ECAC Hockey picks: Jan. 17-18

Overall: 43-32-7

Outside of the Beanpot next month, this weekend marks the final time ECAC teams will face a non-conference opponent in the regular season. All games are 7 p.m. unless noted.

Friday, Jan. 17

Yale at Clarkson      

Yale thrashed the Golden Knights 6-3 at home in November, and are unbeaten over their last five. I think the Bulldogs should muster enough offense to get past Clarkson. Yale wins

Colgate at Dartmouth        

Colgate has yet to lose in 2014, while Dartmouth seems to have lost any positive progress accumulated prior to the holidays.  Big Green goalie Charles Grant has been hurt by a leaky defense, and I’m not sure if Dartmouth has enough to hold off the Raiders’ offense. Colgate wins

Cornell  at Harvard     

This is Harvard’s first home ECAC weekend since November. The Crimson will host a Cornell team that hasn’t played a regular season game in 2014 after last Friday’s game against Massachusetts was cancelled due to rink issues.  Jimmy Vesey and Kyle Criscuolo have combined for 18 of Harvard’s 40 goals this season, and I’m going with the Big Red’s depth in this one. Cornell wins 

Brown at St. Lawrence     

These teams tied 3-3 in Providence earlier in the year. Since then, the Bears have trended upward, while the Saints have gone in the opposite direction. St. Lawrence will have to contain the trio of Nick Lappin, Matt Lorito, and Mark Naclerio, while Brown will need to find a way to shutdown Matt and Greg Carey, along with Jeremy Wick. The Bears duo of Tyler Steel and Marco DeFilippo have both played well in net lately, and that should be the difference. Browns win    

Merrimack at Quinnipiac          

The Warriors are averaging fewer than two goals per game, which makes wins difficult to come by on its own. But that looks like a near impossible task against a Quinnipiac team that leads the nation in shots and faceoff wins, a combination that should leave Merrimack with few chances. Quinnipiac wins

Union at New Hampshire, 7:30 pm

The Dutchmen continue their lengthy stretch away from home with two games in Durham against a Wildcats team that is 5-1 all-time against Union.  It remains to be seen if Union’s Shayne Gostisbehere will play this weekend, as Ken Schott of The Schenectady Daily Gazette reported earlier this week that the star defenseman was “day-to-day.” The addition of Gostisbehere would be a big help for Union, but the Dutchmen should have enough for the win even without him. Union wins

Saturday, Jan. 18

Brown at Clarkson     

This one is a tossup. When both teams are on, they play a tough, physical style and give opponents few scoring chances. I’ll take the home team in this one. Clarkson wins        

Cornell at Dartmouth           

If Cornell is going to avoid a repeat of last year’s second half, this is a game they need to win. I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t. Cornell wins

Colgate at Harvard

The Raiders are unbeaten in their last five games away from Starr Rink.  Colgate’s a young team, but they appear to be coming together in the second half. These points of key if the Raiders want to be in the running for a top-four spot down the stretch. Colgate wins

Yale at St. Lawrence

On the surface, this looks like an easy win for the Bulldogs. Yale hasn’t lost in five games, while St. Lawrence is on a five-game losing streak. But the Bulldog’s penalty kill has been one of their few weaknesses this season, while the Saints can bring it on the power play. I’m calling for the upset – and the Saints to stop the skid. St. Lawrence wins

Quinnipiac at Merrimack           

If the Bobcats play like their capable of, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t complete the sweep. Quinnipiac wins

Union at New Hampshire     

I feel like I’m picking too many sweeps this weekend, but it’s hard to argue with the stretch the Dutchmen have been on of late. Union wins   

A change at the top

Union’s 6-4 win over Quinnipiac on Dec. 7 helped ensure the Dutchmen would end the first half in sole possession of first place in the ECAC.

But on Friday, the Bobcats reclaimed the top spot with a 2-1 win over Union in Hamden. Quinnipiac held the Dutchmen scoreless for the first two periods, the first time that’s happened all season. The loss also snapped Union’s ten-game unbeaten streak.

The Bobcats ended the weekend with a convincing 6-2 win over Rensselaer Saturday, extending their unbeaten streak to six. Freshman Sam Anas had a goal and two assists against the Engineers, giving him 30 points in 25 games.

Quinnipiac has played two more conference games than Union, and the Dutchmen have the better winning percentage in league play, so don’t expect the Bobcats to run away with the Cleary Cup like they did last season.

Skidding Engineers

A stellar second-half last season appeared to put RPI in a good position entering this year. But one win in their last eight games has dropped the Engineers to 8-10-4.

Junior goalie Scott Diebold has started every game since Jason Kasdorf was lost to an injury early in the year. Diebold was solid in the early going, but has allowed five goals in three of the last four games.

It’s possible the Engineers are in the same situation as Harvard was last year after Steve Michalek left the team in December. Michalek’s departure  meant the Crimson had few options behind Raphael Girard in net, asHarvard (and Girard) struggled in the second half. The same could be happening with Diebold and the Engineers. Freshman Jake Soffer made his collegiate debut in the third period at Quinnipiac Saturday, stopping 11-of-12 shots.

RPI mixed up its lines in both games this weekend. It will be interesting to see how things look in goal and the rest of the lineup when the Engineers resume play Jan. 24 against Dartmouth.

Yale wins on the big stage

The first Rivalry On Ice matchup went to Yale, with the Bulldogs beating Harvard 5-1 Saturday in a non-conference game at Madison Square Garden.  The game, which had been promoted throughout the year, had an announced attendance of 15,525.  The opening puck drop featured current New York Ranger and former Harvard forward Dominic Moore, former Rangers Mike Richter (Yale) and Mark Messier and Secretary of State John Kerry (Yale).

Cody Learned had two goals for Yale, and was named the game’s MVP.




ECAC Hockey picks: Jan. 10-11

Friday, January 10

all games at 7:00

Rensselaer at Princeton
This has the makings of a low-scoring affair: RPI hasn’t scored three goals in four games; Princeton, six. That said, the last time the Engineers mustered more than two scores, it was in a 5-2 home win over the Tigers. Princeton hopes the strong defense it exhibited in British Columbia (two goals against in two games) will carry over to NCAA action, but I’m leaning toward RPI in this one. 4-2 ‘Tute.

Union at Quinnipiac
The Game of the Week pits the first-place Dutchmen – owning the longest unbeaten streak (10 games) in the nation – against Quinnipiac, which leads the country in wins (15, tied with Ferris State). Union hasn’t played a game in nearly a month, while QU is already 2-0-2 since Christmas. Will Union’s rust give the Bobcats the edge, or will its fresh legs carry the day? One thing to look for: QU and Union lead the conference in third-period scoring (16 and 15, respectively). I’m taking QU on revenge alone, as this one could be a real toss-up. A real entertaining toss-up, but a coin flip nonetheless. 4-3 Bobcats.

Merrimack at Clarkson
I admit, I’m wondering how accurate my post-break analysis of Clarkson will be, though I don’t expect the Knights to regress against Merrimack… The Warriors are averaging fewer than two goals a game, and have only managed three or more four times (thrice against Atlantic Hockey opponents). Golden Knights defend Cheel, 4-1.

Massachusetts at Cornell
UMass is a bottom-third team in scoring and team defense, and is 3-10-1 on the road. This is Cornell’s only game of the weekend, and Lynah will be rocking as usual. This would be a deflating loss for the Big Red, but not one I’m predicting. 4-2 Red.

Saturday, January 11

Union at Princeton 4:00
Despite the marquee matchup on Friday, I don’t see Union letting down its guard enough to be caught by surprise in the Garden State. 3-1 Dutch.

Boston College at Brown 5:00
Much respect to BC for scheduling this meeting, as Bruno has had a hard time drawing major programs to Providence for a while now. Hopefully Brown and coach Brendan Whittet’s anywhere, anytime mentality has begun earning enough respect among his colleagues that we will see more of these visits from other top teams in the future. That said, BC is the favorite, and Bruno will have all it can handle at Meehan on Saturday. 4-1 Eagles.

Dartmouth vs New Hampshire 5:00 Verizon Wireless Arena; Manchester, N.H.
Dartmouth just beat BU on the road… yet has only three wins on the season. A sign of a turnaround, or simply a dead-cat bounce? (I’ve always loved that phrase.) Until the Green start establishing some kind of offensive or defensive trend, I’ll have a hard time looking past their record… Wildcats, 4-3.

Rensselaer at Quinnipiac 7:00
I’m picking the Bobcats in this one – I’ll give that away up front – but if RPI hopes to finish the season resembling even a shadow of their preseason expectations (yes, I am aware that Jason Kasdorf is a big missing piece), the Engineers have to start winning now. QU, 4-2.

Merrimack at Clarkson 7:00
Why would my predictions change with the day? These teams do not strike me as inhabiting the same plateau… ‘Tech, 3-1.

Vermont at Colgate 7:00
Time to see what the Raiders are made of. Vermont is Colgate’s first opponent since it’s stunning Mariucci Classic championship, and the Catamounts are no walkover. The Cats are 8-1-2 since mid-November, including wins over St. Lawrence (twice) and Clarkson and ties against Yale and Dartmouth. Colgate is 3-7 at home this year, and 1-5 against out-of-conference visitors. Time to put up or shut up. 3-2 Catamounts, tentatively.

Yale vs Harvard 8:00 Madison Square Garden; New York, N.Y.
Bright, Ingalls, MSG or the moon, Yale is the better team than Harvard. The Crimson scored a goalie-assisted (shots were 54-27 Yale) draw in New Haven in the first week of December, and frankly, Harvard’s only impressive win this season (5-7-3) was a 6-3 win over horrendously streaky New Hampshire… in which the Crimson were out-shot 36-21. Bulldogs 4-2.

Raiders revel; Tigers in the Great Northwest; and a Northeast no-decision

Colgate claims Mariucci Classic

It’s old news by now, but it’s nonetheless the weekend’s top headline:

Screen Shot 2014 01 05 at 8.44.21 PM1 300x183 Raiders revel; Tigers in the Great Northwest; and a Northeast no decision

The Raiders tied top-ranked Minnesota – on the Gophers’ home ice – and downed the hosts in the shootout on Friday; the Hamilton upstarts then dispatched of No. 2 Ferris State, 3-0, to take the title on Saturday. The Raiders are now 2-1 this season against former No. 1 FSU and are shaping up as a team to watch out for: The team has already beaten Union once, swept the North Country on the road, and are 5-2-3 away from Starr Rink.

Princeton on the Pacific

Most of us don’t look twice at exhibition contests, but Princeton did something a little different this year. Much as Quinnipiac and Dartmouth traveled to Europe last summer for some preseason action, the Tigers (along with the University of North Dakota) left American soil last week in order to take part in the Great Northwest Showcase in Burnaby, British Columbia. The Tigers took down Simon Fraser 8-1 on Friday, but fell 1-0 to the champion University of British Columbia on Saturday. (North Dakota lost to UBC 3-2, and beat SFU 4-3.)

Exhibition events like this used to be commonplace among all sports at all levels – even major-league baseball teams used to play mid-season exhibition tournaments – but for any number of reasons, they are obviously rare today. Despite the logistical challenges and physical risks, this was an experience that many Princeton and North Dakota players (especially the combined seven from the BC province) will cherish for a long time.

Hockey East-ECAC Hockey decide little

Hockey East (.637) and the Big 10 (.604) have overtaken the ECAC (.560) in interconference winning percentage, but the EC’ got a modicum of respect back last weekend, going 2-1-3 against regional foes from the the breakaway league. Quinnipiac (2-1 winners over Maine) and Harvard (downing Boston University, 7-4) registered ECAC Hockey’s two victories; meanwhile, UMass-Lowell hosted, tied, and beat Clarkson while both Dartmouth and Yale tied Vermont in Burlington.

Elsewhere, Brown took a win and tie in Colorado with a draw at Denver and a win against lowly Colorado College. As much as we laud Colgate for its achievement in the Twin Cities, we must also acknowledge Rensselaer’s twin 6-2 losses to the same Gophers and Bulldogs in that tournament.

There are still 16 more non-conference games on the ECAC’s regular-season docket, including two intra-conference bouts (Yale-Harvard at Madison Square Garden next weeekend, and Union-RPI in the Mayor’s Cup on January 25th).

ECAC Hockey picks: Jan. 3-8

Overall: 35-28-4

The end of this weekend could see a third ECAC team take home a tournament title after the league was shutout in last year’s holiday tournaments. Colgate and Rensselaer are each taking part in the Mariucci Classic, and will look to join Cornell and Quinnipiac with tournament wins.  All games are 7 p.m., unless noted.

Friday, Jan. 3

Ferris State vs. Rensselaer (Mariucci Classic), 5:07 p.m.

The Engineers return from an 18-day layoff to face the hottest team in the country in Ferris State. The Bulldogs enter the opener of the Mariucci Classic on a 15-game unbeaten streak, although their only two losses of the season have come to ECAC teams (St. Lawrence and Colgate).  RPI head coach and former Ferris State goalie Seth Appert and the Engineers opened last season with a win and a tie versus Ferris State in Troy, but the Bulldogs are on some kind of run right now. Ferris State wins

Maine at Quinnipiac

If anyone knows how to take down the Bobcats, its Maine head coach Red Gendron, who was an assistant at Yale last season when the Bulldogs blanked Quinnipiac in the national title game.  This is the third straight ECAC team that Maine will face after beating Princeton and losing to Cornell in a shootout in the Florida College Classic.  The Bobcats were utterly dominant in Monday’s win over Sacred Heart, and are 7-1-2 at home, while the Black Bears have yet to win at non-neutral site on the road. This game will be televised on New England Sports Network. Quinnipiac wins

Dartmouth at Vermont, 7:05 p.m.

The Big Green showed some signs of a defensive turnaround prior to the holiday break, but any progress on the backend evaporated after Dartmouth blew a late 8-4 lead against Northeastern Monday, settling for an 8-8 tie. Vermont doesn’t standout in one particular area, but the Catamounts have been very solid this season and beat Clarkson last weekend. Vermont wins

Clarkson at Massachusetts-Lowell

This is the second of three straight meetings between these teams, with the River Hawks taking game one by a 3-1 score. That setback marked the first time the Golden Knights have had back-to-back losses this season.  If Clarkson is to avoid three straight losses, they’ll have to do so against UMass-Lowell team they haven’t beaten since 1999. UMass-Lowell wins

Colgate at Minnesota, (Mariucci Classic), 8:07 p.m.

Talk about easing back into things. The Raiders start the second half against No. 1 Minnesota, the host of the Mariucci Classic and a team that is 6-0 all-time against Colgate. The Raiders should be in contention for home ice in the ECAC playoffs, but it’s hard to pick against Minnesota here. Minnesota wins

 Brown at Denver, 9:37 p.m.

It’s been just under a month since the Bears last played, but Brown went into the break following a two-game sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth. This is the first game between Denver and Brown since the 1994-95 season. The Pioneers ended the first half with a sweep at RPI, a team that plays a somewhat similar physical style to the Bears.  This game will be televised on DIRECTV Channel 683. Denver wins

Saturday, Jan. 4

Clarkson at Massachusetts-Lowell, 4 p.m.

A loss to the River Hawks would make it four in a row for the Golden Knights, who lost three games during the entire first half. I don’t think that will happen, though. Clarkson wins

Rensselaer vs. Colgate (Mariucci Classic), 5:07 p.m.  

If my predictions from Friday hold, these two New York teams will be meeting in the Midwest in the Mariucci Classic consolation game. I think the Engineers are playing a more complete game right now, which gives them the edge. Rensselaer wins

Boston University at Harvard, 7:30 p.m.

It was almost a year ago that a slumping Crimson team beat the Terriers 6-5 in overtime after trailing in the third period. If Harvard is to beat the Terriers again, I think it will come on the strength of a strong goaltending performance from either Raphael Girard or Steve Michalek.  Harvard wins

Yale at Vermont, 7:05 p.m.

This is the first of five straight games away from Ingalls Rink for the Bulldogs. The return of forwards Anthony Day and Jesse Root from injury is a big lift for Yale, and the Bulldogs should have enough offense and goaltending from Alex Lyon to take down the Catamounts. Yale wins

Brown at Colorado College, 9:07 p.m.

The Bears will face an unfamiliar opponent for the second night in a row, as this is Brown’s first time seeing the Tigers since 1976-77. Colorado College is having a miserable season, so this should be a win for the Bears. Brown wins

Tuesday, Jan. 7

Quinnipiac at Harvard

Like I said above, the Crimson have the goaltending to steal a win. But the Bobcats simply possess the puck too much, resulting in lopsided shot totals most games. Quinnipiac wins

Vermont at St. Lawrence

The Saints ended the first half with a 5-1 loss to the Catamounts on Dec. 14. Once again, St. Lawrence has no problem scoring, but will need to keep its opponents off the board if they want a shot at winning. Vermont wins

Wednesday, Jan. 8

Dartmouth at Boston University

Neither of these teams is exactly lighting it up right now, so I’ll take the home team in this matchup. Boston University wins

Cornell brings home some holiday hardware

 It will go down as a tie on the schedule, but Cornell won its first Florida College Hockey Classic since 2008 thanks to Rodger Craig’s goal in the ninth round of the shootout.

The Big Red played to a 1-1 tie against Maine before heading to the shootout. Cornell appeared to have the title locked up last year, but blew a three-goal lead over the Black Bears in an eventual 6-4 defeat.

That loss started a skid that essentially doomed Cornell’s season; the Big Red won only one of their next ten games before rallying over the final weeks.

Cornell got to this year’s championship by beating New Hampshire 4-2 in the opening night of the tournament.  Senior goalie Andy Iles was named to the all-tournament team after stopping 76-of-79 shots on the weekend.

Iles was joined on the team by Florida native Brian Ferlin, forward Dustin Mowrey, and defenseman Kirill Gotovets.

Elsewhere, Quinnipiac will face Sacred Heart in the championship game of the UConn Hockey Classic after beating Massachusetts in a shootout, while Dartmouth plays Northeastern in the consolation game of the Ledyard Bank Classic in Hanover.

Yale bounces back

The Bulldogs were the only ECAC team to play a non-tournament game this weekend, beating Holy Cross 4-1 in New Haven Saturday night. It was a good start to the second half for Yale, who lost to Dartmouth and tied Harvard on the final weekend before the holiday break.

Yale got several key players back from injuries, with forwards Jesse Root and Anthony Day playing for the first time since November. Both players recorded a point in their returns, with Root picking up an assist on Kenny Agostino’s first-period goal, while Day scored the eventual game winner early in the second.  The Bulldogs are at Vermont this Saturday, and then face Harvard Jan. 11 at Madison Square Garden in the inaugural Rivalry on Ice matchup.

Golden Knights get swept

Clarkson lost only three times over the season’s first two-and-half months. The Golden Knights almost matched that total this weekend, losing to Vermont and Massachusetts-Lowell at the Catamount Cup. Clarkson outshot the Catamounts on Saturday, but only managed 19 shots on goal in Sunday’s 3-1 loss to UMass-Lowell.  There’s certainly no reason to panic – the Golden Knights have two weekends of non-conference games to work out any issues before heading back into league play.


ECAC Hockey picks: Dec. 27-31

It doesn’t seem like there are as many holiday games this year as in years past, but I’m too lazy to look that up, as it’s essentially immaterial to the issue at hand: Predictions! Wee!

As always, exhibition games don’t get picks, because I haven’t the foggiest reckoning about the opposition.

Friday, Dec. 27

Russian Red Stars at Yale 7:00 Exhib

Saturday, Dec. 28

Princeton vs. Maine 4:05 Florida College Classic (Estero, Fla.)
The Tigers are hoping to sneak up on a few foes to open the second half now that some battered bodies are back in playing form. Maine is 9-6-1, having beaten some well-regarded opponents but slipping here and there to, well, Vermont mostly. The Black Bears can score (3.44 goals per game), and Maine’s special teams are considerably better than Princeton’s. Frankly, the biggest question mark isn’t Maine, but rather Princeton: Who will be back, and how will they play? Will this be a whole new team, or are we still a few weeks away from such a judgment? Maine is the safe bet here, 4-2.

Clarkson at Vermont 7:05 Catamount Cup
It should go without saying that every team will be aiming to make a splash as it steps back on the ice following the holiday break, but this will be especially true of these two. Both teams entered the break hot (even though UVM entered on a loss), each side plays six non-conference games before resuming league play, and each has feasted on those non-league opponents (UVM is 4-1-1 outside Hockey East; ‘Tech is 6-1-1 against non-ECAC foes). Special teams should make for interesting viewing, as Clarkson’s strength is its power play (22.1 percent), while UVM’s far better on the kill (90.1) than the advantage (14.5). As they say, something’s gotta give. I’m liking the Knights’ odds here, as the Catamounts are barely average (5-4) at home this year… 3-2 Knights.

New Hampshire vs. Cornell 7:35 Florida College Classic (Estero, Fla.)
Maybe it’s the latitude. Maybe it’s the temperature, the humidity, the plane ride… maybe it’s something in the water… but despite participating year-in and year-out, Cornell just has not been successful in Estero. The Big Red are 6-9-3 in the Florida College Classic in the last decade, having not swept the tournament since 2003-04. (To be fair, Cornell did win the tournament twice since – in 2005 and 2008 – by way of shootouts.) This year, the Red run into perhaps as streaky an opponent as one could find this year, in New Hampshire. The Wildcats are 9-9-1, but their season to date includes – nay, consists of – two wins to start (including an exhibition), six games without a win (0-5-1), six W’s in a row, followed by two losses, two more wins, and two more losses. This is a team that enjoys the ride, it would appear. Who knows which Wildcats we’ll see on Saturday, but suffice to say that by the end of the weekend, Cornell will probably wonder why they keep signing up for this trip. UNH, 4-2.

Sunday, Dec. 29

Holy Cross at Yale 4:00
The Crusaders have only posted consecutive wins once this year, against Sacred Heart and Army. Yes, HC beat Boston College in Boston, but this should be a mismatch by the final buzzer. 5-2 Yale.

Massachusetts vs. Quinnipiac 4:00 UConn Hockey Classic (Hartford, Conn.)
This could be interesting… or not. QU smacked UMass around 6-1 in Hamden a month ago, so this game is all about the potential revenge factor. I’m not sure the Minutemen, at 6-12-2, have it in ‘em. 4-1 Bobcats.

Clarkson vs. Massachusetts-Lowell 4:00 Catamount Cup (Burlington, Vt.)
UML was famously ranked the top team in the nation entering the season, and while it took ‘em a while, it appears the RiverHawks found a groove over the last month before the break. At 10-2-0, there were few squads hotter at the seasonal time-out. The RiverHawks open with Canisius in Burlington before playing three straight games against Clarkson, including two in Massachusetts. This is a big-time opportunity for each team to open 2014 in style, as most eyes around college hockey are aware of the successes enjoyed by each program this year. The difference may be found on special teams, where Clarkson’s penalty kill (78.7 percent) looks suspect; UML’s PP (23.3) could swing the series. 3-2 UML.

Cornell vs. Princeton 4:05/7:35 Florida College Classic (Estero, FL)
Tough to pick Princeton, given how little we know about the current health and well-being of the Tigers. Cornell with the edge, giving the Big Red yet another .500 finish at the Florida College Classic. 4-2 Cornell.

Providence at Dartmouth 7:00 Ledyard Bank Classic
Dartmouth is not as bad as its record, but Providence is conspicuously a step or two ahead of the Big Green. A disappointing tournament for Dartmouth, I’m fearing. 5-2 Friars.

Russian Red Stars at Harvard 7:00 Exhib

Monday, Dec. 30

Air Force at Dartmouth 4:00/7:00 Ledyard Bank Classic
Here is a more manageable opponent for the Big Green, but it will by no means be a walkover. Air Force has been flirting with the rankings for much of the year, especially during a 7-1-1 run spanning October and November. Dartmouth’s power play has been humming at nearly 24 percent, but the Green will likely need more than a fancy PP unit to get by the Falcons. 3-2 Dartmouth in a squeaker.

Quinnipiac vs. Connecticut 4:00/7:15 UConn Hockey Classic (Hartford, Conn.)
QU looking to wrap up a tourney win against whoever the opponent may be; I just figure it will probably be UConn. 5-2 Bobcats.

Tuesday, Dec. 31

Russian Red Stars at Colgate 4:00 Exhib

The “snowball effect” goes both ways

Good news, everyone!

(Anyone who read that with Professor Farnsworth’s voice in mind, well done.) Union finished the week 2-0-1, taking two league points from Dartmouth on Wednesday and all but sweeping No. 1 St. Cloud on the road this weekend. A huge pair of results that are sure to knock the Huskies off their one-week perch and boost Union near the Top 5.

“All-in-all, for the adversity this team faced with the tough stretch of games, the players did a great job and I’m proud of them,” coach Rick Bennett said, as quoted by Ken Schott of the Schenectady Daily Gazette. “It was a good road trip,” he continued. “If you had told the coaching staff before the trip that we would come away with a win and a tie against the top team in the nation we would have been pleased. But we are far from satisfied.”

Union is making a serious run, now unbeaten in 10 games (9-0-1) and 11-1-2 since starting the season 1-2-1. At the top of the ECAC standings through nine games, the Dutchmen have two points and a game in hand on second-place Quinnipiac. Yeah, it’s too early to start calculating “magic numbers” and all that, but it has nonetheless been an impressive 2013 half of the 2013-14 season for the Garnet & White.

Holiday downers

Rensselaer, Colgate and St. Lawrence – on the other hand – had weekends to forget. RPI lost and tied No. 20 Denver in Troy. The Raiders were swept at home by what had been a four-win Massachusetts club (now 6-11-2). The Saints, once looking like a top-10 team, have lost seven of their last nine games… including Saturday’s 5-1 loss at Vermont.

This leaves ECAC Hockey with nine teams entering the holiday break on a down note: Colgate, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, Quinnipiac, RPI (exhibition win over US National Development Team notwithstanding), SLU, and Yale all concluded their pre-Christmas schedule with losses and/or winless skids.

Haggerty, Girard and the rest

Statistical tidings following this game-light weekend:

• RPI’s Ryan Haggerty continues to lead the nation in goals (18) and goals per game (1.06). He is the only player with a goal a game… besides Cornell goalie Mitch Gillam, who has one goal in one game.

• SLU star Greg Carey, meanwhile, leads the country with 36 points and 1.89 points a game. He also has 13 goals, good for a four-way tie for second with Boston College’s Johnny Gaudreau, younger brother and Saints teammate Matt Carey and Quinnipiac freshman Sam Anas.

• Union junior Shayne Gostisbehere is one off the national lead in shots on goal, with 86. Oh yeah, reminder: He’s a defenseman. No other blueliner in the nation even has 60 shots on goal, much less 80; Gostisbehere is also more than a shot-per-game ahead of any other defenseman in the country.

• Harvard senior Raphael Girard leads Division 1 with a .948 save percentage.

• QU’s Michael Garteig leads the country in minutes played – 1,146:53 – but there is just one goalie who has played every non-open-net minute for his team, and that is Holy Cross’ Matt Ginn.

• Clarkson keeper Steve Perry is third nationally with a 1.72 GAA.

• QU (+1.58) and Union (+1.33) are the only league teams to boast goal differentials over +1 goal per game.

• SLU leads D-I with a 29 percent power play. Wow. Cornell (26.9 percent) and Union (25.8) round out the top three.

• QU (90.9 percent) and Harvard (90) boast terrific penalty kills, too.

• Finally, the Bobcats and Dutchmen are 1-2 nationally in shot margin per game. Quinnipiac averages more than 14 shots per game than its opposition; Union, more than nine additional SOG’s.

ECAC Hockey picks: Dec. 13-15

Overall: 34-23-3

Not a ton of games this weekend, as most teams have concluded their schedules for the first semester.

Here’s a look at the final weekend of play prior to the holiday break. All games start at 7 p.m. unless noted.

Friday, Dec. 13

Denver at Rensselaer

There’s plenty of connections between these teams. Denver head coach Jim Montgomery was an assistant at RPI from 2006-10, while  RPI head coach and former Denver assistant Seth Appert got his first win as Engineers’ head coach against the Pioneers on Oct. 20, 2006. That’s the only highlight for RPI in the all-time series between the teams, as the Engineers are 1-11 against Denver, their worst mark against any Division I school. On the ice, it should be a good matchup between RPI’s high-powered offense led by Ryan Haggerty and Brocks Higgs, and Denver’s stingy defense, anchored by senior goalie Sam Brittain (.944 save percentage). Denver might not be lighting up the scoreboard this season, but RPI will need to avoid getting complacent with the lead, something they’ve done at times this season. I’m taking the Pioneers, but a couple goals by Haggerty could easily prove me wrong. Denver wins

Union at St. Cloud State, 8:37 p.m. ET The Dutchmen (eight) and the Huskies (seven) own two of the three longest active unbeaten streaks in the country. Union hasn’t been perfect during that stretch, but it’s hard to argue with the results not only during the streak, but since the end of October. Both teams have gotten it done in different ways: Union bring the scoring punch, while St. Cloud has allowed the fewest goals per-game in the nation. The red-hot Huskies are “only” 3-1-2 at home compared  to 8-0 on the road, but it’s hard to pick against them, even as well at the Dutchmen have played lately. St. Cloud wins

Saturday, Dec. 14

Massachusetts at Colgate, 4 p.m.

The Raiders have had a fairly tough out-of-conference schedule, but have been pretty solid in conference play, despite rotating Charlie Finn, Spencer Finney, and Eric Mihalik in net. Finney and Mihalik have seen most of the playing time lately, with Finney coming on strong recently, but Mihalik having the better overall season. Regardless of who is in net, Colgate shouldn’t have too much trouble with the Minutemen after sweeping them in Amherst last season. UMass has struggled to score and the Minutmen also allow 3.5 goals per game. Colgate’s top two lines should get plenty of chances, but now might be a good time to try and get some production from the rest of the lineup. Colgate wins

Denver at Rensselaer

RPI is 7-1 on Saturdays this season, thanks to 12 goals by Ryan Haggerty. I’m not picking against that trend.  Rensselaer wins

St. Lawrence at Vermont

Two things stand out to me about this game. First, who will win the matchup between the Saints’ top-
ranked power play and the Catamounts’ fifth-ranked penalty kill? Second, can St. Lawrence’s defense hold? The Saints are giving up 3.61 goals per game, while Vermont hasn’t lit it up on the scoreboard, but has been solid defensively. I’ll take the better defense in this matchup. Vermont wins

Union at St. Cloud State, 8:07 p.m. ET

One night after having their unbeaten streak snapped, look for the Dutchmen to return the favor to the Huskies, and head into the break with a win. Union wins

Sunday, Dec. 15

Massachusetts at Colgate, 2 p.m.

I don’t see any reason why the Raiders shouldn’t complete the sweep. Colgate wins

A North Country sweep and a tie at the top

Clarkson has piled up the wins over the first half thanks to a stingy defense. But this weekend, the Golden Knights showed they could win shootouts too, sweeping rival St. Lawrence by scores of 5-4 and 4-3.

The Saints led in both games, but Clarkson scored three unanswered goals over a six-minute span Friday, while the Golden Knights erased a 3-2 first-period deficit Saturday at a sold-out Appleton Arena. Friday’s game at Cheel Arena featured the third-largest crowd ever in Clarkson history.

With the two wins, Clarkson is now on a 7-0-1 run against St. Lawrence. The Golden Knights are also third in the ECAC with a 6-2 record, although they have two games in hand over first-place Quinnipiac. Clarkson is off for the holidays, resuming the second half against Vermont in the Catamount Cup on Dec. 28.

A winless weekend for the Bobcats; Dutchmen on fire:  It’s been a while since Quinnipiac has a weekend with a zero in the win column. That’s what happens when you rattle off unbeaten streaks of 21-and-13 games over the last calendar year.

But the Bobcats came home from the Capital Region with only one point, thanks to a 3-3 tie at Rensselaer Friday, and a 6-4 loss at Union Saturday.  The last time Quinnipiac didn’t get at least one win in a two-game weekend was Nov. 18-19, 2011, when the Bobcats lost at Colgate and Cornell.

The six goals allowed Saturday at Union were the most Quinnipiac has given up since a 6-3 loss against Harvard on Feb. 3, 2012.

Meanwhile, the Dutchmen extended their winning streak to seven games. Union is 9-1 over its last ten games, and is tied for first place with the Bobcats, with two games in hand.

The Dutchmen face Dartmouth Wednesday night before heading to St. Cloud State for two games this weekend.  The Huskies are on a seven-game unbeaten streak of their own, and were ranked No. 2 in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll entering the weekend.

Individual highlights abound:  Teammate Ryan Haggerty may lead the nation in goals, but RPI forward Brock Higgs is having quite a season of his own so far. The senior has a career-best 11 goals in 16 games this season, including this highlight-reel score against Princeton Saturday.

Quinnipiac goalie Michael Garteig became the second league goalie is under two weeks to score a goal.  While not as noteworthy as Cornell goalie Mitch Gilliam’s empty-netter Nov. 26, it’s still an unusual feat. Garteig was given the goal after review of the game film from Saturday’s matchup with Union. Dutchmen defender Shayne Gostisbehere tipped the puck into his own net, and it was determined that Garteig was the last Bobcat player to touch it.

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