The standings are frozen in time for the next 23 days as the ECAC takes its annual holiday/finals break, and at that break there are two surprising leaders atop the standings — Yale and Colgate.
The Bulldogs are 6-1-0 in the league and the Red Raiders 6-2-0. During the preseason, few thought that these teams would be in the top half of the league at this time of the year.
This past weekend both earned wins, the Bulldogs over Princeton,and Colgate over Rensselaer and Union.
The schedule is light this week, with only two teams in action, both against the same nonconference opponent.
UMass-Amherst (2-10-1, 0-8-1 Hockey East, 9th) at Princeton (6-3-3, 2-3-2 ECAC, T-6th) Friday, 7:30 p.m., Hobey Baker Rink, Princeton, NJ Dartmouth (2-3-1, 1-3-1 ECAC, 11th) at UMass-Amherst (2-10-1, 0-8-1 Hockey East, 9th) Sunday, 2 p.m., Mullins Center, Amherst, Mass.
The Tigers of Princeton lost an ECAC contest to Yale this past weekend. They fell behind 2-0 early before coming within one goal. But Princeton couldn’t dig the rest of the way out of that hole and lost the game.
The Tigers next step into non-conference play, where they are 4-0-1 this season. In those five games, the Tigers have posted 25 goals, partly thanks to Jeff Halpern, who has 12 non-conference points (6-6-12). In addition, the Tigers are 6-of-21 on the power play in those five games, and 21-of-24 on the penalty kill.
Princeton’s defense is a strong one, not just from a purely defensive outlook, but also from an offensive one. Michael Acosta and Steve Shirreffs both have nine assists on the season.
Dartmouth has not played a game since Nov. 22, a 2-2 tie against Vermont. Charlie Retter and Jon Sturgis scored the two Big Green goals in that contest, and Jason Wong got his first start of the season. Wong played the previous weekend in mop-up duty after missing the start of the year with an injury.
Goals have not come easily for Dartmouth; the Big Green rank last in the league in scoring with just 17. That statistic is a little bit deceiving, since the Big Green have only played six games, by far the fewest in the ECAC. The next teams up the ladder are Harvard and Brown, both having played 10. In terms of average goals per game, the Big Green are at 2.83, still good for only ninth in the league.
The Big Green will also concentrate on the power play, where they have a measly 10 percent efficiency this season, scoring three times with the man-advantage.
UMass-Amherst is coming off of a 5-1 loss to Northeastern and a 1-1 tie to Northeastern. The tie was the Minutemen’s first Hockey East point of the season.
The Minutemen have played opponents very tight all season long, and just need a little push to get the close wins. If those wins come, then the Minutemen could be on their way to the upper half of Hockey East.
PICKS: UMass-Amherst at Princeton: The Tigers’ defensive game keeps the Minutemen down. Princeton 4, UMass-Amherst 1 Dartmouth at UMass-Amherst: The layoff for the Big Green means they are sluggish, and it hurts. UMass-Amherst 3, Dartmouth 2
There are only two games on the docket for next week, as well.
Thursday, Dec. 18 Harvard at Northeastern
Saturday, Dec. 20 Merrimack at Dartmouth
USCHO covers the ECAC all week long on the ECAC Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.