Chris Izmirlian scored in OT to lift the Bulldogs past Merrimack last Saturday.
It’s been a long time… and we’re sorry.
ECAC Hockey fans are sorry that the league hasn’t put a team in the title game in 23 years. We’re sorry it’s been two dozen seasons since a conference member finished on top. We apologize for being dismissed, marginalized, underrated, ignored, and downright insulted for our opinion, pride, and belief that ECAC Hockey is as competitive a league as any other in Division 1 (and twice as smart). We’re sorry that half of the league’s teams are Ivy League institutions, and that the other half are small private schools that prioritize the “student” part over the “athlete” part. We’re sorry that ECAC teams have to travel so often to play top programs, because top programs are loathe to play dangerous teams in small markets.
And we’re sorry to be so damned thrilled by this year’s national title tilt. Yale, we’re proud of you; Quinnipiac, we’re proud of you, too… and to the rest of the nation, we are sorry about one thing most of all: We’re really not sorry at all.
Notes from home
I’ve known all year that I would be unavailable for the Frozen Four – life calls, ya know? But boy, is the universe rubbing it in with the Connecticut Derby match for all the marbles. Not only did ECAC Hockey put a team in the title game, but two… and both from my soon-to-be home, as I’m moving to New Haven in the summer. (Just watch, next year Harvard will play BU for the crown.)
A few notes from the Twitterverse, and some info for the uninitiated:
• It’s been said before, and I’ll say it again until it stops being amazing and hilarious: The NCAA National Championship game is a rematch of the ECAC Hockey Consolation Game. The freakin’ third-place game!
• Yale and Quinnipiac are eight miles apart, in the neighboring cities of New Haven and Hamden, Conn, respectively. The last time there were two teams from the same league in the championship game was 2005, when Denver topped North Dakota in Columbus, Ohio. The last two rivals (if Yale will ever admit to the rivalry) to compete in the title game were Maine and New Hampshire in Anaheim, Calif. in 1999.
The last time there were two teams from the same state fighting for the trophy was also the last time there were two squads from the same metropolitan area in the championship game: Boston University downed Boston College in Providence, R.I. in 1978. (Those teams were each in the ECAC at that point, as well, so there’s that trivial tidbit to boot.) BU and BC are about three miles apart… so that was the last time the championship featured two teams so geographically close.
The last time two current ECAC teams played each other for the whole shebang was 1970, when Cornell beat Clarkson 6-4.
Q: Did you start PIT native Jesse Root on purpose? Yale HC Allain: I started him on purpose because he centers our top line! #frozenfour
— Julie Robenhymer (@JulieRobenhymer) April 12, 2013
• Some love for the pep bands: The Yale Precision Marching Band (YPMB) plays my all-time favorite pep-band tune following Bulldogs wins – “Beatdown Stomp”, originally by Skabba the Hut. The original song is fitting, and it sounds so delightfully perky in YPMB form, with tubas leading the way. You caught some of it at the end of ESPN’s Game 1 coverage last night.
Meanwhile, the QUPB (Quinnipiac University Pep Band) honors Connecticut’s hockey legacy with a solid rendition of “Brass Bonanza”. This was the Hartford Whalers’ theme and goal song (Brian Burke’s influence notwithstanding), and it is a staple of Connecticut hockey fandom to this day.
• The ice seemed incredibly hard, especially during the Yale-UML game. Players’ edges were failing to catch, leading to lots of awkward and unusual slips and falls, and the puck was bouncing funny… it was uncomfortable to watch. For those who do not skate often, there is a relatively wide range of playable surfaces, with last night’s being at the coldest end of the spectrum. (The colder the ice, the harder it is, and the less traction players get.) Note Wetmore’s breakaway attempt against Yale, where he simply could not dig in and control his movements in close after a speedy half-ice rush. Also note Hartzell’s failure-to-catch on St. Cloud’s only goal: Hartzell’s skate simply slid out instead of catching for a push-off, leading the goalie to slip and fall, giving SCSU an effectively open net.
Colleague Paula Weston confirmed that the arena itself was positively frigid during the first game; perhaps the CONSOL Energy Center ice crew didn’t anticipate a late-arriving crowd and therefore failed to compensate for the ambient temperature. Just a theory; we’ll see how the sheet looks on Saturday.
Now for the compulsory annual rant against ESPN. I’m happy that college hockey gets any coverage at all – it’s a niche sport, and fans of, say, NCAA field hockey or water polo or cross-country would kill for the airtime we enjoy. That said, it is a shame that ESPN has (and will have for quite some time) the rights to the NCAA hockey postseason when other networks (notably NBC Sports Network) actually show interest in the game during the regular season. Every sports fan knows that ESPN doesn’t give a lick about hockey at any level, but they are required to broadcast a multitude of NCAA championship events as part of their agreement to show big-ticket sports like basketball and football.
John Buccigross is a swell guy; he is kind and enthusiastic and a sincere hockey fan… but he simply isn’t as much of an expert as he thinks he is (and it’s hard to blame him: ESPN probably doesn’t give him much time or opportunity to research sports it doesn’t cover). He also isn’t a polished play-by-play announcer, so his affectations and presentation are a bit… well, unusual. (Note to Bucci: We get it; Jesse Root is from Pittsburgh. You don’t need to mention that fact literally every time you say his name.)
Meanwhile, Barry Melrose has done little to shed his reputation as an apathetic bumbler when it comes to college players. He certainly knows his X’s and O’s – he was an NHL head coach, he knows strategy just fine – but he is clearly uninterested in the research aspect of broadcasting. He mis-pronounces names (last week referring to QU goalie Eric Hartzell as “Hartnell” on multiple occasions, and utterly surrendering on Canisius goaltender Capobianco, ultimately settling for “the goalie” when required). He confuses teams (introducing Massachusetts-Lowell as the RedHawks – a la Miami – rather than the Riverhawks). He and Dave Starman were filling essentially the same role last night, except I have much greater confidence in Starman’s ability to stick the landing on “Laganiere”.
Proposed drinking-game triggers for Saturday’s coverage:
• Any variation on “Pittsburgh native Jesse Root”
• Melrose butchers a name
• Buccigross shifts awkwardly from an excited call to a hushed whisper
• Images on the screen don’t match the commentary (e.g. discussion about Hartzell while the screen shows Hellebuyck)
• Explanation of college-specific rules (e.g. hybrid icing)
• Buccigross uses cutesy phrases (e.g. “holy shnikes”, “twisted wrister”, “ziggin’ and zaggin’”… all of which were used last night)
• Any variation on the phrase “For the first time…”
• On-air ads for, or mention of, golf coverage
There was an awkward moment during Game 1 action when UML took a penalty, and as ESPN was cutting to commercial, it showed the Riverhawks fans chanting – up close and very clearly – “bull****”. Well done, production crew. Elsewhere, I’m not sure what the true volume in the arena was like of course, but it sounded awfully muffled on TV. I hope it wasn’t that quiet in person.
All that said, credit to ESPN for finally giving us college hockey analysis during a college hockey intermission. In years past, the network had simply cut to SportsCenter-style highlights from other sports, effectively ignoring what had just happened or what was about to happen in the game at hand.
Showing my true colors
Finally, I engaged in a brief Twitter discussion with other fans and writers about the appropriateness of purchasing championship apparel from whomever wins Saturday night. My take: As a journalist, I try to be impartial, which is to say I make every effort to be fair in and about my coverage. That said, I do not prefer any ECAC Hockey team over any other, but I do prefer ECAC programs over all others (excepting, occasionally, BU – my alma mater). Therefore, given the circumstances, I would like to commemorate this historic occasion (I mean, 23 years is a long time) with a hat or t-shirt.
Nobody has argued that it would be inappropriate or unprofessional yet; colleagues have said that they have or would have done the same for their leagues’ title-winners, too. So, is there any reason why I shouldn’t revel in this impossible dream to the fullest extent?
Moment(s) of Zen
I’m saving these pictures forever.
Three ECAC teams are set to play in the NCAA Tournament this weekend. There’s Yale, who was shutout twice last weekend in Atlantic City; Quinnipiac, who lost out at a chance at the program’s first Whitelaw Cup with a 4-0 loss to Brown in the semifinals; and Union, who enters the tournament off their second straight Whitelaw Cup, and are arguably playing the best they have all year.
Check Brian Sullivan’s regional preview for Yale, while my look at Quinnipiac and Union can be found here. I’ll roll out the next wave of picks as the weekend goes on. Brian and I will be in Providence Saturday and Sunday; check back for updates.
The complete television listing for the tournament is here.
Friday, March 29
No. 15 Yale vs. No. 2 Minnesota, 2 p.m. ET
Yale followed a dominating sweep of St. Lawrence with a dud in Atlantic City. The Bulldogs shutdown Saints’ forwards Kyle Flanagan and Greg Carey two weeks ago, but were outscored 8-0 at Boardwalk Hall. Just goes to show how much can change in a short time. Minnesota and Yale haven’t faced each other since 2002, when the Golden Gophers beat the Bulldogs 7-3 in the Dodge Holiday Classic. It’s going to take awful lot to bounce back against the Golden Gophers, and based on last weekend, I’m not sure the Bulldogs have it in them. Minnesota wins
Saturday, March 30
No. 15 Yale vs. No. 8 North Dakota, 4 p.m. ET
Man, was I was wrong about the Bulldogs yesterday. Yale looked like a much better team than last week, jumping out to a 2-0 lead over Minnesota. Yes, they the Golden Gophers tied it, but give credit to Yale for sending the game to overtime and then ending it quickly. North Dakota trailed Niagara 1-0 after two periods, but scored twice in the third for the win. Yale wins
No. 16 Canisius vs. No. 1 Quinnipiac, 5:30 p.m. ET
These former MAAC members meet with just one NCAA appearance between them (Quinnipiac in 2002). A lot of focus will be on Hobey Finalist Eric Hartzell, but don’t overlook Canisius goalie Tony Capobianco, who has a .951 save percentage over the last seven games. The Golden Griffins enter the tournament on a nation-best eight game unbeaten streak, while Quinnipiac has slowed down a bit since their 21-game unbeaten streak earlier in the year. Still, I think the Bobcats will have enough to get the program’s first NCAA win. This game will be televised locally on the New England Sports Network. Quinnipiac wins
No. 12 Union vs. No. 5 Boston College, 9 p.m. ET
The Dutchmen and Eagles are picking a heck of a time for their first meeting. There’s a consensus that the winner of this game could very well make it to the title game in Pittsburgh, something I could see happening. Union is playing very well and has a hot goalie in Troy Grosenick. The Dutchmen are a skilled team that can keep pace with the Eagles, and have the ability to convert turnovers into scoring opportunities. I wouldn’t be surprised if this game goes either way, but I’m taking the Dutchmen simply due to their hot play of late. Union wins
Sunday, March 31
No. 3 Union vs. No. 1 Quinnipiac
There will be two ECAC teams in the Frozen Four for the first time since 1983. Give Quinnipiac credit for their rally last night, but if the Dutchmen play the way they did against Boston College,I see them advancing to their second straight Frozen Four. Union wins
Was it dramatic? No. Was it boisterous? No. Was it inspiring? Not really.
Ah, but was it predictable? Never… not in ECAC Hockey.
Union marched to its second consecutive ECAC tournament title in Atlantic City, and – all things considered – the Dutchmen are probably the only folks will enjoyed the three-year A.C. experiment, having hoisted the trophy twice at Boardwalk Hall. This also marked the third time in four years that Union played in the league’s season finale, and the third consecutive NCAA berth for the Schenectady program.
Well for a little while there, it looked perfectly reasonable to think that five ECAC squads might make the NCAA’s. My, my, but weren’t those halcyon days… as a matter of hours later, we felt fortunate to have three again.
RPI was the first team bumped off the bubble with Friday’s wild and tumultuous results, as eight of Division 1′s 10 semifinal games went to the underdog. Eight out of 10! Brown was next out, falling to Union in the conference’s title tilt – Bruno never had a shot beyond the auto-bid, so that was hardly a twist of fate.
And then there was the Yale debacle. Once considered a functional lock for the big dance, the Bulldogs utterly failed to show up this weekend: Friday’s 5-0 loss to Union suddenly put the Elis in a precarious PairWise position, but even that didn’t seem to spur the Blue as they were shut out again on Saturday – 3-0 – against rival Quinnipiac. Not sure what happened (more on that in a moment), but Notre Dame bucked the weekend’s trend by downing underdog Michigan in the final CCHA final to secure Yale a spot in the field of 16.
All told, it was a weekend of wild results; it’s a shame for the ECAC at least, the excitement was more in the results than in the product on the ice.
Perhaps it was only fitting: The Bulldogs didn’t show up on the ice, so why should we have expected them to appear for a press conference?
Yale ditched the obligatory post-game presser following the consolation-game loss, with nary a word of explanation. Per colleague Nate Owen, who was live at the scene:
“[The media] waited for a few minutes… someone went back to find [Yale], said they were showering and would be out. Then they came back and said they had already gotten on the bus and left.”
Nate added that ECAC Hockey Assistant Commissioner Ed Krajewski, who MC’ed the weekend’s press conferences, “was pretty sheepish when he said they weren’t coming out.”
Head coach Keith Allain has developed a reputation as a tough quote – he is on the opposite end of the spectrum from Rensselaer’s Seth Appert, Brown’s Brendan Whittet, or Dartmouth’s Bob Gaudet in that respect – but, as frustrating as that may be to the media, tweren’t no crime.
No-showing one of the league’s major pressers, on the other hand, is unprofessional.
I have never had a personal problem with Allain, nor – to the best of my knowledge – has he with me, but this action deserves attention for its gross impertinence. Yale is a great team at a great school, with a great history, great recruiting, great coaching, a great support staff, and great local support as well. I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on if I criticized any of these aspects of the program.
But deliberately hanging Krajewski, the league he represents, and the media – most of whom traveled great distances to cover Allain’s team, among others – out to dry… well, that’s a great disrespect.
Per the Yale sports information department, Allain had no comment on the issue on Monday morning.
ECAC Hockey will be well-represented at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence next weekend, as both QU and Union are in the mix… and Brown is the host program.
The Bobcats will tangle with Atlantic Hockey champion Canisius (19-18-5) in Saturday’s 5:30 opener, while Union draws defending national champion Boston College (22-11-4) for the 9pm contest. Yale was sent out West to grapple with overall No. 2 seed Minnesota in Grand Rapids, Mich., at 2:00 on Friday.
Much more on all three participants in the regional previews, out on Wednesday. Catch up with all of our weekend’s ECAC material – along with comprehensive coverage of the other leagues – on USCHO’s front page, if you haven’t already. Also, don’t miss the annual USCHO Pickem, with chances to win prizes (and to make up for that Georgetown blunder on your squeakball bracket).
It’s that time of year again. Get excited… good luck to ECAC Hockey.
Looking for an incisive breakdown of your team’s PairWise potentialities?
Well, if your fan isn’t from ECAC Hockey, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Here’s how things are looking for the ECAC:
• Rensselaer is eliminated. This drops the maximum number of ECAC representatives to three, but all four teams that are playing today are eligible.
• Union and Brown must win tomorrow to play on. If there is a set of results that will land either team in the NCAA Tournament despite a Saturday loss, I haven’t found it.
• Quinnipiac is a lock… and not only that, but a lock for the very top seed. Got a problem with that? Take it up with the NCAA.
• Yale is on good footing, but has yet to seal its NCAA invitation. A win, and it would appear the Bulldogs are in; a loss, and the Blue will be rooting against anyone behind them in the PairWise.
If you’re looking for as many ECAC Hockey participants as possible, root for Brown and Yale in Atlantic City. Root for Miami or Notre Dame in the CCHA, Massachusetts-Lowell over Boston University in Hockey East, and Wisconsin in the WCHA. Atlantic Hockey has minimal implications at this point.
Coach of the Year: Rand Pecknold, QU
Player of the Year: Eric Hartzell, QU
Goaltender of the Year: Eric Hartzell, QU
Best Defensive Defenseman: Zach Davies, QU
Best Defensive Forward: Greg Miller, Cornell
Rookie of the Year: Jason Kasdorf, RPI
All-ECAC Hockey Teams
F Greg Carey, SLU
F Kyle Flanagan, SLU
F Andrew Miller, Yale
D Nick Bailen, RPI
D George Hughes, SLU
G Eric Hartzell, QU
F Kenny Agostino, Yale
F Andrew Calof, Princeton
F Matt Lorito, Brown
D Mike Keenan, Dartmouth
D Shayne Gostisbehere, Union
G Jason Kasdorf, RPI
F Daniel Carr, Union
F Jeremy Langlois, QU
F Greg Miller, Cornell
D Mat Bodie, Union
D Zach Davies, QU
G Anthony Borelli, Brown
F Kyle Baun, Colgate
F Tylor Spink, Colgate
F Jimmy Vesey, Harvard
D Paul Geiger, Clarkson
D Ryan Obuchowski, Yale
G Jason Kasdorf, RPI
Nate: Last week: 2-2
Overall (playoffs): 6-2
Three of the of the top four teams in the regular season standings meet in Atlantic City this weekend to decide this year’s ECAC champion.
No. 7 Brown is the only team out of the top four to make it to the finals weekend, although I wouldn’t call that an upset given the Bears’ play of late. Including the playoffs, Brown is 6-2-1 over the last month.
Two teams are seeking their first league title, although both Brown and Quinnipiac meet in Friday’s opening game, so a new champion isn’t guaranteed. Union is looking for its second title in a row, while Yale is trying to make it two in three years after getting knocked out in the quarterfinals last season.
Arena reporter Brian Farrell and I will be at Boardwalk Hall for all four games, so be sure to check in for live coverage all weekend long. All four games will be broadcast by Fox Sports Atlantic, and each game will also be streamed online.
Brian Sullivan: I, lamentably, will be missing the ECAC Championship Weekend for the first time in a long time… life intervenes, unfortunately. That said, I will be assisting Nate and Brian Farrell with coverage from afar, and I will even make some picks! Read on…
Friday, March 22
No. 7 Brown vs. No. 1 Quinnipiac, 4 p.m.
Season series: 0-0-2
Nate: This is the third year in a row these team have met in the postseason, although the two prior matchups where first-round series in Hamden, both of which were won by the Bobcats. I don’t buy the fact that a double-overtime Game 3 was a sign that Quinnipiac is slumping at the finish line. Cornell entered the postseason as one of the hottest teams in the conference, and gave the Bobcats a good test, minus Game 2′s 10-0 shellacking.
Both games between the teams this year ended in a tie, with the Bobcats scoring a late second-period goal Feb. 1 in a 1-1 draw, and Brown rallying for two third-period goals Feb. 23 for a 3-3 final.
I’ve got a sneaky feeling about Brown this weekend. Like Quinnipiac, the Bears emphasis defense first, and keep just about everything to the outside. It’s a toss up in goal between Brown’s Anthony Borelli and QU’s Eric Hartzell, both whom have been outstanding this year. With the exception of the Bears’ Matt Lorito, I think the Bobcats have the edge in offensive talent. I’m picking them to advance to the championship game, but it will be close. Quinnipiac wins
Brian: Brown is – as always – playing with house money, which is a doubly fitting metaphor given the venue. The Bears have made life difficult for most of their 2013 foes, and the Bobcats should be no exception. That said, QU has now battled through a top goaltending performance by Cornell’s Andy Iles in Game 3 last Sunday, so Borelli’s bag of tricks may frustrate, but are unlikely to deflate the top seed. Likewise, the Q will absolutely not be taking Brown for granted (if there were ever such a fear) given the regular-season results.
Bruno should be heartened by those draws, but if the Bobcats are really as good as their record indicates, they will ultimately bury Brown. I, too, pick Quinnipiac.
No. 4 Union vs. No. 3 Yale, 7:30 p.m.
Season series: Union, 1-0-1
Nate: Both these teams have been here before: Union won the title last season, while Yale beat Cornell in 6-0 in the 2011 championship. Dutchmen goalie Troy Grosenick has more big-game experience than his counterpart, Jeff Malcolm, who was the backup to Ryan Rondeau two seasons ago, although I’m not sure if that matters. Still, the senior goalie’s importance to the Bulldogs can’t be understated: Malcolm is 16-4-2, while backups Connor Wilson and Nick Maricic are 2-6-1. Yale has a lot of speed and can transition very well, while Union will pounce on any mistakes and convert them into opportunities (see last year’s opening game against Colgate). If the Dutchmen can do that, I think they’ll prevail. Union wins
Brian: I’m going to disagree with Nate on this one: I think that Yale is the second-best team in the league in talent and depth, if not in the standings… and that drop from second to third was due in large part to the sudden absence of Malcolm. Yale is a markedly, almost inexplicably better team with the senior in net, and not just because he’s the stronger netminder. The Bulldogs play significantly stronger, quicker, more confident hockey in front of Malcolm, and while both teams have a large group of experienced players, I like Yale’s jump and jam to defeat Union. Yale wins.
Saturday, March 23
Brian: I’m going to wimp out and make my Saturday picks on Friday night or Saturday morning, as incentives will change drastically after Friday’s games are in the books.
No.7 Brown vs. No. 3 Yale: Consolation game, 4 p.m.
Season series: 1-1
Nate: Depending on how things shake out, this could be a must-win for the Bulldogs if they want to make the NCAA tournament. That looks unlikely, although a victory would certainly help Yale’s seeding. I’m hesitant picking against Brown again, as it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Bears came away with at least one win this weekend. Still, I’m sticking with the Bulldogs. Yale wins
No. 4 Union vs. No.1 Quinnipiac: Championship game, 7 p.m.
Season series: Quinnipiac, 2-0
Nate: I think this game will be decided by special teams. The Bobcats went o-for-eight on the power play Sundayagainst Cornell, but their penalty kill is currently tops in the country, percentage points ahead of Canisius. Union’s power play (second) and penalty kill (seventh) have been among the nation’s best all season. The Bobcats can’t try and do too much against the Dutchmen, as any extra passes could result in turnovers the other way. QU is one of the better neutral-zone teams in the league, so Union will need to work the puck deep and get their forecheck going. Quinnipiac wins (OT)
Stay in the loop!
A quarrelsome quartet remains in the hunt for the Whitelaw Cup, and two teams are hoping to hoist their first title in the league’s last twirl (perhaps) on Boardwalk ice.
Brown and Quinnipiac each aim to raise the chalice for the first time, but they’ll have each other to tangle with first: The Bobcats battle the Bears at 4pm on Friday. QU – still the top-ranked team in the nation, as of this writing – qualified for the league semifinals by dint of Kevin Bui’s 95th-minute goal Sunday night. Even that wasn’t the most dramatic event in the rubber match with Cornell, as the Q-Cats needed Clay Harvey’s equalizer with 1:04 remaining in regulation to force extra hockey against the tenacious Big Red.
If only advancement were still based on two-game aggregates, think the exhausted Bobcats: QU blew the doors off Cornell in Saturday’s contest, wrecking the Red 10-0. The output was the most by the program since a 10-0 win over now-defunct Fairfield in 2000, and the most in ECAC tournament play since 2008, when Harvard lit the lamp 11 times against – wait, what? – Quinnipiac. We could go on and on about this game, but in the end, Sunday was much more representative of the way these two teams could play.
In Troy, Brown took the host Engineers to three games… then stunned the home team in Sunday’s decisive meeting with the first three goals of their own 3-2 win. Bruno leaned heavily on goalie Anthony Borelli, who stopped 40 of 42 shots, as his team mustered only 17 of its own.
The result obviously extends the Bears’ season and maintains their hopes for an NCAA berth, but almost as importantly for the program as a whole, the squad is now guaranteed at least a .500 record for the season for the first time under Brendan Whittet. The last time Bruno finished a season even was 2004-05 (16-14-3) under former coach Roger Grillo, which was the last of three straight winning seasons for Brown. The program has reached .500 or better numerous times in its history… just not so much lately. Credit to Whittet, his staff, and his players for achieving this significant developmental step.
Old hat for Union, Yale
The Dutchmen and Bulldogs took advantage of home ice to sweep their quarterfinal opponents, Dartmouth and St. Lawrence, respectively. Both squads managed nine goals on the weekend, with Union surrendering three to the exhausted Big Green and the Elis only giving one goal to SLU.
Yale and Keith Allain couldn’t be happier with the return of goalie Jeff Malcolm, who saved 29 of 30 Saints shots on the weekend. He was helped by his teammates as well, as he faced a maximum of seven shots in any of the series’ six periods. In Schenectady, Union shut down Dartmouth’s sputtering power play on five advantages, and took care of business elsewhere: Overall, a workmanlike and complete pair of victories for the Dutchmen.
It’s up, it’s up, it’s finally up: Take a twirl on USCHO’s PairWise Predictor to see how the NCAA field might shake out given any set of league tournament results. Early feedback with ECAC relevance? Leave comments below with updates, corrections, and such:
• Rensselaer is still alive.
• Quinnipiac is likely to finish as the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney at this point, though the Bobcats may not play in Providence, should Brown win the ECAC title. (Brown is the East Regional’s sponsor school.)
• Yale appears to be a lock for the NCAA field.
• Union has some work to do, but at least it’s still playing.
• Cornell and Dartmouth are likely done. Anyone find anything different?
• I believe Brown must win the league title to qualify, but I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see the Bears earn an at-large by merely making it to the league finale.
How wrong am I?
Last week: 4-0
It’s the last weekend of hockey at campus sites across the league, as the ECAC is set to head to Atlantic City next weekend for the semifinals and championship. I picked all four opening round series correctly, although I did pick Cornell and Princeton to go to three games. Here’s a look at the upcoming weekend. All games are set to start at 7 p.m., unless noted.
No. 9 Cornell at No. 1 Quinnipiac
Season series: Quinnipiac, 2-0
Like I said earlier this week, Cornell is playing much better than its No.9 seed would indicate. The Big Red are 6-1-1 over their last eight games, including a sweep of Princeton in the opening round. Quinnipiac wasn’t as sharp down the stretch once it locked up the Cleary Cup, often relying on goalie Eric Hartzell to bail them out. The Bobcats are a lock for the NCAA tournament, while Cornell will likely need to win out in order to make it. Still, Quinnipiac is looking to hold on to the No.1 overall spot for the NCAA tournament, and a series win this weekend would certainly help. Saturday’s game starts at 7:30 and will be televised on NESN, while any potential start time Sunday could be dependent on the basketball team’s schedule. Quinnipiac in three
No. 7 Brown at No. 2 Rensselaer
Season series: RPI, 1-0-1
The Engineers had their first ever bye in the current tournament format thanks to a 9-1 stretch to close the regular season. Don’t expect a ton of scoring in this series, as both teams are solid in net and emphasis a solid, defensive style of play. The Engineers have some scoring depth through their lineup, thanks to the continued development of their sophomore class, along with senior defenseman Nick Bailen, who has 12 goals and 19 assists, both which are tied for the team lead. Brown moved leading scorer Matt Lorito to wing in an attempt to break him out of a slump, and it worked, as the sophomore had a goal both nights against Clarkson last weekend. Rensselaer in three
No. 6 St. Lawrence at No. 3 Yale
Season series: Yale, 2-0
Hockey is a team sport, but both the Saints and Bulldogs proved how much one player can impact a team. The Bulldogs lost goalie Jeff Malcolm for a five-game stretch last month, and were 0-5 during that span. Head coach Keith Allain said at the time that Malcolm’s injury could just be “circumstantial evidence,” but the senior returned Feb. 23 and Yale was 3-0 the rest of the way. The Saints had a chance to clinch a first round bye entering the final weekend of the regular season, but were without center Kyle Flanagan, who had his appendix removed earlier in the week. Saint Lawrence lost its final two regular season games without Flanagan, but the senior returned for last weekends’ series against Colgate, posting five points in the Saints’ sweep. There’s plenty of top-line offensive talent on both teams, so, I think this series will come down to goaltending and secondary scoring. Saint Lawrence in three
No. 5 Dartmouth at No. 4 Union
Season series: Dartmouth, 1-0-1
For all the ups and downs of the regular season, Union was still able to grab a top-four spot, which was good since goalie Troy Grosenick left the Dutchmen’s game on March 1 with an injury. Grosenick should be ready to go this weekend, as Union looks for its second trip in as many years to Atlantic City. Dartmouth is just 3-7-3 on the road, but one of those ties came at Messa Rink. The Big Green used two different goaltenders in the opening round, as Cab Morris started in Game 1, while Charles Grant started and won Games 2 and 3. Neither one of these teams had a stellar second half, and both will likely need to string together a few wins if they want to make the NCAA tournament. I think the bye and a chance to put the regular season behind them should help Union. Union sweeps
Surprise, surprise? Only one Game 3, and only one upset in four first-round series. I thought this was ECAC Hockey!
Going the distance
Dartmouth was taken to the end of its rope by Harvard this weekend, as the Big Green were set on their heels by Friday’s 2-1 loss. Coach Bob Gaudet shuffled the goalies for Game 2, preferring sophomore Charles Grant over junior Cab Morris. The move was rewarded with a 23-save, one-goal performance in Dartmouth’s 4-1 victory, and Grant followed it up with 28 stops in Sunday’s 6-3 rubber match. Dartmouth wrapped up its home season with a 12-5-1 record, the program’s best mark in six years.
The other team to take the long road to the second round was Cornell, which literally necessitated a journey in order to qualify for the quarterfinals. The Big Red rolled heavy into Princeton, dispatching the Tigers in straight sets: 4-0, 4-2, erasing any meaning from Princeton’s regular-season sweep of the Red. Now 6-1-1 in its last eight games, Cornell got outstanding goaltending from Andy Iles, who stoned the Tigers on 46 of 48 shots on the weekend.
Under the radar, over the top
Bruno hasn’t made national waves this season, but don’t sleep on the Bears in the playoffs: Brown is built for March. The low-scoring, physical squad is now in its element, playing low-scoring, physical playoff games against teams that may have to take time to adapt to tighter spaces and gung-ho hitting. The Bears proved their mettle against Clarkson, eliminating the battered Knights by 3-0 and 4-3 scores. Savior-come-lately Anthony Borelli saved 65 of 68 shots, maintaining a .945 season save percentage (tied for second-best in D-I) and dropping his overall goals-against average to a stingy 1.74 (fifth-best nationally).
Up in Canton, St. Lawrence powered past gassed Colgate despite the loss of two defensemen. Senior Mac Stratford was injured early in Friday’s 4-2 win, and junior Riley Austin early on Saturday in the Saints’ 4-1 triumph. No defense? No problem, said junior netminder Matt Weninger, who denied the Raiders 56 times, and only allowed one even-strength goal.
Suffice to say, Clarkson, Colgate, Harvard, and Princeton are done for the year: Thanks for playing, see you next fall. Quinnipiac – hosting Cornell this weekend – still holds the top spot in the PairWise Rankings (PWR), followed by Yale (tied for 10th) and Rensselaer (tied for 13th).
QU is safe – the Bobcats will play beyond this weekend; the only variables are where, and as what seed. (It is very hard to imagine QU falling from a top-four seed, for that matter.) Yale and RPI, however, are very much at risk of missing the national tournament should they fail to advance this weekend: A hot underdog or two in another league could constrict the lower limit of at-large bids from 16th in the PWR to 15th, or even 14th. Gotta stay in the top 13 to feel safe.
Beyond the bubble, Union (tied for 16th) and Dartmouth (tied, 18th) are very much in the hunt for an at-large spot, but they absolutely must win. Cornell (23) and St. Lawrence (24) look close, but it’s highly unlikely that enough turnover will occur for them to move within the top 14 or 15 spots in the PWR without winning the league title (and its automatic NCAA berth) along the way.
Entering last weekend, the higher seeds had been undefeated against their guests. Obviously, Cornell cared not for regular-season precedent, nor did Harvard – at least, not on Friday.
This weekend’s quarterfinals are again – shockingly, almost – split-less: (1) QU swept (9) Cornell in the regular season; (2) RPI won and tied (7) Brown; (3) Yale swept (6) SLU; and – for the lone kicker – underdog (5) Dartmouth took three points from (4) Union. Can’t wait to see how things shake out this week. Stay tuned for more from Nate Owen and myself, on Twitter and, of course, on USCHO.com.
Last week: 9-2-1
Final regular season record: 100-95-31
Three of the four teams that had a bye last year are in action during this weekend’s first round – all on the road. Cornell, Colgate, and Harvard all have a bit longer trip if they want to make it back to Atlantic City in two weeks. My colleague Brian Sullivan also made an interesting point Thursday morning on “Slap Schotts,” noting that all four home teams this round didn’t lose to their opponent during the regular season.
Brian: I’ll actually throw my hat in the ring here, as this is both an important weekend (duh) but also, I have time to do so! Sweet.
Each series is a best-of-three, and all games start at 7 p.m. – with the exception of Sunday’s potential Harvard at Dartmouth tilt, which would be at 5 p.m.
No. 12 Harvard at No.5 Dartmouth
Season series: Dartmouth, 1-0-1
Nate: Brian Sullivan touched on the Big Green earlier this week, who lost a chance at a first round bye thanks to one-point weekend to end the regular season.Dartmouth is looking to generate a little more offense heading into the playoffs, and a full return to health for Dustin Walsh should help.While the Big Green have split Charles Grant and Cab Morris in net of late, Harvard has relied on Raphael Girard for most of the season. The sophomore has made some big saves in the Beanpot against Boston College, and nearly stole an ECAC championship for the Crimson last year, so he does have big-game experience. Harvard closed on a 4-2-1 run, and could steal the series here, but I think the Big Green win.Dartmouth in three
Brian: The Crimson thrive this time of year (and thank goodness, or this would be one unfortunate program). I don’t know how they do it, but Teddy Donato always manages to get the best out of his guys in February and March. Harvard is hardly tearing it up right now, but I believe that they are playing better hockey right now than Dartmouth… perhaps it’s Dartmouth’s youth, or injuries, or perhaps it’s just hitting a down cycle, but the Big Green haven’t looked quite right lately. I like Harvard in three
No. 11 Colgate at No. 6 St. Lawrence
Season series: St. Lawrence, 1-0-1
Nate: Two losses last weekend cost St. Lawrence a chance at a bye. Still, the Saints will likely return forward Kyle Flanagan, who missed both those games following surgery to remove his appendix. Flanagan has been cleared to play against the Raiders, per Ken Schott of The Schenectady Daily Gazette. That should be a boost to a St. Lawrence team that scored just two goals in the final weekend. Colgate enters the playoffs with just one win over the last month and a bit of a goaltending dilemma. Junior Eric Mihalik started both games two weeks ago, and played well before losing to Yale last Friday. Freshman Spencer Finney was back in net for the regular season finale at Brown, but was pulled in the third period for Mihalik. St. Lawrence sweeps
Brian: Long story short, I believe that Colgate burned out about a month ago. Playoffs might breathe new life into the young team, but with Flanagan and Carey reuniting at Appleton, it’s hard not to like the Saints’ odds against the sputtering Raiders. I’m with Nate; St. Lawrence sweeps
No. 10 Clarkson at No. 7 Brown
Season series: Brown 1-0-1
Nate: It’s been pretty simple for the Bears throughout the second half: Scrape together just enough offense and let Anthony Borelli do the rest in net. It worked, as Borelli is third in the nation in save percentage and the Bears are hosting a home playoff game for the first time since 2005. Clarkson hasn’t been able to find any sort of rhythm this season, and ended the year with a three-game losing streak. Brown’s power play hasn’t exactly been potent this season, but they should get plenty of chances this weekend. The Golden Knights led the league in penalty minutes, while their penalty-kill was last. Brown sweeps
Brian: Something went sour with the North Country teams last weekend, getting wrecked in the Capital District. Especially Clarkson, losing by a combined 9-0 score at Union and RPI. But unlike SLU, Clarkson isn’t getting a monster contributor back in the lineup this weekend. Stick a fork in the Knights; they’re done: Bruno sweeps
No. 9 Cornell at No. 8 Princeton
Season series: Princeton 2-0
Nate: This could be one of the tighter matchups this weekend, as Cornell heads to the road for the playoffs for the first time since 1999. The Tigers swept the season series from the Big Red, but Cornell is 4-1-1 and hasn’t given up more than two goals since these teams last met Feb. 9. If they can continue that trend, they’ll be a tough out not just for the Tigers, but in the next round as well. Princeton will need to limit the shots on goalie Mike Condon, and get some scoring from someone other than Andrew Calof or Tyler Maugeri if they want to advance. Cornell in three
Brian: Perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the weekend, hardly anyone would’ve seen this pairing – especially at this site – coming two months ago. The Tigers have been playing consistently, but Cornell is coming around in a big way, as Nate mentioned. I think it’ll come down to goalies, and this may be the latest opportunity for Andy Iles to prove himself an elite goaltender. Condon is having a terrific season in his own right – even better than the higher-profile Iles’ – and a win would be a significant step back toward the spotlight for Bob Prier’s Tigers. Picking either way seems like going out on a limb, so here’s my branch: Princeton in three