Eight ECAC teams gayest under heav’n, One went to sleep and then there were seven; Seven ECAC teams cutting up their tricks, One broke its neck and then there were six.
Six ECAC teams kickin’ all alive, One kick’d the bucket and then there were five; Five ECAC teams on an Olympic floor, One tumbled out and then there were four.
Four ECAC teams up on a spree, One got fuddled and then there were three; Three ECAC teams out in a canoe, One tumbled overboard and then there were two.
Two ECAC teams foolin’ with a gun, One shot t’other and then there was one; One ECAC team standin’ alone, Headed off to the NCAA sun.
— Adapted from Septimus Winner, 1868
The time is now, as the Road to Placid officially begins at five campus sites this coming weekend.
Let’s dispense with all the talking and head straight to the facts.
No. 10 St. Lawrence (9-19-2, 8-12-2 ECAC, T-9th) at No. 1 Yale (22-6-1, 17-4-1 ECAC, 1st) Fri – Sat – Sun (if necessary), 7:30 pm-7 pm-7 pm, Ingalls Rink, New Haven, Conn. Earlier This Season: Nov. 8 : @Yale 3, St. Lawrence 0 Feb. 21: Yale 7, @St. Lawrence 3 Last Playoff Meeting: 1989 ECAC Quarterfinals — St. Lawrence 2-1, 9-2
Yale swept the season series from St. Lawrence, but the Saints swept their season-ending series to make the playoffs with a 3-2 overtime victory over Cornell and a 5-3 win over Colgate.
The Bulldogs captured their first-ever ECAC regular-season title and first NCAA tournament bid since 1952 with a sweep of Union (4-2) and Rensselaer (3-1).
Forwards The Bulldogs are led by Jeff Hamilton up front in the scoring department. Hamilton ended the season second overall in scoring with 43 points (25-18–43), and tied for second in league scoring with 32 points (19-13–32). Hamilton also led the goals-scored category in the league, and tied for the most power-play goals (eight). Not only that, but he led the league in game-winning goals with eight, getting the eighth against Rensselaer on Saturday evening.
Matt Cumming is also one of the spearheads as the left wing on Hamilton’s line, putting up 20 points in league play (5-15). Jeff Brow, usually on Hamilton’s right, has 25 points overall this season (13-12). Add 11 goals from defensemen Ray Giroux and Daryl Jones, and the Yale offense has averaged 3.73 goals per league game.
All-American candidate Paul DiFrancesco leads the Saint attack up front. DiFran, as he is known, has gotten extremely hot over the last eight games of the season, putting up 17 points (5-12). That includes five points the last weekend as the Saints pushed into the playoffs.
After DiFran, the scoring gets a little thin for the Saints. Bob Prier and Mark McGrath have 13 goals each, leading the team. John Poapst has moved up from his defense position to play a solid wing, scoring 21 points (8-13).
EDGE — Yale
Justin and Jake Harney lead the Saints from the blue line. The Saints are a young bunch, with three sophomores (the Harneys and Dale Clarke) and two freshmen (Matt Desrosiers and Alan Fyfe) starting most games. Their best defenseman, Poapst, moved into a forward role earlier in the season.
The Bulldogs depend on Mr. All-Everything, Ray Giroux. Giroux is the ninth leading scorer in the ECAC (4-22–26), leads all defensemen in scoring and leads the league overall in power play points (2-19–21). He is almost a certainty to be a first-team All-American, and could possibly be a Hobey Baker finalist.
Add Daryl Jones (4-16–20) to the blue line as Giroux’s partner, and then add James Chyz, Francois Magnant and Keith Fitzpatrick, and the Bulldogs are perhaps the best defensive bunch in the nation.
EDGE — Yale
Goaltending Alex Westlund is having the best season of his life. He has a GAA of 1.99 in the league and a GAA of 2.24 overall. Add that to a league save percentage of .929 and 17 league wins and you may be looking at the winner of the Dryden Award.
It’s funny how no one prefaces Eric Heffler’s name with "walk-on" anymore. That’s because Heffler has a save percentage of .917 and a GAA of 2.82. While he has won only eight games this season, he has given the Saints a chance, resulting in two wins this past weekend and a Goaltender of the Week honor.
EDGE — Even
Intangibles The Saints are last overall in penalty killing, only killing 75.6 percent of the opportunities they have given up. On the power play, the Saints are clicking at 18.5 percent, good for fourth overall. The Saints are also used to playing on the road, having played only its 11 ECAC games at home this season.
The Bulldogs are ranked first overall in both scoring defense (2.17 goals per game) and scoring offense (3.76). They are also first overall on the power play at 21.5 percent, and second overall killing penalties at 84.8.
THE PICK Look for Heffler to keep the Saints in it — for a while. From there, the Bulldogs take over because of a more consistent offense. The games may be closer than you think, but when all is said and done it will be Yale in two games, 4-2 and 3-1
No. 9 Vermont (10-18-4, 7-11-4 ECAC, T-9th) at No. 2 Clarkson (20-7-3, 16-4-2 ECAC, 2nd) Fri – Sat – Sun (if necessary), 7:30 pm-7 pm-7 pm, Cheel Arena, Potsdam, NY Earlier This Season Jan. 17: Clarkson 5, @Vermont 4 Feb. 6: @Clarkson 5, Vermont 2 Last Playoff Meeting: 1996 ECAC Consolation — Vermont 3-1
Clarkson closed the ECAC season with a great run to come within one point of the regular-season title. The Golden Knights won seven straight to end the season, and almost made up a six-point deficit in the standings to Yale.
Vermont took one point this past weekend, but it was enough to secure a playoff position. The tie against Brown earned the Catamounts the ninth seed in the playoffs.
Forwards The Knights have scored 32 goals in those seven wins, and the men leading the way are Chris Clark(left) (17-19–36), Erik Cole (10-17–27), Buddy Wallace(right) (10-10–20), Phillippe Roy (8-14–22), Dana Mulvihill (10-12–22) and Ben Maidment (7-19–26).
Clark has stepped it up quite a bit, putting 11 points up in his last eight games, and Cole is pushing for the Rookie of the Year honors. Cole has also put up 11 points in those eight games. The two are on a line centered by Chris Aishford.
The Catamounts, on the other hand, do not have many prolific scorers, but have balanced out the scoring among the forwards. Leading the way is Stephane Piche, who, with 11 goals and 11 assists, leads the team in points and goals scored. B.J. Kilbourne (7-13–20) also adds strength up front, along with freshman Gerry Gernander (9-8–17). Adding to the balance are Jason Hamilton (5-11–16), Eric Lundin (9-6–15) and Justin Martin (7-8–15).
EDGE — Clarkson
Defense Clarkson boasts one of the strongest defenses in the league, led by Nick Windsor. Windsor scored an overtime goal to life Clarkson over Cornell in the season finale. The defense is also bolstered by a number of young, gifted individuals such as Willie Mitchell, the league’s fifth-leading scorer from the blue line with 17 points (4-13) — and only a freshman. Kent Huskins (2-8–10) is another strong rookie back there.
Inexperience is the key word for the Catamount defense. The most experienced defenseman, Simon Tremblay, left the Cats after playing 12 games, and that left Jason Reid as the senior defenseman, though he had only played parts of the last two seasons. But picking up are a pair of Swedish freshmen, Andreas Moborg (5-15–20) and Martin Wilde (1-16–17). The two have anchored the blue line and helped provide some stability in that position.
EDGE — Clarkson
Goaltending After James Tierney started the season as the leading candidate to replace All-American Tim Thomas, freshman Andrew Allen has taken over as the number-one goaltender for the Cats. Part of his chance was that Tierney was injured, but once in there, he made waves, boasting a 3.32 GAA and an .895 save percentage in 25 games played. Allen is a large part of the success that the Cats have enjoyed over the last three weekends.
So, is it Dan Murphy or Chris Bernard in goal for the Knights this weekend? The seniors have similar numbers — GAA: Murphy 2.30 and Bernard 2.27. Save percentage: Murphy .903 and Bernard .901. Where is the difference? Perhaps the records. Murphy is 10-7-2 while Bernard is 10-0-1 and undefeated in his career. Most recently, Bernard came on in relief for Murphy against Cornell and picked up his eighth conference win.
EDGE — Clarkson
Intangibles No one, and I mean no one, has ever defeated Clarkson at Cheel Arena in the playoffs since the building opened in 1991. The Knights are a perfect 11-0-0 at home in the playoffs.
The Knights also boast the league’s best penalty-killing unit. They kill 89.1 percent of all penalties, but are only ninth on the power play with a 14 percent success rate.
The Cats have gone 3-1-2 in their last six games, and have scored a total of 25 goals in those six games, compared to 37 for the first 16 league games.
THE PICK: The Cats have gotten on track offensively, but cooled off last weekend, while the Knights have not slowed since the holiday break. All categories above favor Clarkson in two games: 5-2 and 6-3
No. 8 Cornell (13-14-2, 9-12-1 ECAC, 8th) at No. 3 Rensselaer (17-11-4, 11-7-4 ECAC, 3rd) Fri – Sat – Sun (if necessary), 7:30 pm-7 pm-7 pm, Houston Fieldhouse, Troy, NY Earlier This Season Dec. 6: @Rensselaer 7, Cornell 5 Feb. 27: Rensselaer 4, @Cornell 3 Last Playoff Meeting: 1997 ECAC Semifinal — Cornell 5, Rensselaer 3
The preseason favorites to win the ECAC title, Rensselaer got off to a slow start, compiling a 3-3-0 league record before the holiday break. Since then the Engineers have gone 8-4-4 in the ECAC, moved into third place three weeks ago and stayed there, clinching the three-seed with a 4-2 win over Princeton on Friday.
The Big Red of Cornell started out the ECAC season on fire with a 4-0-0 record. Since then, the Red have limped to a 5-12-1 ECAC finish, including losses in six of their last seven league games. Injuries have taken a toll on the Big Red this season.
The Engineers have the most prolific offense in ECAC league play, one that produced three of the top four scorers in the league, and four of the top nine. Eric Healey is the ECAC’s leading scorer, both within the league and overall. Within the league, Healey had 37 points (15-22) and in all games he scored 47 (20-27). He has a point in 15 of his last 17 games, and 18 of his last 21. Healey led the league in power-play goals and power-play points, and was third in goals and second in assists.
Finishing tied for second in the league was Alain St. Hilaire. St. Hilaire missed six games due to an injury, but finished with 32 league points (7-25), and 37 overall (9-28). He led the league in assists during the season, while Matt Garver finished fourth with 14 goals and 17 assists for 31 points (18-21-39 overall). Mark Murphy tied for ninth in the league with 26 points (6-20), and Steve Caley finished tied for eighth in assists with 17.
The Big Red have had trouble scoring goals this season — 55 in the league, third to last in the league and second to last overall. Led up front by Doug Stienstra (12-12–24), Kyle Knopp (5-18–23) and Ryan Moynihan (12-10–22), the Big Red were hit hard by injuries. Vinnie Auger was forced to retire from hockey after chronic back injuries and Ryan Smart and David Hovey were also injured for parts of the season.
Going into this weekend, Smart returned to action, as did Hovey, but Darren Tymchyshyn (4-9–13) sat out the last game of the season. The Big Red look to be healthy up front, and should dress the full complement of 12 forwards this weekend.
EDGE — Rensselaer
Defense The Big Red felt the loss of the Wilsons (Steve and Chad) all season, and were very young on defense all season long. Jason Dailey was the only senior of the group, and he racked up 13 points (2-11) as one of the captains of the Big Red. Junior Jeff Burgoyne (4-12–16) is a solid two way defenseman, and is a legitimate All-ECAC selection. Rick Sacchetti did not score a point, but returned from injury to be one of the top three defensemen on the team.
Larry Pierce, Dan Powell and Brian Telesmanic saw plenty of action as freshmen, and sophomore David Adler came on strong at the end of the season.
The Engineers have an experienced defense, led by captain Pat Brownlee, but the player who has stepped up on defense for the Engineers has been Bryan Tapper, who was injured for the three weeks prior to the final weekend of the season, but looked to be in midseason form. Tapper (4-10–14) has put up some numbers this season, and became a force from the blue line offensively.
Chris Aldous is the other senior on the blue line, and with Brian Pothier and George Murray backing up the unit, the Engineer defense has the experience of playoff hockey.
EDGE — Even
Goaltending The Big Red suffered a major blow three weeks ago when Jason Elliott went down with a torn meniscus in his right knee. That kept him out of action the last two weekends, and while he is back skating in practice, he is not expected to play this weekend.
That leaves freshman Ian Burt as the starting goaltender. In the four games that he has started in the last two weeks, Burt has not won, and has an .878 save percentage and a 3.91 GAA.
The Engineers still employ the platoon system with their goaltenders, using Scott Prekaski and Joel Laing. Prekaski has had the better win-loss record this season (9-4-2 vs. 8-7-2), but their numbers are similar. The GAAs are 3.01 vs. 3.06, and .904 vs. .908 save percentages, both in favor of Laing.
Last year against Union in the quarterfinals, head coach Dan Fridgen started Laing for both games because he was hot at the time. Will the same happen this time?
EDGE — Rensselaer
The Engineers have the top-ranked power play in the league, scoring at a 24.8 percent clip with the man advantage. They have scored on 30 of their last 100 attempts.
The third seed in the ECAC playoffs have gone down in the quarterfinals for three consecutive years. Last year Princeton defeated Vermont, the year before Harvard defeated St. Lawrence, and the year before Rensselaer defeated Harvard on its way to the ECAC Championship.
The last time a third seed won? 1994, when Rensselaer defeated Union in three games.
THE PICK: With the Big Red returning to full strength, this matchup should be the most exciting of the quarterfinals. A tough defensive series featuring the winners of the last three ECAC Championships should provide some great entertainment. This one goes to Sunday, where Rensselaer wins 5-2 to advance after winning game one 4-2, and losing game two, 4-3.
No. 7 Princeton (13-9-7, 7-9-6 ECAC, 7th) at No. 4 Brown (12-14-2, 11-9-2 ECAC, 4th) Fri – Sat – Sun (if necessary), 7:30 pm-7 pm-7 pm, Meehan Auditorium, Providence, RI Earlier This Season Dec. 15: Princeton 6, @Brown 5 (OT) Feb. 14: Brown 4, @Princeton 1 Last Playoff Meeting: 1996 ECAC Preliminary Round — Brown 4, Princeton 3
Princeton picked up one point this past weekend to finish in seventh place, tying against Union after holding a one-goal lead. A win would have given the Tigers fifth place and a home-ice berth.
Brown finished the season with a three-point weekend, clinching fourth place. The team was picked to finish 12th by the league coaches, meaning that rookie head coach Roger Grillo put them eight places ahead of their predicted finish.
Forwards The Bears are led by the explosive Damian Prescott, who tied for fifth in league scoring with 30 points (18-12). Overall, Prescott has 36 points (22-14), and in his last 15 games, he has put up 16 goals and 11 assists.
The next two scorers for the Bears are John DiRenzo (6-13–19) and Brent Hoiness (10-8–18). The rise of the Bears seemed to coincide with the addition of Mike Bent to the Bear lineup. Since returning for the Mariucci Classic at holiday time, Bent has scored six goals and added nine assists.
Jeff Halpern led the Tigers in scoring with 42 points (21-21), good for third overall in the league, while his 27 ECAC points (14-13) tied him for seventh in the standings. Linemate Scott Bertoli put up 32 points (8-24), 11th overall.
The third member of the "Orange Line", Casson Masters, scored 21 points (10-11), but missed three games late in the season with an injured knee. Benoit Morin (9-11–20) took Masters’ place in those three games, and continued to skate with Halpern and Bertoli the last weekend of the season.
EDGE — Princeton
Defense With the absence of Dominique Auger, the Tigers were looking for someone to step up and fill his shoes. The Tigers got that someone in the form of junior Steve Shirreffs, who has 28 points (7-21–28), second behind Ray Giroux.
The Tigers are still missing Michael Acosta due to injury, and they hope that he will be back this weekend. Other blue line mates, Brad Meredith, Jackson Hegland, Chris Barber and Darren Yopyk, will fill the void, bringing the tough defense that the Tigers are known for.
The Bears have Jimmy Andersson on the blue line for a little offense. He has three goals and eleven assists. The Bears are steady on defense, and it shows in the forms of Bob Quinnell, D.J. Harding, Ryan Longfield and Mike Pratt.
EDGE — Princeton
Goaltending Since taking over the number one goaltending position in the middle of January, Scott Stirling has been on fire. He had been splitting time with Jeff Holowaty, but after taking over the starting job, he has gone 8-2-1 in his last 11 games, allowing only 20 goals in that period of time. Before the season began, Stirling had yet to win a game, yet wound up with a .933 league save percentage — the best in the league. He placed second in the league with a 2.05 goals-against average.
The Tigers have handed the goaltending reigns to Erasmo Saltarelli. Raz has a 7-8-6 ECAC record, a .886 save percentage, and a 3.20 goals-against average. He will be expected to take the load going into the playoffs.
EDGE — Brown
Princeton has not won two games in a weekend since the opening weekend of the season, when the Tigers swept Nebraska-Omaha on the road. The Tigers have won two games in a row just twice, and three games in a row just once this season.
The Tigers finished with an sub-.500 record after their exam break for the sixth straight year. This year they went 3-5-3 since taking the break.
The Bears have outscored their opponents 50-21 in their last 11 games, more than matching their goal output for the first 17 games and cutting their goals allowed by more than 66 percent. The goals given up dropped from 4.41 goals per game, last in the ECAC, to 3.43 goals per game, seventh in the league.
The Bears also average the fewest penalty minutes in the ECAC, with only 12.3 minutes per game.
THE PICK: These two teams are no strangers in the playoffs in recent years, with the highlight being a double-overtime third game three seasons ago that sent the Tigers to Lake Placid for the first time. This season the teams continue to be close, though the Bears have an advantage in that the Tigers haven’t won two games in a weekend since October. But in the ECAC playoffs Princeton doesn’t have to. 4-4, and then Princeton, 5-3.
No. 6 Colgate (15-13-4, 9-10-3 ECAC, T-5th) at No. 5 Harvard (11-16-2, 10-11-1 ECAC, T-5th) Fri – Sat – Sun (if necessary), 7:30 pm-7 pm-7 pm, Bright Hockey Center, Cambridge, Mass. Earlier This Season Nov. 8: Harvard 6, @Colgate 5 (OT) Feb. 20: @Harvard 6, Colgate 1 Last Playoff Meeting: 1986 ECAC Quarterfinals — Harvard, 2-0 and 6-4
Harvard swept its last weekend with wins over Vermont and Harvard to secure home ice in the quarterfinals. Harvard jumped out to huge leads both nights and never looked back.
Colgate was swept last weekend, dropping the Red Raiders from fourth in the standings to sixth, and putting them on the road for the quarterfinals.
Forwards The Crimson are led by two freshmen, Steve Moore and Chris Bala. Moore has been named the ECAC Rookie of the Week three times, while Bala has been honored twice. Moore has 29 points (7-22) and Bala 28 (15-13).
Once you get past Moore and Bala, you find upperclassmen Henry Higdon (13-10–23), Rob Millar (6-16–22), Harry Schwefel (5-6–11) and Trevor Allman (5-3–8) bringing up the scoring. On the other hand, Craig Adams was injured early in the season and has not returned to the ice.
The Red Raiders went from the highest scoring team in the league to the eighth-highest in a matter of weeks. The Red Raiders are led by Jed Whitchurch, with six goals and 28 assists for 34 points. Trailing him are Andy McDonald (12-18–30) and Dru Burgess (23-6–29). Tim Loftsgard (9-16–25), Rob Mara (12-9–21) and Dan Wildfong (5-15–20) follow closely on the scoring charts.
The biggest story for the Red Raider forwards has been the lack of scoring — they have just 11 goals in the last six games, seven coming in two of those games, which means that the Red Raiders have a measly four goals in the other four games. Ouch.
EDGE — Even
Defense How many goals have the Red Raiders given up in those six games? Just 33. What!? An average of 5.50 goals per game given up over the last six games? No wonder the Red Raiders are 0-5-1.
The Red Raider defense is young, with one senior and three freshmen playing regularly. Cory Murphy led the defense in scoring with 24 points (7-17–24), finishing fourth in the league in defensemen and freshman scoring (5-13–18). Beyond Murphy there isn’t much offensive production from the blue line for the Red Raiders: Mark Holdridge scored 10 points (2-8–10), and Ryan Faubert nine (6-3).
The Crimson are led by their captain, Jeremiah McCarthy, on the blue line. He had 14 points this season (7-7) after missing some games due to injury and was outscored by fellow blueliner Ben Storey (6-14–20). Graham Morrell, Tim Stay, Geordie Hyland and Mark Moore round out the defense for the Crimson.
EDGE — Harvard
The Crimson lost last year’s ECAC Rookie of the Year, J.R. Prestifilippo, for a while after the holidays to mononucleosis, but since his return he has helped the Crimson to home ice. Prestifilippo and Oliver Jonas have been splitting time as of late, with both getting a victory this past weekend.
The Red Raiders will rely on their all-time wins leader in net, Dan Brenzavich. He broke the mark earlier on the season, but has not posted a win in his last six games, and the game of musical goaltenders between Brenzavich and backup Shep Harder has picked up over the last few weeks.
EDGE — Even
Intangibles The Red Raiders started the ECAC with a 7-3-0 mark good for second place, and have gone 2-7-3 since, including just one win in the last 10 ECAC games. In those 10 games, the Raiders have put up just 17 goals.
The Crimson allowed the most goals (78) in league play this year. The last two periods have been the toughest for the Crimson, who allowed 30 goals in the second period, and 29 in the third.
THE PICK: Can the Red Raiders score against the team that has allowed the most goals in league play? They didn’t do it much the last time they played in Cambridge, only tallying once. But there will be some offense in this series, so it’s just a matter of who scored the most. So go with the only team with a distinguishable edge: Harvard in three games, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5
Next week, it’s Lake Placid.
Here’s a quick look at my picks for the ECAC’s postseason awards.
Rookie of the Year Four frontrunners have emerged in Chris Bala (Harvard), Steve Moore (Harvard), Erik Cole (Clarkson) and Cory Murphy (Colgate).
Colgate’s late-season slide hurts Murphy, and Bala and Moore are so close that it’s hard to pick one, so the choice here is Cole.
Defensive Defenseman of the Year This award should go, hands down, to Ray Giroux of Yale. There is no other.
Defensive Forward of the Year I really like Syl Apps of Princeton and Alain St. Hilaire of Rensselaer, but I think the award goes to Buddy Wallace of Clarkson.
Dryden Award In a league of goaltenders, a lot of them stood out this year. Jason Elliott (Cornell), Eric Heffler (St. Lawrence), Alex Westlund (Yale), Dan Murphy and Chris Bernard of Clarkson and Scott Stirling (Brown) all are legitimate contenders for this award, but it goes to Westlund, who finished first, first and second in the big statistical categories (wins, GAA and save percentage).
Coach of the Year Roger Grillo led Brown to a finish eight points higher than the predicted finish for the Bears in his freshmen campaign, but Tim Taylor went one place better, moving his Bulldogs to their first ECAC regular-season title and NCAA tournament bid since 1952. The pick is Taylor.
Player of the Year There are two candidates who are above the others in this category this year, unlike in past years. Eric Healey of Rensselaer led the league in scoring and finished near the top in a lot of offensive categories. Ray Giroux of Yale proved that he is an imposing force both offensively and defensively by being near the top of the league in scoring and in minutes played.
The pick here is Healey, for outdistancing the competition for the scoring title when he was expected to do so.