Playoff hockey gets underway this weekend in the ECAC, as the fifth through twelfth place teams will meet across four best-of-three series set to begin on Friday night.
It’s worth noting that no lower-seeded team has won a first-round playoff series since 2015, when ninth-seeded Rensselaer beat eighth-seeded Clarkson. I’m picking all of the higher-seeded teams to win, but I wouldn’t be shocked if a lower-seeded team advanced to the quarterfinals. Here’s a look at the upcoming games this weekend:
Last time: 10-2
No. 12 St. Lawrence at No. 5 Dartmouth
Season series: Dartmouth, 2-0
7 p.m. Friday, Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday (if necessary).
Dartmouth is 11-6-1 since losing 1-0 to Denver on Dec. 15, which is the second-best mark in ECAC Hockey since then, trailing only first-place Cornell.The trio of Shane Sellar, Will Graber, and Quin Foreman has played well lately and gives the Big Green a legitimate scoring line heading into the playoffs.
Dartmouth doesn’t have a lot of super stars outside of that trio, but the Big Green always seems to compete hard and play better than the sum of their parts.
St. Lawrence ended the regular season on a 1-7 skid, but four of those seven losses were b y a single goal. It’s been a better go of things for the Saints since a disastrous and injury riddled start. Neither team is an offensive juggernaut, but the Big Green have shown the ability to put together some goals in bunches lately, and I’m not sure St. Lawrence has the scoring depth to match that.
Dartmouth in two
No. 11 Rensselaer at No. 6 Colgate
Season series: Colgate, 2-0
How big was Colton Point’s return to the Colgate goal last weekend? The Raiders are 13-9-5 with Point in net compared to 1-5-1 when he doesn’t play. The sophomore returned to action last weekend after missing several weeks and had 34 saves in Colgate’s 5-2 win over RPI in the regular season finale Saturday.
The Raiders slipped a bit in the second half, but are still hosting a playoff game for the first time since 2015. A young RPI team might have made some strides in playing the right way for first-year coach Dave Smith, but the results simply weren’t there this season for the Engineers, who enter the playoffs with a 5-25-4 record. I just don’t think RPI will be able to generate enough offense to get by Point and the Raiders defense.
Colgate in two
No. 10 Brown at No. 7 Princeton
Season series: 1-1
All games start at 7 p.m.
This could be an interesting matchup, as the two regular-season games between these were total opposites of one another. Brown shutout Princeton 3-0 in November, while the Tigers seemingly scored at will in a 7-2 over the Bears in February.
Princeton has one of the deepest offenses in the league, as Ryan Kuffner and his 25 goals lead four players averaging more than a point per game. However, defense has been an issue throughout the year. The offensive numbers weren’t impressive for the Bears, but they do have some talented forwards, led by Sam Lafferty and Tommy Marchin. Brown ended the regular season last weekend with back-to-back wins for the first time since November.
The Bears need to slow the pace down and avoid giving Princeton chances in transition. The Tigers have the capability to win a shootout-type game, while Brown does not. I think it will be close, but it’s tough to bet against Princeton’s big guns staying quiet all weekend.
Princeton in three
No. 9 Quinnipiac at No. 8 Yale
Season series: 1-1
7 p.m. Friday, Saturday; 5 p.m. Sunday (if necessary)
This season marks the first time that Quinnipiac won’t host a playoff series since joining the ECAC in 2005. The Bobcats simply didn’t have it during the regular season, and are on pace to finish with their first losing record since 1995-96, when the school was a Division II independent.
A lot of Quinnipiac’s struggles have been due to a lack of scoring depth. Odeen Tufto and Tanner MacMaster has been strong contributors this season, but there isn’t a lot behind them.
Yale has played better in the second half, sparked by a strong close to the regular season by junior Joe Snively, who has 36 points in 29 games this year. Sam Tucker and Corbin Kaczperski have split time in goal, although Kaczperski has the better numbers on the season. It remains to be seen who will be in goal on Friday.
The numbers on the season for Yale don’t jump out, but it ended the year on a 6-2 run. and The Bulldogs have been playing better in both ends of the ice, although they did play poorly defensively in a 6-4 loss to Dartmouth last Friday. Led by Snively, I think the Bulldogs have a few more finishers on offense than the Bobcats, and that should be the difference in this series.
Yale in three