ECAC Picks: Feb. 24-25

The final weekend of the ECAC regular season is here and there’ still a lot to be decided. Brian did a good job breaking it down in this week’s column,  and Ken Sweeten, Quinnipiac’s SID, had the chart below  in this weekend’s game notes to help narrow the possibilities.

Last week: 4-8

Overall: 60-59

UNION 1-2 clinched bye, needs 3 pts to clinch No. 1 seed
CORNELL 1-2 clinched bye, needs 4 pts to clinch No. 1 seed
COLGATE 3-7 clinched home ice, needs 2 pts to clinch bye
CLARKSON 3-8 clinched home ice, needs 3 pts to clinch bye
HARVARD 3-9 needs 4 pts to clinch bye, 1 pt to clinch home ice
QUINNIPIAC 3-9 needs 2 pts to clinch home ice
ST. LAWRENCE 3-9 needs 3 pts to clinch home ice
YALE 4-9 needs 2 pts to clinch home ice
PRINCETON 9-12 will travel first round
RENSSELAER 9-12 will travel first round
BROWN 10-12 will travel first round

Friday, February 24

Brown at Quinnipiac

Home ice is out of the question  for Brown; at this point it’s all about jockeying for position and trying avoid a last place finish. Meanwhile, Quinnipiac is very much in the mix for one of the final two top-four spots, but needs to take care of business this weekend.  The Bobcats have been the epitome of streaky this year, as they’re sitting at .500 in conference play but they’re hosting a struggling opponent who they’ve historically dominated (10-4-2), so hard to pick against them here. Quinnipiac 3-2

Rensselaer at Colgate

Four Austin Smith goals helped the Raiders thump RPI 8-3 in Troy last time out.  Another performance like that would have him pushing 40 heading into the season finale. More importantly, it would give Colgate the two points it needs to clinch a first round bye. I’m not ready to dismiss the Engineers by any means, but a lot would have to go right here. Colgate 5-1

Union at Cornell

Both these teams have clinched a top-two spot in the standings; what order they’ll finish has yet to be determined. A Union win or tie would clinch a second straight Cleary Cup for the Dutchmen, while a Big Red win would keep  their league title hopes alive. Ken Schott of the Schenectady Daily Gazette reports that Union goalie Troy Grosenick is up to speed after being hindered by an ankle injury. While it’s likely he’ll play, backup Colin Stevens was a solid replacement several weekends ago, so the drop off shouldn’t be that much if the conference’s top goalie is out. No doubt the game of the weekend right here. Union 3-2 (OT)

Yale at Princeton

A year from now, it’s possible these teams will be playing for a higher stake in the standings. But a young Princeton team has endured a bit of a bumpy ride this year while the Bulldogs have worked several new pieces into the lineup. Yale will look extend any momentum they gained from their first four-point weekend since November and keep alive their outside shot at fourth place against a Tigers team that has four wins since New Year’s. Yale 5-3

Clarkson at Dartmouth

The Golden Knights are clinging to the last of the top four spots and control their own destiny this weekend, as they need three points to clinch a bye.  Clarkson is 2-0 its last two times at Hanover Arena, and the Big Green have but one win in their last eight games. Clarkson 3-1

St. Lawrence at Harvard

The red-hot Saints were mired in last place just a few short weeks ago but now enter the final weekend with a chance to finish in the top four. I emphasis chanceas a lot would have to go right for that to happen, but a four-point weekend would let them finish the season 7-1 and their first winning record in ECAC play  in two seasons.  Harvard’ s struggled to finish games  this year, as evidenced by their NCAA-record eleven ties, including nine in league play. Harvard 4-3

Saturday, February 25

Brown at Princeton

These are two teams that will travel for the playoffs regardless of what happens this weekend. Give the edge to the Tigers; it’s their senior night and the last game at Hobey Baker Rink for Derrick Pallis, Brodie Zuk, and Marc Hagel. Princeton 5-4

Clarkson at Harvard

If the cards fall right, this could be an all-out slugfest for the final bye spot.  Harvard’s top-ranked power play will face a stiff test in senior Paul Karpowich, who’s been a rock in net for the Golden Knights this season. The Crimson took a 3-2 win in November, as the teams combined for sixteen power play chances and converted one each. Harvard 3-1

Rensselaer at Cornell

It doesn’t get any easier for the Engineers after facing Colgate Friday. These teams skated to a 3-3 draw at the beginning of the month, but there’s a chance the Big Red could be playing for the Cleary Cup on their senior night. If that’s the case, look out. Cornell 4-2

St. Lawrence at Dartmouth

Two teams heading in the opposite direction as the regular season concludes. The Big Green have been ravaged by injuries all season and that’s led to an up and down year that’s been mostly down lately. The Saints are red-hot and should head into the playoffs on a good note. St. Lawrence 4-1

 Union at Colgate

How much this game means could depend on Friday’s outcome. If Union clinches the Cleary Cup and Colgate a bye spot, will they rest some of their stars? I doubt it, although Grosenick might see a lighter work load if Union’s coaching staff wants to rest his ankle.  It’s senior night for the Raiders, and it should be noted that  Smith is facing the only ECAC team that’s held him scoreless this year. What are the odds that continues?  Union 4, Colgate 3

Yale at Quinnipiac

The ECAC’s  second-closest rivals faceoff to close the regular season.  (St. Lawrence and Clarkson are six-tenths of a mile closer to each other, if you must know).  There’s a very outside chance both could be fighting for a bye, but the Bulldogs would need a ton to go right for that to happen.  As for the Bobcats, all they can do is win out and hope things fall into place.  Playoff bye or not, closing the year with a season sweep of Yale on senior night would be a nice way to enter the playoffs. Quinnipiac 4-2