Another March, another final ECAC Hockey notebook. Let’s save the sentimentalities for Twitter and get right down to brass tacks. Seventh-seeded Brown will take on regular-season champion Quinnipiac at 4 p.m. EDT on Friday, while third-place Yale will get the last change against fourth-seed Union at 7:30. Tons of information can be found here on the league’s website, but here’s the bare-bones basics: The games are being played at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., [...]
Eighth-ranked Yale hosts No. 2 and PairWise-leading Quinnipiac tonight in the first Whitney War of the season. The game is commanding massive attention in the regional media, as there is a fair amount hanging in the balance.
The Bulldogs (19 points, eight games remaining) are alone in second place behind the Bobcats (24 points, nine games left), five points – and one game – behind QU. Quinnipiac is on an 18-game unbeaten streak (15-0-3), extended with a brutal 1-1 tie at Brown last night. Yale has won six of its last seven, and is 11-3-2 since opening the season 2-2-1. The two top-10 teams are certainly battling for stronger PairWise positions in advance of the NCAA tournament, and – oh yes – they’re only five miles apart, sharing real estate on southern Connecticut’s Whitney Avenue.
Tickets are exchanging hands at (potentially) exorbitant prices, though perhaps some ticket-holders are a bit optimistic about the market. The Yale Sports Information Department (specifically esteemed hockey contact Steve Conn) reports that media parking will be tight at best, and the office has arranged a supplemental press box to accommodate the jam of journalists.
What are the potential outcomes worth? For Yale, a win – or even a tie – probably keeps the door ajar in the race for the Cleary Cup. These teams tangle again in three weeks, and both teams know that it’s a wild league where anything can happen to any team on any given night. A QU victory may extinguish any hope of a regular-season title for the Bulldogs, as it would stretch the gulf between the sides to seven points. The PairWise is a big factor, as the Bobcats aim to strengthen their hold on the nation’s top seed, while Yale is fighting to improve from a sixth-place position. QU’s 18-game hot streak is the best in the country this season, as well as the program’s all-time high.
Momentum for the following meeting and the playoffs is up for grabs, and – last but not least – it’s a rivalry game. Yale has long downplayed the ferocity of the Whitney War. The Bulldogs traditionally align themselves with Harvard and Princeton, along with the other Ivies, but this is a backyard brawl. Quinnipiac circles, highlights, illuminates, and punches a hole through the Yale games every season.
Like it or not, Yale’s got a rivalry game on its hands tonight, and it’s going to be spectacular.
Last week: 6-4
It’s the weekend before Beanpot Monday, but the biggest game in the ECAC is happening Saturday night in New Haven when Quinnipiac and Yale meet at Ingalls Rink. Brian Sullivan and I will both be there, so follow along on Twitter: @Nate_Owen41 and @SullivanHockey. Once again, all games are 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted.
Friday, Feb. 1
Colgate at Clarkson
Colgate is coming off a sweep of Brown and Yale last weekend, while Clarkson is just 1-6-1 over the last eight games. I’ll take the hot hand. Colgate wins
Cornell at St. Lawrence
The Big Red have been in rut lately. Cornell has just win over the last seven games, dating back to a 6-4 loss to Maine in the Florida Hockey Classic on Dec. 29. Scoring has been a problem, as the Big Red have put up three or more goals just twice in that span. St. Lawrence is starting to come together following a brutal stretch in December, and the emergence of some secondary scoring options behind Kyle Flanagan and Greg Carey has proved beneficial for the Saints. St. Lawrence wins
Harvard at Rensselaer
Harvard’s wild 6-5 overtime victory against Boston University on Jan. 9 is starting to look more like an outlier than any sort of pattern, as it’s the Crimson’s only win over the last thirteen games. RPI has Jason Kasdorf back in net for the stretch run and the freshman could be a difference maker the rest of the way. RPI wins
Princeton at Yale
The Tigers return to the rink where they ended their season in the opening round of the league playoffs last season. Princeton has been better this year, but so have the Bulldogs, who only have one loss in the last month and haven’t lost at home since the start of December. Yale wins
Quinnipiac at Brown
Brown has quietly put together a solid 4-3 stretch despite a rash of injuries, especially on defense. They might not be putting up the numbers of last season, but QU’s Matthew Peca, Connor and Kellen Jones et al certainly can give defenses a handful. Quinnipiac wins
Dartmouth at Union, 7:40 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)
Both these teams have looked a bit more mortal at times in 2013- although the Dutchmen started to slide right before the winter break. Still, Union has put together a three-game winning streak that could be the start of another second-half surge for the Dutchmen. This is the first nationally-televised game from Messa Rink. Union wins
Saturday, Feb. 2
Princeton at Brown, 4 p.m.
The Bears opened the season with a 2-1 win over the Tigers when these teams last met way back in October for the Ivy Shootout. Princeton should come back with a win in their second trip to Meehan this season. Princeton wins
Colgate at St. Lawrence
If my prediction from Friday holds true, the Raiders should be facing the Saints in the midst of a three-game winning streak. While Colgate goalie Spencer Finney could steal this one, I think the Raiders head home from the North Country with split. St. Lawrence wins
Cornell at Clarkson
The Big Red and Golden Knights won one game apiece in the month of January. Cornell should win to secure a weekend split. Cornell wins
Dartmouth at Rensselaer
The Engineers have been playing better of late and always seem to hang tough, but I like Dartmouth to take this one. Dartmouth wins
Quinnipiac at Yale
The shortest road game of the year might also be one of the best for the Bobcats. Quinnipiac enters the weekend first in the PairWise rankings, while Yale is tied for fifth with Boston College. Goalies Eric Hartzell and Jeff Malcolm have been tops in the league to date, and while the Bulldogs’ upper echelon talent has produced, it’s been their improved depth on defense that’s helped them the most this season. Quinnipiac wins
Monday, Feb. 4
Harvard vs. Boston College, 8 p.m. (New England Sports Network)
It’s basically boiled down to Boston University vs. Boston College for last two decades, but despite that, I still think the Beanpot is the best college hockey tournament in the country. The Eagles have some injuries on defense and were swept by Maine last weekend, but I still think they’ll have enough to get past the Crimson. Boston College wins
Raiders rollings; Saints sweep, too
Colgate and St. Lawrence recorded the only four-point weekends this week, boosting each team right back into the hunt for home ice, if not a first-round bye.
Rookie goaltender Spencer Finney was the star for the Raiders, allowing two goals on 69 shots in wins over Brown (2-1) and Yale (4-1). Friday’s game was a fairly wide-open affair with 64 combined shots, but Finney won the goaltending battle against Brown’s Anthony Borelli with 13 third-period saves. Freshmen Tylor Spink and Darcy Murphy each scored their eighth goals of the season to pace the ‘Gate. Yale brought the heat with 36 shots on Saturday evening, fresh off their thrilling 3-2 OT win at Cornell the previous night, but Finney was up to the task. Kenny Agostino scored six minutes in for the Bulldogs, but Finney fended of the foes and Colgate scored four goals in the last 25 minutes to secure the victory. Tylor Spink scored again, as did twin Tyson and classmate Kevin Lough, and sophomore John Lidgett.
St. Lawrence has rediscovered its offense of late, scoring four goals in each of its two games this weekend. The Saints were strong from the back out, as senior Matt Weninger stopped 31 of 33 Dartmouth shots in Hanover on Friday and 27 of 30 Crimson rips in Boston the following night, and junior Jeremy Wick struck thrice up front to pace the attack. Top scorers Greg Carey (junior) and Kyle Flanagan (senior) also scored for the Saints this weekend, as SLU extended its unbeaten streak to four game (3-0-1).
The Raiders and Saints are tied for sixth place in the standings with 11 points in 12 games, and – hey, look at that – they play in Canton next Saturday.
Rough week for the Ivies
The six Ivies combined for a 4-8 record this week, including Tuesday’s 4-1 Union win over Harvard. Ignoring Ivy-on-Ivy crime, the esteemed sextet wen 2-5 against non-Ivy opponents.
The Crimson definitely took the worst of it, going 0-3 against Union, Clarkson, and St. Lawrence. The team is mired chest-deep in a six-game losing streak, and has just one win in its last 13 games (1-11-1). Cornell didn’t fare much better in their first home games in two months, getting swept at Lynah by Yale and Brown. The defeats extended the Big Red’s losing streak to three, and they only have one win in their last seven games, as well (1-6-0).
Dartmouth opened the weekend with its fifth loss in seven games (2-5-0) in a 4-2 loss to SLU, but rebounded with a 5-1 victory over Clarkson the following evening. After losing just twice in their first dozen games, Dartmouth now seems to be struggling to regain its footing. Princeton wrapped up a non-conference W in its only game of the weekend, a 5-2 Sunday win over hapless Sacred Heart.
Finally, Brown and Yale each split the weekend at Colgate and Cornell: The Bulldogs and Bears each upended the Big Red, but fell in Hamilton to the Raiders. The Bulldogs have to feel a bit frustrated with the Saturday result, as it ended a six-game unbeaten run (5-0-1) and dropped the Blue two points further from front-running Quinnipiac.
The countdown commences
With five weeks of regular-season hockey remaining, let’s check out some of the basic facts going forward.
Quinnipiac can secure the top seed and Cleary Cup as regular-season champ with as few as 13 points in 10 games. True, Yale can only hope to get to 35, and QU already has 23… but these neighbors play twice before the playoffs, and the first tiebreaker is head-to-head results.
The second- through fifth-place teams, and even those beyond, are still too tight to break down with an eye toward the first-round bye. However, Yale can secure a home series with 14 points; Dartmouth and Union need 16.
The only placements that we know for sure so far – and let’s be honest, it’s still pretty early to discuss this stuff – is that Harvard can’t finish first, nor QU last. Somehow, everything else is still on the table.
A reminder to poll voters: I can’t think of a single good, logical reason that Quinnipiac should not be your No. 1 vote in this week’s poll. The facts are in the link, the decision is in your hands, and justice – in my humble opinion – is indisputable.
A mid-morning post positing a pressing predicament: Can anyone deny Quinnipiac the No. 1 vote this week?
Down went top-ranked Minnesota, victims of in-state upstart Minnesota State – at Mariucci Arena, no less. Down went No. 3 Boston College, slapped around in Chestnut Hill by what had been – entering the evening – the 5-14-4 Maine Black Bears. Down went No. 4 New Hampshire, dropping a road tilt at .500 Merrimack.
The Bobcats have run off 17 straight games without a loss (15-0-2). They have allowed more than two goals in a game once since Halloween (15-1-2 since then). They boast the second-best scoring margin in the country (+1.33), second only to Minnesota’s +1.88. QU has the second-best defense in D-I, allowing 1.58 goals per game – Miami’s 1.56 can be matched with one more one-goal-given performance.
And the kicker: Quinnipiac leads the nation in win percentage (.812), as they have for a few weeks now. They have one more win, one less loss, and one less tie than “top-ranked” Minnesota (.760). But doesn’t “The U” play a tougher schedule? Not according to the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) so far. QU has played the 18th-toughest schedule in Division I so far; Minnesota… 28th? There goes that argument.
So they haven’t played Boston College, Notre Dame, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Denver. Is that the team’s fault? Is it somehow the players’ job to book top competition? Or is it their job to win, regardless of foe? (It’s not easy getting elite non-conference games in Hamden, Conn., is what I’m saying.) The Bobcats swept Nebraska-Omaha and took three points against Ohio State. They beat Cornell, Dartmouth, and Union (twice), and haven’t lost a league game yet. Two tilts with Yale remain, and what a doozy those will be.
Quinnipiac doesn’t need the No. 1 spot. It doesn’t mean squat – they’re already No. 1 in the PairWise, the only rank that matters. They don’t care if you dismiss their schedule or opposition; they don’t care whether you think they’re good enough to go toe-to-toe with Minny or BC or UNH.
They don’t care what your justifications are for slighting them. But wouldn’t it be nice to recognize the best record, the best consistency, and – just maybe – the best team in the country, for what it is?
Last week: 6-4-1
First place Quinnipiac is off again this weekend, while travel partner Princeton concludes its exam break Sunday with a non-conference matchup against Sacred Heart. All start times are 7 p.m. unless noted.
Friday, Jan. 25
Brown at Colgate
He’s not going to approach the numbers the Austin Smith posted last season, but the Bears’ Matt Lorito might nearly as valuable as the former Raider, at least according to the numbers. The sophomore has scored 13 of Brown’s 45 goals this season, which comes to 28.9 percent. Smith’s 36 goals last year accounted for 29.8 percent of Colgate’s total, although the Raiders did have three other players hit double figures. This year’s Brown team only has one other player with five goals (Chris Zaires), and head coach Brendan Whittet has repeatedly said someone besides Lorito needs to start scoring. Meanwhile, the Raiders have nine players with at least five goals. Colgate wins
Clarkson at Harvard
A first-round bye was on the line when these teams met in last year’s final game of the regular season. Now? Not so much, as both the Golden Knights and Crimson have the worst overall winning percentages in the league. Harvard wins
St. Lawrence at Dartmouth
Dartmouth plays a smart, disciplined brand of hockey. The Big Green have taken the least of amount of penalties in conference play, and their penalty kill is still one of the nation’s top-five units despite going 0-for-2 against Yale last Saturday. The Saints are a modest 2-1-1 over the last four games, but will need some scoring from someone other than Kyle Flanagan or Greg Carey if they want to get a win here. Dartmouth wins
Yale at Cornell, 7:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)
This is the second consecutive week the Bulldogs are on NBC Sports Network, as Yale shutout Harvard 4-0 last week at Ingalls on the network’s broadcast. The Bulldogs are currently on a five-game unbeaten streak, thanks in part to steady defensive play and Jeff Malcolm in net. Cornell is 1-4 over the last five games, and is minus forward Cole Bardreau, who fractured his neck Friday against Rensselaer and is done for the season. Yale wins
Saturday, Jan. 26
Brown at Cornell
The Bears have been near the bottom of the league in recent years, but have given Cornell some problems over the last few meetings. Brown lead 2-0 last February at Lynah before the Big Red scored five unanswered goals to come away with the win, snapping a three-game losing streak against the Bears. Cornell still leads the all-time series 69-42-5, and they should pad that lead here. Cornell wins
Clarkson at Dartmouth
Clarkson averages a respectable 2.8 goals per-game in ECAC play, which is good for fifth best. The problem is that the Golden Knights are allowing the same amount, which could make it difficult against a Big Green team that’s been pretty balanced this season. Dartmouth wins
St. Lawrence at Harvard
Neither team has played well lately, but I’ll take the Saints to leave Boston with a road win. St. Lawrence wins
Yale at Colgate
Both these teams can score, but don’t overlook the goaltenders, as both the Bulldogs’ Jeff Malcolm and the Raiders’ Spencer Finney have both been solid to date. I’ m tempted to pick the home team, but Yale has been playing too well lately. Yale wins
Rensselaer vs. Union, 7:30 p.m. (Times Union Center, Albany NY)
These capital region rivals meet in a non-conference matchup to determine the winner of the first annual Mayor’s Cup. The Dutchmen swept a two-game series in the beginning of November, including a 7-3 win at Messa Rink that featured a combined 16 penalties between the teams. RPI is coming off a sweep of Colgate and Cornell, but I’m cautiously taking the Dutchmen here. Should the game go to overtime, the teams will play a five-minute sudden death period and go to a shootout if it remains deadlocked. Union wins
Sunday, Jan. 26
Sacred Heart at Princeton, 4 p.m.
The Tigers end their exam break by hosting the winless Pioneers, a team they beat 4-3 in November on the strength of four goals by Andrew Ammon. Princeton wins
Here’s the picks for a pair of rare Tuesday games. Both start at 7 p.m.
Connecticut at Quinnipiac
The Bobcats were off this past weekend, but still rose to No. 2 in the latest USCHO.com poll, the highest ever for the program. Despite being in the same state, these teams haven’t played since Nov. 1 2008 – a 4-1 Bobcats win in Hamden. Connecticut has scored more goals of late, although they were shutout by Mercyhurst Saturday. Still, the Huskies haven’t faced a defense as stingy as Quinnipiac’s. This game will be broadcast locally on WCCT-TV. Quinnipiac wins
Harvard at Union
Neither the Crimson nor the Dutchmen have played anything resembling inspiring hockey of late. Union has split the last two weekends of league play, while Harvard’s only win the last two months was a come-from-behind victory against Boston University on Jan. 9. Union has posted its lineup for tonight here. Per Ken Schott of the Schenectady Daily Gazette, center Josh Jooris is out after sustaining a upper-body injury against Colgate Saturday. Union wins
The weekly do-si-do of two steps forward, two steps back carried on for another verse last weekend, as two teams earned big sweeps, while two others ate the O-fer.
Fortunes improving for Elis, Engineers
It was a big week for Yale and Rensselaer, as each team took four big points against formidable foes.
Big Blue trounced Harvard in Fridays’ nationally televised tilt, white-washing the Crimson 4-0 at Ingalls Rink in New Haven. The Bulldogs out-shot the visitors 39-21, including 18-5 in the third period with the ‘Dogs already leading 3-0. Trent Ruffolo and Antoine Laganiere each tallied three points in the win, and Jeff Malcolm earned his first shutout of the year. The Blue didn’t miss a step against daunting Dartmouth on Saturday, scoring the game’s first two goals and never relinquishing the lead in a 4-2 victory. Laganiere added another goal and assist, and Malcolm improved to 10-3-2 with his fourth straight win. The win thrust Yale two points ahead of Dartmouth in the hunt for second place at the league’s halfway mark. Malcolm has now started each of Yale’s last nine NCAA games (he did not play against the Russian Red Stars on December 28), sporting a 5-2-2 record and a 2.59 goals-against average over that period.
RPI dug itself out of the basement with a clutch sweep, downing Colgate and Cornell to triple the Engineers’ ECAC win total in two short nights. Jason Kasdorf was the hero on Friday, stopping 32 of 33 Raiders rips to preserve a 2-1 victory. The rookie shined again on Saturday with 34 saves against the Big Red, but a couple of much-needed power-play goals didn’t hurt the cause either in the 3-2 win. The wins were RPI’s first consecutive league W’s since the final weekend of last season, when the ‘Tute also beat Colgate and Cornell, but on the road. In last place on Friday afternoon, RPI is now alone in seventh with 10 games to go.
Harvard, Colgate road-killed
The Raiders felt the good vibes of a five-game winning streak disappear in a cloud of exhaust, as the Capital District clubs held Colgate to single goals each night. The games were tight – twin 2-1 losses – but two goals on 59 shots is rarely a winning formula. On the bright side, rookie goalie Spencer Finney only surrendered four goals on 62 shots, and is giving junior Eric Mihalik a run for his money with a .919 save percentage and a 2.15 goals-against average.
The Crimson are in a legitimate panic, having won just one of their last 10 games (1-8-1) after a 4-2-0 start. The team is alone in the ECAC basement, and losses at Dartmouth, Yale, and Brown make January 9th’s thrilling 6-5 overtime win at Boston University feel like ancient history. (Let’s face it, cliches are cliches for a reason.) Harvard was out-shot by 25 this weekend (23-8 in the second period at Brown), and went 0-10 on the power play. The team did not just wake up in last place, either: At -14, the Crimson have the worst goal differential in the conference, the worst average scoring margin (-1.27 goals per game), and the worst power play (6.4 percent in league play). An NCAA at-large bid is a laughable prospect at this point for this team, but at least three of Harvard’s next four games are against unranked opponents.
Neck and neck
Don’t look now, but ECAC Hockey is too close to call! Just kidding, I’m perfectly aware that we’re only halfway through the conference campaign so far, but it sure is entertaining so far. Even the fact that Quinnipiac already has a couple fingers on the Cleary Cup is enthralling in its novelty; it’s been quite a while since anyone pulled away from the pack so quickly and convincingly.
Beyond the Bobcats, Yale leads the rest… but just barely. The Bulldogs hold a two-point lead over Dartmouth, Princeton, and Union. After that, the remaining seven teams are all within a good weekend of sixth-place Cornell: RPI is one point back; Clarkson and Brown, two back; Colgate and St. Lawrence, three, and Harvard merely four points behind the Big Red.
Who looks best moving forward? Well, QU of course, by any metric available. Yale has the best scoring margin after that (+0.72). Dartmouth has the league’s second-best defense (2.36 goals-against per game), and when combined with the fewest penalty minutes (7.4/game) and an 88.6 percent penalty kill, it may get even better.
Who is in the best shape to claim the fourth first-round bye? At this point, I have to say Union. Beyond the statistics – and Union sure has some solid numbers, especially on special teams – the Dutchmen are experienced winners with more home games remaining than road contests. Finally, seven of Union’s remaining 11 games are against (currently) unranked opponents, with the top opponents being divided between home (Dartmouth, Yale) and road (Colgate, Cornell) assignments. I like the Dutchmen’s chances as much as Princeton’s or Cornell’s, for sure.
Last week: 6-2-1
The league’s one-two combo of Quinnipiac and Princeton have the weekend off, so now’s a good time for the rest of the ECAC to start taking advantage of those games in hand. All start times are 7 p.m. unless noted. I’ll be in Providence for Dartmouth and Brown tomorrow, so follow along on Twitter: @NateOwen41.
Friday, Jan. 18
Colgate at Rensselaer
Friday marks the first conference game for the Raiders since a 5-4 win over Clarkson on Dec. 1. Colgate has played just four games in that span – sweeps of the University of Massachusetts and Sacred Heart – and enters on a five game winning streak. This is also RPI’s first annual Autism Awareness Game. Read more about it here. Colgate wins
Cornell at Union
Both the Big Red and Dutchmen have been atop the ECAC in recent years, but the pair enter Friday’s game a combined one game over .500 in league play. It’s Union’s first home game since Dec. 1, although as Dutchmen head coach Rick Bennett said earlier this week, being at home doesn’t always mean everything, citing Union’s 4-1 loss to Merrimack way back in the season opener. Union wins
Dartmouth at Brown
Big Green head coach Bob Gaudet can probably relate to what the Bears are going through, as it was only a year ago that Dartmouth was hit hard by injuries. It’s Brown’s turn this year, as the Bears have had a number of players out of the lineup, especially on defense. Dartmouth wins
Harvard at Yale, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network
One of the nation’s oldest rivalries hits the national stage on NBC Sports Network. Yale is coming off its first North Country sweep since 2003-04, while Harvard’s only win over its last eight games was last week’s wild 6-5 overtime victory against Boston University. Yale wins
Saturday, Jan. 19
Harvard at Brown, 4 p.m.
Both of these shorthanded teams have struggled to score goals lately (with the exception of the aforementioned Harvard win against BU). I’ll take the Crimson.Harvard wins
Colgate at Union
Special teams should be the focal point in this one. Both Union’s (first in nation) and Colgate’s (12th) power plays have been clicking lately. But the Dutchmen’s penalty kill has been better thus far, and that should be the difference. Union wins
Dartmouth at Yale
The Big Green snapped a lengthy skid against the Bulldogs with a victory earlier in the year, but I think Yale takes this one at home. Yale wins
St. Lawrence at Clarkson
This is the last regular season matchup between these travel partners and North Country rivals. The Golden Knights are just 2-5 over their last seven games, with both those wins coming against the Saints in December. SLU hasn’t exactly been on fire lately either; the Saints are 2-1 over their last three, but had lost five in a row prior to that. Saints win
Cornell at Rensselaer
These teams return to ECAC play after facing a stretch of tough non-conference opponents. RPI was the first league team to take a point for Quinnipiac this season, and the Engineers handed Yale a 6-1 loss at Ingalls last month. Still, I think Cornell gets it done here. Cornell wins
Sixteen is sweet; but results sour for QU
The Bobcats are still streaking, reeling off games number 15 and 16 without a loss this weekend.
That said, their dominance is still in question in some circles: Friday’s 1-1 home result against RPI (1-6-3 in ECAC play) and Saturday’s 3-2 squeaker versus Union were hardly scores to write home about. QU trailed in each game, went 1/14 on the power play, and required a furious third-period comeback to defeat Union, which led 2-0 with 15 minutes remaining.
To be fair, every game and season have swings. The fact that that Quinnipiac has been able to avoid an L since November 6 is in itself extraordinary, especially in a league so incredibly competitive as ECAC Hockey. If precedent is any indication, the Bobcats are about three points away from securing a first-round bye, and they’re only 12 games into their conference campaign: That is an almost preposterous position.
Perhaps this is a fortuitous week for a bye, given the weekend’s struggles. QU is likely to extend its unbeaten streak to 17 a week from Tuesday when they host Connecticut (8-9-2 overall), but hit the road again the following weekend to take on Brown and Yale.
Bulldogs barrel through North Country
Neither St. Lawrence nor Clarkson look terribly strong this year – which is an oddity in its own right – but a North Country sweep is always cause for celebration after so many hours on the bus.
Yale posted consecutive two-goal wins last weekend, besting SLU 5-3 and Clarkson, 3-1. The victories extend a moderate hot streak for the Blue, who have only lost once in six games (and twice in 11). Yale scored four of its eight goals on the power play (in nine chances), improving the season’s PP rate to 22 percent. Yale’s top three scorers (Kenny Agostino, Antoine Laganiere, and Andrew Miller) each scored this weekend – all three on Friday, in fact – and senior Jeff Malcolm (four goals on 72 shots) is establishing himself nicely as the team’s No. 1 netminder.
In league play, Yale gets stronger as the game progresses: The Blue have scored seven goals in first periods thus far, nine in the second, and 12 in the final frames. This fact mirrors the season itself, as the squad appears to be getting more confident and consistent as the calendar flips. Goaltending has been a question mark for Allain’s Bulldogs for a few years now, but Malcolm’s .917/2.57 numbers are respectable and getting moreso as we approach playoff hockey. With Dartmouth, the Blue appear to be in strong contention for the No. 2 position in ECAC Hockey.
Big Green off the mat
With three straight losses – their first losing streak of the season – those in the Dartmouth camp could be forgiven for their groans on Saturday evening. The Big Green fell behind to upstart Harvard in the first period, then coughed up a 2-1 lead in the third period against the same arch-rival.
Sophomore Jesse Beamish scored only his second goal of the year – his third point – in the game’s 53rd minute to secure Dartmouth its first win of 2013, and keep the squad in lock-step with Yale for the second-best winning percentage in the league. The 3-2 win also marked the first time in four games that the Hanover side had topped two goals, a welcome development for a defensively consistent crew. Goaltenders Cab Morris (a junior) and frosh Charles Grant are still jousting for the top goaltending slot, with each boasting save rates around .920 and goals-against averages between 2.0 and 2.5 (an admittedly significant swing).
A primary concern for the starving offense is the power play, which is still scraping by with a 16 percent conversion rate. The Green did make good on one of two advantages against Harvard, their first PPG in three games (0/11 in that span). On the other hand, the penalty kill has been lights out for most of the year, smothering over 93 percent of opponents’ power plays. Dartmouth only allowed a single power-play goal in its first dozen games (51/52) but gave up three goals on 15 PK’s during the skid.
Dartmouth was an exceptional team in late-2012. Whither the 2013 Green? We’ll find out soon enough: Brown and Yale await.
My poor track record with my picks carried over into the New Year, as I went just 8-9-1 last week. Here’s what’s on the schedule for this weekend as conference play begins to pick up. All games are 7 p.m. unless noted.
Last week: 8-9-1
Brown at Clarkson
For all their non-conference struggles, the Golden Knights are a respectable 3-3-2 in ECAC play, a point out of fourth place. Brown is one of two teams in the nation without a win in their conference, although to be fair, the Bears have only played seven league games to date. Clarkson wins
Rensselaer at Quinnipiac
RPI ended 2012 on a decent run and has hung in against some tough competition this year. It looks like freshman goalie Jason Kasdorf will likely be out again this weekend, per Ken Schott of the Schenectady Daily Gazette. I think the Engineers will hang in there, but like I’ve said every week, I’m not picking against the Bobcats until they give me a reason to. And they haven’t so far. Quinnipiac wins
Yale at St. Lawrence
The Bulldogs have been a tough team to figure out so far, as they have yet to string together any sort of hot streak outside of a three-game winning streak at the end of November. I’m thinking Yale splits the northern country weekend; the problem is I’m afraid I’ll pick the pick the wrong game for them to lose. Regardless, I’ll take the Saints here. St. Lawrence wins
Union at Princeton, 7:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)
No way around it: the Dutchmen are in a rut. Last week’s sweep at Lake Superior gives Union one win over the last month and a half. The return of defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere from world juniors will be a boost, but will it be enough? The Tigers have already knocked off Cornell, Colgate, and Dartmouth this season, and tied the Dutchmen the last time these teams met. I’m tempted to take Princeton, but I think Union pulls it off. Union wins
Saturday, January 12
Rensselaer at Princeton, 4 p.m.
It might be easy for the Tigers to have a letdown after facing Union on a national stage Friday night, but I don’t see that happening. Princeton wins
Brown at St. Lawrence
Injuries have forced the bears to plug a lot of holes on defense this season, but they should return goalie Marco DeFilippo and defenseman Joey de Concilys this weekend, according to Mark Divver of the Providence Journal. Brown will need all the help they can get on the backline against Kyle Flanagan and Greg Carey, one of the top duos in the league. St. Lawrence wins
Union at Quinnipiac
If there was a time for the Dutchmen to break out of their lengthy slump, Saturday is it. Handing Quinnipiac their first conference loss of the season would certainly be a good jumpstart for the second half, but not sure if that can happen. Quinnipiac wins
Yale at Clarkson
The Golden Knights have been holding their own at even strength, but have been brought down by their special teams as of late. Of course, taking the second-most penalty minutes in the nation doesn’t help matters either. The Bulldogs’ Andrew Miller, Kenny Agostino et al should be enough to head back to New Haven with a win. Yale wins
Harvard at Dartmouth
The Crimson all of a sudden have a bit of life after rallying for a 6-5 overtime win over Boston University Wednesday. Harvard ranks 45th in the nation in power-play efficient despite scoring two goals on the man advantage against the Terriers, while the Big Green have the second-best penalty killing unit in the country. Dartmouth wins