ECAC Hockey picks: Jan. 30 – Feb. 2

Last time: 4-8

Overall: 37-46-8

As colleague Brian Sullivan noted in this week’s column, the final month of the season is rapidly approaching. Here’s a look at this weekend, which ends with Harvard taking on Boston University in the opening game of the Beanpot Monday. All games are 7 p.m. unless noted.

Quinnipiac at Brown

The Bobcats return to action after a break last weekend,  due to travel partner Princeton taking time off for exams. The time off came at a good time for Quinnipiac, as Chip Malafronte of the New Haven Register reports starting goalie Michael Garteig should return this weekend after getting injured against Merrimack on Jan. 16. Brown looked decent two Fridays ago against Yale, but has been outscored 16-3 in three games since then. The Bears have given QU trouble in Providence, but there’s no way I’m picking against the Bobcats. Quinnipiac wins

Cornell at Colgate

The Raiders are 11-1 when scoring at least three goals this season, while the Big Red have only given up three or more goals six times this season. Two of those occurrences have come in Cornell’s last three games, including a season-high five goals allowed in a loss to Dartmouth last Saturday. I think the Raiders are good enough on both ends of the ice to get past the Big Red. Colgate wins

Rensselaer at Dartmouth

The Engineers looked to be picking it up, winning three straight entering last Saturday’s Mayor’s Cup against Union. And then the third period happened, as RPI surrendered six goals to turn a 3-2 lead into an 8-3 blowout. Dartmouth has been shaky in January; last Saturday’s win at Cornell was the Big Green’s first  in over a month. Neither team scores goals in bunches, but I like Dartmouth’s top line and goaltending, and that should given them the edge. Dartmouth wins

Union at Harvard

I seem to have a hard time putting a finger on the pulse of the Dutchmen this year – they lose when I predict them to win, and win when I forecast a loss. Harvard has shown some signs of mortality the last few weeks – thanks in part to several key injuries. Crimson coach Ted Donato said he hopes to have some of his injured players back “soon.” Whether that’s this weekend or not remains to be seen, but Harvard has put in a stronger body of work overall compared to Union. Harvard wins

Princeton at Yale

Even with rival Quinnipiac coming in the next night, I don’t think this is a so-called “trap game,” as the Bulldogs should handle Princeton without much of a problem. Yale wins

Saturday, Jan. 31

Princeton at Brown, 4 p.m.

It’s a battle of last place teams, as the Bears and Tigers each enter the weekend with a 1-11 record in league play. There’s not a lot of positives to pull from either team to date, although Princeton sophomore Colton Phinney is averaging 32 saves a game. I’m throwing a dart and taking the Bears, if only because they’re at home. Brown wins

St. Lawrence at Clarkson

St. Lawrence hasn’t won a season series against Clarkson since the 2008-09 season, and has never won two games in Potsdam. If its going to accomplish both those feats, the Saints will  have to beat a rock-solid Golden Knights defense and goalie Greg Lewis, who entered the weekend with a shutout streak of 147 minutes and 45 seconds. Clarkson wins

Colgate at Cornell

The Raiders have fought injuries and inconsistency, but I still think they can be in position to do some damage at the end of the season. But not against the Big Red and a tough crowd at Lynah Rink. Cornell wins

Union at Dartmouth

While Union has been inconsistent, the Big Green have downright struggled of late, as mentioned above. I’ll take a shot on the Dutchmen. Union wins

Quinnipiac at Yale

It’s the first meeting of the year between these in-state rivals. Both have put together solid years, but are far from locks for the NCAA tournament. Some of the big names from past games may be gone, but expect a packed Ingalls Rink to be boisterous on Saturday. Yale wins

Monday, Feb. 2

Harvard vs. Boston University, 5 p.m. (Beanpot opening game)

It might be unfair to the Crimson, but this game could help define the rest of the season. A win would put Harvard in the Beanpot final for the first time since 2008, while giving them a win on a big stage this year. Harvard has already beaten Boston University once (and likely championship game opponent Boston College). It will be tight, but I think the Crimson can squeak out the win. Harvard wins

A weekend sweep for the North Country teams

It was a good weekend for both North Country teams, as Clarkson and St. Lawrence each posted home sweeps against Brown and Yale.

The Golden Knights tied a season high with six goals in Friday’s shutout of the Bears, and then posted another shutout with a 1-0 win over Yale Saturday. Greg Lewis made 52 saves on the weekend and hasn’t given up a goal in 147 minutes and 45 seconds.

Lewis made his first start of the season Jan. 17 against Dartmouth, but the Golden Knights have won each of his three starts to put together its first three-game winning streak of the season.

The junior got his chance after Ville Runola allowed five goals to Harvard last Friday.  Starting goalie Steve Perry has missed the last five games with a lower-body injury, according to the Watertown Daily Times.

Offense had been a problem most of the season for Clarkson, but the Golden Knights have scored twelve goals during their three-game winning streak.

As for St. Lawrence, the Saints got another solid weekend from freshman goalie Kyle Hayton, who stopped 58-of-61 shots.  The Saints also had another balanced scoring attack, getting eight goals from six different players.

Shots on goal totals aren’t always the be all and end all, but St. Lawrence outshot both its opponents after getting outshot in three straight games entering the weekend.

Union rallies for Mayor’s Cup win

It hasn’t been an easy season for the defending national champion Dutchmen, but Union showed flashes of last year’s quick-strike attack Saturday, scoring six third-period goals to defeat Rensselaer 8-3 in the non-conference Mayor’s Cup game at the Times Union Center. The loss snapped a three-game losing streak for the Dutchmen.

Union forward Daniel Ciampini had a hat trick, and leads the nation with 20 goals and 37 points this season. The senior also had three assists against the Engineers, as his six points tied the school record set by Jason Ralph against Colgate on Nov. 5, 1999.

The Dutchmen only have conference games remaining until the end of the regular season. Union has some work to do if it wants to avoid playing in the first round of the league playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season, as the Dutchmen are currently in tenth place with a 4-7-1 record in ECAC play.

Big Red strike late to beat Harvard

Their style of play couldn’t be much more different, but Cornell and Yale have one thing in common this year; both have beaten Harvard.

Eric Freschi’s third goal of the season broke a 2-2 tie with 40.5 seconds remaining Friday at a sold out Lynah Rink, giving the Big Red the win over Harvard in one of college hockey’s oldest rivalries.

Cornell couldn’t carry any momentum over to Saturday, as it allowed a season-high five goals in a loss to Dartmouth.  The Big Red are one of several teams clumped in the middle of the league standings, a quagmire that should sort itself out in the coming weeks as conference play intensifies.

ECAC Hockey picks: Jan. 23-27

Season record: 39-26-4. I can live with that. Relatively light schedule this week: Princeton doesn’t play until Tuesday, Quinnipiac has the week off, and RPI and Union only play once… against each other.

As always, all games begin at 7pm EST unless otherwise noted.

Friday, Jan. 23

Brown at Clarkson
Brown has only beaten one good team all year (Providence, to claim the Mayor’s Cup). Clarkson is 3-6 since Thanksgiving, but is still significantly better than Brown… at least, what we’ve seen of Brown so far. Knights take it.

Dartmouth at Colgate
Dartmouth hasn’t won since the holiday break (0-4-2), whereas Colgate is 5-1 in its last six. The Raiders finally seem to be pulling it together to the degree that so many of us expected in September. Raiders romp.

Harvard at Cornell
The biggest night of the year in Ithaca is even bigger this year, as Harvard is wearing a sizable target. The Crimson are 7-0-1 away from home this season (only 4-2-1 at home, surprisingly), so don’t expect the circus atmosphere to pose too great a distraction. Cornell is having a pretty mediocre season as a whole, with a lot of ups and downs, most recently a 3-0 downer at RPI last Saturday. The Big Red will need to play as well defensively as they have all year to pull this one out, but – so help me – I think they can do it Friday. Cornell in an upset.

Yale at St. Lawrence
This may be the best game no one is going to pay attention to this week. Yale and SLU are each heating up, albeit to differing degrees: The Bulldogs are on a 5-1 run, while the Saints are 3-1 in their last four with wins at Harvard and Dartmouth last weekend. Should be a doozy, as they say; I like Yale for the W.

Saturday, Jan. 24

Yale at Clarkson
Is Yale as good as we have been speculating them to be? This weekend may speak volumes as to the Bulldogs’ veracity as a late-season contender. Yale FTW.

Harvard at Colgate
A lot of variables here, generally affecting Harvard more than Colgate: The Crimson will be coming off an emotionally exhausting night in Ithaca, and Colgate will either pose a serious threat to a worn-out victor or will serve as default whipping-boy should Harvard fall to their bitterest rivals. Given my Friday prediction, I’ll take Harvard on Saturday.

Dartmouth at Cornell
On a hunch, I believe Dartmouth will bounce back with a win over the inconsistent Big Red. After Friday night’s festivities, hunches are as good a lead as anything else. Dartmouth wins.

Brown at St. Lawrence
Until the Bears can prove themselves able to off a mid-caliber foe, I’ll see no reason to pick them in such circumstances. SLU wins.

Rensselaer vs. Union Mayor’s Cup – Times-Union Center, Albany; 7:30
Hooboy, another one of these, eh? RPI and Union haven’t met since Halloween weekend, when the Engineers shocked us all with a twin-killing. Since that time, RPI has gone 6-11-1; Union, 6-7-2. The Dutchmen enter the game on a three-game skid, while the Engineers have won three straight for the first time since October 2012. Maybe this is the pendulum swinging back toward Troy, if ever so slightly? Engineers win.

Tuesday, Jan. 27

Army at Princeton
Army is 5-16-2… which is still better than Princeton’s 2-14-1. Princeton is Brown Rule’d. Army wins… because, like, somebody has to, right?

Weekend’s results bear massive consequences for ECAC Hockey

As always, the weekend’s slate concluded with a couple of winners, a couple losers, and a bunch of splits among the ECAC’s dozen teams. Unlike most weekends however, the past two days played out like a statistical soap opera once all was said and done.

Harvard, Quinnipiac suffer big blows

Ranked No. 3 in the nation and pulling in a third of pollsters’ No. 1 votes two weeks ago, the once-10-1-2 Crimson suddenly lost two of three (versus Yale in Manhattan and to St. Lawrence at home) and fell from first to seventh in the increasingly relevant PairWise Rankings. Harvard surrendered 12 goals in those three decisions, which is five more than it had allowed in any other three-game span this season.

This is not cause for panic per se; almost any team in the country would trade places with the Crimson in a heartbeat. What is concerning is that Harvard’s results are – for the moment at least – quite pedestrian, and bear little resemblance to the high-flying, offense-muzzling Crimson of late 2014. Regardless of the reasons, the L’s are raising red flags all over the country among those who are weighing Harvard’s true status as a national contender.

Down Interstate 95, Quinnipiac’s weekend wrapped up with another nonconference setback as the Bobcats dropped both ends of a home-and-home with PairWise at-large challenger Merrimack. Ranked 14th and 18th respectively in the PWR on Friday morning, QU and ‘Mack are now 20th and 12th, in that order. The Warriors goaltending tandem turned aside 53 of 57 QU shots on goal, while the Bobcats allowed seven goals on 49 shots and bore a weekend-ending injury to starting goalie Michael Garteig in the first period of Friday’s loss.

The losses are not necessarily an indictment of this year’s Bobcats, as coach Rand Pecknold has admitted that his young team has overachieved thus far. That said, it doesn’t take much of the sting out of knowing how much a win or two could have helped the cause; these mid-January nonleague losses could be the source of a lot of regret come March.

Engineers, Saints, Bulldogs romp to four-point weekends

RPI is 9-16-1. This is not the kind of record that you put on banners or postcards, but it’s suiting the Engineers just fine for now. That’s because seven of those nine wins have been against ECAC competition, and RPI’s 7-6-0 league record is currently good for fourth place (though it’s only seventh in win percentage, having played as many as three more games than their nearest competitors in the standings). RPI climbed above .500 in league play with home wins over Colgate (4-1) and Cornell (3-0); the ‘Tute’s current three-game winning streak is its longest of the season.

A road trip to Dartmouth and Harvard could not have gone any better for SLU, which posted consecutive W’s for the first time in two months. Freshman sensation Kyle Hayton stopped 36 of 38 shots in a 3-2 squeaker in Hanover Friday, then raised the bar even higher with 46 saves in a 5-1 romp over the aforementioned Crimson. At 7-4-0 in league play, SLU is currently fifth by winning percentage despite a counterintuitive 2-3-0 ECAC record at home and a 5-1-0 on the road.

Finally, Yale continued it quietly impressive season with two more wins. The Blue pinned a 6-1 aggregate score on travel-partner Brown in the weekend’s home-and-home, improving Yale’s record to 6-1 in its last seven and 9-2 in its last 11 games. The Bulldogs must be licking their chops in looking ahead at their remaining schedule: The team plays Quinnipiac twice and Harvard once more between Jan. 31 and Feb. 20.

Clarkson announces plans for Cheel expansion

Per Cap Carey at the Watertown Daily Times, Clarkson University has commenced fundraising efforts to subsidize a proposed renovation to 24-year-old Cheel Arena.

The roughly three-year, $40 million project would include additional team and locker-room space, a conference room, new seating, wider aisles, and upgrades to the top-floor Barden Room “to make it look more like a restaurant”, per Carey. The plan also includes sweeping upgrades to the lobby area, as well as the addition of a new weight room, indoor rock-climbing wall, ROTC offices, and student meeting spaces beyond the arena itself.

The entire proposal is anticipated to take three years, to be conducted in phases so as not to displace either hockey team for any period of time.

ECAC Hockey picks: Jan. 15 and 16

Last time: 4-6-3

Overall: 33-38-8

So much for starting the new year off on a hot streak…

The non-conference schedule is winding down for the ECAC, as every team except Quinnipiac faces a league opponent this weekend. Each game is at 7 p.m., unless noted.

Friday, Jan. 16

St. Lawrence at Dartmouth

Each team has slumped a bit lately, but don’t blame the goalies. The Saints’ Kyle Hayton (.934 save percentage) and the Big Green’s James Kruger (.924) have been outstanding thus far.  The Big Green played well against Vermont last weekend, but couldn’t come away with the win. I think they’ll get their first win of 2015 against the Saints. Dartmouth wins

Clarkson at Harvard

Both teams have been pretty tight defensively this season, but I think the Crimson have the offense to break through. Harvard wins

Colgate at Rensselaer

The Engineers are mostly back to full strength after a bout of injuries and suspensions. But RPI is catching Colgate at the wrong time, as the Raiders have won four in a row and are beginning to look like a dangerous team down the stretch. Colgate wins

Cornell at Union

Union is playing its first home game since Nov. 15, and the Dutchmen will likely have some reinforcements when the Big Red come to Messa Rink. Per Ken Schott of The Daily Gazette, defenseman Sebastien Gingras and forward Michael Pontarelli may return against Cornell.  That would be a welcome boost for Union as the Dutchmen look to improve its 4-5-1 league record.  Offense mostly hasn’t been a problem for Union, but the same can’t be said for Cornell. The Big Red have scored 25 goals in 15 games but only allowed 24. I think Union should put together enough offense for the win. Union wins

Quinnipiac at Merrimack

Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold noted earlier this week how this was a big series for both teams. With non-conference games concluding, it’s one of the final chances for teams on the edge of the PairWise (like the Bobcats and Warriors currently are) to boost their out-of-conference resume.  The Bobcats will need to avoid the lapses that have plagued them at times this season, as playing catch up against a solid Merrimack team will be hard to do. Merrimack wins

Yale at Brown, 7:30

The Bears showed some signs of life last weekend, winning the Mayor’s Cup against local rival Providence, while Yale rebounded from a disappointing loss at Northeastern with a solid 4-1 win over Harvard at Madison Square Garden. Each team has won its last two conference home games in the matchup, and I think that trend will continue, as the Bears pick up where they left off against the Friars and put together enough offense for the win. Brown wins

Saturday, Jan. 17

Clarkson at Darmouth

It will be another good defensive and goaltending matchup, as Clarkson’s Steve Perry enters the weekend with a 4-1 record and .960 save percentage in ECAC play, although Ville Runola started both games last weekend. I’m not sure if the Golden Knights  have enough offense to keep pace with the Big Green.  Dartmouth wins

St. Lawrence at Harvard

These teams fit the ECAC stereotype in that they play sound defense, but can get up the ice with a lot of speed. It should be a close game, but it’s hard to pick against the Crimson, especially since no one besides Yale has beaten them this season. Harvard wins

Cornell at Rensselaer

Neither of these teams is scoring prolifically this season, but the Big Red is the top defensive team in the country. Cornell wins

Colgate at Union

The Raiders are on a roll right now, and a couple wins this weekend would put them in good position in standings. It seems like the Dutchmen could breakout any weekend, but I don’t think that will happen against a stingy Colgate team that is giving up under two goals a game. Colgate wins

Brown at Yale

Look for the Bulldogs to rebound and split the weekend series. Yale wins

Merrimack at Quinnipiac

These are two pretty solid teams, and I’d be surprised if either one swept this weekend. Quinnipiac wins


Bulldogs best Crimson again; Brown takes home Mayor’s Cup

It’s been a banner year for Harvard, except when the opponent is Ivy League rival Yale.

The Bulldogs beat the Crimson 4-1 at Madison Square Garden Saturday in the second Rivalry on Ice matchup between the teams. The four goals were the most Harvard has allowed this year, while the loss was only the Crimson’s second of the season – both defeats coming against Yale.

As for the Bulldogs, it was an encouraging result after Yale saw a 2-0 lead turn into a 3-2 loss Tuesday at Northeastern. Yale has a home-and-home series with Brown this weekend, and then heads to the North Country before back-to-back home series entering the season’s final month.

Mayor’s Cup goes to the Bears

Brown has struggled in virtually every facet of the game this season. But the Bears captured their first Mayor’s Cup since 2011-12 over cross-town rival Providence last weekend. The Friars won the first game 3-2 in overtime, but Brown took the second game 5-3 to win the cup based on goal differential.

It wasn’t easy, though. The Bears raced out to a 4-0 lead Saturday before Providence made it 4-3. But Matt Lorito scored at 13:43 in the third period to give Brown a cushion and the Mayor’s Cup. Sophomore Tyler Steel made 46 saves for the win, while the Bears chased Providence goalie Jon Gillies early in the second period.

Steel had a strong game in the series opener Friday as well, turning away 39 shots. But perhaps most encouraging for Brown was the top line of Matt Lorito, Mark Naclerio and Nick Lappin. The trio contributed two goals each night, and it would help the Bears tremendously down the stretch if they get going after a sluggish first half.

Colgate, Quinnipiac sweep

After being the subject of much of the preseason hype, Colgate is showing signs of putting together a strong second half. The Raiders won both games this weekend to extend their winning streak to four. They’ve given up three goals during that stretch, and sophomore Charlie Finn has a .933 save percentage on the year. It’s been a team effort, however, as Colgate hasn’t had a multi-goal scorer during any of the four games while holding its opponents below 30 shots each time.

At 10-2, Quinnipiac has a commanding six-point lead over second place Harvard. However, the Bobcats have  played more league  three games than the Crimson, and four more than the third-place Raiders.

With travel partner Princeton taking a break for exams, the Bobcats play a home-and-home series this weekend with Merrimack. QU has won seven of its last nine games dating to Nov. 29.

ECAC Hockey picks: Jan. 9-11

Season record: 31-22-3. Finally making a run at it.

As always, all games begin at 7pm EST unless otherwise noted.

Friday, Jan. 9

Colgate at Clarkson
Interesting amount of inexperience in play here: Friday only marks Clarkson’s third league game at Cheel Arena this season, and it likewise will only be the third ECAC road game for the Raiders. The lone common league opponents for these two are Quinnipiac and Princeton; it should come as no surprise that each team downed Princeton, but while Clarkson edged QU in Potsdam, Colgate fell hard in Hamden. The Golden Knights are playing to more or less maintain their top-four status in the league, while ‘Gate aims to climb the ladder with their recent return to form. This will also be a game worth watching insofar as it pits Clarkson’s indefatigable defense against a Colgate offense that aspired to play better than it has thus far. Pick: Clarkson.

Union at Princeton
Exhibition games don’t count: Princeton is Brown-Ruled (See November 6, Colgate at St. Lawrence) as dictated by a six-game losing streak and one win in its last dozen outings. Union wins.

Rensselaer at Quinnipiac
Eight losses in a row, 11 goals scored in that time? Brown Rule. What’s that? Two Brown Rule teams at once? Don’t believe it’s ever happened before, and I can’t say I enjoy it one bit. QU victorious.

Cornell at St. Lawrence
On Friday night in Canton, Kyle Hayton and the Saints aim to extend an already insidious Big Red streak. In failing to score against Lake Superior State or Miami in the Florida College Classic two weeks back, the 2014-15 Cornell team endured consecutive shutouts for the first time in 51 years… a streak of 1,560 games. The Red haven’t lit the lamp in their last 147:12 of game time, and with four shutouts to his name already, freshman Hayton must be salivating at the thought of extending Cornell’s misery. Meanwhile, the Saints aren’t exactly rolling either: SLU is 0-5-1 in its last six and is also struggling offensively. You don’t hope for defensive battles of attrition, but that’s exactly what we’re staring at in this matchup. Edge SLU.

Providence at Brown (Mayor’s Cup)
While Brown’s season has not gone according to plan, there are silver linings if you know where to look. For example, the Bears’ eight goals in their last three games (1-2 against RPI, Boston College, and Denver) are their three-game high for the year. That said, it’s not exactly a sterling cloud we’re looking at here. Providence is rolling into this home-and-home series on a five-game winning streak and having won nine of ten (9-1). Junior Jon Gillies’ .938 save percentage is the seventh-best in the nation, now about to face a bottom-five offense in Brown. Things… do not match up well for Bruno here. PC wins.

Dartmouth at New Hampshire (7:30; TV – NBCSN)
Hmm, what’s this? UNH has a new goalie? And not a moment too soon, what with the Wildcats’ team save rate hovering around 90 percent. This isn’t UNH’s year, but Dartmouth should be the one feeling the heat… at 6-5-2, the Big Green’s non-conference window of opportunity is quicky closing before the brutality of ECAC action becomes a permanent condition. Simply put, if Dartmouth cannot escape this weekend without a loss, I’m doubtful of their odds at making the NCAA Tournament come March. Big Green take this one.

Saturday, Jan. 10

Cornell at Clarkson
Oy vey, if Cornell has had a hard time scoring, this weekend offers little salvation. Clarkson is a ferociously defensive team, and they do it well; this has all the makings of a 1-0, 2-0, or 2-1 final. ‘Tech takes it, no matter the score.

Rensselaer at Princeton
Ok, this is a new one… not only are there two Brown Ruled teams for the first time ever, but they play each other the same weekend as they are so denoted. I’d love to just wash my hands of this abomination of a matchup, but people don’t click through to read evasive insults, so… RPI has mustered incrementally more offense of late, against some worthy opponents, while Princeton is mustering hardly anything at all against equally worthy foes. In a battle for the basement, Princeton is carrying heavier baggage. Engineers prevail.

Union at Quinnipiac
This would’ve been must-watch hockey last year, though it shouldn’t be much of a step down this weekend. The Dutchmen are hitting crunch time, needing to put up a good number of W’s to get back into NCAA at-large contention; QU could use a few more quality wins, and certainly needs some buffer points in the ECAC standings if it hopes to secure a first-round bye. Big game at The Bank Saturday night, and – so help me – I like the hosts to have the last laugh. QU wins.

Colgate at St. Lawrence
This is more hunch and instinct than analysis, but these feel like teams heading in different directions as the new year progresses. Colgate looks like it’s teetering on the edge of a groove; SLU may be fighting to hang on to relevance. Sure, it’s still early… ish, but that’s what my gut is telling me. And that’s never been wrong, right? Colgate wins.

Brown at Providence (Mayor’s Cup)
None of the notes or facts from Friday night have changed in the time it took me to scroll down to Saturday’s matchup. PC still has a big advantage, and I still believe strongly that the Friars will win. Again.

Harvard vs. Yale (8:00; Madison Square Garden)
The fifth ranked opponent for the Crimson this year is also the only one to defeat them. This is a big game on a big stage for each team, no doubt about it: Harvard is trying to build its case for true national contender-ship, while Yale is aiming to prove that it has the chops for another NCAA run. Harvard has burned me before (I seem to be qualifying myself a lot like this lately), but I can’t really imagine the Crimson being dispatched twice by the same opponent just yet. Harvard wins the revenge game (even though it won’t earn them any points in the standings!).

Sunday, Jan. 11

Vermont at Dartmouth (4:00)
As aforementioned, Dartmouth could really use some non-conference wins before the cannibalistic ECAC regular season resumes. Vermont is one tough customer, but recent losses to Providence and Yale may indicate weaknesses emerging following a six-game win streak. That said, I still believe that UVM out-classes Dartmouth. If not by a lot, by enough. Catamounts win.

ECAC’s hits, near misses, and shots way wide of the mark entering 2015

The conference’s 12 members roll into the new year whether they like it or not, and it’s not entirely arbitrary to break the league into three disparate tiers: Those on fire, the middlers and the teams in serious need of help.

Hockey Haven back on the rise

ECAC Hockey’s Connecticut programs are each hitting their strides before returning to conference play.

Yale is 8-3-2 overall and 5-1 in its last six games, including post-Christmas wins over Holy Cross (3-0) and No. 10 Vermont (3-1). The Bulldogs have risen to 14th in the PairWise early on, and face two more nonconference opponents this week (Northeastern and Harvard, in a nonleague game at Madison Square Garden) before closing out the season with 14 straight ECAC contests.

Up Whitney Avenue, No. 14 Quinnipiac is coming off a split weekend at tough customer St. Cloud State. The Bobcats are 5-2 in their last seven outings, allowing 11 goals with three shutouts. Twelve of QU’s remaining 14 games are in-league, and seven of those ECAC tilts come against opponents playing .500 or better hockey.

Harvard played only one game since the holidays, pinning a 6-2 comeback win on Rensselaer. The Crimson are on a seven-game winning streak and are the top-rated team in the PairWise.

Fighting through

Union (loss to Connecticut, win over Sacred Heart, tie at Boston University), Cornell (scoreless draw versus Lake Superior State, loss to Miami), Colgate (wins over Western Michigan and Robert Morris), Clarkson (win over American International) and Dartmouth (tie against Denver, loss to Boston College) had moderate success over the past week, though perhaps Colgate is finding its groove at long last. The Raiders are locked into league play from now on, so we will see.

Not the results they were looking for

Rensselaer, Brown, Princeton and St. Lawrence probably want mulligans on their post-Christmas play.

RPI has dropped eight straight since late November, including the Harvard loss and twin killings at home to Miami last weekend. Whatever went down with the Engineers’ internal leadership hasn’t helped matters, either.

Brown beat RPI on Dec. 6 to close out the first half, but Dartmouth’s Ledyard Classic provided no encouragement with a 4-1 loss to Boston College and a 5-3 loss to Denver. Next weekend brings the annual Mayor’s Cup home-and-home against No. 16 Providence; it’s all ECAC action after that.

Princeton endured three straight shutout losses straddling the break, first at Minnesota State, then twice against Quinnipiac last weekend. The Tigers have been outscored 20-7 in their six straight losses.

Finally, St. Lawrence played twice since the break. Both games were against 5-10-1 Northeastern, and neither game went well for the Saints. NU outshot the Saints 16-5 in the third period of Game 1, scoring thrice to come back for a 3-3 draw. On Saturday, the Huskies mustered only 20 shots overall but put three goals past Kyle Hayton before an empty-netter sealed the deal. It’s all league action from here on out for SLU.

ECAC Hockey picks: Jan. 2-6

Last time 4-2

Overall: 29-32-5

This weekend marks the last non-conference games of the season for many ECAC Hockey teams, highlighted by Dartmouth and Brown taking part in the Ledyard Bank Classic and Quinnipiac traveling to St. Cloud State. All games are 7 p.m. unless noted.

Friday, Jan. 2

No. 15 Boston College vs. Brown (Ledyard Bank Classic at Dartmouth), 4 p.m.

As noted in the tournament preview, the Bears could be a team that put togethers a solid second half. Boston College hasn’t been itself throughout most of the first half, but it’s hard to pick Brown until it shows some more consistency. Boston College wins.

St. Lawrence at Northeastern

These teams split last year in Canton, although both are very different from that last meeting. The Huskies are struggling following a late swoon last year, while the Saints have completely turned around its defense this season. St. Lawrence lost four in a row to end the first half, but the Saints should start the New Year off with a win. St. Lawrence wins

No. 6 Miami at Rensselaer

After blanking Cornell in the consolation game of the Florida College Hockey Classic last weekend, Miami travels to Troy for the first time since 2007. RPI got back forward Drew Melanson and goalie Jason Kasdorf Tuesday against Harvard, but were still without forwards Viktor Liljegren, Mark Miller and Lou Nanne. Scoring has been a problem all year for RPI, and it won’t get any easier against a stingy Redhawks team that only gives up 2.11 goals per-game. Miami wins

No. 11 Denver at Dartmouth (Ledyard Bank Classic)

The Pioneers travel to Hanover for the first time since 1998 as part of the 26th Ledyard Classic. Denver has been solid this season, while a veteran Dartmouth team should be poised for a good second half after starting the year 6-4-1. This should be one of the better games of the tournament, and I think the Big Green’s defense and goaltending should give them the edge. Dartmouth wins.

Quinnipiac at St. Cloud State, 8:37 p.m. EDT

The Bobcats have already gotten in two games following the holidays, posting a pair of shutouts in a home-and-home sweep against travel partner Princeton. St. Cloud has struggled this year, and if Quinnipiac can play its usual puck-control game, the Bobcats should come away with a win. Quinnipiac wins.

Saturday, Jan. 3.

Denver vs. Brown, 4 p.m. (Ledyard Bank Classic)

The format of the tournament means that each team has a pre-determined matchup in the second day, regardless of Friday’s outcome. Like I said earlier, Brown is a team that should put things together down the stretch, but it’s tough to count on them until that starts to show. Denver wins.

St. Lawrence at Northeastern

The teams wrap up the series Saturday night, and the Saints should finish off the sweep. St. Lawrence wins.

No. 6 Miami at Rensselaer

Miami is a tough matchup, but if RPI goalie Jason Kasdorf is on top of his game, the Engineers could steal a point or two in the series finale. Tie.

No. 9 Vermont at Yale, 7:30 p.m.

The Bulldogs have shown flashes of being one of the more balanced teams in the league, combining good goaltending and defense with a balanced offense. However, Yale will  likely be without leading scorer John Hayden, who is playing with Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championship. Vermont brings a six-game winning streak in Ingalls, and should be a tough out for Yale. Vermont wins.

No. 15 Boston College at Dartmouth

Dartmouth knocked off the Eagles’ Hockey East rival Boston University earlier this season. If the Big Green are going to knock off Boston College, they’ll have to take advantage of the  likely absence of goalie Thatcher Demko, who is playing with Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championship. Dartmouth wins.

Union at No. 1 Boston University, 7:10 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)

BU will likely be without freshman standout Jack Eichel, the nation’s leading scorer who is currently with Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championship. The Dutchmen are coming off a third-place finish at the Frozen Holiday Classic last weekend, losing to Connecticut before beating Sacred Heart in the consolation game. Surprisingly, this is the first meeting ever between the schools, who have combined to play 3,865 games all-time. Even minus Eichel, the Terriers should have enough to win, especially at home. Boston University wins.

No. 14 Quinnipiac at St. Cloud State, 8:07 p.m. EDT

Road sweeps are hard to come by in college hockey, but I think the Bobcats will do just that against the Huskies. Quinnipiac wins

Tuesday, Jan. 6

Yale at Northeastern

The Huskies face an ECAC team for the third time in as many games. Like St. Lawrence, Yale plays an up-tempo game and has gotten good goaltending and defensive play. That should be enough for the win. Yale wins. 

ECAC Hockey at the first intermission

Many people like to call the fall portion of the college hockey season the “first half”, but really, it’s more like the first period. The majority of the non-conference games are in the books (holiday tournaments the obvious exception), but most ECAC teams have only played eight of their 22 league games (Cornell and Colgate have only played six conference contests). So let’s look at the three things that caught our eye over the waning seconds of our metaphorical opening frame.

Strong locally, weak nationally

ECAC Hockey has compiled a cumulative 37-34-4 non-conference record, not including non-con games between league teams (e.g. the Clarkson-St. Lawrence home-and-home over the Halloween weekend). That’s all well and good, especially considering the league’s 17-13-2 record against “big brother” (or little brother, depending on how you value history) Hockey East. ECAC Hockey is also 12-5 against Atlantic Hockey foes, but that’s where the good news ends. ECAC teams seem to fare just fine in their own back yards, but further afield, the conference is just 7-16-2 against Big 10, WCHA, and NCHC opponents. Is this a travel issue, or a quality-of-competition issue? Tough to say, but it’s certainly a half-full/half-empty proposition.

Minnesota State beats Princeton; flu beats Minnesota State

An outbreak of influenza did what no team has been able to do to Minnesota State all year: Keep the Mavericks off the board. The No. 3 team in the polls routed Princeton 5-0 on Friday night, but Mavs athletic director Kevin Buisman declared the team unfit for play the following evening following a sudden outbreak of flu-like symptoms among a number of players. The game was declared a “no contest” – as opposed to a forfeit – and will be effectively erased from each team’s results as though it had never been scheduled in the first place. Friday’s shutout was MSU’s third in five games, while the loss was Princeton’s fourth in a row and ninth in 10 games (1-9).

Odds ‘n ends

• Clarkson has scored 10 second-period goals in league play thus far, leading all teams in single-period scoring… yet the Golden Knights are also the only team to be blanked in a period for the entire fall: Clarkson has not scored a third-period league goal yet.
• Five teams have surrendered 14 goals or fewer in ECAC competition. Brown has allowed 15 in first-period play alone.
• Harvard’s Jimmy Vesey, Kyle Criscuolo and Alex Kerfoot get a lot of ink lately, but the league’s top scorers are actually Dutchmen: Senior forwards Daniel Ciampini and Max Novak lead the league in points per game with 1.50 and 1.38, respectively. Freshman teammate Spencer Foo also leads the league’s rookies in scoring to date, averaging a solid point per game.
• There is Steve Perry, then there’s everyone else. Clarkson’s sophomore goalie is way out ahead of the pack in GAA (0.99) and save percentage (.958). The nearest competitor is Harvard senior Steve Michalek (1.59, .950).

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