Quinnipiac was the hottest team over the first two months of the season, ripping off a 13-game unbeaten streak following a loss in the season opener.
But the Bobcats are on a 1-2-2 stretch heading into the holiday break, ceding first place to red-hot Union, which ended the first half on a 10-game unbeaten streak.
Here’s a look at where the teams stand heading into the break, listed in order of the current league standings.
Quick hit: A win and a tie at then-No. 1 St. Cloud State sent the Dutchmen into the break as one of the hottest teams in the country. Union is third in the nation in scoring thanks to a balanced attack; eight players are in position to reach double-digit goals on the season.
Second-half outlook: Junior goalie Colin Stevens has a .933 save percentage since being pulled against Penn State on Dec. 1. A healthy second half by Stevens, who missed time earlier with an injury, will help, although freshman Alex Sakellaropoulos had 34 saves last Friday against St. Cloud.
Quick hit: The Bobcats uncharacteristically blew a two-goal lead against Princeton on Nov. 23 and enter the break 1-2-2 over their last five games. Freshman Sam Anas leads Quinnipiac in scoring with 13 goals and 25 points, and is among the national leaders as well. The Bobcats are outshooting their opponents by a whopping 272 shots, by far the best in the country.
Second-half outlook: Quinnipiac’s young defensive corps should continue to improve as the year progresses. QU has enough depth to allow coach Rand Pecknold to rotate his younger players out of the lineup as needed to avoid any fatigue down the stretch. The Bobcats need to watch the turnovers and stay focused, regardless of the opponent.
Quick hit: Picked last in both the coaches and media polls, the Golden Knights have been the story of the first half. Clarkson surpassed last season’s win total in the middle of November. Coach Casey Jones said before the start of the season that the Golden Knights’ defense needed to improve, and that’s been the case thus far, as Clarkson is allowing only 2.29 goals per game.
Second-half outlook: As good as the defense has been, the Golden Knights’ penalty kill hasn’t been anything special. Clarkson also has given up more than three goals per game in conference play. The Golden Knights should be in the mix for a top-four spot but have a tough second-half schedule, starting with three straight nonconference games against Massachusetts-Lowell, and home and away matchups with both Union and Quinnipiac.
Quick hit: The Raiders ended the first half by getting swept at home by Massachusetts, which entered the weekend with four wins. Still, Colgate is 5-3-1 in ECAC play, including wins at Union and Clarkson, in addition to a nonconference win at Ferris State, one of only two losses for the Bulldogs. Last year’s freshman class has been strong again, as Colgate’s top five scorers are all sophomores.
Second-half outlook: The Raiders slumped down the stretch last season, in part due to their inexperience. A return to form by captain Spiro Goulakos, who is still building up his stamina after missing part of the second half last year with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, should help bolster the blue line.
Quick hit: Before rushing to judgment that Cornell is past its first sub-.500 season since 1998-99, keep in mind that the Big Red were 6-3-2 at this time last year. Still, another solid year by goalie Andy Iles and production from the upperclassmen has Cornell right in the mix.
Second-half outlook: Last year’s second-half slump was the result of a lot of little things adding up, putting the Big Red in “uncharted waters,” as coach Mike Schafer said at the time. A healthy Cole Bardreau along with the continued breakout of Brian Ferlin should help Cornell continue its production on the power play.
Quick hit: All things considered, it could be worse for the Engineers, as RPI lost starting goalie Jason Kasdorf for the year after just two games. But Scott Diebold (.922 save percentage) has plenty of experience and has been solid since Kasdorf was lost. Ryan Haggerty leads the nation with 18 goals, and is one of four Engineers skaters averaging at least a point a game.
Second-half outlook: The defense has been solid and the offense has been there most nights for RPI. So what’s been the problem? Finishing. In baseball terms, the Engineers have been more Fernando Rodney than Koji Uehara. RPI is outscoring teams 28-5 in the first period but is getting outscored 39-34 in the second and third periods.
Quick hit: Much like Cornell, the Bulldogs have nearly an identical record compared to last year’s holiday break. But unlike the Big Red, Yale ended the season as national champions. A one-point weekend at home against Harvard and Dartmouth was a disappointing way to end the first half. The Bulldogs have gotten some key goals from their freshman class, as well as solid work in net from newcomers Patrick Spano and Alex Lyon.
Second-half outlook: Yale coach Keith Allain, a former goalie himself, recently praised Lyon for his cool under pressure and improved puck-handling skills. The return of injured forwards Jesse Root and Anthony Day will be a boost for the Bulldogs entering the second half.
Quick hit: The Bears have gotten great production from the trio of Mark Naclerio, Matt Lorito and Nick Lappin. Senior Marco De Filippo and freshman Tyler Steel have been solid in goal. The power play hasn’t clicked yet, as Brown is just 7-for-49 on the man advantage.
Second-half outlook: Brown needs secondary scoring badly, as no other forward outside of the Naclerio, Lorito or Lappin has more than five points. A tough start to the second half awaits — the Bears travel to Denver and Colorado College before hosting Boston College.
Quick hit: The Crimson’s nine NHL draft picks are the most in the ECAC, but that hasn’t translated into on-ice success. Goalies Raphael Girard and Steve Michalek have been good, but Harvard has gotten little scoring outside of Jimmy Vesey or Kyle Criscuolo.
Second-half outlook: Someone needs to step up to take the pressure off of Vesey and Criscuolo. If that can happen, Harvard has gotten the goaltending thus far to do some damage in the second half.
St. Lawrence (8-9-2)
Quick hit: A four-game losing streak dampened what was a solid first two months for the Saints. Senior Greg Carey has 36 points in 19 games, and is tied with younger brother Matt for the team lead with 13 goals. The Saints are averaging 3.62 goals a game and have the best power play in the country.
Second-half outlook: St. Lawrence needs to work on a defense that is 52nd in the nation and has given up 14 goals over the last three games. There’s no reason to expect the offense to drop off, so any improvement on the back end could determine how far the Saints go.
Quick hit: Dartmouth joins Clarkson as one of the surprises of the first half, only for the wrong reasons. The Big Green started 0-8 but are 2-2 since, including a win at Yale. Charles Grant has given Dartmouth some stability in net over the last few games.
Second-half outlook: A home-ice spot might be a tall task given the Big Green’s start, but it could be attainable if the defense continues on the upswing. Dartmouth gave up eight goals over its last four games after allowing at least five goals five times in the eight prior games.
Quick hit: Princeton is 0-4 since scoring three times in the last half of the third period to beat Quinnipiac 4-3 on Nov. 23. The Tigers have lost a seemingly countless number of man-games to injuries; only seven skaters have played in all 15 games. That certainly makes it hard to sustain any sort of consistency.
Second-half outlook: Getting healthy could go a long way toward improving the Tigers’ second-half outlook. Andrew Calof is one of the league’s top forwards but has played in only five games due to injury. Princeton dressed only 17 skaters in a 5-2 loss to RPI on Dec. 7.