ECAC Hockey picks: Dec. 5-9

Season record: 22-19-3. I’ve seen better.

Friday, December 5

Union at Brown
Boy, what are we to make of Union? The Dutchmen are 2-6-1 in their last nine, putting forth wildly disparate performances along the way. But perhaps there are glimmers of light down the tunnel in Achilles Rink: While Union’s power play was a flat-lining 1/23 during a 0-4-1 slump, it has rebounded of late with eight goals in its last 20 chances. Brown suffered through a miserable 1-7 November, and must be praying for a change of fortune in December. The Bears have been shut out three times in their last five games, scoring just nine goals all month. Union definitely has the advantage, though both squads are dying for a silver-lining result to build on. Union wins.

Harvard at Princeton
On the bright side, Princeton scored as many goals last weekend (five) as it did in the six games prior (1-5). The Tigers are getting healthier, but geez, there are shorter transition steps than the one coming to town on Friday. The Crimson are quite possibly the hottest team in the nation right now. Harvard is 5-0-1 on the road and 3-0-1 – always as the visitor – against top-10 opponents. This game is Harvard’s to lose.

Dartmouth at Quinnipiac
The Big Green are playing solid defense lately, giving up just 10 goals in their last six games including two shutouts. Junior goalie James Kruger is settling in nicely with a .930 save percentage, the penalty kill is humming at 91 percent, and the power play hasn’t even come up to speed (15 percent). Down in Hamden, the Bobcats are keeping their heads above water despite dropping goal totals. QU has only been out-shot once this season, but net-front positioning and finishing touches have been elusive for these young cats. This should be a terrific game between potential league top-four finishers, and it is only by the barest margin that I pick QU to take this one.

Rensselaer at Yale
Goals and Engineers are fitting together like Legos and Lincoln Logs lately. Jason Kasdorf is doing his darnedest to keep RPI in the mix on a nightly basis, but it is inevitable to run into slides like this: Five one-goal games (2-2-1), then a blowout… in this case, last weekend’s 6-0 loss at Michigan, which isn’t having a top-notch season itself. Yale isn’t setting goals aflame this season either, but the offense has been opportunistic and the defense has held the fort with under two goals allowed per game. The power play needs to double its effectiveness (11 percent), but so far so good in New Haven. Yale wins.

Denver at Cornell
The Pioneers are off to a hot start (8-3), but have played only two games away from home (1-1, both at Minnesota-Duluth). The offense is surgical, carving foes to the tune of 3.64 goals per game… if Cornell can minimize DU’s chances, the goaltending behind the barrage is pedestrian (.887 team save percentage). The Big Red are 4-1 in their last five, playing tight defense and not taking too many unreasonable risks offensively. This has the potential to go down as a bigger upset than it deserves to be, and I like Cornell’s odds. Big Red take it on Friday.

Saturday, December 6

Rensselaer at Brown 4:00
Quicker-than-usual turnaround for these teams, playing about 19 hours after Friday’s finish. Does this favor the Bears, who get to sleep in their own beds? Sure, in theory… but between two struggling teams, Bruno is decidedly stugglingier. Edge RPI.

Union at Yale
Though Yale may not be turning many heads yet this year, it’s worth noting that the Bulldogs beat Dartmouth in Hanover, Harvard in Boston, Colgate in Hamilton, and lost a tight game to Cornell at Lynah. The Blue’s team save percentage is .938 and the PP isn’t even rolling yet. This is a squad that can hang with the best. Union will have to bring its A-game if it hopes to hang around at Ingalls on Saturday. Yale wins.

Harvard at Quinnipiac
While there is a lot to like about the way Quinnipiac is playing this fall, I’m just riding Harvard ’til there ain’t no where else to go. The Crimson are tearing it up and we’re all just waiting to see where this goes… Harvard wins.

Dartmouth at Princeton
The Big Green are holding opponents to 22 shots a game over the last two weeks, and that doesn’t bode well for a Princeton team that is dying for offense. Dartmouth has a clear advantage, and is my pick to win.

Clarkson at St. Lawrence
Clarkson’s string of successful seasons against their border-bound rival appears to have come to an end, as SLU took a (non-conference) tie and win over the Halloween weekend. ‘Tech’s issues go beyond the loss of bragging rights however, having only topped two goals in a game twice since the opening weekend (3-7-4 since then). Casey Jones and the Golden Knights knew they would live or die by the strength of their defense… and so far, the team is sustaining more blows than it’s giving. Meanwhile, St. Lawrence is 7-3-1 since mid-October and is getting superb team defense and netminding by rookie Kyle Hayton (.935 save rate). Add in that thunderous, playing-in-an-oak-tree home ice edge, and SLU should take this game as well.

Denver at Cornell
Everything I said about Friday night’s matchup holds true again, but can the Red really keep the lid on DU’s explosive offense? I wouldn’t bet on a sweep. DU wins.

Tuesday, December 9

Colgate at Providence
Big injuries are hampering Colgate’s widely expected charge toward glory, but on the bright side the Raiders don’t play another league game until January 9. Providence is rolling, winning seven of nine (7-2) with four shutouts in six games, including three in a row over New Hampshire, Army, and Boston College. Oddly enough, the Friars have scored one goal or fewer in four of their last seven games, but you don’t need to score very often when your team save percentage is .975 for the month of November. Friars win.