ECAC Hockey picks: Jan. 9-11

Season record: 31-22-3. Finally making a run at it.

As always, all games begin at 7pm EST unless otherwise noted.

Friday, Jan. 9

Colgate at Clarkson
Interesting amount of inexperience in play here: Friday only marks Clarkson’s third league game at Cheel Arena this season, and it likewise will only be the third ECAC road game for the Raiders. The lone common league opponents for these two are Quinnipiac and Princeton; it should come as no surprise that each team downed Princeton, but while Clarkson edged QU in Potsdam, Colgate fell hard in Hamden. The Golden Knights are playing to more or less maintain their top-four status in the league, while ‘Gate aims to climb the ladder with their recent return to form. This will also be a game worth watching insofar as it pits Clarkson’s indefatigable defense against a Colgate offense that aspired to play better than it has thus far. Pick: Clarkson.

Union at Princeton
Exhibition games don’t count: Princeton is Brown-Ruled (See November 6, Colgate at St. Lawrence) as dictated by a six-game losing streak and one win in its last dozen outings. Union wins.

Rensselaer at Quinnipiac
Eight losses in a row, 11 goals scored in that time? Brown Rule. What’s that? Two Brown Rule teams at once? Don’t believe it’s ever happened before, and I can’t say I enjoy it one bit. QU victorious.

Cornell at St. Lawrence
On Friday night in Canton, Kyle Hayton and the Saints aim to extend an already insidious Big Red streak. In failing to score against Lake Superior State or Miami in the Florida College Classic two weeks back, the 2014-15 Cornell team endured consecutive shutouts for the first time in 51 years… a streak of 1,560 games. The Red haven’t lit the lamp in their last 147:12 of game time, and with four shutouts to his name already, freshman Hayton must be salivating at the thought of extending Cornell’s misery. Meanwhile, the Saints aren’t exactly rolling either: SLU is 0-5-1 in its last six and is also struggling offensively. You don’t hope for defensive battles of attrition, but that’s exactly what we’re staring at in this matchup. Edge SLU.

Providence at Brown (Mayor’s Cup)
While Brown’s season has not gone according to plan, there are silver linings if you know where to look. For example, the Bears’ eight goals in their last three games (1-2 against RPI, Boston College, and Denver) are their three-game high for the year. That said, it’s not exactly a sterling cloud we’re looking at here. Providence is rolling into this home-and-home series on a five-game winning streak and having won nine of ten (9-1). Junior Jon Gillies’ .938 save percentage is the seventh-best in the nation, now about to face a bottom-five offense in Brown. Things… do not match up well for Bruno here. PC wins.

Dartmouth at New Hampshire (7:30; TV – NBCSN)
Hmm, what’s this? UNH has a new goalie? And not a moment too soon, what with the Wildcats’ team save rate hovering around 90 percent. This isn’t UNH’s year, but Dartmouth should be the one feeling the heat… at 6-5-2, the Big Green’s non-conference window of opportunity is quicky closing before the brutality of ECAC action becomes a permanent condition. Simply put, if Dartmouth cannot escape this weekend without a loss, I’m doubtful of their odds at making the NCAA Tournament come March. Big Green take this one.

Saturday, Jan. 10

Cornell at Clarkson
Oy vey, if Cornell has had a hard time scoring, this weekend offers little salvation. Clarkson is a ferociously defensive team, and they do it well; this has all the makings of a 1-0, 2-0, or 2-1 final. ‘Tech takes it, no matter the score.

Rensselaer at Princeton
Ok, this is a new one… not only are there two Brown Ruled teams for the first time ever, but they play each other the same weekend as they are so denoted. I’d love to just wash my hands of this abomination of a matchup, but people don’t click through to read evasive insults, so… RPI has mustered incrementally more offense of late, against some worthy opponents, while Princeton is mustering hardly anything at all against equally worthy foes. In a battle for the basement, Princeton is carrying heavier baggage. Engineers prevail.

Union at Quinnipiac
This would’ve been must-watch hockey last year, though it shouldn’t be much of a step down this weekend. The Dutchmen are hitting crunch time, needing to put up a good number of W’s to get back into NCAA at-large contention; QU could use a few more quality wins, and certainly needs some buffer points in the ECAC standings if it hopes to secure a first-round bye. Big game at The Bank Saturday night, and – so help me – I like the hosts to have the last laugh. QU wins.

Colgate at St. Lawrence
This is more hunch and instinct than analysis, but these feel like teams heading in different directions as the new year progresses. Colgate looks like it’s teetering on the edge of a groove; SLU may be fighting to hang on to relevance. Sure, it’s still early… ish, but that’s what my gut is telling me. And that’s never been wrong, right? Colgate wins.

Brown at Providence (Mayor’s Cup)
None of the notes or facts from Friday night have changed in the time it took me to scroll down to Saturday’s matchup. PC still has a big advantage, and I still believe strongly that the Friars will win. Again.

Harvard vs. Yale (8:00; Madison Square Garden)
The fifth ranked opponent for the Crimson this year is also the only one to defeat them. This is a big game on a big stage for each team, no doubt about it: Harvard is trying to build its case for true national contender-ship, while Yale is aiming to prove that it has the chops for another NCAA run. Harvard has burned me before (I seem to be qualifying myself a lot like this lately), but I can’t really imagine the Crimson being dispatched twice by the same opponent just yet. Harvard wins the revenge game (even though it won’t earn them any points in the standings!).

Sunday, Jan. 11

Vermont at Dartmouth (4:00)
As aforementioned, Dartmouth could really use some non-conference wins before the cannibalistic ECAC regular season resumes. Vermont is one tough customer, but recent losses to Providence and Yale may indicate weaknesses emerging following a six-game win streak. That said, I still believe that UVM out-classes Dartmouth. If not by a lot, by enough. Catamounts win.

ECAC’s hits, near misses, and shots way wide of the mark entering 2015

The conference’s 12 members roll into the new year whether they like it or not, and it’s not entirely arbitrary to break the league into three disparate tiers: Those on fire, the middlers and the teams in serious need of help.

Hockey Haven back on the rise

ECAC Hockey’s Connecticut programs are each hitting their strides before returning to conference play.

Yale is 8-3-2 overall and 5-1 in its last six games, including post-Christmas wins over Holy Cross (3-0) and No. 10 Vermont (3-1). The Bulldogs have risen to 14th in the PairWise early on, and face two more nonconference opponents this week (Northeastern and Harvard, in a nonleague game at Madison Square Garden) before closing out the season with 14 straight ECAC contests.

Up Whitney Avenue, No. 14 Quinnipiac is coming off a split weekend at tough customer St. Cloud State. The Bobcats are 5-2 in their last seven outings, allowing 11 goals with three shutouts. Twelve of QU’s remaining 14 games are in-league, and seven of those ECAC tilts come against opponents playing .500 or better hockey.

Harvard played only one game since the holidays, pinning a 6-2 comeback win on Rensselaer. The Crimson are on a seven-game winning streak and are the top-rated team in the PairWise.

Fighting through

Union (loss to Connecticut, win over Sacred Heart, tie at Boston University), Cornell (scoreless draw versus Lake Superior State, loss to Miami), Colgate (wins over Western Michigan and Robert Morris), Clarkson (win over American International) and Dartmouth (tie against Denver, loss to Boston College) had moderate success over the past week, though perhaps Colgate is finding its groove at long last. The Raiders are locked into league play from now on, so we will see.

Not the results they were looking for

Rensselaer, Brown, Princeton and St. Lawrence probably want mulligans on their post-Christmas play.

RPI has dropped eight straight since late November, including the Harvard loss and twin killings at home to Miami last weekend. Whatever went down with the Engineers’ internal leadership hasn’t helped matters, either.

Brown beat RPI on Dec. 6 to close out the first half, but Dartmouth’s Ledyard Classic provided no encouragement with a 4-1 loss to Boston College and a 5-3 loss to Denver. Next weekend brings the annual Mayor’s Cup home-and-home against No. 16 Providence; it’s all ECAC action after that.

Princeton endured three straight shutout losses straddling the break, first at Minnesota State, then twice against Quinnipiac last weekend. The Tigers have been outscored 20-7 in their six straight losses.

Finally, St. Lawrence played twice since the break. Both games were against 5-10-1 Northeastern, and neither game went well for the Saints. NU outshot the Saints 16-5 in the third period of Game 1, scoring thrice to come back for a 3-3 draw. On Saturday, the Huskies mustered only 20 shots overall but put three goals past Kyle Hayton before an empty-netter sealed the deal. It’s all league action from here on out for SLU.

ECAC Hockey picks: Jan. 2-6

Last time 4-2

Overall: 29-32-5

This weekend marks the last non-conference games of the season for many ECAC Hockey teams, highlighted by Dartmouth and Brown taking part in the Ledyard Bank Classic and Quinnipiac traveling to St. Cloud State. All games are 7 p.m. unless noted.

Friday, Jan. 2

No. 15 Boston College vs. Brown (Ledyard Bank Classic at Dartmouth), 4 p.m.

As noted in the tournament preview, the Bears could be a team that put togethers a solid second half. Boston College hasn’t been itself throughout most of the first half, but it’s hard to pick Brown until it shows some more consistency. Boston College wins.

St. Lawrence at Northeastern

These teams split last year in Canton, although both are very different from that last meeting. The Huskies are struggling following a late swoon last year, while the Saints have completely turned around its defense this season. St. Lawrence lost four in a row to end the first half, but the Saints should start the New Year off with a win. St. Lawrence wins

No. 6 Miami at Rensselaer

After blanking Cornell in the consolation game of the Florida College Hockey Classic last weekend, Miami travels to Troy for the first time since 2007. RPI got back forward Drew Melanson and goalie Jason Kasdorf Tuesday against Harvard, but were still without forwards Viktor Liljegren, Mark Miller and Lou Nanne. Scoring has been a problem all year for RPI, and it won’t get any easier against a stingy Redhawks team that only gives up 2.11 goals per-game. Miami wins

No. 11 Denver at Dartmouth (Ledyard Bank Classic)

The Pioneers travel to Hanover for the first time since 1998 as part of the 26th Ledyard Classic. Denver has been solid this season, while a veteran Dartmouth team should be poised for a good second half after starting the year 6-4-1. This should be one of the better games of the tournament, and I think the Big Green’s defense and goaltending should give them the edge. Dartmouth wins.

Quinnipiac at St. Cloud State, 8:37 p.m. EDT

The Bobcats have already gotten in two games following the holidays, posting a pair of shutouts in a home-and-home sweep against travel partner Princeton. St. Cloud has struggled this year, and if Quinnipiac can play its usual puck-control game, the Bobcats should come away with a win. Quinnipiac wins.

Saturday, Jan. 3.

Denver vs. Brown, 4 p.m. (Ledyard Bank Classic)

The format of the tournament means that each team has a pre-determined matchup in the second day, regardless of Friday’s outcome. Like I said earlier, Brown is a team that should put things together down the stretch, but it’s tough to count on them until that starts to show. Denver wins.

St. Lawrence at Northeastern

The teams wrap up the series Saturday night, and the Saints should finish off the sweep. St. Lawrence wins.

No. 6 Miami at Rensselaer

Miami is a tough matchup, but if RPI goalie Jason Kasdorf is on top of his game, the Engineers could steal a point or two in the series finale. Tie.

No. 9 Vermont at Yale, 7:30 p.m.

The Bulldogs have shown flashes of being one of the more balanced teams in the league, combining good goaltending and defense with a balanced offense. However, Yale will  likely be without leading scorer John Hayden, who is playing with Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championship. Vermont brings a six-game winning streak in Ingalls, and should be a tough out for Yale. Vermont wins.

No. 15 Boston College at Dartmouth

Dartmouth knocked off the Eagles’ Hockey East rival Boston University earlier this season. If the Big Green are going to knock off Boston College, they’ll have to take advantage of the  likely absence of goalie Thatcher Demko, who is playing with Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championship. Dartmouth wins.

Union at No. 1 Boston University, 7:10 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)

BU will likely be without freshman standout Jack Eichel, the nation’s leading scorer who is currently with Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championship. The Dutchmen are coming off a third-place finish at the Frozen Holiday Classic last weekend, losing to Connecticut before beating Sacred Heart in the consolation game. Surprisingly, this is the first meeting ever between the schools, who have combined to play 3,865 games all-time. Even minus Eichel, the Terriers should have enough to win, especially at home. Boston University wins.

No. 14 Quinnipiac at St. Cloud State, 8:07 p.m. EDT

Road sweeps are hard to come by in college hockey, but I think the Bobcats will do just that against the Huskies. Quinnipiac wins

Tuesday, Jan. 6

Yale at Northeastern

The Huskies face an ECAC team for the third time in as many games. Like St. Lawrence, Yale plays an up-tempo game and has gotten good goaltending and defensive play. That should be enough for the win. Yale wins. 

ECAC Hockey at the first intermission

Many people like to call the fall portion of the college hockey season the “first half”, but really, it’s more like the first period. The majority of the non-conference games are in the books (holiday tournaments the obvious exception), but most ECAC teams have only played eight of their 22 league games (Cornell and Colgate have only played six conference contests). So let’s look at the three things that caught our eye over the waning seconds of our metaphorical opening frame.

Strong locally, weak nationally

ECAC Hockey has compiled a cumulative 37-34-4 non-conference record, not including non-con games between league teams (e.g. the Clarkson-St. Lawrence home-and-home over the Halloween weekend). That’s all well and good, especially considering the league’s 17-13-2 record against “big brother” (or little brother, depending on how you value history) Hockey East. ECAC Hockey is also 12-5 against Atlantic Hockey foes, but that’s where the good news ends. ECAC teams seem to fare just fine in their own back yards, but further afield, the conference is just 7-16-2 against Big 10, WCHA, and NCHC opponents. Is this a travel issue, or a quality-of-competition issue? Tough to say, but it’s certainly a half-full/half-empty proposition.

Minnesota State beats Princeton; flu beats Minnesota State

An outbreak of influenza did what no team has been able to do to Minnesota State all year: Keep the Mavericks off the board. The No. 3 team in the polls routed Princeton 5-0 on Friday night, but Mavs athletic director Kevin Buisman declared the team unfit for play the following evening following a sudden outbreak of flu-like symptoms among a number of players. The game was declared a “no contest” – as opposed to a forfeit – and will be effectively erased from each team’s results as though it had never been scheduled in the first place. Friday’s shutout was MSU’s third in five games, while the loss was Princeton’s fourth in a row and ninth in 10 games (1-9).

Odds ‘n ends

• Clarkson has scored 10 second-period goals in league play thus far, leading all teams in single-period scoring… yet the Golden Knights are also the only team to be blanked in a period for the entire fall: Clarkson has not scored a third-period league goal yet.
• Five teams have surrendered 14 goals or fewer in ECAC competition. Brown has allowed 15 in first-period play alone.
• Harvard’s Jimmy Vesey, Kyle Criscuolo and Alex Kerfoot get a lot of ink lately, but the league’s top scorers are actually Dutchmen: Senior forwards Daniel Ciampini and Max Novak lead the league in points per game with 1.50 and 1.38, respectively. Freshman teammate Spencer Foo also leads the league’s rookies in scoring to date, averaging a solid point per game.
• There is Steve Perry, then there’s everyone else. Clarkson’s sophomore goalie is way out ahead of the pack in GAA (0.99) and save percentage (.958). The nearest competitor is Harvard senior Steve Michalek (1.59, .950).

ECAC Hockey picks: Dec. 12 – 14

Last time: 9-9

Overall: 25-30-5

There are a handful of ECAC teams in action this week before college hockey stops for the holiday break.  Here is a rundown of who is playing this weekend, highlighted by Boston University and Jack Eichel coming to Houston Field House Saturday night.

All start times listed are EDT.

Friday, Dec. 12

St. Lawrence at No. 10 Vermont, 7:05 p.m.

While the offense has dropped a bit for the Saints, freshman Kyle Hayton and St. Lawrence’s defense have continued to be strong. The Catamounts are solid through the lineup, and have only given up 25 goals in 15 games this season. If the St. Lawrence can turn up its offense, they could have a chance, but I think the Catamounts win in a low-scoring game. Vermont wins

Princeton at No. 3 Minnesota State, 8:07 p.m.  

The Mavericks have the third-highest scoring offense in the country, averaging 3.88 goals per-game. The Tigers played Harvard close last Friday, thanks to 51 saves from sophomore Colton Phinney. The Princeton goalie should be busy again this weekend against Minnesota State.  Minnesota State wins

 Saturday, Dec. 13

No. 2 Boston University at Rensselaer, 7 p.m.

Terrier freshman Jack Eichel might be the headline in this game, but for the battered Engineers, the main goal will be to head into the break without any additional injuries and then heal up for the second half.  Forward Lou Nanne has missed the last six games, while starting goalie Jason Kasdorf hasn’t played in four games. They’re joined by forward and second-leading scorer Drew Melanson, who is out with mononucleosis, per the Troy Record.  All three players statuses for the weekend haven’t been determined, according to a university release.  Boston University wins

No. 10 Vermont at St. Lawrence, 7 p.m.

Look for the Saints to get the split at home. St. Lawrence wins

Princeton at Minnesota State, 8:07 p.m.

I can’t see the Tigers finishing off the sweep against a strong Mavericks team. Minnesota State wins

 Sunday, Dec. 14

Sacred Heart at Dartmouth, 4 p.m.

Regardless of what happens Sunday, the Big Green have been much better during this season’s first half than they were a year ago. With that being said, Dartmouth should little problem with the Pioneers, especially at home. Dartmouth wins

Clarkson at Michigan State, 5 p.m.

The magic number for Clarkson is two, as the Golden Knights are 6-1-4 when scoring at least two goals. Don’t expect a lot of offense, as Clarkson is averaging 1.79 goals per-game, while Michigan State is at 2.12 goals per-game. Slight edge to the Knights, as goalie Steve Perry and the Knights’ defense has been solid the last five games. Clarkson wins

Crimson red hot, Dutchmen stabilizing, and a gigantic bear at Lynah

Following Friday’s overtime win against Dartmouth, Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold didn’t mince words when asked about the next night’s opponent, Harvard.

“If you look at the poll, which is a whole another story, they got six first-place votes, which is a lot,” Pecknold said, adding that he was one of the six who put Harvard first. “And to be in ninth is just ridiculous. There’s obviously people somewhere, probably out west who left them off their ballot, which I don’t understand.  The polls will sort themselves out, but I think Harvard is outstanding and I think they’re the best team in our league.”

Pecknold and the Bobcats saw that firsthand Saturday, as the Crimson won 5-2 in Hamden Saturday night to move into a tie with Quinnipiac for first place in the conference.

Will the Crimson (9-1-2) be No. 1 in this week’s poll? That remains to be seen, but more importantly, Harvard enters the semester break on a six-game unbeaten streak, which is the best in the nation.

The Crimson played this weekend without top center Alexander Kerfoot, who missed both games with an injury, according to The New Haven Register. But Harvard did have forward Sean Malone return after not playing this season due to an injury. The sophomore had two goals and two assists this weekend.

Like Pecknold said, the polls will sort themselves out. And to be honest, polls are good conversation starters, but I doubt the Crimson’s ranking this week will have much of an impact heading into the second half.

Union rolls on the road

Saturday’s game in New Haven between Yale and Union was a matchup of the last two national champions. But that probably mattered little to the Dutchmen, who simply needed to end the first half on a good note after losing to Western Michigan 8-2 last weekend in the championship game of the Shillelagh Tournament.

Union did just that, rolling over Brown 7-1 before beating the Bulldogs 3-1 behind 28 saves from backup goalie Alex Sakellaropoulos. The sophomore got the start after senior Colin Stevens was injured in the win against Brown.

The two wins give the Dutchmen four in its last five games heading into the break. That stretch comes after Union went from late October to mid-November without a win.

Teddy bear toss goes awry

Typically, it’s not a good sign when you make Deadspin (just look at Union and Rensselaer last year), but this is a lighter moment from Denver and Cornell series at Lynah Rink over the weekend. The Big Red held its annual teddy bear toss after Saturday’s game against the Pioneers, and one fan with an oversize bear had some trouble getting it over the glass. Give the fans a stick tap for their effort, with an assist going to Cornell senior Jacob MacDonald, who comes over toward the end of the video to help get the massive teddy bear over the glass.

ECAC Hockey picks: Dec. 5-9

Season record: 22-19-3. I’ve seen better.

Friday, December 5

Union at Brown
Boy, what are we to make of Union? The Dutchmen are 2-6-1 in their last nine, putting forth wildly disparate performances along the way. But perhaps there are glimmers of light down the tunnel in Achilles Rink: While Union’s power play was a flat-lining 1/23 during a 0-4-1 slump, it has rebounded of late with eight goals in its last 20 chances. Brown suffered through a miserable 1-7 November, and must be praying for a change of fortune in December. The Bears have been shut out three times in their last five games, scoring just nine goals all month. Union definitely has the advantage, though both squads are dying for a silver-lining result to build on. Union wins.

Harvard at Princeton
On the bright side, Princeton scored as many goals last weekend (five) as it did in the six games prior (1-5). The Tigers are getting healthier, but geez, there are shorter transition steps than the one coming to town on Friday. The Crimson are quite possibly the hottest team in the nation right now. Harvard is 5-0-1 on the road and 3-0-1 – always as the visitor – against top-10 opponents. This game is Harvard’s to lose.

Dartmouth at Quinnipiac
The Big Green are playing solid defense lately, giving up just 10 goals in their last six games including two shutouts. Junior goalie James Kruger is settling in nicely with a .930 save percentage, the penalty kill is humming at 91 percent, and the power play hasn’t even come up to speed (15 percent). Down in Hamden, the Bobcats are keeping their heads above water despite dropping goal totals. QU has only been out-shot once this season, but net-front positioning and finishing touches have been elusive for these young cats. This should be a terrific game between potential league top-four finishers, and it is only by the barest margin that I pick QU to take this one.

Rensselaer at Yale
Goals and Engineers are fitting together like Legos and Lincoln Logs lately. Jason Kasdorf is doing his darnedest to keep RPI in the mix on a nightly basis, but it is inevitable to run into slides like this: Five one-goal games (2-2-1), then a blowout… in this case, last weekend’s 6-0 loss at Michigan, which isn’t having a top-notch season itself. Yale isn’t setting goals aflame this season either, but the offense has been opportunistic and the defense has held the fort with under two goals allowed per game. The power play needs to double its effectiveness (11 percent), but so far so good in New Haven. Yale wins.

Denver at Cornell
The Pioneers are off to a hot start (8-3), but have played only two games away from home (1-1, both at Minnesota-Duluth). The offense is surgical, carving foes to the tune of 3.64 goals per game… if Cornell can minimize DU’s chances, the goaltending behind the barrage is pedestrian (.887 team save percentage). The Big Red are 4-1 in their last five, playing tight defense and not taking too many unreasonable risks offensively. This has the potential to go down as a bigger upset than it deserves to be, and I like Cornell’s odds. Big Red take it on Friday.

Saturday, December 6

Rensselaer at Brown 4:00
Quicker-than-usual turnaround for these teams, playing about 19 hours after Friday’s finish. Does this favor the Bears, who get to sleep in their own beds? Sure, in theory… but between two struggling teams, Bruno is decidedly stugglingier. Edge RPI.

Union at Yale
Though Yale may not be turning many heads yet this year, it’s worth noting that the Bulldogs beat Dartmouth in Hanover, Harvard in Boston, Colgate in Hamilton, and lost a tight game to Cornell at Lynah. The Blue’s team save percentage is .938 and the PP isn’t even rolling yet. This is a squad that can hang with the best. Union will have to bring its A-game if it hopes to hang around at Ingalls on Saturday. Yale wins.

Harvard at Quinnipiac
While there is a lot to like about the way Quinnipiac is playing this fall, I’m just riding Harvard ’til there ain’t no where else to go. The Crimson are tearing it up and we’re all just waiting to see where this goes… Harvard wins.

Dartmouth at Princeton
The Big Green are holding opponents to 22 shots a game over the last two weeks, and that doesn’t bode well for a Princeton team that is dying for offense. Dartmouth has a clear advantage, and is my pick to win.

Clarkson at St. Lawrence
Clarkson’s string of successful seasons against their border-bound rival appears to have come to an end, as SLU took a (non-conference) tie and win over the Halloween weekend. ‘Tech’s issues go beyond the loss of bragging rights however, having only topped two goals in a game twice since the opening weekend (3-7-4 since then). Casey Jones and the Golden Knights knew they would live or die by the strength of their defense… and so far, the team is sustaining more blows than it’s giving. Meanwhile, St. Lawrence is 7-3-1 since mid-October and is getting superb team defense and netminding by rookie Kyle Hayton (.935 save rate). Add in that thunderous, playing-in-an-oak-tree home ice edge, and SLU should take this game as well.

Denver at Cornell
Everything I said about Friday night’s matchup holds true again, but can the Red really keep the lid on DU’s explosive offense? I wouldn’t bet on a sweep. DU wins.

Tuesday, December 9

Colgate at Providence
Big injuries are hampering Colgate’s widely expected charge toward glory, but on the bright side the Raiders don’t play another league game until January 9. Providence is rolling, winning seven of nine (7-2) with four shutouts in six games, including three in a row over New Hampshire, Army, and Boston College. Oddly enough, the Friars have scored one goal or fewer in four of their last seven games, but you don’t need to score very often when your team save percentage is .975 for the month of November. Friars win.

Surprises abound for Harvard, Dartmouth and Union

Mountain climbers

It should come as no surprise that the Harvard Crimson lead this weekend’s entry. The Crimson scored a pair of huge road wins last week, downing No. 1 Boston University 3-2 in overtime on Tuesday, then smothering No. 4 Massachusetts-Lowell 4-2 on Saturday. Harvard is now 7-1-2 overall, and 3-0-1 against Top 10 teams (including an earlier tie at Union and win at Boston College), all on the road.

The special teams are rolling (31 percent power play, 92 percent on the kill), the team hasn’t lost when scoring first (6-0-1) and has never trailed at the first intermission, and the top line of Jimmy Vesey – Alex Kerfoot – Kyle Criscuolo is one of the hottest in the nation with 17 goals and 42 points between them. Oh, and goalie Steve Michalek is stopping 94.7 percent of shots faced, which is insignificantly worse than one goal against for every 20 shots faced.

Teddy Donato’s road warriors are unbeaten in six road games this season (5-0-1), with two more coming up before the holiday break (at Princeton and No. 14 Quinnipiac). The second half of the season consists of six road games, eight at home, and three neutral-site contests. Hope Harvard digs home cooking as much as it seems to enjoy quality time on the bus.

Optimism in Hanover

A 4-3-1 record might not take home any trophies, but it’s a far sight better than last year’s alternative.

The Big Green – 0-8 at this point last fall – climbed above .500 for the first time in three weeks with a massive 2-0 home win over No. 1 Boston University. (BU had a tough week against ECAC competition, but the Terriers saved some face in downing No. 9 Colgate 5-2 on Friday.) Sunday’s victory was no lucky result, either: Dartmouth dominated BU 36-23 in shots, including 21-5 in the second period alone. The Big Green also succeeded in accomplishing what only Harvard had been able to do thus far this season, by keeping superstar Jack Eichel off the scoresheet.

The decision was Dartmouth’s first victory over the nation’s top-ranked team since 2002, when the Green upended Boston College. The team has now won three of its last four (3-1), with its only loss coming to rapidly rising Harvard.

Neutral-site review

Two ECAC sides played neutral-site games this weekend: Cornell improved to 2-3-1 at Madison Square Garden with a 3-1 victory over Penn State, while Union fell hard to Western Michigan in the championship of the Shillelagh Tournament at Notre Dame.

The Big Red battled back from a submissive first period to defeat the Nittany Lions on the strength of 37 saves from sophomore Mitch Gillam; Cornell has now won three straight and four of five (4-1) after a 0-3-1 start.

Meanwhile, Union’s difficult-to-define season continued with its worst loss and most goals-against since an 8-0 February, 2008 loss at Colgate. The Dutchmen are 2-6-1 in their last nine games, following a 5-0 start. Union is 1-4 in one-goal games this season which usually indicates a touch of bad luck affecting the overall record, but boy, the team’s .881 save percentage and 74 percent penalty kill are tough to pin on misfortune. It was bound to be, and indeed still is, a fascinating season to follow in Schenectady… though fans of the Garnet & White may have different adjectives attached to the season to date.

ECAC Hockey picks: Nov. 28 – 30

Last time: 7-5-2

Overall:  16-21-5

With Thanksgiving over, ECAC Hockey gets back into action with plenty of non-conference games this weekend. Here’s a look at what’s scheduled for the next few days.

Friday, Nov. 28

Clarkson at Merrimack, 4 p.m.

The Golden Knights are on a modest three-game unbeaten streak (2-0-1), and have only given up two goals per game this season. Merrimack has been steady most of the year, and is 5-1 at home. This is only the second-ever meeting at Lawler Arena between the teams. Merrimack wins

Michigan State at Princeton, 7 p.m.

The Spartans and Tigers met last year on Thanksgiving weekend in Lansing, with Michigan State sweeping Princeton to push the all-time series record to 5-0. Princeton is on a five-game losing streak after winning its home opener against Cornell on Nov. 7. The Spartans haven’t been particularly impressive this season, but they should be able to push the all-time series record to 6-0. Michigan State wins

Massachusetts at Quinnipiac, 7 p.m.

Quinnipiac had its six-game unbeaten streak ended last Friday by Clarkson, but rebounded with a 3-2 overtime win at St. Lawrence.  UMass has struggled this season and I’m not sure if they’ll be able to keep pace with the Bobcats. Quinnipiac wins

Rensselaer at Michigan, 7:35

RPI has been dealing with plenty of injuries lately, forcing the Engineers to skate a defenseman at forward each of the last two games, going 1-0-1, including a 2-1 win Tuesday at New Hampshire. This is a matchup of contrasting strengths; RPI scores 1.63 goals per game while allowing 2.41 and the Wolverines score 3.64 goals per game while allowing 3.27. I’ll take the stronger defense in the series opener. Rensselaer wins

Union at Notre Dame, 7:35 p.m. (Shillelagh Tournament)

The Dutchmen resume play following a break for exams, taking part in the Shillelagh Tournament for the first time since 2009, when Union lost 3-1 to No.1 Notre Dame.  Neither the Irish (6-6-2) nor the Dutchmen (6-5-1) have been consistent this season, although Union did end a six-game winless streak with a convincing 6-1 win over Princeton on Nov. 15. A win here could set the Dutchmen up nicely for the remainder of the first half. This game will be aired on NBCsports.com. Union wins

Saturday, Nov. 29

Connecticut at Brown, 4 p.m.

It’s been a nightmarish start for the Bears. Brown has lost six in a row following a 4-2 win in the season opener on Oct. 31. The Bears’ penalty kill has been atrocious, converting at 54.5 percent.  Connecticut isn’t any sort of offensive powerhouse, but has good goaltending and is willing to create traffic in front of the net. Connecticut wins

Colgate at Boston University, 4 p.m.

The Raiders have had some injuries this season, but have kept on rolling. They’ll have their hands full with No. 1 Boston University, who lost 3-2 to Harvard in overtime Tuesday. This might be one of the best games of the weekend, and I could see it going either way. Colgate wins

American International at Dartmouth, 4 p.m.

Dartmouth is looking to break out of a mini 1-3 funk, but I don’t see them losing to the Yellow Jackets, especially at home. Dartmouth wins

Clarkson at Merrimack, 4 p.m.

I think the Golden Knights will rebound and head home with a split. Clarkson wins

Union vs. Ohio State/Michigan State, 4:05 (Shillelagh Tournament)

Assuming Union gets past Notre Dame in the opener, the Dutchmen will either face Ohio State or Western Michigan for the championship. Both teams have struggled this season, and the Dutchmen should be able to handle either one. Union wins

Michigan State at Princeton, 7 p.m.

While I predicted a split for Clarkson, I don’t see that happening for the Tigers. Michigan State wins

Quinnipiac at Massachusetts,  7 p.m.

The venue is different, but I don’ think the result will be any different. QU should get the sweep. Quinnipiac wins

Harvard at Massachusetts Lowell, 7 p.m.

The Crimson had an impressive overtime win against No.1 Boston University Tuesday. Can they continue that against UMass Lowell? The River Hawks have steady on both ends of the ice this year, and while I’m tempted to call for a Harvard win, it will be tough, especially on the road. Massachusetts-Lowell wins

RIT at Yale, 7 p.m.

Yale forward Stu Wilson will have the chance to face his father, RIT coach Wayne Wilson, for the first time in his collegiate career. The younger Wilson’s team has been the better one thus far, and the Bulldogs and goalie Alex Lyon should come through for the win. Yale wins

Rensselaer at Michigan, 7:35

Michigan should come back to get the weekend split. Michigan wins

Penn State vs. Cornell, 8 p.m. (Frozen Apple at Madison Square Garden)

This is the sixth time in eight seasons Cornell has played at Madison Square Garden, but the first time the Big Red have faced Penn State. The Nittany Lions are off to a 7-3-2 start thanks to a high-scoring offense. It should be a good test for Cornell’s defense, which has been strong to date. If the Big Red can carry over its offensive production from last weekend, they should get the win. Cornell wins

Sunday, Nov. 30

Brown at Holy Cross, 1:05 p.m.

Holy Cross has gotten strong goaltending from senior Matt Ginn this season. I think that will be the difference here. Holy Cross wins

Boston University at Dartmouth, 4 p.m.

The Terriers face their third straight ECAC Hockey team, and I think they’ll finally break through with a win. Boston University wins 

Big Red, Golden Knights rebound; Hayton ties shutout record

If any team was in need of a four-point weekend, it was Cornell. The Big Red were 1-4-1 and had only scored seven goals on the season entering Friday, but they doubled their win total and matched their season total in goals with a pair of impressive home wins.

Cornell opened the weekend with a 3-2 win over Yale Friday, and then blanked Brown 4-0 Saturday. The win against the Bulldogs came without forward Matt Buckles and defenseman Holden Anderson, each whom sat out after getting a game disqualification against St. Lawrence last weekend.

Freshman Hayden Stewart made 26 saves against the Bears for the shutout Saturday, becoming the first freshman to record a shutout for the Big Red since Ben Scrivens did it in 2006. It was Stewart’s second career collegiate start.

Cornell scored four power-play goals this weekend – matching its total from the first six games of the season.

Knights sweep

Clarkson joined Cornell as the only teams to take four points this weekend, beating Quinnipiac and Princeton at home. Friday’s win against QU snapped the Bobcats’ six-game winning streak, which was the second-longest active streak in the country.

Steve Perry was solid in net both games for the Golden Knights, but give credit to Clarkson’s defense, who allowed 40 shots on the weekend. After a seven-game winless streak that stretched into early November, Clarkson has one loss in its last six games. The Golden Knights haven’t given up more than two goals during that time, and are allowing exactly two goals a game this season, good for twelfth in the country.

Hayton ties mark

It’s been an outstanding first two months for St. Lawrence goalie Kyle Hayton.  The Saints freshman tied the school record for shutouts in a season with four in his 13th start of the season Friday against Princeton.

The four shutouts are the most for a St. Lawrence goalie since the 1965-66 season.  Hayton shares the record with three former All-Americans: Bill Sloan (1955-56), Richie Broadbelt (1962-63) and Bob Perani (1965-66). Overall, Hayton has a 2.11 goals-against-average and a .935 save percentage for the surprising 8-4-1 Saints.


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