ECAC Hockey: The final chapter

Welcome to the final awful predictions of the 2013-14 ECAC Hockey season. I’ll be your guide on our final nauseating spin through Prognostication Pass, but be sure to bone up with Nate Owen’s quotes and insight in this week’s ECAC Hockey column. I’m just here to ice the proverbial cake.

By the way, if you don’t care about the picks, skip to the end for some bonus material.

Nate: Typically, Brian and I have gone solo each weeks with the picks. But what the heck; it’s the championship weekend, so I’ll jump in.

Friday, March 21

1 Union vs 4 Cornell 4:07
Cornell will be without senior and 20-point center Dustin Mowrey, and coach Mike Schafer admitted in this week’s column (link above) that the Big Red will be unlikely to “pump in four or five goals”. He ain’t kidding: The Red have only scored 18 goals in their last 11 games (6-5), and they were actually out-scored by Clarkson (5-4) in last weekend’s three-game series. For Cornell to win, the defense and senior goalie Andy Iles will have to be absolutely at their best. Meanwhile, Union has scored the same 18 goals in less than half the time: The Dutchmen did it in their last five games (5-0). The defense and both goalies combined to shut out four of Union’s last six opponents. So, Union is playing very well, and Cornell is playing with barely the slimmest margin for error.

To sum up what you’ve already presumed, I have a hard time seeing Cornell pull it out against a team as deep, hot, and consistent as Union. Dutchmen extinguish the Big Red, 4-1.

Nate: Michigan’s loss in the Big 10 tournament Thursday bumped the Big Red up to 15th in the PairWise, and a loss will lead to some nervous scoreboard watching over the weekend. It will be interesting to see how Cornell adapts to the big ice; the Big Red are 12-6-1 on Olympic Rinks since Mike Schafer took over as head coach. The Dutchmen enter the weekend red-hot; Union’s eleven-game unbeaten streak is tied for the best in the nation. I think Union advances to it’s third-straight ECAC Championship game.

2 Colgate vs 3 Quinnipiac 7:37
As noted in my column two weeks back as well as in Nate’s Wednesday write-up, Colgate has been a remarkably healthy team. This builds consistency and chemistry of course, and the Raiders’ 12-3-3 record in 2014 bears that out. The question mark on Colgate is on the front end: Since February, the Raiders have been hot and cold offensively, only once putting up three or more in consecutive games. As for their opponents, the Bobcats are – statistically speaking – one of the top teams in the nation, and they probably could have been even better had senior Jordan Samuels-Thomas not missed six games due to injury. It may seem odd to pin such importance on QU’s fifth-leading scorer, but the offense simply performs better when “JST” is in. His presence is either tremendous or terrifying depending on your affiliation, because he brings the boom as well as anybody else in the league. That influence truly swings the balance of power when his line is on the ice, as opposing puck-carriers feel a lot more pressure… which gives QU a lot more puck possession. In case you were wondering, QU beat Colgate 7-2 in Hamilton – with JST – in the fall; without him in last month, the Bobcats fell to the Raiders 3-1 in Hamden.

Don’t get me wrong: Samuels-Thomas is not the be-all, end-all of QU’s success, but the Bobcats are a different team with him in the lineup. A much better, much stronger, much more confident, and much scarier team. I like that team. A lot. Bobcats to the finals, 4-2.

Nate: I like Quinnipiac a lot, and wouldn’t be surprised to see them in Philadelphia next month. But, I like what Colgate has done in the second half. This is a young team, but they seem to be getting more and more confident as the year progresses. I might change my mind sometime during the four-hour drive to Lake Placid tomorrow, but I’m taking Colgate.

Saturday, March 22

1 Union vs 3 Quinnipiac? 7:37
If this indeed winds up being the title-tilt tandem, I just don’t know what to say, other than DO NOT MISS THIS GAME. It should be the dooziest of doozies. These teams split a pair of incredibly entertaining games: 6-4 Union in Schenectady was frantic and frenetic; QU’s 2-1 home win was an exemplar of solid defense and excellent goaltending. Ergo, I really don’t know what to expect… I suppose the traditional first-period feel-out, where neither side presses much, is likely; after all, a title is at stake between two teams that have already punched their NCAA tickets. At some point though, one of the many gifted playmakers on the ice will find enough space on the big sheet to test the keeper… and then we have a game. The Bobcats have better special teams than the Dutchmen, but Union goalie Colin Stevens has significantly better numbers than Q’s Michael Garteig. Honestly, those are the only major differences or edges I can identify. If this ends up being a special-teams battle – where the refs aren’t afraid to call penalties – edge goes to Quinnipiac; if the stripes swallow their whistles, I’d give Union the advantage.

Given that it’s the championship game, and I have to make a pick, I’m going to guess a low-penalty slugfest. JST aside, Union will like the five-on-five game against QU way more than playing the PP-PK game. Dutchmen, 3-2… I think!?

Nate: While I differed with Brian in the Colgate/Quinnipiac game, I’m agreeing with him here. Union over Colgate for the school’s third-straight Whitelaw Cup. A loss might not necessarily end the Raiders season;  they could stand to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, depending on how the rest of the conference championships shape up.

Bonus material

Nate and I will be in Lake Placid of course, and at some point this weekend we hope to sit down with ECAC Hockey commissioner Steve Hagwell specifically to ask him your questions. Therefore, submit some questions! You’ve got a few ways to do this: email me ([email protected]), Tweet me, or leave queries in the comments below.

Don’t miss our coverage this weekend: We will chat live with you folks through each game on our CoverItLive chat rooms, plus features and recaps for each contest. Come, watch the game with your laptop open and keep us company.

Also, be sure to check out the league’s handy little fan guide for all the relevant info on the event. Seriously, click the link. It’s not joke or trick or anything.