Players of the week
Player of the week: Danny Biega, Harvard
Harvard’s sophomore blueliner scored three goals and six points in three games this week, helping the Crimson take a desperately needed four points at Cornell and Brown. Biega began the weekend with the game-winning power-play goal in Ithaca, added Harvard’s lone goal at Colgate on the power play on Saturday, and made it three for three with another power-play, game-winning goal at Brown on Tuesday night. Biega is seventh in the league in conference points and leads ECAC Hockey defensemen in league scoring with nine goals and 21 points.
Honorable mention: Rob Kleebaum, Princeton (4-0-4, +1, hat trick vs. Yale); Kelly Zajac, Union (3-1-4 at Clarkson and SLU); Andrew Miller, Yale (1-3-4, +2 at Princeton)
Rookie of the week: Greg Carey, St. Lawrence
This frequent phenom did most of his damage on Friday, scoring twice in the Saints’ 5-3 upset of RPI. His power-play goal in the first period gave SLU the lead for good, and he gave his Canton comrades a bit of an extra cushion with the game’s next goal, as well. He added an assist in the loss to Union, placing him 10th in the league in conference scoring with 19 points, and his goals boosted him to double-digits and a fifth-place standing among all ECAC snipers with 10.
Honorable mention: Andrew Calof, Princeton (1-2-3, +2 vs. Brown and Yale); Kenny Agostino, Yale (1-2-3 at QU at Princeton)
Goalie of the week: Ryan Carroll, Harvard
Carroll’s second outing of the week, a 2-1 win at Brown, put the senior ahead of the pack for this honor. In stopping 63 of 67 shots against Cornell and Bruno, Carroll improved his league save percentage to .920 and diminished his ECAC goals-against average to 2.91 in nine starts.
Honorable mention: Eric Mihalik, Colgate (4 goals against, 64 shots vs. Dartmouth and Harvard); Ryan Rondeau, Yale (5 goals against, 71 shots at QU and Princeton); Andy Iles, Cornell (2 goals against, 33 shots vs. Dartmouth); Kyle Richter, Harvard (2 goals against, 28 shots at Colgate); Keith Kinkaid, Union (5 goals against, 55 shots at Clarkson and SLU)
Who’s the real class of the league?
It didn’t happen all at once, but it’s a bit startling nonetheless: with only two games remaining, Union is in the driver’s seat in the race for the regular-season crown. Whither Yale, we wonder?
The Bulldogs and Dutchmen are clearly the class of the league: Union’s 33 points and Yale’s 32 are two perfect weeks’ work ahead of Cornell and Dartmouth (24 points each). They are the two highest-scoring teams in the conference, and two of the top three defenses (Union’s 41 goals against are the fewest in ECAC Hockey; Dartmouth is second with 42 against, and Yale third, with 44).
So there’s little argument that the Blue and Dutch are anything but the top two squads heading into the playoffs. The question that has no clear answer yet is, who should be considered the favorite?
I’m not here to answer that, only propose a few points of consideration.
Union has only lost twice since the holiday break, while Yale has dropped four decisions since Christmas. More tellingly, Union has out-scored opponents 61-32 in those 16 games, and beat all comers by a 57-11 score in 14 conference contests in that stretch. Yale hasn’t exactly slogged through the second half, but the Bulldogs’ unique form of domination looked a little less, well, dominant as the calendar flipped: The Elis have a 60-35 goal differential in their last 15 games, but that spread shrunk in league play to 50-32 in 14 games.
Is the burden of bearing a year-long target wearing on the Bulldogs? Are teams saving their best shots for Yale, while Union has yet to develop that very elite form of respect? This is a meat-grinder league, and as Union head coach Nate Leaman told me last week, sometimes you can play your very best and still not win in this conference. I don’t know which team is better, or which side will carry the banner for ECAC Hockey come tourney time.
The one thing I do know is, it’ll be a lot of fun watching them sort it out on the ice.
My Top 20
Not much change in the teams, just some jostling at the top… very little room for error in the Top 10 right now.
2. North Dakota
4. Boston College
8. New Hampshire
13. Notre Dame
16. Western Michigan
17. Boston University