Decade In Review: ECAC Hockey finds consistency, NHL players, NCAA championships from 2010 to 2019

Shayne Gostisbehere (Union - 14). (Shelley M. Szwast)
Shayne Gostisbehere helped Union to the 2014 national championship and is now with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers (photo: Shelley M. Szwast).

The 2010s began with a Cornell team that finished with nine losses en route to a conference tournament title and ends with another strong Big Red team leading the ECAC.

That’s where the bookending similarities end for a decade featuring several teams on top, streaks snapped, Hobey Baker winners and a stretch in Atlantic City.

Clarkson, in second-place under Casey Jones and coming off two consecutive NCAA tournament appearances in addition to being the reigning Whitelaw Cup holders, finished in the ECAC cellar in 2010. North Country rival St. Lawrence saw success with Gregs between Carey and Carvel.

There were heated Mayor’s Cups between RPI and Union along with a national title game made up of Yale and Quinnipiac. Colgate opened a new arena, Brown went the entire decade led by Brendan Whittet, and Dartmouth became “America’s team.”

In a decade where plenty of firsts and highs were met, here’s what stands out for the ECAC during the 2010s.

Five ECAC Moments That Stand Out This Decade

1. Union’s 2014 title run

Of the national title runs this decade, Union’s 2014 championship in Philadelphia was one of the most dominant. The Dutchmen ended the season on a 16-0-1 streak from February onward, defeating a Boston College team featuring Johnny Gaudreau’s dominant line and a Minnesota squad that spent much of the season as the No. 1 overall seed. Union’s victory – the second consecutive ECAC national championship – put the rest of college hockey on notice.

2. Staying intact

While change and realignment was a major story in college hockey throughout the decade, that was not the case for the ECAC. No other conference kept its membership intact or added teams. The ECAC had 12 teams in 2010 will enter 2020 with the same group of 12.

3. The rise of the Bobcats

The 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs featured a reminder of how far Quinnipiac’s team has come this decade. Both Devon Toews and Connor Clifton scored playoff goals, becoming the first and second Bobcats to do so. Yet it didn’t seem out of place. Quinnipiac’s run during the 2010s saw Rand Pecknold’s teams, who had made the NCAA Tournament once prior, reach a pair of national championship games, five NCAA tournaments, four ECAC regular season titles and a number of NHLers as Hamden, Conn., became a destination.

4. Yale and Harvard’s renaissance

The 2010s can be split between the revival of a pair of rivals in Yale and Harvard. Yale owned the early portion of the decade with five NCAA tournament appearances, outstanding play by Alex Lyon and Pittsburgh native Jesse Root, and of course the 2013 national title. Harvard’s four NCAA tournament appearances all came from 2015 onward with the help of 2016 Hobey Baker winner and two-time ECAC Player of the Year Jimmy Vesey, 2018 ECAC Player of the Year Ryan Donato and Adam Fox, among others.

5. Princeton’s 2018 conference tournament championship

In theory, conference tournaments offer an opportunity for any school to make the postseason. In reality, it rarely happens that way, which makes Princeton’s run in 2018 that much more impressive. The Tigers, featuring three players who went on to sign NHL contracts, were below .500 in February. Getting hot at the right time, Princeton won six straight ECAC tournament games as the seventh seed, taking down both Cornell and Clarkson in order to earn an NCAA tournament berth.

Team of the Decade: 2012-13 Yale

On paper, there have been better ECAC regular-season teams this decade. There have been better Yale teams, as the Bulldogs in 2011 entered the NCAA tournament as the top overall seed.

None were as influential as the Yale team two seasons later, who after losing both the ECAC conference tournament semifinals and third-place game, snuck into the NCAA tournament as the final at-large bid. Four wins later – including a national championship game win over nearby rival Quinnipiac – and the Bulldogs’ accomplishment of being the first ECAC national champion since Harvard in 1989 is marked by a giant banner inside Ingalls Arena.

To discuss this decade without discussing the run of parity with final at-large bids winning national championships would be an oversight. Yale being the first team to accomplish the feat, kicking off (with Quinnipiac) a run of five ECAC teams in five Frozen Fours and being so influential makes the 2012-13 Bulldogs the ECAC team of the decade.

Honorable Mention: 2013-14 Union, 2017-18 Cornell, 2012-13 Quinnipiac, 2016-17 Harvard, 2017-18 Clarkson, 2010-11 Yale

Player of the Decade: Shayne Gostisbehere, Union (2011-14)

Union’s run of success started with Nate Leaman, continued under Rick Bennett and can be seen through the career of Shayne Gostisbehere. The Dutchman defender spent three seasons in Schenectady, where he put up 20-plus points each season. During his time, Union went to a pair of Frozen Fours, won two ECAC regular-season titles, three conference tournaments and ended with the 2014 national championship in a game where Union scored seven goals and Gostisbehere went plus-7.

The Dutchmen were more than the sum of one player this decade, whether it’s Daniel Carr, Troy Grosenick or Mike Vecchione, but when the book on Union’s 2010s success gets written, it’s Gostisbehere at the top of the list. The same can be said for the ECAC.

Honorable Mention: Jimmy Vesey (Harvard), Alex Lyon (Yale), Ryan Donato (Harvard), Vecchione (Union), Eric Hartzell (Quinnipiac), Austin Smith (Colgate)