With only two weekends of regular-season action left, it appears that the ECAC playoff race will come down to the final day of play. Aside from Cornell — the only team that has displayed consistent play over the latter half of this season — the rest of the crew will be fighting it out for home ice and even playoff life come the final days of February and early days of March.
Are you surprised? If so, you haven’t been following this league very long. More so than any other, the ECAC has a unique knack for allowing just about anything to happen. It’s a Cinderella team’s heaven.
To prove the point:
So where does everyone stand? Here is our weekly catalog of the week’s illustrious Winners, frightful Losers and those that fall somewhere in the middle.
Dartmouth — A huge weekend for the Big Green has them in second place and in position to clinch the Ivy title. The Big Green are peaking at the right time.
Brown — Yann Danis is the story here as he shuts out the North Country — in the North Country. The Bears are rolling, two points from home ice.
Rensselaer — Another four-point weekend for the Engineers has them one point out of home ice and two points out of third. Who would have thought that a month ago?
Vermont — The only good news is that Princeton didn’t sweep, keeping the Cats alive in the playoff hunt. They can still finish ninth.
Yale — Two more losses for Yale and the gap to the playoffs widens.
Harvard — The Crimson did manage to pick up one point, but after being second when the weekend began, are now tied for third and two points out of losing home ice. But they are in the playoffs.
St. Lawrence — The Saints blew two points and took one when they tied Harvard on Saturday after amassing a 3-0 lead. The Saints have a tough road to go.
We Did Okay
Cornell — The Big Red did get two points, but didn’t clinch. They can do that on Friday.
Clarkson — The Knights came out on fire and picked up two important points on Harvard on Friday, but then faced Yann Danis. They were in second, now tied for third and two points away from a home-ice spot.
Colgate — The Raiders had a chance to solidify home ice with two wins, but picked up two points and are now just one point away from losing that home ice.
Union — The Dutchmen had a chance for four points to keep pace with Rensselaer. But the loss to Princeton on Saturday now puts them three points out of home ice.
Princeton — The Tigers picked up two important points on Saturday and put some distance between themselves and Yale.
Kissing Your Sister
Thanks to a three-goal comeback in the third period, Harvard pulled out a tie against St. Lawrence on Saturday night to avoid an 0-for weekend in the North Country. For a team that is experiencing a late-season lull, one point has never been so important. The tie was also encouraging considering the fact that the team was playing with only 17 skaters and without the services of two of the top three scorers on the team — Tyler Kolarik and Brett Nowak.
Unlike past years, the Crimson is relatively healthy heading into the final weekends of play, but the coaching staff felt they needed to send a message to the players.
“I think the message that was trying to be sent was that this is a team; we have to play like a team all the time, and no one person is bigger than the team,” said Harvard captain Peter Capouch following the St. Lawrence game. “We have a lot of great players and everybody can contribute. That’s what we need down the stretch.”
This tactic is nothing new for Mazzoleni, who has already benched Dominic Moore on one occasion this season.
Motivation for this team is coming from Capouch, who rallied his team for the big third-period comeback.
“I just told [the team] that if we were going to come back we had to compete harder,” Capouch said. “Over the last six or eight games we haven’t been, and that’s obviously shown in our record. With the playoffs coming up soon we had to start playing better. I said what I felt, and fortunately it turned things around.”
Jekyll and Hyde
One question over the past few weekends has been “What happened to Yale?” The Bulldogs stormed out of the blocks at the start of the season and have since fallen apart. The team has lost six straight league games and is in 11th place, three points out of the last playoff spot. Two months ago, the Bulldogs were in a legitimate position to fight for home ice.
A big factor has to be confidence. Prior to last weekend’s pair of 5-2 losses to RPI and Union, seven of the team’s nine league losses have been one-goal games, if you include the 7-5 loss at Clarkson where Kerry Ellis-Toddington deposited the empty-netter with 51 seconds left in regulation.
“Our intensity and forechecking were the best it’s been in a long time,” said Yale head coach Tim Taylor following Saturday’s loss. “It’s tearing my heart out that we don’t get any wins with our guys playing like that.”
Although Taylor questioned his team’s discipline on Friday night, this is a team that Taylor has liked all season long. He has continually praised their effort and intensity, and it surely has been a huge blow to see the results not follow. One big factor has been the dropoff in offensive production from freshman phenom Chris Higgins. After collecting four points against Clarkson and St. Lawrence three weeks ago, Higgins — who still leads the team with 21 points — has been held scoreless in the team’s last four games.
“In a lot of these games, if our power play was a little better, we would win,” Taylor said. “We can’t hope to win in this league if we’re only putting in two goals each night.”
The Bulldogs are also missing the services of Nick Deschenes, who was injured in a practice a few weeks ago, cut with a skate blade on his thigh. He’s missed six straight games now.
With its back against the wall, Yale will have to find a way to break the winless streak and hope that road partner Princeton stumbles a bit down the stretch. Otherwise, the Bulldogs’ season will face a premature end.
Stopped in Their Tracks
The Cornell senior class has a lot of awards and championships to hang their hats on. One thing that they failed to do over the past four years, however, was beat Dartmouth. In the biggest upset of the weekend, the Big Green shut down the Cornell offense and — powered by a superb, 34-save performance by Nick Boucher — denied the Big Red a chance to secure the regular-season championship title, at least for this week.
“You could call it a goaltenders’ duel, but I thought both teams were piss poor on their ability to finish tonight,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer, whose team has been averaging 3.1 goals per game over the past 10 contests. “I was especially disappointed with our guys. We had opportunities around the net that we squandered. Both teams had great chances, but those were washed away but the inability to finish.”
The loss to Dartmouth is a mere bump in the road as far as Cornell fans are concerned, since the eighth-ranked Big Red will have another shot at clinching the league title on Friday night against St. Lawrence — this time in front of the Faithful.
Something To Show
The Princeton Tigers outshot Rensselaer 40-19, but lost 5-3 on Friday evening. Frustrating, and it left the Tigers feeling a little desperate.
“We’ve been in desperation mode for the last couple of weeks,” said head coach Len Quesnelle. “I told the guys that you can get high and you can get low during a season and this is one of those times when you can’t get too low. You can’t feel sorry for yourself because you had nothing to show for a great effort.”
But the Tigers came back the next night and came through with two points as they defeated Union, and it felt good to have something to show for a hard weekend of work.
“I think the guys on this team are starting to feel better about themselves,” Quesnelle said. “If we continue to play our best hockey we’ll be fine.”
Well, at the beginning of the year, we challenged you, the fans, to compete with us in picking the ECAC. 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
Here are the standings:
9. St. Lawrence
We’ll apply the ECAC playoff tiebreakers.
Clarkson wins the tiebreaker over Harvard, going 1-0-1 against the Crimson this season.
St. Lawrence wins the tiebreaker over Princeton because of winning percentage over the Top 5.
So the standings for our purposes.
9. St. Lawrence
Now let’s do our comparisons, with the points (scoring system in places off the prediction, low score therefore wins) in parentheses.
1. Cornell — Fans (2) / Becky and Jayson (0)
2. Dartmouth — Fans (2) / Becky and Jayson (0)
3. Clarkson — Fans (2) / Becky and Jayson (1)
4. Harvard — Fans (2) / Becky and Jayson (1)
5. Colgate — Fans (4) / Becky and Jayson (4)
6. Rensselaer — Fans (0) / Becky and Jayson (1)
7. Brown — Fans (5) / Becky and Jayson (5)
8. Union — Fans (0) / Becky and Jayson (0)
9. St. Lawrence — Fans (4) / Becky and Jayson (4)
10. Princeton — Fans (1) / Becky and Jayson (1)
11. Yale — Fans (1) / Becky and Jayson (1)
12. Vermont — Fans (5) / Becky and Jayson (6.
Guess what? The Iron Columnists are winning, 24-28. Hah.
If It’s So Easy, You Try It
The Iron Columnists are coming back. After two great weeks by Mike Johnson, we didn’t think he could make it last any longer. Unfortunately, we were wrong, which we seldom are.
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
Mike Johnson t. The Iron Columnists — 5-5-2
Mike Johnson d. The Iron Columnists — 6-5-1 to 5-6-1
So, Mike, take another shot at the Iron Columnists! The Iron Columnists are even angrier now; you have invoked their wrath! Whose picks will reign supreme?
Friday, Feb. 22
Saturday, Feb. 23
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 and Ron Vaccaro.