ECAC Hockey picks: Dec. 12 – 14

Last time: 9-9

Overall: 25-30-5

There are a handful of ECAC teams in action this week before college hockey stops for the holiday break.  Here is a rundown of who is playing this weekend, highlighted by Boston University and Jack Eichel coming to Houston Field House Saturday night.

All start times listed are EDT.

Friday, Dec. 12

St. Lawrence at No. 10 Vermont, 7:05 p.m.

While the offense has dropped a bit for the Saints, freshman Kyle Hayton and St. Lawrence’s defense have continued to be strong. The Catamounts are solid through the lineup, and have only given up 25 goals in 15 games this season. If the St. Lawrence can turn up its offense, they could have a chance, but I think the Catamounts win in a low-scoring game. Vermont wins

Princeton at No. 3 Minnesota State, 8:07 p.m.  

The Mavericks have the third-highest scoring offense in the country, averaging 3.88 goals per-game. The Tigers played Harvard close last Friday, thanks to 51 saves from sophomore Colton Phinney. The Princeton goalie should be busy again this weekend against Minnesota State.  Minnesota State wins

 Saturday, Dec. 13

No. 2 Boston University at Rensselaer, 7 p.m.

Terrier freshman Jack Eichel might be the headline in this game, but for the battered Engineers, the main goal will be to head into the break without any additional injuries and then heal up for the second half.  Forward Lou Nanne has missed the last six games, while starting goalie Jason Kasdorf hasn’t played in four games. They’re joined by forward and second-leading scorer Drew Melanson, who is out with mononucleosis, per the Troy Record.  All three players statuses for the weekend haven’t been determined, according to a university release.  Boston University wins

No. 10 Vermont at St. Lawrence, 7 p.m.

Look for the Saints to get the split at home. St. Lawrence wins

Princeton at Minnesota State, 8:07 p.m.

I can’t see the Tigers finishing off the sweep against a strong Mavericks team. Minnesota State wins

 Sunday, Dec. 14

Sacred Heart at Dartmouth, 4 p.m.

Regardless of what happens Sunday, the Big Green have been much better during this season’s first half than they were a year ago. With that being said, Dartmouth should little problem with the Pioneers, especially at home. Dartmouth wins

Clarkson at Michigan State, 5 p.m.

The magic number for Clarkson is two, as the Golden Knights are 6-1-4 when scoring at least two goals. Don’t expect a lot of offense, as Clarkson is averaging 1.79 goals per-game, while Michigan State is at 2.12 goals per-game. Slight edge to the Knights, as goalie Steve Perry and the Knights’ defense has been solid the last five games. Clarkson wins

Crimson red hot, Dutchmen stabilizing, and a gigantic bear at Lynah

Following Friday’s overtime win against Dartmouth, Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold didn’t mince words when asked about the next night’s opponent, Harvard.

“If you look at the poll, which is a whole another story, they got six first-place votes, which is a lot,” Pecknold said, adding that he was one of the six who put Harvard first. “And to be in ninth is just ridiculous. There’s obviously people somewhere, probably out west who left them off their ballot, which I don’t understand.  The polls will sort themselves out, but I think Harvard is outstanding and I think they’re the best team in our league.”

Pecknold and the Bobcats saw that firsthand Saturday, as the Crimson won 5-2 in Hamden Saturday night to move into a tie with Quinnipiac for first place in the conference.

Will the Crimson (9-1-2) be No. 1 in this week’s poll? That remains to be seen, but more importantly, Harvard enters the semester break on a six-game unbeaten streak, which is the best in the nation.

The Crimson played this weekend without top center Alexander Kerfoot, who missed both games with an injury, according to The New Haven Register. But Harvard did have forward Sean Malone return after not playing this season due to an injury. The sophomore had two goals and two assists this weekend.

Like Pecknold said, the polls will sort themselves out. And to be honest, polls are good conversation starters, but I doubt the Crimson’s ranking this week will have much of an impact heading into the second half.

Union rolls on the road

Saturday’s game in New Haven between Yale and Union was a matchup of the last two national champions. But that probably mattered little to the Dutchmen, who simply needed to end the first half on a good note after losing to Western Michigan 8-2 last weekend in the championship game of the Shillelagh Tournament.

Union did just that, rolling over Brown 7-1 before beating the Bulldogs 3-1 behind 28 saves from backup goalie Alex Sakellaropoulos. The sophomore got the start after senior Colin Stevens was injured in the win against Brown.

The two wins give the Dutchmen four in its last five games heading into the break. That stretch comes after Union went from late October to mid-November without a win.

Teddy bear toss goes awry

Typically, it’s not a good sign when you make Deadspin (just look at Union and Rensselaer last year), but this is a lighter moment from Denver and Cornell series at Lynah Rink over the weekend. The Big Red held its annual teddy bear toss after Saturday’s game against the Pioneers, and one fan with an oversize bear had some trouble getting it over the glass. Give the fans a stick tap for their effort, with an assist going to Cornell senior Jacob MacDonald, who comes over toward the end of the video to help get the massive teddy bear over the glass.

ECAC Hockey picks: Dec. 5-9

Season record: 22-19-3. I’ve seen better.

Friday, December 5

Union at Brown
Boy, what are we to make of Union? The Dutchmen are 2-6-1 in their last nine, putting forth wildly disparate performances along the way. But perhaps there are glimmers of light down the tunnel in Achilles Rink: While Union’s power play was a flat-lining 1/23 during a 0-4-1 slump, it has rebounded of late with eight goals in its last 20 chances. Brown suffered through a miserable 1-7 November, and must be praying for a change of fortune in December. The Bears have been shut out three times in their last five games, scoring just nine goals all month. Union definitely has the advantage, though both squads are dying for a silver-lining result to build on. Union wins.

Harvard at Princeton
On the bright side, Princeton scored as many goals last weekend (five) as it did in the six games prior (1-5). The Tigers are getting healthier, but geez, there are shorter transition steps than the one coming to town on Friday. The Crimson are quite possibly the hottest team in the nation right now. Harvard is 5-0-1 on the road and 3-0-1 – always as the visitor – against top-10 opponents. This game is Harvard’s to lose.

Dartmouth at Quinnipiac
The Big Green are playing solid defense lately, giving up just 10 goals in their last six games including two shutouts. Junior goalie James Kruger is settling in nicely with a .930 save percentage, the penalty kill is humming at 91 percent, and the power play hasn’t even come up to speed (15 percent). Down in Hamden, the Bobcats are keeping their heads above water despite dropping goal totals. QU has only been out-shot once this season, but net-front positioning and finishing touches have been elusive for these young cats. This should be a terrific game between potential league top-four finishers, and it is only by the barest margin that I pick QU to take this one.

Rensselaer at Yale
Goals and Engineers are fitting together like Legos and Lincoln Logs lately. Jason Kasdorf is doing his darnedest to keep RPI in the mix on a nightly basis, but it is inevitable to run into slides like this: Five one-goal games (2-2-1), then a blowout… in this case, last weekend’s 6-0 loss at Michigan, which isn’t having a top-notch season itself. Yale isn’t setting goals aflame this season either, but the offense has been opportunistic and the defense has held the fort with under two goals allowed per game. The power play needs to double its effectiveness (11 percent), but so far so good in New Haven. Yale wins.

Denver at Cornell
The Pioneers are off to a hot start (8-3), but have played only two games away from home (1-1, both at Minnesota-Duluth). The offense is surgical, carving foes to the tune of 3.64 goals per game… if Cornell can minimize DU’s chances, the goaltending behind the barrage is pedestrian (.887 team save percentage). The Big Red are 4-1 in their last five, playing tight defense and not taking too many unreasonable risks offensively. This has the potential to go down as a bigger upset than it deserves to be, and I like Cornell’s odds. Big Red take it on Friday.

Saturday, December 6

Rensselaer at Brown 4:00
Quicker-than-usual turnaround for these teams, playing about 19 hours after Friday’s finish. Does this favor the Bears, who get to sleep in their own beds? Sure, in theory… but between two struggling teams, Bruno is decidedly stugglingier. Edge RPI.

Union at Yale
Though Yale may not be turning many heads yet this year, it’s worth noting that the Bulldogs beat Dartmouth in Hanover, Harvard in Boston, Colgate in Hamilton, and lost a tight game to Cornell at Lynah. The Blue’s team save percentage is .938 and the PP isn’t even rolling yet. This is a squad that can hang with the best. Union will have to bring its A-game if it hopes to hang around at Ingalls on Saturday. Yale wins.

Harvard at Quinnipiac
While there is a lot to like about the way Quinnipiac is playing this fall, I’m just riding Harvard ’til there ain’t no where else to go. The Crimson are tearing it up and we’re all just waiting to see where this goes… Harvard wins.

Dartmouth at Princeton
The Big Green are holding opponents to 22 shots a game over the last two weeks, and that doesn’t bode well for a Princeton team that is dying for offense. Dartmouth has a clear advantage, and is my pick to win.

Clarkson at St. Lawrence
Clarkson’s string of successful seasons against their border-bound rival appears to have come to an end, as SLU took a (non-conference) tie and win over the Halloween weekend. ‘Tech’s issues go beyond the loss of bragging rights however, having only topped two goals in a game twice since the opening weekend (3-7-4 since then). Casey Jones and the Golden Knights knew they would live or die by the strength of their defense… and so far, the team is sustaining more blows than it’s giving. Meanwhile, St. Lawrence is 7-3-1 since mid-October and is getting superb team defense and netminding by rookie Kyle Hayton (.935 save rate). Add in that thunderous, playing-in-an-oak-tree home ice edge, and SLU should take this game as well.

Denver at Cornell
Everything I said about Friday night’s matchup holds true again, but can the Red really keep the lid on DU’s explosive offense? I wouldn’t bet on a sweep. DU wins.

Tuesday, December 9

Colgate at Providence
Big injuries are hampering Colgate’s widely expected charge toward glory, but on the bright side the Raiders don’t play another league game until January 9. Providence is rolling, winning seven of nine (7-2) with four shutouts in six games, including three in a row over New Hampshire, Army, and Boston College. Oddly enough, the Friars have scored one goal or fewer in four of their last seven games, but you don’t need to score very often when your team save percentage is .975 for the month of November. Friars win.

Surprises abound for Harvard, Dartmouth and Union

Mountain climbers

It should come as no surprise that the Harvard Crimson lead this weekend’s entry. The Crimson scored a pair of huge road wins last week, downing No. 1 Boston University 3-2 in overtime on Tuesday, then smothering No. 4 Massachusetts-Lowell 4-2 on Saturday. Harvard is now 7-1-2 overall, and 3-0-1 against Top 10 teams (including an earlier tie at Union and win at Boston College), all on the road.

The special teams are rolling (31 percent power play, 92 percent on the kill), the team hasn’t lost when scoring first (6-0-1) and has never trailed at the first intermission, and the top line of Jimmy Vesey – Alex Kerfoot – Kyle Criscuolo is one of the hottest in the nation with 17 goals and 42 points between them. Oh, and goalie Steve Michalek is stopping 94.7 percent of shots faced, which is insignificantly worse than one goal against for every 20 shots faced.

Teddy Donato’s road warriors are unbeaten in six road games this season (5-0-1), with two more coming up before the holiday break (at Princeton and No. 14 Quinnipiac). The second half of the season consists of six road games, eight at home, and three neutral-site contests. Hope Harvard digs home cooking as much as it seems to enjoy quality time on the bus.

Optimism in Hanover

A 4-3-1 record might not take home any trophies, but it’s a far sight better than last year’s alternative.

The Big Green – 0-8 at this point last fall – climbed above .500 for the first time in three weeks with a massive 2-0 home win over No. 1 Boston University. (BU had a tough week against ECAC competition, but the Terriers saved some face in downing No. 9 Colgate 5-2 on Friday.) Sunday’s victory was no lucky result, either: Dartmouth dominated BU 36-23 in shots, including 21-5 in the second period alone. The Big Green also succeeded in accomplishing what only Harvard had been able to do thus far this season, by keeping superstar Jack Eichel off the scoresheet.

The decision was Dartmouth’s first victory over the nation’s top-ranked team since 2002, when the Green upended Boston College. The team has now won three of its last four (3-1), with its only loss coming to rapidly rising Harvard.

Neutral-site review

Two ECAC sides played neutral-site games this weekend: Cornell improved to 2-3-1 at Madison Square Garden with a 3-1 victory over Penn State, while Union fell hard to Western Michigan in the championship of the Shillelagh Tournament at Notre Dame.

The Big Red battled back from a submissive first period to defeat the Nittany Lions on the strength of 37 saves from sophomore Mitch Gillam; Cornell has now won three straight and four of five (4-1) after a 0-3-1 start.

Meanwhile, Union’s difficult-to-define season continued with its worst loss and most goals-against since an 8-0 February, 2008 loss at Colgate. The Dutchmen are 2-6-1 in their last nine games, following a 5-0 start. Union is 1-4 in one-goal games this season which usually indicates a touch of bad luck affecting the overall record, but boy, the team’s .881 save percentage and 74 percent penalty kill are tough to pin on misfortune. It was bound to be, and indeed still is, a fascinating season to follow in Schenectady… though fans of the Garnet & White may have different adjectives attached to the season to date.

ECAC Hockey picks: Nov. 28 – 30

Last time: 7-5-2

Overall:  16-21-5

With Thanksgiving over, ECAC Hockey gets back into action with plenty of non-conference games this weekend. Here’s a look at what’s scheduled for the next few days.

Friday, Nov. 28

Clarkson at Merrimack, 4 p.m.

The Golden Knights are on a modest three-game unbeaten streak (2-0-1), and have only given up two goals per game this season. Merrimack has been steady most of the year, and is 5-1 at home. This is only the second-ever meeting at Lawler Arena between the teams. Merrimack wins

Michigan State at Princeton, 7 p.m.

The Spartans and Tigers met last year on Thanksgiving weekend in Lansing, with Michigan State sweeping Princeton to push the all-time series record to 5-0. Princeton is on a five-game losing streak after winning its home opener against Cornell on Nov. 7. The Spartans haven’t been particularly impressive this season, but they should be able to push the all-time series record to 6-0. Michigan State wins

Massachusetts at Quinnipiac, 7 p.m.

Quinnipiac had its six-game unbeaten streak ended last Friday by Clarkson, but rebounded with a 3-2 overtime win at St. Lawrence.  UMass has struggled this season and I’m not sure if they’ll be able to keep pace with the Bobcats. Quinnipiac wins

Rensselaer at Michigan, 7:35

RPI has been dealing with plenty of injuries lately, forcing the Engineers to skate a defenseman at forward each of the last two games, going 1-0-1, including a 2-1 win Tuesday at New Hampshire. This is a matchup of contrasting strengths; RPI scores 1.63 goals per game while allowing 2.41 and the Wolverines score 3.64 goals per game while allowing 3.27. I’ll take the stronger defense in the series opener. Rensselaer wins

Union at Notre Dame, 7:35 p.m. (Shillelagh Tournament)

The Dutchmen resume play following a break for exams, taking part in the Shillelagh Tournament for the first time since 2009, when Union lost 3-1 to No.1 Notre Dame.  Neither the Irish (6-6-2) nor the Dutchmen (6-5-1) have been consistent this season, although Union did end a six-game winless streak with a convincing 6-1 win over Princeton on Nov. 15. A win here could set the Dutchmen up nicely for the remainder of the first half. This game will be aired on NBCsports.com. Union wins

Saturday, Nov. 29

Connecticut at Brown, 4 p.m.

It’s been a nightmarish start for the Bears. Brown has lost six in a row following a 4-2 win in the season opener on Oct. 31. The Bears’ penalty kill has been atrocious, converting at 54.5 percent.  Connecticut isn’t any sort of offensive powerhouse, but has good goaltending and is willing to create traffic in front of the net. Connecticut wins

Colgate at Boston University, 4 p.m.

The Raiders have had some injuries this season, but have kept on rolling. They’ll have their hands full with No. 1 Boston University, who lost 3-2 to Harvard in overtime Tuesday. This might be one of the best games of the weekend, and I could see it going either way. Colgate wins

American International at Dartmouth, 4 p.m.

Dartmouth is looking to break out of a mini 1-3 funk, but I don’t see them losing to the Yellow Jackets, especially at home. Dartmouth wins

Clarkson at Merrimack, 4 p.m.

I think the Golden Knights will rebound and head home with a split. Clarkson wins

Union vs. Ohio State/Michigan State, 4:05 (Shillelagh Tournament)

Assuming Union gets past Notre Dame in the opener, the Dutchmen will either face Ohio State or Western Michigan for the championship. Both teams have struggled this season, and the Dutchmen should be able to handle either one. Union wins

Michigan State at Princeton, 7 p.m.

While I predicted a split for Clarkson, I don’t see that happening for the Tigers. Michigan State wins

Quinnipiac at Massachusetts,  7 p.m.

The venue is different, but I don’ think the result will be any different. QU should get the sweep. Quinnipiac wins

Harvard at Massachusetts Lowell, 7 p.m.

The Crimson had an impressive overtime win against No.1 Boston University Tuesday. Can they continue that against UMass Lowell? The River Hawks have steady on both ends of the ice this year, and while I’m tempted to call for a Harvard win, it will be tough, especially on the road. Massachusetts-Lowell wins

RIT at Yale, 7 p.m.

Yale forward Stu Wilson will have the chance to face his father, RIT coach Wayne Wilson, for the first time in his collegiate career. The younger Wilson’s team has been the better one thus far, and the Bulldogs and goalie Alex Lyon should come through for the win. Yale wins

Rensselaer at Michigan, 7:35

Michigan should come back to get the weekend split. Michigan wins

Penn State vs. Cornell, 8 p.m. (Frozen Apple at Madison Square Garden)

This is the sixth time in eight seasons Cornell has played at Madison Square Garden, but the first time the Big Red have faced Penn State. The Nittany Lions are off to a 7-3-2 start thanks to a high-scoring offense. It should be a good test for Cornell’s defense, which has been strong to date. If the Big Red can carry over its offensive production from last weekend, they should get the win. Cornell wins

Sunday, Nov. 30

Brown at Holy Cross, 1:05 p.m.

Holy Cross has gotten strong goaltending from senior Matt Ginn this season. I think that will be the difference here. Holy Cross wins

Boston University at Dartmouth, 4 p.m.

The Terriers face their third straight ECAC Hockey team, and I think they’ll finally break through with a win. Boston University wins 

Big Red, Golden Knights rebound; Hayton ties shutout record

If any team was in need of a four-point weekend, it was Cornell. The Big Red were 1-4-1 and had only scored seven goals on the season entering Friday, but they doubled their win total and matched their season total in goals with a pair of impressive home wins.

Cornell opened the weekend with a 3-2 win over Yale Friday, and then blanked Brown 4-0 Saturday. The win against the Bulldogs came without forward Matt Buckles and defenseman Holden Anderson, each whom sat out after getting a game disqualification against St. Lawrence last weekend.

Freshman Hayden Stewart made 26 saves against the Bears for the shutout Saturday, becoming the first freshman to record a shutout for the Big Red since Ben Scrivens did it in 2006. It was Stewart’s second career collegiate start.

Cornell scored four power-play goals this weekend – matching its total from the first six games of the season.

Knights sweep

Clarkson joined Cornell as the only teams to take four points this weekend, beating Quinnipiac and Princeton at home. Friday’s win against QU snapped the Bobcats’ six-game winning streak, which was the second-longest active streak in the country.

Steve Perry was solid in net both games for the Golden Knights, but give credit to Clarkson’s defense, who allowed 40 shots on the weekend. After a seven-game winless streak that stretched into early November, Clarkson has one loss in its last six games. The Golden Knights haven’t given up more than two goals during that time, and are allowing exactly two goals a game this season, good for twelfth in the country.

Hayton ties mark

It’s been an outstanding first two months for St. Lawrence goalie Kyle Hayton.  The Saints freshman tied the school record for shutouts in a season with four in his 13th start of the season Friday against Princeton.

The four shutouts are the most for a St. Lawrence goalie since the 1965-66 season.  Hayton shares the record with three former All-Americans: Bill Sloan (1955-56), Richie Broadbelt (1962-63) and Bob Perani (1965-66). Overall, Hayton has a 2.11 goals-against-average and a .935 save percentage for the surprising 8-4-1 Saints.


ECAC Hockey picks: Nov. 21-25

My prediction record took a massive hit two weeks ago, and now stands at 16-14-3. Yeow.

Friday, November 21

Quinnipiac at Clarkson
In case you missed it, the Q-Cats are red hot and rolling with nine goals allowed in six straight wins and a 4-0 record in conference. Clarkson, meanwhile, has but one win since mid-October (1-5-4) and despite serviceable team defense (13 goals against in its last six games), the offense has been sputtering badly (nine goals for in that stretch). While the roadie is by no means an easy one for Quinnipiac, Cheel Arena simply isn’t paying the dividends it once did: Clarkson is 0-3-1 in Potsdam this fall. QU takes it.

Brown at Colgate
The Bears are falling face-first of late, being outscored 19-5 in four straight losses. Colgate is 8-3-1 overall and while the Raiders may not be annihilating all comers, the results and statistics suggest a viable postseason contender. Look at it this way: The Raiders have scored five goals more times (thrice) than it has allowed three (twice). That’s a fun fact. Colgate wins.

Yale at Cornell
With seven goals in six games, the Big Red are anything but imposing right now, and Yale isn’t in a generous mood. The Bulldogs are playing stingy hockey, giving up under two goals and 30 shots a game en route to a 3-1-2 record. Lynah’s ticketholders better indeed be faithful, because the learning curve is getting steeper by the week for Cornell. The Blue prevail.

Princeton at St. Lawrence
Boy, Princeton’s 2-1 squeaker over Cornell sure seems like it was ages ago, doesn’t it? The Tigers have gone toothless since then, and indeed appear to have been declawed as well: Princeton is on the wrong end of a 21-6 season aggregate score, and the longest road trip in the conference isn’t likely to perk up these cats. The Saints are 4-1-1 in their last six with four four-plus-goal games and two shutouts. I like SLU’s odds here. Saints win.

Bentley at Harvard
Don’t sleep on Bentley: The Falcons’ power play is downright ostentatious, at 36 percent. Bentley scores a lot (40 goals in 11 games), but gives up a significant number as well (31 against, including SIX at home to Sacred Heart). Harvard is feeling its oats this year, doubling up the competition offensively (24-12 on the year) and boasting big, years-in-the-making wins at Boston College and Rensselaer. I think this matchup favors Harvard, which seems a bit more likely to shut down Bentley’s high-flying offense than vice-versa. Crimson take it.

Saturday, November 22

Princeton at Clarkson
Some games are tough to pick because of the participating teams’ matching strengths. This is not one of those games. The Knights and Tigers are salivating for a win to break up a couple tough skids, and this game should be considered a prime opportunity to do so. Who will salvage the weekend with a couple points? I’m picking Clarkson, if only for the home-ice edge (which, as aforementioned, barely exists so far this autumn). Tech wins.

Yale at Colgate
This could be a statement game for the up-and-coming Bulldogs, but it also represents one of “those game” that Colgate is expected to win if the Raiders truly hope to fulfill their national-contender aspirations. Each team has been winning on the strength of superb defense and goaltending (each team’s No. 1 goalie boasts a save percentage between .930 and .940), but the Raiders’ power play has been a few percentage points better… and in a tight game like this, the PP could make all the difference. Colgate triumphs.

Brown at Cornell
This is a game that Cornell should win, and one about which the Big Red should become quite despondent if they lose. Good year or bad, the state that Brown is in should not allow for excuses. Cornell wins.

Quinnipiac at St. Lawrence
Interesting, interesting… a sizzling but fairly inexperienced visitor playing at a respectably successful, long-distance host. An SLU win would not surprise me at all, but I am not in the mood to bet against QU, given the way the Bobcats have been playing. ‘Cats win.

Tuesday, November 25

Harvard at Boston University
The Crimson already upset Boston College on the road; do they have another Beantown beatdown in ‘em? (Side note, and pop quiz: How many Division 1 teams play within Boston’s actual city limits? Answer at the end.) BC is having an off year so far, but BU has bounced back from an utterly forgettable 2013-14 campaign with… oh heck with it, Jack Eichel. There, I said what had to be said. Terriers trump Harvard on Tuesday.

Rensselaer at New Hampshire
So which team is it, Engineers? Is it the shut-down, opportunistic squad that swept Union and edged Dartmouth and Princeton, or is it the anemic, goal-starved stick-stranglers who only managed two goals and 47 shots combined against Quinnipiac and Connecticut? It would appear that the defense and goaltending are sorting themselves out into something resembling progress, but the offense is still more likely to get blanked (it’s already happened four times) than score thrice or more (three times). Meanwhile, UNH is playing its own entertaining brand of bipolar hockey, scoring in bunches against weaker foes but feeling a bit suffocated against quality opposition. So really, both of you… which teams are going to take the ice on Tuesday? I’ll give UNH the home-ice edge, because otherwise, I haven’t the foggiest.

By the way, the answer is four: BU and Northeastern are the obvious two, but Harvard and BC technically play within city limits as well even though the main campi (campuses?) are in Cambridge and Newton, respectively. People often forget about Bentley too, but the Falcons play in Watertown, and the campus is in Waltham.

End of the Unbeatens, Brown in a bind, and QU is sizzling

No easy weekends

Well, what with Harvard’s 2-1 home loss to Yale on Saturday, ECAC Hockey is officially out of the “Last of the Unbeatens” race. In fact, Quinnipiac is the only team still unbeaten in league play (4-0), having edged Union and Rensselaer in the Capital District this weekend. With all dozen teams playing league games over the last 72 hours, only the Bobcats and Bulldogs took the full four points. (For the record, Michigan Tech out in the WCHA – at 10-0-0 – is the only undefeated team in Division 1 at this point.)

Brown buckling

There were a lot of people buying tickets for Brown’s Dark Horse Express before the season started… I’m guessing many of them have since disembarked. The Bears have struggled mightily through five games, scoring nine goals while allowing 21 (5-19 in league play). Reliable junior point-producer Nick Lappin nearly doubled his career penalty-minute total in two games, earning him a two-game suspension to match; Bruno lost those two Lappin-less games by a combined score of 12-2. There is no one major problem with the Bears right now: The power play (.077), penalty kill (.611), team save percentage (.883) and team shooting percentage (6.1) are all bad to awful. The team’s leading scorer is senior Massimo Lamacchia, with one goal and three points. There is a lot of potential in Providence, but boy, it isn’t exhibiting itself in the slightest right now.

Bobcats ablaze

Nobody should have any excuse for overlooking Quinnipiac anymore, yet here we are two months into the season, and the Bobcats are still managing to sneak up on us. Sophomore Sam Anas is absolutely red-hot right now with seven goals and 15 points in 10 games, including five goals on one of the nation’s second-best power play (30.4 percent as a team, trailing only Bentley’s 36.4). Perhaps equally remarkable, Anas is the only player in the country to average more than six shots on goal per game (6.2); D-I’s leading SOG/game totals over the past two years have been 4.54 and 4.91, to give you some sense of scope. Not surprisingly, linemates Matthew Peca (senior) and Landon Smith (freshman) are having good years-to-date as well, with seven goals and 21 points combined. Second-line center Travis St. Denis notched a hat trick at RPI on Saturday, so look out if that line stays hot… and junior goaltender Michael Garteig may have a sub-optimal .903 save rate overall, but in league play that percentage shoots way up to .956. Heads up, ECAC… this is no rebuild; it’s a reload.

ECAC Hockey picks: Nov. 14 – 18

Last week: 5-7-3

Overall: 9-16-3

It’s the second straight weekend of all-conference matchups, with the exception of Tuesday’s Rensselaer and Connecticut game. All games are 7 p.m. unless noted.

Friday, Nov. 14

St. Lawrence at Colgate

Both these teams like to play fast, but both have also gotten excellent goaltending thus far, with the Raiders’ Charlie Finn and Saints’ Kyle Hayton tied for the national lead with three shutouts.

Colgate is without top-six forward Mike Borkowski who was lost for the year with a knee injury last weekend. The Raiders should out-possess the Saints, meaning it will come down to whether Hayton can continue his hot play. I think he’ll play well, but Colgate simply has too many weapons and Finn is no slouch on the other end. Colgate wins 

Clarkson at Cornell

The Big Red will be without coach Mike Schafer after the ECAC issued a one-game suspension following his post-game comments Saturday at Quinnipiac. That’s not the biggest problem for Cornell, as it has three goals in four games this season – a problem not helped by the absence of puck-moving defenseman Joakim Ryan, who hasn’t played since leaving the season opener on Oct. 31 with an injury. Clarkson hasn’t been scoring prolifically either, but have been solid in their own end, much like the Big Red. Could we see another 0-0 tie? I doubt it, but Clarkson hasn’t won at Cornell since 2007, and I don’t see that streak ending. Cornell wins 

Yale at Dartmouth 

Dartmouth has been lead in the early going by its top line and a solid performance by goalie James Kruger. Yale has yet to show the prolific scoring its traditionally been known for, while goalie Alex Lyon was pulled after giving up three goals in the first period to St. Lawrence last Saturday. Lyon should rebound, but the real question is how will Yale produce some offense? The Bulldogs haven’t scored a second-period goal this season, and have only scored twice in the third. Dartmouth wins 

Brown at Harvard

The Crimson opened some eyes with a 6-3 throttling of Boston College on Tuesday. To be fair, the Eagles started third-string goalie Brad Barone, but it was an impressive showing from a Harvard team that has been high on talent, but low on results. Harvard’s Alexander Kerfoot and Kyle Criscuolo, along with Brown’s Mark Naclerio, Nick Lappin and Matt Lorito may be some of the more underrated forwards in the league, although Lappin is out for the weekend following a two-game suspension issued by the league. It’s a pretty even matchup, but I’m leaning towards the home team. Harvard wins

Princeton at Rensselaer

RPI has been hit-or-miss so far, but the Engineers are currently in first place with a 3-1-1 conference record. Not much has gone right for Princeton so far, although first-year head coach Ron Fogarty did get his first win as a Tiger last weekend against Cornell. RPI wins 

Quinnipiac at Union

Two of the better teams in the ECAC over the past few seasons haven’t been up to their usual standard this year, although the Bobcats have won five in a row. The Dutchmen are in the midst of a five-game winless streak; a stretch I don’t see continuing. Union wins

 Saturday, Nov. 15

 Clarkson at Colgate

The Golden Knights might have the goaltending and defense to keep pace with the Raiders, but I’m not sure they have enough depth up front to match Colgate. Colgate wins

St. Lawrence at Cornell

Two contrasting styles: I like the Saints speed and steady goaltending from Hayton. St. Lawrence wins

Brown at Dartmouth

It’s the 150th all-time meeting between these teams, with the Big Green holding a 74-68-8 advantage, including a 12-2-1 mark over the last 15 games. Losing Lappin for the weekend hurts the Bears, but they should be able to pull one win out of their road trip. Brown wins

Yale at Harvard

This is one of the nation’s oldest rivalries will feature the awarding of the Tim Taylor Cup, named in honor of the former Yale coach. It will be given to the most outstanding player of the game. I won’t venture a guess as to whom the award will go to, but I like the Bulldogs to get the win. Yale wins

 Quinnipiac at Rensselaer

Take your pick: an inconsistent offense (RPI) or an inconsistent defense (Quinnipiac). The Bobcats look to have turned it around, posting two shutouts last weekend to push its winning streak to five games. The Engineers scored six goals two weeks ago against Union, but only two last weekend. Quinnipiac wins

Princeton at Union

Even in its current funk, I don’t think Union should have a problem with the Tigers, especially at home. This is the last game at Messa Rink for the Dutchmen until Jan. 16. Union wins

Tuesday, Nov. 18

Harvard at Dartmouth

Both teams are off to a solid start following disappointing seasons last year. I think this is a pretty even matchup – evidenced by a 3-3 tie two weeks ago between the teams – but give Dartmouth the slight edge. Dartmouth wins

Rensselaer at Connecticut, 7:05 p.m.

Like RPI, the Huskies have played some top teams tough – a win against Boston College and a tie versus Boston University. But like the Engineers, they haven’t been able to put together any sort of lengthy winning streak. Both teams are strong in net – the difference could come down to who can scrape together some goals. Rensselaer


Quinnipiac rebounds, Saints sweep, Yale and Union reeling

Two games don’t make a season, but this past weekend certainly helped get Quinnipiac put an early season slump behind them.

The Bobcats (5-2-1) beat Colgate and Cornell, extending their winning streak to four games.

More importantly, Quinnipiac’s defense and goalie Michael Garteig didn’t allow a single goal  either night after giving up at least three goals in all but one its games entering the weekend.

“That’s the best team defense we’ve played in the two years I’ve played,” Garteig said following Saturday’s win. “Guys were doing the right things, the little things to bail me out if I was to let up a rebound. That’s not just our defense, but it was our forwards too.”

With players like Matthew Peca, Sam Anas, and talented freshman Landon Smith, the Bobcats should not only score, but possess the puck for much of the game, which has been their trademark the last several seasons. If the defense can build off this weekend, Quinnipiac should continue to put their sluggish start behind them.

Tim Clifton scored with less than two minutes left to give the Bobcats a 1-0 win Saturday in a game that was marred by Peca getting a five-minute major and game misconduct for hitting the Big Red’s Cole Bardreau from behind. Those emotions spilled over into the post-game handshake, where Cornell’s Joel Lowry and QU’s Dan Federico each got a ten-minute misconduct, and into the post-game press conference, where Big Red head coach Mike Schafer ripped Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold.  Check out the audio here. 

Schafer seemed to be upset that Pecknold was calling for embellishment after Bardreau took the hit. Bardreau suffered a serious season-ending injury after getting hit from behind in 2013.  His post-game interview includes some pointed comments towards Pecknold and some profanity that should likely earn a fine from the league.

Hayton making an impact  

It’s barely a month into the season, but here’s some perspective. St. Lawrence freshman Kyle Hayton posted his third shutout of the season in a 4-0 win at Yale Saturday.

Last year’s starter, Matt Weninger, never had more than two shutouts in any of his four seasons. In fact, the Saints haven’t had three shutouts as a team since the 2005-06 season. The three shutouts are a team rookie record and are the most by any Saints goalie since current pro Mike McKenna had three in 2004-05.

Saints coach Greg Carvel called Saturday’s shutout a team effort, but that doesn’t detract from the job Hayton has done through the first ten games. He has a 1.97 goals-against-average and a .943 save percentage, and Carvel raved about his makeup earlier in the season.

 Bulldogs, Dutchmen scuffling

Yale and Union have won the last two national championships. But neither team has gotten off to a particularly strong start in conference play, going a combined 0-4-2 thus far.

The Bulldogs tied Clarkson Friday and then were blanked 4-0 by St. Lawrence, a game where goalie Alex  Lyon was pulled after one period. Union saw a 3-0 lead turn into a 4-3 overtime loss to Dartmouth Friday and then rallied to tie Harvard 2-2.

Union’s four straight losses prior to Saturday’s tie were the most in a row for the Dutchmen since the 2006-07 season. Their current five-game winless streak comes on the heels of a 22-game unbeaten streak and 15-game home winning streak, both which dated to last year.

But it’s still early. Like the rest of the Ivy teams, Yale has the disadvantage of a late start, while Union has overcome stretches of rough play before. Don’t count either one out  just yet.

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