St. Lawrence Toughs Out Spate of Injuries
by Joshua Seguin/Staff Writer
Injuries are a part of hockey. But in some years, some teams are more hit with the 'bug' than others. St. Lawrence has seen a number of injuries that could have provided a setback. The Saints have fought through them and excelled in recent weeks.
Currently the Saints are missing their best defensemen, Gavin Bayreuther, who has been one of the key pieces of the Saints' rise in the ECAC over the past few years. His smooth skating and playmaking ability from the blue line is among the best in the ECAC.
Bayreuther has been out the past four games, last playing in an overtime road loss at Vermont. The Saints have depth on the blue line and can largely absorb losses there, with Eric Sweetman and Nolan Gluchowski also among the premier defenders in the ECAC.
Sweetman scored a fluky, but key goal against Yale last Saturday to get his team going. The Saints were down 2-0 at that point of the second period.
"We really needed that spark and that gave us life," St. Lawrence coach Mark Morris said. "We are very nicked up and trying to survive right now. We will take any break that we can get. Games like that are a bounce here and there. Fortunately for us we will able to get back in it."
The loss has allowed freshman Ben Finkelstein to play first-pair minutes and gain an integral role. The late '97 from South Burlington, Vt., was brought in a year earlier than expected after a few prior commitments decided not to come to Canton after Greg Carvel left as head coach. Finkelstein is a seventh round pick of the Florida Panthers.
"He is a guy that was supposed to be in junior hockey this year," Morris said. "When we had all those commitments, after Greg Carvel had left, we brought Ben on board. Mike Hurlburt (associate coach) brought him here, I didn't even know the kid.
"My understanding was him and (Targart) Corriveau were slated to come in next year, to play a year in the USHL this season. For him to step up and do what he has done for us this season, being a year ahead of where had him, is extremely good, especially now that Gavin is out."
He is sixth among ECAC rookies in points with 13, and second among freshmen defensemen. On Saturday night against Yale, the young defender scored the tying goal working his way down the right wing and putting a wrister on net. It is clear, he has vision and also plays on the team's power play.
"He got us a point against Yale with that play," said Morris. "I wish he would shoot more. He is a talented playmaker and great puck-mover."
The Saints are currently without top scorer Mike Marnell, depth forward Ryan Garvey, and Michael Laidley is out for the season. Drew Smolcynski and Jacob Pritchard, who are two of the Saints' better forwards, were also on the mend in recent weeks but have returned to the lineup.
Unlike the back end, the Saints are pretty thin at forward. When everyone is present the Saints are near the top in ECAC offense, but lately that has waned.
"We have guys playing right now that normally wouldn't be playing but they have to right now," said Morris.
Marnell missed the weekend against Yale and Brown, which was evident because the Saints scored just four against two teams that have largely struggled defensively. His nine goals in ECAC league play are the most in the conference this season.
Of course those are the injuries that we know of and those that we don't.
"I remember someone telling me one time, 'Are you hurt or are you injured?,'" Morris said. "This is a tough game, you have to play for your teammates. If these guys have any desire to play at the next level, they have to play through them. I don't know many guys that play at 100 percent all the time. We are trying to weather the storm."
It was clear that although Pritchard had returned, he wasn't 100 percent in his return on Saturday against the Bulldogs. It was his first game back since Dec. 9, a stretch of four games.
Despite the injuries, the Saints remain second in the ECAC, are unbeaten in four games and have stayed in the top 15 of the Pairwise. They have lost just twice in their last 17 games (9-2-6).
"We have to make hay in the league," said Morris. "You can't move on unless you take care of your business within your own league. Everybody is playing for the same thing we are.
"I have 10 years of playing with American (AHL) lineups, so I am kind of used to having people in and out of the lineup. You never know what kind lineup you will have there. You can have too many players, not enough, you might be tapping a guy on the shoulder asking for his name. You shoot from the hip sometimes."