Things are getting closer and closer in the ECAC, as the gap between first and the rest of the teams closes ever so slightly. There won’t be much closing going on this weekend, though, with only one ECAC game on the schedule.
That lone matchup is the back end of the annual North Country rivalry pitting Clarkson against St. Lawrence. Speaking of Clarkson, the Golden Knights were big winners this weekend, taking a pair of games to move up in the standings. The Knights stand five points behind Yale in the chase for first.
Clarkson was the only team to pick up more than two points, but the teams that did get two — Cornell, Colgate, Rensselaer, St. Lawrence and Dartmouth — moved tighter into the pack. Only seven points separate second-place Colgate (14 points) from tenth place (a tie between St. Lawrence and Dartmouth at 7 points).
At most, there can be movement by two teams in the ECAC this weekend as most teams finish off their non-conference schedules.
Last week’s predictions: 6-3 Year to date: 67-55, .549, 3rd
Clarkson (10-5-2, 6-2-1 ECAC, T-3rd) at St. Lawrence (4-12-1, 3-5-1 ECAC, T-10th) Saturday, 7 pm, Appleton Arena, Canton, NY
Clarkson can move past Colgate into second place in the ECAC standings with a win, something that many observers thought could not happen with the first half that the Golden Knights had.
Buoyed by the goaltending tandem of Dan Murphy and Chris Bernard, the Knights are poised to do just that. Each of the two picked up a victory this past weekend, Murphy over Dartmouth and Bernard against Vermont.
A few weeks ago, it was mentioned in this space that captain Chris Clark had to become a factor if the Knights were going to make a move in the ECAC. Well, Chris Clark was named the ECAC Player of the Week after a hat trick against Dartmouth, his second such honor since that tip.
St. Lawrence took two points with a win over Vermont, but lost to Dartmouth in its other weekend action.
"The Vermont win was as big a character builder as we have had in my career here," said Saint head coach Joe Marsh. "I am proud of the way the guys handled everything. We learned that there’s a lot more to life than hockey games over the last week.
"I thought we worked real hard on Saturday night at Dartmouth, but there just wasn’t anything left in the tank," he added. "Under the circumstances, that was probably to be expected. Dartmouth’s got a good, quick team and they were able to use their speed to set up some odd-man rushes."
The North Country was hit hard by the ice storm that blanketed the northern reaches of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine last week, and things were made difficult for both Clarkson and St. Lawrence.
"We are hoping things will start to get back to normal this week," said Marsh. "We are looking forward to a good week of practice and then a strong effort against Clarkson on Saturday night."
PICK: Clarkson 5-2
Cornell (8-5-2, 5-4-1 ECAC, 7th) and Rensselaer (10-7-2, 5-4-2 ECAC, 5th) at Western Michigan (5-18-2, 4-14-1 CCHA, 10th) Friday – Saturday, 7 pm, Lawson Ice Arena, Kalamazoo, Mich. Rensselaer and Cornell at Ferris State (8-12-3, 7-8-3 CCHA, T-7th) Friday – Saturday, 7 pm, Big Rapids, Mich
Cornell played three games against Colgate in the span of nine days: what came out of it was a 1-1-1 record, with both teams scoring the same number of goals (seven) overall.
"We played them three games in a row and they were all tight contests," Cornell head coach Mike Schafer said. "We had our doubts (Monday night), but our players had the character to stick with it against a good hockey team like Colgate."
The three games gave him time to reflect on his team as well.
"I like how our team is starting to progress," he said. "I thought we did a pretty good job of controlling the pace of the game. We don’t need to change anything; we just need to capitalize on scoring chances when we get opportunities, and when we do that we’ll be successful — we’re starting to play the kind of hockey that we’re capable of playing."
Cornell’s travel partner on this trip is Rensselaer. An odd combination, but the two teams that bear red will go to Michigan amid hopes of continuing their unbeaten streaks.
The Engineers are now 2-0-2 in their last four games after a 7-2 drubbing of Union last Saturday evening.
"As a team we went out and played with a passion," said head coach Dan Fridgen. "You could tell it right off the bat that they were eager to be out there and having fun. They were playing with emotion rather than playing emotionally.
"I thought that this was our best performance of the season," he added. "From the team defense to the forwards helping out, this was our best performance of the year."
Eric Healey has forged to the lead in the ECAC in scoring, both in the league and overall, and is riding a five-game scoring streak. In his last nine games he has 19 points, while in his last five he has two goals and nine assists.
For information on Ferris State and Western Michigan please refer to the CCHA Preview.
PICKS: Cornell at Western Michigan: Cornell 4-2 Rensselaer at Ferris State: Rensselaer 6-3 Rensselaer at Western Michigan: Rensselaer 7-2 Cornell at Ferris State: Cornell 4-3
Denver (5-17-0, 4-12-0 WCHA, T-8th) at Vermont (6-12-2, 3-6-2 ECAC, 9th) and Dartmouth (6-7-3, 3-7-1 ECAC, T-10th) Dartmouth at UMass-Lowell (8-9-2, 5-5-2 Hockey East, T-6th) Friday, 7:30 pm, Gutterson Fieldhouse, Burlington, Vt. Saturday, 7:30 pm, Thompson Arena, Hanover, NH Tuesday, 7 pm, Tully Forum, Billerica, Mass
Vermont couldn’t gain a single point this past weekend, dropping games to Clarkson and St. Lawrence. Justin Martin had a goal and two assists in the 5-4 loss to Clarkson, and was named to the ECAC Honor Roll for the week.
Two Cats are on scoring streaks at that moment — Jason Hamilton is on an eight-game run, with has three goals and five assists in that span, and freshman Andreas Moborg has scored in four straight, with two goals and four assists over that stretch.
Dartmouth is undefeated against non-conference opponents, with a 3-0-2 mark. The wins have come over Army, Bowling Green and Providence, while the Big Green have tied Merrimack and UMass-Amherst.
The Big Green lost to Clarkson, but defeated St. Lawrence this past weekend. Dave Risk had two assists in each of those games, and was named to the ECAC Honor Roll. Risk has had an assist in each of the last four games.
For information on Denver please refer to the WCHA Preview. For information on UMass-Lowell please see the Hockey East Preview.
PICKS: Denver at Vermont: Denver 5-2 Denver at Dartmouth:Denver 5-2 Dartmouth at UMass-Lowell: Dartmouth 5-3
Union (3-15-2, 2-8-1 ECAC, 12th) at Army (10-11-0, 3-11-0 vs Major Division I) Army at Yale (13-4-0, 9-2-0 ECAC, 1st) Friday, 7 pm, Tate Rink, West Point, NY Saturday, 3 pm, Ingalls Rink, New Haven, Conn.
Union was shellacked by Rensselaer 7-2 last Saturday evening, and the performance of the Dutchmen left head coach Stan Moore in a somber mood.
"I never want to be in a game where we don’t have an opportunity to win, and that was tonight," he said. "We have to go back to the drawing board and look at the disparity that happened."
Goaltending is definitely one of the strong points for the Dutchmen, but on Saturday it was a tough go for the All-American, Trevor Koenig. Koenig allowed three goals on 11 shots before being pulled in favor of Leeor Shtrom.
While the bleeding didn’t stop, Shtrom kept the Rensselaer attack at bay.
At the same time, the Dutchmen continue to struggle offensively, and Moore is waiting for his team to score.
"The hope is that our team is catching up to our goaltending," he said. "(Saturday) was a step backward for us in that aspect."
Yale is coming off of a win over UMass-Lowell; the Bulldogs are doing it with defense itself, and with a defensive-style game.
"I told them [after the first on Saturday] that we had to stiffen up defensively," said Yale coach Tim Taylor. "We preach a commitment to defense, but when we don’t make the sacrifices to that defensive style, we’re a pretty average hockey team."
Jeff Hamilton continues to sparkle for the Bulldogs, adding a hat trick and an assist to his numbers in the 6-3 win. With the win Yale continues to be rated in the top ten in the nation.
Army has a 3-11-0 mark against major Division I teams, with the three wins coming at the expense of UMass-Amherst, and Nebraska-Omaha twice.
Army has is known for their defense and strict disciplinary style, and that shouldn’t change at all going into this weekend.
PICKS: Union at Army: Army 2-1 Army at Yale: Yale 5-2
Brown (4-12-1, 4-7-1 ECAC, T-7th) at New Hampshire (16-4-1, 8-3-1 Hockey East, 2nd) Saturday, 7 pm, Whittemore Center, Durham, NH
Brown dropped a 4-2 decision to Northeastern on Tuesday evening, a game could have gone either way.
The Bears jumped to a 2-1 lead after one period of play on goals by Jimmy Andersson and Jeff Lawler, but couldn’t hold the Huskies from the second period on. They now continue a tough non-conference schedule with a date in New Hampshire.
For information on New Hampshire please refer to the Hockey East Preview.
PICK: New Hampshire 8-2
Conference action dominates next week with some good battles, both in terms of travel partners and rivalry-wise.
Next week’s games (ECAC Games in bold):
Friday, January 30: Clarkson at Cornell St. Lawrence at Colgate
Saturday, January 31: Clarkson at Colgate St. Lawrence at Cornell Princeton at Yale Union at Rensselaer Dartmouth at Vermont
Sunday, February 1: Brown vs. Providence (Governor’s Trophy)
Monday, February 2: Harvard vs. Boston College (Beanpot)
USCHO covers the ECAC all week long on the ECAC Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.