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., [...]
Some weeks, it feels as though there were no “big stories” over the weekend… a lot of splits, no major controversies, nothing really stood out.
Why couldn’t every week be like this week?
First and foremost, congratulations to the trio of ECAC Hockey representatives on the American World Junior Championship team. The United States contingent won gold for the first time in three years, defeating arch-rival Canada 5-1 in the semifinals before downing Sweden, 3-1, in the title game in Ufa, Russia.
The ECAC’s medal-winners also wear Carnellian red, crimson, and garnet in addition to red, white, and blue. Cornell sophomore forward Cole Bardreau – an alternate captain on America’s team – scored a goal and added two assists in playing all seven games in the WJC. Harvard freshman Jimmy Vesey skated in all seven contests as well, starting as the team’s 13th forward but ultimately earning a spot on the top line, notching a goal and four assists in the tournament. Union sophomore defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere earned a goal and an assist in six games, missing one contest due to suspension.
Overall, 13 of USA’s 23 players currently play in the NCAA, as well.
Making a splash
Once again, Quinnipiac headlines the weekend’s action with a sweep of Dartmouth and Harvard. The Bobcats surrendered a late goal to Tim O’Brien and the Big Green on Friday, but former Bowling Green Falcons winger Jordan Samuels-Thomas buried the overtime winner to put some separation in the standings between QU and Dartmouth. The host Bobcats barely broke a sweat against Harvard the following night, defeating the punchless Crimson 6-2 to extend the nation’s best unbeaten streak to 14 games (13-0-1). If history is any indicator, the Bobcats may well have wrapped up a first-round bye already, only 10 games into the ECAC campaign (10-0-0).
Yale dropped a frustrating contest against Holy Cross two weeks back, but the Bulldogs certainly raised some eyebrows with Friday’s 3-3 draw at Boston College. The Blue out-shot BC 48-22 and led 3-2 in the second period, giving the defending champs a real run for their money. Yale has yet to drop consecutive games this season.
The Raiders are on a pleasant little roll, stringing together five straight wins, albeit over Clarkson, Massachusetts (twice), and winless Sacred Heart (twice). Colgate buried 31 goals over those five games after scoring just nine in the five games prior. Freshman Kyle Baun is now the team’s leading goal-scorer with 10 in 20 games, putting him behind only St. Cloud’s Kalle Kossila in that category.
What gives with all the sweeps this weekend? Let’s take a look at four teams that are drawing some well-earned concern.
The Big Red dropped a set at Denver, mustering a single goal in each of the two losses. Cornell has now lost three in a row for the second time this season, allowing 13 goals in the process. The last time the Red dropped three straight prior to this year was November, 2010. (They lost three in a row twice that year, too, but finished the season playing for the league title.)
Union is simply failing to live up to the lofty expectations set for it on the heels of its first-ever Frozen Four appearance. The Dutchmen have only one win in their last eight game (1-4-3) and are 0-2-3 in their last five league games. Excuses could be made regarding Gostisbehere’s WJC participation, but it would appear that Union’s flaws lie more than one man deep. The team has been held to two goals or fewer nine times in 18 games, and in seven of its last 11. It’s not about the special teams or goaltending – the numbers are perfectly adequate in both cases – but the five-on-five offense has run surprisingly dry for the Dutchmen. What this year’s team wouldn’t give for another year of Jeremy Welsh.
Harvard… oh, Harvard. The Crimson looked so good entering the season – they were about as stacked as they’d looked in a decade – and didn’t disappoint out of the gate. Then the effects of an enormous and controversial academic scandal began to run their course, the team lost five players, and apparently most of its mojo. Harvard has lost four in a row and hasn’t won since mid-November (0-5-1), which was also the last time the Crimson scored more than twice in a game (seven goals in their last six games). Four of their next five opponents are ranked (BU, Dartmouth, Yale, and Union), and all are on the road. On the bright side, the squad gets Vesey back. So that’s something.
Finally, the Big Green – once nipping at the heels of nuclear-grade QU – dropped two in a row this weekend, falling first at Quinnipiac, then again at Princeton, thereby allowing the Tigers to leapfrog Dartmouth in the standings. The Princeton loss – in front of a rare sellout crowd at Hobey Baker Rink – marked the third straight loss for the Big Green, who hadn’t lost consecutive games entering the break.
Of the eight league teams to enter the holiday break on unbeaten streaks, only QU’s and Colgate’s have continued into the new year.
Last week: 6-11-1
Every ECAC team with the exception of Brown is back in action this weekend, which is also the final weekend of non-conference play for many of the league’s teams. Each game is at 7 p.m. unless noted. For those in the New England area, both of Quinnipiac’s games this weekend will be televised on the New England Sports Network.
Dartmouth at Quinnipiac
The ECAC’s top offense and defense (Quinnipiac) is pitted against the league’s second best offense and defense in Dartmouth. These teams are also the best at killing penalties in league play, with the Big Green holding a narrow edge over the Bobcats for the top spot. Quinnipiac hasn’t lost in nearly two months, so I’ve got no reason to pick against them despite an impressive showing by the Big Green to date. Quinnipiac wins
Harvard at Princeton
Neither team is on any sort of hot streak – the Crimson have been outscored 12-3 over an 0-2-1 span, while the Tigers are in the midst of a seven-game winless stretch. Princeton’s special teams have been fairly solid this year, while Harvard’s power play in dead last after being the top unit in the nation last season. Princeton wins
RIT at St. Lawrence
St. Lawrence certainly needed the break, as the Saints ended the first half with a four-game losing streak. St. Lawrence is still in search of the program’s 1,000 career win. RIT enters Friday on a 2-0-1 run, but both those victories came against winless Sacred Heart. St. Lawrence wins
Sacred Heart at Colgate
The Raiders could be a dark-horse contender for a top-four spot, but first they’ll close out their non-conference schedule with a pair against the Pioneers. Sacred Heart is last in the nation in both team defense and penalty killing, which is bad news against a Colgate power play that scored five of the Raiders’ 11 goals in a sweep at Massachusetts last month. Colgate wins
Massachusetts-Lowell at Clarkson
Lowell has won four straight and five of the last six meetings against the Golden Knights close the gap in their all-time series to 11-8 in the Knights’ advantage, although these teams have not met since 2004. Clarkson is only 2-5 at Cheel Arena, while the River Hawks have picked it up a bit since a sluggish start. Lowell wins
Yale at Boston College
Don’t expect a lot of neutral zone play in this one, as both teams like to move up and down the ice. The Eagles are minus top forward John Gaudreau, who is competing with the U.S. team in the world juniors, and defender Patch Alber, who is out for an extender period after an injury in practice last weekend. Yale gave up three power-play goals and a shorthanded goal in a loss to Holy Cross Sunday. Can’t do that against the Eagles. Boston College wins
Rennselaer at Boston University, 7:30 p.m.
RPI is on a nice 5-2-2 run, but they’ll have a tough test against the Terriers on the road. Goalie Jason Kasdorf left last Thursday’s game at St. Cloud State with an injury and was held out Friday. That will be something to keep an eye on, as the freshman had started six straight games, and played well in that stretch. Boston University wins
Union at Lake Superior, 7:35
The Dutchmen continue a seven-week stretch away from the Capital Region with their final non-conference roadtrip of the year. Union has been a second-half team the last few years, going 47-20-3 after Dec. 25 since the 2009-10 season. These teams have met only once, a 0-0 tie in the RPI Invitational Tournament in 2009. Expect another low-scoring game here. Union wins
Cornell at Denver, 9:37 ET
The Big Red are coming off a 6-4 loss to Maine in the Florida College Classic and head to Colorado for the second straight season after taking three points at Colorado College last January. This is the first meeting in 27 seasons between these teams. Tie
Saturday, January 5
Dartmouth at Princeton, 4 p.m.
The Big Green are only 1-2-2 on the road this season, but should have enough to end the weekend with a win. Dartmouth wins
Harvard at Quinnipiac
It’s the worst power-play in the nation (Harvard) versus the nation’s third-best penalty kill unit (Quinnipiac). I’ll take the Bobcats. Quinnipiac wins
Rennselaer at New Hampshire
A brutal road trip for RPI continues in Durham. The Engineers have started to put some goals together, but they’ll be facing a stingy Wildcat defense and goalie Casey DeSmith, who is tied for second in the country with four shutouts. New Hampshire wins
RIT at St. Lawrence
The Saints should complete the sweep here to head into conference play with a little momentum. St. Lawrence wins
Sacred Heart at Colgate
The Raiders are undefeated against Atlantic Hockey teams this season and are 7-0 all-time against the Pioneers. I don’t see any of those streaks coming to an end here. Colgate wins
Massachusetts-Lowell at Clarkson
I think the Golden Knights bounce back to get the weekend split. Clarkson wins
Union at Lake Superior
The Dutchmen haven’t won two in a row since sweeping Penn State Nov. 24-25. Road sweeps are always tough, but I think Union should head home with three points from the weekend. Tie
Cornell at Denver, 9:07 MT
Like Union, I think Cornell heads back east with three points. Cornell wins
Wednesday, January 9
Harvard at Boston University
This is Harvard’s third game in just under a week after playing only three times over the last month. Boston University wins
I’ve been picking this weekend’s games on a day-by-day basis, so here’s a look at the final two games of 2012.
Sacred Heart at Rensselaer, 4 p.m.
The Engineers are coming off a split at St. Cloud this weekend and return to Troy for their first home game since Dec. 1. They’ll face Sacred Heart, the only winless team in Division 1. RPI should take this one. RPI wins
University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, 7 p.m. (Ledyard Bank Classic Championship)
Cab Morris made a career-high 31 saves as the Big Green beat New Hampshire 4-1 last night to advance to the Ledyard Bank Classic Championship. Dartmouth has killed 32 straight penalties, and their penalty kill is 41-for-42 this season, tops in the nation. The Minutemen scored two power-play goals last night against Bemidji State and have the country’s eleventh-ranked power play, so that’s a matchup to keep an eye on. Still, I think Dartmouth prevails. Dartmouth wins
With only a handful of holiday-break games remaining for ECAC Hockey, let’s take a look at the league’s winners and losers from the last week.
… to Quinnipiac and Dartmouth.
The Bobcats now boast the nation’s longest unbeaten streak with a 12-game streak, an 11-0-1 tear that culminated with this weekend’s sweep of 12th-ranked Nebraska-Omaha. I won’t blather on about the strengths of this team (depth, defense, goaltending) other than to note that the Q-Cats also maintain the second-best team defense in the nation (1.58 goals against per game, second to Miami’s 1.55) and that senior goalie Eric Hartzell’s personal GAA is third in the country (1.43) and his .935 save percentage is better than any other goalie who has played as many minutes (1,050; he is 13th overall in save percentage).
The Big Green have yet to conclude their holiday schedule, hosting Massachusetts at 7:00 tonight in the championship of Dartmouth’s annual Ledyard Bank Classic. The Green are in the “props” section for their big win over second-ranked New Hampshire on Sunday evening. Junior Cab Morris stopped 31 of 32 shots, and the win is sure to help the Green’s position in the PairWise come March. Dartmouth’s 8-2-2 record is impressive, especially considering it held a 4-1 lead against Colgate in its first loss, and was tied with top-ranked Boston College in the third period of its other loss. Not bad L’s, in other words.
Worthy of mention: Kudos to Rensselaer for earning a split at 16th-ranked St. Cloud. A 4-3 win on Thursday gave way to a tight 2-1 loss on Friday, but the ‘Tute was definitely in town to play.
Cornell, Union and Yale: We’re skeptical.
Each of these three squads failed to cash in on opportunities in recent days, dealing blows of as-of-yet unknown force to – again – their potential PairWise status come season’s end. The Big Red toppled 19th-ranked Ferris State in the opener of the Florida College Classic, but blew an early 3-0 lead over three-win Maine in the finale, losing 6-4. This was not a dominating game for the Ithacans, outside of the first period. They were out-shot, they took more penalties, were skunked on the power play and surrendered two PPG’s as well. Credit Maine where it’s due: Cornell was beaten by a team that earned it (for the last 50 minutes, at least).
Union fell to host Vermont in the first round of the Catamount Cup, which is bluntly a bad loss for a team that fancies itself a national contender. Yes, the Dutchmen were on the road. Yes, the game was a nail-biter, a 2-1 result. But I’m sure coach Rick Bennett would be the first one to say it: There are no excuses for losses. This was a no-excuse kind of loss for Union.
Yale warmed up after the holidays with a 10-2 trouncing of the Russian Red Stars on Friday, but that swagger was missing on Sunday in a 5-4 loss to Holy Cross in Marlborough, Mass. The Crusaders opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal halfway through the first period and Yale never pulled even, and Jeff Malcolm allowed five goals on 31 shots in a sloppy contest. Like Union and Cornell’s defeats, this was a bad loss for Yale, regardless of Holy Cross’ rank-worthy record (10-4-2).
Food for thought
There are a lot of competing philosophies when it comes to poll ballots. Some pollsters try to ascertain who would likely beat whom right now, and arrange their ballots that way. Others take a longer view, and attempt to rank teams based on where they look likely to finish the year. Others watch as many teams as they can, and try to put the “best”, most “complete” teams in order from the top on down. Personally – and I have no idea how many others in the survey share my viewpoint – I rank based on success.
That is to say that my top priority when compiling my weekly ballot is winning, and winning consistently. The way I see it, players have no control over who they play, whether it’s the dregs of a weak league or perennial contenders like BC, Minnesota, North Dakota or Michigan. But wait, Michigan isn’t exactly setting the world on fire… so why should I, or anyone else, hold it against Cornell for beating the Wolverines earlier this year? It looked like a powerhouse matchup when the contracts were signed, so why penalize the Big Red in any way at all for doing all they were asked to do: Beat Michigan? Win – and keep winning, regardless of opponent – and you’ve earned a ranking, in my opinion.
Therefore, every Sunday night I pull up the nation’s top 20-some winning percentages and plug the teams right into my ballot, in order. I will swap some spots based on recent results or skew a bit for strength-of-schedule – I don’t believe Niagara has played as difficult a docket as, say, New Hampshire, and that deserves some consideration – but this is my general policy.
What does this all have to do with this week, this blog? Allow me to introduce the team with the nation’s best winning percentage: Quinnipiac. Were they my top team this week?
No. Why not? Allow me to refer to my last entry, all about strength-of-schedule. QU is winning, and how! But I don’t believe that they are winning at a rate that is significantly beyond that of Boston College, and the Eagles have played a tougher slate, and that is something I consider.
Call me hypocritical, call me arbitrary, call me what you will. I would love to put an ECAC program – Quinnipiac or otherwise – in my No. 1 spot, but all things considered, I cannot in good conscience elevate the Bobcats above the Eagles.
Winter break is coming for an end for most teams, and several ECAC team are participating in the numerous holiday tournaments across the country. (Check out the complete tournament breakdown here).
There are a lot of games between now and Monday, so I’ll roll out the picks in waves. All times are 7 p.m. unless noted.
Thursday, Dec. 27
Rensselaer at St. Cloud State
RPI ended the first half on a modest 3-1-2 streak after going without a win for over a month in October and November. Freshman Jason Kasdorf has started five straight games in net for the Engineers. The Winnipeg Jets prospect appears to have seized the No.1 goalie spot, as he’s posted a .945 save percentage and 1.46 goals-against average on the season. The Engineers have four players (Jacob Laliberte, Matt Neal, Ryan Haggerty, and Nick Bailen) with a realistic shot of breaking the ten-goal mark after not having a single double-digit goal scorer last season. This will be a big road test for RPI, who only has one home game between now and Jan. 18. It’s the first meeting between the Huskies and Engineers since 2003, when RPI swept a two-game series in Troy. Thursday/Friday, 8:07 ET. St. Cloud State sweeps.
Friday, Dec. 28
Ferris State vs. Cornell, 4 p.m. (Florida College Classic, Estero, FL)
The Big Red are riding a four-game winning streak into Florida as they return to action for the first time in a month, facing the team that ended their season last spring in the NCAA Midwest Regional Final. Cornell will be minus forward Cole Bardreau, who’s currently playing for the U.S. in the IIHF World Junior Championship. The sophomore is one of four alternate captains for the U.S., and has been impressively defensively so far. As for players currently with the Big Red, Florida native and reigning league Rookie of the Year Brian Ferlin could use a big start to the second half after not scoring a goal through his first 11 games this season. I think Cornell exacts a bit of revenge on the Bulldogs, who ended the first half on a four-game winless streak. Cornell wins
Saturday, Dec. 29 and Sunday, Dec. 30
Nebraska-Omaha at Quinnipiac
The Bobcats have been the story of the first half in the ECAC, posting an 8-0 record in league play. They’ll face their toughest non-conference opponent to date in the Mavericks, who are currently No. 12 in the USCHO poll. Quinnipiac owns the nation’s top-ranked defense, and has seen an uptick in scoring the last several games prior to the break. They’ll be tested against a Mavericks team that’s averaged 3.61 goals per-game, second in the nation. These teams have met in three straight seasons, with the Bobcats leading the series 2-1-1. Saturday/Sunday, noon. Split; QU wins Saturday, Nebraska-Omaha Sunday.
Princeton vs. Merrimack, 4 p.m. (Catamount Cup, Burlington VT.)
Princeton closed the first half on a five-game winless streak that they’ll look snap against the Warriors in the opener of the Catamount Cup. Senior Mike Condon saw the majority of time in net through the first half after splitting last year with Sean Bonar. The Tigers have done most of their damage on the power play this season. Princeton ranks 40th in scoring overall, but is 10-for-29 on the man advantage, good for ninth in the country. This is the first time these teams have met since 2004. Merrimack wins
Minnesota State vs. Brown. 4:05 p.m. (UConn Holiday Tournament, Storrs, Conn.)
The Bears are looking for their first holiday tournament win since 2004, when they beat Merrimack and Holy Cross to capture the UConn Hockey Classic in Storrs. This is Brown’s third time competing in the holiday tournament in Storrs, and first since 2007. These teams last met in 2010, with the Mavericks winning 7-3 in the championship game of Notre Dame’s Shillelagh Tournament. Juniors Jake Goldberg and Garnet Hathaway each had a goal in that game. Minnesota State had a seven-game win streak snapped on Dec. 15, while Brown ended the first half with a pair of home ties against Union and Rensselaer. Minnesota State wins
Northeastern at Harvard
The Crimson have yet to win a game since beating Cornell 4-1 at home back on Nov. 16. Some of that could be blamed on rust, as Harvard has only played three games in that span. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the Crimson will be a bit short the rest of the year thanks to the departure of defensemen Max Everson, Patrick McNally and Mark Luzar last semester. The Crimson will also be minus leading scorer Jimmy Vesey, who is in Russia with the US World Junior team. Neither one of these teams has exactly been on a roll lately, but I ‘ll take the hosts here. Harvard wins.
Union at Vermont, 7:05 p.m. (Catamount Cup, Burlington, VT.)
The Dutchmen head to Burlington to face Vermont and former Union head coach Kevin Sneddon in the Catamount Cup. UVM is 12-2 all-time at Gutterson Fieldhouse against the Dutchmen, although these teams haven’t played each other since 2005. Union will be without defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who like Vesey is in Russia with the US World Junior team. Union didn’t exactly end the first half playing their best hockey, but they should have enough to get by UVM. Union wins
Cornell vs. Maine., 7:30 p.m. ( (Florida College Classic Championship, Estero, FL)
Remember how I mentioned Brian Ferlin in Friday’s preview? Well, that Florida native scored his first two goals of the year to pace the Big Red to a 5-3 win over Ferris State yesterday, sending Cornell into the championship game against Maine, who beat Minnesota 1-0 Friday. The Black Bears are dead last in the nation in scoring, and I they’ll have a tough go against a Cornell squad that is giving up just over two goals per game. Cornell wins
Inspired in part by years of curiosity, and more recently by the Cornell hockey blog “WAFT” (Where Angels Fear to Tread), I gathered a novella of league standings and schedules and went to work on breaking down exactly how tough ECAC Hockey’s teams have had it in the first half.
Not being a diploma-holding statistician, I did not do backflips through standardized deviations to arrive at deeper truths. I simply compiled the overall records for each ECAC team’s respective opponents so far, and used that to calculate a winning percentage. The higher the percentage, the tougher the schedule, presumably.
However, since most teams enjoy streaks and suffer skids, I thought it would be equally fascinating to find out how well opponents had fared at the time of the game. Boston College opened the season with a loss to Northeastern: Chances are good that the Eagles’ second opponent (Massachusetts) was facing a team in a much different mindset on October 19 than it did on November 4, after BC had reeled off five straight wins. Early-season games are a crapshoot, and I’m not sure that Northeastern’s win over the Eagles on opening night is worth as much as it would be now. Therefore, along with total opponents’ win percentage, I also tabulated opponents’ records entering each respective game against ECAC programs. Let’s see what shakes out.
By the numbers
First, here are the current ECAC Hockey standings, by win percentage:
.765 – Quinnipiac
.727 – Dartmouth
.667 – Union
.667 – Yale
.636 – Cornell
.556 – Colgate
.500 – Harvard
.471 – St. Lawrence
.429 – Rensselaer
.417 – Brown
.382 – Clarkson
.375 – Princeton
…and here are the cumulative opposition winning percentages for each of those respective teams:
.582 – Rensselaer
.550 – Dartmouth
.544 – Clarkson
.540 – Brown
.533 – Colgate
.524 – Harvard
.522 – Princeton
.509 – Cornell
.500 – Yale
.482 – Quinnipiac
.464 – Union
.454 – St. Lawrence
Depending on your affiliations, some glances look understandable, some are a bit more baffling. QU and Union have each faced a relatively light schedule, and are succeeding for it. RPI took on the toughest gauntlet in the league, by these numbers, and has the bruises to show for it. Ditto Clarkson.
Then there are the outliers. St. Lawrence started hot, but cooled with the temperature this fall: One of the softer (again, in an admittedly simplistic assessment) schedules has not translated into victories of late for the struggling Saints. On the other end of the spectrum, Dartmouth has played some of the best teams in the nation (BC, plus two games against Yale and one each versus Union and Cornell) but remains one of the nation’s top teams, performance-wise.
Would this be easier to follow with a visual representation? Well have I got the chart for you!
Being in the upper-right quadrant is ideal: It means that you’re succeeding against tough competition (i.e. Dartmouth, Colgate, and Cornell). Being in the lower-left, however, is bad news – these teams are playing theoretically easier schedules, but still coming up short in the win category (St. Lawrence).
Quinnipiac, Union, and Yale are keeping their heads above water against middling to decent competition (by this metric, at least), while Harvard, RPI, Brown, Clarkson and Princeton are struggling against tougher foes.
Foes at the faceoff
As aforementioned, you can’t necessarily judge the quality of October’s opponent by its record today. I was surprised to see a relatively small difference between overall opponent win percentages and their win rates at the time of the puck-drop; the biggest gap between the numbers was .094 for Union: The Dutchmen’s opponents have a .464 overall win pct now, but boasted a .558 win rate at the time of each of their respective games.
Here are the opposition’s win percentages at game time, for each of the league’s dozen teams:
.605 – Rensselaer
.578 – Brown
.558 – Union
.554 – Yale
.542 – Cornell
.542 – Princeton
.541 – Dartmouth
.509 – Colgate
.504 – Quinnipiac
.485 – Harvard
.476 – Clarkson
.402 – St. Lawrence
As we can see here, all but three squads have played winning teams, on average… just like the overall results, but stronger. RPI’s task to date looks even tougher in this light, as the Engineers’ average opponent at the drop of the puck was sporting a .605 winning percentage. (That said, SLU and Clarkson would rather not glance at this chart.)
What’s to be made of these two sets of data? There’s much to be speculated, but I’m not sure how much can be truly ascertained through comparison. Are some opponents going into slumps or soaring into streaks before or just after playing some of the ECAC sides? Perhaps. Which chart is more pertinent? Depends on your point of view, I suppose: There are big strengths and flaws to each set.
The potential drawbacks to looking at current standings have been addressed, at least in part. There are just as many holes in the “current percentages” info: Playing an elite team early in the year won’t be worth as much of a boost on the latter graph as it would on the former.
So what’s it worth? I suppose that’s all in the eye of the beholder.
North Country sliding
Clarkson and St. Lawrence are a combined 3-7-1 in their last 12 games, which include two head-to-head matchups that both went Tech’s way. While SLU boasts the better record (7-8-2, to Clarkson’s 4-8-5), the Saints have dropped four straight and seven of their last 10. Clarkson started the season 0-4-3 and has improved with a 4-4-2 record in its last 10, but a 3-1 loss at home to Mercyhurst is no way to end 2012.
What appeared to be a multi-headed offensive monster in Canton has sputtered out only five goals in its last four games, as SLU stars Greg Carey and Kyle Flanagan have only summed two goals and two assists in that time (Flanagan missed the Vermont game with injury). While the Saints have held opponents to two goals or fewer six times this season, the D has yet to support the flagging O: The team is 0-8-0 when it fails to get three goals.
In Potsdam, the Knights are hoping that rookie netminder Greg Lewis (.908 save rate, 2.67 goals-against average) will continue to improve as the rest of the team struggles to match strong offensive production with solid defensive responsibility. The Green & Gold are actually 2-3-1 when scoring four goals or more, yet already have two wins and four ties when failing to hit that mark.
Not the usual suspect
Quick, which ECAC Hockey player is averaging the most goals-per-game overall? He’s not based out of Appleton.
He doesn’t live in Hamden…
… and he doesn’t practice in New Haven or New Hampshire, either.
The surprising answer is Brown sophomore Matt Lorito. In an admittedly meager dozen games played, Lorito has nine goals, putting him a few hundredths of a goal-per-game better than the likes of Carey, Flanagan, Jeremy Langlois, Antoine Laganiere, or Eric Robinson.
The 5-foot-9 forward out of Oakville, Ont. has seven points (3-4–7) in his last four games, and his peak performance thus far was his natural hat trick against Army in mid-November. Where’s the limit for Lorito? Hard to tell, since he’s already blown away last year’s numbers (4-13–17 in 24 games). Coach Brendan Whittet has always been high on the guy, so we’ll see where this year takes him.
Trending at the break
A few things to keep an eye on as we hit the holiday hiatus:
- Rensselaer turned it around in a big way, going 3-1-2 on the heels of a five-game losing streak (and seven-game winless skid). That slide culminated in consecutive shutout losses, but RPI found its groove and buried 19 goals in its last six games. The Engineers’ only loss in over a month came at the hands of red-hot Quinnipiac, by a 3-1 score (including an empty-netter).
- The Colgate Raiders are 5-1-1 in their last seven, and 3-1-0 in their last four league games. They’ve won ‘em big and dirty alike, including a 1-0 win (over Harvard) and a 1-1 tie (at Merrimack), but also a pair of 5-4 victories, a 6-4 win, and a 5-2 win. Nice to see scoring and defense align every once in a while, right?
- Cornell dropped three straight in early November, but rebounded with three wins and a tie to end the first half. The road ahead is taxing, though: The Big Red play six games between now and January 25, their next home date.
- Yale, Union and Dartmouth have yet to lose consecutive games.
- Harvard has been shut out twice in its last three games (0-2-1), and has scored two goals or fewer in five of its nine games this year (0-4-1 in those games).
- Brown, Colgate, Cornell, Dartmouth, Quinnipiac, RPI, Union, and Yale all enter the holidays on unbeaten streaks.
Check back in with USCHO on Wednesday morning for our final installment of the ECAC Hockey half-in-review.
Last week: 4-4-4
I really should have titled this post “North Country picks,” as St. Lawrence and Clarkson are the only ECAC teams in action this weekend. Enjoy the holidays and be sure to check back next week for a first-half wrap-up
Saturday, Dec. 15
Mercyhurst at Clarkson., 7 p.m.
Clarkson has put together a modest 4-3-2 stretch since starting the season winless in their first seven games. Freshman Greg Lewis has staked a claim on the Golden Knights’ No. 1 goaltender spot – he’s started 14 out of 16 possible games this year and is the reigning ECAC goalie of the week. This is the first meeting between the teams since 2004. Clarkson is 5-0 all-time against the Lakers. Clarkson 4-2
Vermont at St. Lawrence, 7 p.m.
On a grand scale, the Saints are still in pursuit of the program’s 1,000 all-time win. On a smaller scale, St. Lawrence is looking to reverse a 1-4 skid as they wrap up the 2012 schedule. The Catamounts haven’t done much all year and are 56th in the nation in scoring. I think SLU gets the program’s 1,000 win and heads into the second half on a winning note. Saint Lawrence 3-1
True, we are only a third of the way into the ECAC Hockey regular-season schedule, but many teams have seen a full 50 percent of their dockets already. Time to make some half-informed assessments!
Let’s face it, QU is the story
No point in tip-toeing around the Most Obvious Fact of the Fall: The Bobcats are 8-0-0 in league play, seven points ahead of second-place Dartmouth (although the Big Green have two games in hand). Quinnipiac has the ECAC’s best offense (3.88 goals per game) and best defense (1.12 goals against per game, nearly half the amount allowed by second-ranked Dartmouth).
Coach Rand Pecknold indicates that his stallions (the Jones twins, Matthew Peca, Jordan Samuels-Thomas, even Jeremy Langlois) have yet to hit full stride. That should be scary, but it may actually prove necessary if the Q hopes to keep up its blistering pace in 2013: 11 of QU’s remaining 17 games (and nine of 14 remaining league games) are against teams currently boasting winning records. (Nine of the Bobcats’ 17 first-half games were against teams that are above .500 today.)
Back on the bright side, history suggests that the Cats are likely just one good weekend away from locking up a first-round home series.
Knights slay Saints
It’s almost like it’s a rivalry.
Clarkson swept Route 11 rival St. Lawrence with wins in Canton and Lake Placid last week, claiming the season series with a game yet to be played (at Cheel Arena on Jan. 19). These were Tech’s first back-to-back victories over SLU since March 8-9, 2002… which were playoff games. At home.
So suffice to say, this doesn’t happen very often.
Granted, these tilts were not played on consecutive evenings – Clarkson topped SLU 4-1 at Appleton last Wednesday, and 3-1 in LP on Saturday – but there is no denying that it was a much-celebrated sweep for the guys in green & gold. Freshman goalie Greg Lewis stopped 34 of 35 shots for the Knights, the results sent SLU to its first two-game – then three-game – losing streaks of the year, and for an extra dash of salt it should be noted that the outcomes postponed a 1,000th-victory celebration for the St. Lawrence program for at least another week. The Saints’ next millenial bid: Saturday, at home against Vermont.
Michalek leaves Harvard… for now
If you were only looking at stats, this wouldn’t be worthy of much mention – and it still may well not be, in the long run – but I was finally able to get confirmation from Harvard head coach Ted Donato that highly regarded goaltending prospect Steve Michalek has left school for Cedar Rapids of the USHL, but that both parties hope for his return to the program at a later point in time.
The six-foot-two Minnesota Wild draft pick played in 24 games last season, and was the de facto No. 1 goalie for the Crimson for the first half of the season before sophomore (now junior) Raphael Girard took the reins. Michalek finished his rookie season with an .894 save rate and 3.19 goals-against average, and did not see any action this fall.
Last week: 6-4-2
We’re at the unofficial halfway point of the college hockey season, with most teams winding down the pre-holiday break portion of their schedules this weekend. All games are at 7 p.m. unless noted.
Friday, Dec. 7
Colgate at Massachusetts
I realize all-time records mean little, especially considering there’s a lot of newcomers to this year’s Raiders team. Still, Colgate owns a 12-1-1 all-time series lead against Massachusetts, and is unbeaten in the last 13 matchups. Colgate 4-2
Princeton at Quinnipiac
There’s no other way to put it: the Bobcats are smoking hot right now. Quinnipiac is unbeaten over its last eight games and is 6-0 in ECAC play. Princeton has done some damage (win against Cornell, tie at Union), but I think Quinnipiac is simply too good right now. For those in the New England area, the game will be televised on NESN. Quinnipiac 5-2
Rensselaer at Yale
The last time RPI was at Ingalls, the Engineers were in the midst of last season’s mini-second half turnaround. This year’s first half has been just as disastrous as last season’s, and I’m not sure RPI has enough to derail a Yale team that has won four straight. Yale 5-1
Union at Brown
Beware the Ides of Meehan? Brown was the only team to sweep Union in league play last year. The Bears scored three-unanswered goals the last time these teams met in Providence. The Dutchmen are coming off a one-point weekend at home, but should have enough to get past a Brown team that’s fairly banged up right now. Union 4-1
Harvard at Merrimack, 7:30 p.m.
There’s some family ties in this one for Crimson freshman Jimmy Vesey, whose father Jim is Merrimack’s all-time leading scorer. Connections aside, Harvard hasn’t played a game since Nov. 17. They should shake the rust off against a Merrimack team that’s posted one win in the last month. Harvard 3-2
Saturday, Dec. 8
Quinnipiac at Princeton, 4 p.m.
These travel partners conclude the weekend at Hobey Baker Rink. I’m tempted to call a Tiger upset, but the Bobcats have done nothing over the last month to merit picking against them. Quinnipiac 3-2
Rensselaer at Brown, 4 p.m.
The Engineers and the Bears enter the weekend as the only two teams without a league win. Something’s got to give. I’ll take the home team here. Brown 4-1
Colgate at Massachusetts
I think the Minuteman finally break through against Colgate, ending the series with a win. Massachusetts 4-2
Union at Yale
Ask me about this game two weeks ago and I likely would have picked the Dutchmen. But Yale’s recent play, coupled with Union’s struggles that past two weekends, have me reconsidering that. Yale 3-2
St. Lawrence vs. Clarkson, 7:30 p.m. (Lake Placid, N.Y.)
These rivals and travel partners meet in Lake Placid as part of the Festivus Faceoff. St. Lawrence enters Saturday’s game with 999 wins in program history, and are looking to become the 16th team among 59 Division 1 programs to reach the 1,000 win mark. The Golden Knights denied that bid Wednesday, but I think the Saints get it here. St. Lawrence 4-2
Monday, Dec. 10
Massachusetts-Lowell at Harvard
The Riverhawks are the second of three straight Hockey East teams Harvard plays to close out 2012. Harvard has yet to go any sort of a roll, but has been better overall than the Riverhawks, who end 2012 on a disappointing note after making the NCAA tournament last season. Harvard 5-3
Tuesday, Dec. 11
Massachusetts at Yale
The Bulldogs are on a roll and are always tough at home. Not sure if UMass has enough to derail them here, although the Minuteman did squeeze in a 3-1 win at Amherst last season. Yale 4-1