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A League Ready to Flex Its Muscles

By Daniel L. Jacobowitz

ECAC hockey coaches don't see eye-to-eye on many issues.

They have separate theories on what's needed to win the league. They take different approaches to easing or plunging frosh crops into their lineups. They have dissimilar recruiting policies.

But the conference's coaches all agree on the ECAC's unusual strength and parity.

"I think it's a great league," St. Lawrence Coach Joe Marsh declared. "We've seen Colgate beat B.U. at B.U. Our league gets a bum rap compared to Hockey East. We're a bit removed from New England, and we hear that our league isn't as strong. But [St. Lawrence] played in the National Championships in 1988, RPI played in 1985 and Harvard did in 1989."

The ECAC once again boasts a bevy of talented teams that will take a crack at the national title. Like last season, this winter campaign should have more than its share of upsets. Any team can uproot any other on any given night. Last-place Army proved this last year by defeating the Crimson on the opening game of Harvard's Season After. In that sense, there will again be parity this season in the ECAC.

But taking a step back from the game-to-game approach, you see depth only in the league's top eight teams. The league's bottom tier--Dartmouth, Army, Yale and Vermont--are led by only two or three stellar players, if that many. Injuries to these key players over the rigorous 30-game schedule could cripple these schools' chances at pulling off any upsets. Skating fewer solid lines will damage the conference's pretenders by the middle of the season.

The league's upper echelon consists of last year's top six teams--Colgate, RPI, Cornell, Clarkson, St. Lawrence and Harvard. Last season, only three points separated the sixth-place Crimson from second-place RPI.

Brown and Princeton occupy a middle level in the league. Neither skates as many quality lines as the top group. But the Bruins and Tigers both boast enough standouts to have a chance at cracking The Top Six. Clean bills of health for the likes of Brown all-ECAC defenseman Mike Brewer and Princeton's second-team All-ECAC forward Andre Faust could provide a window for this pair of Ivy teams to move up.

But if these middle-of-the-pack squads cannot remain injury-free, they could find themselves near the bottom of the league.

1989 ECAC Standings TEAM  ECAC  OVERALL Colgate  18-3-1  30-6-1 RPI  14-8-0  20-14-0 Cornell  12-7-3  21-11-3 Clarkson  12-7-3  16-10-3 St. Lawr.  12-8-2  13-15-4 HARVARD  12-9-1  13-14-1 TEAM  ECAC  OVERALL Princeton  11-10-1  12-14-1 Brown  8-11-3  10-16-3 Vermont  7-13-2  9-20-2 Yale  6-15-1  8-20-1 Dartmouth  4-14-4  4-18-4 Army  4-15-3  10-16-4

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