Team of the Week: St. Lawrence
by Bryan Lipiner/CHN Reporter
Oct. 20, 2012. 9:17 p.m. at Alfond Arena in Orono, Maine. St. Lawrence had just completed a weekend sweep of Maine, an NCAA Tournament team from a year ago.
It was too early to say whether the weekend that just passed would be a pivotal one in the St. Lawrence season — an early signature of a return to glory, or just another week in another up-and-down season. But in assessing where the team stands after a 3-1 start, it certainly felt pretty good.
“They [Maine] played very hard and the scores don’t indicate how close the games actually were. We were more opportunistic with our scoring chances than they were,” St. Lawrence head coach Greg Carvel said. “We talked about pride and coming into a tough building and playing the way that we wanted to play.”
In fact, all four of St. Lawrence's games have been against 2012 NCAA Tournament teams — the others coming against Western Michigan. After hosting Alabama-Huntsville for a pair this weekend, the Saints will get into the ECAC schedule the following week.
Forward Kyle Flanagan, a Hobey Baker candidate this seaosn, has been leading the charge for St. Lawrence, notching 11 points so far. That includes five goals, two of which came in Saturday's 5-1 win over the Black Bears.
“We feel pretty good about our start,” Flanagan said. “We are happy the way we played against Maine both nights. We have a weekend off which is good for a few guys who need to nurse some bumps and bruises and will continue to look at video to get better.”
One of the keys to the Saints' success this year has been their power play. St. Lawrence is 7-for-24 on the man advantage this year, 28 percent.
“Our PP is our bread and butter, as Carvy would say,” Flanagan said. “We have the same five guys on our first unit as we did last year, which helps our confidence and chemistry. If we don't get the job done our second unit has guys that can score as well.”
Along with the power play, the Saints' penalty kill has also been strong, killing 92.6 percent of opportunities.
Recently, Flanagan and teammate Greg Carey have been playing on the same even strength line, too. Each scored two goals in the Maine series, and Carey has a total of 10 points on the young season.
“It is the old cliché that you need your best players to be your best players,” Carvel said. “These two guys are high end offensive players and we usually don’t win games if they are kept off of the score sheet. Kyle has been outstanding in every game so far and Greg showed on Saturday night how potent he can be.”
Eight different players scored for the Saints in the two contests against Maine, proving how balanced this squad can be offensively.
Goaltender Matt Weninger also stopped 66-of-67 shots while spending 120 minutes between the pipes.
“Although we are predicted to finish sixth in the ECAC, that is not our goal as a team. We think we are capable of finishing higher if we play to our potential,” Carvel said. “I think it gives this team some credibility because we played two good teams on the road and played really well against both teams.”
In opening conference play in a few weekends, Flanagan said he expects the power play and penalty kill to be the critical to their success, and wants to reduce their mistakes as much as possible.
“A big focus for us is to have our PK be as good as our PP and it has been so far. Consistency is our biggest key, being on the same page, playing smart, and doing the right things night in and night out,” Flanagan said. “Blue line turnovers, and faceoff percentage are other keys we focus on to have and continue our success when league games start.”