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College Hockey:
Four, or more?

A quarrelsome quartet remains in the hunt for the Whitelaw Cup, and two teams are hoping to hoist their first title in the league’s last twirl (perhaps) on Boardwalk ice.

High hopes

Brown and Quinnipiac each aim to raise the chalice for the first time, but they’ll have each other to tangle with first: The Bobcats battle the Bears at 4pm on Friday. QU – still the top-ranked team in the nation, as of this writing – qualified for the league semifinals by dint of Kevin Bui’s 95th-minute goal Sunday night. Even that wasn’t the most dramatic event in the rubber match with Cornell, as the Q-Cats needed Clay Harvey’s equalizer with 1:04 remaining in regulation to force extra hockey against the tenacious Big Red.

If only advancement were still based on two-game aggregates, think the exhausted Bobcats: QU blew the doors off Cornell in Saturday’s contest, wrecking the Red 10-0. The output was the most by the program since a 10-0 win over now-defunct Fairfield in 2000, and the most in ECAC tournament play since 2008, when Harvard lit the lamp 11 times against – wait, what? – Quinnipiac. We could go on and on about this game, but in the end, Sunday was much more representative of the way these two teams could play.

In Troy, Brown took the host Engineers to three games… then stunned the home team in Sunday’s decisive meeting with the first three goals of their own 3-2 win. Bruno leaned heavily on goalie Anthony Borelli, who stopped 40 of 42 shots, as his team mustered only 17 of its own.

The result obviously extends the Bears’ season and maintains their hopes for an NCAA berth, but almost as importantly for the program as a whole, the squad is now guaranteed at least a .500 record for the season for the first time under Brendan Whittet. The last time Bruno finished a season even was 2004-05 (16-14-3) under former coach Roger Grillo, which was the last of three straight winning seasons for Brown. The program has reached .500 or better numerous times in its history… just not so much lately. Credit to Whittet, his staff, and his players for achieving this significant developmental step.

Old hat for Union, Yale

The Dutchmen and Bulldogs took advantage of home ice to sweep their quarterfinal opponents, Dartmouth and St. Lawrence, respectively. Both squads managed nine goals on the weekend, with Union surrendering three to the exhausted Big Green and the Elis only giving one goal to SLU.

Yale and Keith Allain couldn’t be happier with the return of goalie Jeff Malcolm, who saved 29 of 30 Saints shots on the weekend. He was helped by his teammates as well, as he faced a maximum of seven shots in any of the series’ six periods. In Schenectady, Union shut down Dartmouth’s sputtering power play on five advantages, and took care of business elsewhere: Overall, a workmanlike and complete pair of victories for the Dutchmen.

NCAA outlook

It’s up, it’s up, it’s finally up: Take a twirl on USCHO’s PairWise Predictor to see how the NCAA field might shake out given any set of league tournament results. Early feedback with ECAC relevance? Leave comments below with updates, corrections, and such:

• Rensselaer is still alive.
• Quinnipiac is likely to finish as the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney at this point, though the Bobcats may not play in Providence, should Brown win the ECAC title. (Brown is the East Regional’s sponsor school.)
• Yale appears to be a lock for the NCAA field.
• Union has some work to do, but at least it’s still playing.
• Cornell and Dartmouth are likely done. Anyone find anything different?
• I believe Brown must win the league title to qualify, but I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see the Bears earn an at-large by merely making it to the league finale.

How wrong am I?

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