In the ECAC, five rings bring the survivors of the first round together, though the colors of the ECAC rings differ from those of their Olympic counterparts.
Blue – Yale Green – Clarkson Crimson – Harvard Orange – Princeton Red – Cornell
There is a new format for this year’s ECAC playoff championship, one that involves a Thursday-night preliminary game before the semifinals can take place.
Just who will raise the Scotty Whitelaw Trophy this year? It will be one of those five teams, after an unbelievably wild weekend of first-round action.
What more could one want from a playoff tournament? Three series went the distance, including the first-ever series to have games one and two end in ties. Controversy, shutouts, scoring, last-minute heroics and domination — all of them had the stage this past weekend, and five teams came out of the fire.
After picking four of the five series winners last weekend, the Pitiful Prognosticator turns his magic wand towards the town by Mirror Lake.
All numerical rankings below indicate ECAC playoff seedings.
No. 8 Cornell Big Red (15-15-2) vs. No. 7 Princeton Tigers (15-10-7) Thursday, 7:30 pm, 1980 Olympic Arena, Lake Placid, N.Y. Earlier This Season: Nov. 21: @Cornell 2, Princeton 1 Feb. 7: Cornell 4, @Princeton 1 Last Playoff Meeting: 1994 ECAC Play-Down – @Cornell 5-4
First-round comparisons between these two abound.
The two-time defending ECAC champion Cornell Big Red came back from a 3-1 deficit to gain a 5-4 victory in game three over preseason favorites Rensselaer. The Tigers also went to three games, scoring three times in the span of 1:59 in the first period en route to a 5-3 victory over Brown.
Both teams won game one, and were shut out in game two, but came back to close out their opponents to move on to Lake Placid.
Scott Bertoli and Jeff Halpern lit it up in game three against Brown. Halpern scored the first two of the three goals mentioned above, and Bertoli scored the third. Benoit Morin and Casson Masters added the other two goals for the Tigers on Sunday evening.
The Tigers put three goals up in a 3-2 win on Friday, with Ethan Doyle and Brian Horst scoring before Steve Shirreffs notched the game-winning goal, breaking a 2-2 tie.
The Tigers are now healthy, with Masters, Doyle and Matt Brush coming back from inactivity.
The Big Red are now also totally healed. The Big Red dressed 12 forwards and used all 12 in their series against Rensselaer. The only regular forward that missed the series was Mike Rutter, who was called away for a family emergency.
The Big Red scored five goals for the third and fourth times this season, as three of those times came against Rensselaer. Jeff Oates was the star of the weekend, collecting two goals on Friday and Sunday in 5-4 victories.
Ryan Moynihan netted two goals, and Ryan Smart, Doug Stienstra, Tyler Sutherland and Darren Tymchyshyn also added goals. Oates scored the game-winner on Sunday, and Tymchyshyn the winner Friday.
Look for the matchup of Smart centering Oates and Frank Kovac against the Tigers’ line of Halpern, Bertoli and either Morin or Masters. Smart’s line is the checking line for the Big Red, and they held the Engineers’ top scoring line of Eric Healey, Alain St. Hilaire and Matt Garver to three points on the weekend.
EDGE — Even
The Big Red of Cornell gave up 10 goals and an empty-netter this past weekend, while the Tigers gave up 11. Pretty evenly-matched, huh?
The Big Red got great performances from Jason Dailey and Larry Pierce this weekend. Pierce had two big assists on Sunday, and Dailey had two Friday while playing a strong defensive game.
For the Tigers, Steve Shirreffs continues to be the strongman on the blue line, scoring the game-winner on Friday.
EDGE — Even
Goaltending It took a while, but in the third period of Sunday’s game against Rensselaer, it was Jason Elliott standing on his head, showing why he is the two-time defending ECAC tournament MVP. He made 21 saves, including seven in the final minute to preserve the 5-4 win.
He admitted that he was a little slow in the reaction time during Friday’s game, but the third period on Sunday showed that he is back.
Erasmo Saltarelli was pulled in the second period on Saturday, giving up four goals after making 21 saves on Friday evening. He made 24 stops for the Tigers on Sunday in gaining the win.
EDGE — Cornell
The Pick: These two teams are almost identical twins. Both are coming back to full strength after injuries, and both teams’ forwards are starting to score. The defense is playing huge, but the difference is in goal, and that’s why Cornell will pull off a 3-2 victory — because Jason Elliott is the goods.
Thursday’s winner vs. No. 1 Yale Bulldogs (23-6-3) Friday, 4:00 pm, 1980 Olympic Arena, Lake Placid, N.Y. Earlier This Season: Nov. 22: Yale 2, @Cornell 1 (OT) Feb. 6: @Yale 11, Cornell 0 Dec. 6: Yale 3, @Princeton 2 Jan. 31: @Yale 3, Princeton 2 Last Playoff Meetings: 1992 ECAC Quarterfinal – Cornell 4, @Yale 1 1990 ECAC Play-Down – Yale 4, @Princeton 1
Yale took three games to eliminate St. Lawrence, and if you want to talk about cardiac, the Bulldogs were just that this past weekend.
Ray Giroux scored with 55 seconds left on Friday to gain a 3-3 tie. Jay Quenville scored with 52 seconds left on Saturday to force a 3-3 tie. On Sunday, Jeff Hamilton scored twice to put the Saints away.
The Bulldogs pelted the Saints with shots on all three nights, and scored 10 goals. John Chyz and Jeff Hamilton had two goals each up front. Dan Peraza and Matt Cumming also added goals.
The Bulldogs have been looking to score four goals per game all season long, and head coach Tim Taylor says that if the Bulldogs can score four, they are in great shape to win. The only time the Bulldogs scored four this past weekend was on Sunday, and sure enough, they won.
EDGE — Even
Ray Giroux, one of the prime contenders for ECAC Player of the Year, showed why with his heroics on Friday evening. He scored twice, with the last goal coming with 55 seconds left in the third period to gain the tie against St. Lawrence.
Giroux is joined back there by one of the best defensive defensemen in the league, Jeff Glew. Glew was injured against Union in the last weekend of the season; he is steady and will protect the goalmouth.
EDGE — Yale
Alex Westlund is the frontrunner for the Dryden Award this season, with his statistical placements in the goaltending categories. He did not lose a game this weekend.
EDGE — Even
The Pick: The Big Red will be playing their fifth game in eight nights, so you might think fatigue is setting in. They will also be faced with a daunting Bulldog defense which can shut down opponents and turn games. Don’t look for many great scoring chances in this game, but when there are great chances, look for the team that capitalizes on them to be the winner. Cornell moves on to the championship game and denies Yale the automatic bye in the NCAA tournament, 3-2
No. 5 Harvard Crimson(13-16-2)vs. No. 2 Clarkson Golden Knights (22-7-3) Friday, 7:00 pm, 1980 Olympic Arena, Lake Placid, N.Y. Earlier This Season: Dec. 5: @Clarkson 4, Harvard 1 Feb. 28: Clarkson 5, @Harvard 1 Last Playoff Meeting: 1990 ECAC Semifinal – Clarkson, 3-2
This matchup features two teams that won their first-round series in two games.
The Golden Knights defeated Vermont in two games, with the first win coming in overtime. The Crimson also had an exciting first game, scoring three five-on-three power play goals to come back to defeat Colgate. The next night the Crimson swept out the Raiders.
Ben Maidment scored an overtime goal on Friday night to give the Golden Knights a 2-1 win, and that was followed up by a 5-3 victory to sweep the Catamounts.
ECAC Rookie of the Year candidate Erik Cole one-timed a shot for the first Knight goal of the game. In game two, Maidment, Aaron Gates and Carl Drakensjo scored in the first period, and Matt Reid scored the game-winner in the second period.
The Crimson benefited from three five-on-three power play goals in game one to come back from a 4-2 deficit. Another Rookie of the Year candidate, Steve Moore, tallied the third power-play goal to give the Crimson the game.
Yet another Rookie candidate, Chris Bala, scored, but was taken to the hospital for X-rays on his hand, but the results were negative and he scored on Saturday, as did Matt Scorsune and Moore to lead the Crimson to a 4-2 series clincher.
EDGE — Clarkson
Ben Storey scored two of those five-on-three goals and Jeremiah McCarthy tallied Saturday, so the Crimson received offense from the blue line last weekend. Not only that. but on the power play as well.
The Golden Knights have a younger defense, but Willie Mitchell and Kent Huskins have performed like veterans this season. The Knights have size on the blue line, and that’s the difference.
EDGE — Clarkson
Chris Bernard started both games for the Knights and gained a victory in game one, but was replaced in game two by Dan Murphy. Bernard made 23 saves Friday, and 16 on Saturday. Who gets the start Friday?
J.R. Prestifilippo posted both wins for the Crimson, making 16 saves on Friday and 38 Saturday. It looks like Prestifilippo has fully recovered from the bout of mononucleosis that kept him out earlier in the year.
EDGE — Even
The Pick: The Crimson are hot, and on a four-game unbeaten streak. The Knights are hotter, with a nine-game unbeaten streak. It will come down to the forwards getting the job done, and because of that, Clarkson, with more weapons up front than Harvard, pulls away to a 5-2 win.
Consolation Saturday, 1:00 pm, 1980 Olympic Arena, Lake Placid, N.Y.
The Pick: Yale will shore up for the NCAA tournament with a 5-1 victory over Harvard.
Championship Saturday, 4:00 pm, 1980 Olympic Arena, Lake Placid, N.Y.
The Pick: A rematch of last year’s championship game is on tap. Clarkson will look for its 11th straight victory, while Cornell is after its third straight championship. Fatigue will get the better of the Big Red, and Clarkson wins its first title since 1993 with a 4-2 victory.
On to the NCAAs…
Thanks to all of the coaches, sports information directors and fans of the ECAC. Without all of you, this weekly preview would never be possible. Read, laugh, criticize, dissect, and most importantly, enjoy. Thanks to everyone for another great and thrilling ECAC season.
USCHO covers the ECAC all week long on the ECAC Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.