ECAC Hockey picks: Dec. 27-31

It doesn’t seem like there are as many holiday games this year as in years past, but I’m too lazy to look that up, as it’s essentially immaterial to the issue at hand: Predictions! Wee!

As always, exhibition games don’t get picks, because I haven’t the foggiest reckoning about the opposition.

Friday, Dec. 27

Russian Red Stars at Yale 7:00 Exhib

Saturday, Dec. 28

Princeton vs. Maine 4:05 Florida College Classic (Estero, Fla.)
The Tigers are hoping to sneak up on a few foes to open the second half now that some battered bodies are back in playing form. Maine is 9-6-1, having beaten some well-regarded opponents but slipping here and there to, well, Vermont mostly. The Black Bears can score (3.44 goals per game), and Maine’s special teams are considerably better than Princeton’s. Frankly, the biggest question mark isn’t Maine, but rather Princeton: Who will be back, and how will they play? Will this be a whole new team, or are we still a few weeks away from such a judgment? Maine is the safe bet here, 4-2.

Clarkson at Vermont 7:05 Catamount Cup
It should go without saying that every team will be aiming to make a splash as it steps back on the ice following the holiday break, but this will be especially true of these two. Both teams entered the break hot (even though UVM entered on a loss), each side plays six non-conference games before resuming league play, and each has feasted on those non-league opponents (UVM is 4-1-1 outside Hockey East; ‘Tech is 6-1-1 against non-ECAC foes). Special teams should make for interesting viewing, as Clarkson’s strength is its power play (22.1 percent), while UVM’s far better on the kill (90.1) than the advantage (14.5). As they say, something’s gotta give. I’m liking the Knights’ odds here, as the Catamounts are barely average (5-4) at home this year… 3-2 Knights.

New Hampshire vs. Cornell 7:35 Florida College Classic (Estero, Fla.)
Maybe it’s the latitude. Maybe it’s the temperature, the humidity, the plane ride… maybe it’s something in the water… but despite participating year-in and year-out, Cornell just has not been successful in Estero. The Big Red are 6-9-3 in the Florida College Classic in the last decade, having not swept the tournament since 2003-04. (To be fair, Cornell did win the tournament twice since – in 2005 and 2008 – by way of shootouts.) This year, the Red run into perhaps as streaky an opponent as one could find this year, in New Hampshire. The Wildcats are 9-9-1, but their season to date includes – nay, consists of – two wins to start (including an exhibition), six games without a win (0-5-1), six W’s in a row, followed by two losses, two more wins, and two more losses. This is a team that enjoys the ride, it would appear. Who knows which Wildcats we’ll see on Saturday, but suffice to say that by the end of the weekend, Cornell will probably wonder why they keep signing up for this trip. UNH, 4-2.

Sunday, Dec. 29

Holy Cross at Yale 4:00
The Crusaders have only posted consecutive wins once this year, against Sacred Heart and Army. Yes, HC beat Boston College in Boston, but this should be a mismatch by the final buzzer. 5-2 Yale.

Massachusetts vs. Quinnipiac 4:00 UConn Hockey Classic (Hartford, Conn.)
This could be interesting… or not. QU smacked UMass around 6-1 in Hamden a month ago, so this game is all about the potential revenge factor. I’m not sure the Minutemen, at 6-12-2, have it in ’em. 4-1 Bobcats.

Clarkson vs. Massachusetts-Lowell 4:00 Catamount Cup (Burlington, Vt.)
UML was famously ranked the top team in the nation entering the season, and while it took ’em a while, it appears the RiverHawks found a groove over the last month before the break. At 10-2-0, there were few squads hotter at the seasonal time-out. The RiverHawks open with Canisius in Burlington before playing three straight games against Clarkson, including two in Massachusetts. This is a big-time opportunity for each team to open 2014 in style, as most eyes around college hockey are aware of the successes enjoyed by each program this year. The difference may be found on special teams, where Clarkson’s penalty kill (78.7 percent) looks suspect; UML’s PP (23.3) could swing the series. 3-2 UML.

Cornell vs. Princeton 4:05/7:35 Florida College Classic (Estero, FL)
Tough to pick Princeton, given how little we know about the current health and well-being of the Tigers. Cornell with the edge, giving the Big Red yet another .500 finish at the Florida College Classic. 4-2 Cornell.

Providence at Dartmouth 7:00 Ledyard Bank Classic
Dartmouth is not as bad as its record, but Providence is conspicuously a step or two ahead of the Big Green. A disappointing tournament for Dartmouth, I’m fearing. 5-2 Friars.

Russian Red Stars at Harvard 7:00 Exhib

Monday, Dec. 30

Air Force at Dartmouth 4:00/7:00 Ledyard Bank Classic
Here is a more manageable opponent for the Big Green, but it will by no means be a walkover. Air Force has been flirting with the rankings for much of the year, especially during a 7-1-1 run spanning October and November. Dartmouth’s power play has been humming at nearly 24 percent, but the Green will likely need more than a fancy PP unit to get by the Falcons. 3-2 Dartmouth in a squeaker.

Quinnipiac vs. Connecticut 4:00/7:15 UConn Hockey Classic (Hartford, Conn.)
QU looking to wrap up a tourney win against whoever the opponent may be; I just figure it will probably be UConn. 5-2 Bobcats.

Tuesday, Dec. 31

Russian Red Stars at Colgate 4:00 Exhib