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Second-round matchups set

Two of the four series in the ECAC went to three games this weekend, with Clarkson and Dartmouth both winning  Sunday to advance. The Big Green were the only road team to win this weekend, rallying for a 5-4 win against  Rensselaer. It was the first time Dartmouth won when trailing after two periods in almost two years.

Here are the upcoming second-round series, including a national title game rematch in Hamden.

No. 10 Dartmouth at No. 1 Union

No. 8 St. Lawrence at No. 2 Colgate

No.6 Yale at No. 3 Quinnipiac

No. 5 Clarkson at No. 4 Cornell

Clarkson advances; RPI’s struggles continue

The Golden Knights hadn’t won an ECAC playoff series in seven years. That streak appeared to in danger of continuing after No. 12 Princeton won in overtime Friday. But Clarkson rolled 4-0 in Game 2, and then edged the Tigers 3-2 in the deciding game. Sunday’s game was the Golden Knights’ 20th win of the season, the first time the program has reached that mark since the 2007-08 season.

While Clarkson will make the trip south to Ithaca to face Cornell in round 2, the Engineers end the season with another disappointing home playoff defeat.

RPI hasn’t won a playoff series in Troy since 2004, when the Engineers swept Princeton in the opening round.

Bulldogs headed to Washington

Yale’s longest road trip this week won’t be for a game. The Bulldogs are set to head to the White House Monday afternoon to be recognized for the program’s first national title last season.  They’ll be recognized by President Obama along with Minnesota, last year’s women’s championship.  The event is open to the press and will streamed live on www.whitehouse.gov/live.

So long

It’s the end of the line for Harvard, RPI, Princeton and Brown. None of these teams are in any sort of position for an at-large bid, meaning the long offseason begins for the players and coaching staffs. Of course, it could be the start of some players’ professional careers, as seniors start to sign with NHL teams following the end of their collegiate season.

ECAC Hockey picks: First round

Let’s get right to the action… all games start at 7:00, unless otherwise noted.

12 Princeton at 5 Clarkson

Note: Saturday’s game begins at 7:30

Clarkson swept the season series against beleaguered Princeton, winning 4-3 in Jersey and 3-1 in Potsdam. Forgive my bluntness, but the Tigers look like dead meat: They have only scored three goals in their last four games, and haven’t mustered multiple goals in a game since Feb. 15 (a 7-5 loss at Yale). Princeton allowed 18 goals in the last two weekends combined. Clarkson is hoping that four points and strong defense in its last three games harkens a return to its mid-season swagger, but frankly, even a mediocre series from the Green & Gold should be enough to dispatch of a Princeton side that has never been healthy enough to synchronize. Clarkson sweeps.

11 Harvard at 6 Yale

Yale won the season series, 1-0-1, but also buried the Crimson in the non-conference meeting at Madison Square Garden in January. The Bulldogs are hoping to manufacture their first two-win weekend of the season, believe it or not, while Harvard will almost certainly require top play from its goaltender(s) and something more than the recent two-goals-a-game output of its sputtering offense. These teams have more than an historic rivalry in play, too: Just two years ago in Boston, Harvard came back to win a quarterfinal series against the Blue, two games to one. This has not been a dreadfully balanced rivalry lately, but Harvard head honcho Ted Donato always seems to dig a little something extra out of his squads come March. I see the Bulldogs prevailing, but not until Sunday night. Yale in three.

10 Dartmouth at 7 Rensselaer

If there’s an upset to be had in the first round, this is its likely setting. Dartmouth has rebounded admirably from a putrid 2-11 start, going 6-6-4 ever since. A .500 record may not seem like much, but considering the Green are 4-1-1 in their last six, I’d consider the team hot enough to tip host RPI. The wild card in this series may be the play of Engineers goalie Scott Diebold, who has played in 33 games this year and faced over 900 shots. The offense has been spotty, the defense tentative, and RPI looked readily victimized by quicker, more creative and dynamic Yale last weekend. The whole defensive concept will have to tighten quickly in order to keep shifty Dartmouth off the board. If this series remains low-scoring, I’d actually give Rensselaer the edge (despite conventional road-game strategy desiring tight-checking games)… if we hit five or six goals per game, I’m guessing the Green are ahead. Dartmouth in three.

9 Brown at 8 St. Lawrence

My oh my, just as Bruno got its legs going, they were cut out again in a pair of home shutouts last weekend. SLU is still a potent offensive team despite its somewhat porous defense and goaltending, and I’m not sure Brown can keep up if this series goes all track-meet on us. That said, an early goal or two for the visitors could knock the Saints back on their heels, especially considering that SLU’s team save percentage is .871… and that’s not even counting five empty-net goals against. So who’s mojo will come to play? Something’s gotta give: Either the Saints D/goalies will play better than their numbers, or Brown’s offense will turn last weekend into a distant memory. I’m not sure the latter is as likely as the former. SLU sweeps.

Gentlemen, start your beard-ing

The matchups

First, congratulations to Cleary Cup champion Union, who took the regular-season crown for the third time in four years (2010-11, ’11-12, and this season).

The Dutchmen are joined in their well-deserved bye week by second-place Colgate, third-place Quinnipiac, and fourth-place Cornell. Kudos, especially, to the Big Red for a tenacious rally against arch-rival Harvard; Cornell’s overtime victory secured the league’s final bye seed.

And now, the first round:

12 Princeton @ 5 Clarkson: Clarkson swept the season series, 4-3/3-1.

11 Harvard @ 6 Yale: Yale won the season series, 1-0-1, and also beat the Crimson 5-1 in a non-conference game at Madison Square Garden.

10 Dartmouth @ 7 Rensselaer: RPI swept the season series, 7-1/4-2.

9 Brown @ 8 St. Lawrence: Brown won the season series, 1-0-1.

Of moderate interest, none of the low seeds lucked into a local draw (e.g. 2009-10 Clarkson, which got to sleep at home between first-round “road” games at St. Lawrence). For those curious, the shortest trip of the first round belongs to Dartmouth (131 miles); the distance just slid in under Harvard’s trek to New Haven (134), though due to the directness of the route, the Crimson are likely to spend less time actually on the road.

On the other end of the spectrum, Brown will rack up nearly three times that mileage: It’s 360 miles from Providence to Canton. And last but not least, 12th-seed Princeton truly endures some last-place treatment with 386 miles of road between its Garden State campus and Potsdam, N.Y. Estimated travel time: Six and a half hours.

The one, the only, the PairWise

At this point, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Union is a lock for the NCAA tournament field, currently occupying the third one-seed in the rankings. Quinnipiac is looking pretty strong as well, but the algorithm is simply too sensitive for me to declare the Bobcats tourney-bound just yet (though I’m tempted to).

At the moment, Cornell is in a tie for 13th in the PWR, and holds an edge over Vermont in the Rankings Percentage Index (RPI). That’s a good thing. Unfortunately, the Red cannot afford to resign from the ECAC playoffs too early, or that 13 will turn into a 20-something in a heartbeat.

Colgate looks good at 16 – the Raiders are on the happy side of that burgundy line – but that line is deceiving. The Atlantic Hockey auto-bid/champion is almost guaranteed to hail from beyond the PWR’s top 16 (Mercyhurst is the AHA’s standings leader and strongest PWR presence at 34th), so that will bump the No. 16 program – Colgate – into golf season with nary a shrug. Raiders need to win a couple of series to solidify their at-large status.

Finally, Yale (19th) and Clarkson (24) are on the outside looking in. It may seem unlikely – especially for Clarkson – but I’m not ready to state definitively that either of them must win the Whitelaw Cup in order to qualify for the Big Dance. The Golden Knights would need a lot of help and a deep postseason run, but stranger things have happened.

Everybody else? Just win, baby.

Right time/wrong time

Who’s timed their hot streaks just right? Who’s at risk of free-falling right out of the 2013-14 season?

Hot…

Union is 8-0-1 in its last nine, now good for the longest active unbeaten streak in the nation thanks to Notre Dame’s OT upset of Boston College on Saturday. The Dutchmen aren’t so much building a fire as keeping it burning, having only lost four times since Halloween (23-4-2).

Colgate hasn’t put on the season-long laser show that Union has, but the Raiders’ 10-3-3 record since New Year’s is nothing to sniff at. The ‘Gate has only surrendered three goals or more in a game four times in that stretch.

Don’t look now, but 10th-place Dartmouth has only lost once in its last six games (4-1-1), and that defeat was the squeaker at Colgate on Saturday. If only the Green power play had been as effective as their penalty kill.

… not.

That thud you heard on Saturday was Princeton hitting the bottom. The Tigers are 2-12 in the second half of the season, and haven’t mustered more than one goal in any of their last four games (0-4). Injuries or not, it’s frankly a year to forget in the Garden State.

Harvard appeared poised to make another postseason run, but the last two weekends put a damper on those plans as the Crimson sputtered to a 1-3 record to close out the scheduled docket.

Brown is 2-7 since its January 31 dumping of Colgate; the Bears were also shut out in both games last weekend.

ECAC Hockey picks: Feb. 28 – March 1

Overall: 64-43-11

It’s the final weekend of the regular season in ECAC Hockey and the only spots decided are first (Union) and last (Princeton).Colgate has clinched a first-round bye, although the Raiders still can finish anywhere from second to fourth. Click here for a breakdown of all the possibilities for each team. All games are 7 p.m. unless noted.

Friday, Feb. 28

Rensselaer at Brown   

Picked to finish first by the media, RPI is eliminated from any chance of getting a top-four spot. However, both teams could clinch home ice this weekend. There are plenty of top-end scoring threats on each side, so secondary scoring could be essential.  Rensselaer wins       

Harvard at Colgate  

After platooning with Raphael Girard through the early part of the season, Harvard’s Steve Michalek has is unbeaten in four of his last five starts and has logged shutouts in two of them. But reigning rookie of the week Charlie Finn has come on strong for the Raiders as well, and I think Colgate has more weapons on offense. Colgate wins

Dartmouth at Cornell    

Cornell needs wins, not only for the conference standings, but for the PairWise as well. The last game between these teams ended with Dartmouth’s Eric Neiley getting a game disqualification at the end of overtime, so keep an eye on any carryover this at Lynah Friday. Cornell wins          

Quinnipiac at St. Lawrence      

The Bobcats are looking to snap a three- game losing streak compounded by injuries and a mini-scoring drought. St. Lawrence beat Quinnipiac in Hamden 3-2 on Feb. 8, and has been pretty solid this season outside of a brutal nine-game stretch in the middle of the year. QU is currently seventh in the PairWise, and I’ve got to think they’re a pretty solid bet for the NCAA tournament. Of course, that could change if their skid continues, but I think they’ll break out of it. Quinnipiac wins

Union at Yale     

Union wrapped up the school’s third regular-season title in four years last weekend, but don’t expect the Dutchmen to take the last two games off. That’s what coach Rick Bennett said, although he did mention the possibility of goalie Colin Stevens sitting for a game. Defending national champion Yale needs to put together some points if they want a first-round bye. Still, I’m not sure if a motivated Bulldogs team is enough to overcome the Dutchmen. Union wins            

Princeton at Clarkson     

The Golden Knights have struggled lately but even with their skid, they’ve still managed to win as many games in the second half (five) as the Tigers have won all season. Clarkson wins

Saturday, March 1

Union at Brown, 4 p.m.

The Dutchmen haven’t won at Meehan Auditorium since 2010. Union isn’t that far off from being undefeated – five of their six losses are by one goal, and the other was a two-goal decision with an empty netter. There are several scenarios Brown could be playing for on Saturday, but either way, I think the Bears continue the Dutchmen’s misery in Providence. Brown wins

Quinnipiac at Clarkson

It’s possible at by this point Clarkson will have been eliminated from any chance of getting a top-four spot. The Bobcats beat the Golden Knights 6-3 in a physical game in Hamden in February. That matchup was closer than the score indicated, as Clarkson overcame two early goals to tie the game, and had several potential goals reviewed. I think QU will head home with a sweep. Quinnipiac wins

Dartmouth at Colgate      

Like I said above, the Raiders need to pad their win total to get some cushion heading into the postseason. Dartmouth has played better over the last few weeks, but Colgate has been red-hot in the second half, especially recently. Colgate wins        

Harvard at Cornell    

Depending on Friday’s results, the Crimson could have the chance to play spoiler against Cornell. Either way, I think the Big Red should be able to neutralize Harvard’s speed and come away with a win. Cornell wins

Princeton   at St. Lawrence

The Saints blew out Princeton in New Jersey, so I don’t see any reason why they should lose to them at home. St. Lawrence wins

Rensselaer at Yale

There might be a shorthanded goal or two at Ingalls Saturday. RPI is third in the nation with seven on the season, while the Bulldogs set a school record with three against Princeton last weekend. Either way, RPI has won its last two games at Yale, and I think that will continue.   Rensselaer wins

Union clinches; Raiders on the rise

For the third time in four seasons, Union is the ECAC Hockey regular season champion.

The Dutchmen wrapped up the league title with a 6-2 throttling of St. Lawrence on Saturday. Union is on a seven-game unbeaten streak and has lost only three times since Nov. 9.

It will be interesting to see how head coach Rick Bennett and his coaching staff handle the final weekend of the season.  The Dutchmen are third in the PairWise Rankings but have had several injuries to key players throughout the second half.

I’d imagine most of Union’s regulars will play if healthy, but Bennett and his staff could cut back on some of their minutes, like they did with defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who didn’t play the final period Saturday against the Saints.

Raiders on the rise

Colgate closed last year with one win over the season’s final month. Head coach Don Vaughan said at the time it was a matter of a young team wearing down as the year progressed.

It’s been a different story for the Raiders this time around. Colgate swept Princeton and Quinnipiac on the road this weekend to move ahead of the Bobcats into sole possession of second place entering the final weekend. The Raiders are 9-2-3 in the second half, with one of those ties a shootout “win” over Minnesota in the opening game of the Mariucci Classic on Jan. 3. They followed that with a win over Ferris State in the tournament championship the next night.

“This certainly has a lot to do with maturity,” Vaughan said. “The start of the second half was really important for us in terms of confidence, when you can go on the road to Minnesota and beat the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country. And then guys just settled into their roles. In terms of chemistry, I can’t remember a team like this one that I’ve had in a long, long time. There are no egos in the locker room; they just get along so well.”

Tyson and Tylor Spink combined for five goals on the weekend, with Tyson getting his first collegiate hat trick Friday at Princeton. That 6-1 win snapped a three-game losing streak at Hobey Baker Rink for the Raiders, who enter the last weekend of the regular season on a five-game unbeaten streak.

Meanwhile, Quinnipiac has lost three league games in a row for the first time since November 2012. The injury-riddled Bobcats, who played this weekend without forward Jordan Samuels-Thomas and then lost defenseman Dan Federico against Colgate Saturday, head to Clarkson and St. Lawrence to close out the regular season.

Four teams and two spots

With Union and Colgate each locking up a first-round bye, that leaves four teams in contention for the final two top-four spots. Quinnipiac and Cornell are currently third and fourth, respectively, with Yale and Clarkson on the outside looking in.

A complete set of scenarios can be found here, but the Bobcats and Big Red each control their own destiny for their current spots.

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.

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