For the first time this season, all twelve ECAC Hockey teams have played the same amount of conference games. With two weekends left in the regular season, the league can be broken down into three parts: teams with a first-round bye, teams with home ice, and teams that will be on the road for the playoffs. Here’s how I see it breaking down entering the stretch run.
First-round bye (4)
Union, Harvard, St. Lawrence, Cornell
This might be one of the easiest categories to separate from the rest of the league. The Dutchmen are a point ahead of Harvard for first place, while Cornell and St. Lawrence are tied for third, four points ahead of fifth-place Quinnipiac.
It wouldn’t shock me to see any of these four teams win the regular season title, although Union and Harvard should be considered the two front runners.
Home ice in the first round (4)
Quinnipiac, Clarkson, Yale Princeton
If the season ended today, these four teams would host a first-round playoff series. QU and Clarkson have been inconsistent these season, but I think both teams should be able to hold on to home ice for the first round. The Bobcats are four points out of a top-four spot, but passing one of the league’s top-four teams looks like a difficult task over the final two weeks of the regular season.
The Bulldogs and Tigers are in a little more precarious situations. Yale has played better in the second half, although it missed a chance to put some space between the teams behind it with a 4-2 loss to Colgate Sunday. Princeton started the second half in a slump, but has had better results over the last few weeks.
On the road (4)
Colgate, Dartmouth, Rensselaer, Brown
RPI and Brown are virtual locks to head on the road for the league playoffs. Colgate and Dartmouth are currently a point behind eighth-place Princeton, but the Tigers are heating up and could extend that lead over the final four games. Between these two teams, I think Dartmouth is the more likely team to jump into the final home-ice spot, although the Big Green end the regular season with tough matchups at home against St. Lawrence and Clarkson.
Dutchmen move into first place
Despite a loss to Harvard Friday, Union regained first place with an 8-3 thumping of Dartmouth on Saturday.
Spencer Foo had his second hat trick of the season, and also added an assist. He has 20 goals and 50 points this year. Saturday’s game made him the 14th player in Union’s Division I history to reach the 100-point mark.
One of those thirteen other players is linemate Mike Vecchione, who appears to be one of the favorites for the Hobey Baker award. The senior had an assist against Dartmouth to give him a team-record 51 points this season. It’s the second 50-point season of Vecchione’s career. He accomplished the feat during the 2014-15 season.
The Dutchmen are in first place despite the absence of senior goalie Alex Sakellaropoulos, who has been out since getting injured against St. Lawrence on Jan. 28. He was spotted last week with a brace on his left knee, according to The Daily Gazette.
Princeton on a roll
The Tigers ended the first half on a 7-2 run, but struggled once the games resumed following the Christmas break. Princeton lost its first three games in 2017, but is 4-0-2 since then, including a weekend sweep of St. Lawrence and Clarkson at Hobey Baker Rink.
The Tigers are 11-11-3 overall.That’s more wins than the program had over the last two seasons combined and the most overall wins in a season since 2010-11.