What a fall we had, as the number of surprises within the ECAC seemingly outnumbered the number of things that seem normal. The most interesting surprise of course has been Clarkson but in a sense the top three in these rankings weren’t expected to be at the top during any point of the season but here they are at the end of the first half. Quinnipiac has spent the better half of the first two months in the top spot, but that reign ends this week with a loss to Union. Although Union defeated the Bobcats, its weekend work to me was not as great as the team that will sit at the top to end the semester. Read this week’s Three Things I Think for more in-depth coverage of the conference this week. In a weird twist this week I am going to post last week”s ranking along with my preseason ranking of the team, as it always interesting to look back and see just how terrible I was at predicting the teams.
1. Clarkson (12-3-1, 4-2-0 ECAC) – Last Week 3, Preseason 12
Worst to first in a semester isn’t bad, as none of us would have had Clarkson here to begin the season but here they are. The Golden Knights already have three more wins than they did all of last year, a year in which it struggled mightily. Last weekend it had an impressive sweep of rival St. Lawrence. Some will say Clarkson hasn’t played a tough schedule but I say look at the way they are winning games. Playing in close games is one thing, but winning them at nearly a 90 percent pace is another thing.
I am a firm believer that good teams find ways to win, and bad ones find ways to lose. I am sticking to that adage and that is why Clarkson is here. Two wins over a solid rival that beat North Dakota just last week is more solid than the two home wins Union had; yes one of them was against Quinnipiac but the Bobcats haven’t exactly been lights out in recent weeks. Tech deserves this spot after its first half, congrats to them. I feel as though they will continue winning, nothing will change. It also has the distinction of being the highest ranked ECAC team in the Pairwise, sitting in a tie for fifth place with mighty Michigan.
In my opinion, Clarkson is the best, true defensive team in the conference. Both Union and Quinnipiac dominate possession but Clarkson does not. What Clarkson does is it overloads the middle of the ice and blocks a ton of shots, it plays a totally different style defense than both of the teams below it. With it Clarkson will continue winning hockey games, and they will have a chance in near every game.
2. Union (10-3-2, 7-1-0) – Last Week 2, Preseason 6
Union should probably be on top of these rankings, as the Dutchmen have won seven games in a row. But I compared the weekend’s work of Union and Clarkson and I felt two wins against a rival including a road win trumped two home wins. Albeit one of those games was against one of the top teams which was impressive in its own right but another against the team that 12th in these rankings. If the Dutch were on the road and beat Quinnipiac they would no doubt be at the top of these rankings but the top three are so close right now that I fretted for two days about who I would put at the top. Union has a plethora of big games upcoming, including a big two this weekend at St Cloud State. Its chances to reach the top of the poll will be many and near between.
3. Quinnipiac (13-3-3, 6-2-2) – Last Week 1, Preseason 5
Quinnipiac had a solid first half and one loss is not going to derail it. It is still worthy to be at the top but the Bobcats have just one win in its past five contests. Union took play to the Q on Saturday, which marked one of the first times if not the first time that the Bobcats had given up more shots than it took. Quinnipiac has a solid young defense, which still needs to mold but it has done it fast. The five game stretch is probably the first time this season that it has shown its youth.
4. Cornell (7-4-2, 4-3-2) – Last Week 4, Preseason 3
This is the closest that I have come yet with predicting a team’s position in preseason, but in its defense Cornell has probably had the toughest early season conference schedule of any team, save of course its travel partner Colgate. Speaking of the latter the Big Red and Raiders played to a tough fought 2-2 tie on Saturday night in Hamilton.
5. Colgate (7-7-2, 5-3-1) – Last Week 6, Preseason 9
Colgate has quietly had a solid first half, which has featured probably the strongest overall schedule of all the teams in the ECAC. According to Krach, the Raiders have played the second toughest schedule in the country and have actually fared quite well with it, winning games against Ferris State, Clarkson and Union. Gate will host Hockey East foe UMass this weekend in two games they probably should win.
6. Rensselaer (8-5-3, 3-3-3) – Last Week 8, Preseason 1
The team I thought would be the best team in the conference had an inconsistent but not brutal first half and it has a chance to make it a good half if it can beat a solid Denver team this weekend. Rensselaer picked up a tie against the once unbeatable QU team and a win against Princeton last weekend. The weekend was a solid way to end its first half conference slate.
7. Yale (6-3-3, 3-2-3) – Last Week 5, Preseason 2
Read about Yale in this week’s Three Things I Think but the Bulldogs had a tough home weekend, losing to Dartmouth and tying with Harvard. The weekend was easily its worst of the first half and worst since its vacation in Atlantic City last season, we all remember that don’t we?
8. St. Lawrence (8-8-2,2-4-2) – Last Week 7, Preseason 10
St. Lawrence is still above where I thought they would be and they are lucky that the teams below them fall off quite fast. Last weekend it had every opportunity to sweep rival, Clarkson, but missed opportunities and failed defensive coverages doomed the weekend for them as instead they were swept away/ The defense has been adventure but the offense has been there. Improve the backside and St. Lawrence would be near the top, but they aren’t. This weekend the Saints will have a lone game with Vermont before it embarks on its winter break, which lasts until January 7th. Its is much needed as no team has played a busier schedule, as it has played two games every weekend since the beginning of the year.
9. Brown (5-6-1, 3-4-1) – Last Week 11, Preseason 8
Brown has had an interesting half as it started with two wins, then had one win in eight and last weekend it finished it with two wins. Over the weekend, the Bears scored the first two goals against Harvard in route to a 2-1 win against the Crimson and on Saturday it came back to score the final three goals to defeat Dartmouth 3-2 in overtime. Brown is starting to get healthy and this has been key in the turnaround, but the Bears still need the break to allot it even more time to become full healthy. The weekend was a start though and something they can build on. It next plays at Denver on January 7th.
10. Dartmouth (2-9-0, 2-7-0) – Last Week 10, Preseason 4
To say Dartmouth has had a disappointing first half would be a huge understatement, as most of us though the Big Green would be competing at the top of the conference. But signs have progress have been glaring in recent weeks as a win on Saturday would have been its third consecutive. On Friday night the Big Green picked up a huge road win against Yale. Saturday night it raced out to a first period 2-0 led but failed to hold against Brown. Dartmouth will play next in its Christmas tournament at the end of the month.
11. Harvard (4-7-2, 2-6-2) – Last Week 9, Preseason 7
After beginning the season 2-0-2, the Crimson have gone a paltry 2-7-0 in its last nine games. Last weekend, Harvard lost to Brown and tied Yale in its two games. Harvard in all honesty has come as advertised in the preseason, inconsistent.
12. Princeton (3-12-0, 2-8-0) – Last Week 12, Preseason 12
The Tigers have defeated two teams for its three wins, the once hapless Big Green and the once unbeatable Quinnipiac. But heading into the Break it has the 56th ranked winning percentage and it has a four game losing streak ongoing. Princeton is still decimated by injuries and some of those players should come back for the second half, so Princeton may be a team to watch.