The regular-season that was

Usually, my first post of the week quickly recaps last weekend’s action… but if you’re even remotely interested in the league, you’ll know that Saturday’s games concluded the ECAC Hockey regular season, and that every team is again 0-0 and looking ahead to the playoffs.

Dutch reign supreme

Congratulations are in order to the Union Dutchmen, who won the Cleary Cup for the first time, and in doing so set a program record for wins in a season (25 and counting) and raised the bar for Union’s D-I success with a .750 winning percentage.

These Dutchmen are only one class removed from a team that finished dead last in the ECAC (in 2006-07), and a few years beyond a miserable ’04-05 campaign in which the Dutchmen went 13-22-2 – a .381 winning percentage – in head coach Nate Leaman’s second season at the helm.

Since that 12th-place finish in 2007, Leaman has led Union to an unprecedented four straight winning seasons. Before that, Union had never experienced so much as consecutive winning campaigns since jumping to D-I for the 1991-92 season. The little school from Schenectady looks poised to make its first-ever NCAA appearance (after taking care of business in the ECAC tournament, of course), and will be no small task for its big-stage draw, either.

Here’s to the Union Dutchmen, your 2010-11 ECAC Hockey Cleary Cup champions.

News and notes

• Harvard head coach Ted Donato earned his 100th career victory in Saturday’s 4-3 win over St. Lawrence. The Crimson had a lackluster regular season, without a doubt, but like Colgate has finally found the on-switch entering the postseason with three straight wins and a 5-1-1 record over its last seven outings.

• In totally atypical Cornell fashion, the Big Red rocketed back up the standings after a 2-4-0 start to league play, going 9-3-2 in their following 14 conference contests. But, rather than seal the deal on an impressive regular-season rebound, the Ithacans backed into a first-round bye with two road losses last weekend.

• And on that note, how disappointing is it that between Cornell (24 points entering Saturday night’s finale), Princeton (same) and RPI (23 points), not one of the three could muster a win to claim fourth place outright? Now that’s obviously easier said than done, as Cornell played at Yale and Princeton at Union, but if anything I would’ve expected Rensselaer to take advantage of a heck of an undeserved opportunity after losing at home to Princeton the night before.

• Don’t let anyone tell you that Yale didn’t make the most of its home games: The Bulldogs finished the scheduled campaign 15-0-1 at home overall (10-0-1 in league play, with a sole draw against Colgate on Friday), a feat unmatched since Cornell’s 15-0-1 record at Lynah Rink in 2004-05 (also 10-0-1 in league play, with the lone blemish – the tie – also coming against Colgate).

• RPI senior Chase Polacek and Yale sophomore Andrew Miller finished tied for the league scoring race at 27 points in 22 games apiece. Cornell senior Joe Devin edged Yale junior Brian O’Neill for league goals, 13 to 12, in the full complement of games, and Harvard sophomore Danny Biega wears the crown among blue-liners as the league’s highest-scoring defenseman. Princeton’s Andrew Calof earned the rookie scoring title with 23 points, but SLU’s Greg Carey and Union’s Daniel Carr led the class with 11 goals apiece.

• Since goalies deserve their own category: Union soph Keith Kinkaid’s 1.90 goals-against average led the league, but Dartmouth junior James Mello boasts the ECAC’s best save percentage, at .938.

• Finally, in a bullet-point all his own, Brown’s Harry Zolnierczyk was truly a terror on skates this season. Not only did he share Bruno’s overall scoring title with junior Jack Maclellan (31 points, though Maclellan played three fewer games than HZ), but he also earned the zebras their paychecks with 40 penalties for 126 minutes overall, 30 for 87 in ECAC Hockey action. Nobody else in the league comes anywhere close to those minutes – the next-highest number is Clarkson’s Mark Borowiecki (23 penalties, 65 minutes overall), and Borowiecki played one more game than Zolnierczyk. The program’s former single-season penalty-minute record-holder, Aaron Volpatti (’10), finished with 115 PIM last year in his benchmark-busting campaign, but that was over 37 games. Harry Z has only played 28 so far. Unfortunately for the robustly rambunctious Zolnierczyk, he is still 78 solid minutes shy of Brown’s career record… a mark that, from here at least, appears safe.

My top 20

A little juggling all over the place, and – you all may notice – Union gets the edge over Yale for the first time. They’ve earned it.

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