Friday, February 3
Colgate at Union
This is the Game of the Night… and the only reason it’s not the Game of the Week is because there is an equally intriguing Union-Cornell game on Saturday. This is the first meeting of the season between these teams, and Union is both ahead in the standings and at home for the tilt. The plain facts – beyond those – are that Union is putting up better numbers in all the important categories: power-play percentage, penalty killing, offense and defense. A Raiders win would be, quite simply, an upset. And I’m not generally in the market for upsets, picks-wise. 4-2 Dutchmen.
Nate: I’m hopping in a bit late (did I mention I went 7-4 last week…my first week above .500 of the New Year. Which means absolutely nothing). But all jokes aside, it looks like Union will be taking on Colgate minus goalie Troy Grosenick. Ken Schott of the Schenectady Daily Gazette says freshman Colin Stevens will start in place of Grosenick, who has a lower body injury according to Schott. Stevens last started Dec. 30 against Denver, allowing two goals on four shots. In the nature of fairness, I’m going to stick to my original pick I had earlier. Union 5-4.
Clarkson at Brown
Here’s a riddle for you: Clarkson has a winning record at home, a winning record away, and yet is only one game over .500. Explanations? I’ll tell you at the end of the pick. The Knights have only lost once since the North Dakota game (there’s a hint in there for you), at 3-1-1, and that was at Union last week. Brown has simultaneously struggled to only a single win in its last four games (1-3-0), against Union of all teams. I’ve heard rumblings all year about Clarkson’s inflated record and therefore its viability, but there are no signs that the wheels are about to fall off any time soon. I like ‘Tech on the road, as the only place the Golden Knights have been consistently less than golden is on neutral ice (0-6-0; how bizarre). 3-2 Clarkson.
Nate: Clarkson has taken seven of a possible ten ECAC points in 2012. Their steady play of late is the opposite of Brown, who beat Union two weeks ago before getting outscored by Harvard and Dartmouth to the tune of a combined six goals last weekend. Clarkson 4-2.
Dartmouth at Princeton
Princeton had been on break for 17 days prior to Tuesday’s 4-3 home win over Connecticut. That elevated the Tigers’ record to 3-1-3 since Christmas, just in time to host a struggling Dartmouth squad that blew an early 4-1 lead at home to Yale on Saturday (lost 5-4), then lost grip of a 2-1 advantage with seven minutes to go at Harvard on Tuesday (tied, 2-2). I never would’ve imagined making this pick at the beginning of the season, but I have to say that I believe Princeton has the edge right now… psychologically, for sure, if not physically as well after that long exam break. 3-2 Tigers.
Nate: Like Brian mentioned, Princeton is back from exams. Dartmouth scored ten goals last weekend, but went just 1-1. Meanwhile the Tigers can score (42 goals in 12 league games) but get scored upon, as they’ve allowed 50 goals in the same span. The point? Expect some scoring, and a Dartmouth win. Big Green, 5-4.
Harvard at Quinnipiac
The two ECAC teams with the most league ties this year (seven for Harvard, four for QU) meet with a lot of momentum at stake and a TV crew on hand: the game will be broadcast live on NESN. The Crimson are riding a five-game unbeaten streak (2-0-3) and hope to make it a half-dozen entering Monday’s Beanpot action; the Bobcats are 6-2-3 since mid-November and have a chance to jump into the first-round-bye conversation by Sunday morning. The Cats have an exceptional 9-2-2 record at the Bank this year, scoring 3.85 goals per home game while allowing only 1.54. The Crimson have been miles better than they were at a similar point in recent years, but the consistency is still lacking here and there. Hate to be a hater, but this feels like a let-down game for Harvard. (But what do I know? Smart money would bet on another draw.) 4-2 Quinnipiac.
Nate: The Bobcats are back after a twenty day break. They started Colgate’s spiral with a 7-1 thrashing on Jan. 14. They’re at home and well-rested, so I’ll take them here….although with the amount of ties each team’s posted this year, don’t be shocked to see a draw. Quinnipiac 4-2.
St. Lawrence at Yale
This would’ve been a marquee match-up in recent seasons, but it’s not looking so hot right now. The Saints stagger into New Haven on a six-game winless skid (0-5-1), while Yale has only won once in its last half-dozen outings (1-4-1). The Bulldogs even have a losing league record at home (3-4-0), but I suppose that only reaffirms coach Keith Allain’s assessment of this season as a rebuilding period. The Blue came back in a big way in their last game though (see Dartmouth, above), and are gunning to take the next step back up the ladder against road-weary SLU (this will be the fourth of five straight road games for the Saints). Gotta go with the Bulldogs, 4-1.
Nate: Neither team is on a roll of any sorts, as Brian notes. But I think Yale has the talent to the team to snap out of it tonight. Yale 5-2.
Cornell at Rensselaer
The NBC Sports Network must be awfully relieved to see RPI pull out of the doldrums, as this one will be live nationwide. The Big Red dropped both ends of a home-and-home with travel partner Colgate last week, costing Cornell first place and allowing (Saturday opponent) Union to jump to the top of the heap. The Engineers are a blessed 4-2-1 in their last seven games, surrendering only a dozen goals and pitching two shutouts. It’s a tough challenge, but a couple points this weekend might very well pull RPI out of its current basement tie with St. Lawrence. That said, Cornell is not to be trifled with (unless you’re Colgate, apparently), so I’m taking the favorite, 3-2.
Nate: Brian wanted me to note that this one is starting at 7:30 thanks to the national TV stage. I hate to use the term “gritty” because that implies a lack of skill (which if you’re skating for a DI program, you must at least have some talent). But this should be a tightly-played defensive game game that will be closer than some people think. Both teams will make you bash your head against the ice in frustration as wave after wave of offensive chances go for naught thanks to a stifling defense and strong presence in net. But I think the Big Red enough of an edge offensively to convert enough in the RPI end. Cornell 2-1.
Saturday, February 4
Colgate at Rensselaer
Hate to pick against a hot team twice, but no matter who I pick for this one, I’ll have predicted a nil-point weekend for the other. Colgate has played very well for much of the season, and regardless of Friday’s outcomes, I believe that the Raiders will have a lot of intangibles going for them on Saturday. I’ve been wrong before, but I can’t be wrong again unless I take a shot. 4-1 Raiders.
Nate: I’m going to disagree with Brian here and taken RPI. I haven’t taken many underdogs this season and that’s come back to haunt me. On the same token, just be aware that Colgate’s Austin Smith could very well take this one over. Congrats to the Raiders’ co-captain Kevin McNamara, who was named one of the Hockey Humanitarian Award finalists this week. RPI 3-2.
Clarkson at Yale
I don’t have any new, compelling evidence to support my assertion, but I believe that Clarkson has been just good enough – and Yale just inconsistent enough – to make this my upset pick of the week. (No, it’s not something I do every week, but I like to make it sound as though I’m allowed one.) ‘Tech for the four-point weekend! 4-3.
Nate: Clarkson beat Yale in OT the last time these teams met. I’m tempted to follow Brian here…but I think the Bulldogs pull this one out. Yale 3-2.
Cornell at Union
Cornell’s Friday result will likely play a big factor in Saturday’s game: a loss or tie could put Cornell in a certifiable rut – easy pickings for as thoroughly vicious a system as Union’s – whereas the right kind of win over RPI could reassure the Red that they are, in fact, a title-worthy team swaggering into Messa. I’m going to tab Union in this one, but very tenuously. Cornell’s twin topples last weekend shook my faith in it a bit, but not enough to count them out of Cleary contention. 3-2 Dutchmen.
Nate: A lot depends on Grosenick’s status for tomorrow, but I think Union can put some distance between Cornell at the top of the ECAC with a win here. As a side note, Big Red captain Keir Ross was named one of the finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award this past week. Union 4-2.
Dartmouth at Quinnipiac
I can’t believe I’m picking against as potent a team as Dartmouth twice in one weekend, but for all my aforementioned facts and feelings about both teams, I don’t like the Big Green’s odds in central Connecticut. 3-1 QU.
Nate: Dartmouth can score but the Bobcats don’t give ’em up that often. How well the Big Green can mind their own end is the key is this one. Quinnipiac is healthy after their break, so they’ll be rolling their full lines, which do feature some scoring talents even though they haven’t always come out in ECAC play. Quinnipiac 3-1.
St. Lawrence at Brown
I haven’t actually enacted the Brown Rule against St. Lawrence, but if both of my picks prove correct this weekend, I may as well have, eh? Bruno bounces back to save the weekend – and its hopes for a first-round home game – with a W. 3-2.
Nate: I don’t see Brown getting swept for a second week in a row. Goalie Mike Clemente is 3-0-1 against the Saints in his career, and while sophomore Marco DeFilippo could get the start, (although he allowed three goals in 17:34 of playing time against Dartmouth last weekend) I still like the Bears’ chances. Brown 3-1.
Monday, February 6
Harvard vs. Boston University (Beanpot; TD Garden)
The Crimson will play under NESN lenses for the second consecutive game, this one at 5:00. Much like Cornell at Union, I think Harvard’s outcome at Quinnipiac will play a significant role in the team’s attitude and tenacity against Beanpot University. BU came back from a 3-1 third-period deficit at Bright less than a month ago, stunning the Cantabs 4-3 in overtime. I’m not sure how that experience will affect each side, other than to be certain that neither will take the other lightly. It’s not a leap of faith to go with my gut here, which is primarily informed by the fact that Harvard has performed dismally in the ‘Pot over the last, oh, generation or so, but believe me when I say that I’ll be hoping I’m wrong. This is – after all – a new Harvard team. 4-3 BU.
Nate: I was tempted to call the upset the last time these teams played and was nearly rewarded until a late Terrier rally gave them the win. But this is Boston University. And the Beanpot. Enough said. BU 5-2