Friday, November 4, 2016

Scouting the enemy: Saint Lawrence Saints

No. 6/7 Quinnipiac travels to Canton, New York on Saturday to face the Saint Lawrence Saints in the second game of the North Country road trip. The Saints were picked to finish second in the ECAC by both the coaches and the media. Off to a 3-4-1 start, Saint Lawrence has played much better at Appleton Arena than they have on the road so far on the season.

The biggest transition that Saint Lawrence went through in the off season outside of losing four forwards up front that had 12 or more points apiece, was the loss of their head coach Greg Carvel to UMass. With his departure saw the return of a familiar face in North Country, in new head coach Mark Morris who previously coached the Saints biggest rival with Clarkson for 14 plus seasons (1988-2002) before being fired three games into the 2002-03 season following an incident with a player in practice. Morris spent the better part of a decade as a head coach in the AHL with a stint in the NHL as an assistant coach. Even with being away from the college game a long time, he is definitely one of the best coaches in the ECAC having been to the NCAA tournament nine times in a ten year period at Clarkson with a Frozen Four appearance in 1991.

Gavin Bayreuther (photo by Tara Freeman/SLU)
“It’s been quite a big transition,” Morris said in a Watertown Daily Times article back in September. “There’s lots to learn — they’re two different animals — in college coaching there’s so many other aspects in your daily routine that are different than the pro game. There, it’s primarily about hockey and games and practice." At this point in the season Morris is likely still trying to get a feel of what type of team he has. With Saint Lawrence in a bit of a transition it might be a good time for Quinnipiac to catch them on the road early in the season before they fully figure things out.

Up front Saints lost 75 points from four graduating seniors from the a team that made it to Lake Placid a season ago. So far on the season they are averaging 3.38 goals per game on offense which ranks 24th in the nation. They are getting big contributions so far from juniors Mike Marnell (2 goals and 6 assists) and Joe Sullivan (4 goals and 4 assists). Sophomore's Jacob Pritchard (2 goals and 5 assists) and Michael Laidley (2 goals and 3 assists) are also off to good starts. The one weakness for the Saints offense would have to be the power play which is a dismal 8.89% (4 of 45). It ranks 54th out of 60 in the nation and a handful of teams worse than Quinnipiac's power play on the young season.

Kyle Hayton (photo by Tara Freeman/SLU)
The Saints defense which was expected to be a major strength of the team, led by first-team All ECAC defenseman Gavin Bayreuther, has gotten off to a slow start giving up 3.50 goals per game which is tied with Alaksa-Fairbanks and the University of New Hampshire for 40th in the nation. Bayreuther a senior, leads the Saints in scoring from the blue line with 3 goals and 7 assists. He is a weapon from the point with his team leading 30 shots. Freshman Ben Finklestein (2016 7th round, Florida) has a goal and 3 assists. The true freshman had 70 points a season ago for Kimball Union Academy. Other players that have seen significant action are seniors Ben Masella (3 assists) and Eric Sweetman (1 goal and 1 assist) along with junior Nolan Gluchowski (3 assists) and freshman Ryan Garvey (2 goals and 1 assist). They are not the biggest defense but they are experienced and talented and a year ago gave up only 2.27 goals per game which was good for 12th in the nation. This season Saint Lawrence is struggling on the penalty kill at 83.1% (49 of 59 before Friday's game) which is 36th in the nation. The Bobcats have the talent to exploit the early season struggles of a Saint Lawrence team going through a coaching transition and early defensive struggles and must use that to their advantage in this game.

The Saints first-team All ECAC goaltender Kyle Hayton has gotten off to a rough start in his third season in Canton. The pre season All American and player to watch for the Mike Richter award is 3-3-1 with a 3.36 goals against average and a .904 save percentage. Both are careers lows for a goalie that who had career goals against of 1.99 and a .936 save percentage for his career. Hayton has already been pulled twice this season in games against UMass-Lowell and Providence so it is possible he could be dealing with confidence issues early in the year. Hayton likely will start against Quinnipiac but if his struggles continue, Morris won't hesitate to turn to sophomore goaltender Arthur Brey or freshman Daniel Mannella who have both seen action this year.

The Bobcats are 3-2 in the last five seasons at Appleton Arena having a dropped a 3-2 overtime game a season ago. In fact the games the past two years have been 3-2 overtime affairs with each team pulling out wins. I'd expect this game to be another challenge for the Bobcats as Saint Lawrence has played them very tough during the past few seasons.

Jonathan Singer is a 2004 Quinnipiac alum. You can follow him on Twitter @jonathan_singer.

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