Regular season champion Quinnipiac sets sights on No. 1 seed for NCAA tournament

One of the least-contested races for first place in ECAC Hockey history officially came to an end two weeks ago along with Quinnipiac’s 21-game unbeaten streak.

The Bobcats’ 2-1 loss to St. Lawrence on Feb. 15 wasn’t necessarily all bad. Quinnipiac clinched the Cleary Cup that night, and it also gave them the opportunity to unveil new jerseys for Friday’s Heroes Hat game against Yale.

“We were actually going to wear them as early as December,” Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold said of Qunnipiac’s alternate jerseys, which feature a black stripe across the top and a different rendition of the Bobcats logo. “Once we got on the streak Bill [Riga] and Reid [Cashman], my two assistants were like, ‘You cannot break out the new jerseys.’ So we had to hold on to them for almost the whole year.”

On a more serious note, the Bobcats know there’s still plenty to play for despite entering the final weekend having had first place locked up for two weeks.

“It’s great to clinch a league title like that, but there’s still a lot of work to do,” forward Matthew Peca said.

So, barring any nicks or bruises in practice this week, don’t expect to see any of the Bobcats mainstays sit this weekend.

“Right now everything we play for is for the NCAA tournament and for the PairWise,” Pecknold said. “We’ve had that No. 1 spot for a while. We’d like to go into the NCAA’s as a No. 1 seed if we can.”

A lot can happen between now and the start of the national tournament. Pecknold pointed to the Bobcats’ sweep of Nebraska-Omaha in December as having huge implications, as it gave Quinnipiac common opponent wins over WCHA teams.

“We just need to keep to keep winning,” Pecknold said. “We’d love to be put in Providence as opposed to get sent out west to Toledo and Grand Rapids.”

A good ending for Colgate

Colgate needs a sweep this weekend and then have to hope for some help in order to finish with home ice in the opening round of the playoffs. Regardless, it’s been an uplifting past couple of weeks for the Raiders, even if the on-ice results haven’t always been there.

Defenseman Spiro Goulakos was initially ruled out for the rest of the season after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma last month.

But the sophomore made an unexpected return Feb. 16 against Dartmouth and played in both of Colgate’s home games last weekend, scoring the game-winning goal against Union on Friday.

The original plan was for Goulakos to leave school entirely. But coach Don Vaughan said his Goulakos’ doctors back home in Montreal encouraged him to continue with classes.

“He got his classes squared away and was going through his second treatment and was still feeling great,” Vaughan said. “He really pressed his doctors back home to let him play. They cleared him and he hopped in the car and drove down from Montreal to meet us [at Dartmouth].”

Vaughan said Goulakos had skated Monday and Tuesday the prior week before leaving for his treatment. While he had hinted he might try to come back, Vaughan said it caught the team by surprise when his return was announced the morning of the game against the Big Green.

While Goulakos skated in both games last weekend, Vaughan said the Raiders will take it week-to-week with the blueliner.

“Saturday, we pulled him back a little bit,” Vaughan said of Colgate’s 3-2 loss to Rensselaer. “His stamina isn’t what it was prior to the treatment but he’s still remarkably strong and feeling really well. It’s an interesting situation, but he’s a special guy.”

Vaughan said the Raiders raised $3,000, plus a matching gift from the student portion that was close to $1,000, in conjunction with Hamilton Community Hospital. The team is also selling game-worn jerseys to raise money.

“The crowd support was amazing,” Goulakos told “Just being at school the last couple of the weeks I have had a lot of support from everyone here at Colgate. The team has been especially supportive and everything little thing like that helps.”

Change in net snaps slumps for Yale, Colgate

There’s no doubt Yale was glad to see senior Jeff Malcolm back in net Saturday night at Princeton. The Bulldogs were 0-5 since losing Malcolm to an injury against the Tigers on Feb. 1.

“We haven’t won since he was lost,” Bulldogs coach Keith Allain said following Friday’s game at Quinnipiac. “That could just be circumstantial evidence.”

The Bulldogs snapped their skid with a 4-3 win over the Tigers Saturday. Malcolm wasn’t lights out; he stopped 17 of 20 shots, but it was enough.

That’s how it’s been for the Bulldogs. Malcolm has had a good season overall, but the numbers that really jump out are the records. The senior is 12-4-2 this season, while backups Nick Maricic and Connor Wilson are a combined 2-6-1.

In the past, Yale has relied on a high-flying offense to simply roll over opponents regardless of who started in net. But the Bulldogs scored only six goals during Malcolm’s absence. Kenny Agostino’s goal Friday was the Bulldogs’ first at even strength since Feb. 1.

Saturday’s game at Princeton was a breakout for Yale, not because it scored four goals but more so how it got them. The Bulldogs had four different scorers, with Anthony Day and Carson Cooper each contributing his first of the year.

That’s the kind of balanced scoring Yale got earlier in the year, especially in a weekend sweep of Denver and Colorado College in November where the Bulldogs got eight goals from eight different players. Those wins kept Yale in the NCAA tournament picture despite its recent skid.

Yale hosts Colgate and a suddenly-hot Cornell this weekend. A sweep would give the Bulldogs a first-round bye.

Meanwhile, Eric Mihalik started both games for Colgate last weekend after not starting since Jan. 5 against Sacred Heart. It was his first start in league play since Dec. 1 against Clarkson; freshman Spencer Finney took over the main role in net near the end of the first semester.

“Spencer played well for us; the losses were not his fault,” Vaughan said of the six-game winless streak entering last weekend. “The time was right to give Eric another chance and he took advantage of it.”

Part of the reason behind that skid was youth — the Raiders have eight freshmen — along with spotting the other team an early lead.

“Our first-year guys are finding out the intensity, energy and focus that’s required to win in this league,” Vaughan said. “Playing from behind, we expended a little more energy. A lot of teams in this league take care of the puck. That took its toll emotionally and physically.”

Down to the wire

There’s still plenty to be determined heading into the final weekend. In case you missed it, colleague Brian Sullivan broke down what’s at stake over the final two games. Saturday’s matchup between St. Lawrence and Rensselaer in Troy looks to be a big one, as both teams are in the race for a first-round bye.

Around the league

• Brown has shown a penchant for giving the league’s best a run for the money over the last two seasons. The Bears tied Quinnipiac Saturday for the second time this season, and were the only team to sweep Union in conference play last year

• Cornell’s four-game unbeaten streak is the second-longest in the nation, trailing only Providence.

• They might not be drawing as much attention as Colgate’s Austin Smith did last season, but St. Lawrence’s Kyle Flanagan and Greg Carey are right in the middle of the Hobey Baker Award discussion. Carey leads the nation with 25 goals and 47 points, while linemate Flanagan is tied for fifth with 42 points.

• Flanagan had his appendix removed on Tuesday, according to tweets by Chris Fitz Gerald of the Watertown Daily Times:

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• Dartmouth’s 3-2 win over St. Lawrence Saturday was only the Big Green’s third road win of the season, and the first that didn’t come against Brown.

• Union forward Wayne Simpson was a healthy scratch Saturday, according to Ken Schott of the Schenectady Daily Gazette. The senior leads the Dutchmen in scoring this season and hadn’t missed a game in his collegiate career until that point. Union added a new member to its team in 10-year old Kristen Shinebarger, who was paired with the Dutchmen through Team IMPACT, a non-profit organization chartered to improve the quality of life for children facing serious illnesses.