With only a handful of holiday-break games remaining for ECAC Hockey, let’s take a look at the league’s winners and losers from the last week.
… to Quinnipiac and Dartmouth.
The Bobcats now boast the nation’s longest unbeaten streak with a 12-game streak, an 11-0-1 tear that culminated with this weekend’s sweep of 12th-ranked Nebraska-Omaha. I won’t blather on about the strengths of this team (depth, defense, goaltending) other than to note that the Q-Cats also maintain the second-best team defense in the nation (1.58 goals against per game, second to Miami’s 1.55) and that senior goalie Eric Hartzell’s personal GAA is third in the country (1.43) and his .935 save percentage is better than any other goalie who has played as many minutes (1,050; he is 13th overall in save percentage).
The Big Green have yet to conclude their holiday schedule, hosting Massachusetts at 7:00 tonight in the championship of Dartmouth’s annual Ledyard Bank Classic. The Green are in the “props” section for their big win over second-ranked New Hampshire on Sunday evening. Junior Cab Morris stopped 31 of 32 shots, and the win is sure to help the Green’s position in the PairWise come March. Dartmouth’s 8-2-2 record is impressive, especially considering it held a 4-1 lead against Colgate in its first loss, and was tied with top-ranked Boston College in the third period of its other loss. Not bad L’s, in other words.
Worthy of mention: Kudos to Rensselaer for earning a split at 16th-ranked St. Cloud. A 4-3 win on Thursday gave way to a tight 2-1 loss on Friday, but the ‘Tute was definitely in town to play.
Cornell, Union and Yale: We’re skeptical.
Each of these three squads failed to cash in on opportunities in recent days, dealing blows of as-of-yet unknown force to – again – their potential PairWise status come season’s end. The Big Red toppled 19th-ranked Ferris State in the opener of the Florida College Classic, but blew an early 3-0 lead over three-win Maine in the finale, losing 6-4. This was not a dominating game for the Ithacans, outside of the first period. They were out-shot, they took more penalties, were skunked on the power play and surrendered two PPG’s as well. Credit Maine where it’s due: Cornell was beaten by a team that earned it (for the last 50 minutes, at least).
Union fell to host Vermont in the first round of the Catamount Cup, which is bluntly a bad loss for a team that fancies itself a national contender. Yes, the Dutchmen were on the road. Yes, the game was a nail-biter, a 2-1 result. But I’m sure coach Rick Bennett would be the first one to say it: There are no excuses for losses. This was a no-excuse kind of loss for Union.
Yale warmed up after the holidays with a 10-2 trouncing of the Russian Red Stars on Friday, but that swagger was missing on Sunday in a 5-4 loss to Holy Cross in Marlborough, Mass. The Crusaders opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal halfway through the first period and Yale never pulled even, and Jeff Malcolm allowed five goals on 31 shots in a sloppy contest. Like Union and Cornell’s defeats, this was a bad loss for Yale, regardless of Holy Cross’ rank-worthy record (10-4-2).
Food for thought
There are a lot of competing philosophies when it comes to poll ballots. Some pollsters try to ascertain who would likely beat whom right now, and arrange their ballots that way. Others take a longer view, and attempt to rank teams based on where they look likely to finish the year. Others watch as many teams as they can, and try to put the “best”, most “complete” teams in order from the top on down. Personally – and I have no idea how many others in the survey share my viewpoint – I rank based on success.
That is to say that my top priority when compiling my weekly ballot is winning, and winning consistently. The way I see it, players have no control over who they play, whether it’s the dregs of a weak league or perennial contenders like BC, Minnesota, North Dakota or Michigan. But wait, Michigan isn’t exactly setting the world on fire… so why should I, or anyone else, hold it against Cornell for beating the Wolverines earlier this year? It looked like a powerhouse matchup when the contracts were signed, so why penalize the Big Red in any way at all for doing all they were asked to do: Beat Michigan? Win – and keep winning, regardless of opponent – and you’ve earned a ranking, in my opinion.
Therefore, every Sunday night I pull up the nation’s top 20-some winning percentages and plug the teams right into my ballot, in order. I will swap some spots based on recent results or skew a bit for strength-of-schedule – I don’t believe Niagara has played as difficult a docket as, say, New Hampshire, and that deserves some consideration – but this is my general policy.
What does this all have to do with this week, this blog? Allow me to introduce the team with the nation’s best winning percentage: Quinnipiac. Were they my top team this week?
No. Why not? Allow me to refer to my last entry, all about strength-of-schedule. QU is winning, and how! But I don’t believe that they are winning at a rate that is significantly beyond that of Boston College, and the Eagles have played a tougher slate, and that is something I consider.
Call me hypocritical, call me arbitrary, call me what you will. I would love to put an ECAC program – Quinnipiac or otherwise – in my No. 1 spot, but all things considered, I cannot in good conscience elevate the Bobcats above the Eagles.