This Week in the ECAC: February 27, 1998

So what’s the deal here?

I have no idea, and all the loyal readers will agree with me when I say so.

Can you figure this out? I know that I can’t.

How about some facts to begin with:

Yale, Clarkson, and Rensselaer have clinched ECAC playoff berths. Yale has clinched home ice for the quarterfinals. Five points separate third place from ninth place in the standings. Clarkson needs two points to clinch home ice for the quarterfinals. Union is on the brink of being eliminated from playoff contention. I have no idea what to expect this weekend

Take a look at this mess: ECAC Standings

Last week’s predictions: 7-5 Year to date: 94-84, .528, 4th (I think Hendrickson, Weston and Tappa cheat)

I predict that a monkey can do better. But then again, when I predict something, it definitely isn’t a sure thing.

Clarkson (16-7-3, 12-4-2 ECAC, 2nd) and St. Lawrence (6-18-2, 5-11-2 ECAC, 11th) at Brown (10-13-1, 9-8-1 ECAC, T-5th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Meehan Auditorium, Providence, R.I. St. Lawrence (6-18-2, 5-11-2 ECAC, 11th) and Clarkson (16-7-3, 12-4-2 ECAC, 2nd) at Harvard (9-14-2, 8-9-1 ECAC, 7th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7pm, Bright Hockey Center, Cambridge, Mass. Previous Meetings: Dec. 5: Brown 2, St. Lawrence 1; Clarkson 4, Harvard 1 Dec. 6: Harvard 3, St. Lawrence 1; Clarkson 3, Brown 2

St. Lawrence got one point this weekend with a tie against Princeton, but a loss to Yale put the Saints back into the 11th spot in the standings and, currently, out of the playoffs.

"It isn’t going to be easy," said Saint head coach Joe Marsh about making the playoffs. "We worked hard to get back into it on Friday night and gained a point in the tie with Princeton, but we were flat against Yale and never really got it going. You can’t do that if you are playing a team as good as Yale, and you can’t do it if you want to seriously challenge for a playoff spot."

If there is any consolation to the weekend, it is the one point that the Saints gained after coming back to force the overtime.

"We didn’t have a great first period, but we were able to battle back in the second and third," said Marsh. "Princeton was dangerous in the overtime, but the way things have gone for us this season, it was good to be able to hang in there and get a point out of it."

Clarkson is back on a tear. After a weekend sweep by the Golden Knights over Yale and Princeton, the good news for Clarkson fans is that the Knights’ hopes for the ECAC regular-season title are alive. The better news is that the Knights are just two points away from earning home ice in the quarterfinals, and three points from the all-important — clinching third place, which keeps the Knights out of the play-in game under the ECAC’s new playoff format.

Erik Cole is making his bid for ECAC Rookie of the Year. In his last six games, Cole has scored nine points (3-6) to move into the ECAC lead in rookie scoring. His linemate, captain Chris Clark, is also on a tear — a seven-game point streak with four goals and six assists.

One of the biggest stories in the ECAC has to be senior Chris Bernard, who after sitting on the bench for his first three seasons is now the toast of Potsdam. He remained undefeated by gaining both victories this past weekend, running his record to 9-0-1 — and all this after seeing only 12:33 of playing time in three seasons.

Brown is also on a tear. The Bears are now 8-2-1 in their last eleven games, with the only losses to Yale and Northeastern. The Bears are 7-1-1 in their last nine ECAC games, moving into a tie for fifth place — the last home-ice playoff spot.

Leading the way is the ECAC Player of the Week for the second time, Damian Prescott. Prescott is putting up some large numbers lately, as he leads the league in goals scored (16) and has 12 points in his last eight league games. Overall, Prescott has become the first Bear to score 20 goals in consecutive seasons since Bob McIntosh did it in 1976 and 1977.

The Bears have also got some great goaltending from Scott Stirling, who is 6-1-0 in his last seven games, and has allowed just 12 goals in those games.

Harvard gained a split on the weekend, but the result was that the Crimson dropped one spot in the standings, going from a tie for sixth to seventh place all alone. The win on Friday did break a four-game losing streak for the Crimson.

"We were on a bit of a skid lately, dropping the last four games, so this one was definitely a must-win for us," said head coach Ronn Tomassoni after Friday’s win over Colgate. "We played a smart hockey game. Colgate’s strength is [its] forwards, and you can’t them give too many uneven rushes. And we did a good job at making the game boring. We just didn’t allow many rushes up the ice."

In the major news department, goaltender Mike Ginal closed out the game for the Crimson. Ginal became the first player with a prosthetic limb (his leg) to play in a Division I contest. he did not make a save in the game, but that does not belittle his feat, and we here at U.S. College Hockey Online can’t help but smile at his accomplishment.

Making their bids for the ECAC All-Rookie team are Steve Moore and Chris Bala. The two have five goals and six assists in their last six games, and are two and four in the league in freshman scoring: Moore (5-12–17) is second, and Bala (5-10–15) is fourth.

PICKS: Clarkson at Brown: The Golden Knights break Brown’s streak. Clarkson 4, Brown 2 St. Lawrence at Harvard: The Crimson make a bid for the top half. Harvard 4, St. Lawrence 3 St. Lawrence at Brown: Brown gets back on track. Brown 5, St. Lawrence 3 Clarkson at Harvard: The Knights’ bid to catch Yale continues. Clarkson 6, Harvard 2

Union (4-21-3, 2-14-2 ECAC, 12th) and Rensselaer (15-10-3, 9-6-3 ECAC, 3rd) at Colgate (15-10-3, 9-7-2 ECAC, 4th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Starr Rink, Hamilton, N.Y. Rensselaer (15-10-3, 9-6-3 ECAC, 3rd) and Union (4-21-3, 2-14-2 ECAC, 12th) at Cornell (13-10-2, 9-8-1 ECAC, T-5th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Lynah Rink, Ithaca, N.Y. Previous Meetings Dec. 5: Colgate 4, Rensselaer 2; Union 4, Cornell 1 Dec. 6: Colgate 3, Union 0; Rensselaer 7, Cornell 5

One more lost point and Union is home for the season after next weekend. The Dutchmen are eight points out of a playoff spot, and with only four games remaining, the Dutchmen need some serious planets to align in order for the playoffs to become a reality.

"We still have four more games left," said Dutchmen captain Ryan Campbell to the Schenectady Gazette`s Ken Schott. "We’re going to play every one of them as hard as we can, and as hard as we’ve tried to play all year. I don’t think we’re going to give up just because people don’t think we have a chance."

There is no doubt that the Dutchmen will go out and play those four games with all the heart and determination that was evident all year long, but the playoff future still looks bleak.

Even though Rensselaer split a pair of games this weekend, the Engineers moved into third place in the ECAC after an overtime win over Dartmouth that followed a blitzing by Vermont.

"They showed real good character…capitalizing on their opportunities," said head coach Dan Fridgen on Saturday’s game. "I was certainly happy with the effort.

"There aren’t many weekends left, and you can’t go 0 for 2," he added. "We salvaged a split, and now we’re sitting along in third place. Even though it’s by a point we just have to maintain it and not play mediocre."

The Engineers also have the top three scorers in the ECAC in Eric Healey (12-19–31), Matt Garver (13-17–30) and Alain St. Hilaire (7-22–29). Those three form the top line for the Engineers, and have a combined 90 points in league play and 113 overall.

Cornell played two last weekend, and once again, the Big Red split two games. The Big Red lost to Brown and defeated Harvard, but the biggest story that came out of Cambridge on Saturday evening was an injury to All-Everything Goaltender Jason Elliott.

Elliott went down in the second period, apparently with a knee injury. He underwent arthroscopic surgery after the game, and is most likely out for this weekend’s games.

"It’s a tough time of year to have it happen," Elliott told the Cornell Daily Sun. "It shouldn’t be a [long-term] problem. We’re playing it by ear. It’s not as bad as we thought."

His status is day-to-day, but most likely it will be freshman Ian Burt in nets for the Big Red this coming weekend.

Other injuries are also a factor. Ryan Smart will probably continue to sit due to a broken hand, though David Hovey is looking like he will be in the lineup.

Colgate was riding in second place in the ECAC a few weeks ago, but have now dropped to fourth. But the Red Raiders are only one point out of the coveted third spot in the standings.

The Red Raiders, who lost a pair of games last weekend, are now 1-4-1 in their last six league games, in which they have only scored nine goals. The Red Raiders were averaging 4.33 goals per league game before that stretch, but now stand at 3.39, dropping from first in the league to sixth.

The team’s leading scorer, Jed Whitchurch, has just one goal and one assist in those six games, dropping from fourth in the league in scoring to eighth.

PICKS: Union at Colgate: Union gets officially eliminated. Colgate 4, Union 1 Rensselaer at Cornell: Cornell wins, with or without Elliott. Cornell 4, Rensselaer 2 Rensselaer at Colgate: The Engineers bounce back. Rensselaer 6, Colgate 5 Union at Cornell: Cornell continues on. Cornell 2, Union 1

Dartmouth (11-10-4, 7-9-2 ECAC, T-8th) and Vermont (9-17-2, 6-10-2 ECAC, 10th) at Yale (20-5-0, 15-3-0 ECAC, 1st) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm (NESN), Ingalls Rink, New Haven, Conn. Vermont (9-17-2, 6-10-2 ECAC, 10th) and Dartmouth (11-10-4, 7-9-2 ECAC, T-8th) at Princeton (12-8-5, 6-8-4 ECAC, T-8th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 5 pm, Hobey Baker Rink, Princeton, N.J. Previous Meetings: Jan. 9: Princeton 6, Dartmouth 4 Jan. 10: Yale 4, Vermont 2 Jan. 11: Dartmouth 4, Yale 3; Vermont 6, Princeton 3

Last weekend, Vermont swept a weekend series for the first time since the first week of 1998, when the Catamounts topped Brown and Harvard. This past weekend’s sweep of Rensselaer and Union was the Cats’ first at home this season, and only their second and third win at the Cathouse.

"That was the first time all year that we’ve really shot the puck with any authority, and we got to the net more than we did in the past," said Vermont head coach Mike Gilligan after his Cats pounced on Rensselaer Friday evening. "We haven’t seen that at all this year. We were very uncomfortable with a lead like that, but the guys came through.

"We were set back a bit at the beginning but after that we started to play a little hockey and [goaltender Andrew Allen] made some great saves to get us going," added Gilligan. "That’s the first time I’ve seen the puck bounce for [our team]. They’ve worked real hard and they’ve put out some pretty solid efforts and it’s nice to see the puck go their way."

Dartmouth destroyed Union 8-1 on Friday and played an outstanding game, but were tied with 40 seconds to go against Rensselaer, and eventually lost in overtime.

"I thought we outworked them, we outshot them, and we had them on the mat and we didn’t finish them," said Big Green head coach Bob Gaudet after Saturday’s loss. "It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it doesn’t change the fact that for a break here or there we come out on top," he added. "Do we learn a lesson from it? Of course we do."

The Big Green have definitely turned it around, as they have only lost two games in their last eight.

"As far as understanding the game, as far as generating offense, as far as hanging in there and scoring big goals, we’ve done it," said Gaudet. "I really like the team; they’ve played so hard and they’ve worked so hard, they want so much to have success, they want so much to be a playoff team and roll the dice at that point in time."

Princeton is also suffering from the same things that Cornell is — weekends with just one or two points, and the injury bug.

Last weekend, the Tigers got one point against St. Lawrence and lost to Clarkson in the latter half of the third period, and dropped into a tie for eighth place in the ECAC.

"We’ve looked strong at certain times, and we’ve look inconsistent at certain time," said head coach Don Cahoon. "I hate to make excuses, but this weekend with our lack of depth, we played a patchwork team.

"But I was pleased at the effort that the skeleton crew put out there," he added.

The injury bug is flying in New Jersey. Casson Masters, Matt Brush, Michael Acosta, Darren Yopyk, Jackson Hegland and Ethan Doyle can be counted in the M*A*S*H unit.

"Again, no excuses here," said Cahoon. "Hopefully we can get on the mend this weekend."

Yale is close, oh so very close, to clinching the ECAC title and the accompanying automatic NCAA tournament bid.

"We don’t want to look too far ahead," said head coach Tim Taylor. "But we realize what we have to do and our destiny is in our own hands. We don’t have to wait for help from anybody else."

What they have to do is put five points between themselves and Clarkson, and the Bulldogs are in the tournament.

"It would be a nice accomplishment," said Taylor. "We’ve had some nice accomplishments along the way. The Ivy Title, home ice in the playoffs, and the 20-win season, though that was not a specific goal at the beginning of the season.

"We’re looking at the last four games as another mini-season," he added. "We’ve stayed relatively injury-free, and when we haven’t our depth has really come through."

PICKS: Dartmouth at Yale: The Bulldogs move closer to an automatic bid. Yale 4, Dartmouth 3 Vermont at Princeton: Vermont makes a logjam at the bottom too. Vermont 4, Princeton 3 Vermont at Yale: The Bulldogs clinch a tie for the regular-season title. Yale 6, Vermont 3 Dartmouth at Princeton: The winner gets eighth place. How about both? Dartmouth 4, Princeton 4

One weekend left and the jockeying continues. Let’s see who stays home, who goes on the road and who gets sent home.

The Last Weekend: Friday, March 6: Colgate at Clarkson Cornell at St. Lawrence Brown at Dartmouth Harvard at Vermont Yale at Union Princeton at Rensselaer

Saturday, March 7: Colgate at St. Lawrence Cornell at Clarkson Brown at Vermont Harvard at Dartmouth Yale at Rensselaer Princeton at Union