Chris Fitz Gerald is a sportswriter for the Watertown Daily Times.
Chris has covered hockey over the course of three decades, with his past beats including Union College of the ECAC and the Albany River Rats of the AHL, as well coverage of the Stanley Cup Finals (2003), the NCAA Frozen Four (2001) and several NCAA Regionals and ECAC Tournaments.
After breaking in as a part-time writer at The Record in Troy, N.Y., in 1990, Chris worked at The Daily Editor in Cobleskill, N.Y., from 1992-94, before returning to The Record, where he served as a sportswriter from 1994-2010 and as a news reporter for a year. After working at the Glens Falls Post-Star as a news copy editor, Chris joined the Watertown Daily Times staff in May 2012.
A native of Scotia, N.Y., Chris is a graduate of the State University of New York's College at Brockport, where he majored in journalism and minored in history.
CANTON — Six St. Lawrence University men’s hockey players will participate in National Hockey League development camps over the next few weeks, one of the largest contingents of Saints to do so in the same summer in program history.
NHL teams use the development camps to acclimatize their draft picks to how the organization works and familiarize them with other young players in the organization. The camps aren’t only for draft picks, though, and the teams invite undrafted players to attend to fill out the camp rosters and to give the clubs a longer look at promising future free agents.
None of the Saints attending prospect camps are draftees. Three, forward Woody Hudson, who will be a junior next season, goalie Kyle Hayton and defenseman Matt Purmal, who will be sophomores, will be in the Chicago Blackhawks prospect camp while rising junior defenseman Gavin Bayreuther will attend the Columbus Blue Jackets camp, rising sophomore forward Mike Marnell will take part in the New York Islanders camp and defenseman Nolan Gluchowski, who will also be a sophomore next season, will attend the Toronto Maple Leafs camp.
While important for the players in terms of exposure and experience, St. Lawrence head coach Greg Carvel also considers the opportunities significant for the Saints program.
“It is a great testament to the direction of our hockey program that we will have six players from next year’s team participating in NHL Development camps over the next few weeks,” Carvel said. “These players have all worked extremely hard on their games in order to receive the opportunity to showcase themselves at the pro level.
“Four of these players were freshmen last year and the other two were sophomores, so these camps will also be helping our team at SLU to develop and become stronger for the future. I am very proud and excited for the entire group.”
LAKE PLACID — Junior Mike Borkowski scored the deciding goal nine minutes and 34 seconds into overtime to lift the No. 15-ranked Raiders to 4-3 victory over St. Lawrence University on Friday night in an ECAC Hockey semifinals before a turnout of 5,025 at Herb Brooks Arena.
The fourth-seeded Raiders (22-11-4), won in the semifinal round for the second straight year, advances to face sixth-seeded Harvard in the conference championship game at 7:35 tonight.
“We came back three times when we were down a goal,” St. Lawrence freshman goalie Kyle Hayton said. “But it’s obviously a tough loss losing in overtime.”
The second-seeded Saints, picked to finish 11th in ECAC Hockey in both of the league’s preseason polls, finish their season at 20-14-3.
“I think the difference tonight, now that the game is over, is that Colgate is a more experienced team than we are,” St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel said. “They made us pay when we made mistakes in our game.”
With the game tied 2-2 through two periods, Joe Wilson scored the go-ahead goal for Colgate as he worked the puck from behind the net and tucked it past Hayton 2:33 into the third.
But sophomore defenseman Gavin Bayreuther and the Saints forced overtime as Bayreuther had his initial shot blocked, but then fired in a lengthy drive past goalie Charlie Finn for an extra-attacker goal 1:12 left in regulation.
“There wasn’t panic on our bench when we were down,” St. Lawrence senior captain Gunnar Hughes said. “We were desperate to score a goal and we made things happen by getting that tying goal. But obviously the end result is disappointing.”
Borkowski followed with the game winner as he scored on a blast from the slot with 10:26
remaining in overtime.
“To score a goal like that is nice, but what a great effort from our team,” Borkowski said. “Obviously we went up a few times and they fought back. It’s kind of like a microcosm of our season, we’ve faced adversity.”
Finn finished with 29 saves, including eight in overtime, to secure the win for the Raiders.
Hayton, who earlier in the day was honored as ECAC Hockey’s rookie of the year, finished with 27 saves.
“We had a really good season and good leadership from our seniors,” Hayton said. “We played well, but it’s just really disappointing to go out like this.”
Ultimately, the Saints didn’t have an answer for Colgate’s line of Borkowski, Darcy Murphy and Joe Wilson, which had a hand in all four goals.
Murphy scored two goals and assisted on another, while Borkowski totaled a goal and three assists as the line accounted for 11 points.
With the two teams meeting for the third consecutive year in the ECAC Hockey playoffs, Colgate eliminated St. Lawrence for the second straight season.
“Sure, this is a good win for us, but you really can’t talk about this game without talking about that St. Lawrence team,” said Colgate coach Don Vaughan, a former Saints player and assistant coach. “I think our teams looked very similar and they played us tough. ... Greg Carvel and Mike Hurlbut have done a phenomenal job with that program in a short period of time.”
Said Carvel: “I think as a group we showed a little inexperience at playing playoff games at this level and in this kind of environment,” Carvel said. “We didn’t play our best tonight, but we showed a lot of resiliency and we did play well enough to make it a good hockey game.”
The Raiders struck first by scoring on their first shot on goal of the game.
Murphy took in a feed from Borkowski ambled in on a partial breakaway and scored from the left faceoff circle for a 1-0 lead just 3:21 into the first period.
Just 1:04 into the second period, freshman winger Mike Marnell tied the game for St. Lawrence at 1-1 as he one-timed a feed from Joe Sullivan past Finn.
Murphy followed with his second goal of night as he cashed in on Saints turnover and Colgate led 2-1 at 5:46 of the period.
But the Saints responded again to draw even as Eric Sweetman tied the game at 2-2 with a power-play goal with 2:37 left in the period on a long-range blast on power play just inside blue line.
St. Lawrence, which competed in its first ECAC Hockey semifinal in five years, was bidding to reach its first conference final since 2001.
“We were picked to finish 11th because we lost a lot of scoring and a goalie who played four years,” Carvel said. “But I am more concerned about losing Gunnar Hughes, Pat Doherty and Chris Martin this year.
“They are really gutsy players, and heart is a lot harder to replace than talent.”
Colgate moves on to its second consecutive ECAC Hockey final. Last year in Lake Placid, the Raiders were beaten 5-2 by eventual national champion Union, but reached the NCAA Tournament via an automatic bid.
CANTON — St. Lawrence University freshman goalie Kyle Hayton is one of five finalists for the Mike Richter Award, presented to the top collegiate goalie in the nation.
The award honors the most outstanding goaltender in men’s hockey. The second annual award will be presented by Mike Richter at the 2015 NCAA Men’s Frozen Four in Boston.
Hayton ranks tied for first in the nation in save percentage (.939), fifth in shutouts (five) and sixth in goals against average (1.90).
Hayton backstopped the Saints to their ECAC Hockey playoff quarterfinal series sweep of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute this past weekend, totaling 66 saves and yielding only one goal in the series.
With his 27-save effort in a 1-0 victory over the Engineers last Friday, Hayton set the St. Lawrence single-season record for shutouts in a season with five. Hayton made 38 stops in a 5-1 Saints win on Saturday.
St. Lawrence will play in an ECAC Hockey’s semifinal against Colgate at 7:35 p.m. on Friday at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid.
Also, freshman Mike Marnell and Hayton were once again honored as ECAC Hockey weekly award winners this week.
Marnell was selected as conference rookie of the week for the third time this season after scoring two goals and assisting on a third in Saturday’s series-clinching win over RPI. It also marked the first multiple-goal game of his collegiate career.
Hayton earned his second ECAC Hockey goaltender of the week honor and fifth league weekly award overall.
CANTON — Kyle Hayton made 38 saves and fellow freshman Mike Marnell scored a pair of goals as St. Lawrence University downed Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 5-1 on Saturday night to finish off a sweep of an ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series before a turnout of 1,460 at Appleton Arena.
The second-seeded Saints (20-13-3), who won the first game, 1-0 the night before, advance to the conference’s championship weekend, starting in the semifinal round on Friday at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid at a time and against an opponent to be determined.
“It’s a great thing to get past this round,” Hayton said. “We’re going on to Lake Placid right now and I think everyone on the team here, coaches included, are super excited and ready to get at it.”
This will be St. Lawrence’s first trip to an ECAC Hockey semifinal since 2010, when the team finished fourth in the tournament.
“It’s great to be able to advance like this, especially for the seniors,” Marnell said.
Hayton allowed only one goal in the two games and totaled 65 saves for the series.
“Our freshman class has been outstanding,” St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel said. “Marnell and Gluchowski had big nights tonight and Hayton has been tremendous from the start.”
In winning their final home game of the season, the surging Saints ran their winning streak in Canton to eight games.
After a series-opening win which featured only one goal in the game’s final minute, this time the Saints were quick starters against the Engineers.
St. Lawrence seized a 2-0 lead on goals from Marnell and Alexander Dahl within a span of one minute, five seconds in the first period.
“The unfortunate thing is I thought we out played them pretty significantly in the first period both nights and didn’t have anything to show for it,” said RPI coach Seth Appert, whose team out shot St. Lawrence, 39-27 for the game. “Realistically, that was probably the difference in the series.”
Said Hayton: “They got a lot of shots through today. I think for the most part our ‘D’ kept them to the outside and there were a few chances, but I think everyone played really well.”
Marnell opened the scoring by redirecting a shot from the point by freshman Nolan Gluchowski past goalie Jason Kasdorf 5:45 into the game.
The Saints led by two goals as a pass from Chris Martin deflected in off Dahl’s skate and the goal was upheld after a video review.
Both teams then traded breakaway goals in the second period.
The Engineers drew within 2-1 on Massena native Mark Miller’s breakaway tally as he lifted the puck over Hayton just 2:02 into the middle period.
St. Lawrence held the 2-1 advantage until Marnell took a pass from Martin, walked down the middle and beat Kasdorf with 1:51 left in the second period for a two-goal lead.
Kasdorf finished with 22 saves for the Engineers (12-26-3), who eliminated Clarkson in three games in a first-round playoff series last weekend.
St. Lawrence, which was picked to finish in 11th place in ECAC Hockey in both preseason league polls, will now prepare for the semifinal round.
“It is exciting to get back to Lake Placid with the chance to play for a championship,” Carvel added. “This group has certainly exceeded expectations throughout the year and I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished so far.”
CANTON — Senior defenseman Chris Martin scored the deciding goal in the final minute of regulation and freshman goalie Kyle Hayton made 27 saves as St. Lawrence finished off its postseason opener in style with a 1-0 triumph over Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the first game of an ECAC Hockey playoff quarterfinal series at Appleton Arena.
“It was a huge relief and that was a big goal,” said Hayton, who grew up in Denver.
With the effort, Hayton recorded his fifth shutout to set a school season-record and helped carry his team within a win of reaching the conference semifinal round.
But more importantly to Hayton, the second-seeded Saints seized the early-series advantage against the ninth-seeded Engineers.
“It’s nice and I like it, but I’m more worried about the wins at this point, especially in the playoffs,” Hayton said of setting a school record.
St. Lawrence (19-13-3) can finish off RPI (12-25-3) with a victory in the second game of the series at 7 tonight in Canton.
“It was unbelievable,” Martin said of his reaction to his goal. “There wasn’t much time left in the game and we hope this will be a momentum shift in the series. It’s best-of-three and every win counts.”
RPI, which has never won an ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series in the current format, defeated Clarkson in three games in a first-round playoff series last weekend.
In their return to the north country after knocking off the Golden Knights last Sunday, the Engineers appeared to be heading to overtime against St. Lawrence.
That was until Martin sent a drive from the left point which deflected off an RPI defenseman and past goalie Jason Kasdorf with 51.5 seconds remaining in regulation.
“I was just trying to get it on net and I think it hit one of their guys and went in,” Martin said. “It just goes to show you when you throw the puck at the net, good things usually happen.”
Hayton made 14 saves over the last two periods, including six in the third to secure the shutout — his fifth of the season to set a Saints school record.
“Kyle made some tremendous saves early and continued through the course of the game,” St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel said. “Every save in a 1-0 game is a big one. It is great to see him get the record. He had some shots at it earlier, but a 1-0 win in his first playoff start makes it special.”
Hayton, who had recorded his first four shutouts over the first two months of the season, also registered just the sixth shutout in the program’s postseason history.
Kasdorf finished with 33 saves for the Engineers, including 25 overall the last two periods.
But it was St. Lawrence’s final shot, which was not exactly a thing of beauty, which was the difference.
“It was a good game, it was a war out there,” Martin said. “It took a little while to get our legs going after that first-round bye, but I think we responded well as a team.”
Junior winger Alex Hagen took the puck away from an RPI defender after the Engineers won a faceoff in their own zone. Hagen passed the puck to Woody Hudson, who sent it back to Martin.
“We spent a little too much in our ‘D’ zone in the third period and when you do that, sometimes bad things happen,” RPI coach Seth Appert said.
RPI killed off all three St. Lawrence power plays. The Engineers have now fended off all 15 of the opposition’s man advantages in four games this postseason, including all 12 against Clarkson.
The Saints held RPI went scoreless on its pair of power plays, including one which expired with 2:23 remaining in the game.
St. Lawrence is now one win away from reaching the ECAC Hockey semifinals for the first time since 2010.
If RPI can tie the series, a third game will be played at 7 p.m. Sunday at Appleton Arena.
“We knew coming in it was going to be a close series,” Engineers junior forward and Massena native Mark Miller said. “It’s playoff hockey and this was a hard and physical game. We’ve been in this position before, so we still have a chance to win two games.”