ECAC Hockey picks: First round

Last week: 9-2-1

Final regular season record: 100-95-31

Three of the four teams that had a bye last year are in action during this weekend’s first round – all on the road. Cornell, Colgate, and Harvard all have a bit longer trip  if they want to make it back to Atlantic City in two weeks. My colleague Brian Sullivan also made an interesting point Thursday morning on “Slap Schotts,” noting that all four home teams this round didn’t lose to their opponent during the regular season.

Brian: I’ll actually throw my hat in the ring here, as this is both an important weekend (duh) but also, I have time to do so! Sweet.

Each series is a best-of-three, and all games start at 7 p.m. – with the exception of Sunday’s potential Harvard at Dartmouth tilt, which would be at 5 p.m.

No. 12 Harvard at No.5 Dartmouth

Season series: Dartmouth, 1-0-1

Nate: Brian Sullivan touched on the Big Green earlier this week, who lost a chance at a first round bye thanks to one-point weekend to end the regular season.Dartmouth is looking to generate a little more offense heading into the playoffs, and a  full return to health for Dustin Walsh should help.While the Big Green have split Charles Grant and Cab Morris in net of late, Harvard has relied on Raphael Girard for most of the season. The sophomore has made some big saves in the Beanpot against Boston College, and nearly stole an ECAC championship for the Crimson last year, so he does have big-game experience. Harvard closed on a 4-2-1 run, and could steal the series here, but I think the Big Green win.Dartmouth in three

Brian: The Crimson thrive this time of year (and thank goodness, or this would be one unfortunate program). I don’t know how they do it, but Teddy Donato always manages to get the best out of his guys in February and March. Harvard is hardly tearing it up right now, but I believe that they are playing better hockey right now than Dartmouth… perhaps it’s Dartmouth’s youth, or injuries, or perhaps it’s just hitting a down cycle, but the Big Green haven’t looked quite right lately. I like Harvard in three

No. 11 Colgate at No. 6 St. Lawrence

Season series: St. Lawrence, 1-0-1

Nate: Two losses last weekend cost St. Lawrence a chance at a bye. Still, the Saints will likely return forward Kyle Flanagan, who missed both those games following surgery to remove his appendix.  Flanagan has been cleared to play against the Raiders, per Ken Schott of The Schenectady Daily Gazette.  That should be a boost to a St. Lawrence team that scored just two goals in the final weekend.  Colgate enters the playoffs with just one win over the last month and a bit of a goaltending dilemma. Junior Eric Mihalik started both games two weeks ago, and played well before losing to Yale last Friday. Freshman Spencer Finney was back in net for the regular season finale at Brown, but was pulled in the third period for Mihalik.  St. Lawrence sweeps

Brian: Long story short, I believe that Colgate burned out about a month ago. Playoffs might breathe new life into the young team, but with Flanagan and Carey reuniting at Appleton, it’s hard not to like the Saints’ odds against the sputtering Raiders. I’m with Nate; St. Lawrence sweeps

No. 10 Clarkson at No. 7 Brown

Season series: Brown 1-0-1

Nate: It’s been pretty simple for the Bears throughout the second half: Scrape together just enough offense and let Anthony Borelli do the rest in net. It worked, as Borelli is third in the nation in save percentage and the Bears are hosting a home playoff game for the first time since 2005. Clarkson hasn’t been able to find any sort of rhythm this season, and ended the year with a three-game losing streak. Brown’s power play hasn’t exactly been potent this season, but they should get plenty of chances this weekend. The Golden Knights led the league in penalty minutes,  while their penalty-kill was last. Brown sweeps

Brian: Something went sour with the North Country teams last weekend, getting wrecked in the Capital District. Especially Clarkson, losing by a combined 9-0 score at Union and RPI. But unlike SLU, Clarkson isn’t getting a monster contributor back in the lineup this weekend. Stick a fork in the Knights; they’re done: Bruno sweeps

No. 9 Cornell at No. 8 Princeton

Season series: Princeton 2-0

Nate: This could be one of the tighter matchups this weekend, as Cornell heads to the road for the playoffs for the first time since 1999. The Tigers swept the season series from the Big Red, but Cornell is 4-1-1 and hasn’t given up more than two goals since these teams last met Feb. 9.  If they can continue that trend, they’ll be a tough out not just for the Tigers, but in the next round as well. Princeton will need to limit the shots on goalie Mike Condon, and get some scoring from someone other than Andrew Calof or Tyler Maugeri if they want to advance. Cornell in three

Brian: Perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the weekend, hardly anyone would’ve seen this pairing – especially at this site – coming two months ago. The Tigers have been playing consistently, but Cornell is coming around in a big way, as Nate mentioned. I think it’ll come down to goalies, and this may be the latest opportunity for Andy Iles to prove himself an elite goaltender. Condon is having a terrific season in his own right – even better than the higher-profile Iles’ – and a win would be a significant step back toward the spotlight for Bob Prier’s Tigers. Picking either way seems like going out on a limb, so here’s my branch: Princeton in three