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Big Red, Golden Knights rebound; Hayton ties shutout record

If any team was in need of a four-point weekend, it was Cornell. The Big Red were 1-4-1 and had only scored seven goals on the season entering Friday, but they doubled their win total and matched their season total in goals with a pair of impressive home wins.

Cornell opened the weekend with a 3-2 win over Yale Friday, and then blanked Brown 4-0 Saturday. The win against the Bulldogs came without forward Matt Buckles and defenseman Holden Anderson, each whom sat out after getting a game disqualification against St. Lawrence last weekend.

Freshman Hayden Stewart made 26 saves against the Bears for the shutout Saturday, becoming the first freshman to record a shutout for the Big Red since Ben Scrivens did it in 2006. It was Stewart’s second career collegiate start.

Cornell scored four power-play goals this weekend – matching its total from the first six games of the season.

Knights sweep

Clarkson joined Cornell as the only teams to take four points this weekend, beating Quinnipiac and Princeton at home. Friday’s win against QU snapped the Bobcats’ six-game winning streak, which was the second-longest active streak in the country.

Steve Perry was solid in net both games for the Golden Knights, but give credit to Clarkson’s defense, who allowed 40 shots on the weekend. After a seven-game winless streak that stretched into early November, Clarkson has one loss in its last six games. The Golden Knights haven’t given up more than two goals during that time, and are allowing exactly two goals a game this season, good for twelfth in the country.

Hayton ties mark

It’s been an outstanding first two months for St. Lawrence goalie Kyle Hayton.  The Saints freshman tied the school record for shutouts in a season with four in his 13th start of the season Friday against Princeton.

The four shutouts are the most for a St. Lawrence goalie since the 1965-66 season.  Hayton shares the record with three former All-Americans: Bill Sloan (1955-56), Richie Broadbelt (1962-63) and Bob Perani (1965-66). Overall, Hayton has a 2.11 goals-against-average and a .935 save percentage for the surprising 8-4-1 Saints.

 

ECAC Hockey picks: Nov. 21-25

My prediction record took a massive hit two weeks ago, and now stands at 16-14-3. Yeow.

Friday, November 21

Quinnipiac at Clarkson
In case you missed it, the Q-Cats are red hot and rolling with nine goals allowed in six straight wins and a 4-0 record in conference. Clarkson, meanwhile, has but one win since mid-October (1-5-4) and despite serviceable team defense (13 goals against in its last six games), the offense has been sputtering badly (nine goals for in that stretch). While the roadie is by no means an easy one for Quinnipiac, Cheel Arena simply isn’t paying the dividends it once did: Clarkson is 0-3-1 in Potsdam this fall. QU takes it.

Brown at Colgate
The Bears are falling face-first of late, being outscored 19-5 in four straight losses. Colgate is 8-3-1 overall and while the Raiders may not be annihilating all comers, the results and statistics suggest a viable postseason contender. Look at it this way: The Raiders have scored five goals more times (thrice) than it has allowed three (twice). That’s a fun fact. Colgate wins.

Yale at Cornell
With seven goals in six games, the Big Red are anything but imposing right now, and Yale isn’t in a generous mood. The Bulldogs are playing stingy hockey, giving up under two goals and 30 shots a game en route to a 3-1-2 record. Lynah’s ticketholders better indeed be faithful, because the learning curve is getting steeper by the week for Cornell. The Blue prevail.

Princeton at St. Lawrence
Boy, Princeton’s 2-1 squeaker over Cornell sure seems like it was ages ago, doesn’t it? The Tigers have gone toothless since then, and indeed appear to have been declawed as well: Princeton is on the wrong end of a 21-6 season aggregate score, and the longest road trip in the conference isn’t likely to perk up these cats. The Saints are 4-1-1 in their last six with four four-plus-goal games and two shutouts. I like SLU’s odds here. Saints win.

Bentley at Harvard
Don’t sleep on Bentley: The Falcons’ power play is downright ostentatious, at 36 percent. Bentley scores a lot (40 goals in 11 games), but gives up a significant number as well (31 against, including SIX at home to Sacred Heart). Harvard is feeling its oats this year, doubling up the competition offensively (24-12 on the year) and boasting big, years-in-the-making wins at Boston College and Rensselaer. I think this matchup favors Harvard, which seems a bit more likely to shut down Bentley’s high-flying offense than vice-versa. Crimson take it.

Saturday, November 22

Princeton at Clarkson
Some games are tough to pick because of the participating teams’ matching strengths. This is not one of those games. The Knights and Tigers are salivating for a win to break up a couple tough skids, and this game should be considered a prime opportunity to do so. Who will salvage the weekend with a couple points? I’m picking Clarkson, if only for the home-ice edge (which, as aforementioned, barely exists so far this autumn). Tech wins.

Yale at Colgate
This could be a statement game for the up-and-coming Bulldogs, but it also represents one of “those game” that Colgate is expected to win if the Raiders truly hope to fulfill their national-contender aspirations. Each team has been winning on the strength of superb defense and goaltending (each team’s No. 1 goalie boasts a save percentage between .930 and .940), but the Raiders’ power play has been a few percentage points better… and in a tight game like this, the PP could make all the difference. Colgate triumphs.

Brown at Cornell
This is a game that Cornell should win, and one about which the Big Red should become quite despondent if they lose. Good year or bad, the state that Brown is in should not allow for excuses. Cornell wins.

Quinnipiac at St. Lawrence
Interesting, interesting… a sizzling but fairly inexperienced visitor playing at a respectably successful, long-distance host. An SLU win would not surprise me at all, but I am not in the mood to bet against QU, given the way the Bobcats have been playing. ‘Cats win.

Tuesday, November 25

Harvard at Boston University
The Crimson already upset Boston College on the road; do they have another Beantown beatdown in ‘em? (Side note, and pop quiz: How many Division 1 teams play within Boston’s actual city limits? Answer at the end.) BC is having an off year so far, but BU has bounced back from an utterly forgettable 2013-14 campaign with… oh heck with it, Jack Eichel. There, I said what had to be said. Terriers trump Harvard on Tuesday.

Rensselaer at New Hampshire
So which team is it, Engineers? Is it the shut-down, opportunistic squad that swept Union and edged Dartmouth and Princeton, or is it the anemic, goal-starved stick-stranglers who only managed two goals and 47 shots combined against Quinnipiac and Connecticut? It would appear that the defense and goaltending are sorting themselves out into something resembling progress, but the offense is still more likely to get blanked (it’s already happened four times) than score thrice or more (three times). Meanwhile, UNH is playing its own entertaining brand of bipolar hockey, scoring in bunches against weaker foes but feeling a bit suffocated against quality opposition. So really, both of you… which teams are going to take the ice on Tuesday? I’ll give UNH the home-ice edge, because otherwise, I haven’t the foggiest.

By the way, the answer is four: BU and Northeastern are the obvious two, but Harvard and BC technically play within city limits as well even though the main campi (campuses?) are in Cambridge and Newton, respectively. People often forget about Bentley too, but the Falcons play in Watertown, and the campus is in Waltham.

End of the Unbeatens, Brown in a bind, and QU is sizzling

No easy weekends

Well, what with Harvard’s 2-1 home loss to Yale on Saturday, ECAC Hockey is officially out of the “Last of the Unbeatens” race. In fact, Quinnipiac is the only team still unbeaten in league play (4-0), having edged Union and Rensselaer in the Capital District this weekend. With all dozen teams playing league games over the last 72 hours, only the Bobcats and Bulldogs took the full four points. (For the record, Michigan Tech out in the WCHA – at 10-0-0 – is the only undefeated team in Division 1 at this point.)

Brown buckling

There were a lot of people buying tickets for Brown’s Dark Horse Express before the season started… I’m guessing many of them have since disembarked. The Bears have struggled mightily through five games, scoring nine goals while allowing 21 (5-19 in league play). Reliable junior point-producer Nick Lappin nearly doubled his career penalty-minute total in two games, earning him a two-game suspension to match; Bruno lost those two Lappin-less games by a combined score of 12-2. There is no one major problem with the Bears right now: The power play (.077), penalty kill (.611), team save percentage (.883) and team shooting percentage (6.1) are all bad to awful. The team’s leading scorer is senior Massimo Lamacchia, with one goal and three points. There is a lot of potential in Providence, but boy, it isn’t exhibiting itself in the slightest right now.

Bobcats ablaze

Nobody should have any excuse for overlooking Quinnipiac anymore, yet here we are two months into the season, and the Bobcats are still managing to sneak up on us. Sophomore Sam Anas is absolutely red-hot right now with seven goals and 15 points in 10 games, including five goals on one of the nation’s second-best power play (30.4 percent as a team, trailing only Bentley’s 36.4). Perhaps equally remarkable, Anas is the only player in the country to average more than six shots on goal per game (6.2); D-I’s leading SOG/game totals over the past two years have been 4.54 and 4.91, to give you some sense of scope. Not surprisingly, linemates Matthew Peca (senior) and Landon Smith (freshman) are having good years-to-date as well, with seven goals and 21 points combined. Second-line center Travis St. Denis notched a hat trick at RPI on Saturday, so look out if that line stays hot… and junior goaltender Michael Garteig may have a sub-optimal .903 save rate overall, but in league play that percentage shoots way up to .956. Heads up, ECAC… this is no rebuild; it’s a reload.

ECAC Hockey picks: Nov. 14 – 18

Last week: 5-7-3

Overall: 9-16-3

It’s the second straight weekend of all-conference matchups, with the exception of Tuesday’s Rensselaer and Connecticut game. All games are 7 p.m. unless noted.

Friday, Nov. 14

St. Lawrence at Colgate

Both these teams like to play fast, but both have also gotten excellent goaltending thus far, with the Raiders’ Charlie Finn and Saints’ Kyle Hayton tied for the national lead with three shutouts.

Colgate is without top-six forward Mike Borkowski who was lost for the year with a knee injury last weekend. The Raiders should out-possess the Saints, meaning it will come down to whether Hayton can continue his hot play. I think he’ll play well, but Colgate simply has too many weapons and Finn is no slouch on the other end. Colgate wins 

Clarkson at Cornell

The Big Red will be without coach Mike Schafer after the ECAC issued a one-game suspension following his post-game comments Saturday at Quinnipiac. That’s not the biggest problem for Cornell, as it has three goals in four games this season – a problem not helped by the absence of puck-moving defenseman Joakim Ryan, who hasn’t played since leaving the season opener on Oct. 31 with an injury. Clarkson hasn’t been scoring prolifically either, but have been solid in their own end, much like the Big Red. Could we see another 0-0 tie? I doubt it, but Clarkson hasn’t won at Cornell since 2007, and I don’t see that streak ending. Cornell wins 

Yale at Dartmouth 

Dartmouth has been lead in the early going by its top line and a solid performance by goalie James Kruger. Yale has yet to show the prolific scoring its traditionally been known for, while goalie Alex Lyon was pulled after giving up three goals in the first period to St. Lawrence last Saturday. Lyon should rebound, but the real question is how will Yale produce some offense? The Bulldogs haven’t scored a second-period goal this season, and have only scored twice in the third. Dartmouth wins 

Brown at Harvard

The Crimson opened some eyes with a 6-3 throttling of Boston College on Tuesday. To be fair, the Eagles started third-string goalie Brad Barone, but it was an impressive showing from a Harvard team that has been high on talent, but low on results. Harvard’s Alexander Kerfoot and Kyle Criscuolo, along with Brown’s Mark Naclerio, Nick Lappin and Matt Lorito may be some of the more underrated forwards in the league, although Lappin is out for the weekend following a two-game suspension issued by the league. It’s a pretty even matchup, but I’m leaning towards the home team. Harvard wins

Princeton at Rensselaer

RPI has been hit-or-miss so far, but the Engineers are currently in first place with a 3-1-1 conference record. Not much has gone right for Princeton so far, although first-year head coach Ron Fogarty did get his first win as a Tiger last weekend against Cornell. RPI wins 

Quinnipiac at Union

Two of the better teams in the ECAC over the past few seasons haven’t been up to their usual standard this year, although the Bobcats have won five in a row. The Dutchmen are in the midst of a five-game winless streak; a stretch I don’t see continuing. Union wins

 Saturday, Nov. 15

 Clarkson at Colgate

The Golden Knights might have the goaltending and defense to keep pace with the Raiders, but I’m not sure they have enough depth up front to match Colgate. Colgate wins

St. Lawrence at Cornell

Two contrasting styles: I like the Saints speed and steady goaltending from Hayton. St. Lawrence wins

Brown at Dartmouth

It’s the 150th all-time meeting between these teams, with the Big Green holding a 74-68-8 advantage, including a 12-2-1 mark over the last 15 games. Losing Lappin for the weekend hurts the Bears, but they should be able to pull one win out of their road trip. Brown wins

Yale at Harvard

This is one of the nation’s oldest rivalries will feature the awarding of the Tim Taylor Cup, named in honor of the former Yale coach. It will be given to the most outstanding player of the game. I won’t venture a guess as to whom the award will go to, but I like the Bulldogs to get the win. Yale wins

 Quinnipiac at Rensselaer

Take your pick: an inconsistent offense (RPI) or an inconsistent defense (Quinnipiac). The Bobcats look to have turned it around, posting two shutouts last weekend to push its winning streak to five games. The Engineers scored six goals two weeks ago against Union, but only two last weekend. Quinnipiac wins

Princeton at Union

Even in its current funk, I don’t think Union should have a problem with the Tigers, especially at home. This is the last game at Messa Rink for the Dutchmen until Jan. 16. Union wins

Tuesday, Nov. 18

Harvard at Dartmouth

Both teams are off to a solid start following disappointing seasons last year. I think this is a pretty even matchup – evidenced by a 3-3 tie two weeks ago between the teams – but give Dartmouth the slight edge. Dartmouth wins

Rensselaer at Connecticut, 7:05 p.m.

Like RPI, the Huskies have played some top teams tough – a win against Boston College and a tie versus Boston University. But like the Engineers, they haven’t been able to put together any sort of lengthy winning streak. Both teams are strong in net – the difference could come down to who can scrape together some goals. Rensselaer

 

Quinnipiac rebounds, Saints sweep, Yale and Union reeling

Two games don’t make a season, but this past weekend certainly helped get Quinnipiac put an early season slump behind them.

The Bobcats (5-2-1) beat Colgate and Cornell, extending their winning streak to four games.

More importantly, Quinnipiac’s defense and goalie Michael Garteig didn’t allow a single goal  either night after giving up at least three goals in all but one its games entering the weekend.

“That’s the best team defense we’ve played in the two years I’ve played,” Garteig said following Saturday’s win. “Guys were doing the right things, the little things to bail me out if I was to let up a rebound. That’s not just our defense, but it was our forwards too.”

With players like Matthew Peca, Sam Anas, and talented freshman Landon Smith, the Bobcats should not only score, but possess the puck for much of the game, which has been their trademark the last several seasons. If the defense can build off this weekend, Quinnipiac should continue to put their sluggish start behind them.

Tim Clifton scored with less than two minutes left to give the Bobcats a 1-0 win Saturday in a game that was marred by Peca getting a five-minute major and game misconduct for hitting the Big Red’s Cole Bardreau from behind. Those emotions spilled over into the post-game handshake, where Cornell’s Joel Lowry and QU’s Dan Federico each got a ten-minute misconduct, and into the post-game press conference, where Big Red head coach Mike Schafer ripped Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold.  Check out the audio here. 

Schafer seemed to be upset that Pecknold was calling for embellishment after Bardreau took the hit. Bardreau suffered a serious season-ending injury after getting hit from behind in 2013.  His post-game interview includes some pointed comments towards Pecknold and some profanity that should likely earn a fine from the league.

Hayton making an impact  

It’s barely a month into the season, but here’s some perspective. St. Lawrence freshman Kyle Hayton posted his third shutout of the season in a 4-0 win at Yale Saturday.

Last year’s starter, Matt Weninger, never had more than two shutouts in any of his four seasons. In fact, the Saints haven’t had three shutouts as a team since the 2005-06 season. The three shutouts are a team rookie record and are the most by any Saints goalie since current pro Mike McKenna had three in 2004-05.

Saints coach Greg Carvel called Saturday’s shutout a team effort, but that doesn’t detract from the job Hayton has done through the first ten games. He has a 1.97 goals-against-average and a .943 save percentage, and Carvel raved about his makeup earlier in the season.

 Bulldogs, Dutchmen scuffling

Yale and Union have won the last two national championships. But neither team has gotten off to a particularly strong start in conference play, going a combined 0-4-2 thus far.

The Bulldogs tied Clarkson Friday and then were blanked 4-0 by St. Lawrence, a game where goalie Alex  Lyon was pulled after one period. Union saw a 3-0 lead turn into a 4-3 overtime loss to Dartmouth Friday and then rallied to tie Harvard 2-2.

Union’s four straight losses prior to Saturday’s tie were the most in a row for the Dutchmen since the 2006-07 season. Their current five-game winless streak comes on the heels of a 22-game unbeaten streak and 15-game home winning streak, both which dated to last year.

But it’s still early. Like the rest of the Ivy teams, Yale has the disadvantage of a late start, while Union has overcome stretches of rough play before. Don’t count either one out  just yet.

ECAC Hockey picks: Nov. 7-8

Record to date: 13-6-1

Friday, Nov. 7

Cornell @ Princeton
An interesting opening league match for each team: Each squad is hoping to discover some offense to support a strong commitment to team D. The Big Red mustered just one goal apiece in a loss and draw against Omaha in Ithaca last weekend; the Tigers scored three total in a tie against Yale and a loss versus Merrimack. I’m tagging Cornell for the win, edging Princeton on both talent and experience.

Colgate @ Quinnipiac
Great opportunity for each team here. QU’s record is “officially” 3-1-1 at home, but the lone loss actually took place in Bridgeport against Connecticut. The TD Bank Sports Center will be hopping for the Raiders, who aim to shake off a stunning 2-1 home loss to Mercyhurst. Colgate hasn’t allowed more than two goals in a game in nearly a month, while the Bobcats are averaging over three per. As they say, something’s gotta give… I like Colgate to make a bounce-back statement.

Harvard @ Rensselaer
The Crimson have not won in Troy since the first week of 2007, and RPI is nothing if not energized following last weekend’s astounding sweep of Route 7 rival Union. Kasdorf and the Engineers FTW.

Dartmouth @ Union
Quite frankly, I don’t see Union losing a shift this weekend, much less a game. Not after last weekend.

Clarkson @ Yale
The Knights aren’t so golden lately, winless in six (0-4-2) and allowing three goals a game over that stretch. The latter is not a good sign for a team that expected to build on a foundation of stalwart team defense. Yale played to positive reviews in Newark last weekend, winning the Liberty Hockey Invitational with wins over Princeton (in a shootout) and Connecticut. It’s the home opener for the Bulldogs as well, where the Blue are 80-29-7 (50-20-7) since the 2007-08 season. Edge: Yale.

St. Lawrence @ Brown 7:30
Bruno is a popular dark-horse pick this season, for good reason. Six seniors guide a team that performed respectably for stretches last year, and it will be hard to look away when the likes of Lappin, Naclerio, and Lorito are on the ice. That said, a 4-2 win over Army doesn’t say much, so we’ll see what the Bears bring to the table against SLU. The Saints are playing perfectly mediocre hockey so far by failing to sweep or get swept in any of their four weekends’ worth of action. They have allowed three or more goals thrice, but also have two shutouts; they’ve scored four in a game, and five, and 10, but also one, and two… four times. So what I’m trying to say is, who knows? I’m sure SLU will muster a point or two this weekend, but I like Brown’s odds Friday.

Saturday, Nov. 8

Clarkson @ Brown
While Brown may not field as deep a roster as Yale, the Bears nonetheless possess enough firepower to challenge the already-challenged Golden Knights. I don’t see this weekend ending well for Clarkson: Brown wins.

Colgate @ Princeton
This is a mismatch, and the only way Princeton ekes out a point is through ironclad goaltending and a borderline lunatic commitment to defense and shot-blocking. ‘Gate wins.

Cornell @ Quinnipiac
Nothing better than a big road crowd in a lively home building. These programs have such a great history already, and that’s saying something when one of those programs is Cornell: While Cornell has owned QU during nine years of regular-season meetings (12-5-1, including just one Bobcats sweep), Quinnipiac has terminated Cornell’s ECAC tournament aspirations twice in three postseason series. It would appear that Cornell has the edge again this season, except that the Big Red have yet to demonstrate the offensive capability that will likely be necessary to beat the Bobcats in Hamden. I’ll take the hosts, in a mild upset.

Dartmouth @ Rensselaer
Dartmouth comes into the season with so much experience, yet still so many questions… mainly, what’s experience worth if the only thing the roster has experienced is lousy? RPI is an utter unknown right now despite its eight games, so I haven’t the faintest idea which teams will show up at the HFH Saturday night. So… hosts? RPI wins… I guess?

Harvard @ Union
The Crimson haven’t beaten Union in four years (0-7-1), making the Capital District a decidedly unfriendly road trip for the Cambridge club. See note above re. Union and losing this weekend. UC wins.

St. Lawrence @ Yale
The Bulldogs have more or less had the Saints’ number of late, defeating SLU in two playoff series and taking 10 of 16 regular-season points (4-2-2) since the 2010-11 season. Time to see if Kyle Hayton is (still) the real deal against Yale’s young, high-energy forwards. ‘Dogs take this one.

Tuesday, Nov. 11

Harvard @ Boston College
Ugh, another one of these? Harvard hasn’t beaten (man, that sentence-starter is getting old) the Eagles in eight tries dating back to 2007, and most of those losses haven’t been close. I’m as optimistic about Harvard as the next Cantabrigian, but there’s no way I’m picking BC to drop this one. Eagles win.

Ivies in, top teams down, numbers up

Well now … where do we begin?

Union, Colgate humbled at home

Perhaps the nation’s biggest headline from last weekend (OK, among headlines regarding college hockey) was No. 2 Union’s slip, stumble, and splat at the feet of Rensselaer in the Route 7 Rivalry series. The defending national champions were swept by an 8-2 aggregate score in the home-and-home affair, running their losing streak to three games — their longest since the end of the 2010-11 season and the Dutchmen’s longest regular-season slide since Janurary 2010. RPI scored six goals against Colin Stevens on 45 shots this weekend, and two more against Alex Sakellaropoulos on six shots on Friday night; the wins elevate the Engineers to the top of the ECAC Hockey standings at 2-0. Union has had the significant advantage in the series’ recent history: Rensselaer had not beaten Union on consecutive nights since January 2004.

In Hamilton, the fourth-ranked Raiders beat Mercyhurst 4-0 on Friday but were unable to carry the momentum over to Saturday, falling 2-1 for their first home loss — and indeed, first home goals-against — of the season. Colgate out-shot the visiting Lakers 40-21, but goalie Jimmy Sarjeant was up to the task with 39 saves to earn Mercyhurst its biggest win in program history.

Ivies hit the ice

The six Ivy League programs took to the ice last weekend for their first regular-season games of the season. The only ECAC Hockey action between them took place on Saturday, where Harvard defender Patrick McNally scored twice — including the game-tying goal midway through the third period — to salvage a 3-3 draw against visiting Dartmouth.

Elsewhere, Yale “beat” Princeton 2-2 (winning the shootout) in the late semifinal of the Liberty Hockey Invitational in Newark, N.J.; Yale edged Connecticut for the tournament title on Sunday while Princeton was manhandled by Merrimack in the consolation contest. Brown edged Army 4-2 in the Bears’ only game so far, while Cornell tied and lost at home to unranked Nebraska-Omaha.

Mssrs. October

With November upon us, the early leaders for postseason acclaim are working hard to stay ahead of the pack.

Union’s Mike Vecchione and Colgate’s Kyle Baun are tied atop the goal-scoring leaderboard with five goals in eight games apiece; Vecchione scored once this weekend, while Baun was held off the scoresheet.

Last year’s Rookie of the Year — Quinnipiac’s Sam Anas — has tallied six of his eight overall points on the power play, and he added two more helpers (including one on the advantage) in Sunday’s non-conference win over Northeastern. Teammate and early contender for ROTY Landon Smith has four goals and eight points through six games to lead all freshmen; playing with Anas and Matthew Peca hasn’t hurt, though he is making a name for himself on the second line now as well.

Finally, netminders Charlie Finn (Colgate) and Colin Stevens (Union) are holding down the fort, and then some. Finn boasts three shutouts already and a 1.26 GAA, to go with a .947 save percentage. Stevens is running the same path, holding a 1.84 GAA and .939 save rate along with one clean sheet.

ECAC Hockey picks: Oct. 31 – Nov. 2

Season record: 4-9

The schedule expands a bit this weekend, with the Ivy League teams playing their season openers and Union and Rensselaer facing off in the first conference game of the year.

All games are 7 p.m. unless noted

Union at Rensselaer

It’s hard to forget what happened the last time these teams met.  But don’t count on any shenanigans this time around, and it will be nice to see the focus return to the game  on the ice in one of the league’s better rivalries.

RPI is mired in a five-game losing skid while Union had its unbeaten streak snapped last weekend against St. Cloud. Dutchmen coach Rick Bennett and his players have said Union needs to play better, but I think they’ll have enough against RPI. Union wins

Mercyhurst at Colgate, 7:05 p.m.

The Raiders needed a pair of late rallies to sweep Sacred Heart on the road last week. Mercyhurst has scored 12 goals in four games, but allowed 14. Colgate’s deep offense should be able to take advantage of the Lakers’ subpar defense. Colgate wins

Omaha at Cornell

One of the downsides of hockey at the Ivy schools is later start to the season. Omaha is 3-1 with an impressive 15 goals thus far, while Cornell opens the regular season following a pair of 3-2 exhibition wins. It will be interesting to see who start in goal for the Big Red – sophomore Mitch Gilliam or freshman Hayden Stewart. Either one will have their hands full with what looks to be a potent Mavericks team in the early going. Omaha wins

Clarkson at St. Lawrence

The North Country matchup might be neck-in-neck with Yale/Harvard and Union/RPI as the conference’s top rivalry. Clarkson has struggled offensively thus far, and they’ll face a hot goalie in Saints rookie Kyle Hayton. This non-conference matchup should go to St. Lawrence. St. Lawrence wins

Yale vs. Princeton (Liberty Invitational, Newark NJ)

Head coach Ron Fogarty’s first game at Princeton is against the 2013 national champions. The Tigers will have the benefit of being on even footing with Yale in terms of games played, but the Bulldogs should be stingy this year and Princeton doesn’t have a ton of big names on offense. Check back Sunday for updated picks for the championship and third-place game. Yale wins

Brown at Army

Keep an eye on the Bears this year. Brown returns the trio of Mark Naclerio, Matt Larito and Nick Lappin, and adds talented freshman Tyler Bird, Max Willman and Sam Lafferty.  Army has been up-and-down thus far (2-3-1). Brown wins

Saturday, Nov. 1

Northeastern at Quinnipiac

Northeastern gives up a large number of shots, while the Bobcats are one of the most trigger-happy teams in the nation. Quinnipiac hasn’t been great this season, but I think they’ll possess the puck enough for the win. Quinnipiac wins

Rensselaer at Union      

I’m tempted to call a split, but the Dutchmen should complete the sweep. Union wins

Mercyhurst at Colgate, 7:05 p.m.

Colgate completes the sweep, continuing its best start since the 2004-05 team. Colgate wins

St. Lawrence at Clarkson

I’ll throw a dart (isn’t that what these picks really boil down to?) and predict a rebound at home for the Golden Knights. Clarkson wins

Omaha at Cornell

No way the Big Red get swept at home. Cornell wins

Dartmouth at Harvard, 7:30

The newly renovated Bright-Landry Hockey Center opens Saturday against the Big Green, Harvard’s travel partner. Based on last year, I like Dartmouth’s goaltending a little better than the Crimsons’, although if Harvard speed ever translates into goals, look out. Dartmouth wins

Sunday, Nov. 2

Merrimack vs. Princeton, 1 p.m. (Liberty Invitational third-place game)

The Tigers tied Yale 2-2 Friday, but the Bulldogs advanced to the championship game via a shootout. Freshmen David Hallisey and Erik Robinson scored for Princeton, while goalie Colton Phinney made 45 saves. I think first-year head coach Ron Fogarty gets his first win at Princeton. Princeton wins

Connecticut vs. Yale, 4 p.m. (Liberty Invitational championship)

Yale is 10-0 all-time against their in-state rivals, with the last meeting coming in 2011. Both teams advanced to the championship game via a shootout, with freshman Ryan Hitchcock scoring the game-winner for the Bulldogs. Yale played four freshman Friday night, but should have enough experience throughout the lineup and in goal to win the title. Yale wins

 

Northeastern at Quinnipiac, 4 p.m.

Huskies rebound for a split in what should be a high-scoring weekend. Northeastern wins  

 

Union’s streak ends; Rensselaer’s continues

Both of Union’s streaks are over. The second-ranked Dutchmen lost to No. 9 St. Cloud 3-2 Saturday, snapping their 22-game unbeaten streak and 15-game home winning streak.

Union rolled over St. Cloud 5-1 Friday, but after that game head coach Rick Bennett warned the Dutchmen needed to play better or they’d lose Saturday.

That’s exactly what happened, as the Huskies outshot Union 39-24. The Dutchmen had only six shots in the first period and eight in the second.  Sophomore goalie Alex Sakellaropoulos made 36 saves in his first start of the season, but a Union turnover deep in its own end set up the game-winning goal for the Huskies.

Union opens ECAC play this weekend against a Rensselaer team that has struggled mightily the last five games.  Still, based on the post-game comments by Bennett and some of the Dutchmen players, it sounds like Union needs to tighten up its game if it’s going to be successful this season. Some of those inconsistencies likely have to do with youth – the Dutchmen  played six freshman Saturday against St. Cloud.

Struggles continue for Rensselaer

RPI started the season on a high note, beating Notre Dame in the first round of the Ice Breaker tournament. But it’s been a steady downhill slide for the Engineers since then, as RPI extended its losing streak to five games with a pair of homes losses to Bentley.

The Engineers entered the series with a 4-1 record against the Falcons, but were outscored 9-2 on the weekend.

Offense has been the main culprit. Rensselaer has six goals in six games, and three of those came against the Irish. The Engineers have been shutout three times during their five-game skid, but after this weekend are giving up three-and-half goals per game as well. Jason Kasdorf and Scott Diebold have a combined .886 save percentage.

That number will likely go up dramatically as the season progresses, but the Engineers need to find some offense or it could be a long year in Troy.

Raiders rolling

Colgate pushed its winning streak to four games thanks to a pair of late rallies at Sacred Heart. The Raiders scored three third-period goals Friday, and then scored twice in the final 2:11 Saturday to break a 2-2 tie.

Sophomore Tim Harrison had three goals on the weekend after not scoring one in 34 games last season. Colgate finished the series with four power-play goals.

The wins came minus forward Tylor Spink, who has yet to play this season due to an injury. Twin brother Tyson Spink sat out Saturday’s game after scoring a goal in the series opener. Colgate held Sacred Heart to one shot in the third period Friday, and then outshot the Pioneers 38-12 Saturday.

Pioneers forward Zachary Luczyk , who played at Quinnipiac for the last two seasons, scored Sacred Heart’s first goal of the game on Saturday.

ECAC Hockey picks: Oct. 24-25

My record thus far: 7-3-0.

Friday, October 24

Bowling Green at Clarkson 7:00
The Falcons are a happy 3-1 to start the year, including a season-opening home-and-home split with Miami. Clarkson stepped into the season on the right foot, but stumbled with consecutive losses to former league-mate Vermont last weekend. The Knights have to establish their offense off of their defense, and that is not a simple task… BGSU can score, and this will be no cakewalk for Clarkson. Knights win the opener…

Bentley at Rensselaer 7:00
Provided the Engineers don’t try to look past the Falcons, this Bentley matchup may offer just what the doctor ordered for RPI. Bentley has been porous on the back end so far this fall, and RPI is dying for an offensive spark. That said, any lapse in focus or intensity could put the Engineers in a hole from which their offense can not dig out. RPI wins Friday.

Colgate at Sacred Heart 7:00
With all due respect to the Pioneers, this weekend ought to be a massive mis-match. SHU split series with Army and Bentley – scoring 13 goals, including games with five and six scored – but Sacred Heart is not playing at Colgate’s level at this time. Raiders romp.

St. Cloud State at Union 7:00
In much the same vein as the Colgate @ SCSU series a couple weeks back, this matchup should to be terrific. Union is slowly silencing the skeptics (myself included) one weekend sweep at a time; NCAA hopeful St. Cloud hits the road for the first time this year with a statement on its mind. Not much to say about the Huskies just yet – they’ve only played twice – but Union has got to be riding high, with a 21-game unbeaten run (20-0-1) and a 14-game home winning streak. Will the Dutchmen rise to the challenge? I’d like to say sweep for Union, but realistically, I’m leaning toward a split. UC takes Friday.

St. Lawrence at Miami 7:30
The Saints face an uphill climb in Oxford this weekend, squaring off against the 10th-ranked team in the nation on its home ice. Miami has only allowed seven goals in four games (two games each against Ohio State and Bowling Green) while scoring 12 of their own. SLU has shown flashes of offense – specifically in the 10-2 demolition of Niagara two weeks back – but the defense is suspect, allowing north of 33 shots on goal per game. Freshman goalie Kyle Hayton is off to a hot start, but it’ll take more than a good goaltender to take down the RedHawks. Miami on Friday…

Saturday, October 25

Colgate at Sacred Heart 3:00
Same song, different verse. No predictable reason for the Raiders to drop a game this weekend.

Bentley at Rensselaer 7:00
My gut tells me to be wary of Bentley, but by all metrics, RPI should be the favorite each night. RPI sweeps.

St. Cloud State at Union 7:00
… and SCSU ends Union’s streaks on Saturday.

Bowling Green at Clarkson 7:30
… but I don’t have faith in Clarkson’s defense to hold it together for both ends of the weekend series. Falcons take Game 2.

St. Lawrence at Miami 8:05
… and once more Saturday, for a Miami sweep.

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