Winners And Losers
This past weekend in the ECAC saw all 12 teams in action twice with league games. Who came out on top? Who were the winners and who were the losers?
Cornell — The biggest winner of them all. A four-point weekend, a defeat of Harvard in The Game, and a five-point lead in the ECAC for the Cleary Cup with eight games left.
Colgate — The Raiders are in the last home-ice spot. Who would have thought that six weeks ago, or even three weeks ago? A four-point weekend has the Raiders flying high.
Clarkson — The Knights staged an incredible comeback on Friday at Yale, and Saturday head coach Mark Morris got his 300th career victory. And the Knights are in second place.
Dartmouth — The Big Green got three points on the weekend and are tied for second place, though percentage-wise in third. They got a strong weekend and are poised to take home ice.
Rensselaer — The Engineers got three points and jumped into the last playoff spot in the ECAC, out of seventh place by one point. A big weekend for the Engineers to gain confidence.
Harvard — The Crimson had a chance to move back into first place, but were dominated by Cornell. The next day? More of the same, by Colgate. Then a Beanpot loss in the semifinals once again. Not a good weekend for the Crimson.
Yale — Ouch. A big lead on Friday against Clarkson and the Bulldogs lose, followed by a loss to St. Lawrence, both on home ice. The Bulldogs were in fifth place, but are now ninth.
Brown — The Bears upset Lowell, but then got swept on the road at Cornell and Colgate. The team with the biggest nonconference wins this season is currently out of the playoffs.
Vermont — The Catamounts sink deeper into last place after getting swept this weekend.
We Made Out Okay
Union — Union had a four-point weekend in its grasp, but let a two-goal lead slip away in a matter of moments at Dartmouth on Saturday. Had the Dutchmen won, they would be in the last home ice spot, closing in on Dartmouth for positioning.
St. Lawrence — The Saints split on the weekend, and will take the two points. The tiebreakers have the Saints in seventh place.
Princeton — The Tigers had a shot at four points as well, but couldn’t take out Clarkson on Saturday night.
Back From The Dead
At one point the Colgate Raiders were 3-11-0, 2-4-0 in the ECAC. They had been outscored 67-30 and there didn’t seem to be much hope.
Since then the Raiders have gone 7-2-1, including 5-2-1 in league play, and stand in fifth place — the last home-ice spot in the ECAC playoff tier.
“We’ve played a little bit better recently and more success from a point production standpoint,” said head coach Don Vaughan. “It’s been fun, I guess, for a lack of a better way of putting it.”
The turnaround started in December, but really didn’t come to fruition until January, Vaughan explains.
“I look back and we had a long trip back from Princeton and Yale in December. We sat down that night as soon as we got back and we talked about goal-setting, and trying to find some way to help us focus a little bit, to give the team some hope that the season wasn’t lost at that point.
“What I talked about — especially with a young team — what I wanted them to understand is that this league is so unpredictable. We’ve had a little bit of success, but there’s still a long way to go. And I wanted them to understand that a lot could still happen here and I mapped out for them what I felt it was going to take for us to take a run at a playoff spot.
“We looked at our schedule, we put it up and we looked at the games, the games we had left at home, the games we felt we needed to get after to have a chance to make the playoffs and after we did that, the guys felt that this was something we could get after.
“This was important — to go home for break and realize that the second half of the season was still ahead of us, and that there were a lot of opportunities still there for us to make something of the season. The attitude coming back was positive but until you have a taste of that success, you can’t manufacture that.”
The Raiders then dropped a game to Lowell at home before hitting the road to take on Iona. That, according to Vaughan, was the turning point.
“The win at Iona was very big for us,” he said. “We went on the road after we lost to Lowell on that Friday and they took it to us pretty good. We weren’t in the greatest of places at that point; we went down to Iona, and we tied it up late and won it in overtime. The fact that we had success, the guys could feel good about that.
“We started to grow and we’ve since had consistent goaltending from David Cann. He’s allowed us to stay in games. In the North Country, both St. Lawrence and Clarkson took it to us in the second and he allowed us to come out in the third and get something out of those games. The other factor has to be that our young guys are coming of age. They’ve been thrown into this and they’ve gotten a lot of opportunities to play. There’s nothing better than game experience.
“They’re getting a lot of support from guys like Ben Bryce, Rob Brown and Etienne Morin. Those guys have done a nice job from a leadership standpoint. They’ve had a lot of ice time for us and that’s allowed some of the younger guys to pull back a little bit.”
Since the game against the River Hawks, the Raiders have only lost two, both to ECAC-leading Cornell. Aside from those defeats, Colgate has put together a 7-0-1 record, with a 5-0-1 ECAC mark.
In that stretch, the Raiders have outscored their opponents 30-16, by no accident. Vaughan and his staff changed some things up and that has succeeded.
“When you’re not scoring like we were, there was a tendency to press and when you press you expose yourself and we were giving up a lot of scoring opportunities because we were trying to score,” he said. “We were giving up odd-man opportunities, breakaways and all of the sort, we had to make a decision as a staff and as a team that we weren’t going to be able to play that way anymore. We had to be patient and take the opportunities that came along and the team bought into that.”
There are eight games left in the ECAC season. The Raiders only have to face three teams above them in the standings, so home ice is in reach for the Raiders.
“In this league anything is possible, but realistically we were trying to find a way to make a run at a playoff spot,” said Vaughan. “When we sat down in December I can honestly tell you we weren’t talking about a home playoff spot.”
The turnaround has almost appeared miraculous, but Vaughan also knows that things can change in a hurry, especially in the ECAC.
“We’re still a little guarded,” he said. “We’ve had a nice little turnaround here lately, but we’re still not out of the woods. There’s a lot of hockey still in front of us. This thing is still up for grabs.
“Focus is the key. There’s such a fine line that if you let your guard down for one shift in this league, that could be the difference — especially with a young team like we have. It’s an effort that stay focused like that for the next four weeks. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it really is and that will be the challenge.
“The mood around here has obviously changed recently and that’s fun.”
Widening The Gap
The Cornell Big Red swept Harvard and Brown last weekend and in the process opened up a five-point lead in the race for the Cleary Cup.
“[Harvard] was a big game and there was big hype leading up to it,” said head coach Mike Schafer. “The guys felt the pressure a little bit, but moreso the guys wanted revenge for what happened in Cambridge. We came out and played very determined for 60 minutes.
“The way we came out on Saturday and the way we played in the first period, I was proud of them. We didn’t give them anything offensively and that’s the way I wanted to see the team respond on Saturday.”
The Big Red will host Yale and Princeton this week.
“Both these teams will come in and try to play well defensively and take the crowd out of it,” said Schafer. “It will be important for us to come out and focused on the game in hand, so we’re looking forward to playing them. Princeton has had some good wins and it’s never easy against these teams and we expect a big battle from both of these teams coming in.”
“Our guys feel that we owe something to Yale for the game down there. It was a 1-1 tie, but we treated it as a loss from our standpoint.”
With Clarkson’s 3-1 win over Princeton on Saturday evening, head coach Mark Morris joined an elite club with 300 coaching victories.
“I guess the number means I’ve been around for a long time,” said Morris. “I have been real fortunate to be involved with Clarkson and surrounded by a lot of supportive people, who have been a great help. Without good players it is hard to get the type of recognition that comes with that number. I am pleased to be associated with the Clarkson program and hope that we can continue our success.”
From the first win against St. Cloud in 1988 to the Princeton win, Morris has built one of the best programs in the country. Congratulations, Mark!
Near The Top
Dartmouth almost had a one-point weekend, but a three-goal third period on Saturday propelled the Big Green to a 3-2 victory over Union and moved them into a tie for third place.
“In the second period, we were just scratching our heads because their goalie was playing well and we couldn’t find a way to score,” head coach Bob Gaudet said after the game. “Then, it was just the thought of playing one good shift at a time and not worrying about being down in the game. And then when the goals came, it was bang-bang-bang.”
Kent Gillings scored twice and freshman Lee Stempniak got his first game-winner and now the Big Green will travel to Brown for their only game the next week.
“The one game next weekend is really huge for us,” Gillings said. “We have a lot of guys banged up — a few small injuries here and there. So it’s going to be really big for us to get some time off and just concentrate on Brown. They’ve been getting some good wins against top teams, so it’s going to take our best effort to beat them.”
Back In The Hunt
Rensselaer took three points this weekend and jumped into the last playoff spot, within striking distance of the upper echelon of the ECAC. The tie against Dartmouth and win over Vermont had head coach Dan Fridgen happy.
“I thought we were pretty resilient all weekend,” he said. “We bent, but we didn’t break. I thought it was a real team effort and a gutsy win for us.
“It was something that we needed, to come out of this weekend with three out of four points.”
The points were important as the Engineers host St. Lawrence on Friday and then Clarkson in the Big Red Freakout on Saturday.
Well, at the beginning of the year, we challenged you, the fans, to pick the ECAC. If you remember, here were the picks:
Challenge Range Becky and Jayson
1. Clarkson (8) 1- 4 1. Cornell
2. Harvard (14) 1- 7 2. Dartmouth
3. Cornell (6) 1- 6 3. Harvard
4. Dartmouth (4) 1- 6 4. Clarkson
5. St. Lawrence 2- 7 5. St. Lawrence
6. Rensselaer 2-10 6. Vermont
7. Vermont 5-10 7. Rensselaer
8. Union 8-11 8. Union
9. Colgate 7-12 9. Colgate
10. Yale 6-12 10. Yale
11. Princeton 7-12 11. Princeton
12. Brown 9-12 12. Brown
So how are we doing? Giving one point for every place each team is away from the predictions, the fewest points is the leader. So who is it?
Let’s take the standings — percentage-wise.
7. St. Lawrence
We’ll apply the appropriate tiebreakers, as the ECAC does for the playoffs.
The Harvard-Dartmouth tiebreaker goes to Harvard: the Crimson are 1-0-1 against the Big Green.
The Yale-Princeton-St. Lawrence tiebreaker goes to the next tiebreaker, record versus Top 5. With this tiebreaker, Yale is eliminated, having gone 1-4-1, while Princeton and St. Lawrence are 2-4-0. This places Yale ninth.
Now to break the next tie, this goes all the way to record versus Top 10, since the remaining two teams split the season series and are both 2-4-0 against the Top 5. In record vs. Top 10, both teams are tied at 4-6-0, so we move to head-to-head goal differential. In the two games, St. Lawrence outscored Princeton 7-6, so St. Lawrence wins the tiebreaker.
So the standings, for our purposes:
7. St. Lawrence
Let’s do our comparisons with the points in parentheses.
1. Cornell — Fans (2) / Becky and Jayson (0)
2. Clarkson — Fans (1) / Becky and Jayson (2)
3. Harvard — Fans (1) / Becky and Jayson (0)
4. Dartmouth — Fans (0) / Becky and Jayson (2)
5. Colgate — Fans (4) / Becky and Jayson (4)
6. Union — Fans (2) / Becky and Jayson (2)
7. St. Lawrence — Fans (2) / Becky and Jayson (2)
8. Princeton — Fans (3) / Becky and Jayson (3)
9. Yale — Fans (1) / Becky and Jayson (1)
10. Rensselaer — Fans (4) / Becky and Jayson (3)
11. Brown — Fans (1) / Becky and Jayson (1)
12. Vermont — Fans (5) / Becky and Jayson (6)
Guess what? We’re even once again this week at 26 points each. Not bad, but let’s see where we go from here.
If It’s So Easy, You Try It
The Iron Columnists are humbled, without a doubt. The Iron Columnists were massacred last week, an amazing week by Mike Johnson.
The competition thus far:
Vic Brzozowksi t. The Iron Columnists — 7-2-1
The Iron Columnists d. Vic Brzozowksi — 8-3-1 to 7-4-1
Ben Flickinger d. The Iron Columnists — 11-4-2 to 10-5-2
The Iron Columnists d. Ben Flickinger — 5-1-4 to 4-2-4
John Beaber and Lisa McGill t. The Iron Columnists — 6-7-0
The Iron Columnists d. John Beaber and Lisa McGill — 7-5-3 to 6-6-3
Mike Johnson d. The Iron Columnists — 10-3-1 to 6-7-1
So, Mike, take another shot. The Iron Columnists are angry! Whose picks will reign supreme?
Friday, Feb. 8
Saturday, Feb. 9
Monday, Feb. 11
And remember that if you are interested in putting your money where your mouth is, drop us an email to be eligible when Mike bites the dust.
Thanks to Dave Sherzer.