ECAC Hockey picks: First round

Let’s get right to the action… all games start at 7:00, unless otherwise noted.

12 Princeton at 5 Clarkson

Note: Saturday’s game begins at 7:30

Clarkson swept the season series against beleaguered Princeton, winning 4-3 in Jersey and 3-1 in Potsdam. Forgive my bluntness, but the Tigers look like dead meat: They have only scored three goals in their last four games, and haven’t mustered multiple goals in a game since Feb. 15 (a 7-5 loss at Yale). Princeton allowed 18 goals in the last two weekends combined. Clarkson is hoping that four points and strong defense in its last three games harkens a return to its mid-season swagger, but frankly, even a mediocre series from the Green & Gold should be enough to dispatch of a Princeton side that has never been healthy enough to synchronize. Clarkson sweeps.

11 Harvard at 6 Yale

Yale won the season series, 1-0-1, but also buried the Crimson in the non-conference meeting at Madison Square Garden in January. The Bulldogs are hoping to manufacture their first two-win weekend of the season, believe it or not, while Harvard will almost certainly require top play from its goaltender(s) and something more than the recent two-goals-a-game output of its sputtering offense. These teams have more than an historic rivalry in play, too: Just two years ago in Boston, Harvard came back to win a quarterfinal series against the Blue, two games to one. This has not been a dreadfully balanced rivalry lately, but Harvard head honcho Ted Donato always seems to dig a little something extra out of his squads come March. I see the Bulldogs prevailing, but not until Sunday night. Yale in three.

10 Dartmouth at 7 Rensselaer

If there’s an upset to be had in the first round, this is its likely setting. Dartmouth has rebounded admirably from a putrid 2-11 start, going 6-6-4 ever since. A .500 record may not seem like much, but considering the Green are 4-1-1 in their last six, I’d consider the team hot enough to tip host RPI. The wild card in this series may be the play of Engineers goalie Scott Diebold, who has played in 33 games this year and faced over 900 shots. The offense has been spotty, the defense tentative, and RPI looked readily victimized by quicker, more creative and dynamic Yale last weekend. The whole defensive concept will have to tighten quickly in order to keep shifty Dartmouth off the board. If this series remains low-scoring, I’d actually give Rensselaer the edge (despite conventional road-game strategy desiring tight-checking games)… if we hit five or six goals per game, I’m guessing the Green are ahead. Dartmouth in three.

9 Brown at 8 St. Lawrence

My oh my, just as Bruno got its legs going, they were cut out again in a pair of home shutouts last weekend. SLU is still a potent offensive team despite its somewhat porous defense and goaltending, and I’m not sure Brown can keep up if this series goes all track-meet on us. That said, an early goal or two for the visitors could knock the Saints back on their heels, especially considering that SLU’s team save percentage is .871… and that’s not even counting five empty-net goals against. So who’s mojo will come to play? Something’s gotta give: Either the Saints D/goalies will play better than their numbers, or Brown’s offense will turn last weekend into a distant memory. I’m not sure the latter is as likely as the former. SLU sweeps.