It’s starting to sound like a broken record, but what can you say when it’s true?
So what stayed the same after this past weekend’s action? Yale is still in first place, Union is still in last place, and the middle is still clogged up. Someone please help me.
Last week’s predictions: 5-8 (I repeat, someone please help me) Year to date: 80-74, .519, 3rd (I’m your so-called expert?)
Clarkson (13-6-3, 9-3-2 ECAC, 2nd) and St. Lawrence (5-16-1, 4-9-1 ECAC, 11th) at Rensselaer (12-9-3, 6-5-3 ECAC, T-4th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 – 7 pm Empire, Houston Fieldhouse, Troy, N.Y. St. Lawrence (5-16-1, 4-9-1 ECAC, 11th) and Clarkson (13-6-3, 9-3-2 ECAC, 2nd) at Union (5-16-3, 2-10-2 ECAC, 12th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 – 7 pm, Achilles Rink, Schenectady, N.Y. Previous Meetings Nov. 21: St. Lawrence 1, Rensselaer 0; Clarkson 3, Union 3 Nov. 22: St. Lawrence 7, Union 0; Clarkson 11, Rensselaer 0
Clarkson is arguably the hottest team in the ECAC right now. The Golden Knights have only lost one ECAC game in 1998, going 5-1-1 in that span. The Knights have gone from a tie for third place to second place all alone, but at the same time have actually lost a point in the standings to frontrunning Yale.
Never mind that, though, the Knights have been playing great hockey — led by many. The goaltending tandem of Dan Murphy and Chris Bernard is playing spectacular hockey, and are number two and three in goals-against average, with marks of 1.88 and 2.37, respectively.
At the same time, freshman Erik Cole is making his run for Rookie of the Year. In those seven games Cole has scored five goals and three assists. Chris Clark has five goals and five assists, and Buddy Wallace two goals and four assists.
St. Lawrence lost a pair of games this weekend to Dartmouth and Vermont, dropping the Saints from a tie for eighth place to the 11th spot, a spot not in the playoffs.
While Eric Heffler has been spectacular in goal for the Saints (2.50 GAA, .924 SV%), the Saints have not been scoring goals: an average of 2.00 goals per league game while giving up 2.71 per. That stat doesn’t bode well for any team, and it’s even worse for a team that is not in the playoff picture at the moment.
"Obviously our backs are to the wall," said head coach Joe Marsh. "We have to find a way to score some goals and win some hockey games. This past weekend was a real setback for us…the effort was there for the most part, but you can see the frustration we are experiencing."
Similarly, Union is dangerously close to not making the postseason. The Dutchmen are four points out of a playoff spot, and three of their next four games are against the teams immediately ahead of them: that starts with St. Lawrence on Friday evening.
The Dutchmen are 0-8-1 in their last nine ECAC games, though five of those losses have been by less than two goals — and it would have been six had Brown not scored two empty-netters Saturday. A win is all that anyone is looking for on the Dutchmen team.
"We have to win a game soon to get ourselves back on the beam," said head coach Stan Moore to the Schenectady Gazette’s Ken Schott.
"Time is definitely running out," said defenseman Jeff Sproat.
"It just seems like we’re getting further and further away," said captain Charlie Moxham. "We make just a couple of little mistakes, and you can’t afford to do that. We can’t seem to learn that it’s going to cost us."
"Inconsistent" is definitely the word that describes the Rensselaer Engineers. They dropped a 3-2 game to Brown and then came back to dominate Harvard 5-1 the next day.
"We needed a game like [Saturday's] to put Friday’s game behind us," said head coach Dan Fridgen.
The Engineers know the sense of urgency in the last four weeks of ECAC play.
"[Friday's] game was a heartbreaker," said goaltender Scott Prekaski. "The [Harvard] game was big for us. We only have eight games left, and if we want home ice, we’ve got to win nearly all of them."
The last time the Engineers played the North Country duo, they were shut out by a combined score of 12-0, with 11 of the goals coming off Clarkson sticks.
PICKS: Clarkson at Rensselaer: The hotter team over the inconsistent one. Clarkson 5, Rensselaer 2 St. Lawrence at Union: Who wants to get in the playoffs? St. Lawrence 3, Union 1 St. Lawrence at Rensselaer: The other side of inconsistent. Rensselaer 4, St. Lawrence 2 Clarkson at Union: Four points to set up a meeting with Yale. Clarkson 7, Union 1
Dartmouth (9-9-3, 5-8-1 ECAC, 9th) and Vermont (7-15-2, 4-8-2 ECAC, 10th) at Colgate (14-8-2, 8-5-1 ECAC, 3rd) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Starr Rink, Hamilton, N.Y. Vermont (7-15-2, 4-8-2 ECAC, 10th) and Dartmouth (9-9-3, 5-8-1 ECAC, 9th) at Cornell (11-8-2, 7-6-1 ECAC, T-4th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Lynah Rink, Ithaca, N.Y. Previous Meetings: Nov. 14: Cornell 4, Dartmouth 1; Colgate 7, Vermont 0 Nov. 15: Cornell 1, Vermont 1; Colgate 7, Dartmouth 2
Vermont came through with a win over St. Lawrence, but dropped a decision to Clarkson. The 5-2 victory against the Saints vaulted the Catamounts into sole possession of tenth place — the final playoff spot under the ECAC’s new postseason format.
Kevin Karlander scored twice in the win, and goals were added by Jean-Francois Caudron, Eric Lundin and B.J. Kilbourne while Andrew Allen made 39 saves, following a 26-save performance against Clarkson the night before. Stephane Piche scored both goals in the 5-2 loss that night.
Dartmouth had the same results — a loss to Clarkson and a win over St. Lawrence. The Big Green are in sole possession of ninth place.
Mike Byrne, David Whitworth, Jon Sturgis, Tom Ruzzo and Jeremiah Buckley scored in the 5-2 win over the Saints. The next evening, Buckley scored the only goal of the game for the Big Green in their 5-1 defeat.
Cornell was decimated by Yale on Saturday, 11-0, but then went out and defeated Princeton 4-1.
"There isn’t much to say," said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer after Friday’s loss. "Things like that happen in hockey. All night, everything we touched went extremely wrong for us. Every aspect of the game, they played well and things went wrong for us. After a while it was a matter of surviving the course of the game."
Luckily for the Big Red, the team persevered and came back the next night.
"Like I said [Friday night], it was just a bad night," said Schafer. "When you get beat like that, it puts doubts in people’s minds. But, I thought [Saturday night] we played a very solid hockey game. It could have been that situation where we got down on ourselves, but our team’s got a lot more experience than that, and we did a good job bouncing back."
Unfortunately the injury bug continues to hit the Big Red, as Ryan Moynihan joins Jason Dailey with a broken hand. It is doubtful that either will play this weekend.
Colgate failed to score a single goal this weekend in losses to Princeton and Yale, losses which dropped the Red Raiders into third place in the ECAC standings.
"We never challenged at all," said head coach Don Vaughan. "It definitely was not the kind of hockey you need to play in order to be a home-ice contender."
The Red Raiders are closer to sixth than second right now, as they lead the three-team pack of Cornell, Rensselaer and Harvard by two points; they trail Clarkson by three.
"We’re still in a position to take a run at home ice," said Vaughan. "But we need to start with some good games on home ice. This is your typical ECAC season — it’s right down to the wire."
PICKS: Dartmouth at Colgate : The Big Green pulls one off. Dartmouth 5, Colgate 4 Vermont at Cornell : The Big Red fight through injuries. Cornell 3, Vermont 1 Vermont at Colgate : The Red Raiders break their losing streak. Colgate 4, Vermont 1 Dartmouth at Cornell : Four points for the Big Red. Cornell 3, Dartmouth 2
Brown (7-12-1, 6-7-1 ECAC, T-7th) and Harvard (8-10-2, 7-6-1 ECAC, T-4th) at Yale (17-4-0, 12-2-0 ECAC, 1st) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Ingalls Rink, New Haven, Conn. Harvard (8-10-2, 7-6-1 ECAC, T-4th) and Brown (7-12-1, 6-7-1 ECAC, T-7th) at Princeton (11-6-4, 5-6-3 ECAC, T-7th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Hobey Baker Rink, Princeton, N.J. Previous Meetings: Nov. 14: Princeton 2, Harvard 2 (OT); Brown 3, Yale 2 (OT) Nov. 15: Princeton 6, Brown 5; Yale 3, Harvard 1
Yale continues to ride the wave of a spectacular season with two shutouts over the past weekend, against Cornell and Colgate. Alex Westlund had a big weekend: he gained the decision on both evenings, was named the ECAC Player of the Week and extended his shutout streak to 162:28.
"He’s been a rock," said head coach Tim Taylor on Westlund. "He’s gained a lot of confidence and a lot of knowledge. He is the number-one goaltender."
The Bulldogs enjoy a four point lead in the ECAC, and only need one point to clinch the first playoff berth in the ECAC this season.
Princeton shut out Colgate 4-0 on Friday night, then dropped a 4-1 decision to Cornell the next evening. Tiger head coach Don Cahoon didn’t care for the turnaround.
"I don’t think Cornell had much to do with the outcome of the game — that’s my perspective. I know Mike Schafer might disagree," he said. "[But] we beat ourselves tonight, and [Cornell] was happy to oblige.
"It was one step forward, two giant steps backward," he added.
Jeff Halpern is definitely one Tiger who has his scoring skates on, with four goals this past weekend, including a hat trick on Friday and a shorthander each evening.
At the Beanpot, underdog Harvard almost pulled the upset, but Boston University took the title in overtime, 2-1. For the Crimson, that score followed a loss to Rensselaer and a win over Union.
"We definitely were the underdog," said head coach Ronn Tomassoni on the Beanpot. "From the beginning of the tournament, all we heard about was BU, BC and Northeastern. And understandably so — all three are having great seasons. But we have a very young hockey team that was very determined and was very proud of the rich tradition that we have."
One thing that Tomassoni pointed towards is scoring. The Crimson scored five goals in three games this past weekend, with three coming against Union in a win, and one each in the two losses to BU and Rensselaer.
"If you’re going to score, you have to put the puck on the net," he said. "We’re not doing that."
Brown just motored through its best ECAC weekend under first-year head coach Roger Grillo, as the Bears swept Union and Rensselaer to move into a tie for seventh place in the ECAC. This is a team that has really turned things around since the Christmas break, going 5-2-1.
"The guys are moving the puck and attacking with confidence, and we’re skating," said Grillo. "In the beginning of the season we were afraid that we weren’t going to be able to skate with people.
"A big part of it is confidence, and a lot of it is that we’ve finally figured out what our systems are," Grillo added. "Within the systems that we’ve set up, the players are allowed to go out and have fun and play the game."
Netminder Scott Stirling has been a big part of that recently, posting all three wins and allowing just six goals in those games.
"Any team that is successful, the guy between the pipes you have to start with him," said Grillo. "[Stirling's] allowed us to have our goals in the game and the opportunity to get back into games as well."
PICKS: Brown at Yale: Does lightning strike twice? Brown 4, Yale 2 Harvard at Princeton: The Tigers stay in the hunt for the top half. Princeton 4, Harvard 2 Harvard at Yale: Yale clinches the playoff spot. Yale 3, Harvard 1 Brown at Princeton: Clutter for the last home-ice spots… Princeton 5, Brown 3
There are some good battles next weekend, highlighted by the fight for first place in Potsdam between Yale and Clarkson.
Next week in the ECAC:
Friday, February 20: Colgate at Harvard Cornell at Brown Princeton at St. Lawrence Yale at Clarkson Rensselaer at Vermont Union at Dartmouth
Saturday, February 21: Colgate at Brown Cornell at Harvard Princeton at Clarkson Yale at St. Lawrence Rensselaer at Dartmouth Union at Vermont
Thanks to the ECAC game reporters who contributed to this preview.
USCHO covers the ECAC all week long on the ECAC Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.