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SLU hockey looks to get back on track

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CANTON — After a disappointing return to action last week, the St. Lawrence University hockey team is looking at this weekend as a fresh start.

The Saints (8-10-2, 2-4-2), who have lost five in a row, resume ECAC Hockey play as they host Brown tonight at 7 and Yale on Saturday night.

“I think we needed a reset to our season,” St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel said. “I think we were the only team in Division I which didn’t have a bye in the first half of the season, so I think we needed the break.”

Following its exam/holiday break spanning 22 days, St. Lawrence was soundly beaten at home by Vermont, 4-2 on Jan. 7.

The loss was the Saints’ eighth in their past 10 games and the team hasn’t won since Nov. 29, at North Dakota.

“We’ve definitely done some soul searching,” Saints captain Kyle Essery said. “We’ve been watching a lot of video and we just have to keep our game simple — try not to do the hard play, just keep doing simple plays like getting the puck up and playing it in deep.”

St. Lawrence’s last foray into league play was a pair of losses to archrival Clarkson — both by one goal — 5-4 on Dec. 6 and 4-3 the next night in Canton.

“It’s good to kind of get your legs back under you and get back to basics,” senior winger Greg Carey said. “Guys are healthy and we’ve got a full lineup again and we’re excited to again start ECAC play here.”

After its first setback to Vermont this season, Carvel talked about the team’s return to practice would resemble a preseason training camp.

“We’ve tried to kind of refocus and work on some things,” senior winger and assistant captain Jeremy Wick said. “We just have to stay positive, bring more energy and stick to the game plan. We know we can play well, we just have to find that again and get back to it.”

Carvel shook things up a bit by giving goalie Kyle MacDonald his first start of the season last week and the senior made 17 saves in the first period before the Catamounts scored twice in the middle period to build a 3-0 lead.

Despite being one of the top scoring teams in the country, St. Lawrence has fallen on hard times defensively, being outscored 40-33 over its past nine games. The Saints have allowed an average of 3.7 goals per game — in which they are ranked 52nd of 59 Division I teams — including an average of 4.0 a game in their past 10 outings.

“The defensive side of the puck has been an issue all season,” Carvel said. “We’ve shown that we can score goals, but we haven’t shown that we can really shut teams down. That’s the biggest thing — it involves making sure we’re getting in good position, playing smart defensively and also getting big saves from our goaltenders.”

“We’ve got to play better on defense,” Essery added. “And then hopefully pucks will go in and we’ll win some games.”

In Brown and Yale, St. Lawrence faces two teams that it tied to open its ECAC Hockey schedule — both 3-3 outcomes on Nov. 1-2.

The Saints followed this up with wins at Harvard and Dartmouth Nov. 8-9, respectively, before they lost at home to Colgate and Cornell to begin their current slide in league play.

“It’s a second season right now, we’ve got 14 games left and then we’ve got playoffs,” Carey said. “The nice thing about college hockey is you get that second chance in ECAC play. We’re trying to make a push here and we’ll be playing some strong teams, so there’s going to be some fun games.”

CAREY WATCH

Despite a lengthy team layoff because of a pair of breaks, Carey remains at the top of the national leaderboard.

The senior ranks second in the country in points (37), points per game (1.85), assists (23) and assists per game (1.15) — and is tied for fourth in goals (14) and is tied for fifth in goals per game (0.70).

A top 10 Hobey Baker Award finalist last year who led the nation in scoring, Carey is not surprisingly on the award’s fan ballot, as voting began on Tuesday.

Younger brother Matt Carey leads the nation among freshman in points per game (1.25), is tied for second in points (25) and stands second in goals.

SAINTS ON TV

All St. Lawrence men’s and women’s hockey games, as well many of athletic events at the school, can be viewed in high definition on the university’s website. Of course, radio broadcasts of men’s hockey games of course can be heard on WFLK-FM 95.3.

Chris Fitz Gerald covers St. Lawrence University hockey for the Times. He can be reached at cfitzgerald@wdt.com.

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