"Games in hand."
It’s a phrase you hear all the time when it comes to standings the race for a title. It’s something that you have heard since November about the ECAC.
"So and so has the lead in the ECAC, but right behind them is a team with ‘X’ number of games in hand."
You won’t hear it after this weekend.
That’s because after this weekend all 12 ECAC teams will have played 12 ECAC games. A dozen played for everyone, a ten-spot left for everyone. And in order for us to get there, we get games that involve travel partners and an Empire State showdown between four of the six New York teams.
The standings are tight, and this weekend in Central New York could tell a lot.
Last week’s predictions: 7-3 Year to date: 74-58, .561, 3rd
Clarkson (11-5-2, 7-2-1 ECAC, 2nd) and St. Lawrence (4-13-1, 3-6-1 ECAC, T-10th) at Cornell (9-6-2, 5-4-1 ECAC, T-6th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Lynah Rink, Ithaca, N.Y. St. Lawrence (4-13-1, 3-6-1 ECAC, T-10th) and Clarkson (11-5-2, 7-2-1 ECAC, 2nd) at Colgate (13-6-1, 7-3-0 ECAC, 3rd) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Starr Rink, Hamilton, N.Y.
St. Lawrence is 1-8 in its last nine games, but of those eight losses, five were decided by a single goal and three went into the third period in a scoreless deadlock. Saturday evening was another of those, as the Saints lost 1-0 to Clarkson on a goal with two minutes left in the game.
"The most frustrating part of the whole thing is that we have played well enough to have won a number of those one-goal games," said Saint head coach Joe Marsh. "Saturday night was no exception. The guys worked hard from the opening faceoff and had chances to make some things happen, but couldn’t get one past the goaltender.
"It is disappointing and maddening to come so close, yet come up empty, but I am in no way disappointed with the effort we’re putting in," he added. "We just need to catch a bounce or two and we can get something going. If we keep working the way we are working, we can make a run. There is a lot of hockey left to be played."
As mentioned above, Clarkson defeated the Saints on a last-minute goal by Erik Cole, who earned Rookie of the Week honors for the second consecutive week.
Cole is second in the league in freshman scoring, with four goals and six assists. His 12 total points (4-8) put him in sixth place among rookies in overall scoring.
Chris Clark and Matt Reid have seven goals each within the league. Clark has 13 points in league play (7-6) and Reid 10 (7-3).
On another front, there was a big to-do in Potsdam recently about the goaltending situation of the Knights. But after Saturday’s game, All-American Dan Murphy’s GAA is 1.98 in league play, his save percentage .920 and his record 4-2-1.
Cornell traveled to Michigan to take on Western Michigan and Ferris State. After shutting out the Broncos, the Big Red dropped a 5-3 decision to the Bulldogs.
Special-teams play is an area where the Big Red would like to improve. The Cornell power play is ranked eleventh in the ECAC with a 12.3 conversion percentage, scoring nine times in 59 attempts. Meanwhile, the penalty kill is at 82.1 percent, somewhat better at seventh in the league.
Goaltending is no mystery in Ithaca, where Jason Elliott is the stalwart — he maintains a 2.30 GAA in the league, and a save percentage of .925. Overall, Elliott is at .931 and 2.36.
Colgate had a week off after dropping an overtime game to Cornell the previous Monday evening. Not only did the Red Raiders lose to Cornell, they also lost goaltender Dan Brenzavich with a game disqualification.
Brenzavich, the all-time victory leader at Colgate, continued to add to that mark with a win over Cornell two weeks ago. Brenzavich is leading the league in overall winning percentage (.767, 11-3-1), second in league games (.750, 6-2-0).
He is also fifth in GAA (2.49) and fourth in save percentage (.920).
The Red Raiders have done it with offense as well, leading the league with an average of 4.50 goals per game. Part of that is thanks to the power play, where Colgate is clicking at 16.9 percent.
That success is helped by Jed Whitchurch, who leads the league in assists with 18. Surprisingly, he hasn’t managed a goal in league play yet, though he stands third in ECAC in scoring.
PICKS: Clarkson at Cornell: The hotter of the two teams prevails. Clarkson, 4-2 St. Lawrence at Colgate: An upset. St. Lawrence, 3-2 St. Lawrence at Cornell: Not two nights in a row for either team. Cornell, 3-1 Clarkson at Colgate: Two points for each team this weekend. Colgate, 4-3
Princeton (10-4-4, 4-4-3 ECAC, T-6th) at Yale (14-4-0, 9-2-0 ECAC, 1st) Saturday, 3 pm, Ingalls Rink, New Haven, Conn.
Princeton is back from a three-week exam break, and the team is itching to go. The last time out the Tigers lost at Vermont after defeating Dartmouth.
One of the differences in the Tigers’ play had been the margin between their scoring offense and scoring defense. The Tigers currently put an average of 3.18 goals on the board per ECAC game while giving up an average of 3.45 goals per ECAC game.
One group doing some contributing is the "Orange Line" consisting of Jeff Halpern, Scott Bertoli and Casson Masters. Halpern has put up points in 10 straight games, with an average of one goal and one assist per.
Yale is still on top of the ECAC after a three-week hiatus from league play, but the Bulldogs’ lead has shrunk. Yale defeated Army this past weekend to tune up for the rest of the ECAC season.
Jeff Hamilton and Ray Giroux continue to lead the Bulldog attack. Hamilton is third in the league in scoring with 18 points (9-9), while Giroux is thirteenth at 1-11–12. Giroux leads all defensemen in the ECAC in scoring, and also leads the league in overall power play points (1-13–14).
Alex Westlund still has a GAA under 2.00 — he currently sits a 1.90, tied with Eric Heffler of St. Lawrence for the ECAC lead. He is also saving shots at a .934 clip.
PICK: The Tigers make it tighter at the top of the pack. Princeton, 3-2
Dartmouth (7-8-3, 3-7-1 ECAC, T-11th) at Vermont (6-13-2, 3-6-2 ECAC, 9th) Saturday, 3 pm, Gutterson Fieldhouse, Burlington, Vt.
Both Dartmouth and Vermont lost to Denver this past weekend, 3-2 and 5-3, respectively. Dartmouth defeated UMass-Lowell in overtime on Tuesday in the grand opening of the Tsongas Arena in Lowell.
Vermont was tied with Denver 3-3 early in the third period with goals by Justin Martin, Phillippe Choiniere and Stephane Piche. Dartmouth was tied at two with Denver after two periods of play on goals by Scott Peach and Ryan Chaytors.
For the season, both the Big Green and the Catamounts are on the wrong side of the scoring summary by the same per-game figure — one goal. The Big Green are allowing a nice, even four goals per ECAC game while scoring three. The Cats give 3.45 goals per ECAC game while scoring 2.45.
PICK: Small offense, small defense — which one prevails? Dartmouth, 5-4
Big Red Freakout! Union (4-15-2, 2-8-1 ECAC, 12th) at Rensselaer (11-8-2, 5-4-2 ECAC, 5th) Saturday, 7 pm, Houston Fieldhouse, Troy, N.Y.
After a week off, the Capital District Rivalry between Union and Rensselaer is back on. Two weeks ago, the Engineers humbled the Dutchmen, 7-2, in a game in which the Engineers scored five power-play goals, and got two goals apiece from Doug Shepherd and Matt Garver.
Garver has been hot for the Engineers. The junior has scored 27 points this season (13-14) and is second in the league with nine goals in league play.
On his line is All-American Eric Healey, on a six-game point scoring streak with three goals and 10 assists in those six games. Healey has claimed the league lead in scoring with 22 league points (7-15) and 32 overall (12-20). He also leads the ECAC in power-play points (4-7–11), and is second in assists with 15 and sixth in goals with seven.
The Dutchmen are on the other end of the boat when it comes to offense in the ECAC: last in offense with 19 goals in 11 ECAC games — an average of just 1.73.
There are more offensive woes for Union as well on the power play — in those 11 league games, the Dutchmen have scored four power-play goals on 64 chances — a 6.2 percent conversion rate. Special teams as a whole are a sore subject for the Dutchmen, who are at minus-10 overall in specialty play.
PICK: Twice in three weeks for the Engineers. Rensselaer, 5-3
Mayor’s Cup Brown (4-12-1, 4-7-1 ECAC, 8th) at Providence (12-9-2, 6-7-1 Hockey East, 7th) Saturday, 8 pm, Schneider Arena, Providence, R.I.
Brown is finishing its non-conference schedule with the annual Mayor’s Cup matchup with Providence. Thus far, the Bears have yet to win a non-conference game — 0-5-0 out of the ECAC.
Last weekend’s game against New Hampshire, postponed because of a power outage, will not be made up.
In the Mayor’s Cup game, the Bears have won the last two, by scores of 3-2 in 1995 and 8-5 in 1996. This will be edition number 12 in the series; before the last two years, the Friars had gone 7-1-1.
Damian Prescott has come alive as of late for the Bears with ten points in his last six games, scoring five and adding five helpers. He is positioned in fifth place in league scoring with 16 points (10-6), and has 19 points overall.
PICK: The Friars take the Cup back. Providence, 5-2
46th Beanpot Harvard (6-9-2, 6-5-1 ECAC, 4th) vs. Boston College (15-7-3, 9-5-2 Hockey East, T-1st) Monday, 6 pm, Fleet Center, Boston, Mass.
These two teams meet for the third time this season, somewhat of an anomaly when you consider that they’re not in the same conference. Harvard and Boston College have already gone at it in the regular season (an 4-3 OT win for the Eagles) and in the consolation game of the Banc One Badger Showdown (a 6-6 tie).
In seven Beanpots, head coach Ronn Tomassoni is 4-10-0, winning one title in 1993. Besides those two wins, the Crimson’s only others under Tomassoni came in 1992, a first-round win over Boston College, 6-4, and in 1994, a first-round win over Boston University, 4-2.
In seven tournaments, Tomassoni’s Crimson squads have finished first once, second twice and fourth four times.
Right now, the Crimson are looking to break a string of three consecutive fourth-place finishes, something that has only happened once before in Crimson history (1982-84).
Harvard comes into the Beanpot after taking three weeks off for exams hoping for a non-conference win, where the Crimson are 0-4-1 this season, including losses to each of the other three Beanpot participants already.
(For information on Boston College, please see the Hockey East preview.)
PICK: BC remains undefeated against Harvard this season. Boston College, 5-2
There are five weeks left in the ECAC season, and the Road to Lake Placid is in full swing.
Friday, February 6: Vermont at Clarkson Dartmouth at St. Lawrence Colgate at Princeton Cornell at Yale Union at Harvard Rensselaer at Brown
Saturday, February 7: Vermont at St. Lawrence Dartmouth at Clarkson Colgate at Yale Cornell at Princeton Union at Brown Rensselaer at Harvard
Monday, February 9: Harvard vs. Boston University/Northeastern (Beanpot)