December 29, 2008 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Saints March On

by Matthew Conyers/CHN Reporter

At St. Lawrence, practices tend to be a bit intense.

“We battle pretty hard,” said senior Mike McKenzie. “We do a lot of battle-type drills and it just breeds a competitive atmosphere. I can’t tell you that emotions don’t boil over sometimes.

“But by the end of the day we’re all still buddies.”

That’s 33 buddies to be exact. The Saints boast as big a roster as any college hockey coach could ask for. Yet, the numbers have done nothing to dilute the chemistry. If anything, the size of the squad has helped to create a teflon-tough bond.

“We have a lot fun in practices— the coaches make it like we’re always in a game like situation,” goalie Alex Petizian said. “The competitiveness makes it better. Guys work hard because guys want to win. We all have the same attitude and focus.”

Sadly, this bond has been tested on more than just the ice this season. On Nov. 27, captain Jared Ross lost his brother to skin cancer.

Ross left the team in time to see his brother before he died but has yet to return.

“It’s very tough,” senior Brock McBride said. “When we lost Jared, we lost a great leader. But we understand he has to be with his family.”

During Ross’ absence, the Saints are 3-2. The biggest of those three victories came on Nov. 28 — the day coach Joe Marsh told the team about the death — when the Saints snapped a four-game losing streak with a 4-3 victory over Massachusetts. Along the way, St. Lawrence has started to put things back together — a talented team that has struggled at times, but has the potential to make a run in the second half.

“It puts everything in perspective,” Petizian said. “We came together and told ourselves ‘let’s make sure we’re working as hard as we can.’ Look at Jared, he works so hard and this happens. We want to rally around him. The least we can do is work our tails off.”

As Ross has spent time away, the players have stayed in touch through phone calls, text messages, e-mail and facebook.

Still losing a captain is tough.

“He’s going to be a crucial part of the run down the stretch,” McKenzie said.

“In his absence other guys have had to step up in their own way,” Petizian said. “We want to play for Jared.”

The Saints are hoping Ross returns in the middle of January.

“We would love to have him back but there is no rush,” McKenzie said. “We’re kind of leaving him be and giving him space and hoping to see him back in the New Year.

“We have take things with a grain of salt and realize how lucky we are to play this game and to be on a good team.”

Ross’ departure hasn’t been the only situation the Saints’ have had to deal with this season. Nearly a month ago, forward Augie DiMarzo left the team to sign a pro contract in Italy. DiMarzo decided to leave after the Saints' Nov. 29th game against Boston University.

“It kind of was a last minute decision for Augie,” McBride said. “We’ll miss him but we should be able to fill his spot.”

This is the second time DiMarzo has left a team in the middle of a season. During his sophomore year in 2006, DiMarzo was kicked off Union for a violation of team rules.

At St. Lawrence, DiMarzo once again had trouble clicking with the team and its personalities.

“This is a hard-working group of players and I don’t think that was something Augie was use to,” McKenzie said. “He wasn’t a distraction but when there’s a guy not pulling his weight it’s tough.

“He didn’t buy into the program that Joe Marsh had established.”

Beyond the departure of DiMarzo and the absence of Ross, the Saints have also had to deal with their fair share of injuries. Forwards Aaron Bogosian and McBride are both sidelined till at least next weekend. Bogosian has a shoulder injury, while McBride is out with a high ankle sprain he suffered during the Massachusetts game. McBride is the second leading scorer with 11 points.

“We’re just trying to find ways to win — nothing comes easy,” McBride said.

And like any other team, St. Lawrence has undergone its own ups and downs on the ice. The Saints started off 4-2-2, losing two close games at Michigan, before dropping four games to the likes of Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton and Quinnipiac.

“It’s been a weird year, we’ve been beating ranked teams and struggling along in the league,” McKenzie said.

Although, the Saints can’t pinpoint the exact reason for their November struggles, they feel they’re better as a whole now.

“It was just execution,” Petizian said. “I felt like were playing well but things weren’t going in for us. We had to touch up on our system and play tighter.”

The Saints are 7-8-1 and eighth in the ECAC. But are hoping a Holiday Tournament in Vermont could get get them back on the right path.

“We've just got to go out and battle,” McKenzie said. “We got to ride the momentum after every win and just build off of it.”

For now at least, it appears the hard part is over.

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