Clutch, and not so much in the regular-season finales

Clutch performers

Who made it happen in the final weekend of regulation?

• Rensselaer’s four-point weekend denied Yale, Union, and Dartmouth any shot at second place, earning RPI its first-ever bye and its first second-place finish in two decades. The Engineers blasted Clarkson (5-0) and St. Lawrence (4-1) to improve to 11-2-0 since mid-January, making them arguably the hottest team in the nation at the moment. (UMass-Lowell may have something to say about that, though.). Mike Zalewski (two goals and three points on Friday) led the way offensively, though credit is also due to the team defense, which permitted just 35 shots on the weekend. Jason Kasdorf stopped – for you non-RPI people – 34 of them. Math!

• Capital District rival Union also swept the North Country visitors – 5-1 over SLU, 4-0 over Clarkson – to earn its fourth straight bye, and fifth in six seasons. The Dutchmen mounted balanced attacks each night, notching consecutive 46-shot outings while allowing only 44. The weekend wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops for Union however, as starting goalie Troy Grosenick left Friday’s game with another injury and was replaced by sophomore Colin Stevens. Stevens earned his third shutout of the season (also the third of his career) in Saturday’s regular-season finale.

• Yale battled past Colgate and Cornell to wrest another bye, their fourth in five years. Senior goalie Jeff Malcolm has bolstered the team to a brief but critical 3-0 run since his return from injury, and the Blue scored power-play goals each night to earn next week’s respite. Saturday’s contest was especially tense, as Yale had not yet wrapped up the bye and Cornell was desperate to earn a home playoff series: The Bulldogs didn’t take a single penalty, scored on one of their two advantages, and Malcolm stopped 22 of 23 shots… including all 14 in the third period. The Elis earned their break; Cornell is stuck on the bus next week.

• Princeton took three points out of four – tying at Dartmouth, beating Harvard in overtime – keeping them one point ahead of Cornell for the final home-ice spot. The Tigers lobbed 89 shots goal-ward on the weekend, and though they failed to break through on eight power-play opportunities, they also snubbed the Green and Crimson on five penalty kills.

Flat finales

• Did Clarkson or St. Lawrence even get off the bus this weekend? The North Country foes were buried by a combined 18-2 score at Union and RPI, with Clarkson failing to score at all. The decisions cost the Saints a very real shot at a bye, and the Knights a bus ride.

• The Big Green only managed one point in two home games, where they had been 10-3 (7-2 in league) prior. Two more points would have drawn them into a tie with Union in the standings, and vaulted Dartmouth into a bye by virtue of a 1-0-1 record against the Dutchmen this season. Oh well, enjoy that Ivy rivalry series with Harvard – upset winners over Quinnipiac on Friday – next weekend.

Quick thoughts

• Unfortunately, there are no rematches next week from last weekend’s games. This may be neither here nor there, but I always find it entertaining to follow what effectively becomes a potentially four-game series.

• Quinnipiac did it: As detailed in last week’s blog, the Bobcats could – and did – set a league record for margin of error between first and second place in the 12-team format. No team had ever won the regular-season title by double-digits before, until this year.

• Tiebreakers failed to make significant impacts this season, as none of the boundary zones (between teams earning byes, home ice, or road series) ended in deadlocks. The ties ended thusly: Dartmouth edged SLU to draw Harvard next weekend, leaving the Saints to host Colgate; Brown’s edge over Princeton earned Bruno a trip from Clarkson rather than Cornell; and the Big Red’s advantage over those Golden Knights take them to Princeton rather than Providence.