It took a while for St. Lawrence to get started its season underway, but the Saints have shown a marked improvement from last year as ECAC Hockey enters its final two weekends of the regular season.
A string of postponements and cancellations in December meant that St. Lawrence was the last of the four league teams to play a game. Despite the late start, the Saints have already matched last season’s win total (four) in coach Brent Brekke’s second year with the program.
“I think the longer you are around a group of guys, the relationships get deeper,” Brekke said. “Our two captains [Dylan Woolf and Callum Cusinato] have done a phenomenal job with the large first-year class that we have.”
That ten-member freshmen class has played an important role for St. Lawrence this season; three of the Saints top six scorers are first-year players.
“A lot of the younger players have had some big minutes in tight games and key moments,” Brekke said. “The opportunity to play in those situations is going to be a long-term benefit.”
One player who has been paying dividends for the Saints in the short term is junior goalie Emil Zetterquist. After splitting time in net during his first two collegiate seasons, Zetterquist has been one of the top goalies in Division I this year. He ranks in the top ten nationally in saves per games (31), save percentage (.935) and percentage of team minutes played.
“He’s matured as a young man,” Brekke said. “He’s always had the skill set, but his application this year compared to last year has been a 180. He’s more demanding of himself. I think last year he was OK with himself if he gave up a goal or two game, but now he wants to be on top of his game every single game. It’s not just in the games, but in the practice and weight room. He’s really holding himself to another standard. He’s a got a self-accountability that is at another level.”
Zetterquist has been a large part of the improved Saints penalty kill, which is ranked first in the country after finishing 58th last season. But Brekke also credited assistant coach Tommy Hill with the turnaround.
“He does a phenomenal job,” Brekke said. “The goalie needs to be outstanding on the PK, but the buy in from the net out has put guys in place to be able to block shots. The total buy in has been the biggest difference.”
St. Lawrence’s games last weekend against Clarkson were postponed after the Golden Knights paused all campus activities until Feb. 22. Brekke said he hasn’t heard any word on when those games would be made up, but the close distance between the two schools gives them plenty of options on when to play.
The Saints were able to add a non-conference game at Sacred Heart Saturday and enter the upcoming bye weekend on a four-game winless streak after tying the Pioneers 2-2.
Much of that winless streak has come without Woolf and Cusinato in the lineup, as the duo haven’t played since Jan. 24 due to injury. Brekke said he hopes to have his captains back in the lineup in the coming weeks; St. Lawrence’s next scheduled game is Feb. 26 against Quinnipiac.
“Not having those guys on the ice has been a challenge, but it’s opened the door for future leaders,” he said.
Around the league
— Another good weekend has put Quinnipiac firmly in control of ECAC Hockey. The Bobcats took four points from Colgate last weekend, winning a shootout Friday before blowing out the Raiders 9-0 on Saturday. Quinnipiac now leads second-place Clarkson by nine points, although the Golden Knights have two games in hand over the Bobcats.
QU also swept the league’s weekly awards in a shortened weekend in ECAC Hockey. Matthew Fawcett was named the league’s player of the week, while Iivari Räsänen was the rookie of the week, and Keith Petruzzelli was honored as the top goalie. It was the second straight goalie of the week award for Petruzzelli, who has won it three times this season and six times in his career.
— Clarkson University announced last week that all in-person activity on campus will be paused until Feb. 22 as a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19. The Golden Knights’ next scheduled game is Feb. 26 against Colgate.
— Quinnipiac announced two schedule updates over the weekend. The Bobcats will host first-year program Long Island on Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. It’s the first ever matchup between the teams after two previous scheduled games this season were postponed. Quinnipiac will also open next season at the Ice Breaker Tournament hosted by Holy Cross. Boston College and Northeastern will also play in the tournament, which is scheduled for Oct. 8-9.