ECAC’s regular-season wrapup

Well that’s it, folks: Another ECAC Hockey regular season in the books. I’m not breaking any news tonight – all the important stuff was available for your eager digestion last night – but here are a few things that caught my eye about the weekend, and the weeks ahead.

Big Red buckling?

Cornell topped Union in a thriller at Lynah on Friday… but almost inexplicably laid a dud against a more energetic Rensselaer squad on Saturday. The 2-1 overtime loss to the Engineers – coupled with Union’s win at Colgate – blew the Big Red’s bid for their first Cleary Cup since the 2004-05 season.

Many Cornell fans will assert that the Cleary means little to them, given the Big Red’s rich tradition of postseason and NCAA success. To which I reply: Perhaps it’s time to reconsider.

I assure you that the title would’ve meant something to the players and coaches, as would the top seed; to take even the most pragmatic perspective, should Cornell make the finals against Union in Atlantic City, the Dutchmen would get the advantage of making the last change thanks to being a higher seed. Beyond that, Cornell hasn’t claimed the No. 1 seed in seven years, and have only won one Whitelaw Cup (awarded to the league tournament champ) once since then. Cornell is 2-3 in the NCAA’s since its last Cleary, with no Frozen Four appearances.

And perhaps the most troubling aspect of the Red’s performance this weekend? They won a big game, but couldn’t follow through with a sound performance… in front of the home crowd… on Senior Night… the following evening.

That, to me, would be troubling.

Raiders belly-flop into a bye

Perhaps the most fortunate team of the weekend wasn’t the Dutchmen, who won their second consecutive (and indeed, second ever) regular-season title outright despite failing a gut-check game at Lynah. No, instead it is likely that the loudest sigh of incredulous relief was emitted by the players in the other locker room Saturday night… by the team that Union had just beaten on its own ice, 5-3.

Colgate backed about as hard into a bye as any team could, dropping four straight games by a 14-8 aggregate but finishing fourth thanks to holding the league-wins tiebreaker against Quinnipiac. This is only the second losing streak of the year for the Raiders (the other also being a four-game skid in early January) and the offensive production has been almost as dismal over this stretch as it had been a month and a half ago.

On the positive side, Colgate will obviously take the time off to recuperate and refocus. Hobey front-runner Austin Smith finished the regular season with 52 points, being held scoreless in only three games, and tied alumni Andy McDonald and Tyler Burton for 16th on the program’s career scoring list with 155 points. Next up on that list? Chris DeProfio, with 159 career points.

No “home” road series this year

Unless RPI survives the first round as the lowest remaining seed, there will be no “pseudo”-road series in this year’s playoffs.

That is to say, it is very unlikely that any underdog will enjoy a night’s rest in its own bed between games: St. Lawrence can’t play Clarkson, Yale can’t play Quinnipiac, Colgate can’t play Cornell, and Brown can’t even play Harvard in the first two rounds. The only practically-home road trip possibility over the next two weeks will be if Union draws RPI in the quarterfinals.

That’s good news for the home teams. Bad news for the underdogs… and their fans.

Bonus note: SLU stifles Dartmouth for home ice

The Saints were pretty bummed to leave Boston without a point on Friday, but they turned the tables on the Big Green in Hanover on Saturday in grabbing the final home-ice spot right out of the home team’s hands.

Dartmouth was coming off a coronary-inducing 6-4 circus of a win over Clarkson, but couldn’t maintain the productive pace against SLU goalie Matt Weninger and a very clean, determined Saints team. The visitors took only one penalty all night (even though Dartmouth didn’t take any) which led to Dartmouth’s only goal, but otherwise the gate was shut and locked for the frustrated Ivy icers.

As an additional benefit on top of the already valuable home-ice slot, the Saints grasped a big wad of confidence with regards to their first-round guests: Dartmouth finished ninth, and will make the trip over the Adirondacks to Appleton next weekend.