While the other conferences were overly-written about in the offseason because of the massive change of landscape that has occurred around College Hockey, the ECAC stayed relatively uniform and out of the national news. In some senses, it has been left in the shadow of the other conferences despite its most crowning achievement in two decades, Yale’s national title victory in April.
Last season, was a successful one for the conference and if it is any indication this season could be much of the same. In the first two weeks of the season, the conference has gone 10-4-1 in non-conference games. Of course the Ivy league teams don’t join the party for another two weeks but the conference as a whole looks to be deep and stacked, especially at the forward position. Colgate and Clarkson have combined for half of the games that have been played, and for two teams that struggled for large portions of last year they have impressed. Those two have combined for a combined 5-2-0 mark in the early going.
With week one in the books, trends are starting to take shape. Here are three of the most noteworthy:
For those who thought Greg Carey would struggle without his two all-American teammates, think again.
Coming into the season, many of the so called experts (myself included) wondered whether Greg Carey would miss a beat without play-maker and linemate Kyle Flanagan. Carey went out against a tough Maine defense and took over the game on Saturday night, where he found the score sheet with two goals and two assists.
To begin the season, he has been on a line with his brother, Matt, and Jeremy Wick. The latter was expected but the fact his brother is on his line will make St. Lawrence an interesting team to watch night in and night out. Brothers, no matter the age, have a unique chemistry that can often be untouched, but losing arguably the best play-maker in the country should have hurt. On Saturday night, Maine just did not have the answer for his line.
Not only did St. Lawrence lose the best play-maker in the country, it also lost all-American defenseman, George Hughes to graduation. Hughes finished last season with 32 assists and 38 points. Those numbers made him the top scoring defender in the country and his loss is also a huge one, as he played when Carey and Flanagan did. But St. Lawrence may have found his replacement to feed Greg Carey assists and help out from the blue line, in Gavin Bayreuther. Over the weekend he was able to pot two goals and an assist, while playing with Carey.
The Saints will only go as far as Carey will take them. Great players make adjustments to just about anything and losing two all-American linemates might be just an afterthought for the pure goal-scorer. Only time will tell I suppose.
Clarkson is going to be a tough out every night
Last season, the Golden Knights may not have finished at the bottom of the league, that distinction went to Harvard, but for much of the season they played like they were. The Knights enter this season as the most experienced squad in the ECAC and it has showed in the early going. Clarkson in its three wins has allowed just three goals to the two teams that were picked to be at the top of the Atlantic, not a bad start for a team that most picked to finish in the basement of the league this season.
The difference so far this season, unlike last season, has been from the goal out. Freshman, Steve Perry has impressed in his two starts going 2-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and .964 save percentage. His play has obviously pushed Greg Lewis to the brink for that job. Last season Clarkson goaltenders combined for a paltry save percentage under 90 percent. Lewis was the stalwart in net last season playing in 36 games but this year he may have some competition on his hands. That competition will only make him and his team better.
When teams play from the net out it usually relieves pressure up and down the lineup, ask any coach. Despite struggling against top tier team, UNH on Friday, the Knights played an impressive defensive game in the three other games. With experience up and down its lineup look for the strong defensive play to continue and Clarkson may just end up further near the top than most may have expected in preseason. If anything the 3-1 start is promising but can it lead to more?
Rensselaer and Kasdorf will be much better than they showed on Sunday
On Sunday, Rensselaer travelled to perennial national contender Boston College and, in all senses of the phrase, got blown out of the building by the powerful Eagles. The performance should just be a blip in the road for the Engineers.
The specialty teams were awful, for lack of a better word, with the Engineers going 0-7 on the power-play, while the Eagles went 2-2 against the RPI penalty kill. The special teams may have missed power-play quarterback, Nick Bailen who graduated, but then again someone has to step up to pick up his seven power-play goals. Understandably it was one game, but one game often leads to bad habits. The Engineers can only hope it doesn’t become a trend.
Jason Kasdorf began the season as both the coaches and media’s darling on top of the all-conference preseason teams but he hardly looked the part on Sunday afternoon. Although one can look at his performance and say it wasn’t just him, as his defense left him out to dry on many occasions. With all the returning players up and down the lineup, the Engineers will be better than they showed defensively against BC. Or at least they should be.
I am a huge advocate of playing great opponents that will make you better and Boston College will do just that for a team. Next weekend, RPI will travel to Boston University and have the chance for redemption mere miles from where they struggled over the weekend. Kudos to them for playing these teams almost every season, it will be rewarded for it in the near future.