Last weekend was interesting to say the least, as two teams made huge statements, two teams took a step back and another ECAC goaltender was credited with a goal. Both Clarkson and Union swept over the weekend, as the Golden Knights picked up an impressive sweep over its longtime rival St. Lawrence while Union picked up a home win against the once seemingly unbeatable Quinnipiac Bobcats. Yale was the team that took the biggest step back over the weekend as it picked up a mesely point against both Harvard and Dartmouth, two teams that had combined for just two conference wins coming into the weekend. Quinnipiac has just one win in its last four contests with its lone victory against UMass, while Union holds the conference’s longest current winning streak at seven games.
The top of the standings are really close within the conference, as five points separate the top seven teams. Quinnipiac and Union are tied at the top,, after Union’s 6-4 win over the Bobcats on Saturday night. Clarkson sits within two points of the top and Colgate is three points back, after tying Cornell in Hamilton. With that said, here are my thoughts for the week.
Two huge non-conference series’ this weekend that will have huge implications.
This weekend will bring about a crucial weekend in terms of non-conference action, as capital region teams Union and Rensselaer will play four games against top NCHC foes. Union will travel to Minnesota for a weekend series against the first rated team in the Pairwise rankings, St Cloud State, while the Engineers will host Denver. The games will be crucial for future Pairwise positioning for not only the two teams involved but the rest of the conference as a whole.
Because opponents opponents is such a huge criteria at 54 percent of the RPI, playing teams like St. Cloud and Denver are a good thing that benefits all league teams. Both Denver and St. Cloud are quality teams that will be highly rated come seasons’ end, wins against them can only be a good thing so to say this weekend is crucial is probably an understatement. Read up on how the Rating Percentage Index is calculated by following this link.
Key wins, against key opponents are the key to success but because the ECAC has so few games against the NCHC this season, any win is big because it bolsters the conference’s overall standing against the other conferences and in this case against the NCHC as a whole. For Union the concept of beating the top rated RPI team, in St Cloud will bolster its rating in two ways and both ways are new to the system as a whole. The first way a win against St. Cloud helps is that Road wins are rated at a percentage of 1.2, which means a road win means more than a home win. The second way, also new this season, is the quality win criteria as bonus points are awarded for quality wins. Rensselaer has a little less opportunity hosting the Pioneers but Denver is always a quality opponent and the bonus points will still be available.
Adam Wodon discussed the changes in how the Pairwise and RPI in his Embrace the Change early in the year. If you haven’t checked that out it is a quality read and it will do a better job explaining it than I can. But by any senses of the imagination it is a little early to be talking about Pairwise and the RPI, or that’s what most of you will say. I disagree because this weekend could be a pivotal determinant of how many teams the ECAC conference gets into the tournament come the end of the season. Every game is important and these four pivotal games should be on the top of everyone’s mind.
Yale’s Bad Weekend May be a Sign of Things To Come
I have been saying for a few weeks that Yale may have been ranked too high in many polls and this weekend may have brought them back down to earth, with a loss to Dartmouth and a tie against Harvard. The weekend may not have been so surprising if the Bulldogs were on the road but this one point weekend happened within the friendly confines of The Whale. Harvard and Dartmouth entered the weekend with an aggregate 5-14-1 record.
The Bulldogs have a win against Clarkson, who is rated sixth in the Pairwise, and Colgate who’s rated 24th but have no other wins against teams who are in the top 46 of RPI. A loss against Brown is one that stands out, albeit early in the season. Minus its win against Clarkson, the Bulldogs five other wins, with those teams having a combined record of 21-52-4.
Yale has two games remaining with Union, who at this moment looks like one of the top teams in the country and games with many of the top teams in the ECAC conference. It will be interesting to see if Yale recovers from this weekend but it won’t play again until December 29th. If this weekend is any indication Yale needs the time if in the worst way, if anything its National Title hangover is happening much to the surprise to me but I guess 6-3-3 isn’t bad. There is still plenty of season left to win some big games. Let us not forget though, Yale squeaked into the tournament last season and won the whole thing.
The Second Half of the Conference Schedule is Going to be Quite Interesting
The top of the standings are so discombobulated that seven teams sit within five points of the two leaders, Union and Quinnipiac. Every team has games in hand on Quinnipiac, and Union has now won seven in a row. Union appears to have the upper hand at the moment but Quinnipiac has a solid, deep team that could go in a long run. Union defeated the Bobcats on home ice Saturday night, in a game that saw just about everything including a goal from QU goaltender, Michael Garteig, off of a Union defensive blunder. But Union is far from the only team that has a shot, as it seems multiple teams below them have just as good of a chance.
Clarkson is a team that has surprised many in the early going and it sits two points behind both QU and Union. If any team has been more impressive in how it wins I would like to find them because the Golden Knights have been the Cardiac kids so to say, winning one goal games with such ease that even the greatest of teams would wonder how they do it. So far it has been a part of ten games that have been decided by one goal and they have gone an impressive 9-1 in those games. Its last eight wins have been by one goal.
Colgate sits three points behind, while Cornell sits four points behind the leaders as both teams have been a bit inconsistent. And of course the top two in the Preseason Yale and Rensselaer sit lurking five points behind the leaders, both of which have every shot of picking its respective season’s up. It seems as though the battle for the top and the middle positions may be up for complete grabs. It seems that no team is going to run away with the league like QU did last year. It should make for a very interesting second half. Lets enjoy it… This will be the last Three Things I Think until the first week of January.