Golden nights: Clarkson rolling

Light blog entry this week; look for more on Yale’s historic achievement in the column Thursday morning.

Players of the Week*

*These are my selections; ECAC Hockey’s can be found here.

Player of the Week: Andrew Miller, Yale

The 5’9″ sophomore out of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan only scored once this weekend, but increased his point production by more than 50 percent and registered plus-4 against Top-20 opponents Rensselaer and Union. The one goal was a big one – a power-play game-winner against the Engineers – and his five assists included four first assists against Union, one being on Brian O’Neill’s game-winner. Miller now leads the sizzling Elis in assists with 14, and is already halfway to last year’s 34-point total.

Honorable mention:Jack Maclellan, Brown (5-2–7 vs. Union, RPI and Providence); Chris Cahill, Yale (3-1–4, +4 vs. RPI and Union); Brian O’Neill, Yale (1-3–4, +4 vs. RPI and Union); Zach Davies, Quinnipiac (2-2–4, +2 vs. SLU and Clarkson); Brandon DeFazio, Clarkson (3-0–3, +3 at QU); Chase Polacek, RPI (0-4–4, +3 at Brown)

Rookie of the Week: Matt Zarbo, Clarkson

The big Grand Island, N.Y. sniper is back at it with the game-winner at Princeton and two assists at Quinnipiac this weekend. A plus-3 across the two 5-3 wins, Zarbo is also tied for the Clarkson lead in goals (six) and sits second to senior Brandon DeFazio (13) in total points (12).

Honorable mention: Allan McPherson, Clarkson (1-2–3, +3); Matt Farris, Princeton (2-0–2, +1 vs. SLU); Greg Carey, St. Lawrence (2-0–2, +2 at QU)

Goalie of the Week: Ryan Rondeau, Yale

Rondeau continues to make a strong case for permanent No. 1 status in New Haven, this week stopping 45 of 47 RPI and Union shots to improve to 9-0-0. Blanking Union gave the senior his first career shutout (30 stops), and he dropped his goals-against average to an elite 1.89 mark and improved his save percentage to .926, each 30 points better than his career averages (2.88/.895).

Honorable mention: Mike Garman, Cornell (24 saves on 25 shots vs. UAH); Alex Evin, Colgate (24-save shutout at Army)

‘Tech, ‘Tech, Boom

Other ECAC Hockey teams should be thanking their lucky stars: Clarkson is leaving the conference.

The Golden Knights are off to the Nutmeg State for a non-league match at Sacred Heart, their last game of 2010, and with Yale, Union and Dartmouth already on the radar, the last thing the rest of the conference needed was another hot squad on the docket. ‘Tech has now won five of six, suffering its only defeat by a 2-1 margin against Air Force in Denver. Clarkson features five four-goal-plus scorers through 16 games, and that number would almost assuredly be six were rookie Ben Sexton healthy. Fellow frosh Allan McPherson and Matt Zarbo have been super, senior Brandon DeFazio has led by example with 13 points, and junior Paul Karpowich has been every bit the No. 1 goalie. Apart from the loss, the Knights have scored 18 goals in their five wins while allowing nine, and it’s hard not to wonder if ‘Tech is finally hitting its stride.

And yet, the heat with which Clarkson is now playing seems so tenuous. Despite the offensive production and consistency in their own end – their best string of defensive performances all year – the Knights struggled through twice as many penalty kills (31) as power plays (15) in their wins. Clarkson scored twice on their PP opportunities, which is nice, but they also surrendered five power-play goals against, which was more than half of their total goals against in that stretch.

I’ve said it all year: if Clarkson can keep winning despite their special teams (or more specifically, their predilection for penalties and their disdain for PPG’s), more power to them… but sooner or later, I believe that push will come to shove and they’ll either have to figure out the man-advantage or suffer the consequences.

My Top 20

Yale got the job done, UMD let one slip away, so the eastern Bulldogs get the top slot this week. Elsewhere, BU and BC practically trade places after the Eagles’ huge home-and-home sweep, a number of teams inch up or down the roster with weekend splits, Brown falls out of the rankings for obvious reasons, but league-mate Clarkson takes its place. Merrimack clings to the 20th spot by virtue of a winning record against tough competition; other possible poll-placements would’ve included Robert Morris (for its record, though not its schedule) or Michigan State (but a losing record is a no-no for me at this point).

1. Yale
2. North Dakota
3. Minnesota-Duluth
4. New Hampshire
5. Notre Dame
6. Nebraska-Omaha
7. Boston College
8. Union
9. Denver
10. Maine
11. Miami
12. Boston University
13. Wisconsin
14. Alaska
15. Michigan
16. Rensselaer
17. Ferris State
18. Dartmouth
19. Clarkson
20. Merrimack