Injuries take a bite out of Brown’s depth as ECAC gets shut out of holiday hardware

There were some highlights for sure, but the biggest takeaway from the past weekend is this: ECAC Hockey teams competed in four holiday tournaments and came away with zero trophies.

That’s a bit of a disappointment for the league, which between Union’s Frozen Four run last spring and a solid showing in non-conference play over the season’s first half, has made some strides toward regaining its status as one of college hockey’s “Big Four” conferences. Here’s what I took away from this past weekend:

• A Cornell three-goal lead against the worst scoring team in the nation seems like a pretty safe bet, right? That wasn’t the case Friday, as Maine rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win 6-4 over the Big Red in the Florida College Hockey Classic. Take away the empty-netter at the end of the game and the five goals are the most allowed by the Big Red this season.

• Union snapped a five-game winless streak with a 4-1 win over Merrimack, the same score by which the Warriors beat the Dutchmen in the season opener in Schenectady in October. Still, the win came in the consolation game of the Catamount Cup, where Union was playing by virtue of a 2-1 loss to Vermont on Saturday.

• Dartmouth entered Monday’s game against Massachusetts having killed off 32 straight penalties, the best streak in the nation. The Minutemen snapped that streak, scoring a pair of power-play goals in nine chances to take the Ledyard Classic championship. A lot of that success can be tied to the Big Green’s discipline: Dartmouth averaged just over eight penalty minutes a game entering Monday and was assessed 40 minutes in the box against UMass. Still, the Minutemen finished with 47 penalty minutes and killed all five Big Green power plays, so the chances were there for Dartmouth.

• Brown lost 3-1 to then-No. 18 Minnesota State in the opener of the UConn Hockey Classic on Saturday. That includes a Mavericks empty-netter in the closing seconds, right after the Bears missed a wide-open net. Brown might not be the most talented team in the league but it’ll hang in there simply because coach Brendan Whittet refuses to let his team give up. Injuries have decimated Brown this season, especially on defense. Speaking of those injuries …

Brown’s depth being tested

A third of the Bears’ defenders against Minnesota State on Saturday were making their collegiate debut on defense. That’s what it’s come to for Brown, which has been decimated by injuries this season, especially on the back line.

Whittet said he’s never seen anything like this in his 20 years of coaching.

“[We have] guys done for the year, guys that we count on,” Whittet said following Saturday’s game, where sophomore Greg Tang made his collegiate debut next to Jake Goldberg, a junior forward playing his first game on the blue line.

Freshman defenders Nate Widman and sophomore Kyle Quick are done for the year. Sophomore Joey de Concilys was hurt last week in practice and Whittet didn’t want to rush him back only to take him out and be down a defenseman early in the game.

“It’s hard, it’s really hard,” Whittet said. “By and large we have done a pretty good job. Do we miss those kids? Of course we do. I’m not going to be foolish and say we can just put anybody in there. We’re still trying to establish the program depth and it takes time.”

Goalie Marco De Filippo is day-to-day with a knee injury, leaving the Bears with little-used junior Joe Mello backing up starter Anthony Borelli, who started against Minnesota State despite battling the flu.

Bobcats keep rolling

Quinnipiac’s weekend sweep of Nebraska-Omaha in Hamden pushed its unbeaten streak to a program-best 12 games entering Friday’s game against Dartmouth, a matchup of the league’s top two teams.

The Bobcats own the nation’s best winning percentage and are second in the PairWise Rankings.

But maybe more importantly, QU showed it could win different ways this weekend, whether it was slugging it out in Saturday’s 5-4 win or putting together a solid defensive day in Sunday’s 3-1 decision.

“[Saturday] was one of those situations where I felt fine but pucks were just going through,” Bobcats goalie Eric Hartzell told Quinnipiac Athletics after the game. “A lot of time that can really come down on somebody mentally. But I think the team did a great job today of supporting me and clearing a lot of the rebounds.”

The improved defensive effort came despite playing most of the game with five defenders following Mike Dalhuisen’s first-period game misconduct.

Weekly awards

As selected by the league:

Player of the week — Ben Arnt, Quinnipiac: Arnt had two goals and an assist in a sweep of Nebraska-Omaha last weekend.

Rookie of the week — Brandon Pfeil, Brown: The freshman factored in four of Brown’s season-high seven goals against American International on Sunday, finishing with a goal and three assists.

Goalie of the week — Cab Morris, Dartmouth: Morris made 31 saves in the Big Green’s 4-1 win over New Hampshire in the opening round of the Ledyard Classic on Sunday.

Looking ahead

After not having the league’s championship weekend televised last season, ECAC Hockey announced over last weekend that the playoff semifinals and final in Atlantic City, N.J., will air on Fox College Sports.

“We are excited to partner with Fox College Sports for our men’s annual championship,” ECAC commissioner Steve Hagwell said in a release. “This opportunity allows for extraordinary coverage for our league’s showcase event. It truly gives our fans the opportunity to see our student-athletes in action in one of the nation’s marquee postseason events.”

The 2013 ECAC hockey championship begins Friday, March 22 with a pair of semifinal games set for 4 and 7:30 p.m. EDT. The championship game will be Saturday at 7 p.m. EDT. The games will be broadcast on Fox Sports Atlantic.

It’s certainly not a premier network, but as anyone who has been to Atlantic City the last two years can tell you, attendance is lacking. Until that picks up, I’m not sure if the league can expect any type of big television contracts. This, of course, is the league’s last year on the boardwalk as the tournament shifts to Lake Placid, N.Y., in 2014.

One final holiday tournament note: Per the press materials Saturday at UConn, Quinnipiac will face Massachusetts in the opener of the UConn Hockey Classic next season. Colgate and Union will take part in the tournament in 2014, with the Dutchmen opening against Providence and the Raiders against Connecticut.