ECAC Hockey picks: Feb. 7-10

Friday, February 7

All games start at 7:00
Dartmouth at Harvard
The Crimson and Big Green are a combined 2-9-1 since January 11, with both wins – one apiece – coming in home games against Princeton. I don’t expect this to be a game with tantalizing postseason ramifications, but I do expect it to be a rivalry-quality grinder between evenly matched sides. Dartmouth won Round 1 in Hanover; this one goes to Harvard, 3-2.

St. Lawrence at Princeton
The Saints notched a big win over an admittedly depleted Union lineup last Friday. Princeton… well, they avoided being shut out for the first time in five weekends’ worth of action (having been shut out once in four straight weeks). This is a game between struggling offenses (understatement alert) and Swiss-cheese defenses: Something’s gotta give, right? SLU has better proven talent in the goal-scoring department… if they can just figure out how goals used to happen, they might get back on the right track. Saints, 4-2.

Clarkson at Quinnipiac
One of three pivotal games this weekend, a pair of NCAA contenders square off in Hamden with three points separating the hosts from their aspirational visitors. Unfortunately for the guests, QU is on a 6-1-2 run since the holiday break, while over the same stretch the Golden Knights are a considerably duller 4-7-1. Two teams going in opposite directions? I like the Bobcats’ odds of putting a couple more points between themselves and the Knights. 4-3 QU.

Yale at Rensselaer
Don’t look now, but RPI is 3-1 in its last four, while Yale is just 4-3-1 in 2014. The Engineers have also had the Bulldogs’ number in recent years, going 6-2 against the Blue since the 2009-10 season and including a season sweep of the eventual national champions last year. It’s not a bet on which I’d put my paycheck (insert joke here), but I’m feeling RPI in another upset, 3-2.

Brown at Union
Union is still without head coach Rick Bennett, and will be for the remainder of this weekend. In the meantime, interim coach Joe Dumais will match wits with Brendan Whittet. Bruno has been kind of all over the place lately: While the defense and goaltending have been reliably average, the offense is jumping and diving and rolling around and making a big mess of things, consistency-wise. The power play hasn’t scored in five games (2-3), the even-strength scoring hasn’t exactly been blowing opponents away. Union bounced back from twin 2-1 losses with a 4-3 victory at Clarkson last Saturday, and I don’t think there will be any let-up from the Dutchmen Friday night. I’m taking Union at home, 4-1.

Saturday, February 8

All games start at 7:00
Cornell at Colgate
Believe it or not, Cornell has not lost since November 30, a 3-2 loss to Boston University at Madison Square Garden. The Big Red haven’t dropped a league game since two weeks prior, a 3-2 loss to Clarkson in Potsdam. Since the latter game, Cornell is 7-0-4 in ECAC action and 9-1-4 overall, including the BU loss. Colgate had run off a nifty little six-game winning streak as well, but it hit a pretty thick wall last weekend in consecutive three-goal losses at Brown (5-2) and Yale (4-1). The Big Red currently sit one point ahead of their travel partners from Hamilton, the teams tied their earlier meeting, and so this game carries potentially enormous significance in the quest for postseason seeding and even in the national tournament picture. I’m taking the road Red tonight, as Colgate has shown some disconcerting struggles in the defensive zone while the Red are really bringing a tight, well-oiled game into Starr Rink. Cornell, 4-2.

St. Lawrence at Quinnipiac
QU ought to wrap this one up without a whole ton of drama, unless the Bobcats don’t play their game, or SLU rediscovers what it was that worked so well back in October. Q-Cats, 4-1.

Clarkson at Princeton
Even when accounting for my skepticism of Clarkson’s record, I still peg this as a mis-match. Knights, decisively: 4-1.

Yale at Union
The question on my mind is, can Dumais et. al. out-coach Yale’s Keith Allain & Co.? This should be a fantastic matchup between two teams with legitimate national aspirations… a win for Yale means a big step back toward the top of the tables, while a Union victory may well mark them as the team to beat in ECAC Hockey. Taking the home-ice advantage, Union ekes it out, 3-2.

Brown at Rensselaer
These are two teams that I have been really struggling to figure out. RPI should be so much better, but can’t keep it together long enough to string together some victories… Brown is what it has been for a few years now: Tough but spotty. When the Bears really bring their A game, they are a very tough team to beat. They can grind and stifle and work as hard as anybody, but putting forth the requisite effort to do so on a nightly basis has thus far eluded them. RPI has great players with veteran experience, but something – some unquantifiable spark of effort or focus or energy or communication – has gone missing at critical moments this season, scuttling the campaign far short of the tremendous expectations laid before it during the preseason. What this all comes down to is, I have no idea who is likely to win this game. In a toss-up, I’ll pick the home team, 3-2.

Monday, February 10

Harvard vs. Boston University 4:30 (Beanpot Consolation: TD Bank Garden; Boston, MA)
Harvard throttled the Terriers 7-4 in early January, and things really haven’t gotten any better than that for either team: The Crimson are 1-5-1 since then; BU is 1-6-1 and 1-9-2 since November. Harvard’s seniors are 0-4 in the first round of the Beanpot, but 3-0 in the third-place game (they beat BU 7-4 in last year’s consolation contest, too). This is another dismal winter for Harvard, but the third-place friends-and-family tilt at the Garden has breathed new life into recent Crimson campaigns… this is one of the worst seasons in more than a decade for BU; why should it get any better now? Harvard, 3-1.