This Week
This Week in the ECAC

College Hockey:
This Week in ECAC Hockey: Feb. 26, 2009

Those of you who put Yale above Princeton and Cornell in your preseason picks, please raise your hands.

The rest of you: look around for anyone with his or her hand up; don’t bother asking them to watch your house while you’re on vacation.

What We Know

With only four points left on the table, here’s what the teams are playing for.

Yale, Princeton and Cornell have locked up top-three finishes.
St. Lawrence and Dartmouth will finish between fourth and eighth.
Harvard and Quinnipiac may end up anywhere between fourth and ninth.
Union will land in a fifth through ninth seed.
Clarkson has six options, finishing between fifth and 10th.
Colgate will finish no higher than ninth, but won’t finish last.
Rensselaer is destined to finish 10th or 11th.
Brown will be the 12th seed.

Relevant tiebreakers thus far:
H2H = head-to-head, W = wins, T4 = versus top four

Yale holds no pertinent advantages.
Princeton holds no pertinent advantages.
Cornell holds no pertinent advantages.
Dartmouth beats Union (HH) and Clarkson (W).
St. Lawrence beats Quinnipiac (T4).
Harvard beats Dartmouth (HH), St. Lawrence (HH), Clarkson (HH).
Quinnipiac beats Clarkson (HH).
Union beats Colgate (HH).
Clarkson beats St. Lawrence (HH).
Colgate beats Clarkson (HH).
Rensselaer holds no pertinent advantages.
Brown is stuck in 12th.

Meaningless Numbers

Looking once more at PlayoffStatus.com, we see who controls their own destiny and who needs a little help. In the first edition of this week’s column, I erroneously reported that neither St. Lawrence nor Dartmouth controlled its own fate in the hunt for fourth … however, an astute reader (with my cell phone number) pointed out that I’m in the wrong on that one.

The actual oddity is that the site appears to be incorrect, giving neither team the green-tinted percentage for the final first-round bye, when in fact it should go to Dartmouth.

This is because while the teams split the season series, if the Big Green win out they will finish with 12 wins, while the Saints can only max out at 11. They could easily end up deadlocked at 24 points, with identical 10-8-4 records,however. The tiebreaker that usually ends the need for further tiebreakers, in that case, is to compare records against ECAC Hockey’s top four regular season teams. Just FYI, St. Lawrence is 3-2-1 against the top trio of Yale, Princeton and Cornell. Dartmouth is 2-3-0 and playing Princeton on Friday, but even a win there wouldn’t be enough to send the tandem into a fourth-tiebreak scenario (record versus the top eight). So while Dartmouth has the edge for now, St. Lawrence still holds an edge should the Green fail to win both games this weekend.

According to the site, the team with the most variability is Quinnipiac. That makes sense, since the Bobcats could theoretically be passed by two teams currently beneath them, or likewise leapfrog three teams ahead of them. Harvard would appear to be in a similar purgatory, until you recall the tiebreakers: of the five teams QU could end up tied with in points, they hold a single advantage. For the Crimson, however, ties wouldn’t be so bad: they hold three key tiebreakers, giving them a potential push up in the final standings, should they need it.

And Speaking of Quinnipiac …

… the Hamden Six have had a trying winter, and it’s only getting tougher in the absence of Mr. Everything Brandon Wong. Rumors circulated earlier this week about the jack-of-all-trade junior’s impending return for the first round of the playoffs, but alas, the scuttlebutt only went to prove that you can’t believe everything that you read.

“I wish that were true, but as of right now, we don’t know,” said head coach Rand Pecknold. “He will not play this weekend. I think if we make it to the second round, we’ll get him back. I’d say right now, my guess would be — and I’m just guessing — that he’s not going to play in the first round.”

The team that started the year a bit sluggish, only winning two of its first seven, woke up in a hurry in mid-November. Quinnipiac went 9-2-1 between November 14 and January 9, upending St. Lawrence, Dartmouth and Air Force along the way. The ‘Cats then won a couple more, but also lost a couple.

Then Wong got hurt.

“I wouldn’t agree that we’ve been all over the map all year,” assessed Pecknold. “I think we’ve been inconsistent at times during the year — we’ve had good stretches and bad stretches. Since the Wong injury we’re 2-6-1, and it’s been a train wreck, but I don’t think the whole year’s been like that. I think there’s no question that we’re in trouble since Brandon Wong went down. [We've won] two games out of nine, and we were pretty good before that. We are a markedly better team with Wong in the lineup. We’ve struggled; it’s been frustrating.

“We’re trying different things, but obviously it’s not working. It’s hurt our power play, it’s hurt our scoring; because you’ve got to move kids up to replace him it’s hurt our secondary scoring. It’s hurt our defensive play, faceoffs, penalty kill … he does everything, and you can’t replace a player like that. We’ve tried different kids, but we’re not deep enough to offset a loss like that.”

Another loss that didn’t ultimately seem to derail the team was the temporary withdrawal of freshman goalie Nick Pisellini. After putting up national-caliber numbers in the first half, the early Rookie of the Year candidate elected to take a leave of absence from QU in order to spend more time with his ailing father back home. As of yet, it is unknown when — or if — the sterling young puckstop will return to southwestern Connecticut.

“I spoke to him last week … but there’s no news on that front,” said the coach. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen.”

In his stead, fellow freshman Dan Clarke and stalwart senior Bud Fisher have proven to be equal parts terrific and terrible. Neither has been able to hold the .900 mark in save percentage, nor keep his goals-against average below 2.5. That said, Fisher had one of his best performances of his career in relief of Clarke in Friday’s 3-3 tie with Yale, stopping 29 of 30 shots in over 52 minutes of work. Clarke has proven that he has the ability to come up big as well, holding Air Force to two goals on 31 shots in his first-ever start, and blanking Dartmouth on 19 shots five days later.

As such, Pecknold has no inclination about who will be playing this weekend at Harvard and Dartmouth. His biggest concern at the moment is getting his most experienced charges, Fisher included, on the kind of productive, easy-flowing roll that they once knew.

“Honestly right now, I need to get my seniors back on track and focused. A majority of them are struggling right now, and when you have that many seniors (nine, all earning regular playing time), you expect them to play well down the stretch.”

That stretch looks destined to ship the Bobcats away from the cozy confines of their TD BankNorth Sports Center. It’s not exactly adding insult to injury for this team; if there’s one thing that Quinnipiac has going for it, it’s experience in not only playing away from home in the playoffs, but winning away from home.

“It’s nice (to play at home), but we’ve won on the road in the playoffs before. We swept Cornell a couple years ago, swept RPI a couple years ago, so we’ve shown that we can win on the road in the playoffs,” said Pecknold.

Just for one final jab in a new year saturated with foul luck, the veteran helmsman is faced with the prospect of playing a short bench in the upcoming weekend. First, three key players — leading goal-scorer David Marshall, second-leading goal-scorer Eric Lampe, and leading defensive scorer Zach Hansen — were handed game disqualifications for their participation in a scrum at the end of Saturday’s loss to Brown. Neither Pecknold

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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