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., [...]
Can we all agree that it’s early, thereby accepting that caveat without further asterisk-ing? Great. Now then: ECAC Hockey is looking good so far. Scary good. Let’s take a spin ’round the league we call our own.
What the NHL doesn’t know…
In order to be a top team, you have to get the top players. Sometimes they come to you, sometimes they fall in your lap, sometimes you develop them yourself. But generally speaking, the best teams know how to find the best players, and do so through expensive, exhausting, painstaking research, assessment, and recruiting.
So you’d think the best mercenary hockey teams in the world – those in the National Hockey League – would be able to spot talent in their own back yards with a bit more accuracy, eh?
As it stands, only five of arguably the top 34 players in ECAC Hockey are NHL draft picks. (Granted, “top 34″ is a relatively arbitrary number, based on current statistics.) Those players are Yale’s Kenny Agostino (drafted by Pittsburgh), Harvard’s Jimmy Vesey (Nashville), Cornell’s Joakim Ryan (San Jose), Union’s Shayne Gostisbehere (Philadelphia), and Princeton’s Michael Sdao (Ottawa).
At the moment, Agostino ranks fifth in the league in overall scoring, behind four undrafted talents: Kyle Flanagan and Greg Carey from St. Lawrence, Tyler Sikura at Dartmouth, and Agostino’s teammate Antoine Laganiere. ECAC’s six top scorers beyond Agostino are also free agents: Princeton’s Tyler Maugeri and Andrew Calof, Union’s Kyle Bodie, Dartmouth’s Matt Lindblad, Rensselaer’s Jacob Laliberte, and Union’s Wayne Simpson.
The conference’s top 13 goal-scorers are also thin on NHL property: Vesey and Agostino pull in fourth and seventh in the category, respectively. Above Vesey is Laganiere, Eric Robinson at Dartmouth, and Carey. Brown’s Matt Lorito and Cornell’s John Esposito follow, then Agostino, Flanagan, Sikura, Maugeri, Quinnipiac’s Jeremy Langlois, Lindblad, and Andrew Ammon at Princeton.
Ryan and Agostino each factor into the league’s top assist-ers as well, joined by some of the aforementioned stars as well as Eric Meland at Princeton (ahead of both), Clarkson’s Allan McPherson, and Yale’s Clinton Bourbonais. Among offensive-minded blue-liners, Gostisbehere may make Philly look smart at the top, but he is followed by the overlooked likes of Meland, SLU’s Justin Baker, Union’s Greg Coburn, Nick Bailen at RPI, Ryan, Union’s Spiro Goulakos, Sdao, and Yale Bulldog Tommy Fallen.
Last but not least, I can’t fathom how the pros would walk right by some of the top talent in what is frequently regarded as one of the most defensive, goalie-heavy leagues in the country: Not one of ECAC Hockey’s top half-dozen netminders (as judged by current save percentage) is on the “prospects” list for an NHL franchise. Raphael Girard at Harvard, Yale’s Jeff Malcolm, QU’s Eric Hartzell, Cornell’s Andy Iles, Matt Weninger at SLU, and Union’s Frozen Four backstop Troy Grosenick are in line for big paydays, should they keep it up.
Apologies for not listing stats for each of these stellar standouts, but this is a tough enough list to read through as it is, I’m sure.
Never too early to smile
A bajillion miles to go, of course, but starting hot is certainly better than the alternative, eh? The preposterously early PairWise rankings show ECAC Hockey in pretty solid shape entering the last month of 2012.
If the NCAA Tournament started today, the ECAC would place two No. 1 seeds (Dartmouth and Yale), a No. 2 (Quinnipiac), two 3′s (Cornell and Union) and a No. 4 (Harvard). Tip of the cap to Cornell SID Brandon Thomas for a related note on Twitter.
Granted, as Thomas pointed out as well, this league will certainly eat itself alive in the second half. Six NCAA teams sure would be sweet, but a goal of four would be pretty satisfactory, too.
Hot team of the hour: Quinnipiac
Yes, yes, Bobcats supporters, I am aware that the ‘Cats have been winning quite regularly ever since they lost quite… irregularly… to (gulp) American International in early November. QU is on an eight-game roll (7-0-1), having smothered the Capital District by a 7-1 aggregate (4-0 at Union, 3-1 at RPI).
The season-opening win at Maine isn’t shaping up to be such a feather in the Bobcats’ caps anymore (the Black Bears are 2-10-2 and dead last in Hockey East), but the win and tie against Ohio State (7-4-3) looks solid. The team just finished its longest “road trip” of the season – six games – with a 5-0-1 record, and swept two of the four toughest road trips of the year, at the Capital District as well as the North Country. (I am presuming that Harvard/Dartmouth and Colgate/Cornell will be at least as tough as the aforementioned pair.)
Twenty of the 24 QU players to have suited up this season have registered a point, and two of the point-less quartet are goalies. (The other two have combined for four appearances.) A full two-thirds – 16 – of those two-dozen players have lit the lamp themselves, led by senior and aforementioned free agent Jeremy Langlois; he also leads the team in points, but his eight goals and 14 points are decidedly modest for such a hot team. That speaks volumes about the depth Pecknold has at his disposal… there are no Reid Cashmans, Brandon Wongs, or David Marshalls carrying this team.
The Q-Cats only have seven road games among their 19 remaining regular-season contests… but at 6-0-1 away from home (and 4-2-1 in Hamden), perhaps coach Rand Pecknold should put his boys up in hotels before all of their remaining tilts, regardless of venue.
Last week: 9-3-3
I finally showed some signs of knowing what I’m talking about last week, posting my best picks record of the season. Here’s a look at this upcoming weekend, with a couple bonus midweek games thrown in. All games are 7 p.m. unless noted.
Friday, Nov. 29
Clarkson at Cornell
Cornell returns to Lynah Rink after a solid showing at Madison Square Garden last Saturday. The Big Red are on a 5-0-3 streak against the Golden Knights, and that should continue here. Cornell 4-1
Princeton at Rensselaer
The Tigers are in the midst of a seven-game road trip, but are facing an Engineers team that might be shorthanded this weekend. Ed Weaver of The Troy Record reports that a number of players are questionable, including captain C.J. Lee. It’s early, but a win would help RPI immensely – they’re the only team without a point in league play. RPI 4-3 (OT)
Quinnipiac at Union
I touched on the unheralded consistency of each of these teams in this week’s column. Both are in the top-ten nationally in team defense, and each have gotten excellent special-teams play, with the Bobcats really clicking on the power play after a slow start. I’ll take the home team here- Union is an impressive 25-4-6 over their last 35 games at Messa Rink. Union 3-2
St. Lawrence at Colgate
Freshman Spencer Finney has been red-hot in net for the Raiders, going 2-0-1 with a 0.42 goals-against-average and .981 save percentage over the last three games. The Saints have gotten plenty from Kyle Flanagan and Greg Carey, but only two other Saint Lawrence skaters have more than two goals on the year. Colgate 4-2
Saturday, Dec. 1
Princeton at Union, 4 p.m.
Both the Tigers’ and Dutchmen have gotten good production from their respective power plays, but I think Union should extend its six-game unbeaten streak against the Tigers. It’s also Coaches vs. Cancer night at Messa Rink to benefit the American Cancer Society. Union 5-2
Bentley at Dartmouth
Lost in the production of Kyle Flanagan and Greg Carey is the scorching start by Big Green senior Eric Robinson, who’s tied for the national lead with nine goals. Bentley’s Brett Gensler is tied with Flanagan for the national lead in points, while the Falcons boast the country’s best power play. Dartmouth’s been strong on the penalty kill though, and I think the Big Green take this one with ease. Dartmouth 5-1
Brown at Yale
Which Bears teams will show up – the one that lost to Providence 7-0 Saturday or the one that rallied for a 3-2 win against Holy Cross Sunday? Brown better hope its the latter, as Yale is looking good following wins at Denver and Colorado College. Yale 5-3
Clarkson at Colgate
Clarkson has managed just two points on the road against Cornell and Colgate over the last four seasons. The Golden Knights have had five of their last eight games end in a draw, while the Raider-Golden Knights series has ended in a tie in six of the last 13 meetings. Sense a trend here? It’s also the annual toy drive at Starr Rink this weekend, as anyone who donates an unwrapped toy gets a ticket to the game. 2-2 tie.
Quinnipiac at Rensselaer
The Bobcats have been rolling along nicely lately. Not sure if a gritty, but shorthanded, Engineers’ squad will be up to the task. Quinnipiac 4-1
St. Lawrence at Cornell
Cornell has taken the last three meeting in the series, all by one goal, including two overtime games. Not sure if this one will make it to the extra period, but it should be a tight one. It’s also marks the annual Teddy Bear Toss at Lynah Rink, while donations of either books or funds will be accepted Friday and Saturday for the Family Reading Partnership. Cornell 3-2
Wednesday, Dec. 5
Vermont at Dartmouth
These former travel partners meet in a rare midweek game. The Catamounts have lost three in a row entering the weekend, while the Big Green haven’t lost at home this season. That should continue in this nationally – televised matchup on NBC Sports Network. Dartmouth 4-1
Clarkson at St. Lawrence
Neither team is exactly on any sort of hot streak right now, but I’ll take the Saints in this matchup of current travel partners. St. Lawrence 3-1
Yale riding (a mile) high
No doubt about it, the story of the weekend was Yale’s road sweep of Centennial Staters Denver and Colorado College. The Pioneers entered the weekend at 9-1-1 and ranked second in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll, while CC (7-5-0 as of Turkey Day) was tagged for 14th in the survey.
The Blue didn’t just squeak by in Denver; they actually out-shot the hosts (37-33) and scored both short-handed and power-play goals in a 2-1 thriller at Magness Arena. Senior Jeff Malcolm stopped 32 of 33 for his fourth win of the year, and Pittsburgh Penguins pick Kenny Agostino scored his fifth of the year to elevate the Elis.
The following evening was a completely different story as Malcolm was chased after five goals and 34 minutes. Classmate Nick Maricic stepped in with nine saves in the last 30 minutes (including four saves in three and a half minutes of overtime), and senior Josh Balch scored his first goal of the year in OT to extend the Blue’s winning streak to three.
Yale is now 5-2-1, and has yet to play consecutive games without at least one win.
Cornell claims the Apple
The Big Red entered Madison Square Garden for the fourth time in six years on Saturday, but this time departed Manhattan with a victory.
Cornell’s 5-1 dismantling of No. 19 Michigan in front of 18,200 ended a half-decade of Big Apple angst for the Big Red, who had been 0-2-1 in three MSG meetings against Boston University since Thanksgiving ’07. The Red drew six power plays — scoring on one — while taking only two minors of their own; senior Greg Miller scored twice and added an assist; and junior Andy Iles turned away 26 of 27 Wolverines shots for his fourth win of the year.
The win ends a five-game winless skid for Cornell (0-3-2). That would seem long for such a consistent program, but we don’t have to look too far back to spot a similar slide: The Red dropped two and tied three over a five-game span that began late last January. Even more importantly for Lynah faithful, the five-goal outburst ends a streak of three consecutive one-goal outings for Cornell. Next up: Clarkson and St. Lawrence visit Ithaca.
QU humming along
The Quinnipiac Bobcats used to do things loudly: Big, explosive offenses; big road upsets; big collapses … but lately, QU has been toning it down a bit. It’s almost as though the program itself is maturing.
The Bobcats shut out Providence (2-0) and tied Massachusetts (2-2) last week, both on the road. The results were the third and fourth of a six-game road trip (if you can call it that in college hockey), and the ‘Cats are 3-0-1 on that swing so far. Add prior home wins over Colgate and Cornell, and hey now, you’ve got yourself a pretty snazzy little unbeaten streak (5-0-1). And unlike the show-stopping snipers of teams past, this squad is winning from the back out.
The Bobcats have not surrendered three goals in a game in a month (a 5-1 loss to Colgate on Cape Cod on Oct. 27) and have only allowed more than two goals in a game twice all year (the 4-0 stinger against Robert Morris being the other occasion). Beyond that, the ‘Cats have lost 2-0 and 2-1 games, and have won the rest. Senior Eric Hartzell’s save percentage is .927 (up nearly 10 points since last week’s column which highlighted save percentages), and the team is allowing its foes a full 10 fewer shots than it is itself generating (31.7 to 21.4).
Quinnipiac isn’t breaking up Boston College’s insane hot streak or running roughshod through the cream of the WCHA, but success has a way of breeding success. This is no time to sleep on the Bobcats.
It’s the home stretch of 2012 for many ECAC teams, as exams and the holidays break are quickly approaching. Here’s a look at this weekend, which features all non-conference matchups. All games are 7 p.m. unless noted. Harvard and RPI both have the weekend off.
Last week: 3-6-2
Friday, Nov. 23
Colgate at Merrimack, 4 p.m.
The Raiders enter the weekend after sweeping Dartmouth and Harvard, as well as the league’s weekly awards. The Warriors have lost three in a row, but two of those have been to Boston College and Boston University. Colgate 4-2
Princeton at Sacred Heart, 4 p.m.
Princeton is in the midst of seven-game road trip, heading north to face their first non-conference opponent in the Pioneers. Sacred Heart is dead-last nationally in team defense by almost half a goal (4.73) and has yet to win a game this season. Still, the then-winless Pioneers knocked off Yale just over a year ago, sending the Bulldogs into a second-half spiral. I think the Tigers’ top lines and power play should be enough to carry them though. Princeton 6-2
St. Lawrence at Northeastern
These teams haven’t met in ten years, but both the Huskies and the Saints were charter members of the ECAC when the league formed in 1961. St. Lawrence has a seven-game unbeaten streak against Hockey East opponents, although they are winless in conference play this season. NU has plenty of talented forwards who have underachieved thus far; the same can’t be said for the Saints’ Kyle Flanagan and Greg Carey. A free HD stream of the game is available here. St. Lawrence 4-2
Clarkson at RIT, 7:05
Clarkson has won seven straight over RIT, and lead the all-time series 10-2-1 The Knights broke out with seven goals against Princeton last Saturday, which should bode well against a Tigers team that is second-t0-last nationally in team defense. Clarkson 5-3
Yale at Denver, 7:37 MT
The Bulldogs head to Denver looking for their first win against the Pioneers in six tries. These teams haven’t met since 1996, a 3-2 overtime win for Denver. Yale has shown flashes this year, but I think the No. 2 Pioneers will be to much, especially at home. Denver 5-2
Dartmouth at Boston College, 4 p.m.
Dartmouth faces it’s biggest test in No.1 Boston College. The Big Green have shown a lot so far, but I just can’t pick against the Eagles at this point. Boston College 4-1
Princeton at Massachusetts-Lowell, 4 p.m
Princeton has won the last three meetings in the series, but I’ll take the suddenly hot-scoring River Hawks at home. UML 5-2
Providence at Brown, 4 p.m.
This is the 27th annual Mayor’s Cup between the cross-town rival Friars and Bears. Brown took the title last season, but I think Providence will get the win here. Providence 4-2
Penn State at Union
Goalie Troy Grosenick practiced this week after hurting his leg two weeks ago against Harvard, according to Ken Schott of the Schenectady Daily Gazette, and could play in one of this weekend’s game. Backup Colin Stevens has actually posted better numbers than Grosenick this season, so the Dutchmen should be fine either way. Union 5-1
Quinnipiac at Massachusetts
Bobcats’ head coach Rand Pecknold almost left QU for the Minuteman last season, but he stayed put and is overseeing a Quinnipiac team that has outscored its opponents 17-5 the last four games. Quinnipiac 3-1
St. Lawrence at Boston University
Call it a homecoming matchup on the road, as Boston University captain Wade Megan and St. Lawrence captain Kyle Flanagan are both Canton natives. I think Megan and the Terriers get the win here. Boston University 5-2
Michigan vs. Cornell, 8 p.m.
The Big Red return to Madison Square Garden for the annual Frozen Apple game. Neither of these teams have done anything inspiring the last few weekends, but I’ll take a flyer on Cornell. Cornell 3-1
Yale at Colorado College, 7:07 p.m. MT
The Tigers have recovered nicely after getting swept by Cornell in Ithaca last month, going 4-2 in that stretch, with their only losses coming to No. 2 Denver. I think they’ll narrowly get past the Bulldogs. Colorado College 4-3
Sunday, Nov. 25
Holy Cross at Brown, 4 p.m.
The Crusaders have lost one game in November, while injury-ravaged Brown has been up-and-down over their first month of play. The Bears should put up some goals, but the real question is whether their defense can hold off a Holy Cross team that’s averaged five goals the last two weekends. Holy Cross 5-4
Penn State at Union. 4 p.m.
I think the Duttchmen complete the sweep, giving them five wins over their last six games. Union 4-0
Last zero zoinked
The nation’s last unbeaten finally took its tumble, as Colgate scored four goals in the last 12 minutes of Friday’s game to ground the Green (more on Colgate in a bit).
Dartmouth went on to draw in Ithaca the following night, bringing its record to 5-1-2. Junior Eric Robinson’s eight goals in eight games place him among the hottest hands in Division 1 right now, but it’s no one-trick pony up in Hanover: 11 different Big Green icers have found the twine already. In the back, goalies Cab Morris and Charles Grant each boast save rates over .910 (in fact, Morris holds a .919; Grant, a .944) and neither is surrendering more than two goals a game on average.
The Big Green are now one of four one-loss teams in the country (Boston College, Denver, and Granite State rival New Hampshire are the others), but that is likely to change on – if not by – November 24 when BC hosts Dartmouth in Chestnut Hill.
Raiders on the rise
It’s been an up and down season for identity-seeking Colgate, but last weekend certainly gave the Raiders a wave worth riding. The ‘Gate upended previously unbeaten Dartmouth, then stymied potent Harvard for their first league points of the campaign.
Senior Robbie Bourdon paced the team with a hat trick on Friday, including the game-winner with just three seconds remaining in regulation. His five goals lead the squad, tied with… who? Darcy Murphy. The rookie hasn’t lit the lamp since November 2 versus Cornell, but he nonetheless racked up five goals in his first eight games to draw a lot of attention from more recent foes.
Freshman Spencer Finney has posted better numbers between the pipes than veteran Eric Mihalik, begging the goaltending question on a game-to-game basis. Finney mopped up for Mihalik on Friday and earned the win behind the Raiders’ third-period surge, and worked all 60 minutes on Saturday for his second career W.
North Country ‘Cats
Quinnipiac made itself right at home in its annual North Country trip, vanquishing Clarkson 5-2 and downing suddenly struggling St. Lawrence, 6-2. This is never an easy trip – it’s a six and a half hour trip in the best of circumstances – but you’d never know it was anything more than a local pick-up game by the 11-4 aggregate.
Unlike years past, this iteration of the Bobcats is rolling on depth and defense: senior Jeremy Langlois’ 10 points lead the team, and 14 different ‘Cats have scored goals already… including all but four regular skaters. Senior goalie Eric Hartzell’s .917/1.70 stat line is easy on the eyes, and the Q hasn’t lost a weekend yet.
The team is currently 1/3 of the way through a season-long six-game road swing, with games at Providence and Massachusetts and the Capital District deuce ahead. The four-game winning streak is nice for now, but Bobcats fans are hoping it is merely tinder for an inferno to come.
Last week: 4-6-2
Cornell heads home this weekend looking to rebound after a sweep, while Dartmouth, Quinnipiac and Princeton take to the road looking to build on a four-point performance last time out. Yale and Union are off, while Brown and RPI each host non-conference opponents. All games are 7 p.m unless noted.
Friday, Nov. 16
Dartmouth at Colgate
The Big Green are drawing national attention thanks to their undefeated start and current position atop the PairWise rankings. These teams split last season, with each one taking a home game, but Dartmouth should continues its hottest start in over fifty years for at least one more night. Dartmouth 4-2
Mercyhurst at Rensselaer
The Engineers have seen a promising opening weekend dissolve into a mess. RPI has been outscored 19-5 in four league games and is on a five game losing streak overall. The good news? Leading scorer Jacob Laliberte is set to return this weekend, per Ken Schott of the Schenectady Daily Gazette. That should at least help the offense, although it might not matter if the Engineers continue to give up close to five goals a game, as they have since starting league play. Mercyhurst 4-1
Princeton at St. Lawrence
This is the first game of a seven-game road stretch for the Tigers, who are coming off an impressive home sweep of Cornell and Colgate. Princeton has eight wins and three ties in 42 games at Appleton Arena. St. Lawrence stumbled a bit last weekend, as both Kyle Flanagan and Greg Carey were held scoreless in a loss at Yale Saturday. That came on a the heels of a 3-3 tie at Brown, a game St. Lawrence led 3-1 in the third. They should rebound here. St. Lawrence 5-2
Quinnipiac at Clarkson
Don’t look now, but the Bobcats have found their scoring touch, scoring seven goals at home last weekend. That’s even more impressive considering Quinnipiac is still without forward Connor Jones, who has missed the last four games with an injury. Meanwhile, the Golden Knights picked up their first win of the season on freshman Greg Lewis’ first career shutout. Clarkson returned several players last weekend to help bolster their defense and penalty kill in the form of defender Andrew Himelson and forwards Adam Pawlick and Simon Bessette. Quinnipiac 4-3
Harvard at Cornell, 7:30 p.m.
This one will be under the bright lights of NBC Sports Network, with Mike Emrick and Pierre Maguire on the call. It’s the first matchup between these two since the Crimson rolled over the Big Red 6-1 in the ECAC semifinals in March. Cornell’s penalty kill was torched by Princeton and Quinnipiac last weekend. They’ll have to better against Harvard if they want the win. Cornell 3-2
Saturday, Nov. 17
Quinnipiac at St. Lawrence, 4 p.m.
The Bobcats wrap up their North Country trip against the Saints. St. Lawrence hasn’t lost to Quinnipiac since February 15, 2010, a 5-0 shutout in Canton. None of the Saints’ wins have been by more than two goals since that point, and I think that continues here. St. Lawrence, 4-2
Army at Brown
Brown joins RPI as the only league teams in non-conference action this weekend, hosting Atlantic Hockey member Army. The Knights have been scoring at a better clip this season, while the Bears are struggling to keep defenseman healthy. Despite that, I like the home team. Brown 5-3
Dartmouth at Cornell
If the Big Green are going to steal one in Ithaca, this seems like the perfect time. Cornell hit a rough patch last week, while Dartmouth is the hottest team in the country right now. But it’s Cornell at home, and I just don’t see the Big Red succumbing before a packed Lynah crowd. Cornell 3-1
Harvard at Colgate
Colgate has scored two goals or less in each of its last four games. Harvard hasn’t exactly lit it up over that time span either, but I think they are the more consistent team at this juncture. Colgate’s gotten plenty of contributions from its freshman class, but don’t forget about Massachusetts native Jimmy Vesey, who has five goals in five games for Harvard. Harvard 5-2
Mercyhurst at RPI
Four-point weekends are tough in college hockey. I think the Engineers prevent one here. RPI 2-1
Princeton at Clarkson
Clarkson’s defense and penalty kill will have their hands full with a Princeton power play that gutted Cornell for three goals last Friday and currently ranks fourth in the country. Don’t put it past freshman Greg Lewis to steal this one in net, but I think the Tigers’ simply have too much top-end talent to lose here. Princeton 4-1
Dartmouth downs Union
There were a number of exciting games this weekend, but the marquee matchup was undoubtedly in Hanover, N.H. when 4-0-1 Dartmouth hosted 6-1-1 Union. The Dutchmen entered the Granite State on a seven-game unbeaten streak, while the home team was eager to prove that its undefeated record was no fluke.
Union worked hard for the early edge, out-shooting the Green 11-3 in the opening frame, but the Ivy’s junior goaltender Cab Morris was up to the task. Sophomore winger Brandon McNally scored on one of the Big Green’s three first-period shots, and the squad fought off the period’s only power play to take a 1-0 lead into the break.
Junior Eric Robinson – who leads the nation in goals per game (1.17, with seven in six games) – and classmate Matt Lindblad each lit the lamp late in the second period, opening up a 3-0 lead on the visitors. Union struck quickly in the third as juniors Daniel Carr and Matt Hatch cut Dartmouth’s lead to one with almost 18 minutes still to play, but Dartmouth’s defense stepped up and Morris stumped UC on its few remaining bids.
The result may be asterisked by those who would note the absence of Union starting goaltender Troy Grosenick, who will miss a month or so with what is purportedly an ankle injury, but the fact of the matter is that Dartmouth stymied a very experienced and dynamic offense when it mattered most. Next weekend looks even tougher than this one as the Green travel to Hamilton and Ithaca to take on Colgate and Cornell; the schedule gets no lighter the following weekend when the opponent is home-standing and top-ranked Boston College.
Dartmouth opened some eyes this weekend. Should the team maintain its undefeated status through the next three games, it will drop some jaws, too.
ECAC Hockey: Offensive powerhouse?
It’s early, but remarkable nonetheless: The ECAC is home to five of the nation’s top six scorers, and six of the top eight.
St. Lawrence senior Kyle Flanagan unsurprisingly leads the pack with seven goals and 16 points in eight games, and junior teammate Greg Carey (6-8–14) isn’t far behind in the nation’s No. 4 spot. Dartmouth sophomore Tyler Sikura’s 11 points in six games put him just off the pace with 1.83 points per game, good for third nationally, followed by junior star Andrew Calof out of Princeton (3-4–7 in four games). Rensselaer isn’t having the best start, but you’d never know it from sophomore Jacob Laliberte’s numbers: His 10 points in six games place him sixth in the country in offensive production. Finally, the aforementioned Eric Robinson at Dartmouth is averaging a point and a half per outing with seven goals and nine points in six games.
The conference is also rife with snipers, as seven of Division 1′s top 10 current goal-scorers play in the ECAC. Robinson’s 1.17 goals per game is at the top. Nashville prospect and Harvard rookie Jimmy Vesey (five goals in five games) is second. SLU’s Flanagan has seven goals in eight games, tying him for fourth; Yale’s Antoine Laganiere buried five goals in six games for sixth; SLU’s Carey and Princeton’s Calof and soph Tyler Maugeri are each on a 0.75 goals-per-game pace.
Perhaps many of these players are simply off to hot starts; we’ll have to wait and see. Regardless, it’s a lot more fun to watch than the alternative end of the spectrum.
Back to the “Big Four”?
Much has been written – by my own hand and others – about ECAC Hockey’s consistently dismal non-conference performance. It has been a decade since the league as a whole won as many games as it lost against the other “Big Four” conferences (the WCHA, Hockey East, and the CCHA). In fact, the conference regularly struggled to surpass the .400 mark in winning percentage against the Big Four.
It got so bad that I was driven to use space here last year to document ECAC Hockey’s futility against national-caliber opposition.
There are still a good number of intra-conference games to go, but so far, the ECAC has done well: The league is 18-12-7 against other conferences, including 6-4-2 versus the CCHA and 3-1-0 against Hockey East. The only league that has submarined the ECAC so far is the WCHA, against whom the conference is 2-3-1. In fact, ECAC Hockey currently boasts the best non-league winning percentage in D-I (.581) and the best winning rate against the Big Four (.568).
Again, there are still a significant number of non-con contests remaining around the holidays – not to mention the Beanpot… but as with the offensive numbers mentioned earlier in this entry, a good start never hurts.
Here’s a look at the sixth weekend of play in the ECAC. Note that I’m coming off my first winning picks record this season, so take that for what it’s worth. All games are 7 p.m. unless noted.
Last week: 8-3-3
Friday, Nov. 9
Colgate at Quinnipiac
These teams met two weeks ago, with the Raiders winning 5-1 in a non-conference matchup on Cape Cod. It’s the duel of contrasting power-plays, as Colgate has six goals with the man advantage over their last four games after starting 1-for-24. The Bobcats have yet to score a power-play goal, but have killed all 27 penalties they’ve taken thus far. That’s a solid mark, but the QU power play, and offense in general, needs to get going fast, especially following Tuesday’s disappointing loss to AIC. Colgate 3-2
Clarkson at Yale
These teams have flipped the script so far this year. Yale, which was held back by its goaltending at times last year, has gotten solid performances from Jeff Malcolm in each of their wins to date. Clarkson nearly rode Paul Karpowich to a first-round bye last season, but has struggled in net so far, as none of the Golden Knights’ keepers have a save percentage about .900. Yale 5-3
Cornell at Princeton
Cornell and Ivy League companion Dartmouth are one of two D-1 teams without a loss so far. Andy Iles and a rock-solid defense featuring five NHL draft picks should be up to the task here. Cornell 4-1
Rensselaer at Dartmouth
Things unraveled a bit for RPI in last weekend’s sweep by rival Union. The Engineers will be without leading scorer Jacob Laliberte for both games thing weekend, and possibly longer, according to Ed Weaver of The Troy Record. RPI will also be without defenseman Luke Curadi, who sits out after receiving a game disqualification in Saturday’s game. Dartmouth has ridden solid goaltending from freshman Charles Grant and junior Cab Morris, along with timely scoring from Eric Robinson (three game-winning goals) to a 3-0-1 overall mark and first-place tie with Union. Dartmouth 5-2
St. Lawrence at Brown
It’s early, but Brown is already dealing with its fair share of injuries, as Brian touched on Wednesday. Marco De Filippo and the Bears penalty kill have been up to par to this point, but they’ll face a tough task in No. 13 St. Lawrence, who ranks second nationally in team defense and sixth in scoring. St. Lawrence 5-1
Union at Harvard
There have been bumps, namely a 2-2 tie at Connecticut two weeks ago, but the Dutchmen have quietly gone undefeated since their season-opening loss to Merrimack. These are arguably two of the more skilled teams in the league, although Union did a solid job shutting down the Crimson last season, holding them to an average of 20 shots in three games, including just 17 in the ECAC Championship. Both have some fresh blood (Sebastien Gingras and Jimmy Vesey) on the power play, and I think the special teams matchup determines the winner here. Union 3-1
Saturday, Nov. 10
Colgate at Princeton, 4 p.m.
This is the 99th meeting all-time between these programs, with Colgate holding a 48-44-6 series lead. The two split last year, with each team winning on their home ice. I think Princeton breaks through for their first win of the young season here. Princeton 4-2
Clarkson at Brown, 4 p.m.
The Golden Knights have flat-out dominated Brown, leading the all-time series 58-15-7, but De Filippo might be enough to steal one here for the Bears. Brown 4-3
Cornell at Quinnipiac
Both Cornell’s Andy Iles and Quinnipiac’s Eric Hartzell have been solid in net this year, but I’ll give the edge to Iles and take the Big Red’s more well-rounded game over a Bobcats’ team that’s struggled to score lately. Cornell 3-1
Rensselaer at Harvard
This marks the third straight road game for the Engineers, who as I mentioned before, will be shorthanded this weekend. RPI let last weekend slip away thanks to some penalties that gave Union’s power play increased ice time. They can’t do the same here. Harvard 4-1
St. Lawrence at Yale
Yale’s Kenny Agostino, Andrew Miller, and St. Lawrence’s Kyle Flanagan and Greg Carey are some of the best of the ECAC’s top forwards. In net, I think the Saints’ Matt Weninger has been better than either Jeff Malcolm or Nick Maricic thus far. St. Lawrence 3-2
Union at Dartmouth
It’s still early, but who would have thought this could be a game that determines possession of first place? The Big Green’s skill level took a jump up thanks to the return of Dustin Walsh, while Union will be without captain and top defender Mat Bodie for some time following an arm injury last weekend. The Dutchmen still should have enough to avoid their first loss in over month. Union 3-2
No givers in Red & Green
Cornell and Dartmouth – the two Big Colors of Division 1 – are also the only remaining unbeatens among college hockey’s top ranks. Each squad is 3-0-1, with the Big Red taking three points and the Big Green four this weekend. Both teams may also consider themselves lucky after a couple wild rides on the ECAC-coaster this week.
The Big Red can thank junior goalie Andy Iles for Friday’s win, as the Ithaca native turned away 44 of Colgate’s 45 shots on goal in a stolen 3-1 win in Hamilton. Cornell only put 14 shots of their own on net – four each in the first and third periods, six in the second – but Iles’ 24 first-period saves set the tone for the night. Eric Mihalik was the hard-luck loser for the Raiders, and he probably didn’t feel great about his 25 saves at Lynah on Saturday either as Cornell scored twice in the last 10 minutes of regulation to earn a 2-2 draw.
Up in Hanover, Yale gave the Green all they could handle in a defense-light 7-4 Dartmouth win. The hosts actually posted the touchdown with only 23 shots on net, whereas rookie goalie Charles Grant stopped 35 of 39 Bulldogs bids. Matt Lindblad, Eric Robinson, and Tyler Sikura each scored twice for Dartmouth on Friday, and Robinson added the game-winner (his fifth goal of the year) on Saturday night in a much more conventional 2-1 grind-out win over battered Bruno.
Next up for the undefeated tandem? Dartmouth hosts RPI and Union next weekend, while Cornell hits the road to parry with Princeton and Quinnipiac.
Blue bounce back
Despite Friday’s groaner in the Granite State, Yale was able to put it all together the following evening at high-flying Harvard. The Bulldogs tagged five goals and a first loss on Crimson junior Raphael Girard, increasing their season goal tally to 14 in four games. Juniors Jesse Root and Kenny Agostino each popped home a pair at the Bright Hockey Center and senior Jeff Malcolm denied the hosts on 28 of their 29 shots on goal.
The Elis are averaging over 35 shots a game, and after opening the season with a 2-2 tie against Dartmouth, then scored three versus Princeton, four at Dartmouth, and five at Harvard. Look out, Clarkson: The Blue are gunning for six.
Dutch demolish Engineers in Capital District deuce
While the shots weren’t all that disparate, the Dutchmen hung big numbers where they mattered in the home-and-home hoedown against regional rival RPI.
The two-time defending Cleary Cup champs bested the ‘Tute by an 11-5 aggregate, following Friday’s 4-2 battle in Troy with a decisive 7-3 result in Schenectady on Saturday. The latter affair got rough by the third frame, as a second-period contact-to-the-head major and DQ to RPI’s Luke Curadi precipitated four more 10-minute infractions with under 10 minutes to play. In fact, over the two games, the teams combined for 30 penalties totaling 114 minutes served.
Since Union’s surprising opening-night loss to Merrimack, the team has gone 5-0-1 and out-scored the opposition 30-11. Don’t sleep on the Dutchmen; they’re liable to hurt you.
These are Nate’s picks for the weekend; check back for my own as soon as I can post them! -Brian
Friday, Nov. 2
Alabama-Huntsville at St. Lawrence
There’s a lot going on for the Saints in their home-opening weekend. St. Lawrence is ranked No. 16 in the latest USCHO poll, their first appearance in the top-20 since 2009. The Saints will also honor former coach Joe Marsh, who retired last spring following a medical leave of absence. This is the first-ever meeting between Saints and the Chargers. St. Lawrence 5-1.
Brown at Harvard
There were some encouraging signs for the Bears last weekend, but they’ll have their hands full with the Crimson, who return five of their top six power-play scorers from the country’s No.1 unit last season. I think Harvard’s skill is too much here. Harvard 4-2.
Colgate at Cornell
These rivals meet in the ECAC opener for both, and then won’t see each other again in the regular season after this weekend. The young Raiders have been streaky thus far, while Cornell looked rock solid in a season-opening sweep of Colorado College. Cornell 3-0.
Union at RPI
Like Cornell and Colgate, these rivals and travel partners get started early, as this is the league opener for both. They’ll only meet once more in the regular season after this weekend, a non-conference matchup at the Times-Union Center in January. Neither can be too happy entering the series: Union settled for a 2-2 tie at Connecticut last Saturday, while RPI blew two third-period leads at Minnesota State two weeks ago. Union is looking for its ninth straight Capital Skates Trophy, awarded to the team that accumulates the most points in the season series. Union 3-2
Yale at Dartmouth
Dartmouth snapped a ten-game skid against the Bulldogs a week ago in Ivy Shootout opener. They’ll get right back at in the ECAC opener for both teams. Big Green head coach Bob Gaudet is impressed with the skill level of his team, and is crossing his fingers that forward Dustin Walsh will play this weekend, although nothing is set in stone. Yale 4-2
Saturday, Nov. 3
Clarkson at Canisius
The Griffins are giving up under two-goals per game, yet are being outscored on the season. That’s what five goals scored in six games (.083 per game) will do. Clarkson might be scoring more (2.6 goals per game), but they’re letting ‘em in as well (3.8 goals allowed per game). What’s going to give? I think the hosts take this one. Canisius 2-1.
Alabama-Huntsville at St. Lawrence
I like the Saints to get it done here to complete the sweep. St. Lawrence 4-1
Brown at Dartmouth
Call this weekend “Groundhog Day” for the Big Green, as they’ll play Yale and Brown in the same order for the second straight week. Freshman Charles Grant blanked the Bears in his first career start last Saturday, Dartmouth’s first shutout in 46 games. Grant was the first Big Green goalie to record a shutout in his collegiate debut since Wesley Goding in 1936. Dartmouth 4-1
Colgate at Cornell
The rivalry continues at Lynah Rink, where the Raiders took a 2-1 win last year en route to a regular season sweep. I don’t see that happening again. Cornell 3-1
RPI at Union
This is the first home game for the Dutchmen since season-opening 4-1 loss to Merrimack on Oct. 6. I don’t see them starting 0-2 at Messa. Union 4-2
Yale at Harvard
These teams met five times last season, and three of the games were decided by one goal, including two that went to overtime. The other two were six-goal blowouts, one for each team. This game should be more of the former. Harvard 4-3
Sunday, Nov. 4
Clarkson at Canisius
The Golden Knights should head home with their first win of the season in the series finale. Clarkson 4-1
Tuesday, Nov. 6
American International at Quinnipiac
The Bobcats are off this weekend, with their only action a midweek game against the Yellow Jackets. Union rolled over AIC 8-0 last week, and while I don’t think Quinnipiac is on par with the Dutchmen, they shouldn’t have much trouble here. Quinnipiac 6-1