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ECAC Hockey picks: Jan. 31 – Feb. 3

Overall: 51-35-8

It’s hard to believe, but we’re down to the last month of regular season play in the ECAC. All games are 7 p.m., with the exception of Monday’s Beanpot opener between Harvard and Northeastern.

Friday, Jan. 31

Colgate at Brown

Brown can ill-afford a repeat of Saturday’s penalty-filled first period against Yale, where the Bulldogs scored three quick power-play goals en route to a 6-0 win. Like Yale, Colgate has the talent to capitalize on those openings.  The Raiders have won a nation-best six games in a row, and are 7-2-3 on the road. It’s hard to go against that streak. Colgate wins

Rensselaer at Clarkson

RPI will be down several key players following the brawl at the conclusion of Saturday’s Mayor’s Cup game. Leading scorer Ryan Haggerty and linemate Mike Zalewski are both suspended, along with defensemen Bo Dolan and Luke Curadi. Head coach Seth Appert was also given a belated one-game suspension by the league. This is a big weekend for the Golden Knights – they appeared to snap out of a skid two weeks ago, but then got swept last weekend. For a team on the edge of the NCAA tournament bubble as well as in the hunt for a first-round bye, these are two points Clarkson can’t let get away, especially at home against a depleted opponent. Clarkson wins

Quinnipiac at Dartmouth 

The Big Green hung with Quinnipiac during a 3-1 loss in Hamden back in November. Dartmouth goalie Charles Grant has been better than his numbers suggest, but I’m not sure if the Big Green will have an answer for the Bobcats’ puck-possession.  Quinnipiac wins     

Princeton at Harvard

It’s the the 100th anniversary of the rivalry between the Tigers and Crimson. Harvard holds a commanding 148-58-11 edge in the series, but the Crimson are just 6-7-1 in games preceding the Beanpot since 2010. This is usually the time of the year that Harvard seems to pick it up – and they’ll face a Tigers team that is coming over nearly a three-week break for exams. Harvard wins

Union at St. Lawrence        

If there was ever a time for the Saints to break their lengthy slump, this was it. The Dutchmen will be without captain Mat Bodie, and forwards Eli Lichtenwald and Daniel Ciampani, as well as head coach Rick Bennett due to discipline stemming from the Mayor’s Cup brawl.  But Union had a rash of injuries earlier in the season, which gave  other players a chance to step in and contribute. The Dutchmen will have to hope that happens again. Union wins

Cornell at Yale      

Travel-partner Colgate has gotten much of the attention, but the Big Red are on a seven-game unbeaten streak that’s tied with the Raiders for the fourth-longest in the country.  Yale’s goaltending and defense have gotten better as the season has progressed, and in this close matchup, I’ll give the edge to the home team. Yale wins          

Saturday, Feb.1

Cornell at Brown   

Both teams play a similar style, but Cornell has been playing better lately, while Brown has alternated wins and losses over its last four games. I realize calling for a Cornell win means the Bears will be swept at home, but both the Raiders and Big Red have been on fire lately. Cornell wins    

Union at Clarkson     

Even minus Bodie and Bennett, I think Union should have enough to get past the Golden Knights. Union wins        

Princeton at Dartmouth

The Big Green had a 3-0 first-period lead the last time these teams met, only to lose 5-4 in overtime.  Dartmouth’s defense has struggled this season, but do  the Tigers have the firepower to take advantage? Dartmouth wins

 Rensselaer at St. Lawrence

Haggerty and Zalewski will be back for this game, and Scott Diebold has played better in goal of late. That should be enough to hold off a Saints team that hasn’t won since the end of November. Rensselaer wins.

Colgate at Yale

The Bulldogs’ veteran defensive corps will have its hands full with the Raiders. Will they have enough to slow down the league’s hottest team? I’m tempted to call a tie, but that’s taking the easy way out. I don’t have any reason to pick against the Raiders. Colgate wins

Monday, Feb. 3

Harvard vs. Northeastern, 5 p.m.  (Beanpot first round)

Due to the rotating schedule of the Beanpot, one of these teams will have a chance to break a lengthy title drought in the tournament.  Harvard hasn’t won since 1993, while it’s been since 1988 for Northeastern. That aside, the matchup I’ll be watching is Huskies forward Kevin Roy against Crimson goalie Raphael Girard, and the Harvard offense against NU goalie Clay Witt. Both Girard and Witt have been outstanding this season, while Roy won tournament MVP last season despite being on the losing team.  Harvard looked plenty fast against Yale at MSG earlier in January, but the Crimson weren’t able to turn that speed into goals. Not sure if they can do it here, either. Northeastern wins

Raiders keep on rolling

Saturday’s game between Colgate and St. Lawrence featured two teams heading in the opposite direction.  Both the red-hot Raiders and struggling Saints kept going their respective ways, as sophomore Kyle Baun’s first collegiate hat trick extended Colgate’s unbeaten streak to seven games, and dropped St. Lawrence’s skid to nine games without a win.

The win moved Colgate into a tie for second place with idle Quinnipiac. The Raiders’ seven-game unbeaten streak is tied with travel-partner Cornell for the third-best in the nation, trailing only Minnesota and Boston College. Colgate hosts Union and travels to Quinnipiac next month, two games that should have significant implications for the top of the standings.

Rivals take it to another level

Union’s 4-3 win over Harvard Friday moved the Dutchmen ahead of Quinnipiac for sole possession of first place in ECAC Hockey. But that was a mere footnote by the end of the weekend, as the end of the annual Mayor’s Cup with Rensselaer dissolved into a massive brawl once the final whistle sounded.

Videos of the incident showed that shoving started as soon as the Engineers won a last-second faceoff in their zone to seal a 2-1 victory over the  Dutchmen and escalated as Rensselaer players came off their bench to celebrate.

Referees handed out 125 minutes worth of penalties after the game, including game disqualifications to Union’s Matt Bodie and Eli Lichtenwald and Rensselaer’s Mike Zalewski and Luke Curadi. Those penalties come with an automatic one-game suspension.

Dutchmen coach Rick Bennett and RPI coach Seth Appert had to be restrained by officials and members of the teams and coaching staffs later. That scuffle appeared to have been touched off by a shove from Bennett. Check out videos and more here.

Bennett was suspended  two games by Union, while a spokesperson for ECAC Hockey said the league was reviewing video of the incident as well as talking to game officials and would hand out any additional discipline early this week.

With Bennett suspended, assistant coach Joe Dumais will coach the Dutchmen on their North Country road trip next weekend. Bennett will not travel with the team.

It’s a shame this incident marred a much-needed win by struggling RPI team that ended the Engineer’s ten-game losing streak against Union. I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of both programs, but both Bennett and Appert seem to run things the right way, and both are professional and accessible when dealing with the media. Each apologized after the game. Still, it was an embarrassing incident for both teams.

It’s also never a good sign when you make Deadspin.

League race shaping up?

There’s still nearly a month let in the regular season, but several different tiers of teams are starting toform. Eight ECAC teams have an overall record of .500 or better, with the exception of St. Lawrence, Princeton, Dartmouth and Harvard.

Quinnipiac and Union are the front-runners for the top two spots. After that, the final two first-round bye positions are up for grabs. Colgate appears to have forced itself into the picture for a top-four spot, while someone from the group of Clarkson, Yale or Cornell will likely take the last one. Brown might be a sleeper team for a top-four spot, but it looks more likely the Bears will finish somewhere fifth through ninth, which would still be good enough to give them home ice in the first round for the second time in as many years.

They’ll probably be joined by Rensselaer, who was picked first in the media preseason poll. The Engineers rebounded with a pair of wins this weekend, but likely have too much ground to make up for a first-round bye. Barring a late-season surge, Dartmouth, Princeton, Harvard and St. Lawrence should be on the road for the playoffs.

ECAC Hockey picks: Jan. 24-25

Friday, January 24

All games at 7pm

Yale at Brown
Bruno is 4-1-2 since December, with the sole loss being a very forgivable 3-2 stumble at 15-7-2 Clarkson. Freshman Tyler Steel has started all but one of those last seven games, taking over – at least for the time being – for senior Marco DeFilippo. The Bears haven’t allowed more than three goals in a game since before Thanksgiving, and downed Yale 4-1 in both squads’ season-openers. Yale is keeping its head above .500 in league play (4-3-3), and has been alternating strong defensive performances with not-so-strong outings. The offense has been clicking though, and this should be a very entertaining set of games. I’ll go with the home side Friday: Brown, 3-2.

Clarkson at Colgate
Two of the hottest teams in the league square off in Hamilton Friday night. The Raiders haven’t lost since Christmas, allowing barely over a goal a game in their last five (4-0-1). Clarkson is 8-2 in league play and 3-1 in its last four, winning three squeakers but bowing out 4-0 to Merrimack in the loss. The Knights boast six players with at least five goals, bolstering adequate goaltending (a team .903 save rate). Four of Clarkson’s next five games are against teams currently in the top half of the league standings (Colgate, Cornell, Union and Quinnipiac), so it’s time for Clarkson to walk the walk… I’m not sure they have earned the swagger just yet. Raiders, 3-2.

St. Lawrence at Cornell
SLU: You have been Brown Ruled. Cornell, in its own right, is 6-1-3 since mid-November. Big Red, 4-2.

Dartmouth at Rensselaer
There is no way the play can be as bad as the scores, but my word, RPI’s goals-against are horrifying of late: The Engineers surrendered six goals thrice in their last four games, giving up 20 goals in total in four straight losses. (They’ve scored seven, by the way.) Dartmouth isn’t looking much better, so it’ll be a matter of something’s-gotta-give: Will Dartmouth’s offense finally show up, or will RPI’s defense? Is there some third option that doesn’t involve an act of God? I’ll take the home side, because I just can’t imagine a Seth Appert team not bouncing back at the Field House. 4-3 Engineers.

Harvard at Union
Oy. I always look for Harvard to put it together, but it’s not March yet, so it’s not happening tonight at Messa. Oh, Union is on a 14-2-2 run, so that’s nice. I see that getting better. 3-1 Dutchmen.

Saturday, January 25

Clarkson at Cornell 7:00
Better late than never: I’m benefiting here by knowing Friday’s results, but because of them, I think Cornell is looking shaky after a 4-4 draw with SLU, while Clarkson played well at streaking Colgate despite the unfavorable result (a 3-2 loss). Knights on the road: 3-2.

St. Lawrence at Colgate 7:00
Brown Rule. Raiders run on… 4-1 Colgate.

Brown at Yale 7:00
Home team evens the weekend: Yale is 4-1-2 at Ingalls, and Saturday will make it win no. 5. 5-2 Bulldogs.

Union vs. Rensselaer 7:30 Mayor’s Cup – Times Union Center (Albany, NY)
It’s a rivalry, so throw the records out… but not really, because Union hasn’t lost to RPI since the fall of 2010 (9-0). Yeah, it’s getting ugly… 4-1 Dutchmen.

Hot on the dot; predictions in the mirror; and Hobey hopes fading fast

Faceoffs: Still important!

What’s that? You missed this week’s stellar feature column about faceoffs? For shame! For if you had perused said piece, you might have enjoyed a modicum of added appreciation for this weekend’s action.

Take Yale’s Friday-night game at Clarkson. The host Golden Knights beat Yale to 45 of 63 dropped pucks (I’m still talking about faceoffs here), which – at 71.4 percent – is an even greater faceoff percentage than the 48-of-68 that Quinnipiac posted against Union, as referenced in the column. In large part thanks to their dominance at the dot, Clarkson out-shot the Bulldogs 35-19, allowing the Knights to ultimately down the visitors 3-2.

In fact, of the six ECAC teams to win the faceoff battle on Friday, all six also out-shot their opponents. The trend held true on Saturday, when four out of six games followed suit.

For the record, teams that won more faceoffs only went 5-6-1 this weekend… but that’s more a question about defense and goaltending, methinks. See Yale’s 4-2 win at St. Lawrence, despite being out-shot 30-29 and losing nearly 2/3 of the draws.

Trend-watch

More self-reference, because I know how much you love to see me be wrong: At the turn of the calendar, I looked at the hockey already played by the ECAC and how it might play out in 2014. A few thoughts in retrospect:

• Brown is 2-1-2 since the holidays, jumping into seventh place in the standing (both in points and win percentage). The Bears look just good enough to sneak into a 5-8 spot and earn a home playoff series, especially since they have seven more home games and five on the road.

• Still not sure about Clarkson. The Knights are 1-1-1 since the New Year against winning teams (Yale, UMass-Lowell) and 2-1 against .500 teams or worse (Brown, Merrimack). The former will have to improve in order for Clarkson to truly impress.

• Colgate’s record in one-goal (or fewer) games is now 8-3-3, which is still far too good for a team that is only 3-6 otherwise.

• Harvard has fallen to 2-7-3 in tight games (decided by one goal or less), but is 3-3 otherwise. They are the reverse-Colgate, as it were.

• In its six games in 2014, Quinnipiac has surrendered 30+ shots as many times (twice) as it did in its first 21 contests. So far this year, Maine and Merrimack have hit that mark.

• Rensselaer has been outscored in the first period once in its last four games, and beaten in the third three times already. RPI had troubles with the final act in 2013; the Engineers appear to be suffering the same malady today.

• Goaltending and defensive miscues continue to plague the Saints, who have lost seven straight and 10 of 12 (2-10). SLU has surrendered three goals or more in 17 of its last 19 games, and neither of its starting goalies has a save percentage above .865.

• Union is 3-1 since New Year’s Day, with the sole loss being a tight-checking 2-1 loss at Quinnipiac. Wins at Princeton and New Hampshire (twice) are great, but factor in just four goals against in those four games and you’ve got yourself a winning ticket. Faceoffs – and ergo puck possession – are becoming a conspicuous problem for the Dutchmen, but the team is emerging triumphant despite that flaw. This is appearing to be a legitimate national contender once more.

Hobey hopes fading away

What with Boston College star Johnny Gaudreau’s NASA-engineered trajectory – an 18-game point streak, eight goals and 19 points in his last seven games – the ECAC’s top players would be hard-pressed to appear as anything other than seat-fillers at the Hobey Baker ceremony. The significant drop-off in production hasn’t helped RPI’s Ryan Haggerty or SLU’s Greg Carey, either.

Carey started the year well, notching six goals and 19 points in the Saints’ first 10 games. Since then however, he has an 8-13–21 line in a dozen more contests. Not too shabby – not by a long shot – but it’s not Hobey-worthy. Haggerty never put up the kind of assists necessary to challenge Carey’s spot atop the ECAC scoring chart, but when the junior sniper jumped out to 18 goals in 15 games, he definitely turned some heads. Unfortunately, both his and his team’s fortune have been in swift decline: Haggerty has added just three assists to his scoring line since Game No. 16, a six-game stretch.

Perhaps not coincidentally, SLU is 2-10 since Carey’s negative acceleration (moment of physics nerdity: there is no such thing as “deceleration”); RPI is 0-5-1 since Haggerty hit the wall.

ECAC Hockey picks: Jan. 17-18

Overall: 43-32-7

Outside of the Beanpot next month, this weekend marks the final time ECAC teams will face a non-conference opponent in the regular season. All games are 7 p.m. unless noted.

Friday, Jan. 17

Yale at Clarkson      

Yale thrashed the Golden Knights 6-3 at home in November, and are unbeaten over their last five. I think the Bulldogs should muster enough offense to get past Clarkson. Yale wins

Colgate at Dartmouth        

Colgate has yet to lose in 2014, while Dartmouth seems to have lost any positive progress accumulated prior to the holidays.  Big Green goalie Charles Grant has been hurt by a leaky defense, and I’m not sure if Dartmouth has enough to hold off the Raiders’ offense. Colgate wins

Cornell  at Harvard     

This is Harvard’s first home ECAC weekend since November. The Crimson will host a Cornell team that hasn’t played a regular season game in 2014 after last Friday’s game against Massachusetts was cancelled due to rink issues.  Jimmy Vesey and Kyle Criscuolo have combined for 18 of Harvard’s 40 goals this season, and I’m going with the Big Red’s depth in this one. Cornell wins 

Brown at St. Lawrence     

These teams tied 3-3 in Providence earlier in the year. Since then, the Bears have trended upward, while the Saints have gone in the opposite direction. St. Lawrence will have to contain the trio of Nick Lappin, Matt Lorito, and Mark Naclerio, while Brown will need to find a way to shutdown Matt and Greg Carey, along with Jeremy Wick. The Bears duo of Tyler Steel and Marco DeFilippo have both played well in net lately, and that should be the difference. Browns win    

Merrimack at Quinnipiac          

The Warriors are averaging fewer than two goals per game, which makes wins difficult to come by on its own. But that looks like a near impossible task against a Quinnipiac team that leads the nation in shots and faceoff wins, a combination that should leave Merrimack with few chances. Quinnipiac wins

Union at New Hampshire, 7:30 pm

The Dutchmen continue their lengthy stretch away from home with two games in Durham against a Wildcats team that is 5-1 all-time against Union.  It remains to be seen if Union’s Shayne Gostisbehere will play this weekend, as Ken Schott of The Schenectady Daily Gazette reported earlier this week that the star defenseman was “day-to-day.” The addition of Gostisbehere would be a big help for Union, but the Dutchmen should have enough for the win even without him. Union wins

Saturday, Jan. 18

Brown at Clarkson     

This one is a tossup. When both teams are on, they play a tough, physical style and give opponents few scoring chances. I’ll take the home team in this one. Clarkson wins        

Cornell at Dartmouth           

If Cornell is going to avoid a repeat of last year’s second half, this is a game they need to win. I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t. Cornell wins

Colgate at Harvard

The Raiders are unbeaten in their last five games away from Starr Rink.  Colgate’s a young team, but they appear to be coming together in the second half. These points of key if the Raiders want to be in the running for a top-four spot down the stretch. Colgate wins

Yale at St. Lawrence

On the surface, this looks like an easy win for the Bulldogs. Yale hasn’t lost in five games, while St. Lawrence is on a five-game losing streak. But the Bulldog’s penalty kill has been one of their few weaknesses this season, while the Saints can bring it on the power play. I’m calling for the upset – and the Saints to stop the skid. St. Lawrence wins

Quinnipiac at Merrimack           

If the Bobcats play like their capable of, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t complete the sweep. Quinnipiac wins

Union at New Hampshire     

I feel like I’m picking too many sweeps this weekend, but it’s hard to argue with the stretch the Dutchmen have been on of late. Union wins   

A change at the top

Union’s 6-4 win over Quinnipiac on Dec. 7 helped ensure the Dutchmen would end the first half in sole possession of first place in the ECAC.

But on Friday, the Bobcats reclaimed the top spot with a 2-1 win over Union in Hamden. Quinnipiac held the Dutchmen scoreless for the first two periods, the first time that’s happened all season. The loss also snapped Union’s ten-game unbeaten streak.

The Bobcats ended the weekend with a convincing 6-2 win over Rensselaer Saturday, extending their unbeaten streak to six. Freshman Sam Anas had a goal and two assists against the Engineers, giving him 30 points in 25 games.

Quinnipiac has played two more conference games than Union, and the Dutchmen have the better winning percentage in league play, so don’t expect the Bobcats to run away with the Cleary Cup like they did last season.

Skidding Engineers

A stellar second-half last season appeared to put RPI in a good position entering this year. But one win in their last eight games has dropped the Engineers to 8-10-4.

Junior goalie Scott Diebold has started every game since Jason Kasdorf was lost to an injury early in the year. Diebold was solid in the early going, but has allowed five goals in three of the last four games.

It’s possible the Engineers are in the same situation as Harvard was last year after Steve Michalek left the team in December. Michalek’s departure  meant the Crimson had few options behind Raphael Girard in net, asHarvard (and Girard) struggled in the second half. The same could be happening with Diebold and the Engineers. Freshman Jake Soffer made his collegiate debut in the third period at Quinnipiac Saturday, stopping 11-of-12 shots.

RPI mixed up its lines in both games this weekend. It will be interesting to see how things look in goal and the rest of the lineup when the Engineers resume play Jan. 24 against Dartmouth.

Yale wins on the big stage

The first Rivalry On Ice matchup went to Yale, with the Bulldogs beating Harvard 5-1 Saturday in a non-conference game at Madison Square Garden.  The game, which had been promoted throughout the year, had an announced attendance of 15,525.  The opening puck drop featured current New York Ranger and former Harvard forward Dominic Moore, former Rangers Mike Richter (Yale) and Mark Messier and Secretary of State John Kerry (Yale).

Cody Learned had two goals for Yale, and was named the game’s MVP.

 

 

 

ECAC Hockey picks: Jan. 10-11

Friday, January 10

all games at 7:00

Rensselaer at Princeton
This has the makings of a low-scoring affair: RPI hasn’t scored three goals in four games; Princeton, six. That said, the last time the Engineers mustered more than two scores, it was in a 5-2 home win over the Tigers. Princeton hopes the strong defense it exhibited in British Columbia (two goals against in two games) will carry over to NCAA action, but I’m leaning toward RPI in this one. 4-2 ‘Tute.

Union at Quinnipiac
The Game of the Week pits the first-place Dutchmen – owning the longest unbeaten streak (10 games) in the nation – against Quinnipiac, which leads the country in wins (15, tied with Ferris State). Union hasn’t played a game in nearly a month, while QU is already 2-0-2 since Christmas. Will Union’s rust give the Bobcats the edge, or will its fresh legs carry the day? One thing to look for: QU and Union lead the conference in third-period scoring (16 and 15, respectively). I’m taking QU on revenge alone, as this one could be a real toss-up. A real entertaining toss-up, but a coin flip nonetheless. 4-3 Bobcats.

Merrimack at Clarkson
I admit, I’m wondering how accurate my post-break analysis of Clarkson will be, though I don’t expect the Knights to regress against Merrimack… The Warriors are averaging fewer than two goals a game, and have only managed three or more four times (thrice against Atlantic Hockey opponents). Golden Knights defend Cheel, 4-1.

Massachusetts at Cornell
UMass is a bottom-third team in scoring and team defense, and is 3-10-1 on the road. This is Cornell’s only game of the weekend, and Lynah will be rocking as usual. This would be a deflating loss for the Big Red, but not one I’m predicting. 4-2 Red.

Saturday, January 11

Union at Princeton 4:00
Despite the marquee matchup on Friday, I don’t see Union letting down its guard enough to be caught by surprise in the Garden State. 3-1 Dutch.

Boston College at Brown 5:00
Much respect to BC for scheduling this meeting, as Bruno has had a hard time drawing major programs to Providence for a while now. Hopefully Brown and coach Brendan Whittet’s anywhere, anytime mentality has begun earning enough respect among his colleagues that we will see more of these visits from other top teams in the future. That said, BC is the favorite, and Bruno will have all it can handle at Meehan on Saturday. 4-1 Eagles.

Dartmouth vs New Hampshire 5:00 Verizon Wireless Arena; Manchester, N.H.
Dartmouth just beat BU on the road… yet has only three wins on the season. A sign of a turnaround, or simply a dead-cat bounce? (I’ve always loved that phrase.) Until the Green start establishing some kind of offensive or defensive trend, I’ll have a hard time looking past their record… Wildcats, 4-3.

Rensselaer at Quinnipiac 7:00
I’m picking the Bobcats in this one – I’ll give that away up front – but if RPI hopes to finish the season resembling even a shadow of their preseason expectations (yes, I am aware that Jason Kasdorf is a big missing piece), the Engineers have to start winning now. QU, 4-2.

Merrimack at Clarkson 7:00
Why would my predictions change with the day? These teams do not strike me as inhabiting the same plateau… ‘Tech, 3-1.

Vermont at Colgate 7:00
Time to see what the Raiders are made of. Vermont is Colgate’s first opponent since it’s stunning Mariucci Classic championship, and the Catamounts are no walkover. The Cats are 8-1-2 since mid-November, including wins over St. Lawrence (twice) and Clarkson and ties against Yale and Dartmouth. Colgate is 3-7 at home this year, and 1-5 against out-of-conference visitors. Time to put up or shut up. 3-2 Catamounts, tentatively.

Yale vs Harvard 8:00 Madison Square Garden; New York, N.Y.
Bright, Ingalls, MSG or the moon, Yale is the better team than Harvard. The Crimson scored a goalie-assisted (shots were 54-27 Yale) draw in New Haven in the first week of December, and frankly, Harvard’s only impressive win this season (5-7-3) was a 6-3 win over horrendously streaky New Hampshire… in which the Crimson were out-shot 36-21. Bulldogs 4-2.

Raiders revel; Tigers in the Great Northwest; and a Northeast no-decision

Colgate claims Mariucci Classic

It’s old news by now, but it’s nonetheless the weekend’s top headline:

Screen Shot 2014 01 05 at 8.44.21 PM1 300x183 Raiders revel; Tigers in the Great Northwest; and a Northeast no decision

The Raiders tied top-ranked Minnesota – on the Gophers’ home ice – and downed the hosts in the shootout on Friday; the Hamilton upstarts then dispatched of No. 2 Ferris State, 3-0, to take the title on Saturday. The Raiders are now 2-1 this season against former No. 1 FSU and are shaping up as a team to watch out for: The team has already beaten Union once, swept the North Country on the road, and are 5-2-3 away from Starr Rink.

Princeton on the Pacific

Most of us don’t look twice at exhibition contests, but Princeton did something a little different this year. Much as Quinnipiac and Dartmouth traveled to Europe last summer for some preseason action, the Tigers (along with the University of North Dakota) left American soil last week in order to take part in the Great Northwest Showcase in Burnaby, British Columbia. The Tigers took down Simon Fraser 8-1 on Friday, but fell 1-0 to the champion University of British Columbia on Saturday. (North Dakota lost to UBC 3-2, and beat SFU 4-3.)

Exhibition events like this used to be commonplace among all sports at all levels – even major-league baseball teams used to play mid-season exhibition tournaments – but for any number of reasons, they are obviously rare today. Despite the logistical challenges and physical risks, this was an experience that many Princeton and North Dakota players (especially the combined seven from the BC province) will cherish for a long time.

Hockey East-ECAC Hockey decide little

Hockey East (.637) and the Big 10 (.604) have overtaken the ECAC (.560) in interconference winning percentage, but the EC’ got a modicum of respect back last weekend, going 2-1-3 against regional foes from the the breakaway league. Quinnipiac (2-1 winners over Maine) and Harvard (downing Boston University, 7-4) registered ECAC Hockey’s two victories; meanwhile, UMass-Lowell hosted, tied, and beat Clarkson while both Dartmouth and Yale tied Vermont in Burlington.

Elsewhere, Brown took a win and tie in Colorado with a draw at Denver and a win against lowly Colorado College. As much as we laud Colgate for its achievement in the Twin Cities, we must also acknowledge Rensselaer’s twin 6-2 losses to the same Gophers and Bulldogs in that tournament.

There are still 16 more non-conference games on the ECAC’s regular-season docket, including two intra-conference bouts (Yale-Harvard at Madison Square Garden next weeekend, and Union-RPI in the Mayor’s Cup on January 25th).

ECAC Hockey picks: Jan. 3-8

Overall: 35-28-4

The end of this weekend could see a third ECAC team take home a tournament title after the league was shutout in last year’s holiday tournaments. Colgate and Rensselaer are each taking part in the Mariucci Classic, and will look to join Cornell and Quinnipiac with tournament wins.  All games are 7 p.m., unless noted.

Friday, Jan. 3

Ferris State vs. Rensselaer (Mariucci Classic), 5:07 p.m.

The Engineers return from an 18-day layoff to face the hottest team in the country in Ferris State. The Bulldogs enter the opener of the Mariucci Classic on a 15-game unbeaten streak, although their only two losses of the season have come to ECAC teams (St. Lawrence and Colgate).  RPI head coach and former Ferris State goalie Seth Appert and the Engineers opened last season with a win and a tie versus Ferris State in Troy, but the Bulldogs are on some kind of run right now. Ferris State wins

Maine at Quinnipiac

If anyone knows how to take down the Bobcats, its Maine head coach Red Gendron, who was an assistant at Yale last season when the Bulldogs blanked Quinnipiac in the national title game.  This is the third straight ECAC team that Maine will face after beating Princeton and losing to Cornell in a shootout in the Florida College Classic.  The Bobcats were utterly dominant in Monday’s win over Sacred Heart, and are 7-1-2 at home, while the Black Bears have yet to win at non-neutral site on the road. This game will be televised on New England Sports Network. Quinnipiac wins

Dartmouth at Vermont, 7:05 p.m.

The Big Green showed some signs of a defensive turnaround prior to the holiday break, but any progress on the backend evaporated after Dartmouth blew a late 8-4 lead against Northeastern Monday, settling for an 8-8 tie. Vermont doesn’t standout in one particular area, but the Catamounts have been very solid this season and beat Clarkson last weekend. Vermont wins

Clarkson at Massachusetts-Lowell

This is the second of three straight meetings between these teams, with the River Hawks taking game one by a 3-1 score. That setback marked the first time the Golden Knights have had back-to-back losses this season.  If Clarkson is to avoid three straight losses, they’ll have to do so against UMass-Lowell team they haven’t beaten since 1999. UMass-Lowell wins

Colgate at Minnesota, (Mariucci Classic), 8:07 p.m.

Talk about easing back into things. The Raiders start the second half against No. 1 Minnesota, the host of the Mariucci Classic and a team that is 6-0 all-time against Colgate. The Raiders should be in contention for home ice in the ECAC playoffs, but it’s hard to pick against Minnesota here. Minnesota wins

 Brown at Denver, 9:37 p.m.

It’s been just under a month since the Bears last played, but Brown went into the break following a two-game sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth. This is the first game between Denver and Brown since the 1994-95 season. The Pioneers ended the first half with a sweep at RPI, a team that plays a somewhat similar physical style to the Bears.  This game will be televised on DIRECTV Channel 683. Denver wins

Saturday, Jan. 4

Clarkson at Massachusetts-Lowell, 4 p.m.

A loss to the River Hawks would make it four in a row for the Golden Knights, who lost three games during the entire first half. I don’t think that will happen, though. Clarkson wins

Rensselaer vs. Colgate (Mariucci Classic), 5:07 p.m.  

If my predictions from Friday hold, these two New York teams will be meeting in the Midwest in the Mariucci Classic consolation game. I think the Engineers are playing a more complete game right now, which gives them the edge. Rensselaer wins

Boston University at Harvard, 7:30 p.m.

It was almost a year ago that a slumping Crimson team beat the Terriers 6-5 in overtime after trailing in the third period. If Harvard is to beat the Terriers again, I think it will come on the strength of a strong goaltending performance from either Raphael Girard or Steve Michalek.  Harvard wins

Yale at Vermont, 7:05 p.m.

This is the first of five straight games away from Ingalls Rink for the Bulldogs. The return of forwards Anthony Day and Jesse Root from injury is a big lift for Yale, and the Bulldogs should have enough offense and goaltending from Alex Lyon to take down the Catamounts. Yale wins

Brown at Colorado College, 9:07 p.m.

The Bears will face an unfamiliar opponent for the second night in a row, as this is Brown’s first time seeing the Tigers since 1976-77. Colorado College is having a miserable season, so this should be a win for the Bears. Brown wins

Tuesday, Jan. 7

Quinnipiac at Harvard

Like I said above, the Crimson have the goaltending to steal a win. But the Bobcats simply possess the puck too much, resulting in lopsided shot totals most games. Quinnipiac wins

Vermont at St. Lawrence

The Saints ended the first half with a 5-1 loss to the Catamounts on Dec. 14. Once again, St. Lawrence has no problem scoring, but will need to keep its opponents off the board if they want a shot at winning. Vermont wins

Wednesday, Jan. 8

Dartmouth at Boston University

Neither of these teams is exactly lighting it up right now, so I’ll take the home team in this matchup. Boston University wins

Cornell brings home some holiday hardware

 It will go down as a tie on the schedule, but Cornell won its first Florida College Hockey Classic since 2008 thanks to Rodger Craig’s goal in the ninth round of the shootout.

The Big Red played to a 1-1 tie against Maine before heading to the shootout. Cornell appeared to have the title locked up last year, but blew a three-goal lead over the Black Bears in an eventual 6-4 defeat.

That loss started a skid that essentially doomed Cornell’s season; the Big Red won only one of their next ten games before rallying over the final weeks.

Cornell got to this year’s championship by beating New Hampshire 4-2 in the opening night of the tournament.  Senior goalie Andy Iles was named to the all-tournament team after stopping 76-of-79 shots on the weekend.

Iles was joined on the team by Florida native Brian Ferlin, forward Dustin Mowrey, and defenseman Kirill Gotovets.

Elsewhere, Quinnipiac will face Sacred Heart in the championship game of the UConn Hockey Classic after beating Massachusetts in a shootout, while Dartmouth plays Northeastern in the consolation game of the Ledyard Bank Classic in Hanover.

Yale bounces back

The Bulldogs were the only ECAC team to play a non-tournament game this weekend, beating Holy Cross 4-1 in New Haven Saturday night. It was a good start to the second half for Yale, who lost to Dartmouth and tied Harvard on the final weekend before the holiday break.

Yale got several key players back from injuries, with forwards Jesse Root and Anthony Day playing for the first time since November. Both players recorded a point in their returns, with Root picking up an assist on Kenny Agostino’s first-period goal, while Day scored the eventual game winner early in the second.  The Bulldogs are at Vermont this Saturday, and then face Harvard Jan. 11 at Madison Square Garden in the inaugural Rivalry on Ice matchup.

Golden Knights get swept

Clarkson lost only three times over the season’s first two-and-half months. The Golden Knights almost matched that total this weekend, losing to Vermont and Massachusetts-Lowell at the Catamount Cup. Clarkson outshot the Catamounts on Saturday, but only managed 19 shots on goal in Sunday’s 3-1 loss to UMass-Lowell.  There’s certainly no reason to panic – the Golden Knights have two weekends of non-conference games to work out any issues before heading back into league play.

 

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