This Week in the ECAC: March 6, 1998

I didn’t hear a fat lady sing, did you?

What was once the largest lead of any first-place team in the nation is now the smallest. Clarkson picked up four points this past weekend and Yale just one, narrowing the battle for the ECAC regular-season title between the two to just one slim point.

Taking a look further down the standings, four points separate fourth from tenth place. After another mind-boggling weekend in the ECAC, does anybody have any energy left?

Let’s run down the facts once again:

Clarkson or Yale will finish first and earn the automatic NCAA bid, and the other will finish second. Those two, along with Rensselaer, have clinched home ice for the quarterfinals. Those three, along with Colgate, Brown, Cornell and Princeton, have clinched playoff spots. Union has been eliminated from the playoffs. Eight of 12 teams still don’t know where — or in some cases, if — they’ll be playing in the first round. I’m still in amazement at the possibilities that exist for the final standings.

Take a look for yourselves: ECAC Standings

Last week’s predictions: 3-9 Year to date: 97-93, .511, 4th

Just when you think you have it all figured out…

Cornell (13-12-2, 9-10-1 ECAC, T-6th) and Colgate (15-11-4, 9-8-3 ECAC, T-4th) at St. Lawrence (7-19-2, 6-12-2 ECAC, 11th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Appleton Arena, Canton, N.Y. Colgate (15-11-4, 9-8-3 ECAC, T-4th) and Cornell (13-12-2, 9-10-1 ECAC, T-6th) at Clarkson (18-7-3, 14-4-2 ECAC, 2nd) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 4 pm, Cheel Arena, Potsdam, N.Y. Earlier this Season: Jan. 30: Cornell 2, Clarkson 1; Colgate 4, St. Lawrence 1 Jan. 31: St. Lawrence 4, Cornell 3; Colgate 3, Clarkson 3

St. Lawrence is teetering on the edge of elimination. The Saints don’t have many chances left to make the postseason dance.

"We have to look at it as being in the playoffs right now," said Saint head coach Joe Marsh. "If we can win two and other results fall the right way, we keep playing. Otherwise, we can put the gear away."

The Saints did take two points this past weekend with an overtime win over Harvard, but lost the next night against Brown while the team they were trying to track down, Vermont, got three points.

"The effort and intensity at Harvard was a real positive for us, but we lost discipline in the second period at Brown on Saturday, and it really hurt us," said Marsh.

Will we be writing about the Saints next week? It’s wait-and-see.

Clarkson has the ECAC Player of the Week in Chris Clark and just a one-point deficit in the race for the regular-season crown. Not bad for a team that started last weekend four points out.

There really isn’t much more that you can say. The Knights are hot, they’re one point behind, and this week they’re rooting for Union and/or Rensselaer while trying to take care of their own business, which is winning — something they have done in 14 of their last 18 league games.

Colgate came away with one point last weekend after a loss to Union and a tie against Rensselaer, but remained in fourth place.

"We’re taking our rewards in little bits and pieces now, because it’s been tough for us in recent games," said head coach Don Vaughan. "We’re going to take this and take the positives out of it and build on it, and realize we’re still in fourth place, head into next weekend and see what we can do."

"You look back at the beginning of the year and you think it’s going to mean a lot, and it’s obviously going to," he added about this weekend’s games. "We’ve just got to go up there and worry about our game."

Cornell dropped to a tie for sixth place after getting swept by Rensselaer and Union this past weekend. Ian Burt took over for the injured Jason Elliott in goal, but was by no means the cause for the losses.

"Ian played great," said head coach Mike Schafer in the Ithaca Journal after Friday’s loss to Rensselaer. "The problem was the guys in front of him who took some undisciplined penalties.

"We took a bunch of undisciplined penalties in the third period (Friday night)," he added. "If you’re going to keep giving them that many power plays they’re going to capitalize, and that’s just what [Rensselaer] did."

The Big Red are two points out of home ice, and need a little help to give the Lynah faithful a home quarterfinal series.

PICKS: Cornell at St. Lawrence: Picks this week I won’t try… Colgate at Clarkson: And let me tell you why… Colgate at St. Lawrence: If you stick that needle in my eye… Cornell at Clarkson: Or even if you make me cry

Yale (20-6-1, 15-4-1 ECAC, 1st) and Princeton (13-8-6, 7-8-5 ECAC, T-6th) at Union (6-21-3, 4-14-2 ECAC, 12th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Achilles Rink, Schenectady, N.Y. Princeton (13-8-6, 7-8-5 ECAC, T-6th) and Yale (20-6-1, 15-4-1 ECAC, 1st) at Rensselaer (16-10-4, 10-6-4 ECAC, 3rd) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Houston Fieldhouse, Troy, N.Y. Earlier this Season: Jan. 2: Yale 4, Rensselaer 2; Princeton 3, Union 1 Jan. 3: Yale 5, Union 4; Princeton 2, Rensselaer 2

After earning only one point this past weekend, Yale’s lead over Clarkson is now just one point. Definitely not what the Bulldogs wanted, but it did nonetheless after a tie to Dartmouth and a loss to Vermont.

"We don’t want to look too far ahead," said head coach Tim Taylor last week. "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."

That destiny is still in the Bulldogs’ hands, but they are looking behind now with much more attention.

Princeton came out of last weekend with three points, drawing the Tigers into a sixth-place tie with the Big Red of Cornell. The Tigers tied Vermont and defeated Dartmouth.

The Tigers are getting healthier, and just in time.

"Hopefully we can get some bodies back," said head coach Don Cahoon. "And we can learn from the losses we’ve had."

Rensselaer’s three-point weekend earned the Engineers home ice for the quarterfinals. The victory over Cornell and the tie against Colgate sets the magic number at two points for the Engineers to clinch the all-important third seed for the tournament.

For three straight games, the Engineers came back from a deficit in the third period to tie the game or better. Against Dartmouth and Cornell, the Engineers won, and against Colgate it ended in a tie.

"We had two good periods this weekend, and we came away with three points, but I tell you we can’t keep going on like that because it’s living on the edge," said head coach Dan Fridgen about the weekend and his new Kardiac Kids. "With playoff hockey around the corner, sooner or later it’s going to catch up with us."

Union is finished by virtue of a Vermont tie on Friday evening, but that didn’t prevent the Dutchmen from playing the role of spoiler — a role that a lot of teams hope they take again this weekend. The Dutchmen defeated Colgate and Cornell this past weekend, ruining the Red Raiders’ chance at home ice, and helping Cornell toward the same fate.

Trevor Koenig shut out both teams, 6-0 and 1-0, respectively. That effort earned him ECAC Goaltender of the Week honors.

"It was a bit anti-climatic because we didn’t make the playoffs," Koenig told Ken Schott of the Schenectady Gazette. "But I’m proud of the work effort these guys gave. Knowing that we are out of the playoffs, we could have come in and played the rest of the season out. Instead, we seemed even more relaxed. We left everything out on the table."

PICKS: Yale at Union: I’m going to wimp out… Princeton at Rensselaer: You must hate me, no doubt… Princeton at Union: But before you scream and shout… Yale at Rensselaer: You’ll see what this is all about

Brown (11-14-1, 10-9-1 ECAC, T-4th) and Harvard (9-16-2, 8-11-1 ECAC, T-8th) at Dartmouth (11-11-5, 7-10-3 ECAC, T-8th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7:30 pm, Thompson Arena, Hanover, N.H. Harvard (9-16-2, 8-11-1 ECAC, T-8th) and Brown (11-14-1, 10-9-1 ECAC, T-4th) at Vermont (10-17-3, 7-10-3 ECAC, T-8th) Friday – Saturday, 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Gutterson Fieldhouse, Burlington, Vt. Earlier this Season: Jan. 2: Vermont 4, Brown 2; Harvard 4, Dartmouth 3 Jan. 3: Vermont 4, Harvard 3; Brown 6, Dartmouth 5, OT

Someone answer this question — where did Brown come from, all of a sudden?

With three points, the Bears can clinch home ice in the ECAC first round. Not bad for a team picked to finish 12th in the preseason coaches’ poll.

Damian Prescott and Scott Stirling are heading the charge. Stirling has taken the number-one goaltending job and has gone 7-2-0 in his last nine games, allowing only 17 goals in that span. Prescott has scored 26 points (15-11–26) in his last 13 games.

High times in Providence once again.

Harvard was once sitting in third place in the ECAC, and looking to solidify that position. The Crimson suddenly find themselves in a tie for eighth, and possibly out of the playoffs after losses to St. Lawrence and Clarkson this past weekend.

"It was just a bad, bad weekend. We played poorly," Harvard coach Ronn Tomassoni told USCHO’s Becky Blaeser. "I hope these guys are angry at themselves because that’s the way it should be.

"We’re in a real battle here for the playoffs now," Tomassoni added. "These guys have to decide right here which team is going to show up next weekend."

Just two points this weekend will clinch a playoff spot for the Crimson.

When you talk about Dartmouth and Vermont, see the above. The same applies to the Big Green and the Catamounts — two points, and they’re in.

The Cats got there by taking three points this past weekend, making it seven points in the last two weekends to move up into a tie for eighth place. In those four games, the Cats have scored 18 goals — half of what they scored in their previous sixteen ECAC games.

As for the Big Green, there was only one point last weekend, a tie with Yale. The Big Green have played strong hockey in their last four games, but only have three points to show for it.

"We’re all in this together, but we’ll find a way," said head coach Bob Gaudet. "We’ll prepare all week and we’ll prepare to play hard. Hopefully we’ll get the bounces that we need. I really want these guys to have positive results."

PICKS: Brown at Dartmouth: No matter how much you whine… Harvard at Vermont: And curse this pen of mine… Brown at Vermont: Remember last week, I lost nine… Harvard at Dartmouth: And I want to stay above the .500 line

Next Week — The Party Begins!