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Hockey Haven, longing for last year, and upstate upswings

Believe it or not, we (ok, most of the teams we follow) have already played more than a quarter of their ECAC Hockey schedules. Time flies when you’re having fun/pulling your hair out, dunnit?

Hockey Haven holding serve

Quinnipiac (5-0-1)and Yale (2-0-2) remain the league’s only unbeaten teams. Yale is winning by playing clean (nine penalty minutes a game), getting consistent goaltending from a rookie rotation (.916/2.51 combined), and with opportunistic scoring (3.71 goals per game). QU is dominating on the penalty kill (92.2 percent, second in the nation) and leads the nation in team defense, allowing barely one and a half goals per game. The Bulldogs have only played four league contests, whereas most of the conference has played a half-dozen, so let’s look closer at the flambe-hot Bobcats, for now.

The Hamden club is 11-0-1 since its season-opening loss, scoring three or more goals all 12 of those games while holding opponents to a goal or fewer seven times and never giving up more than three. Sam Anas is tied with St. Lawrence’s Matt Carey for the national lead in freshman goal-scoring (eight), and leads the Bobcats in goals to boot. Michael Garteig – with Cornell’s Andy Iles, the only two goalies in the league to play every minute for their teams – is making Eric Hartzell a distant memory with a .924 save percentage and a 1.53 GAA (second nationally to Harvard’s Raphael Girard). The team is big (average roster height: six feet even), fast and strong, leading to a league-best 5.54 power plays a game. Rand Pecknold’s freshmen may be the best rookie class in the country, statistically, with 14 goals and 35 points. (As a tangent, rookies Derek Smith and Brayden Sherbinin became the only two players in Quinnipiac history to score on their first shots, in their first shifts, of their NCAA careers.)

Color me stupid, because this QU team looks every inch as dangerous as last year’s. Oh, and per league precedent, the Bobcats may already be only eight points from a home-ice playoff series.

More on Yale as they establish their street cred. For now, a perplexing brief from Chip Malafronte of the New Haven Register reports that senior forward and All-Frozen Four tournament team member Clinton Bourbonais has left the Bulldogs program for unknown reasons; Keith Allain has no comment.

What a difference a year makes

If QU and Yale are inside partying like it’s 2012-13, Dartmouth is the sad neighbor peering longingly through the window. The last unbeaten team in Division I last fall, the Big Green (0-8) are in a nauseating race with Alabama-Huntsville (0-10) to not be D-I’s last winless program this season. (No, they aren’t scheduled to play each other.)

The Big Green Problem? Defense, killing penalties and goaltending. In eight outings, the team has only held foes to three goals – never fewer – twice. The team’s goals-against average is 5.07, while mustering fewer than two and a half goals a game itself. The Green are giving up a goal nearly once for every three penalty-kills (.314), completely overshadowing a tremendous power play unit that is scoring at a 29 percent clip. Finally, the team’s overall save percentage is .825, even without the two empty-net goals against.

I don’t know how to fix this, I’ll tell you that. For everyone’s sake, though, let’s hope Bob Gaudet’s got another trick or two up his well-worn sleeves.

Four!

Golf season is over, but homonymous cries of “four” are ringing out in Schenectady and Hamilton this weekend.

Union swept Capital District rival Rensselaer in the Route 7 Rivalry [(tm) Ken Schott?], improving to 5-1-1 since a disappointing 1-2-1 start. Senior Daniel Carr leads the club with seven goals and 14 points, and junior goalie Colin Stevens is holding opponents to two goals a game despite a mediocre .899 save rate. Flyers pick Shayne Gostisbehere paced the Dutchmen with two goals and two helpers from the blue line, sinking highly touted RPI to 6-4-2 (2-3-2 ECAC).

Colgate notched an impressive sweep of its own, taking down the North Country clubs on the road. Like Union, the Raiders are in the midst of a rebound run, reeling off a 4-1 record on the heels of a 0-4-1 skid. Sophomore Tylor Spink leads the team with a 7-4–11 line, and goalies Eric Mihalik, Spencer Finney and Charlie Finn are 4-2 in ECAC action despite a sub-.900 save percentage. What will give first in Hamilton: The Raiders hot streak, or its pitiful showing on special teams? The ‘Gate is scoring on fewer than 10 percent of its power plays, while allowing close to one in five on the penalty kill.

ECAC Hockey picks: Nov. 15-20

Overall: 20-14-3

All games are 7 p.m. unless noted

Friday, Nov. 15

Cornell at Clarkson

Clarkson shows no sign of slowing down. The Golden Knights have been outstanding defensively and have gotten balanced scoring through their lineup. Cornell has been shutout in its two of its last three games after a strong start, putting a combined 34 shots on goal in those two games. They’ll have to do better than that against the Golden Knights. One area to keep an eye on: Cornell has strong power play, while the Golden Knights are average on the penalty kill. Clarkson wins

Dartmouth at Princeton

It’s a tossup who needs this game more: the winless Big Green, or the Tigers, who won their opener, but have since lost six straight. I think Dartmouth has a little more depth, but no one is exactly lighting it up for either team, with the exception of Big Green forward Eric Neiley, who has five of his team’s 15 goals on the year. Dartmouth wins

Harvard at Quinnipiac

The Crimson have had some solid stretches in the early going, rallying for a 3-3 tie and posting a 2-0 win in back-to-back games against  Rensselaer. Raphael Girard and Steve Michalek have split time in net, with Girard being virtually lights out in three games, and Michalek more than holding his own. Whoever gets the start will need to be on top of their game, as the Bobcats have been throwing a ton of shots on net while clamping down in their own end.  The Crimson’s freshman class might pay off down the road, but Quinnipiac’s newcomers appear to have fit right in, a big reason for the Bobcats’ early success. Quinnipiac wins

Colgate at St. Lawrence

I think the Saints will win the five-on-five matchup; Greg and Matt Carey are deadly if given room to operate. Both teams have strong power plays, and neither has exactly lit it up on the penalty kill, so whoever can be more disciplined might have the best chance. St. Lawrence wins

Rensselaer at Union

RPI leads the all-time series against its Capital Region rival 45-31-10, but is only 4-18-3 over the last 25 meetings. Union has hit some snags this season, but it’s hard to argue with a 3-1 record through the first two weeks of ECAC play. If they can keep their emotions in check, the Dutchmen should start the weekend off with a win. Union wins

Saturday, Nov. 16

Colgate at Clarkson

Colgate has power-play goals in two straight games, but overall, their unit hasn’t been the same as it was last year. If the Raiders can straighten it out, they could make this game interesting, but Clarkson has been lights out most of the season. Tough to pick against the Golden Knights. Clarkson wins

Harvard at Princeton

The Crimson have allowed an average of two goals a game, while Princeton has scored an average of two goals per game. I think defense wins out. Harvard wins

Dartmouth at Quinnipiac

Quinnipiac has dominated Dartmouth in Hamden, going 9-2 all-time against the Big Green at home. The Bobcats have been relentless on both ends of the ice, and have fired an average of 35 shots on net per game. That’s bad news for a Dartmouth team that is giving up over five goals a game. Quinnipiac wins

Union at Rensselaer 

The Engineers got a little too emotional in last year’s series with Union, taking some costly penalties.  RPI’s has shown signs of being a more mature team this season, and they should feed off a strong home crowd. Rensselaer wins

Cornell at St. Lawrence

This is a nice matchup, as Cornell plays a physical style, while St. Lawrence typically uses its speed to create chances. But the Big Red have plenty of skilled players, while the Saints showed they can be physical when I saw them several weeks ago. I think both teams matchup pretty well. Tie

Sacred Heart at Yale

Rensselaer swept Sacred Heart by a combined score of 13-1 in two matchups earlier this year. The Bulldogs might not be at RPI’s level just yet, but Yale looks poised for another strong season and shouldn’t have much trouble against the Pioneers. Yale wins

Wednesday, Nov. 20

Boston College at Harvard

If the Crimson try to keep up with the Eagles, forget about it. Boston College has plenty of offensive talent throughout its lineup, and has scored five or more goals in nearly half its games entering the weekend.  A strong performance by Raphael Girard could steal a win for a young Harvard team, but Boston College looks to be playing a pretty complete game over the last few weekends. Boston College wins

Quinnipiac almost halfway there

Don’t look now, but Quinnipiac is almost halfway to last season’s 21-game unbeaten streak.

The Bobcats beat Brown Friday before salvaging a 3-3 tie in a national championship rematch with Yale on Saturday. Quinnipiac is riding a ten-game unbeaten stretch since losing its opener Oct. 11, and is now 9-1-1.

It was a year ago this weekend that QU’s aforementioned 21-game unbeaten stretch began with a 3-2 overtime win over Colgate. The Bobcats were 3-3-1 last season before beating the Raiders in overtime, but have gone 36-6-5 over the last calendar year, including the NCAA tournament.

There are plenty of familiar faces from last year’s national runner-up team – Connor and Kellen Jones, Matthew Peca, Jordan Samuels- Thomas, and Danny Federico are all back. But the Bobcats have gotten plenty of contributions from several freshman, most notably leading scorer Sam Anas and defensemen  Derek Smith and Devon Toews.  Sophomore Michael Garteig has played every minute in goal after sitting behind Eric Hartzell last year. In fact, it was Garteig who started the final game before QU’s 21-game streak last season, a 2-1 loss to American International last Nov. 6.

Quinnipiac hosts a pair of struggling teams in Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend, and then has a home-and-home series with travel partner Princeton the next weekend.

I had the Bobcats sixth in my preseason ballot, but that’s quickly looking like an error on my part. Look for Quinnipiac, as well as Yale, to be in the mix come NCAA tournament time.

Big Green trying to get on track

On the opposite end of the spectrum from is Dartmouth, who fell to 0-6 with a pair of losses over the weekend. Dartmouth is outshooting their opponents by an average of 30-28 per game, but are giving up 5.5 goals per game, last in the country.  No one among the trio of Cab Morris, James Kruger or Charles Grant has posted a save percentage above .850.  The Big Green got some bad news this week, as senior forward Eric Robinson was injured during practice and is out for the season.

Dartmouth was the last unbeaten team last season, and had a shot at a first-round bye deep into the year. There’s talent in Hanover, but the Big Green will need to turn it around quickly, especially given the shorter schedule played by Ivy teams.  They’ve been in all but two of their games, so if they can straighten out the defense, things could start going Dartmouth’s way.

North Country duo keeps on rolling

They’ve been doing it in different ways, but Clarkson and St. Lawrence have been two of the league’s better teams in the early going.  The Golden Knights matched their win total from last season with a 2-1 win at Harvard Saturday. That gave Clarkson six wins in one-goal games, after losing seven one-goal contests last season.  A big reason for the Golden Knights turnaround has been an improved defense, as well as the play of goalies Steve Perry and Greg Lewis.

Meanwhile, the Saints have been simply outslugging their opponents, averaging four goals thus far. Senior Greg Carey has 19 points in ten games, while freshman and younger brother Matt leads the team with seven goals.  Freshman Gavin Bayreuther has a rocket shot from the blueline, while veterans Jeremy Wick and Chris Martin have made contributions as well.

These teams meet for a home-and-home series on Dec. 6 and 7.

ECAC Hockey picks: Nov. 8-12

Friday, November 8

Clarkson at Dartmouth 7:00
The Big Green have surrendered 22 goals in four games. Clarkson has given up 21 goals in 10 games. This is gut-check time for Dartmouth, picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the preseason polls, but rapidly plummeting into the basement. Tough to pick against Clarkson here: 5-2 Knights.

St. Lawrence at Harvard 7:00
The Crimson are still a work-in-progress, but three points against preseason favorite Rensselaer are a good start. SLU has jumped out to a 4-2-2 start and is looking to build on a pair of road ties last weekend at Yale and Brown. If Harvard can keep the Carey brothers from doing too much damage, the hosts are in good shape… but with nine combined goals and 23 points in eight games, that’s easier said than done. 3-2 Saints.

Yale at Princeton 7:00
To put it simply, Yale appears to be a class above Princeton at this point. The Bulldogs have already beaten the Tigers once in ‘Jersey, and Princeton’s offense is hard-pressed to score more than two goals in a night so far. All signs point to Blue, 4-1.

Brown at Quinnipiac 7:00
Just as I was about to type “5-3 QU” and leave it at that, I remembered that Brown is a Bobcat brutalizer: Quinnipiac never rolls Bruno, and this tilt should be another tooth-and-nail doozy. That said, tough to ignore QU’s prodigious roll right now, and Consecutive Win No. 9 looks more likely than not. Let’s cut that prediction to 3-2, Bobcats.

Cornell at Rensselaer 7:00
Big test for RPI this weekend, hosting the Big Red and Raiders without starting goalie Jason Kasdorf. The Engineers haven’t exploded onto the national scene as some prognosticators had hoped/expected, but 5-2-1 with twice as many goals scored as surrendered is nothing to scoff at. Cornell will be looking for a bounce-back performance on offense after being blanked at home by QU last weekend, but the Engineers are a pretty stingy team in their own end. Should be tight and low-scoring… feels like a 2-1 or 3-2 game to me. Let’s say 2-1, RPI.

Colgate at Union 7:00
After a rough start, Union hit the reset button before entering ECAC action. The Dutchmen promptly snuffed Dartmouth and Harvard on the road, and now prepare for a middling Raiders club that has only defeated equally unimpressive RIT and Princeton in the last month (2-4-1). Messa has been a tough place to play in recent years, and Union is showing signs of getting its season back on track. Colgate has offered no indication of upset capability yet, so why should I pick ‘em? 4-2 Dutch.

Saturday, November 9

Brown at Princeton 4:00
Brown’s bite, claw and scratch approach versus Princeton’s potential early-season desperation… this has the feel of a tight, low-scoring, heavy-hitting affair. This is the second game in five days for both teams, and it’s one of those uncomfortable afternoon tilts following a night game and – for Brown – a two- (or more) hour bus ride. You know what? I’m feeling frisky; here’s to ECAC unpredictability: 3-2 Tigers.

St. Lawrence at Dartmouth 7:00
It’s too early to enact The Brown Rule (see Colgate @ SLU, Nov. 6), but if Dartmouth can’t stop the goals-against bleeding in a hurry, it might be in for a looooong, Brown Rule-ian winter. 4-2 SLU.

Clarkson at Harvard 7:00
‘Tech is 5-5-3 at Bright Hockey Center since the 2000-01 season, and it’s playing as though it might go to 6-5-3. Freshman goalie Steve Perry and sophomore Greg Lewis have nearly identical stats this year, each boasting .925 save percentages and GAA’s within a fraction of 2.00 in equal playing time. Harvard goalie Raphael Girard has pitched two shutouts in two games… but if the pattern holds, it will be recently returned junior Steve Michalek’s turn in net, and his GAA is floating near 3. Should be a good defensive battle all the same, though I like Clarkson’s momentum at the moment. 3-2 Knights.

Yale at Quinnipiac 7:00
The much-anticipated title rematch (or is it the league tournament consolation rematch?) has been sold out for as long as it has been on sale. QU has nine games under its belt, to Yale’s four. Bobcats goalie Michael Garteig is Rand Pecknold’s man, while Keith Allain is still rotating his freshmen for the time being. The QU offense is on a tear, and its defense is pretty stout to boot. I love this game, I love this matchup, but I think the Bobcats have a clear edge (on paper)… 4-2 Q.

Colgate at Rensselaer 7:00
This looks like a mis-match, so why logic-ificate ourselves into knots? 4-1 Engineers.

Cornell at Union 7:00
Good old-fashioned ECAC hockey game at an old-fashioned rink between two solid, no-nonsense teams. The facet that catches my eye in this matchup is Cornell’s goal-happy special teams: The Big Red score on nearly a third of their power plays, but also give up about a goal for every five penalties taken. Union’s PK is no better; this game may well hinge on who can play the cleanest game. 4-3 Union.

Tuesday, November 12

UMass-Lowell at Princeton 7:00
The RiverHawks have won four straight after a rough start to the season, and only play one game this weekend. Princeton is at home, but look ill-prepared to overcome UML’s increasingly stalwart defense. The Tigers will have to dig deep for three or more goals to take this one. 3-1 UML.

Brown at New Hampshire 7:00
UNH is a dismal 0-5-1 in its last six games, and Brown is no cupcake. In fact, Bruno slapped the Wildcats around in Durham two years ago, 5-2. Repeat the result? Why not! The Bears look far more stable than the Wildcats at this point in time. 4-2 Bears.

Early reviews are in

Standing ovations: Quinnipiac, Union

The Bobcats continued their eye-opening, season-opening tear, reeling off consecutive wins no. seven and eight this weekend. The Q-Cats downed Colgate and Cornell on the road by a 10-2 aggregate, scoring five goals in the third period alone in Hamilton Friday night. (Funny enough, it hasn’t been so long since QU posted a five-spot in a period: The Bobcats pinned five on Cornell in the ECAC quarterfinals last year.) Freshman forward Sam Anas leads the stunningly successful team with seven goals and 13 points in his first nine collegiate games; he’s also tied for the national lead in game-winning goals (three) and is alone atop the rookie goal chart. Sophomore Michael Garteig holds an overall GAA of 1.56 and a .917 save rate, and the special teams are scoring nearly a quarter of the time on the power play and only allowing goals on 6.5 percent of penalty kills.

Union seems to have snapped out of its doldrums, if only for a weekend: The Dutchmen slammed Dartmouth 7-2 in Hanover, then handled Harvard, downing the Crimson 4-2 in Boston. Senior forward Kevin Sullivan leads the team with 11 points without a single goal; classmate and defenseman Mat Bodie has eight points, all on assists as well. Senior forwards Daniel Carr and Matt Hatch lead the team in goals with four apiece, but they share the podium with junior Daniel Ciampini and rookie Michael Pontarelli. Junior goaltender Colin Stevens is still finding his way, but he’s not getting a lot of help from his penalty kill, which is only muddling through with a .793 overall success rate.

Rotten tomatoes: Dartmouth, Princeton

The Big Green had a weekend to forget, surrendering seven goals in each game against Rensselaer and Union while only mustering three of their own. The team has only scored eight goals in four games (0-4), and none of coach Bob Gaudet’s three goalies have a save rate higher than .850. The power play is humming at 28 percent, but the PK is brutal, allowing nearly one goal for every two successful kills. This is a tremendous buzz-kill for a team picked high in the preseason polls, and the onus is now on the coaching staff and the captains to find the reset button in the Thompson locker room.

Princeton has also scored just eight times in four games (1-3), falling at Cornell and Colgate this weekend. The fault doesn’t lie with the special teams or goaltending; Princeton’s biggest problem is its five-on-five offense, which is being out-scored to the tune of 11-4. Having sophomore forward Mike Ambrosia back in the lineup will help, and it should only be a matter of time before Princeton is back to – or above – .500 again.

Fun with stats

  • Brown sophomore Mark Naclerio leads the nation with 2.25 points per game, scoring three goals and nine points in four games.
  • RPI junior Ryan Haggerty maintains his rocket-boosted pace, burying 10 goals in eight games to lead the country in that category.
  • Union’s Sullivan, Brown’s Naclerio, and Cornell junior Mark McCarron are 1-2-3 in D-I in assists per game (1.57, 1.5, 1.5 respectively).
  • St. Lawrence’s Gavin Bayreuther (3-5–8) leads the country in scoring by freshmen defensemen.
  • And finally, since I love goalies, Harvard senior Raphael Girard has posted 120 minutes of shutout hockey in 120 minutes played this year. That’s good enough to lead the nation in GAA, as you may imagine. (QU’s Garteig and RPI’s Scott Diebold are fourth and fifth in that category, for your information.)

ECAC Hockey picks: Nov. 1 and Nov. 2

Overall: 12-12-1

Rensselaer and Harvard started the ECAC’s league schedule with a 3-3 tie Tuesday in Troy. This weekend is the first full weekend of conference play, with two teams (St. Lawrence and Clarkson) traveling to the rinks where they ended their seasons last year, and two more (Cornell and Dartmouth) are hosting the teams that knocked them out of the league playoffs last season. All times are 7 p.m. unless noted.

Friday, Nov. 1

Clarkson at Brown

Clarkson went out rather quietly against the Bears in the opening round of the playoffs last year, but are off to their best start in seven years and are No. 17 in the USCHO.com poll. Brown won the inaugural Liberty Invitational last weekend, and got great production from their top line of Matt Lorito, Nick Lappin, and Mark Naclerio. Clarkson is deep in goal and on defense, and I think that should give them an edge. Clarkson wins

Quinnipiac  at Colgate 

The Bobcats are riding a six-game winning streak into league play, while Colgate is winless since beating RIT 4-1 on Oct. 10. Keep an eye on special teams – Colgate’s power-play has waned a bit in recent weeks, while Quinnipiac’s penalty kill is seventh nationally after blanking Holy Cross last weekend.   There’s plenty of young offensive talent on both teams, but the Bobcats are on a roll and have the special teams edge. Quinnipiac wins

Princeton at Cornell

It’s way too small of a sample size, but the Tigers enter with the top penalty kill and second-best power play in the nation, while Cornell’s power play is first. The Big Red were 7-of-15 on the power play at Nebraska-Omaha last weekend, but were outshot 71-33 overall. The Tigers’ Andrew Calof is a talented player, but he’ll need some help if Princeton is going to get by what looks like a resurgent and deep Big Red team. Cornell wins

Union at Dartmouth    

Ken Schott of the Schenectady Daily Gazette reported earlier this week that Union goalie Colin Stevens could ready to play this weekend. That would be a big boost to a Dutchmen team that is on a three-game winless streak. It won’t matter much who is in net for if the Dutchmen can’t start converting their chances; Union has put 97 shots on net the last two games, but only has four goals to show for it. The Big Green find themselves in a similar situation to Union. Dartmouth outshot it opponents 71-51 in two games at the Liberty Invitational last weekend, but went 0-2. If Stevens is back, the Dutchmen should have this one. Union wins

Rensselaer  at Harvard 

It’s strange to think that these teams won’t meet again in the regular season, but that’s the case, as Harvard traveled to Troy Tuesday to open ECAC league play. RPI led 3-0 after one period, but had to settle for a frustrating 3-3 tie. The Engineers should be a little more diligent the second time around. Rensselaer wins

St. Lawrence at Yale  

Yale will raise its national championship banner prior to the game, with the festivities and the ensuing game against the Saints to be aired live on ESPN3. The Bulldogs bounced back from a loss to Brown in the opener, and should be charged up following the pregame ceremony. St. Lawrence has put up goals in bunches this season – but will they able to stop them from going in? The Saints have given up 15 goals the last three games. Expect a shootout in this one. Yale wins

 Saturday, Nov. 2

Princeton at Colgate , 4 p.m.  

Senior goalies Sean Bonar and Eric Mihalik have both been very good thus far for the Tigers and the Raiders, respectively.  I think the difference will be scoring depth – where I think Colgate has a slight advantage.  Colgate wins     

St. Lawrence at Brown 

The Bears carried their hot streak from the end of last season over into opening weekend. When things are going well, Brown is a tenacious defensive team that doesn’t give up much. As mentioned above, the Saints have given up a ton of goals lately, and Brown’s top line of Lorito, Lappin and Naclerio will make them pay for any lapses Saturday. Brown wins

Quinnipiac at Cornell    

With a combined record of 8-1, there’s not a ton to nitpick about with either the Bobcats or the Big Red. Both could make a title push this season, and Saturday this should be one of the tighter games of the weekend. I’m picking Cornell simply because they’re at home. Cornell wins  

Rensselaer at Dartmouth     

Big Green goalies James Kruger and Cab Morris combined for a .843 save percentage in Dartmouth’s two games last weekend. That won’t do against an RPI team that has an impressive group of forward coming into their own, including junior Ryan Haggerty, who leads the country with nine goals. Still, the Engineers need to be better at playing with a lead, as the Big Green certainly have the firepower to come back. RPI wins

Union at Harvard   

The Dutchmen have been playing better than their record indicates. Harvard has plenty of talented freshman and showed a lot by coming down from a 3-0 deficit at RPI earlier this weekend. If Union can dominate in shots as it has the last two games, the Dutchmen should come away with a win. Union  wins

Clarkson at Yale   

The Golden Knights have gotten off to a hot start thanks in part to their defense. But Clarkson will have its hands full with the Bulldogs, who return plenty from last year’s national title team. The Golden Knights will need to control the puck and keep Yale from transitioning off of turnovers. Still, I’m taking Yale. Yale wins  

Ivies get underway; Clarkson, Quinnipiac keep on rolling

It was another solid weekend for the ECAC. Quinnipiac, Cornell and Clarkson each swept their opponents, while Rensselaer beat No. 13 New Hampshire at home.  The ECAC has a 26-11-4 interconference record, by far the best of any league in the country.

Ivies in action: The remaining six teams yet to play in Division I finally got underway this weekend, including defending national champion Yale. The Bulldogs lost 4-1 to Brown Friday in the opening game of the Liberty Invitational at the Prudential Center in New Jersey. Defending champs or not, the Bears’ style of play has given Yale trouble over the last few seasons.  Brown finished the weekend with a 5-3 win over Dartmouth, while Yale beat Princeton 3-2.

The Bears’ top line of Nick Lappin, Matt Lorito, and Mark Naclerio combined for 15 points in the two games. That looks to be a group to keep an eye on.

Ivies, part II:  Cornell had an impressive sweep at Nebraska-Omaha this weekend, scoring four power-play goals Saturday for the first time in nearly four years. Cole Bardreau, back in action for the first time since fracturing his neck last January, had two goals and an assist in the sweep. Meanwhile, Harvard got 43 saves from Raphael Girard in a 3-0 home win over Bentley Saturday.

Quinnipiac, Clarkson keep rolling:  Picked to finish last in both the coaches and media preseason polls, the Golden Knights are off to a rolling 6-1-1 start. Clarkson swept Colorado College at home after entering the weekend with an 0-11-3 all-time record against the Tigers. The Golden Knights didn’t get their sixth win of last year until Feb. 2.

Meanwhile, Quinnipiac has now won six in a row since dropping their season opener to Alaska. Freshman Sam Anas leads the Bobcats with six goals. QU will head to Colgate and Cornell to open conference play this weekend.

ECAC Hockey picks: Oct. 25-29 [update]

Three of Division 1′s four Huskies programs are in action against the ECAC this weekend. In related news, 6.7 percent of DI hockey programs are Huskies… while only 3.4 percent of DI are Bulldogs. We have a serious canine gap here. Oh hey, and ECAC Hockey is a national-best 17-8-3 against other leagues.

Friday, October 25

Brown vs. Yale 4:00 Liberty Hockey Invitational, Prudential Center; Newark, N.J.
Time to see what the Ivy League is made of. Brown has been a peripheral contender in recent years – tough to play, but rarely a favorite. Yale has been… oh. National champs. Ok. Both teams feature new faces, especially in goal, so it’s tough to predict how that battle-within-the-battle will end, but let’s take Yale and see how things fall from there. Bulldogs, 4-2.

Colorado College at Clarkson 7:00
CC is just 1-1 after a home split with Minnesota-Duluth. Clarkson is on a bit of a roll – 4-1-1 – but the nine points all came at the expense of Atlantic Hockey opponents Niagara, Mercyhurst, and RIT. With all due respect to the AHA, it’s time to see what the Knights can do against a member of one of the power conferences. Advantage to ‘Tech though; they’re at home… 3-2 Clarkson.

Quinnipiac at Holy Cross 7:00
Friday’s game will be HC’s fourth of the year (0-3), and first against an opponent from outside the Bay State. The Crusaders dropped decisions at BU and in a home-and-home with Northeastern; with the Bobcats’ sweep of UMass-Lowell last weekend, anything but a sweep this weekend will leave a sour taste. 4-1 QU in Round 1…

Northeastern at St. Lawrence 7:00
The Huskies are a perfect 4-0 after sweeping Alabama-Huntsville and Holy Cross; SLU is 3-1 after a split at Ferris State and a home sweep of Maine. Both teams are going to learn a lot about themselves this weekend, and I like the Saints in Appleton so far this year. This will likely be a split, but call me optimistic: 3-2 Saints on Friday…

Union at Connecticut 7:05
What would have looked like an easy pick in the preseason doesn’t look like such a no-doubter anymore, with Union struggling to contain opponent scoring and UConn returning home after a couple of battles in Mankato, Minn. One or two early goals for the Huskies could really mess with Union’s beleaguered psyche. All that said, Union is still a very talented team with a high ceiling, whereas Connecticut is 0-2 with two goals scored this year. Union on the road, 4-2.

Dartmouth vs. Princeton 7:05 Liberty Hockey Invitational, Prudential Center; Newark, N.J.
We hope – for the league’s sake – that it’s more than a friends-and-family crowd in Newark this weekend, but I’m not holding my breath. Still, it’s cool for the kids to take a twirl on NHL ice in a new venue. These two programs are each fighting to define themselves, as Dartmouth hopes to ditch last year’s injury bug and Princeton wants to make a run at a top-four finish. The Green come in with the more proven lineup, and has the early edge, but Princeton’s new talent has a great opportunity here to prove its value. 3-2 Dartmouth.

St. Cloud State at Colgate 7:30
A Frozen Four member last April, SCSU is 1-0-1 after last weekend’s home deuce with Bemidji State. Colgate is .500 (2-2-1), but is still a bit of an unknown quantity. A win over the Huskies would be a significant one for the Raiders, but I’m not sure they’re up for it yet… the ‘Gate has been a bit rusty in its own end, surrendering seven goals twice (along with two one-goal games and a shutout). 3-2 SCSU.

Cornell at Nebraska-Omaha 8:37
Not sure what to make of Cornell yet, but here’s UNO: Home split with Bentley, road split at Northern Michigan. Cornell is hungry for a bounce-back season, and you know Mike Schafer will have his boys ready from the first face-off. Sorry I can’t be more insightful, but that’s the way these early-season games go. 3-1 Cornell.

Saturday, October 26

Brown vs. Dartmouth 4:00 Liberty Hockey Invitational, Prudential Center; Newark, N.J.
Smart money takes Dartmouth, but I can’t shake the feeling that Brown will leave the Garden State with some points (even though these are non-conference games, so there are technically no points at stake). The Bears just have a way of stealing games at unpredictable times, in very predictable ways: Hard work, gritty hockey, exceptional goaltending. Will Saturday feature some larceny? Look for it… though I’m still picking Dartmouth, 4-2.

Holy Cross at Quinnipiac 4:00
Afternoon games can be brutal… poor attendance, quick turnaround, especially after a drive (even if it’s only a two-hour trip). Expectaction: Sloppy hockey, half-full rink, QU victory. 3-1 Q.
UPDATE: Call me lazy. Call me cynical. Call me sloppy, sarcastic, or snide… but mostly, call me wrong. Quinnipiac’s TD Bank Sports Center ticket office has confirmed that Saturday’s matinee is, in fact, completely sold out. Kudos to the Bobcats – and even more to their fans – for achieving what is often a steep challenge. While my analysis is flawed in part, the score prediction stands.

New Hampshire at Rensselaer 7:00
RPI takes on its third top-flight Hockey East opponent of the year, having dropped a stinker at Boston College, edged BU in Boston, now taking on UNH in Troy. The Wildcats are sub-.500 (1-2-1), but those losses have come at Minnesota and against Michigan. The visitors will not be happy with anything short of a win in the Capital District, which makes the game all that more meaningful for the Engineers. RPI has national aspirations; this is another big early-season litmus test. I’m picking frustrated UNH, however, 4-2.

St. Cloud State at Colgate 7:00
Colgate is still a good step or two behind the Huskies, for the time being. SCSU sweeps in Hamilton, 4-1.

Colorado College at Clarkson 7:00
CC bounces back and splits a competitive weekend pair, 4-3.

Northeastern at St. Lawrence 7:00
Call it a split: Wish I could be in the North Country this weekend, because this series is shaping up to be a doozy. 3-2 NU.

Princeton vs. Yale 7:05 Liberty Hockey Invitational, Prudential Center; Newark, N.J.
Yale will be getting all the picks until they prove they shouldn’t. 5-3 Yale.

Bentley at Harvard 7:30
Don’t count Bentley out too soon; the Falcons downed Nebraska-Omaha on the road to open the season, and played Quinnipiac tight in Hamden on Tuesday. That said, Harvard, 3-2.

Cornell at Nebraska-Omaha 8:07
Split? Or sweep? Tough call… I guess that’s why they pay me the big bucks . Coin flip says… Cornell. Anyone got a Magic 8 Ball? 4-3 Red.

Tuesday, October 29

Harvard at Rensselaer 7:00
RPI claims the first points of the ECAC Hockey regular season, and takes its first official step toward the crown… what, too soon? 4-2 RPI.

A Tuesday night ECAC Hockey pick

Bentley at Quinnipiac, 7 p.m.

Quinnipiac hasn’t missed a beat in the early going, and posted an impressive sweep of Massachusetts-Lowell this past weekend. The Falcons have lost three in a row, scoring only four goals over that span. Michael Garteig and the Bobcats’ defense should be too much for Bentley. The only thing that could change that is if QU head coach Rand Pecknold decides to give backups Jacob Meyers or Brady Rouleau a chance in net or rest some of his regular defensemen. Quinnipiac wins

Winning and losing, despite…

Welp, there are no more perfect teams in the ECAC… it will be up to the Ivies to try to duplicate Dartmouth’s accomplishment last year of being the last unbeaten team in Division 1. That said, Union (!!) is the only active league member under .500, somehow, as ECAC Hockey is currently 16-8-3 in early non-conference play. On to the details!

Bobcats making a splash

Rensselaer (2-0-0), Quinnipiac (2-0-0) and Clarkson (1-0-1) finished the weekend unbeaten, though it was perhaps the Bobcats – stop me if you’ve heard this before – who notched the most impressive results, preseason No. 1 UMass-Lowell 3-1, 3-1 in a home-and-home series.

They did so without the services of highly regarded rookie defenseman Devon Toews (injured against Alaska-Anchorage), and in spite of 12 penalties over the two nights. Yet the Q-Cats did what they do best: Kill penalties (all 12), block shots (over three dozen, possibly four), and score timely goals (2 for 9 on the power play). Five different Bobcats scored, including two from senior Jordan Samuels-Thomas, who finished the weekend with four points. QU improved to 3-1 on the season, dropping ninth-ranked and fellow 2013 Frozen Four participant UML to 1-3.

RPI heating up

RPI notched a bounce-back 3-1 win at No. 15 Boston University on Friday, fresh off last Sunday’s 7-2 shellacking at Boston College. The Engineers returned home to snuff out Sacred Heart 7-1 on Saturday, but the real story of the weekend may be the play of junior winger Ryan Haggerty. The Stamford, Conn. sniper tallied a dozen goals and 26 points last season, but is well on his way to shattering those numbers with a nation-best seven goals in four games this fall. The undrafted National Development Team alumnus scored twice against BU on Friday and added a hat trick Saturday. Meanwhile, junior Scott Diebold – in for the injured Jason Kasdorf – is now 2-0 with a .948 save rate and a 1.31 goals-against average.

Dutchmen drop deuce to Lakers

Union stumbled at home against unbeaten handful Lake Superior State, 6-5 and 3-2. Each side had 11 power plays on the weekend, with Union converting on three of those chances, and LSSU, two. Union out-shot the Lakers by the immense margin of 82-40 as well, which means all signs point to hot goaltending in the visitors’ net. That goalie was… two goalies.

The senior battery of Kevin Murdock (five goals against, 29 saves on Friday) and Kevin Kapalka (two goals, 46 stops Saturday) kept the Dutchmen at bay just often enough to pull out a pair of unlikely road wins, dropping Union to 1-2-1… all at home. Union has out-shot its guests in all four games (138-87 in total), but is barely ahead in the goal aggregate, 15-14. That means the U is shooting at an 11 percent success rate, but surrendering goals on 16 percent of shots-against. That’s simply not going to get it done over the long haul: Who was the last team to win a title with a save percentage of .839?

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