Hard to argue with the math, which shows ECAC Hockey leading the way

What in the name of Nate Silver is going on?

The first full weekend of conference play in ECAC Hockey was anything but predictable.

Quinnipiac entered the weekend having scored just six goals in its last five games, while Cornell had allowed five goals over its first four games en route to a 3-0-1 start.

What happened? Naturally, the Bobcats scored seven goals on the weekend, including four against the Big Red, while Cornell allowed nine goals in its two games, both losses.

Winless Clarkson took three points on the road, while St. Lawrence, the league’s early-season surprise, took just one. Dartmouth remained undefeated and is currently the top-ranked team in the PairWise Rankings.

“You’re one poor penalty away from a loss or one power play away from a win,” said Princeton coach Bob Prier, whose Tigers opened their home schedule with wins over Cornell and Colgate.

The tightness within the league has already manifested in non-conference play, as the ECAC boasts the best out-of-conference record (18-12-7) in the early going, edging out the WCHA by percentage points (.581 to .577).

As Brian Sullivan noted Monday on the ECAC Blog, that’s an improvement over recent years, when the ECAC often struggled in non-conference play.

“I think the transition to the common start date for non-Ivy teams really helped our league,” said Prier, who played at St. Lawrence from 1995 to 1999 and was an assistant at Princeton and St. Lawrence before taking the Tigers’ head job last season. “When I played at St. Lawrence we’d start with Maine or BC and they’d be 4-1 and we’d be playing our first game.”

Education has long been a priority for many league schools, and that’s helped players realize they can play top-notch hockey at a well-regarded school.

“With the instant access to information because of the Internet and the importance of education, [recruits] understand that there are some damn good schools out east that they can go to,” Prier said.

Another year older for Princeton

The Tigers were one of the youngest teams in the league last season, but as Prier noted in the preseason they’ve grown up fast and presently have 16 upperclassmen on the roster.

“The guys have developed quite a bit of poise,” Prier said. “They’re starting to learn a lot of stuff that they see on video; they do have more time with the puck than they think. That comes with seasoning and being a little bit more of a veteran team.”

Princeton let a 2-0 lead slip away against Cornell last Friday but tied the game at 3 on a highlight-reel goal by Rob Kleebaum. He muscled the puck along the right boards, losing control briefly before cutting toward the slot and flicking a shot past two Cornell defenders.

“It was definitely was a momentum-changing goal for us,” Prier said. “It put us in the right mind-set.”

That carried over to Saturday, a 4-0 win over Colgate in which the Tigers followed up a 3-for-5 power-play performance with another power-play goal against the Raiders.

“Systematically, we’ve done a couple of different things,” Prier said of Princeton’s power play, which is converting at 27.8 percent, just over 10 points higher than last season. “But at the end of the day, we’ve gotten some seasoning. Our top lines are playing with confidence.”

Reset for Clarkson

It wasn’t pretty for Clarkson entering ECAC play. The Golden Knights opened with four of their first seven games on the road and had zero wins entering last Friday’s game at Yale.

But they received a boost from the return of several injured players, including forwards Adam Pawlick and Simon Bessette, along with defenseman Andrew Himelson. Pawlick made his season debut, while Bessette and Himelson had missed three and two games, respectively.

“Our bench was longer tonight,” Golden Knights coach Casey Jones told Clarkson Athletics after the game. “We had used a lot of guys in a lot of situations and we got Adam Pawlick and Simon Bessette back in the lineup, who are really good penalty killers. That takes ice time away from some of your forwards who are playing in every single situation.”

Clarkson followed Saturday’s win with a 3-3 tie at Brown, doubling its season point total in one weekend.

“Having Andrew Himelson back in the lineup afforded us to roll six defenders,” Jones said. “We’ve made tired mistakes the last few weekends because of our lack of depth on defense.”

Around the league

Brown: The injuries keep mounting for the Bears, as The Providence Journal‘s Mark Divver reported that sophomore defenseman Kyle Quick is set to see a doctor for a hip/labrum injury and could be done for the season. Brown has just seven healthy defenders left.

Colgate: Colgate has relied on plenty of freshmen this season, but sophomore defenseman Spiro Goulakos has emerged as an offensive force so far. His four goals and five assists both lead the Raiders. Goulakos plays on Colgate’s top power-play unit and is poised to surpass his 19-point freshman season.

Cornell: The Big Red slipped to the 10th spot in the latest USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll, allowing four goals in back to back games for the first time since 2010. USHL forward Michael McCarron was committed to the Big Red, according to the league’s website, but McCarron tweeted Monday that he was attending Western Michigan instead.

Dartmouth: Big Green coach Bob Gaudet was on USCHO Live! Tuesday night. Listen to it here.

Harvard: The Crimson boasted the nation’s top power play last season but they are just 2-for-20 this season. Harvard will appear on national television when it travels to Cornell at 7:30 p.m. EST Friday in a game broadcast by NBC Sports Network.

Quinnipiac: Loren Barron’s power-play goal against Colgate Friday snapped an 0-for-30 skid for the Bobcats while on the man advantage. They also gave up their first power-play goal of the season, a first-period score by Thomas Larkin.

Rensselaer: Former Engineers player Adam Oates and current Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday. Oates had 216 points for RPI from 1982 to 1985, and his 1,079 assists are sixth in NHL history.

St. Lawrence: Yale did something Saturday that no team had done all season: Keep Kyle Flanagan and Greg Carey off the score sheet. Despite that, Flanagan still leads the nation with 15 points while Carey is right behind him with 13.

Union: Union received good news about goalie Troy Grosenick, who left last Friday’s game at Harvard with a leg injury. Ken Schott of the Schenectady Daily Gazette reported that Grosenick could be out for days instead of weeks. The Dutchmen are off this weekend before hosting Penn State on Nov. 24.

Yale: Bulldogs forwards Kenny Agostino and Antoine Laganiere were the subject of two recent Hockey’s Future profiles. Agostino is the property of Pittsburgh, while Laganiere is expected to draw interest as a free agent.

Weekly awards

As selected by the league:

Player of the week — Andrew Calof, Princeton: The junior forward led all ECAC players in scoring over the weekend with two goals and three assists.

Goalie of the week — Cab Morris, Dartmouth: Morris stopped 46 of 48 shots in a pair of Big Green wins. His 1.22 goals against average ranks second in the nation, while his .946 save percentage ranks fourth among all Division I goalies.

Rookie of the week — Jimmy Vesey, Harvard: Vesey had three goals over the weekend. He averages a goal per game, good for second in the nation, and is first in the nation among rookies in points per game (1.40).