St. Lawrence's Strong Run Has It Thinking Big
by Joshua Seguin/Staff Writer
Just a few weeks ago, it seemed St. Lawrence's strong first half could go for naught. It struggled during a five-game losing streak, with losses to Northeastern, Clarkson, Harvard and Dartmouth. Its once lofty top ten position in the Pairwise had dropped to 26th.
"I think what happened was that we had a long winter break and we weren't ready to play a good Northeastern team," SLU coach Greg Carvel said. "We were dealing with injuries and since that stretch we have been good. The only team that we have lost to since the five loss stretch is Yale. Other than those eight days, we have been a good hockey team."
In retrospect the Saints had one bad week. Since the struggles, the Saints are on fire, getting scoring from up and down their lineup. This has been the MO of SLU for the last two seasons.
The Saints rely upon their blueline to provide a lot of the offense. Their leading scorer is defenseman Gavin Bayreuther, who has 23 points, while Nolan Gluchowski and Eric Sweetman each have 14. This production was all but missing when SLU struggled.
"I think what is most important to our team, is when our defensemen score goals," Carvel said. "We obviously got the three guys that are really good offensive, two-way defensemen. When they are scoring, we just seem to win games and it pushes our team to another level."
SLU is 10th in the country in scoring from defensemen with 73 points, and second in the ECAC. Since Jan. 22, the Saints are second in the country with 23 points, behind only Boston College. Since that date, SLU is 6-1-1 with a lone loss to a Yale team that is 11-1-2 in its past 14 games.
Bayreuther, a junior, was the leading scorer in the country among defensemen in his debut season, and he was co-rookie of the year in the ECAC along with Sam Anas. Despite that he has grown over the years.
"Even though Gavin was co-rookie of the year, he did that on points and wasn't very good at being a two-way defenseman," Carvel said. "His game has rounded out. His leadership and what he does to help this team has come a long way."
It is no surprise that Bayreuther is the only college hockey defenseman that leads his team points and goals this season.
Like Bayreuther, Sweetman was asked to be a producer early in his career. Although the points have never been on the scale of his classmate, Sweetman does other things that are equally important. He is one of the better skaters among defensemen in the ECAC and he has good vision of the ice.
"When he got here he didn't know what kind of player he was," Carvel said. "His first year he was a very erratic player, where we didn't know what to expect from night to night. Last year, his game really took a huge step forward. I think he is the best two-way defenseman in our league. I don't know if there is another in our league that combines the two sides as well as he does."
Bayreuther and Sweetman are well known in ECAC circles, but a third, Nolan Gluchowski, also adds an offensive wrinkle that some teams just don't have. Gluchowski has a cannon from the point and he leads the team in shots on goal, averaging one shot per game more than his teammates (3.67).
"I think of the three of them, Nolan is the best guy with the puck," Carvel said. "He is the best puck mover on our team. He is a year behind Bayreuther and Sweetman and is maybe a bit overshadowed but he is real good on the power play and he is as good of a two-way defenseman as Eric."
Gluchowski also leads his team with a plus-17.
The scoring depth continues to the forwards as well. Fourteen different skaters have double digits in points, 21 have provided contributions to the offense and 16 have at least a goal.
In recent weeks, that scoring has been deep and it has found a line that has started to score at a high pace. Since being put together in a game against Colgate, Jacob Pritchard, Brian Ward and Drew Smolcynski have combined for seven goals and 23 points.
"I feel like we have gotten to the point where our best three forwards are on the same line," said Carvel. "Smolcynski is a very smart offensive player. Brian Ward is a greasy kind of player because it is not always pretty but he wins battles, he scores goals and he gets big points. Those three are really leading the way offensively.
"I won't change my mindset, though. I still like the fact we are a deep, very balanced team up front. But if those three continue, it will just be a huge bonus. I am much more concerned with the defensive side of the puck and limiting chances for the other team. We have a good goalie and our goal is to limit teams to less than two goals a game."
Freshman Jacob Pritchard was expected to have an early impact, but had just three points in his first 17 games. Lately, Pritchard has become an important piece of the puzzle. He is on a six-game point streak, where he has four goals and five assists. He also has 14 points in his last 10 games. His presence has only made SLU more dangerous.
"A big reason that we are making a push right now, is because Pritchard's game is really coming along," Carvel said.
SLU had the biggest win of its season last Friday, handing Quinnipiac its first ECAC loss of the season, on a Drew Smolcynski goal in overtime.
"I didn't know how big of a confidence boost it would be until we played Princeton the next night," Carvel said. "It is a team I totally respect but of course there wasn't going to be the same emotional energy as the night before. Our guys played at the same level as they did Quinnipiac and that was a good sign.
"We hope that the win propels us over the last four games and into the playoffs. I feel that I have my best 20 players healthy and I am excited for the last four games and what may come after that."