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ECAC Hockey picks: Feb. 21-22

Four games left. That doesn’t sound like much, but hey, at least everybody is guaranteed two postseason games, right? Ok then. Six games left?

All games start at 7:00.

Friday, February 21

Brown at Dartmouth
Neither the Bears nor Big Green are likely to improve their first-round status – Dartmouth is four points out of a home series with two teams to jump; Brown is in eighth place and is clinging to that middle-third for dear life. The Green were winners in three of their last four (3-1), while Brown has just one win in its last five (1-4). Surprisingly, the hosts have played better hockey on the road, so that is a bit of a conundrum when making this pick… other than that, signs are pointing to a Big Green victory. 3-2, Dartmouth.

Yale at Harvard
The MSG rematch comes at the perfect time for the streaking Crimson, 4-1-1 in their last six outings and playing strong defense with two shutouts. Yale has been playing .500 hockey for the past month (4-4), with consistently inconsistent production both offensively and defensively. I like Harvard in its annual February hot streak, 4-2.

Colgate at Princeton
The Raiders are still fighting to regain the poise and mojo they had a month ago, but Princeton is a great place to find it: The Tigers have only won twice since Christmas (2-8). Raiders roll, 5-2.

Cornell at Quinnipiac
QU may have a five-point lead on the Big Red, but make no mistake, this is a bye-seed battle about to go down in Hamden. Each squad is fighting for better positioning atop the league table, but also for a stronger PairWise ranking. The Bobcats may be a mediocre 3-3 in their last six games, but Cornell has dropped three straight and hasn’t scored three goals in a game since January. Quinnipiac is 12-2-2 at The Bank this season, and that in and of itself is a good enough reason to bet on blue and gold: 4-2 QU.

St. Lawrence at Rensselaer
RPI has seven points in five games (3-1-1) and is well above .500 at home. The Engineers are facing down an SLU side that is starting to put the season back together after a nine-game winless skid (0-8-1). This should be a strong defensive game, as neither team has surrendered much in recent weeks. A win would help either team a great deal in their respective quests to climb to a better first-round fate. I like the Engineers at home, 2-1.

Clarkson at Union
Union is 4-0-1 in its last five; Clarkson has two wins in its last eight. Big edge to the home-standing Dutchmen, 4-1.

Saturday, February 22

Yale at Dartmouth
While Dartmouth is clearly improving, I don’t see this as a game that Yale can afford to drop… and Big Green evolution aside, I still believe the Bulldogs are the better squad. Yale, 3-2.

Brown at Harvard
Tough to bet against Harvard this time of year, and Brown is practically impossible to predict, sooo… Harvard, 3-2.

Colgate at Quinnipiac
The Bobcats beat up on the Raiders in Hamilton in the fall. These are clearly two different teams than they were on November 1, but I don’t know that Colgate is playing well enough to keep up with QU this time, either. 4-2 Bobcats.

Cornell at Princeton
Brown rule: Cornell wins, 5-3.

St. Lawrence at Union
Union edged the Saints, 2-1, to close out January. A closer game than many anticipated, SLU might just have the grit to keep the Dutchmen in check… but give Bennett and Union the last change, and the Dutch may well be able to pull away from the tight-checking Saints. 4-1 Union.

Clarkson at Rensselaer
Tech-school rivalry, and with a plot of ground at stake too: Clarkson sits two points ahead of RPI as of this writing, and the Golden Knights took Round 1 of the series, 3-0 in Potsdam. Unfortunately for Clarkson, this game isn’t in Potsdam, and the golden defense is feeling rather green by the looks of it: Clarkson has given up 20 goals in five games, including six, twice. RPI with the edge, 3-2.

Clarity, one game at a time

Playing for position

Time to fire up the seeding machine and see what we’re looking at with two weeks left. Suffice to say, there are a lot of fantastic races shaping up in ECAC Hockey.

Union has a four-point lead on Quinnipiac for first; the Dutchmen cannot finish lower than third, thereby clinching a first-round bye.

Quinnipiac can finish anywhere between first and sixth; the Bobcats will not open on the road.

Colgate has also avoided a first-round road trip, as they cannot fall beyond eighth place.

Cornell and Clarkson are tied with 20 points, and are out of the running for the Cleary Cup. Both have a basement of 10th place and a ceiling of second.

• Neither Yale nor Rensselaer can finish higher than second; nor can they finish lower than 11th.

Brown, alone in eighth for the moment, can finish anywhere between third place and dead last.

Harvard and St. Lawrence are a point behind Brown for the last home-series spot. They could finish as high as fourth if all the pieces fall in the right place; they could also finish last.

Dartmouth is officially out of the running for a bye. The Big Green are playing for home-ice in the first round, but even that is an uphill climb: Dartmouth’s ceiling is seventh place.

Princeton is locked into a first-round road trip, but could improve their draw. Currently last, the Tigers could climb as high as ninth.

Big winners

Union put some distance between itself and Quinnipiac, earning three out of four points at Cornell and Colgate. When QU stumbled at Brown in Saturday’s lone afternoon game, the Dutchmen knew they had a massive opportunity to put the top seed all but out of reach… that evening’s tie at Colgate wasn’t all that Union could have hoped for, but the four-point lead is significant.

Harvard was one of the other three-point winners, edging Clarkson 1-0 in OT and tying St. Lawrence in Canton. The points elevated the Crimson to within a whisper of eighth-place Brown.

Dartmouth was ECAC Hockey’s only four-point squad last weekend, sweeping the North Country by a 9-2 aggregate. The Big Green are paying for their season-long inconsistency (to put it mildly), but the sweep removes them from the basement and gives the team a legitimate shot at a first-round home series.

Hoped for better

Clarkson took a big goose-egg this week, dropping decisions to Harvard and Dartmouth. Flying high a month ago, the Knights are 2-6 in their last eight and are engaged in a four-team dogfight for the final first-round bye.

Cornell suffered a major setback, dropping both of this week’s games at Lynah and failing to put any space at all between itself the rest of the fourth-place pack. In the same boat as Clarkson, the Big Red are grappling with the Knights, Yale and Rensselaer for one prized spot in the standings.

Colgate hosted twice this week, but only mustered two draws against RPI and Union. The Raiders are all but out of the hunt for the Cleary Cup, and are within one week’s work of the fourth-place pack.

St. Lawrence could be in the middle third right now, but instead took a single point out of two home games and are fighting to stay off the road in the first round.

ECAC Hockey picks: Feb. 14-15

Overall: 60-38-8

The snow’s stopped and the roads seems to be mostly clear, so don’t look for a repeat of this over the weekend. All games are 7 p.m., unless noted.

Friday, Feb. 14

Princeton at Brown

Both teams have been pretty beat up at times this season. The Bears’ trio of Matt Lorito, Nick Lappin, and Mark Naclerio have been excellent, but Brown could use some more secondary scoring as the postseason nears. As for the Tigers, they’re just looking for whatever offense they can get. Princeton averages  under two goals per game and only has one player with more than five. Brown wins

Harvard at Clarkson

Clarkson has been in limbo for the last few weeks. The Golden Knights haven’t really done anything to move closer to a first-round bye or take themselves out of the running for one. As per usual, Harvard won the Beanpot consolation game, and could put together a better run down the stretch. However, if Clarkson wants a top-four spot, this is a win they have to get.  Golden Knights captain and top center Ben Sexton is out this weekend, according to Cap Carey of the Watertown Daily Times, while sophomore forward T.J. Moor left the team for personal reasons. Clarkson wins

Rensselaer at Colgate

The Raiders rebounded from a pair of tough games two weeks ago with a 6-1 drubbing of Cornell in their only game last weekend.  RPI has improved over the last month, but Colgate looks to be back on track. Colgate wins

Union at Cornell

The Big Red have gotten better scoring depth as the season has progressed, while that’s been a strength of Union for much of the season. The Dutchmen have two players with double digits goals, and five more who could potentially pass that mark over the next few weeks. Union wins

Dartmouth at St. Lawrence

St. Lawrence has gone 3-1 since snapping a two-month winless skid last month, a stretch that will likely define much of the Saints’ regular season, for better or worse. The Big Green haven’t shown any signs of getting back on track following a rough start, winning just one of their last seven games. St. Lawrence wins

Quinnipiac at Yale

These rivals tied 3-3 back in November. The Bulldogs need to get something going if they want a chance at making the NCAA tournament and defending their national title, while the Bobcats are trying to catch first-place Union and capture their second straight Cleary Cup. Quinnipiac wins

Saturday, Feb. 15

Quinnipiac at Brown, 4 p.m.

The Bears have given Quinnipiac problems over the years, but the Bobcats offense have been on a roll for the most part lately, as QU has a staggering seven players with double-digit goals. Quinnipiac wins

Dartmouth at Clarkson

I don’t like pegging games as “must win,” but the Golden Knights want a top-four spot, these are two points they can’t afford to let pass by. Clarkson wins

Union at Colgate

Colgate rolled over Union 5-3 back in November, and the Dutchmen followed that loss by stringing together a ten-game unbeaten streak. There should be plenty of goals this one, but I think Union will come away with the win. Union wins

Rensselaer at Cornell

I’ve got a feeling the Engineers could pull off the upset. Ryan Haggerty and Mike Zalewski have both been red-hot for RPI, and that might be enough to get by Cornell team that gave up six goals to Colgate last time out. Rensselaer wins

Harvard at St. Lawrence

Both teams are fighting for home ice in the first round of the playoffs. It’s an interesting special teams matchup, as the Crimson penalty kill is fifth in the country, while the Saints have the nation’s best power play.  On the flip side, St. Lawrence’s penalty kill and Harvard’s power play have struggled for most of the season. St. Lawrence wins

Princeton at Yale

As mentioned above, the Tigers have struggled to score regardless of who they face, and Yale’s Alex Lyon is having an excellent freshman year in goal. Yale wins

 

League evens up as Dutchmen start to pull away

There’s no more games in hand from here on out, as all of the ECAC teams are at an even amount of conference games played with three weekends left. Still, there’s little settled heading down the stretch run.

Colgate jumped back into first-round bye with a 6-1 thumping of Cornell Saturday. It was the Big Red’s first loss since Nov. 30, a span of nine games.  Quinnipiac, Clarkson and Yale each split, while Union swept to take a three-point lead over the Bobcats for first place. The Dutchmen play four of their final six games on the road, but went 3-1 without suspended head coach Rick Bennett, who will be back behind the bench Friday at Cornell.

Clarkson should be in the mix for first-round bye, although the Golden Knights travel to Union in two weeks and host Quinnipiac on the final day of the regular season. As for Yale, the defending national champions chances at a top-four spot are slowly slipping away, but there’s still a chance. The Bulldogs have four games left at home and two on the road. Those away games are against struggling Harvard and Dartmouth, but don’t lock up four points for Yale just yet. The Bulldogs lost to the Big Green 4-1 on Dec. 6, and followed that up with a 2-2 against the Crimson the next night.

Golden Knights and Bobcats wear each other down.

First, there was some history. Then, there were whistles. A lot of them.

Quinnipiac forward Connor Jones scored ten seconds into Friday’s win over Clarkson after scoring eight seconds in against Dartmouth last weekend. Jones is the first player in NCAA history to score a goal in the first 10 seconds of a game twice in his career.

Matthew Peca scored 1:04 later to make it 2-0 Quinnnipiac, although the Golden Knights tied it early in the second period with two quick goals of their own, before the Bobcats regained the lead for good midway through the period. But a barrage of penalties marred what was an exciting game that featured three video reviews of shots that went off iron.

“In the end, that’s not how college hockey is supposed to be played,”  Bobcats head coach Rand Pecknold said. “That’s late 90s, early 2000s. We’re supposed to clean all that stuff out of the game, the hooking, the holding, the cork-screwing. I was disappointed the game escalated to that. Both teams were at fault. We’re supposed to play a wide-open, entertaining type of hockey. I guess once in a while, everything falls back to that.”

Quinnipiac was called for 12 penalties totaling 24 minutes, while Clarkson had 47 penalty minutes on 18 infractions.

“I thought it was a situation where two teams were battling pretty hard,” Golden Knights head coach Casey Jones said. “You’re battling for league points; hopefully it doesn’t get to the point where someone gets hurt  I didn’t think that was the case. I thought it was a situation where two teams where battling pretty hard.”

The Bobcats were only 1-for-11 on the power play, but Jones said that using Clarkson’s top players on the penalty-kill unit wore down the Golden Knights as the game went on.

Equipment malfunction

There’s already been one game cancelled this season due to a compressor failure.  Friday’s game between Harvard and Dartmouth wasn’t cancelled, but a zamboni broke down at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center, delaying the start of the game until 8:49 p.m. and resulting in this sequence.  The Crimson blanked the Big Green 3-0, and face Boston University Monday at 4:30 p.m. in the Beanpot consolation game.

ECAC Hockey picks: Feb. 7-10

Friday, February 7

All games start at 7:00
Dartmouth at Harvard
The Crimson and Big Green are a combined 2-9-1 since January 11, with both wins – one apiece – coming in home games against Princeton. I don’t expect this to be a game with tantalizing postseason ramifications, but I do expect it to be a rivalry-quality grinder between evenly matched sides. Dartmouth won Round 1 in Hanover; this one goes to Harvard, 3-2.

St. Lawrence at Princeton
The Saints notched a big win over an admittedly depleted Union lineup last Friday. Princeton… well, they avoided being shut out for the first time in five weekends’ worth of action (having been shut out once in four straight weeks). This is a game between struggling offenses (understatement alert) and Swiss-cheese defenses: Something’s gotta give, right? SLU has better proven talent in the goal-scoring department… if they can just figure out how goals used to happen, they might get back on the right track. Saints, 4-2.

Clarkson at Quinnipiac
One of three pivotal games this weekend, a pair of NCAA contenders square off in Hamden with three points separating the hosts from their aspirational visitors. Unfortunately for the guests, QU is on a 6-1-2 run since the holiday break, while over the same stretch the Golden Knights are a considerably duller 4-7-1. Two teams going in opposite directions? I like the Bobcats’ odds of putting a couple more points between themselves and the Knights. 4-3 QU.

Yale at Rensselaer
Don’t look now, but RPI is 3-1 in its last four, while Yale is just 4-3-1 in 2014. The Engineers have also had the Bulldogs’ number in recent years, going 6-2 against the Blue since the 2009-10 season and including a season sweep of the eventual national champions last year. It’s not a bet on which I’d put my paycheck (insert joke here), but I’m feeling RPI in another upset, 3-2.

Brown at Union
Union is still without head coach Rick Bennett, and will be for the remainder of this weekend. In the meantime, interim coach Joe Dumais will match wits with Brendan Whittet. Bruno has been kind of all over the place lately: While the defense and goaltending have been reliably average, the offense is jumping and diving and rolling around and making a big mess of things, consistency-wise. The power play hasn’t scored in five games (2-3), the even-strength scoring hasn’t exactly been blowing opponents away. Union bounced back from twin 2-1 losses with a 4-3 victory at Clarkson last Saturday, and I don’t think there will be any let-up from the Dutchmen Friday night. I’m taking Union at home, 4-1.

Saturday, February 8

All games start at 7:00
Cornell at Colgate
Believe it or not, Cornell has not lost since November 30, a 3-2 loss to Boston University at Madison Square Garden. The Big Red haven’t dropped a league game since two weeks prior, a 3-2 loss to Clarkson in Potsdam. Since the latter game, Cornell is 7-0-4 in ECAC action and 9-1-4 overall, including the BU loss. Colgate had run off a nifty little six-game winning streak as well, but it hit a pretty thick wall last weekend in consecutive three-goal losses at Brown (5-2) and Yale (4-1). The Big Red currently sit one point ahead of their travel partners from Hamilton, the teams tied their earlier meeting, and so this game carries potentially enormous significance in the quest for postseason seeding and even in the national tournament picture. I’m taking the road Red tonight, as Colgate has shown some disconcerting struggles in the defensive zone while the Red are really bringing a tight, well-oiled game into Starr Rink. Cornell, 4-2.

St. Lawrence at Quinnipiac
QU ought to wrap this one up without a whole ton of drama, unless the Bobcats don’t play their game, or SLU rediscovers what it was that worked so well back in October. Q-Cats, 4-1.

Clarkson at Princeton
Even when accounting for my skepticism of Clarkson’s record, I still peg this as a mis-match. Knights, decisively: 4-1.

Yale at Union
The question on my mind is, can Dumais et. al. out-coach Yale’s Keith Allain & Co.? This should be a fantastic matchup between two teams with legitimate national aspirations… a win for Yale means a big step back toward the top of the tables, while a Union victory may well mark them as the team to beat in ECAC Hockey. Taking the home-ice advantage, Union ekes it out, 3-2.

Brown at Rensselaer
These are two teams that I have been really struggling to figure out. RPI should be so much better, but can’t keep it together long enough to string together some victories… Brown is what it has been for a few years now: Tough but spotty. When the Bears really bring their A game, they are a very tough team to beat. They can grind and stifle and work as hard as anybody, but putting forth the requisite effort to do so on a nightly basis has thus far eluded them. RPI has great players with veteran experience, but something – some unquantifiable spark of effort or focus or energy or communication – has gone missing at critical moments this season, scuttling the campaign far short of the tremendous expectations laid before it during the preseason. What this all comes down to is, I have no idea who is likely to win this game. In a toss-up, I’ll pick the home team, 3-2.

Monday, February 10

Harvard vs. Boston University 4:30 (Beanpot Consolation: TD Bank Garden; Boston, MA)
Harvard throttled the Terriers 7-4 in early January, and things really haven’t gotten any better than that for either team: The Crimson are 1-5-1 since then; BU is 1-6-1 and 1-9-2 since November. Harvard’s seniors are 0-4 in the first round of the Beanpot, but 3-0 in the third-place game (they beat BU 7-4 in last year’s consolation contest, too). This is another dismal winter for Harvard, but the third-place friends-and-family tilt at the Garden has breathed new life into recent Crimson campaigns… this is one of the worst seasons in more than a decade for BU; why should it get any better now? Harvard, 3-1.

Stratification begins in ECAC Hockey

There is one month left in the ECAC regular season.

Allow me to repeat: One month. I know, it always flies by, and for a lot of programs there isn’t nearly enough time remaining to recover from recent stumbles. Fortunately, everyone makes the playoffs, and anything can happen in short series. That said, playing on home ice is an irrefutable advantage and eight teams have done enough to earn a little breathing room from the bottom third.

Musical chairs at the top

Room for four, but five at the door.

Union, Quinnipiac, Cornell, Colgate and Clarkson sit within four points of each other – in that order – each one point behind the next, respectively. This weekend saw Cornell separate itself from the middle and rise toward a prized bye seed with a four point weekend; Quinnipiac went one-for-one on a light weekend by blasting Dartmouth Friday night; and Union fought through numerous post-Mayor’s Cup suspensions to earn a split at the North Country and hold onto first place. Disadvantages for Cornell and Colgate, however: This travel tandem has one fewer game to play than most of the rest of the league. (The Harvard-Dartmouth duo has also played 15 games.)

For your consideration, a breakdown of the remaining home and road records of this quintet, and the combined record of each team’s remaining opposition:

Union: Four road, four home; opponents’ record: 53-45-16 (.535)
Quinnipiac: Four road, four home; opponents’ record: 53-46-15 (.531)
Cornell: Four home, three road; opponents’ record: 43-47-11 (.480)
Colgate: Five home, two road; opponents’ record: 42-45-14 (.485)
Clarkson: Four road, four home; opponents’ record: 46-55-13 (.461)

Stuck in the middle

The small block of the standings occupied by Yale (15 points), Brown (13) and Rensselaer (13) sits three points short of fifth-place Clarkson, but is four points clear of St. Lawrence and Harvard. All three split last weekend, and the Bulldogs, Bears and Engineers each have eight games left – four at home, four away. Here’s the next month’s work, broken down by program:

Yale: Opponents’ record: 50-51-13 (.496)
Brown: Opponents’ record: 50-51-13 (.496)
RPI Opponents’ record: 53-45-16 (.535)

Odds ‘n ends

• The 62nd annual Beanpot kicks off Monday night, and Harvard draws Northeastern in the 5pm game. The Crimson beat the Huskies the last time they tangled at “the Garden” (there is so much wrong with that name) in the 2012 consolation game. Both of Monday’s games are televised on NESN, as is the title game seven days later.

As promised, the PairWise Rankings underwent their weekly shuffle. QU and Union maintained top-four status, and Cornell jumped four places, from 10th to sixth following their four-point road weekend. However, Clarkson and Colgate fell out of the top 16 into ties for 17th and 20th, respectively (where Yale is knotted with Colgate beyond the bubble). The next ECAC Hockey teams on the list are Brown and RPI at 26 and 27, who are likely write-offs for at-large bids at this point… but then, who knows. Anything can happen.

And finally, my weekly USCHO ballot:

ECAC Hockey picks: Jan. 31 – Feb. 3

Overall: 51-35-8

It’s hard to believe, but we’re down to the last month of regular season play in the ECAC. All games are 7 p.m., with the exception of Monday’s Beanpot opener between Harvard and Northeastern.

Friday, Jan. 31

Colgate at Brown

Brown can ill-afford a repeat of Saturday’s penalty-filled first period against Yale, where the Bulldogs scored three quick power-play goals en route to a 6-0 win. Like Yale, Colgate has the talent to capitalize on those openings.  The Raiders have won a nation-best six games in a row, and are 7-2-3 on the road. It’s hard to go against that streak. Colgate wins

Rensselaer at Clarkson

RPI will be down several key players following the brawl at the conclusion of Saturday’s Mayor’s Cup game. Leading scorer Ryan Haggerty and linemate Mike Zalewski are both suspended, along with defensemen Bo Dolan and Luke Curadi. Head coach Seth Appert was also given a belated one-game suspension by the league. This is a big weekend for the Golden Knights – they appeared to snap out of a skid two weeks ago, but then got swept last weekend. For a team on the edge of the NCAA tournament bubble as well as in the hunt for a first-round bye, these are two points Clarkson can’t let get away, especially at home against a depleted opponent. Clarkson wins

Quinnipiac at Dartmouth 

The Big Green hung with Quinnipiac during a 3-1 loss in Hamden back in November. Dartmouth goalie Charles Grant has been better than his numbers suggest, but I’m not sure if the Big Green will have an answer for the Bobcats’ puck-possession.  Quinnipiac wins     

Princeton at Harvard

It’s the the 100th anniversary of the rivalry between the Tigers and Crimson. Harvard holds a commanding 148-58-11 edge in the series, but the Crimson are just 6-7-1 in games preceding the Beanpot since 2010. This is usually the time of the year that Harvard seems to pick it up – and they’ll face a Tigers team that is coming over nearly a three-week break for exams. Harvard wins

Union at St. Lawrence        

If there was ever a time for the Saints to break their lengthy slump, this was it. The Dutchmen will be without captain Mat Bodie, and forwards Eli Lichtenwald and Daniel Ciampani, as well as head coach Rick Bennett due to discipline stemming from the Mayor’s Cup brawl.  But Union had a rash of injuries earlier in the season, which gave  other players a chance to step in and contribute. The Dutchmen will have to hope that happens again. Union wins

Cornell at Yale      

Travel-partner Colgate has gotten much of the attention, but the Big Red are on a seven-game unbeaten streak that’s tied with the Raiders for the fourth-longest in the country.  Yale’s goaltending and defense have gotten better as the season has progressed, and in this close matchup, I’ll give the edge to the home team. Yale wins          

Saturday, Feb.1

Cornell at Brown   

Both teams play a similar style, but Cornell has been playing better lately, while Brown has alternated wins and losses over its last four games. I realize calling for a Cornell win means the Bears will be swept at home, but both the Raiders and Big Red have been on fire lately. Cornell wins    

Union at Clarkson     

Even minus Bodie and Bennett, I think Union should have enough to get past the Golden Knights. Union wins        

Princeton at Dartmouth

The Big Green had a 3-0 first-period lead the last time these teams met, only to lose 5-4 in overtime.  Dartmouth’s defense has struggled this season, but do  the Tigers have the firepower to take advantage? Dartmouth wins

 Rensselaer at St. Lawrence

Haggerty and Zalewski will be back for this game, and Scott Diebold has played better in goal of late. That should be enough to hold off a Saints team that hasn’t won since the end of November. Rensselaer wins.

Colgate at Yale

The Bulldogs’ veteran defensive corps will have its hands full with the Raiders. Will they have enough to slow down the league’s hottest team? I’m tempted to call a tie, but that’s taking the easy way out. I don’t have any reason to pick against the Raiders. Colgate wins

Monday, Feb. 3

Harvard vs. Northeastern, 5 p.m.  (Beanpot first round)

Due to the rotating schedule of the Beanpot, one of these teams will have a chance to break a lengthy title drought in the tournament.  Harvard hasn’t won since 1993, while it’s been since 1988 for Northeastern. That aside, the matchup I’ll be watching is Huskies forward Kevin Roy against Crimson goalie Raphael Girard, and the Harvard offense against NU goalie Clay Witt. Both Girard and Witt have been outstanding this season, while Roy won tournament MVP last season despite being on the losing team.  Harvard looked plenty fast against Yale at MSG earlier in January, but the Crimson weren’t able to turn that speed into goals. Not sure if they can do it here, either. Northeastern wins

Raiders keep on rolling

Saturday’s game between Colgate and St. Lawrence featured two teams heading in the opposite direction.  Both the red-hot Raiders and struggling Saints kept going their respective ways, as sophomore Kyle Baun’s first collegiate hat trick extended Colgate’s unbeaten streak to seven games, and dropped St. Lawrence’s skid to nine games without a win.

The win moved Colgate into a tie for second place with idle Quinnipiac. The Raiders’ seven-game unbeaten streak is tied with travel-partner Cornell for the third-best in the nation, trailing only Minnesota and Boston College. Colgate hosts Union and travels to Quinnipiac next month, two games that should have significant implications for the top of the standings.

Rivals take it to another level

Union’s 4-3 win over Harvard Friday moved the Dutchmen ahead of Quinnipiac for sole possession of first place in ECAC Hockey. But that was a mere footnote by the end of the weekend, as the end of the annual Mayor’s Cup with Rensselaer dissolved into a massive brawl once the final whistle sounded.

Videos of the incident showed that shoving started as soon as the Engineers won a last-second faceoff in their zone to seal a 2-1 victory over the  Dutchmen and escalated as Rensselaer players came off their bench to celebrate.

Referees handed out 125 minutes worth of penalties after the game, including game disqualifications to Union’s Matt Bodie and Eli Lichtenwald and Rensselaer’s Mike Zalewski and Luke Curadi. Those penalties come with an automatic one-game suspension.

Dutchmen coach Rick Bennett and RPI coach Seth Appert had to be restrained by officials and members of the teams and coaching staffs later. That scuffle appeared to have been touched off by a shove from Bennett. Check out videos and more here.

Bennett was suspended  two games by Union, while a spokesperson for ECAC Hockey said the league was reviewing video of the incident as well as talking to game officials and would hand out any additional discipline early this week.

With Bennett suspended, assistant coach Joe Dumais will coach the Dutchmen on their North Country road trip next weekend. Bennett will not travel with the team.

It’s a shame this incident marred a much-needed win by struggling RPI team that ended the Engineer’s ten-game losing streak against Union. I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of both programs, but both Bennett and Appert seem to run things the right way, and both are professional and accessible when dealing with the media. Each apologized after the game. Still, it was an embarrassing incident for both teams.

It’s also never a good sign when you make Deadspin.

League race shaping up?

There’s still nearly a month let in the regular season, but several different tiers of teams are starting toform. Eight ECAC teams have an overall record of .500 or better, with the exception of St. Lawrence, Princeton, Dartmouth and Harvard.

Quinnipiac and Union are the front-runners for the top two spots. After that, the final two first-round bye positions are up for grabs. Colgate appears to have forced itself into the picture for a top-four spot, while someone from the group of Clarkson, Yale or Cornell will likely take the last one. Brown might be a sleeper team for a top-four spot, but it looks more likely the Bears will finish somewhere fifth through ninth, which would still be good enough to give them home ice in the first round for the second time in as many years.

They’ll probably be joined by Rensselaer, who was picked first in the media preseason poll. The Engineers rebounded with a pair of wins this weekend, but likely have too much ground to make up for a first-round bye. Barring a late-season surge, Dartmouth, Princeton, Harvard and St. Lawrence should be on the road for the playoffs.

ECAC Hockey picks: Jan. 24-25

Friday, January 24

All games at 7pm

Yale at Brown
Bruno is 4-1-2 since December, with the sole loss being a very forgivable 3-2 stumble at 15-7-2 Clarkson. Freshman Tyler Steel has started all but one of those last seven games, taking over – at least for the time being – for senior Marco DeFilippo. The Bears haven’t allowed more than three goals in a game since before Thanksgiving, and downed Yale 4-1 in both squads’ season-openers. Yale is keeping its head above .500 in league play (4-3-3), and has been alternating strong defensive performances with not-so-strong outings. The offense has been clicking though, and this should be a very entertaining set of games. I’ll go with the home side Friday: Brown, 3-2.

Clarkson at Colgate
Two of the hottest teams in the league square off in Hamilton Friday night. The Raiders haven’t lost since Christmas, allowing barely over a goal a game in their last five (4-0-1). Clarkson is 8-2 in league play and 3-1 in its last four, winning three squeakers but bowing out 4-0 to Merrimack in the loss. The Knights boast six players with at least five goals, bolstering adequate goaltending (a team .903 save rate). Four of Clarkson’s next five games are against teams currently in the top half of the league standings (Colgate, Cornell, Union and Quinnipiac), so it’s time for Clarkson to walk the walk… I’m not sure they have earned the swagger just yet. Raiders, 3-2.

St. Lawrence at Cornell
SLU: You have been Brown Ruled. Cornell, in its own right, is 6-1-3 since mid-November. Big Red, 4-2.

Dartmouth at Rensselaer
There is no way the play can be as bad as the scores, but my word, RPI’s goals-against are horrifying of late: The Engineers surrendered six goals thrice in their last four games, giving up 20 goals in total in four straight losses. (They’ve scored seven, by the way.) Dartmouth isn’t looking much better, so it’ll be a matter of something’s-gotta-give: Will Dartmouth’s offense finally show up, or will RPI’s defense? Is there some third option that doesn’t involve an act of God? I’ll take the home side, because I just can’t imagine a Seth Appert team not bouncing back at the Field House. 4-3 Engineers.

Harvard at Union
Oy. I always look for Harvard to put it together, but it’s not March yet, so it’s not happening tonight at Messa. Oh, Union is on a 14-2-2 run, so that’s nice. I see that getting better. 3-1 Dutchmen.

Saturday, January 25

Clarkson at Cornell 7:00
Better late than never: I’m benefiting here by knowing Friday’s results, but because of them, I think Cornell is looking shaky after a 4-4 draw with SLU, while Clarkson played well at streaking Colgate despite the unfavorable result (a 3-2 loss). Knights on the road: 3-2.

St. Lawrence at Colgate 7:00
Brown Rule. Raiders run on… 4-1 Colgate.

Brown at Yale 7:00
Home team evens the weekend: Yale is 4-1-2 at Ingalls, and Saturday will make it win no. 5. 5-2 Bulldogs.

Union vs. Rensselaer 7:30 Mayor’s Cup – Times Union Center (Albany, NY)
It’s a rivalry, so throw the records out… but not really, because Union hasn’t lost to RPI since the fall of 2010 (9-0). Yeah, it’s getting ugly… 4-1 Dutchmen.

Hot on the dot; predictions in the mirror; and Hobey hopes fading fast

Faceoffs: Still important!

What’s that? You missed this week’s stellar feature column about faceoffs? For shame! For if you had perused said piece, you might have enjoyed a modicum of added appreciation for this weekend’s action.

Take Yale’s Friday-night game at Clarkson. The host Golden Knights beat Yale to 45 of 63 dropped pucks (I’m still talking about faceoffs here), which – at 71.4 percent – is an even greater faceoff percentage than the 48-of-68 that Quinnipiac posted against Union, as referenced in the column. In large part thanks to their dominance at the dot, Clarkson out-shot the Bulldogs 35-19, allowing the Knights to ultimately down the visitors 3-2.

In fact, of the six ECAC teams to win the faceoff battle on Friday, all six also out-shot their opponents. The trend held true on Saturday, when four out of six games followed suit.

For the record, teams that won more faceoffs only went 5-6-1 this weekend… but that’s more a question about defense and goaltending, methinks. See Yale’s 4-2 win at St. Lawrence, despite being out-shot 30-29 and losing nearly 2/3 of the draws.

Trend-watch

More self-reference, because I know how much you love to see me be wrong: At the turn of the calendar, I looked at the hockey already played by the ECAC and how it might play out in 2014. A few thoughts in retrospect:

• Brown is 2-1-2 since the holidays, jumping into seventh place in the standing (both in points and win percentage). The Bears look just good enough to sneak into a 5-8 spot and earn a home playoff series, especially since they have seven more home games and five on the road.

• Still not sure about Clarkson. The Knights are 1-1-1 since the New Year against winning teams (Yale, UMass-Lowell) and 2-1 against .500 teams or worse (Brown, Merrimack). The former will have to improve in order for Clarkson to truly impress.

• Colgate’s record in one-goal (or fewer) games is now 8-3-3, which is still far too good for a team that is only 3-6 otherwise.

• Harvard has fallen to 2-7-3 in tight games (decided by one goal or less), but is 3-3 otherwise. They are the reverse-Colgate, as it were.

• In its six games in 2014, Quinnipiac has surrendered 30+ shots as many times (twice) as it did in its first 21 contests. So far this year, Maine and Merrimack have hit that mark.

• Rensselaer has been outscored in the first period once in its last four games, and beaten in the third three times already. RPI had troubles with the final act in 2013; the Engineers appear to be suffering the same malady today.

• Goaltending and defensive miscues continue to plague the Saints, who have lost seven straight and 10 of 12 (2-10). SLU has surrendered three goals or more in 17 of its last 19 games, and neither of its starting goalies has a save percentage above .865.

• Union is 3-1 since New Year’s Day, with the sole loss being a tight-checking 2-1 loss at Quinnipiac. Wins at Princeton and New Hampshire (twice) are great, but factor in just four goals against in those four games and you’ve got yourself a winning ticket. Faceoffs – and ergo puck possession – are becoming a conspicuous problem for the Dutchmen, but the team is emerging triumphant despite that flaw. This is appearing to be a legitimate national contender once more.

Hobey hopes fading away

What with Boston College star Johnny Gaudreau’s NASA-engineered trajectory – an 18-game point streak, eight goals and 19 points in his last seven games – the ECAC’s top players would be hard-pressed to appear as anything other than seat-fillers at the Hobey Baker ceremony. The significant drop-off in production hasn’t helped RPI’s Ryan Haggerty or SLU’s Greg Carey, either.

Carey started the year well, notching six goals and 19 points in the Saints’ first 10 games. Since then however, he has an 8-13–21 line in a dozen more contests. Not too shabby – not by a long shot – but it’s not Hobey-worthy. Haggerty never put up the kind of assists necessary to challenge Carey’s spot atop the ECAC scoring chart, but when the junior sniper jumped out to 18 goals in 15 games, he definitely turned some heads. Unfortunately, both his and his team’s fortune have been in swift decline: Haggerty has added just three assists to his scoring line since Game No. 16, a six-game stretch.

Perhaps not coincidentally, SLU is 2-10 since Carey’s negative acceleration (moment of physics nerdity: there is no such thing as “deceleration”); RPI is 0-5-1 since Haggerty hit the wall.