Some weeks, it feels as though there were no “big stories” over the weekend… a lot of splits, no major controversies, nothing really stood out.
Why couldn’t every week be like this week?
First and foremost, congratulations to the trio of ECAC Hockey representatives on the American World Junior Championship team. The United States contingent won gold for the first time in three years, defeating arch-rival Canada 5-1 in the semifinals before downing Sweden, 3-1, in the title game in Ufa, Russia.
The ECAC’s medal-winners also wear Carnellian red, crimson, and garnet in addition to red, white, and blue. Cornell sophomore forward Cole Bardreau – an alternate captain on America’s team – scored a goal and added two assists in playing all seven games in the WJC. Harvard freshman Jimmy Vesey skated in all seven contests as well, starting as the team’s 13th forward but ultimately earning a spot on the top line, notching a goal and four assists in the tournament. Union sophomore defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere earned a goal and an assist in six games, missing one contest due to suspension.
Overall, 13 of USA’s 23 players currently play in the NCAA, as well.
Making a splash
Once again, Quinnipiac headlines the weekend’s action with a sweep of Dartmouth and Harvard. The Bobcats surrendered a late goal to Tim O’Brien and the Big Green on Friday, but former Bowling Green Falcons winger Jordan Samuels-Thomas buried the overtime winner to put some separation in the standings between QU and Dartmouth. The host Bobcats barely broke a sweat against Harvard the following night, defeating the punchless Crimson 6-2 to extend the nation’s best unbeaten streak to 14 games (13-0-1). If history is any indicator, the Bobcats may well have wrapped up a first-round bye already, only 10 games into the ECAC campaign (10-0-0).
Yale dropped a frustrating contest against Holy Cross two weeks back, but the Bulldogs certainly raised some eyebrows with Friday’s 3-3 draw at Boston College. The Blue out-shot BC 48-22 and led 3-2 in the second period, giving the defending champs a real run for their money. Yale has yet to drop consecutive games this season.
The Raiders are on a pleasant little roll, stringing together five straight wins, albeit over Clarkson, Massachusetts (twice), and winless Sacred Heart (twice). Colgate buried 31 goals over those five games after scoring just nine in the five games prior. Freshman Kyle Baun is now the team’s leading goal-scorer with 10 in 20 games, putting him behind only St. Cloud’s Kalle Kossila in that category.
What gives with all the sweeps this weekend? Let’s take a look at four teams that are drawing some well-earned concern.
The Big Red dropped a set at Denver, mustering a single goal in each of the two losses. Cornell has now lost three in a row for the second time this season, allowing 13 goals in the process. The last time the Red dropped three straight prior to this year was November, 2010. (They lost three in a row twice that year, too, but finished the season playing for the league title.)
Union is simply failing to live up to the lofty expectations set for it on the heels of its first-ever Frozen Four appearance. The Dutchmen have only one win in their last eight game (1-4-3) and are 0-2-3 in their last five league games. Excuses could be made regarding Gostisbehere’s WJC participation, but it would appear that Union’s flaws lie more than one man deep. The team has been held to two goals or fewer nine times in 18 games, and in seven of its last 11. It’s not about the special teams or goaltending – the numbers are perfectly adequate in both cases – but the five-on-five offense has run surprisingly dry for the Dutchmen. What this year’s team wouldn’t give for another year of Jeremy Welsh.
Harvard… oh, Harvard. The Crimson looked so good entering the season – they were about as stacked as they’d looked in a decade – and didn’t disappoint out of the gate. Then the effects of an enormous and controversial academic scandal began to run their course, the team lost five players, and apparently most of its mojo. Harvard has lost four in a row and hasn’t won since mid-November (0-5-1), which was also the last time the Crimson scored more than twice in a game (seven goals in their last six games). Four of their next five opponents are ranked (BU, Dartmouth, Yale, and Union), and all are on the road. On the bright side, the squad gets Vesey back. So that’s something.
Finally, the Big Green – once nipping at the heels of nuclear-grade QU – dropped two in a row this weekend, falling first at Quinnipiac, then again at Princeton, thereby allowing the Tigers to leapfrog Dartmouth in the standings. The Princeton loss – in front of a rare sellout crowd at Hobey Baker Rink – marked the third straight loss for the Big Green, who hadn’t lost consecutive games entering the break.
Of the eight league teams to enter the holiday break on unbeaten streaks, only QU’s and Colgate’s have continued into the new year.