Things are starting to even out. It’s that time of year in the ECAC when all 12 (of course, this year it’s 11) teams start to get back those games in hand. Except for the Vermont situation, the next two to three weeks will essentially even everyone out.
Harvard traditionally has the most league games up to this point — the Crimson head into the Beanpot shortly, and they lead the pack with 13 ECAC games.
Brown follows with 12, and then seven teams have 10 each.
After this weekend, Union, Rensselaer, Yale, Princeton and Dartmouth will move up to 12 games, while St. Lawrence and Clarkson will have 11 each.
Right after them, the home-and-home series between Cornell and Colgate will also give each of them 11 games.
So after this weekend, two games played will separate everyone in the league.
“It’s not unlike any other year,” said Colgate head coach Don Vaughan. “Our season can’t come into focus until February. It’s funny in that you play eight league games over the first three months of the season and then all of a sudden you’re playing eight games in four weeks within the league.
“In terms of mindset, it’s the beginning of the end. You have to pull out all the cliches and sit back on that first Sunday — actually it’s Monday this year — to see where you are at.”
So, sit back, and watch how the weekend shakes out. It’s just the starting point of the real ECAC season.
Slow and steady seems to be Yale’s way. They sure aren’t flashy, but the Eli continue to get the job done. Last weekend was no exception.
After dismantling Army on Friday night, the Eli took on yet another ranked opponent — Boston University, this time — and played them tough. Already this season, Yale has shown that it plays its best hockey against the top-notch teams, as in its near win against Michigan at Yost, its 5-1 hammering of New Hampshire in November and now its impressive 1-1 tie against No. 6 BU at Walter Brown Arena Sunday night.
“I was afraid that we’d be a little intimidated playing Boston University at BU — their great record there, and their high national ranking,” said Yale head coach Tim Taylor. “And I told them to believe in themselves and to be hard to play against from the drop of the puck till the end of the game. And gee, I was really happy how we picked it up in the second and third and started getting some pretty good looks at the BU net.”
Ben Stafford was the offensive hero of the weekend for Yale, setting up three goals in the 5-1 win against Army and then tacking on another assist on the lone goal against BU. The junior forward, who has collected a point in all but three games this season, has been one of the few consistent offensive players for Taylor this season. It’s no secret that the Eli are struggling to put numbers on the board, one of Taylor’s concerns.
Although the five-goal output against Army helped boost their goals-per-game average to 2.65, the Elis have been able to enjoy their success mainly because of defense. A tired subject? Perhaps, but there is no getting around the fact that the goalie tandem of Trevor Hanger and Dan Lombard has worked magically. Just this past weekend, Hanger lowered his goals-against average to a phenomenal 1.96.
“We’ve been struggling to score goals all year, so we know we’ve got to play good defense,” said Taylor, whose team is holding teams to 2.06 goals per game. “We count on Trevor and Danny Lombard to do a great job in goal, and they’ve been doing a great job all year. I thought it was a very good game for us.
“It’s a year where everybody questioned the goaltending because of the graduation of Alex Westlund. Neither Danny last year nor Trevor for his three previous years got a lot of playing time, so this has been a fabulous job of stepping up and taking advantage of a playing opportunity by both these guys.”
With their nonconference schedule complete and the thought of an early February Quinnipiac game a distant memory, Yale will begin its league crusade this weekend against RPI and Union. The Eli will attempt to knock off the Dutchmen for the fifth straight time on Friday night, but they will have to do it in front of a television audience, as that contest is the ECAC Game of the Week.
Back To Open To Back
The focus of the league Monday evening was the game between the Big Red of Cornell and the Big Green of Dartmouth. That hot league contest was not in the spotlight because it was an ECAC game, or because it was the lone game on Monday evening, but mainly because many people wanted to see what Dartmouth would do with the realigned league schedule.
The Big Green went out and took a 3-1 lead in the third period and wound up winning 3-2, something that many thought might not happen after Dartmouth’s need to be on the road for a longer time, to play two games versus one for the opposition, and so forth.
How did the Big Green approach it?
“The powers that be decided those things and it doesn’t change the fact that you have to go out and win hockey games,” said head coach Bob Gaudet. “If you do you’ll be all right, and if you don’t you’ll be in trouble. You still have to go out and try your best and the rest of it will take care of itself.
“Competitively it’s very difficult to play back-to-back games against teams that are only playing one game,” he said. “It can be done, but to do it for more than half of your season, it could be devastating. Forget wins and losses at the moment, look at injuries and fatigue. The sixth period of a weekend against a team in its third period is a tough thing to do. [The realignment, which gives Dartmouth a day off] won’t be detrimental, and it gives us a fighting chance. We appreciate that the other schools cooperated to make it as level a playing field as possible.
“If you’re out on the road, you might as well stay out on the road and play the games. There is no good solution to it, but to play back-to-back would be devastating from a physical standpoint. We have to reduce the risk of someone getting smoked because of fatigue.
“We’re not excited about hanging around for an extra day; we’d rather go in and play back-to-back, but if the opposition is not doing it…”
The Big Green will tackle this once again this weekend, except they’ll be doing it at home against St. Lawrence on Friday and Clarkson on Sunday.
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USCHO covers the ECAC all week long on the ECAC Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.