On to the playoffs

There was little intrigue entering the final weekend of the regular season in ECAC Hockey.

Cornell, Union, Clarkson, and Harvard had all clinched a first-round bye entering the weekend. The Big Red secured their first regular season championship since 2005 with a win over Rensselaer on Friday.

The only possibility for movement was in the middle of the standings, but all eight remaining teams ended the year in the same position that they were in entering the weekend. Yale briefly dropped to ninth place with a loss on Friday, but a Bulldogs win on Saturday coupled with a Quinnipiac loss meant that the Bobcats won’t host a playoff series for the first time since joining the league in 2005.

Here are the quarterfinal matchups set to begin this Friday. All are best-of-three series.

No. 12 St. Lawrence at No.5 Dartmouth

No. 11 Rensselaer at No. 6 Colgate

No. 10 Brown at No. 7 Princeton

No. 9 Quinnipiac at No. 8 Yale

Brown closes strong

It hasn’t been a great year for Brown. The Bears hadn’t won a game in February entering the weekend, but they swept Harvard and Dartmouth at home to record their first four-point weekend of the year in league play.

Brown will travel to Princeton for the first round of the conference tournament on Friday. The Bears shutout the Tigers in November, but Princeton erupted for seven goals in a blowout win earlier this month.

Brown freshman Luke Kania started both games in goal over the weekend for Brown, stopping 70-of-74 shots against Harvard and Dartmouth. Saturday’s 3-0 win over the Big Green was his first collegiate shutout.

Part of the reason for the Bears struggles entering the weekend had been defense. Brown has been better over the last several games, but can’t afford to trip up against a Princeton team that might have the most dangerous offense in the league. The Bears have some talented forwards, but aren’t the type of team that can get into a slugfest.

Clarkson ends its skid

Like Brown, Clarkson entered the final weekend of the regular season looking for its first win in February. The Golden Knights settled for a 3-3 tie with Princeton Friday night before beating Quinnipiac 4-2 Saturday to end an eight-game winless streak.

It wasn’t like Clarkson was getting blown out every night during that stretch; the Golden Knights had four ties and two one-goal losses. But Saturday’s win on the team’s senior night surely puts Casey Jones and his players at ease heading into the conference tournament. The win was Clarkson’s 20th of the year, the first time since 2007-08 the program has reached 20 wins in the regular season.

Clarkson’s overall strong play helped the lock up a first-round bye in the league tournament and  virtually assured them a spot in the NCAA tournament. The week off should be good for the Golden Knights, who had several players dealing with the flu over the last month.