Quinnipiac continues to impress, while Union hits a bump

Three things gleaned from the last week in ECAC Hockey:

Union hits a road bump

No. 18 Union had its work cut out for it against No. 11 Michigan and New Hampshire. But a 5-5 tie to the Wolverines and a 5-2 loss to the Wildcats has put a dent in the Dutchmen’s early season momentum.

The team fell to 2-1-3, having allowed 10 goals in its past two games and with a 27-16 deficit in scoring margin for the season.

Michael Pontarelli leads Union with two goals and two assists, while sophomore Ryan Scarfo has three goals and one assist. Something is wrong with this team’s offense. Not exactly the start the Dutchmen were hoping for with ECAC Hockey play on the horizon.

Quinnipiac continues to impress

The Bobcats had their work cut out for them over the weekend, with a two-game series against No. 9 St. Cloud State. With two decisive wins and a 4-0 victory last Tuesday against Maine, it’s pretty safe to say this team is rolling.

Quinnipiac has allowed only eight goals through six games as goaltender Michael Garteig continues to be sharp. Garteig made a career-high 41 saves against St. Cloud State on Saturday, a 4-1 win. The Bobcats have scored 27 goals of their own and are secured tightly in the national rankings.

St. Lawrence splits with Miami

Placed at No. 17 USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll last week, St. Lawrence rebounded from a 1-0 defeat against No. 15 Miami on Friday to rediscover its offense with five goals and a 5-3 win on Saturday.

It’s sort of been the story of this Saints season — up and down play that is on some nights and totally off on others. They’ll play a Thursday-Friday series at Penn State this week, looking for a lot more consistency.

ECAC Hockey Picks: Oct. 23-24

There are a number of notable games this weekend in the ECAC, highlighted by No. 9 St. Cloud State traveling to No. 14 Quinnipiac, and No. 11 Michigan heading to New York’s Capital Region to face No. 18 Union and Rensselaer.  And finally, Harvard, Cornell, and Dartmouth begin their season with exhibition games this weekend.  All games are 7 p.m. unless noted.

No. 9 St. Cloud State at No. 9 Quinnipiac

It’s been a good start for the Huskies and Bobcats, as the team are a  combined 8-0 with five shutouts.  Quinnipiac has a plus-97 shot differential, but  the Bobcats will have a formidable opponent in St. Cloud goalie Charlie Lindgren, who hasn’t allowed a goal in three games thus far. The teams split a series in Minnesota last year, and there shouldn’t be a lot separating them this weekend either.

Friday: Quinnipiac wins

Saturday: St. Cloud wins

Western Michigan at Clarkson

Aside from a 7-1 shellacking at Merrimack last Friday, the Golden Knights have been solid  en route to a 3-1 start. Clarkson has scored 15 goals in four games this season after scoring 81 all of last season. It’s the first meeting in 20 years between the Golden Knights and the Broncos, who enter the weekend 2-0-1.  Western Michigan should present a good test for Clarkson’s offense, as the Broncos have allowed two goals in three games, and are eighteen-for-nineteen on the penalty kill.

Friday: Western Michigan wins

Saturday:  Clarkson wins

No. 15 Miami at No. 17 St. Lawrence

This looks like another series this weekend that should be incredibly close. I’m going out on a limb and predicting a Saints sweep, as Kyle Hayton has shown few signs of a sophomore slump and the St. Lawrence offense has averaged nearly three-and-half goals per game thus far.

Friday: St. Lawrence wins

Saturday: St. Lawrence wins

RIT at Colgate (Friday, 7:05 p.m.); Colgate at RIT (Saturday, 7:05 p.m.)

The Raiders return to action after having last weekend off. It’s been a bit of a rough start for Colgate, but an even rougher start for RIT, as the Tigers are 0-2-1 and have been outscored 13-3.

Friday:  Colgate wins

Saturday: Colgate wins

No. 11 Michigan at No. 18 Union (Friday, 7:30 p.m.)

It’s only the second time these teams have ever met, with Union beating the Wolverines 6-3 in the first matchup in 2011. The game also marks a homecoming for former Union sports information director Jeff Weinstein, who now works in the same capacity for Michigan. I  could see this one going either way, but I’ll give a slight edge to the home team.  Union wins

New Hampshire at No. 18 Union (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.)

The Wildcats have scored plenty of goals, but have also given them up at a high clip as well. This should be a good test for a Union defense that has been rock solid through the first two weeks of the season. Union wins

No. 11 Michigan at Rensselaer (Saturday, 7:07 p.m.)

RPI had a rough time at the Brice Alaska Goal Rush, losing third-period leads in each of its two games in Alaska.  The Engineers can’t afford any slipups against a Wolverines team that has nine goals in two games this season. Michigan wins


Previewing Quinnipiac and Maine

One non-conference game is set for tonight, with Maine traveling to No. 14 Quinnipiac for the sixth-ever matchup between the teams. The Bobcats beat Arizona State 5-0 Thursday, while Maine is coming off a tie and a loss against Union last weekend.

Maine has been strong defensively but hasn’t scored much in the early going, entering tonight with five goals in four games. That will need to change if the Black Bears want a chance for a win against high-scoring Bobcats team that has outshot its opponents 131-54 over the first three games of the season. I’m predicting a win for the Bobcats to move to 4-0.

Union, Quinnipiac remain unbeaten; RPI returns home empty handed

Defense was a problem for Union last year, but the Dutchmen have allowed five goals through the season’s first four games, including only one in two games against Maine last weekend.

Union is allowing 31 shots per game, but junior Alex Sakellaropoulos and freshman Jake Kupsky have combined for a .955 save percentage thus far. Kupsky, a San Jose draft pick, had a shutout in his first career start Saturday against Maine. Union’s penalty kill is a perfect fourteen-for-fourteen so far.

The offense hasn’t picked up for Union, as the Dutchmen are averaging just over two goals per game and are one-for-seventeen on the power play.  The goals should start to come, and if Union can keep up its steady defensive play, the Dutchmen should be able to rebound from last year’s tenth-place finish.

At 2-0-2, Union joins Quinnipiac as the only unbeaten ECAC teams through the season’s first two weeks.

Engineers Go Winless in Alaska

It’s a long flight home from Alaska to New York, but it was probably even longer for Rensselaer over the weekend.

The Engineers had third-period leads in both games of the Brice Alaska Gold Rush, but ended the tournament with losses against Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Fairbanks.  RPI led 3-2 Friday before the Seawolves scored two goals late in the third to come away with the win.

On Saturday, the Engineers led 2-0 after one but didn’t score again and lost 3-2, despite a career-high 47 saves from goalie Jason Kasdorf. The senior has made 30 or more saves in three of RPI’s four games this season.

The Engineers have a number of freshmen in the lineup, but also have a large senior class and a steady goalie in Kasdorf, making the late collapses puzzling.

Quinnipiac Blanks Sun Devils

There have been occasions the last few years when Quinnipiac thoroughly out-played and out-possessed an inferior team, only to run into a hot goaltender and come out with a loss.

Those first two points were true Thursday against Arizona State, as the Bobcats outshot the Sun Devils  57-14, with Arizona State goalie Ryland Pashovitz making 52 saves in a 5-0 QU win. It was the first time an ECAC team played the Sun Devils, as the program is in its first season of Division I competition.

Bobcats freshman Thomas Aldworth had two goals and an assist for the Bobcats, and could join Landon Smith and Sam Anas as players making an offensive impact as a rookie.

Weekend picks for Oct. 16-17

Here’s a look at the games involving ECAC Hockey teams on Friday, Oct. 16, and Saturday, Oct. 17:

Maine at Union

After defeating Boston University late last weekend, Union will take on Maine in a two-game series at home. The Black Bears are 0-0-2 after ties with Michigan State (3-3 on Friday, Oct. 9) and North Dakota (1-1 on Saturday, Oct. 10). Freshman Rob McGovern made 44 saves for Maine in the tie against North Dakota. The Dutchmen have won the last four meetings with Maine, including a sweep of the season series a year ago 3-0 and 5-2. Union is 12-1-1 in its last 14 games against Hockey East opponents.

Friday: Union 3, Maine 1
Saturday: Union 5, Maine 2

Rensselaer vs. Alaska-Anchorage, Alaska in Alaska Goal Rush

It was quite the weekend for Rensselaer, falling 3-0 to UMass-Lowell before taking down first-ranked Boston College 2-1. Junior Riley Bourbonnais scored two goals and senior goaltender Jason Kasdorf stopped 36 of 37 shots over the Eagles. But RPI is definitely feeling the effects of early injuries, as freshman defensemen Meirs Moore suited up as a forward for both of RPI’s games last weekend. RPI will hope for more magic as its makes the long haul to Alaska this weekend for games against Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska, where RPI is 0-2-1 historically.

Friday: RPI 4, Alaska-Anchorage 3
Saturday: Alaska 2, RPI 0

No. 19 St. Lawrence at New Hampshire, Merrimack

The Saints will open their road season this weekend against New Hampshire and Merrimack. St. Lawrence had an incredible weekend offensively, as nine different players scored goals and 15 different players contributed as the Saints swept Niagara (5-2) and Rochester Institute of Technology (5-1). They outshot their opponents 85-47 over the weekend. St. Lawrence has an advantage historically over both UNH and Merrimack, and is 14-1-1 against Merrimack — its only loss a 3-2 defeat in North Andover in 1986. With the Saints firing on all cylinders early, it’s hard to imagine the offense not continuing to click.

Friday: St. Lawrence 5, New Hampshire 2
Saturday: St. Lawrence 6, Merrimack 4

Clarkson at Merrimack, New Hampshire

The Golden Knights will go the opposite direction as St. Lawrence this weekend, taking on Merrimack on Friday and New Hampshire on Saturday. Clarkson had 14 players contribute offensively with at least a point in its two-game sweep last weekend. But what was more impressive was its power play. Clarkson went 4-for-9 with the man advantage and was perfect on the penalty kill. Despite this, Merrimack has won its last three meetings against Clarkson, including two shootouts, while UNH has defeated Clarkson in its last five meetings.

Friday: Clarkson 3, Merrimack 2
Saturday: UNH 5, Clarkson 3

What we learned on ECAC Hockey’s first full weekend

Things to think about after the first weekend of ECAC Hockey play:

1. Colgate is having a rough start

After splitting a two-game series with Mercyhurst last weekend, Colgate continued its slide Saturday against Northeastern — a 2-1 loss that puts it at 1-2 early this season.

Junior goaltender Charlie Finn stopped 41 shots in the loss, only the second time in his career that he’s been called for such a heavy workload. But offense has been Colgate’s bread and butter, and the weird thing is that it seems to be working — Tyson Spink leads the ECAC with six goals and five assists this season. But somehow that isn’t translating into wins.

Colgate was 0-for-5 on the power play, while Northeastern held a 43-17 shot advantage. For an unranked team against Colgate’s highly touted offensive prowess, Saturday’s contest looked like a mismatch. Then again, maybe not.

2. Clarkson, St. Lawrence find ways to score

A traditionally defense-first, grind-it-out type of team, Clarkson seems to be finding its offensive groove early and often this season, with two wins against RIT and Niagara to start the year 2-0.

But what’s more impressive is the way the Golden Knights are winning games. Through two games, they have accumulated a 10-1 goal differential, including four power-play goals to lead the ECAC early this season. A.J. Fossen leads Clarkson with two goals and one assist, while Brett Gervais has one goal and three assists.

After a 6-0 victory (vs. RIT) and a 4-1 victory on Saturday (vs. Niagara), Clarkson looks like it has found some offense that can, perhaps, carry it to the next level.

St. Lawrence has similarly found its offense, scoring 10 goals this weekend from nine different players in two victories vs. Niagara (5-2 on Friday) and RIT (5-1 on Saturday).

3. Union splits on weekend

After playing to a 1-1 tie against Sacred Heart on Friday, Union mustered its offense and followed goaltender Alex Sakellaropoulos to a 5-3 victory over No. 3 ranked Boston University — scoring three times in the third period to secure the win.

It was Union coach Rick Bennett’s 100th career victory, which was even more impressive in that it came against such a highly ranked opponent. The Dutchmen handed BU a loss on its season opener, powered by Nick DeSimone, Sebastian Vidmar and Eli Lichtenwald, who put Union ahead just three minutes into the third period. If the win Saturday was a sign of things to come, this Union team may be one to watch down the road.

A look around ECAC Hockey, Oct. 9-11

It’s opening weekend for many ECAC Hockey teams. St. Lawrence, Clarkson, Union, Quinnipiac and Rensselaer all begin their 2015-16 campaigns, some against powerful Hockey East schools like Boston College, UMass-Lowell and Northeastern while NCAA spoiler Rochester Institute of Technology makes its rounds against ECAC opponents.

Friday, Oct. 9

Niagara at St. Lawrence
St. Lawrence will open its regular season with a pair of games against Atlantic Hockey opponents in Niagara and RIT at Appleton Arena. The Saints improved to 6-1-1 in their last eight exhibition games against Canadian schools with a 5-3 victory over Carleton last Saturday. The Saints are 5-3-1 historically against Niagara, with goaltender Kyle Hayton beginning his sophomore campaign in the spotlight for St. Lawrence.

RIT at Clarkson
The Golden Knights will open their 25th season at Cheel Arena against defending Atlantic Hockey champions RIT. History’s on Clarkson’s side, however, as the Golden Knights boast an 11-game unbeaten streak against the Tigers dating to 1983 (9-0-2 in that stretch, 11-2-3 overall). Clarkson defeated RIT 3-1 in Rochester on Oct. 11 last season.

Sacred Heart at Union
It’s a bounce-back year for Union, which looks to get back to its success of 2013-14 beginning with a Friday night matchup against the Pioneers. Starting goaltender Alex Sakellaropoulos begins his season as the undisputed starter and 50-point scorer Mike Vecchione returns to the ice for Union.

Quinnipiac at Holy Cross
The Bobcats will play a home-and-home series to start their season with Holy Cross on Friday and Saturday nights. Quinnipiac took the series 4-2 and 4-1 to begin their campaign last year, but the departure of defenseman Danny Federico, defenseman Justin Agosta and forward Matthew Peca are big shoes to fill entering this season.

Rensselaer at UMass-Lowell
The Engineers struggled last weekend against St. Thomas, a 3-2 overtime loss. Rensselaer has to hope for a different result against much stronger competition in Lowell, with goaltender and NHL draft pick Jason Kasdorf beginning his senior season.

Saturday, Oct. 10

Colgate at Northeastern
Starting the season with a 1-1 split against Mercyhurst last weekend, the Raiders are looking for more consistency after a 5-2 victory that proceeded a 9-7 offensive explosion. Colgate trailed 7-3 before rallying to tie, only to see the Lakers get the win. Colgate will continue to shine the spotlight on its big guns up front, including Tyson Spink (five points last weekend) and Mike Borkowski (three goals in the 9-7 loss).

Boston University at Union
Union will finish up its weekend with a matchup against Jack Eichel-less Boston University. The Terriers are the highest nationally ranked opponent to play at Messa Rink since No. 1 Yale lost to Union 3-2 in 2011.

RIT at St. Lawrence
The Saints will hope for a better result after falling to RIT 5-2 on the road in their season opener last season. St. Lawrence is 9-5 historically against the Tigers, including 6-1 at home.

Niagara at Clarkson
Clarkson will look to history to help it get a piece of the Purple Eagles on Saturday. The Knights are 8-4-2 historically against Niagara, winning the last three meetings, all on the road. Last season, Clarkson defeated Niagara in its season opener 3-1, a game in which Steve Perry, Clarkson’s starting goaltender, made 12 saves in the victory and enjoyed a 28-13 shot advantage.

Sunday, Oct. 11

Boston College at Rensselaer
Rensselaer has its work cut out for it against the No. 1 team in the nation. For an offense that managed just 1.88 goals per game last season, the Engineers certainly have a steep hill to climb. In 2013, goaltender Jason Kasdorf was injured in a game against BC, forcing him to hang up his skates for the season early.

Here we go: 2015-16 ECAC Hockey season set to get underway

Last season was the first time in two years that the ECAC didn’t have a team playing in the final game of the season.

If a league team returns to the national championship game this April for the third time in four years, it will be a fitting bit of symmetry for the 2015-16 season, as Colgate and Mercyhurst play the first official game of the year today at 7 p.m..

The Raiders have made it to the last two ECAC title games in Lake Placid, and despite losing forward Kyle Baun and defenseman Ryan Johnston to the pros over the offseason, Colgate should be in the thick of things again this year.

Mercyhurst and the Raiders  conclude the two-game series with a 4 p.m. start Sunday. I’ll take Colgate in both games.

Other league teams are set to play exhibition games this weekend, with Clarkson, St. Lawrence, Rensselaer, and Quinnipiac all hosting Canadian schools.

We’ll roll out a full ECAC preview next Friday, but in the mean time, check out a look at some of the top defensemen, forwards, and goalies profiled by USCHO as the new season begins. Several league players made each list.

And finally, some coverage notes as the season gets underway:

In case you’re unaware, colleague Brian Sullivan has moved on from my partner on the ECAC beat.  He’ll still check in throughout the year, so look for some features from him and thoughts on Twitter (@Sullivanhockey).

I mentioned it this summer when the news became official, but it was a great experience working with Brian. This December will mark four years since I began this position, and Brian’s reporting and knowledge on the league was invaluable to me, as well as the many readers we’ve interacted with over the years.

With that said, please welcome Josh Weinreb to USCHO. He’s an experienced reporter and should be a great addition this season.  Check him out on Twitter (@JoshWeinreb).

Look back next week for the season previews, and be sure to keep up-to-date with the blog, as Josh and I will post our weekly picks on Friday and share some thoughts on the past weekend each Monday.

Colgate falls just short, while Yale gets a second life

The league wrapped up its second championship weekend  back at Lake Placid, with Harvard beating Colgate 4-2 to win its first Whitelaw Cup since 2006. That’s also the last time the Crimson made the NCAA Tournament.

Quinnipiac, who lost in the opening game to Harvard, and Yale, who lost in last weekend’s quarterfinal series against the Crimson, are the other two ECAC teams in the national tournament. The league’s three teams in the tournament are tied with Hockey East for the second-most in the country.

The Bulldogs faced long odds to make the sixteen-team field entering the weekend, but the Crimson and Boston University winning their respective conference title games helped Yale sneak into the tournament; similar to what happened in 2013. That year ended with the Bulldogs winning that national title in Pittsburgh. Check back throughout the week for more on the three league teams participating in NCAA tournament play.

Raiders fall just short

Despite a number of key injuries, Colgate actually improved its overall record from last season’s NCAA team, finishing with two more wins and upping its winning percentage by nearly 50 points.

Picked to finish first in both the coaches and media preseason polls, the Raiders ended the regular season with a six-game unbeaten streak to earn the league’s final bye, and then swept Dartmouth in the quarterfinals to advance to Lake Placid for the second straight season.

There’s little reason to think Colgate won’t be in the mix next year. The Raiders lose captains Joe Wilson and Spiro Goulakos, as well as defenseman Brendan Corcoran and forwards John Lidgett, Daniel Gentzler and Brooks Herrington.  Barring any early departures, Colgate returns  forwards Kyle Baun, Mike Borkowski, Darcy Murphy, and Tylor and Tyson Spink.  Those five, along with goalie Charlie Finn and a steady defensive group, should have the Raiders in good position next season.

Yale gets a second life

With a .641 overall winning percentage and the nation’s top-ranked defense, there’s little doubting Yale’s NCAA tournament credentials. Still, the Bulldogs had to wait out this weekend after losing to Harvard in the ECAC quarterfinals last Sunday.  But the Crimson’s win over Colgate in the ECAC title game Saturday helped bump Yale back into the tournament picture.

Yale is a four seed in the Northeast Regional in Manchester, N.H. and plays Boston University  Friday at 2 p.m. The Terriers have a high-scoring offense led by Hobey Baker Candidate Jack Eichel as well as forwards Evan Rodrigues and Danny O’Regan.  But Bulldogs sophomore Alex Lyon has been sensational in net, leading the nation in goals-against-average, save percentage, and shutouts. Yale has an excellent defensive group as well, led by senior captain Tommy Fallen and junior Rob O’Gara, an ECAC first-team selection as well as the league’s top defensive defenseman.

Pro signings

As is always the case this time of year, a flurry of seniors signed professional contracts once their respective teams were eliminated from postseason play.

It didn’t take long for several of them to make an immediate impact. Former Brown forward Matt Lorito scored the game-winning goal for the AHL’s Albany Devils in his pro debut on Saturday. Former Union forward Daniel Ciampini had a goal and an assist in his third for the Worcester Sharks in a 6-1 win over Lehigh Valley on Saturday. Playing for the Phantoms was former Cornell forward Cole Bardreau, who skated in all three games for Lehigh Valley this weekend, scoring a goal Friday in his pro debut at Hartford.

Another notable signing was Union goalie Colin Stevens, who helped the Dutchmen win the national title last year. Stevens signed a two-year deal with the Florida Panthers, but has yet to appear in any professional games to date.

ECAC Hockey picks: The final countdown

Let’s get right to it. All three games will be broadcast on Fox College Sports.

Friday, March 20

6 Harvard vs. 1 Quinnipiac 4:05

On USCHO Live! this week, hosts Jimmy Connelly and Ed Trefzger did exactly what I knew they would, and asked me to pick the ECAC champion. I hemmed and hawed, like you do, but in the end I said what I will say here: If talent wins out, Harvard hoists the Whitelaw come Saturday evening. The problems are the obvious intangibles: Injuries, nerves, luck, and so forth. Quinnipiac has had an abundance – some would say overabundance – of effort, health, and luck this season, and the Bobcats have parlayed that hard work and good fortune into a bubble spot for the NCAA Tournament. Harvard, however, has had lots of bad luck and bad injuries, and some could definitely argue that the Crimson did not give every game their all in January and February. That may be true, but effort, grit, and health seem to be back in the fold for Harvard, at least if last weekend is any indication.

I’ll take the Crimson in a thriller, 4-3.

3 Colgate vs. 2 St. Lawrence 7:35

Colgate is an enigma. The Raiders baffle, year in and year out… perhaps it is in part due to the school’s not-quite-anywhere location, or the team’s (and coaches’) under-the-radar persona. Overshadowed by Cornell locally, buried behind the Ivies and Unions and Quinnipiacs regionally, and playing for a nationally underappreciated or at the very least secondary league, Colgate has a way of slipping through every crack. The Raiders had a chance to rise above their local, regional, and even national competitors this season with a dynamite lineup coming off a resoundingly successful 2013-14 campaign. They could not rise. A solid opening (9-3-1) deflated to a 9-6-1 first-half record, and while Colgate went 10-5-3 after the holidays, it was never the ascension-to-power narrative that many – myself included – foresaw for the Raiders back in September. Colgate is on a 6-0-1 tear, outscoring opponents 21-9 over that stretch. It’s a good time to get hot, but I’m not sure Colgate-hot is good enough to match the siege-happy Saints. SLU is 12-5-2 since the Christmas break, allowing three goals in a game just five times in those 19 games (1-3-1). If Colgate can get to three, the Raiders are in a great spot Friday night… but if not, that leaves SLU at 11-2-1 when battening down the hatches. This may sound a little simplistic, but sometimes simple works. For the record, Colgate has scored three or more in five of its last seven.

My pick? The “home team”, North Country’s SLU Saints, 3-2.

Saturday, March 21

Am I a chicken for not filing a championship prediction? Perhaps… I prefer to see it as saving material for Saturday morning. Check back tonight or tomorrow for my take on the finale.

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