Harvard freshman Kevin Guiltinan leads ECAC Hockey with 2.92 blocks per game.
Last week: 9-2-1
Final regular season record: 100-95-31
Three of the four teams that had a bye last year are in action during this weekend’s first round – all on the road. Cornell, Colgate, and Harvard all have a bit longer trip if they want to make it back to Atlantic City in two weeks. My colleague Brian Sullivan also made an interesting point Thursday morning on “Slap Schotts,” noting that all four home teams this round didn’t lose to their opponent during the regular season.
Brian: I’ll actually throw my hat in the ring here, as this is both an important weekend (duh) but also, I have time to do so! Sweet.
Each series is a best-of-three, and all games start at 7 p.m. – with the exception of Sunday’s potential Harvard at Dartmouth tilt, which would be at 5 p.m.
No. 12 Harvard at No.5 Dartmouth
Season series: Dartmouth, 1-0-1
Nate: Brian Sullivan touched on the Big Green earlier this week, who lost a chance at a first round bye thanks to one-point weekend to end the regular season.Dartmouth is looking to generate a little more offense heading into the playoffs, and a full return to health for Dustin Walsh should help.While the Big Green have split Charles Grant and Cab Morris in net of late, Harvard has relied on Raphael Girard for most of the season. The sophomore has made some big saves in the Beanpot against Boston College, and nearly stole an ECAC championship for the Crimson last year, so he does have big-game experience. Harvard closed on a 4-2-1 run, and could steal the series here, but I think the Big Green win.Dartmouth in three
Brian: The Crimson thrive this time of year (and thank goodness, or this would be one unfortunate program). I don’t know how they do it, but Teddy Donato always manages to get the best out of his guys in February and March. Harvard is hardly tearing it up right now, but I believe that they are playing better hockey right now than Dartmouth… perhaps it’s Dartmouth’s youth, or injuries, or perhaps it’s just hitting a down cycle, but the Big Green haven’t looked quite right lately. I like Harvard in three
No. 11 Colgate at No. 6 St. Lawrence
Season series: St. Lawrence, 1-0-1
Nate: Two losses last weekend cost St. Lawrence a chance at a bye. Still, the Saints will likely return forward Kyle Flanagan, who missed both those games following surgery to remove his appendix. Flanagan has been cleared to play against the Raiders, per Ken Schott of The Schenectady Daily Gazette. That should be a boost to a St. Lawrence team that scored just two goals in the final weekend. Colgate enters the playoffs with just one win over the last month and a bit of a goaltending dilemma. Junior Eric Mihalik started both games two weeks ago, and played well before losing to Yale last Friday. Freshman Spencer Finney was back in net for the regular season finale at Brown, but was pulled in the third period for Mihalik. St. Lawrence sweeps
Brian: Long story short, I believe that Colgate burned out about a month ago. Playoffs might breathe new life into the young team, but with Flanagan and Carey reuniting at Appleton, it’s hard not to like the Saints’ odds against the sputtering Raiders. I’m with Nate; St. Lawrence sweeps
No. 10 Clarkson at No. 7 Brown
Season series: Brown 1-0-1
Nate: It’s been pretty simple for the Bears throughout the second half: Scrape together just enough offense and let Anthony Borelli do the rest in net. It worked, as Borelli is third in the nation in save percentage and the Bears are hosting a home playoff game for the first time since 2005. Clarkson hasn’t been able to find any sort of rhythm this season, and ended the year with a three-game losing streak. Brown’s power play hasn’t exactly been potent this season, but they should get plenty of chances this weekend. The Golden Knights led the league in penalty minutes, while their penalty-kill was last. Brown sweeps
Brian: Something went sour with the North Country teams last weekend, getting wrecked in the Capital District. Especially Clarkson, losing by a combined 9-0 score at Union and RPI. But unlike SLU, Clarkson isn’t getting a monster contributor back in the lineup this weekend. Stick a fork in the Knights; they’re done: Bruno sweeps
No. 9 Cornell at No. 8 Princeton
Season series: Princeton 2-0
Nate: This could be one of the tighter matchups this weekend, as Cornell heads to the road for the playoffs for the first time since 1999. The Tigers swept the season series from the Big Red, but Cornell is 4-1-1 and hasn’t given up more than two goals since these teams last met Feb. 9. If they can continue that trend, they’ll be a tough out not just for the Tigers, but in the next round as well. Princeton will need to limit the shots on goalie Mike Condon, and get some scoring from someone other than Andrew Calof or Tyler Maugeri if they want to advance. Cornell in three
Brian: Perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the weekend, hardly anyone would’ve seen this pairing – especially at this site – coming two months ago. The Tigers have been playing consistently, but Cornell is coming around in a big way, as Nate mentioned. I think it’ll come down to goalies, and this may be the latest opportunity for Andy Iles to prove himself an elite goaltender. Condon is having a terrific season in his own right – even better than the higher-profile Iles’ – and a win would be a significant step back toward the spotlight for Bob Prier’s Tigers. Picking either way seems like going out on a limb, so here’s my branch: Princeton in three
Who made it happen in the final weekend of regulation?
• Rensselaer’s four-point weekend denied Yale, Union, and Dartmouth any shot at second place, earning RPI its first-ever bye and its first second-place finish in two decades. The Engineers blasted Clarkson (5-0) and St. Lawrence (4-1) to improve to 11-2-0 since mid-January, making them arguably the hottest team in the nation at the moment. (UMass-Lowell may have something to say about that, though.). Mike Zalewski (two goals and three points on Friday) led the way offensively, though credit is also due to the team defense, which permitted just 35 shots on the weekend. Jason Kasdorf stopped – for you non-RPI people – 34 of them. Math!
• Capital District rival Union also swept the North Country visitors – 5-1 over SLU, 4-0 over Clarkson – to earn its fourth straight bye, and fifth in six seasons. The Dutchmen mounted balanced attacks each night, notching consecutive 46-shot outings while allowing only 44. The weekend wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops for Union however, as starting goalie Troy Grosenick left Friday’s game with another injury and was replaced by sophomore Colin Stevens. Stevens earned his third shutout of the season (also the third of his career) in Saturday’s regular-season finale.
• Yale battled past Colgate and Cornell to wrest another bye, their fourth in five years. Senior goalie Jeff Malcolm has bolstered the team to a brief but critical 3-0 run since his return from injury, and the Blue scored power-play goals each night to earn next week’s respite. Saturday’s contest was especially tense, as Yale had not yet wrapped up the bye and Cornell was desperate to earn a home playoff series: The Bulldogs didn’t take a single penalty, scored on one of their two advantages, and Malcolm stopped 22 of 23 shots… including all 14 in the third period. The Elis earned their break; Cornell is stuck on the bus next week.
• Princeton took three points out of four – tying at Dartmouth, beating Harvard in overtime – keeping them one point ahead of Cornell for the final home-ice spot. The Tigers lobbed 89 shots goal-ward on the weekend, and though they failed to break through on eight power-play opportunities, they also snubbed the Green and Crimson on five penalty kills.
• Did Clarkson or St. Lawrence even get off the bus this weekend? The North Country foes were buried by a combined 18-2 score at Union and RPI, with Clarkson failing to score at all. The decisions cost the Saints a very real shot at a bye, and the Knights a bus ride.
• The Big Green only managed one point in two home games, where they had been 10-3 (7-2 in league) prior. Two more points would have drawn them into a tie with Union in the standings, and vaulted Dartmouth into a bye by virtue of a 1-0-1 record against the Dutchmen this season. Oh well, enjoy that Ivy rivalry series with Harvard – upset winners over Quinnipiac on Friday – next weekend.
• Unfortunately, there are no rematches next week from last weekend’s games. This may be neither here nor there, but I always find it entertaining to follow what effectively becomes a potentially four-game series.
• Quinnipiac did it: As detailed in last week’s blog, the Bobcats could – and did – set a league record for margin of error between first and second place in the 12-team format. No team had ever won the regular-season title by double-digits before, until this year.
• Tiebreakers failed to make significant impacts this season, as none of the boundary zones (between teams earning byes, home ice, or road series) ended in deadlocks. The ties ended thusly: Dartmouth edged SLU to draw Harvard next weekend, leaving the Saints to host Colgate; Brown’s edge over Princeton earned Bruno a trip from Clarkson rather than Cornell; and the Big Red’s advantage over those Golden Knights take them to Princeton rather than Providence.
Last week: 6-5-1
I hit a bit of a slump down the stretch, so I’ll need a hot finish to push me over .500 for the year. Regardless, there’s a lot of the line in the ECAC’s final weekend of the regular season. Check Brian Sullivan’s post from earlier this week for the breakdown of how things might look come Sunday. All start times are 7 p.m. unless noted.
Colgate at Yale
Mired in a mid-winter slump, the Raiders turned to old hand Eric Mihalik in net last time out, giving the junior his first start since Jan. 5. It worked; Colgate snapped their skid with a win over Union. Head coach Don Vaughan didn’t name a starter when I spoke to him Tuesday, saying he’d make a decision by Thursday. Jeff Malcolm is back for Yale, and that’s huge for the Bulldogs. They’re simply a different team with the senior in net. Yale wins
Quinnipiac at Harvard
The Bobcats tied a season high with six goals when these teams met in Hamden in early January. Quinnipiac is secure the No.1 team come NCAA tournament time, while Harvard looks likely to go from a league championship appearance a year ago to a last-place finish this season. Quinnipiac wins
Princeton at Dartmouth
First, there’s this little tradition that I never knew about. Whatever happened to just throwing hats on the ice after a hat trick? Anyways, much like Colgate did last season, Dartmouth is looking to grab to a top-four spot after followinga hot start with a second-half slide. Fortunately for the Big Green, they’ re 10-3 at home this year. Dartmouth wins
Cornell at Brown
Don’t look now, but the Big Red are on a four-game unbeaten streak, the second-best stretch in the country behind Providence. Brown has hung in there despite a rash of season-long injuries, and has the chance to host a playoff series for the first time since 2005. Cornell wins
St. Lawrence at Union
The Saint’s Kyle Flanagan is out after having his appendix removed earlier this week, but St. Lawrence has put itself in a good position to grab a bye. I just can’t get a read on Union. The Dutchmen’s three last three weekends have gone like this: zero points, four points, zero points. St. Lawrence wins
Clarkson at Rensselaer
Clarkson freshman Greg Lewis has two shutouts this year, the first Golden Knights’ rookie to do so since Karl Mattson in 1999-2000. But it’s hard not to like what Jason Kasdorf has done for RPI since taking over in net. Rensselaer wins
Saturday, March 2
Colgate at Brown, 4 p.m.
Part of the reason for the Raiders’ lengthy slump was simple: playing from behind. Colgate simply spotted the other team a lead too often, and wasn’t able to overcome that. They can’t do that against Brown’s Anthony Borelli, who’s been as a good as they come in net over the second half. Brown wins
Clarkson at Union
The Golden Knights snapped a nine-game losing streak last time out against Union, but haven’t won at Messa Rink since 2005. The Dutchmen have been anything but consistent lately, but I’m going with them here. Union wins
Quinnipiac at Dartmouth
A Jordan Samuels-Thomas overtime goal helped extend the Bobcats’ unbeaten streak thirteen games when these teams last met Jan. 4. Quinnipiac led 2-0 before the Big Green rallied for two third period goals to force overtime. Dartmouth will be fighting for a first-round bye, but Quinnipiac should have enough to get the win. Quinnipiac wins
Cornell at Yale
These teams have been among the league’s heavy-hitters in recent years, but both are looking to gain some momentum heading into the playoffs. The Big Red finally seem to have shaken a season-long slump, while the Bulldogs snapped a five-game losing streak Saturday. Yale wins
St. Lawrence at Rensselaer
Depending on how tonight shakes out, this matchup between the league’s two best teams down the stretch could have huge implications over the league’s top four. I’ll take the home team here. Rensselaer wins
Princeton at Harvard
The Crimson’s Raphael Girard and Tigers’ Mike Condon are both capable of stealing a game in net, although I like Princeton’s scoring punch up front a little bit more. Princeton wins
First things first
There are two regular-season games remaining. Here is where your team, your rival, and everyone else may finish.
For three teams, a bye is theirs to lose. Ok, so QU has it wrapped up.
- Quinnipiac… seriously? First. First and first only. Don’t be ridiculous.
- Rensselaer: Second through sixth. Two points clinches a bye, for the first time under coach Seth Appert (note thanks to Ken Schott) – and in fact for the first time under the “new” bye format (thanks to Without a Peer for that one).
- St. Lawrence: Second through seventh. Four points clinches a bye, but it is theoretically possible for SLU to lose out and still get next week off.
- Yale: Second through eighth. The Bulldogs have earned a first-round home series, but they cannot finish in the top four without help.
Help to rest
Five teams are scoreboard-watching with an eye on a bye.
- Dartmouth: Second through ninth. One point clinches home ice, but like Yale, the Big Green won’t necessarily earn a bye with four points.
- Union: Second through ninth. Two points to clinch home ice for the Dutchmen.
- Clarkson: Third through 11th. Two points for home ice.
- Brown: Fourth through 11th. Three points secures a home-ice series, but really, all Bruno needs is a point against Cornell and a point against Colgate to play at home again.
Hoping for a hand
These teams need help if they hope to play at home again.
- Cornell: Fourth through 11th. The Big Red need help to earn a home-ice series… even a sweep this weekend won’t necessarily guarantee another game at Lynah this winter.
- Princeton: Fifth through 11th. The Tigers need a lot of help if they hope to climb into a home-ice slot.
- Colgate: Eighth through 12th. It is highly likely that the Raiders will finish 11th.
- Harvard: The Crimson are all but assured of playing
in Hamdenthe fifth-place team in two weeks, though there is an insignificant chance that Harvard could finish 11th.
Also, this is cool.
Quinnipiac making league history
With games at Harvard and Dartmouth remaining, the Bobcats are hoping for as uneventful a weekend as possible. Wins are certainly a priority, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to presume that remaining healthy is the priority. QU already has the Cleary Cup, and likely has very little else to do in order to secure a top seed in the NCAA Tournament… though a few bad losses certainly wouldn’t help the cause.
Lost in the statistics about the best season in program history is that it is also one of the most remarkable seasons in league history… and ECAC Hockey is a league with history, man. While QU is not going to finish with the best regular-season record the conference has ever seen (Cornell famously fielded an undefeated team in 1969-70, which went 29-0-0 overall ), it will be up there. Harvard went 20-2-0 in 1986-87 and ’88-89. Vermont went 17-2-3 in ’95-96. Cornell, 19-2-1 in ’02-03 and 18-2-2 two years later. This year’s team is likely to be held in such high regard as these squads, but has a chance to do something no other program in the league has done since the end of the division format in 1983-84: Win the league by double-digits.
Since Hockey East’s split from the ECAC 29 years ago, the league has consisted of one 12-team table. (It had formerly been divided into four uneven divisions prior to the rupture.) In the three decades under this arrangement, no team has ever separated itself from the peloton quite as substantially as Quinnipiac has this year. In fact, the greatest gulfs between first and second place in the “modern” era (since ’84-85) have been nine points, witnessed four times:
- Cornell finished nine points ahead of Clarkson in 2001-02.
- Colgate wrapped up the season that far ahead of RPI in early 1990.
- Harvard put nine points between itself and Colgate by the end of the ’86-87 regular season.
- The Engineers were the first to do it, right out of the split in 1985; Harvard finished a distant second.
QU is currently a dozen (12! XII! Doce, for our Spanish readers!) points ahead of second-place RPI. Two points won (or lost, by RPI, or one point lost by St. Lawrence) makes the ’12-13 Bobcats the greatest runaway winner in ECAC Hockey’s recent/relevant history.
This league constantly touts itself as one of the tightest and toughest conferences in the nation, top to bottom. This is no small feat by the boggling Bobcats.
Don’t call it a comeback
Two key figures returned to ECAC action this weekend, and each played a major role in his respective team’s success.
Sophomore defenseman Spiro Goulakos played his second and third games since returning from cancer treatment, and scored the game-winning goal on Friday against Union in his return to Starr Rink.
“It was unbelievable,” head coach Don Vaughan told GoColgateRaiders.com. “We have all had a lift with him coming back and being able to play. It’s an incredible story and we hope he continues to feel well and we will see how it goes, but right now he looks like he hasn’t missed a step and his is a real inspiration.
“The crowd support was sensational tonight,” Vaughan added. “The team did a great job trying to build up awareness for the Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Leukemia Society. Our student body really responded with great support and I wanted to give a shout out to them tonight.”
Goulakos was overwhelmed by the support he received both during and since his absence. Again, from GoColgateRaiders.com:
“The crowd support was amazing,” Goulakos said. “Just being at school the last couple of the weeks I have had a lot of support from everyone here at Colgate. The team has been especially supportive and everything little thing like that helps.”
Another big return was that of Yale senior netminder Jeff Malcolm, who made his first start since Feb. 1 in Saturday’s 4-3 comeback win at Princeton. The goalie stopped 17 shots in his first action since a lower-body injury against – coincidentally – Princeton, helping the Bulldogs win their third Ivy League title in four years.
“It was great to be back,” Malcolm told YaleBulldogs.com.”I hate not being in the lineup, and I’m sick of watching hockey. The guys did a great job in front of me. Lots of guys are banged up, I’m not the only one. I was shaking off some of the rust, but it felt great.”
Yale went 0-5 in Malcolm’s absence, falling from a position of control to a bubble team, as noted at the top of the blog.
Last week: 3-7-1
Quinnipiac’s unbeaten streak finally ended last weekend. Now the Bobcats will be looking for their second win this month against local rival Yale. That game, which will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network, is the highlight of the weekend, along with senior nights for Princeton, Clarkson, St. Lawrence, Cornell, Colgate, and Quinnipiac. All times are at 7 p.m. unless noted. I’ll be at Quinnipiac tonight, so follow me on Twitter for updates: @Nate_Owen41
Brown at Princeton
Both teams were swept last weekend, but each had been playing pretty well prior to that. The Bears’ Anthony Borelli had been outstanding prior to last weekend, and forward Matt Lorito is due for a breakout game. Brown wins
Dartmouth at Clarkson
Injuries and inconsistent scoring have slowed the Big Green of late, although the expected return of forwards Eric Robinson and Matt Lindblad should help. This is a big game for Dartmouth, as they are a point ahead of Clarkson in the standings. The Big Green are just 2-6-3 on the road this season, with both of those wins coming at Brown. I think they’ll get their first non-Providence road win here. Dartmouth wins
Harvard at St. Lawrence
The Crimson are playing better over the last few weeks, although that’s not too hard given the way their season had gone up to that point. Still, I’m not ready to declare a post-Beanpot hot streak yet. A win against the Saints would certainly help that cause, although St. Lawrence is on a roll and has gotten production from players other than Kyle Flanagan and Greg Carey. Saint Lawrence wins
Rensselaer at Cornell
Cornell’s three-point weekend last time out showed they might have something left entering the postseason. But the Engineers have won a nation-best six straight games and are looking to secure a first-round bye for the playoffs. Rensselaer wins
Union at Colgate
Initially thought to be out for the season, Colgate defender Spiro Goulakos returned Saturday after missing five games due to chemotherapy for Hodgkins lymphoma. The Dutchmen were looking shaky a week ago, but a four-point weekend will change things. Union is right in the mix for a top-four spot.. The Raiders have been maddeningly inconsistent, and are in the midst of a six-game winless streak. I think the Dutchmen keep it going. Union wins
Yale at Quinnipiac, 7:30 p.m.
Yale has been without starting goaltender Jeff Malcolm for three weeks now, and the Bulldogs are 0-4 in that stretch. It’s unlikely he’ll be back this weekend, as Chip Malafronte of The New Haven Register reports Malcolm is out for Friday and doubtful for Saturday. Yale’s offense only have five goals in the four games that Malcolm has missed, and two of those came in the opening period against Quinnipiac on Feb. 2. This is the 11th annual Heroes Hat championship, which was established in honor of those who risked or lost their lives following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Quinnipiac wins
Saturday, Feb. 23
Brown at Quinnipiac
The last game between these teams finished as a 1-1 tie in Providence. I think the Bobcats get the win on their senior night in Hamden. Quinnipiac wins
Dartmouth at St. Lawrence
Both teams got off to a good start, but it’s all about what they’ve done lately. The Saints have had an impressive second half, while Dartmouth is trying to recapture a lot of what went right earlier in the season. St. Lawrence wins
Harvard at Clarkson
The Golden Knights steamrolled Harvard 5-1 in Boston when these two met last month. Clarkson is looking to secure home ice in the playoffs and has a shot at a first-round bye, while the Crimson are in last place, three points behind eleventh-place Cornell. Clarkson wins
Rensselaer at Colgate
Colgate’s underclassman may have carried them early, but its been the Engineers underclassman who have been on a roll of late. Five of RPI’s top six scorers are either freshmen or sophomores, with the lone upperclassman being senior defender Nick Bailen, who’s been red hot lately. Rensselaer wins
Union at Cornell
The Big Red’s only win during their recent cold-stretch came against the Dutchmen on Jan. 18. It looks to me like Union has started to put it together, but I’ve been wrong before. Union wins
Yale at Princeton
Yale needs to to start generating some offense, regardless of whether or not Jeff Malcolm returns. They can’t let themselves get frustrated by Princeton’s Mike Condon, who has proven to be more than capable of stealing a game. I think the Bulldogs find a way to squeak out a win. Yale wins
Haves and have-nots
This weekend’s action saw five teams play without losing, and four more get swept. It’s not exactly how I would have imagined events to occur, given the tightness of the league, but here we are.
Rensselaer beat Brown and Yale in Troy, extending their season-long winning streak to six games, and making it eight straight league victories. The team, which was 6-10-5 on Jan. 13, is now tied for 17th in the PairWise Rankings and is alone in second place in the league with Cornell, Colgate (both on the road), Clarkson, and St. Lawrence (home) to go.
SLU played itself right back into bye consideration, taking down No. 1 Quinnipiac (more on that later) and Princeton on the road. The Saints are 8-2-2 since early January and 7-1-2 in their last 10, the offense is back with at least three goals in 11 of their last 12 games, and junior goalie Matt Weninger and his defense are playing superbly together. One odd quirk of the streak: The Saints have been out-shot in each of their last five games (including 32-14 at QU), in which they are 3-1-1.
The Dutchmen vaulted themselves into a third-place tie with SLU, passing Dartmouth and Yale with wins over Yale and Brown. At 5-2-1 in its last eight, Union has the same remaining schedule as RPI (what with being travel-partners and all) and has only allowed more than two goals in a game once in those eight recent outings.
Finally, both Cornell and Harvard (10th and 12th in the standings, respectively) took three points from the weekend: Cornell edged Dartmouth on Friday while Harvard was erasing Colgate, then the arch-rivals tied – 2-2 – against each other on Saturday. The Big Red ended a seven-game losing skid and remain within four points of a first-round home series with four games to go; Harvard is almost assured of going on the road for the first round and beyond, but has put together its first legitimate streak of the season: The Crimson are unbeaten in four straight (2-0-2).
On the other end of the scale, Brown, Colgate, Princeton, and Yale each stumbled out of the weekend wondering where all the points went. Bruno only managed one goal while getting swept in the Capital District, ending a four-game unbeaten run (3-0-1). The Raiders’ streaky play continues, as the young squad has now lost four in a row following two ties and two wins. The team practically embodies “streakiness”… here’s the Colgate season to date: Win, three losses, three wins, four games winless, three unbeaten, loss, five wins, two losses, four unbeaten, four losses.
Princeton and Yale each lost their grips on top-four spots, and are now on the outside looking in on the race for a bye. The Tigers fell at home to Clarkson and St. Lawrence in twin 3-2 nail-biters, while Yale lost its third and fourth straight without goalie Jeff Malcolm. The Bulldogs have only topped two goals in a game once in their last half-dozen outings (a 4-2 win over Princeton, in which Malcolm was injured).
Bobcats stumble into the Cleary Cup
Ironically, the night of Quinnipiac’s first loss in over three months – Friday, at home to St. Lawrence – was also the night on which the Bobcats secured their first-ever Cleary Cup as regular-season champions.
The odd turn of events came about by dint of Yale’s 4-2 loss at Union, insuring that the Bulldogs – nor anyone else – could catch the Bobcats before the regular season runs out in two weeks. The Bobcats rebounded with a tight 2-1 victory over Clarkson on Saturday, but Friday’s loss may well have cost QU its No. 1 ranking in the USCHO D-I Poll. For what (little) it’s worth, I kept the ‘Cats atop my ballot, since No. 2 Minnesota and No. 3 Miami each lost on Sunday in the Hockey City Classic, to No. 18 Wisconsin and No. 12 Notre Dame, respectively.
The Bobcats are still on top of the PairWise Rankings, which is really all that matters: A few more wins, and fewer losses, should secure QU the top seed in the NCAA tournament next month.
Thanks to some dynamite work on the USCHO Fan Forum by Steven Burek and “FlagDUDE08″ (get me your name, I’ll get you your credit!), we get an excellent breakdown of who can finish where. Feel free to check out the thread; here are the salient points:
- 28 points locks up a bye; 27 may meet the threshold but does not guarantee the bye.
- 24 points insures a home-ice series.
- Quinnipiac has locked up the top seed.
- Rensselaer can finish anywhere between second and 10th.
- St. Lawrence, Union, Yale, and Dartmouth can finish between second and 11th.
- Clarkson, Princeton, and Brown can finish between second and 12th.
- Cornell can finish as high as third, and as low as 12th.
- Colgate can go up to fourth, or down to 12th, or anywhere in between.
- Harvard has an outside shot at seventh place and a home-ice series, but can’t go higher.
- QU, as noted, is solidly No. 1 in the PairWise.
- There is a big gap, then Yale registers again for ECAC Hockey in a 12th-place tie.
- Union, tied for 14th, would be the only other ECAC team in the tourney if the season ended right now.
- RPI (t-17) and Dartmouth (19) are on the bubble, and a few beneficial results could find them back inside that wonderful, tenuous sphere.
- SLU (23) and Colgate (29) would need quite a run and a fair amount of help to earn an at-large bid.
Last week: 3-6-1
For all the talk of the balance in the ECAC, its possible the regular season title will be wrapped up Monday with two weekends left in the season. Quinnipiac hosts St. Lawrence and Clarkson needing two points to clinch its first-ever Cleary Cup. But there is still plenty else to be settled throughout the standings. All games start at 7 p.m.
Brown at Rensselaer
It’s hard not to like the way these teams have been playing lately. The Bears are a on 4-1-1 run, while the Engineers are 6-3-1 over their last ten, including 4-0 at home. RPI has traditionally fared well against Brown, and that should continue. Rensselaer wins.
Colgate at Harvard
Will the Crimson’s win over Boston University Monday key another second half run? For all it’s struggles, Harvard tied Dartmouth Sunday and held on against Boston College in the Beanpot opener. Still, I think the Raiders should have enough firepower to pick up a road win. Colgate wins.
Clarkson at Princeton
The Golden Knights ripped Princeton for a season-high seven goals when these teams last met in November. Goalie Mike Condon gave up six goals in that game, but the senior has been carrying the Tigers of late. Princeton wins.
Cornell at Dartmouth
I touched on the Big Red’s struggles this season in this week’s column. But here’s another interesting note: Cornell has allowed 45 goals in 16 league games after giving up 46 in 22 last year. They’ve only given up 50 or more goals in ECAC play twice since 2000, but look likely to surpass that mark this season. Dartmouth is on a 1-3-2 stretch, but I’ve still got to take them over the struggling Big Red. Dartmouth wins.
St. Lawrence at Quinnipiac
A win by the Bobcats in their first game as the No.1 team in the country would clinch the Cleary Cup with two weekends remaining. The Saints are one of many teams in the middle of the standings that have picked it up of late, but it’s tough to go against the Bobcats here. Quinnipiac wins.
Yale at Union
The Dutchmen are desperately trying to climb back into a top-four spot, while the Bulldogs are attempting to hold off a pack of teams behind them in the standings. Yale hasn’t scored a goal in its last five periods, dating back to a 6-2 loss to Quinnipiac Feb. 2. Union has struggled at even-strength, but has been bolstered by the nation’s top-ranked power play. Tie.
Saturday, Feb. 16
Brown at Union
Bears goalie Anthony Borelli is probably the last thing the Dutchmen want to see. The senior goalie is second in the nation in save percentage, and made 44 saves in shutout of Yale Tuesday. As I mentioned before, Union has struggled at even strength, but if the Bears can stay penalty-free, they have a very good shot at winning this one. Brown wins.
Colgate at Dartmouth
Colgate can put up goals in bunches, including four in the third period to take a 5-4 win when these teams met in November. That was an uncharacteristic meltdown for the Big Green, who have been pretty solid defensively even as they’ve struggled to score. Dartmouth wins.
Clarkson at Quinnipiac
It’s entirely possible the Bobcats will play this game with nothing on the line, assuming they beat the Saints to clinch the regular-season title Friday. Even if that does happen, I still don’t see QU losing its focus. Quinnipiac wins.
Cornell at Harvard
It’s amazing how far these teams have fallen since last year, when both finished with a first round bye. Now, both are all but certain to head on the road for the playoffs. The Big Red are looking to snap a seven-game losing streak, while Harvard has been unable to beat anyone but Boston University since defeating Cornell 4-1 on Nov. 16. Cornell wins.
St. Lawrence at Princeton
Plenty of top-end scoring talent on both teams,, but the Tigers have been tough at home and I think Mike Condon is playing a little better than the Saints’ Matt Weninger right now. Princeton wins.
Yale at Rensselaer
RPI has suddenly found its scoring touch while Yale’s offense has run dry. The Engineers laid a smackdown on the Bulldogs when the teams met in December, leaving New Haven with a 6-1 win. Yale will break out at some point, but I’m not sure if it will come Saturday in Troy. Rensselaer wins.
With three weeks (plus one game: Tuesday’s rescheduled Yale at Brown contest) to go, let’s take a look at how the annual spring scramble is shaping up.
Ten of the league’s dozen teams have played 16 games, and in 48 hours, so too will have Yale and Brown. Right now (and God knows how the tables will look in a week or two), there are a convenient three-ish different tiers of teams fighting for more favorable postseason position. That’s awfully agreeable, since each team will ultimately open the playoffs with a bye, or hosting a series, or on the road. Enhance!
It would take a collapse of quick and cataclysmic proportions to keep Quinnipiac from the top seed and Cleary Cup, so let’s look at the other three spots.
Yale is alone in second place with 19 points, and has a tremendous opportunity to add to that cushion tomorrow night in Providence. Dartmouth, Princeton, and Rensselaer are nipping at the Bulldogs’ heels with identical 7-6-3 records (17 points); St. Lawrence and Union (both 6-6-4, 16 points) chase them, and Clarkson (15 points) is in the picture as well.
Yale should take advantage of every chance to accumulate points, as two of the next three weeks are doozies. The Bulldogs are on the road at Union, RPI, QU, and Princeton – all in the top half of the standings, and within range of the Blue – before finishing at Ingalls against Colgate and Cornell. In other words, Yale by no means has a bye in the bag.
Dartmouth is 6-1-0 at home in league play, and hosts four of its last six contests (Cornell, Colgate, Princeton, QU). The road games will be challenging of course, at Clarkson and St. Lawrence in two weeks. The Green are a mere 1-5-3 away from Thompson Arena.
Princeton – 6-3-0 in the new year – also hosts four of its last six regular season games, and plays a relatively balanced three top-half teams and three bottom-half. It will be interesting to see if the offense and defense will continue to complement each other so nicely down the stretch.
Winners of six straight league games, RPI is the second-hottest team in the league after Quinnipiac. The Engineers also host four more games, and four of their six opponents are in the bottom half of the standings. Things are looking good in Troy.
The North Country squads face the toughest road to a first-round bye, playing four of six away from home, taking on five top-half foes along the way. St. Lawrence has only lost once in eight games (5-1-2) and Clarkson is a lukewarm 3-2-2 in its last seven, but if I’m a fan of either program, I’d be happy with a fifth- or sixth-place finish.
Union separates SLU from ‘Tech in the standings, and has a fighting chance at a bye. Four home games, four bottom-half opponents, and shots at Yale, Clarkson, and SLU could narrow the margins. I think that at this point, the Dutchmen have a better chance at finishing in the top four than the Saints or Knights, but not necessarily than RPI or Princeton.
The long way home
After all that optimistic bye banter, it must be pointed out that four of those seven squads will not get a week off. The aforementioned teams have the edge on a home-ice series, but there are a couple crews gunning for a friendlier finish as well.
Should Brown upend Yale on Tuesday, the Bears will draw even with Clarkson in a tie for eighth. It would also, hypothetically, give them a four-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1) and a bit of momentum against three straight catch-able opponents (RPI, Union, and Princeton). Those are all road games, but a little confidence can go a long way with a team as tenacious and tight-checking as Bruno.
Colgate, two points back of Clarkson, is sputtering in 2013 at 2-4-2 in its last eight games. Four road tilts don’t bode well for a home series, as the Raiders are 0-4-3 in league road games this year.
Cornell and Harvard… 11th and 12th? This conference gets weirder and weirder every year, I swear. I don’t know how to explain what’s going on here; all I can say is that for everyone’s sake, I hope these teams have something left in the tank for the playoffs.
- Should Harvard lose to Boston University in Monday afternoon’s Beanpot consolation game, ECAC Hockey will once again finish with the worst intra-conference record against and among the “Big Four” leagues (ECAC, Hockey East, CCHA, WCHA). Overall, the league’s winning percentage is .561 against other conferences, second to the WCHA… but that number is a bit inflated by 30 games against Atlantic Hockey opponents. (The CCHA has played the second-most games against the AHA: 18.)
- The latest USCHO Poll, due out early Monday afternoon, is drawing interest nation-wide: Will Quinnipiac – a winner at Cornell and Colgate this weekend – finally overtake top-ranked Minnesota, which split at No. 8 St. Cloud? My vote has been steady for weeks; time to see what those outside the ECAC think. (By the way, when QU slaughtered Yale in New Haven two weeks ago, guess where the Elis were ranked? Yep: No. 8.)
Last week: 5-3-4
Eight teams are bunched within three points of each other, so this weekend could either untangle the mess that currently is the ECAC standings, or bunch together either further. The Northeast is set to be hit with a potentially devastating snow storm this weekend. Two games Saturday (Yale at Brown, Dartmouth at Harvard) have been moved to Sunday at 4 p.m. Be sure to check USCHO for the latest updates. All games are at 7 p.m. unless noted.
Friday, Feb. 8
Princeton at Colgate
The Tigers and Raiders are two of the five teams currently tied for sixth place. Neither team won a game last weekend; although Princeton was swept by Yale and Brown while Colgate tied St. Lawrence and Clarkson. The Raiders enter Friday on a four-game unbeaten streak. Colgate wins
Quinnipiac at Cornell
The Bobcats have allowed the least goals in the league, thanks to an outstanding goalie and a heady, veteran defense that’s guided them to the top of the ECAC. Sound familiar? This used to be the Big Red’s formula – but not this year. Cornell is one pace to finish below .500 for the first time since 1998-99. Here are a couple notes, courtesy of Cornell SID Brandon Thomas, that illustrate just how much of a struggle it’s been of late for the Big Red:
* This is the first time the Big Red has surrendered three or more goals in five straight games since Nov. 23-Dec. 4, 1999.
* This is the first five-game losing streak since Nov. 23-Dec. 4, 1999.
* This is the first time Cornell has been four games under .500 in league play since Feb. 24, 1995.
* This is the first time the Big Red has eight losses in a nine-game stretch since Feb. 5-March 5, 1993.
The Bobcats have yet to lose in league play this year. No reason to pick against them here. Quinnipiac wins
Rensselaer at St. Lawrence
These are just two of the several teams that have turned it around in the second half. RPI has gotten outstanding goaltending from freshman Jason Kasdorf, while Saint Lawrence has lost only once the last month. I think the Saints should have just enough firepower to get past the Engineers. St. Lawrence wins
Union at Clarkson
Union is unbeaten over its last four games, but there’s still some work to do, evidenced by last Friday’s 2-2 tie against Dartmouth. The Dutchmen led 2-1 entering the third period, and allowed the Big Green to tie the game on a late power-play goal. Joe Zarbo has eight points over the last four games for Clarkson, who is just 2-8-3 at home this season. Union wins
Saturday, Feb. 9.
Princeton at Cornell
Princeton beat the Big Red at Hobey Baker Rink earlier this season and heads to Ithaca looking for the season sweep. Cornell is reeling right now, but I think they’ll pull this one out. Cornell wins
Quinnipiac at Colgate
The Raiders are the only ECAC team to beat Quinnipiac this season, albeit in a non-conference matchup in Cape Cod way back on Oct. 27. Bobcats’ goalie Eric Hartzell was pulled after allowing four goals on 21 shots, marking the second time in two weeks he was yanked from a game. It’s gotten just a bit better for the senior Hobey Baker Candidate. Quinnipiac wins
Rensselaer at Clarkson
Two of the three starting freshman goalies in the league meet at Cheel Arena Saturday. I mentioned Kasdorf above, while Greg Lewis has been in net nearly ninety percent of the time for the Golden Knights this season. RPI should have enough to get a win here. RPI wins
Union at St. Lawrence
A recent hot stretch has the Saints closing in on a top-four spot in the standings, and a win over the third-place Dutchmen would certainly help with any tie-breaker scenarios down the road. Union is in its best stretch since the end of November, but I think the Saints are hotter right now. Saint Lawrence wins
Sunday, Feb. 10
Yale at Brown, 4 p.m.
The Bulldogs are coming off a 6-2 loss to Quinnipiac last Saturday, a game Yale lead 2-0 early in the first. Brown is one a three-game unbeaten streak, but blew two separate two-goal leads last time against the Bulldogs, a 4-3 Yale win at Ingalls Rink Dec. 1. The Bulldogs’ Nick Maricic started in place of the injured Jeff Malcolm Saturday, and head coach Keith Allain did not disclose how long Malcolm could be out. I’ll take Yale, but bump Brown up a few pegs if Malcolm is still out. Yale wins
Dartmouth at Harvard, 4 p.m.
While Dartmouth has slowed down in the second half, the Crimson are in a free-fall. The Big Green come to Boston exactly one month after Harvard’s last win. Dartmouth wins
Monday, Feb. 11
Harvard vs. Boston University, Beanpot Consolation Game, 4:30 p.m.
This is a game the Crimson have become all too-familiar with over the years, as Harvard has played in the Beanpot’s consolation game thirteen of the last fourteen years. Raphael Girard nearly stole last Monday’s game against Boston College, but the Crimson seemed to run out of steam as the game wore on. Boston University wins
Two’s company, three’s a crowd… five is a logjam. There is currently a quintet of competitors tied with 13 points in the standings: Clarkson, Colgate, Princeton, and Rensselaer each have eight games remaining to work out their differences; Brown has seven left before the postseason. It’s another “all things are possible” kind of year in ECAC Hockey, as nine points separate second-place Yale from 11th-place Cornell, and eight of the league’s dozen teams are within three points of each other with one month to go.
Compulsory Quinnipiac coverage
The Bobcats are still demanding attention, peeling off three more points with a tie at Brown and a blowout (albeit a come-from-behind blowout) at Yale.
The Bobcats now (and still) boast the longest unbeaten streak in the nation this year and the longest in program history: 19 games (16-0-3). QU is guaranteed to finish in the league’s top
10 seven – per Steven Burek’s excellent analysis – and only needs a .500 record in its final eight games to win the Cleary Cup as the ECAC’s regular-season champion. The ‘Cats are certainly gunning for the best conference record in recent memory, though that is by no means assured: Cornell finished the regular docket with a 19-2-1 record in ’02-03, so there is little room for error should QU hope to match (or surpass) that mark.
We’ll have to wait and see, but there is a very good chance that this afternoon will harken Quinnipiac’s first-ever No. 1 ranking in the USCHO D-I Poll. Defending No. 1 Minnesota was idle this weekend, and QU didn’t fall short of the top spot by much last week. The three-point weekend – especially the victory over local rival, eighth-ranked, and sixth-in-the-PairWise Yale – is likely to make up the difference between the Bobcats and Gophers. Should the Q pull ahead, it will be the first time in just over two years that an ECAC Hockey team led the poll: Yale earned top billing on Jan. 24, 2011.
Once combatants for the Cleary Cup and more, Ivy foes Cornell and Harvard have found themselves in free-fall in 2013.
The Big Red are baffled by their first five-game losing streak since the fall of 1999, which was also the last time the program failed to finish at .500 in either league play or overall. The Ithacans are 1-8-0 in their last nine games, and 2-8-0 since the holiday break. Opponents out-scored the Red 32-15 in those eight losses (37-23 in all games since the holidays), landing Cornell in 11th place with a 4-8-2 league record. Only Harvard has scored fewer goals in ECAC competition than the Big Red.
On that note: Harvard. The Crimson are on a well-documented 1-12-1 drop since starting the season 4-2-0. They have been shut out four times (including a 3-0 loss at RPI on Friday in which Harvard only mustered 11 shots on goal). Harvard has been out-scored 55-22 in those last 14 games, and that includes a 6-5 overtime win at BU. With Boston College looming in tonight’s late Beanpot semifinal, things aren’t likely to get better for the Crimson before they get worse.
A third Ivy is struggling in this new year, but is by no means cratering. Dartmouth – 4-6-1 since the break – was the last undefeated team in the nation in early November, but has struggled with consistency since the holidays. Still in fourth place by dint of their strong start, the Big Green play four of their remaining seven regular-season games at home, and only play one currently ranked opponent (Quinnipiac, on March 2 in Hanover).
In an entirely intra-conference weekend, how did more than half of the participants manage to escape without a loss?
Oh yeah, ties.
Seven teams – Clarkson, St. Lawrence, RPI, Union, Colgate, QU, and Brown – held steady in the L column between Thursday and Sunday, making for an exciting surge in the middle of the standings.
Clarkson both blew leads and mounted comebacks in a wild 4-4 draw with Colgate Friday night, and rode a 3/7 power play to victory over Cornell the following evening. The Raiders dug deep for another comeback Saturday at St. Lawrence, scoring twice in the third period to force the stalemate. The Saints had just come off a dismissal of Cornell as well, with their own big third period: Three Saints scored in the final frame to double up the Big Red. The wins extended SLU’s unbeaten streak to six games (4-0-2); the Saints are 5-2-2 since Christmas.
In Troy, the Engineers notched consecutive 3-0 shutouts, first topping hapless Harvard and then dispatching disappointed Dartmouth. The back-to-back clean sheets are the first for the program since January 2004 (both pitched by Nathan Marsters), but dishing donuts on consecutive nights hadn’t been done since October ’02, by Kevin Kurk against Iona and Army. The victories were RPI’s third and fourth straight league wins, boosting the ‘Tute into the aforementioned five-way tie for sixth.
Across town, Union tied Dartmouth on national television in its only game of the weekend, and down in Providence, Brown fought Quinnipiac to a 1-1 Friday-night draw before dismantling Princeton, 5-1.
No matter your allegiances (or lack thereof), there is no better tournament in college hockey than the Beanpot. Ignore the records, because these games are strictly played on emotion.
Boston University and Northeastern will tangle at 4:30, while Harvard will have its hands full with BC at 8. Both games will be televised live on NESN.