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This Week in the ECAC

College Hockey:
This Week in ECAC Hockey: Feb. 14, 2008

It’s tough to interview people when they can’t hear you speak.

This correspondent successfully ditched three solid months of rotating illnesses, but one of them finally caught up to him, just in time to look menacingly infectious in the Beanpot press box.

The cold’s run off with my voice, so I’m sorry to say that this week’s edition of You Read My Stuff will be short on external voices. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it up to you in inconspicuous statistics and whimsical wordplay.

Class Rank

That’s it; that’s the end of non-conference play. Three weekends left, 36 games, all against the teams you love to hate.

Before we dive headlong into the remaining three dozen, some quick yet labor-intensive results on the ECAC versus the rest.

I gotta be honest with you, the numbers don’t look good.

Overall, the league finished 42-44-4 against everyone else, not including non-conference games against league opponents (e.g. the Governor’s Cup games). Against the generally accepted elite (Hockey East, the WCHA, and CCHA … henceforth to be referred to as the Big Three), the figures weren’t nearly as ambiguous.

22-37-4.

That’s a .381 winning percentage against everyone from Merrimack to Minnesota State, Notre Dame to Northeastern. The league’s top teams struggled to represent the true quality of the ECAC: Clarkson was 5-6-1 out-of-league, Princeton finished 3-4-0, Cornell at 2-3-2. Only Quinnipiac, Yale, Colgate and Dartmouth finished with winning NC records.

The Bobcats only played two games against Big Three opponents, with wins over Vermont (8-11-7 this year) and Western Michigan (7-20-3, last in the CCHA) in the Catamount Cup. They’re 6-4-0 against CHA/AHA foes.

Yale also played two with the Big Three, defeating Nebraska-Omaha (13-13-4) and falling to Minnesota State (15-10-4), both on the road. The Bulldogs are 3-2-0 against the rest.

The Raiders finished 0-3-1 against the Trio, suffering a sweep at Michigan State (no shame in that), and a tie (shootout loss) at Wisconsin (13-11-6) followed by a loss to Northeastern (13-10-3) in the Badger Shootout. That leaves the ‘Gate with a 6-2-0 record from the remainder of its non-con schedule.

At the bottom of the standings, Dartmouth is ironically 4-1-0 against the more elite competition. The victims include the likes of Boston University (10-14-4) and New Hampshire (18-7-1), with victories over Vermont and Northern Michigan (12-15-3) as well. Even more impressive is the fact that not a single one of those five games was played at home, and the only loss was at Denver (19-8-1).

This conference fattened up on the CHA and Atlantic Hockey teams with a 20-7-0 record, but it did endure defeat at the hands of Alabama-Huntsville, Air Force (twice), Niagara (twice), Connecticut and RIT.

Then there are situations like RPI’s.

The ‘Tute has played Minnesota, Boston College, Colorado College, Maine, and Notre Dame and Miami twice apiece … and they lost every single one of those games. Head coach Seth Appert has put a premium on having a strong non-conference schedule, in line with his belief that teams must play and beat the best — and consistently so — to be the best. It’s been a bitter slog for Puckman this season, but it’s hard to argue with Appert’s premise.

It should be noted that Brown didn’t shoot low either. Of the Bears’ seven NC contests, four were against Hockey East, and one against the CCHA. (The other two were against Army and Yale.) Like RPI, Bruno had no luck whatsoever: 0-6-1 in the septuplet.

The Engineers, Bears and Big Green should be lauded for scheduling so many upper-echelon programs. There are very few arguments to be made against a top-flight out-of-conference docket.

What We Know

Six games left apiece; no more of this “games in hand” nonsense. Here’s how things are shaking up so far.

Most of the league is hoping that the current teams at the top — the Golden Knights, Bobcats and Tigers — don’t finish with more than the minimum possible 24 points. Clarkson plays the other two in the last week of the regular season, and if Clarkson loses out … and the others only beat Clarkson … then there will be a three-way tie between them with two dozen points.

Brown and Dartmouth (nine points each) are relegated to the bottom nine; neither of them can make up enough points to pass by Clarkson, Quinnipiac or Princeton. Both teams have four remaining home games, and play each other in Hanover on the 22nd.

Rensselaer could still conceivably take a bye in the first round. Princeton and Quinnipiac — tied for second right now — don’t play each other, so if they each lose out and the Engineers claim all 12 points, the ‘Tute could finish alone in second place.

St. Lawrence, with a dozen points, could still swing a share of first place, but can’t win it outright, according to the aforementioned 24-point minimum.

Current standing spots nos. four through eight are composed of Cornell, Union, Harvard and Yale (tied for sixth) and Colgate. Each of these teams can, theoretically, finish anywhere between first and last.

And might I just take this opportunity to say kudos to the ECAC scheduling committee for making sure that no one has to end the season on a six-game road swing, no one got a gift five-of-six homestand, and everyone’s running down the stretch with an equal number of games to go.

It’s not an easy task, I assure you.

Game of the Week

Union @ Cornell: Friday, 7 p.m.

This is another opportunity for one team to gain separation, or the other to leapfrog its way into a first-round bye.

Cornell sits only one point ahead of the Dutchmen for fourth place, but the Big Red have only themselves to blame.

The Ithacans made a long trip even longer in getting swept by the North Country. Cornell, which had been in second place as last weekend commenced, instead took a 4-1 loss at Clarkson and a 4-2 defeat at St. Lawrence. The Red had just taken nine points from their previous six contests, but now find themselves scuffling for the bye week.

Union endured an almost equally disappointing weekend. The Dutch had been 8-1-3 at the Achilles Center following a February 1 victory over Princeton, but two ties (against Quinnipiac and Dartmouth) sandwiched a loss to Harvard, and may have sucked a modicum of the fast-inflating mystique from Union’s stomping grounds.

The Dutch are among the half of the league with four road games to go, and only two back in their own Friendly Confines. They’re only 4-6-0 away from home, while Cornell is 6-2-2 at Lynah and has four to play there yet. As a side note, the Red will also be without the services of frosh forward Joe Devin, who was suspended for a game by the league for a contact-to-the-head incident against St. Lawrence last weekend.

The odds are stacked in Cornell’s favor as the hosts and fourth-seed incumbent. But it should go without saying: trying to make sense of the ECAC is like trying to analyze an Italian election. (Just look at all those wacky parties!)

Crucial Weekend

For a couple of reasons, I’m picking a travel-partner four-way.

Quinnipiac & Princeton @ Dartmouth & Harvard

QU and the Green tangle Friday night, by the way, so the rest of it should sort itself out for you. Grab some paper if you have to.

As I’ve made abundantly clear, the former are at the top of the standings, and the latter are not. Dartmouth needs to secure points any way possible in order to avoid the Green Mile that the Potsdam trip has quickly become. Harvard is out to prove to everyone — itself included — that it’s a club to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, they haven’t made too many consistent cases yet.

The Bobcats and Tigers are jostling for position at the top, of course, and each has a more than reasonable shot at Clarkson’s top position. However, what may be more pressing for these squads is to refrain from surrendering ground to the likes of Cornell and Union, who are hot on their heels.

Plain and simple: Dartmouth hasn’t won much at all lately, but took two ties on the road last weekend. Harvard lost an overtime heartbreaker in the Beanpot to Boston College, ending its first winning streak (two games) since early November.

Excepting a two-game “wtf?” against Niagara three weeks ago, QU hasn’t lost a game since November 30, a streak of 14 (again, not counting the deuce … take that any way you please … with the Purple Eagles). Princeton is 9-1-0 in its last 10, and boasts a near-freakish 9-3-0 road record to make up for bizarro-world 5-6-0 marks at home.

No doubt about it, it’s a big big test for the New Englanders.

USCHO covers the ECAC all week long on the ECAC Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.


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