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Tuesday @ The Rink With Juan Martinez

Welcome to CollegeSports.com and USCHO's "Tuesday At The Rink" series of moderated chats.

This week's guests are USCHO ECACHL columnist Juan Martinezat 2:00 p.m. ET and CSTV analyst Mike Eruzione at 3:00 p.m. ET. Come for one, stay for both!


At The Rink


Currently the ECACHL Correspondent for USCHO, Juan Martinez has been covering hockey since 1990, when he began his career writing for NHL teams as an assistant to The Hockey News' Stan Fischler, including a "This Week in Hockey History" column. He also served as the Research Editor for Fischler's book, "Rivalry," about the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Since 1991, Juan has covered college hockey and the ECACHL, first as a beat writer and league-wide since 1995. Over the last 15 years, Juan has written for USCHO, the Boston Herald, Hockey Prospects Underground, Eastern College Hockey Adviser, Hockey Magazine East, Inside College Hockey and contributed guest pieces to numerous weeklies in the Greater Boston area. In addition, he was a columnist, associate publisher and editor in chief of U.S. College Hockey Magainze for three years.

Outside of hockey, Juan is the Executive Director of MassVOTE, a non-partisan voting rights organization headquartered in Boston.

While Juan will not be stopping by until 2:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday February 1, feel free to submit your questions now and we will save them for his arrival!

CollegeSports.com Moderator: Hello, everyone. Welcone to another session of Tuesday @ The Rink. Our first guest today is USCHO ECACHL writer Juan Martinez.
Juan Martinez: Hi, everybody. I'm excited to be here and look forward to answering your questions.

Richter547: Which teams do you think have the potential to make a run during the playoffs this year in the ECAC?
Juan Martinez: Given the season thus far, you have to point to Cornell, Colgate, Harvard and Vermont as the toughest teams. However, Dartmouth is finally putting things together and don't be surprised if Brown or St. Lawrence surprise some people. That's what good goaltending will do for you.

Duane (Strafford, NH): Can you put into words how great a college hockey environment Lynah Rink is? What do you think of Cornell's chances of going deep into the NCAA Tournament this year?
Juan Martinez: Lynah Rink's atmosphere is by far one of the best in the country. Every team and player is aware of the intimidation factor and always make nullifying the advantage part of their game strategy. As for going deep, remember defense and goaltending win. Cornell has that and a more balanced offense -- with an excellent power play -- than it has had recently.

Jerome (Acton): Who do you like in the Beanpot - is this finally Harvard's year?
Juan Martinez: Well, Harvard's shot this year is likely better than in years past because they've beaten BU and BC already this season. Of course, all four teams are solid -- don't discount a Northeastern upset as a possibility -- but BU always has a little extra magic in the Beanpot. That said, I do think Harvard has as good a shot as it has had in years.

Allan (Boston): In the PairWise, the ECAC is doing really well - has the quality of the league improved that much?
Juan Martinez: This has been an revival year for the ECACHL, that's for sure. Look at all of the non-conference wins and national rankings this season. The league has a lot of good, young talent both on the ice and behind the bench. This year is certainly no fluke, this is the beginning of growth for the league.

Lou - worcester: Can Quinnipiac really compete next year? Wouldn't Holy Cross have made more sense as an expansion team?
Juan Martinez: There were many criteria involved in making that decision. Quinnipiac is a good addition and will be tough competition, but they are a few years away before making any significant noise in the ECAC. A few recruiting cycles will make a big difference. Holy Cross would have been a nice choice too, but you can't go wrong with QC. Personally, I would have liked the league to go with 11 teams, but no one asked me.

Joshua J. (Pittsburgh): How badly does Dartmouth miss Jessiman? Would they have been a national contender with him?
Juan Martinez: They miss him a lot ... who wouldn't? However, DC has had many other problems this season. Other injuries, a tough time adjusting on offense, mid-season departures, etc. That's not all because of Jessiman. They would have had these problems even if he was healthy. Bob Gaudet always says that he's more concerned with how they play down the stretch. You can see where they are now. A national contender with him? Probably not, but they would have been closer than they were without him.

Derry,NH: What's the chances of UNH finally taking the last step to really becoming a hockey power and getting a coach the can take the best players and get them to win?
Juan Martinez: Many teams would change places with UNH and their history in the postseason in a hurry. Dick Umile is an excellent coach who has gotten a lot out of many players and teams that didn't seem as strong on paper. They are one of the better teams in the country year in and year out ... that's not too shabby.

BigBlue411: Who is the best prospect in the ECAC?
Juan Martinez: That's a tough question. The league is loaded with young talent. If there's ever an NHL again, you can expect some of the goaltenders to have a shot -- Joe Fallon, David McKee.

Vinod, New York City: How do you see Cornell finishing up this year?
Juan Martinez: Strong, as expected. They should snag a first-round bye and home ice. Don't expect them to lose two of three at home this year. Last season, they were young and had a lot of pressure on them. They've learned and will be stronger in the playoffs because of it. Again, it is all about goaltending, defense and special teams. They are rock solid in all three.

Nathan Chicowdy - New York City: Juan, ECAC netminders have ranked high in GAA and save percentage this year (currently 3 of top 5 in each are from the EACA). Is the reason because they are that good or is the offense just weaker in their conference?
Juan Martinez: They are that good. If you have the chance to see them play live, jump at the opportunity. Fallon isn't even in the top 5 and he may end up being the best of the bunch. D'Alba, McKee, Grumet-Morris, Fallon, Silverthorn ... an excellent group. Remember, this isn't last season when the conference was weaker top to bottom. Half the league can beat anyone and a team like Princeton has a much better offense.

Dick (New Haven): I know Tim Taylor is a legend, but with one winning season in seven years and this disaster inprogress, isn't it time for new blood in Ingalls?
Juan Martinez: That will always be Tim Taylor's job until he wants to leave. Yes, the Bulldogs have had a tough time, but if you look at the program overall, it has never been a hockey power. He's been hit by early departures and the team is incredibly young - not just in terms of class, but many of his freshmen are true freshmen ... 18 year olds when the season began. It's a learn-as-you-go defense and sometimes that shows. They'll be stronger next year, especially if they can get consistent goaltending.

Larry (Canton, NY): St. Lawrence made a brief appearance in the rankings earlier this season, but has faded since. Are they a team to worry about down the stretch, or did they just look good because they beat teams from a weaker-than-usual CCHA?
Juan Martinez: The general rule for me is that if a team has a good goaltender and the chance to score the timely goal, then they could be trouble. Mike McKenna can beat any team by himself. Add to that the league's top offense and I think they will be tough to beat in the playoffs.

Tom (Portland): Seems to be more parity between ECAC and HEA. Is ECAC up this year of HEA down?
Juan Martinez: The ECAC is definitely up this year. Remember, last year's top four teams had 30, 29, 28 and 27 points. That's a low point total for a top 4. Cornell, Colgate and UVM are already at 20 or more. I don't expect them to fade and Harvard is right on the cusp. Unfortunately, we'll lose UVM to HEA at season's end.

Tom (Portland): Will ECAC try to replace UVM? Will any other ECAC teams defect?
Juan Martinez: The ECAC has already replaced UVM with Quinnipiac. They'll start play in the league next season. I don't think any other ECAC teams will defect. When the league was struggling for what seemed like forever, the rumors were flying fast and furiously. Given the turnaround of this season, which is not a one-time deal, I expect that the teams will be happy to stay.

Joe (San Francisco): How can schools like Harvard, Colgate, Cornell, and Dartmouth maintain consistently strong programs despite the difficulties getting the top recruits that schools like Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin snag each year?
Juan Martinez: Excellent recruiting and good coaching. Look at some of the players those teams have brought in and developed of late. Sure, it will always be tough for ECAC teams, especially the Ivies, to compete for the stud recruits from Minnesota, etc., but there is a lot of young talent out there.

Harry (Columbus): What exactly is the Big Red Freakout?
Juan Martinez: It is RPI's annual contest that focuses on the fans and helps boost enthusiasm for the team. It is a tradition since the late 70s and has always been very popular with the Engineers' fans. It also makes for a fun atmosphere in a good rink.

Ben (Baltimore): Can Dartmouth get the proverbial monkey off its back this weekend vs. Harvard? No one on this year's roster has ever beaten the Crimson. What must they do to get the elusive victory?
Juan Martinez: This will be a critical test for a hot DC team. They are in the same situation that Colgate was in earlier this year. The Raiders came out with an extra level of energy and focus and it made the difference. Dartmouth will have to play its best game and capitalize on the few good scoring chances they will get against a good Harvard defense. Special teams play will likely sway the game in either direction.

Jeff (New York City): What do you think of Colgate's chances in the ECACHL and the NCAA's this year? It always seems like people do not respect them because they tend to win close games and do not blow other teams out.
Juan Martinez: Blowing teams away is impressive in the regular season, but it doesn't always translate into the postseason and sometimes serves to mask a team's problems. I'm more impressed with teams that win close games because it shows they are more battle tested and know how to react to adversity within the game. This is a better Colgate team than last year and I think they have just as good a shot as the other top four teams of winning the ECACHL tourney and making some noise in the NCAAs.

Trey (Belmont): Do you think Donato has been the key at Harvard, or is it more of a case of it being not Mazzoleni?
Juan Martinez: A little from column A and a little from column B, with a column C thrown in. The atmosphere around the team is like night and day. There was a heaviness in Mazz's last season, but the mood is much lighter now. That's Donato's doing, but he'd be the first to tell you that he inherited a ton of talent that Mazz recruited. Which is the column C ... there's a ton of raw talent on this club and Donato is doing a good job with it. Andrew Lederman is the best example of Donato's influence.

Ben (Baltimore): Who do you see getting the four byes? Cornell's almost a lock, I think Colgate is close as well. Any chance of Dartmouth or Brown catching Harvard or Vermont?
Juan Martinez: The best part about the ECAC and what I've enjoyed most of all in my 14 years covering the league is the part of the season we're about to enter. Teams move up and down each night and today's standings may look completely different in two weeks. I do think that Dartmouth and Brown have a chance, but it is a distant one because it would mean that the top four would have to struggle a bit. Possible? Yes. Likely? I don't think so ... but I've been surprised by this league many times before.
Juan Martinez: Just sit back and enjoy the next month of the regular seaosn, it'll be fun.
CollegeSports.com Moderator: That is all we have time for with Juan. But don't forget to join us again at the top of the hour with our guest on Tuesday @ The Rink, CSTV hockey analyst Mike Eruzione.
Juan Martinez: Thanks everyone. I had a great time.

 
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