hockey to reach this feat.
St. Lawrence is searching for a league win of any kind as it is facing a crucial weekend in the league campaign.
Its pretty important, junior winger Greg Carey said. These two games are against two pretty good teams and its very important for our self-confidence and our placement in the league that we play well and get a couple wins.
The Saints, who play at Colgate tonight and at Cornell on Saturday night, are still in search of their first victory in ECAC Hockey play this season.
Its huge, said junior defenseman Pat Raley, who scored his first goal of the season in the win over Northeastern. This past weekend was a big test for us, but obviously by the end of the day, ECAC games are the most important and I think all the guys know that. Weve got a lot of work to do and Cornell and Colgate are two tough games.
Last Friday, St. Lawrence (6-4-2, 0-2-2) ended a four-game winless skid with a 5-2 victory at Northeastern and then lost 4-0 at Boston University the next night.
The Saints now go back to work looking to win against league competition for the first time this season after their first two weeks in ECAC competition followed a similar pattern.
For two consecutive weekends, St. Lawrence squandered a lead on Friday night and had to settle for a tie (3-3 at Brown on Nov. 9 and 3-3 vs. Princeton on Nov. 16) and were soundly beaten the next day (4-2 by Yale on Nov. 10 and 6-2 by Quinnipiac on Nov. 17).
Its definitely something were addressing, Raley said. Friday night we come to play and Saturday nights we seem to come up flat. Its something we need to work on, we need to be a more consistent team.
In order to compete and climb in the ECAC standings, the Saints need to find a way to break into the win column.
We have a 22-game league schedule and we already have four games down, St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel said. Its a situation where if you can win two games, youre right back in the top half of the league. So every games huge and every games a battle whether youre home or away theres no easy games.
The Saints split the season series with Colgate last season, losing 6-2 in Hamilton. St. Lawrence won 3-2 on Feb. 17 in Canton.
Were playing Colgate, which has been a hot and cold team, Carvel said. Theyve surprised some really good teams; and weve got Cornell, which is always tough at home. Its a big challenge for us this weekend, we definitely have to try and get some wins.
Cornell has won the past three games against the Saints, including 1-0 in Ithaca last Dec. 3 and a 4-3 overtime decision at St. Lawrence on Feb. 18. The Saints will also be looking for their first victory at Cornell in six seasons.
Colgate last year was a high speed, good skilled offensive team and they look pretty good so far this year, Carvel said. Cornell always plays a grind it out and is a big-bodied team that keeps coming at you. We had two close games with them last year and we expect the same again from them.
St. Lawrences last win at Cornells Lynah Rink was a 2-1 outcome in February 2006.
The thing I like about this team is we play the same home or away. Weve won a number of road games already in some tough buildings, so thats a good sign.
WENINGER REMAINS STEADY
Junior goalie Matt Weninger has been a workhorse thus far this season for the Saints and ranks second in the country in minutes played at 729 minutes, 16 seconds.
Weninger, who started all but four games for St. Lawrence as a sophomore, made a season-high 43 saves against Boston University.
He made some huge saves for us in both games, Carvel said. Against Northeastern, he made some big stops to keep the momentum going our way and against BU, he was the player of the game.
Saints senior captain Kyle Flanagan is tied for lead in the nation in both points (21) and goals scored (9), with Carey, and is tied for third in assists (12).
Flanagan is also tied for second in power-play goals (4) with Carey.
Several Saints have launched Face-Off With Hunger, a project that includes a food drive in conjunction with their work in an independent study.
Its goal is to raise awareness on campus and in the local community about issues of food insecurity in the North Country.
The group has three St. Lawrence mens home games this season, including this Wednesdays game against rival Clarkson, where it will host a food drive, in which fliers will be handed out to hopefully bring awareness of the issues.
Other food drives will be held on Saturday Feb. 9 (vs. Union) and Saturday, Feb. 23 (vs. Dartmouth).
All donations will benefit the Canton Church and Community Program.
Chris Fitz Gerald covers St. Lawrence University hockey for the Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org