Who’s holding the target now?

Players of the week

Player of the week: Danny Biega, Harvard

Harvard’s sophomore blueliner scored three goals and six points in three games this week, helping the Crimson take a desperately needed four points at Cornell and Brown. Biega began the weekend with the game-winning power-play goal in Ithaca, added Harvard’s lone goal at Colgate on the power play on Saturday, and made it three for three with another power-play, game-winning goal at Brown on Tuesday night. Biega is seventh in the league in conference points and leads ECAC Hockey defensemen in league scoring with nine goals and 21 points.

Honorable mention: Rob Kleebaum, Princeton (4-0-4, +1, hat trick vs. Yale); Kelly Zajac, Union (3-1-4 at Clarkson and SLU); Andrew Miller, Yale (1-3-4, +2 at Princeton)

Rookie of the week: Greg Carey, St. Lawrence

This frequent phenom did most of his damage on Friday, scoring twice in the Saints’ 5-3 upset of RPI. His power-play goal in the first period gave SLU the lead for good, and he gave his Canton comrades a bit of an extra cushion with the game’s next goal, as well. He added an assist in the loss to Union, placing him 10th in the league in conference scoring with 19 points, and his goals boosted him to double-digits and a fifth-place standing among all ECAC snipers with 10.

Honorable mention: Andrew Calof, Princeton (1-2-3, +2 vs. Brown and Yale); Kenny Agostino, Yale (1-2-3 at QU at Princeton)

Goalie of the week: Ryan Carroll, Harvard

Carroll’s second outing of the week, a 2-1 win at Brown, put the senior ahead of the pack for this honor. In stopping 63 of 67 shots against Cornell and Bruno, Carroll improved his league save percentage to .920 and diminished his ECAC goals-against average to 2.91 in nine starts.

Honorable mention: Eric Mihalik, Colgate (4 goals against, 64 shots vs. Dartmouth and Harvard); Ryan Rondeau, Yale (5 goals against, 71 shots at QU and Princeton); Andy Iles, Cornell (2 goals against, 33 shots vs. Dartmouth); Kyle Richter, Harvard (2 goals against, 28 shots at Colgate); Keith Kinkaid, Union (5 goals against, 55 shots at Clarkson and SLU)

Who’s the real class of the league?

It didn’t happen all at once, but it’s a bit startling nonetheless: with only two games remaining, Union is in the driver’s seat in the race for the regular-season crown. Whither Yale, we wonder?

The Bulldogs and Dutchmen are clearly the class of the league: Union’s 33 points and Yale’s 32 are two perfect weeks’ work ahead of Cornell and Dartmouth (24 points each). They are the two highest-scoring teams in the conference, and two of the top three defenses (Union’s 41 goals against are the fewest in ECAC Hockey; Dartmouth is second with 42 against, and Yale third, with 44).

So there’s little argument that the Blue and Dutch are anything but the top two squads heading into the playoffs. The question that has no clear answer yet is, who should be considered the favorite?

I’m not here to answer that, only propose a few points of consideration.

Union has only lost twice since the holiday break, while Yale has dropped four decisions since Christmas. More tellingly, Union has out-scored opponents 61-32 in those 16 games, and beat all comers by a 57-11 score in 14 conference contests in that stretch. Yale hasn’t exactly slogged through the second half, but the Bulldogs’ unique form of domination looked a little less, well, dominant as the calendar flipped: The Elis have a 60-35 goal differential in their last 15 games, but that spread shrunk in league play to 50-32 in 14 games.

Is the burden of bearing a year-long target wearing on the Bulldogs? Are teams saving their best shots for Yale, while Union has yet to develop that very elite form of respect? This is a meat-grinder league, and as Union head coach Nate Leaman told me last week, sometimes you can play your very best and still not win in this conference. I don’t know which team is better, or which side will carry the banner for ECAC Hockey come tourney time.

The one thing I do know is, it’ll be a lot of fun watching them sort it out on the ice.

My Top 20

Not much change in the teams, just some jostling at the top… very little room for error in the Top 10 right now.

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

84 COMMENTS

  1. What happened to Yale? Union and Yale seem similar in terms of speed and back checking. From what I have seen, the Union Goal tending has been the difference.

  2. Just got back from the WIS-MIN game. Though MIN was clearly quicker tonight, WIS was more physical and just plain out worked the Gophers. With 3 sophmores finding the back of the net for the Badgers and freshman goalie Rumpel turning away 24 shots, WIS was too much for Kent Patterson and the Gophers, which managed a late power play goal with just over one minute remaining.
    Despite the Badgers poor looking record, three of their five losses came in overtime on the road, also throwing in a tie away from home. They swept then #4 North Dakota, which probably doesn’t say too much now, and the handled the #1 Minnesota Gophers like they belong in the top ten. MIN shouldn’t hang their heads for losing to an unranked WIS team on the road in one of the biggest college hockey rivalries we know. 
    The Badgers need to keep up their intensity the next few weeks with series against, 
    Colorado College and Minnesota Duluth coming up. If they can sweep and split the big dogs while taking “easy” wins against the likes of Mercyhurst, RIT, Bemidji State, etc. They can set themselves up nicely for the playoffs.

  3. Where’s Cornell? You have AF ranked and don’t even have one most well balanced teams on there. Typical homer. 

  4. I had the opportunity to tune in to three other conference tourneys this weekend besides watching at least the majority of all 5 B1G games. At Boston, St. Paul, and Minneapolis there were fans in camera range. At the XCel Energy center, the upper levels were closed off and everyone in attendance was seated in the lower bowl. The B1G tourney had vast expanses of empty seats that reminded me of small town high school hockey where the few in attendance are related to one of the players. If the B1G cares a whit about hockey (another debate for another time) they won’t allow another Debacle in Detroit in 2017.

    • I agree that the attendance in Detroit was downright awful. The sadder thing is that it wasn’t that much worse than what we saw at the X last spring. The one difference which speaks volumes, in my opinion, is that last year, there was at least decent attendance at the Gopher game. This year, even with Michigan playing Michigan State in “primetime” it was still a ghost town. I’m not sure there’s a good solution though.

      • Not just Detroit. As I said elsewhere, the BU/Lowell game was sparsely attended. But also the Mariucci was pretty bare for the Penn St series.

    • I noticed that, too. I watched the Thursday games–in the afternoon session, I could hear player communication (on the ice) over the “crowd” noise.

  5. I believe that the B10 will have a very difficult time getting more then two teams in the tournament every year. Without a lot of participation, teams are just going to be beating up on each other, bringing down their rankings. It won’t be unusual for a team to have 5-6 conference losses at the least.
    I like the idea of the bottom four teams playing a best of three, and then going to the semi-finals. That has merit.
    From what I saw on the TV, attendance was horrific. When it goes back to Detroit in 2017, it will be in the new Red Wings arena (I believe). That ‘MAY’ help. But quite frankly, the last 10 or so years, College Hockey enthusiasm in Michigan has declined a considerable amount. From what it was 20-30 years ago, is now just a small fraction of what it was. No idea why, except that like most of Michigan, people have moved away for job’s or into retirement. Also, if you factor in the cost of going to the B10, NCAA regional and then maybe the F. Four, your talking about a major investment. One I can no longer afford.
    Let me add one other item about Michigan State besides a lack of offense; they could use a Coach as well.

    • Decatur, I’d disagree about the beating up on each other argument. We saw this year that NCHC teams beating up on each other didn’t hurt their tournament prospects one bit. I think the issue is playing better in non-conference games to raise RPI. That’s what really cost most B1G schools this year. St. Cloud had 17 losses this year (17!) and got in based on the overall strength of the NCHC and the schedule they played.

  6. Curious —- does anyone know if the Gophers would have gotten an at large bid if they had lost the final to Michigan.

      • Thanks — of the cuff, I thought yes as well, but I never ran the scenarios the through pairwise calculator they had on line.

    • Yes they would have gotten in. Mass-Lowell, Colgate, Miami and I believe Mich Tech all had to win at the same time for the gohpers to be out. As soon Colgate or Lowell lost (don’t remember which game was finished first) the gophers were a lock… Minny probably would have been a 4 or a low 3 seed for sure if they lost to Mich.

  7. For as much crap as I love to give the cupcake 6 league, (they were downright horrible this year) I doubt there will be many years that they only get 1 team in the national tourney. Every conference has swings. That being said……GO BULLDOGS!

    • So are you a Nodak fan, a bulldog fan, or a fan of whoever the gophers are playing???? I think both the later and Nodak…. I’m the same with Nodak, so i can’t really complain… can’t wait to see who wins it this year!!! it should be some good hockey!!!

      • An enemy of your enemy is your friend. Will be a lot of good games this weekend. I should take half the day off on Friday…..

      • The cupcake 6 has 0 titles. They were not a conference until last year. The NCHC has 0 titles. They were not a conference until last year.

      • And your comment has nothing to do with how pathetic the big joke conference was this year. But thanks for responding.

  8. I know the B1G schools used to play teams in Alaska, but having ASU join up seems insane. I have a hard time getting past that point since UAF/UAA showed it’s possible, but the NCHC/WCHA seems like a likelier home

  9. What Johns Hopkins, Maryland, and Rutgers had was the academics. All B1G universities are members of the American Association of Universities (Nebraska-Lincoln was at the time the offer was extended and was kicked out in part because the med school is not part of UNL, and agricultural research grants are not competitive enough). Arizona State is not in the AAU, but the University of Arizona is.

  10. With only 6 teams in the conference, there is no question that the Big Ten’s automatic bid should go to the regular season champion and not the tournament champion. Just the idea that a team like Michigan, who was dead to rights in the PairWise, could win two games in their hometown and suddenly get into the NCAA tournament is pretty insulting. And if Michigan had beaten Minnesota in the tournament final and then had Minnesota failed to get an at large bid? That would have been a complete and utter farce. I realize that in most years, the Big Ten won’t be as lackluster as it was this season. Wisconsin, for one, is never this bad and even the likes of Ohio State figure to improve in the near future. But until the conference has at least a couple more teams, I FIRMLY believe that the auto bid should go to the regular season champion.

  11. Moving the tournament to Chicago without an Illinois based B10 hockey program would not improve the tournament attendance over Detroit. The MSU-UM game at the Joe in January sold out. A week later, at the Hockey City classic, not many people. And having the tournament locked in St. Paul would just alienate everyone outside of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

    I think it’s an issue that came up with the post CCHA world and the deregionalization of college hockey. Yeah, the CCHA and old WCHA are gone, but in those days the conferences and their tournaments rotated around the states of Michigan and Minnesota, so you could have 3 of 4 finalists from the home state play right down the road. Fans from NoDak, Wisconsin, BG or ND were also well within driving distance of the tourney sites as well. For the Joe, there’s only two teams within that distance (same I think for St. Paul).

    I don’t have a solution. The B10 should cultivate more of its members to get Hockey teams, but that takes time and money. It would bolster fans in the Midwest footprint, though. And jumping on teams like ASU just because is rather short sighted in my opinion.

    Oh. And having games at 4:00 on Thursdays might not be the most optimal time to have good attendance.

      • I understand due to the timing constraints of the tournaments. However, I still doubt that people in Ohio or Pennsylvania or, heck, Michigan are able to make that time on a weekday. I don’t know if they can move the games up or have a series the weekend before, but I don’t think the time is a helping factor for attendance.

  12. It really is all about proximity. Look at the the old WCHA and CCHA, but the WCHA in particular. Usually at least 4 of the final five were within 4-5 hours to drive and 3 were probably within a 2-3 hour drive from the Xcel Center or minor variations of that. College hockey doesn’t have legions of casual fans who will just stop by the arena if you stick it in Chicago or Milwaukee. Yes, Big Ten suckage didn’t help, but the general loss of decades old rivalries has alot to do with it too. The players didn’t grow up playing each other and the fan bases didn’t keep track of the recruiting. there’s just no “juice” in the new conferences (yet).

    I’d pay more to see Minnesota play NoDak or UMD in a conference tourney, but I still can’t get amped up about Michigan or Michigan State and I sure wouldn’t drive 10 hours or spend $300 on a plane ticket + hotel + game tickets to see us play Ohio State and Michigan when I have 50 inch HDTV.

    • Bill Morris, TV is killing College Hockey and Lacrosse attendance – your words, not mine. Perhaps it is growing the sports? Just a theory???

      • While tv CAN affect attendance somewhat, it can also help in-person attendance, too, as folks who might never go to a game can be exposed to it and get interested in buying tickets.
        TV helps grow the sport. ESPN and BTN do a very nice job.

  13. Minnesota should move to the Big 12 so we can move into the NCHC. The B1G is migrating East. They don’t want us and we would be in the same competitive position in the Big 12 as we are in the B1G.
    I don’t hate Wisconsin because we only beat them in hockey and I could still hate Iowa (State).
    It’s time for a change. I want to see us wrestle against Oklahoma, play basketball against Kansas, and try to run with Baylor’s offense and we could get back the buzz in our third revenue generating sport.

    • Where the heck did you get the impression that the Big10 does not want Minnesota ?
      Unfounded, unhappy, spouting nonsense

    • Yeah, I’m sure that Minnesota is just going to get up and leave the Big10 over ice hockey. The school makes WAY too much $ from the Big10 ($23million from BTN tv alone)
      Where do you get the idea that the Big10 does not want your school ? I have NEVER heard that from ANYONE.
      Minnesota is an integral part of the league and has good teams in many sports. We at PSU really LOVE the idea of playing you guys in hockey. It was a real blast to see the Gophers and the Nittany Lions play the 2 games in State College this year in-person. Tremendous to see your fans, listen to them cheer and talk with them in-person; good, knowledgeable folks and fun to sit with. Great hockey and great people.
      And, if you want to wrestle Oklahoma , I imagine that you’re tired of wrestling in the best conference in the country (PSU won 4 of the last 5 National Championships and Iowa is, well, Iowa), play Kansas in basketball (like Wisconsin and Michigan State aren’t any good) and Baylor in football (tired of playing and National Champ Ohio State ?). You can schedule the Big12 schools as non-conference games. As far as hockey goes, you can still have SIXTEEN non-conference games; you could schedule a bunch of NCHC games. What’s the problem ?
      No school will bolt the Big10 over ice hockey. It would amount to financial stupidity.

      • Calling it ‘Ice Hockey’ indicates a fundamental cultural difference between our states that is a huge part of the reason that I want us in the NCHC.

        • So, there is a “fundamental difference” between our states (PA and MN)? Because I called it “ice hockey” vs “hockey” ? Yeah, I guess I’m with the great unwashed that has to sit in awe of the Big10 powers and stay on the sidelines while the big boys play.
          Your state and mine are quite similar actually. We both hate losing, and we both like ice hockey (excuse me, make that “hockey”).
          Besides, here in PA, there IS another form of “hockey”, called “field hockey”, which is also a Big10 sport; I personally don’t care about it, but it’s there.
          The more the newcomers to hockey are frowned upon and discouraged, the less the sport will grow. And, when is one no longer considered to be “new” to the sport ? Pennsylvania has had two NHL teams since the 60’s, AHL since the early 40’s, and now has three NCAA division 1 teams. Plus ECHL, USHL, NAHL. High school hockey is exploding in the number of teams, ect. I know that our hockey culture/history does not match Minnesota, of course, but we play it, too, and we also buy lots of tickets (except to the Big10 tournament-lol).

  14. It was cheaper to fly to Tampa than Detroit (from MSP) last weekend for the Big 10 Tournament. Don’t get me wrong, Detroit is the winter tourism capital of the world, but I chose Tampa for $100 less.

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