Okay, Hockey East, you win this round. But just watch yourself.
That was the message this week from ECAC teams all over the country, as the ECAC Hockey fell one game behind the Hockey East Association in inter-conference match-ups (3-4 this weekend, 4-5 overall).
This was the most active weekend of the season thus far between the two premier Eastern U.S. leagues, and we’ve certainly learned that the ECAC can do more than just skate with the league that provided three straight national championship teams between 2008 and 2010.
It all started off so well on Friday, when Colgate started out by defeating Vermont, 4-1. By about 6 p.m. on Saturday night, the ECAC was up 2-0 on Hockey East thanks to a 4-2 win by Quinnipiac over Massachusetts.
Over the rest of that night, Hockey East teams put up a 3-1 mark on the ECAC. Princeton did beat Providence at the Denver Cup, but at two pro arenas, it was HEA’s turn to shine. Boston University beat Cornell, 2-1 in overtime, in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden crowd of 18,200. Sweet showing! Anyone up for a Frozen Four in Manhattan?
A few hundred miles north in Portland, Maine, that state’s flagship university defeated Clarkson in a close one, 4-3, at the Cumberland County Civic Center – home to the Portland Pirates, AHL affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes – in front of 5,328 fans.
Boston College also beat Yale in a one-goal game (3-2) at “the Whale,” Ingalls Rink. Vermont closed out the turning of the weekend tide with a 5-3 win over Dartmouth at the Gutterson Field House. All in all, the Hockey East finished the weekend 4-3 over the ECAC.
It looks better for the ECAC if you reach back two days before Thanksgiving to add in Harvard’s barrelhouse 7-6 win over New Hampshire for a 4-4 mark. Should we do that, gang? Or should we nitpick and differentiate between pre-and post-cranberry sauce games?
New Hampshire is actually the team that tips the scale ever-so-slightly in Hockey East’s favor, winning a 2-1 overtime game on Oct. 28 to make the overall record between the conferences this year 5-4, HEA.
Harvard gets a chance to even it up Friday, when the Crimson enter the Mullins Center in Amherst to face Massachusetts.
Several other ECAC vs. Hockey East match-ups are upcoming the next few weekends in December, including Yale at Massachusetts (Dec. 7), Merrimack at Colgate (Dec. 10) and Union at Merrimack and St. Lawrence at Vermont both on Dec. 17.
That doesn’t even begin to include all the definite and possible ECAC/Hockey East match-ups in end-of-year tournaments. Oh, it’s on like Donkey Kong.
Shutouts – the must-have accessory this Christmas
Ever since Martin Brodeur made a science of stopping the 20 or so shots that would break through the dreaded (and dreadfully boring) New Jersey Trap, we have essentially lived amid The Age of the Goaltender.
A pair of 200-plus-minute shutout streaks came and went this month from both Yale’s Jeff Malcolm and Cornell’s Andy Iles.
Clarkson’s Paul Karpowich had to settle for that aforementioned 4-3 loss to Maine sandwiching a pair of mighty fine shutouts of his own. He gave a big raspberry to Malcolm and Iles as he passed them on the national shutouts leaderboard by earning his third and fourth on Nov. 19 (4-0 vs. Dartmouth) and 27 (5-0 vs. Holy Cross) for second in the country.
He made 37 saves vs. the Big Green and 27 against the Crusaders, and now the St. Louis Blues draft pick is sitting behind another NHL prospect, Colorado draft pick Kent Patterson. He’s rung up six shutouts for the Minnesota Golden Gophers this year.
While we’re on the subject of goose eggs, we have to give praise to those hard-luck Engineers of Rensselaer. After an eight-game losing streak, they’ve won two of their last three, both by shutouts. Bryce Merriam and Scott Diebold share the credit for that run, with Diebold stopping 25 shots most recently to shut out the same RIT team that beat ECAC title contender St. Lawrence, 6-5, back in October.
One game, point apiece
With the majority of the league’s teams taking a break from each other, Harvard and Dartmouth just couldn’t resist the pull of a holiday weekend league meet-up. The Crimson made the trip to Thompson Arena on Friday night and … nothing was decided in front of said venue’s largest crowd this year (4,163 stuffed people – sorry, concessioners).
The teams took a 3-3 tie, one which Doug Jones thought he could break with a point-blank backhand shot stopped by Harvard’s Steve Michalek in goal.
Due to this game, we do learn of an ever-so-slight change in the standings. Dartmouth leap-frogged Yale and Union into fourth place to at least temporarily hold down one of the first-round bye spots along with Cornell, Colgate and St. Lawrence. Cue the chorus: “It’s still early.”
Harvard also used its single point to good effect, taking Dartmouth’s place in that three-way tie for fifth place with preseason frontrunners Union and Yale.
In a league featuring 10 of 12 teams separated by four points, you can bet there’s going to be a whole lot of chaos before order is eventually restored on the eve of the playoffs.
An added note: That tie game was continued evidence that tough love is the best practice.
Ever since being slapped with a 10-minute game misconduct and a 5-minute hitting from behind major penalty on Nov. 12, Crimson star blueliner Danny Biega has found success on the straight and narrow path.
Not only has he incurred only two penalty minutes since then (for “checking” on Nov. 18), he has also lit up scoresheets with seven points in his last four games. Discipline does work.
Clash of titans
I like to leave my public pleased, so I am adding here a huzzah to the Union Dutchmen for a fine 6-3 win against Michigan. Inside the legendary Yost Ice Arena (5,022 strong), the No. 12 and No. 11 teams in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll (No. 13 and 11 in USCHO.com polls) met and it was Union that came out on top.
Daniel Carr is one of the prime movers for the Dutchmen recently, scoring six points in his last two appearances, including a goal and an assist in this game. Jeremy Welsh scored his 18th power play goal, four short of the Union school record. It was one of two goals for Welsh in the game.
Troy Grosenick turned away 33 shots in an impressive goaltending performance, as well.
I want to thank anyone who took a few minutes to read (and sometimes correct) my stories these last two months.
In my brief time as a USCHO columnist, I have been truly honored to be able to connect with a great and passionate group of fans and athletes that the greater media world unfortunately overlooks in favor of college football and basketball.
Being a USCHO columnist involves a huge time commitment, one that I could not manage, thus I have to leave it behind, for now at least.
I was privileged to work alongside a true ECAC Hockey walking encyclopedia in the form of Brian Sullivan, who will continue to keep everyone plugged into the league happenings, along with newcomer Nate Owen.
Thanks, also, to all the schools’ media relations personnel that helped me with information and interview set-ups along the way.
A huge bow to Editor Todd Milewski, for taking a chance on a big kid from Lowell.
Okay, I’m leaving now before I start to sound like Mickey Ward.