There have been some interesting storylines since I last posted. Some teams seem to be on the rise, while others are going in the opposite direction. As a whole, the conference is sitting in a good spot in regards to the NCAA tournament with four teams comfortably on the inside. That is of course all arbitrary because the second half always has a team or two or three that drops out of the top 14 or 15 teams in the Pairwise. The second half always has teams that come out of nowhere as well, so what you see now is not set in stone.
Colgate went out to the Mariucci Classic in Minnesota and shocked everyone by winning both of its games, taking home the tournament title. It not only defeated number one ranked Minnesota in a shootout but it backed up its performance by winning 3-0 against number two ranked, Ferris State . I will discuss what I think about it below but it is a trend that can only be positive for such a young team such as Colgate. Lets not get ahead of ourselves, though, in thinking that it is all of a sudden great team and in the hunt for a National Championship because of one two game stretch. I guess you kind of have a hint of what I am going to say.
Quinnipiac and Harvard will reopen conference play for the second half on Tuesday. QU heads into the game second in the conference with 14 points, but after the game most teams in the conference will have three games in hand on it. Union continues to lead the conference, but teams such as Clarkson, Cornell and Colgate sit within six points of the top. The season is still relatively young though at halfway. Full conference slates will commence at the end of February with most teams playing two conference games a week at that point. Without further ado, here are my thoughts of the week:
Colgate’s Bandwagon is overflowing, for no particular reason
Wins against Minnesota (it goes down officially as a tie) and Ferris State are one thing, but backing the performance up may prove difficult for the young Raiders. There is no question that Gate had a tough first schedule, which is proven by its number one rated schedule according to the Krach, but then again it hasn’t been all rosy for much of the season. Two losses against UMass late in the first half and a loss to Bowling Green immediately come to mind, but wins against Union, Minnesota and two against a strong Ferris team are rather impressive.
Holiday tournaments often produce wacky results when put up against the rest of the season. Last season, UMass came out of nowhere to win the Ledyard Bank Classic and Maine won the Florida Holiday Classic for just two examples. An example can also be found last week, as Air Force came out of nowhere to win the Ledyard Bank Classic, against the likes of Northeastern, Providence and Dartmouth. When teams come out of break they are often ill-prepared for high competition, as for most it has been a month or more since they last saw a competitive game. Colgate was obviously more than ready for the second half, and it showed. Better than a team like Minnesota though? Probably not on most nights.
I still feel the same about Colgate today, than I did when I wrote the ECAC preview in October. It has been inconsistent much of the season, proven by the ninth rated defense it sports. Defense is a must for the Raiders, when they have played great defensively and received great goaltending they have won big games but when they haven’t they have been blown out. I have said from the beginning, with a little defense the Raiders could be scary, last weekend they got defense and goaltending,l it promptly showed just what it could do. But is one weekend, especially one that sat right after the break, any indication of what the second half could bring? Absolutely not; it is a signature win or two, too early for the bandwagon to be this big among many of my colleagues.
Clarkson Will Be Fine and Gave Itself a Playoff Preview With Three Games in a Row Against Lowell
I had the opportunity to see Clarkson against UMass-Lowell on Saturday and to say the least I was very impressed with what Tech was able to do in that game. Lowell, in my eyes, is one of the best teams in the country and it has every opportunity to make the Frozen Four. But the Golden Knights did a lot of great things against them in three consecutive games, despite not picking up a win. In the end, these tough battles will make Clarkson better but playing a team three times in a row is rather strange.
“What three games in a row really does is that it sets you up for an opportunity,” said Jones How often do you get a chance to prepare for a playoff series? A lot of series’ go three games right? So when you look at it from that perspective, it really gives you an opportunity on your guys subtle adjustments and several different looks to maybe throw something in to get guys active. We looked at it that way, as a playoff series. You are going to have to beat a really good opponent to move on later in the year and we wanted a chance to get a look at that.”
On Friday night, freshman Steve Perry was the hero. The youngster stood on his head, while making 39 saves to preserve a tie for the Knights. The next night he was afforded to start his second game in a row for the first time in his career and it was rough to say the least but it was more individual mistakes by his defense than it was goaltending. Steve Perry is solid and has been for Tech. He is seemingly the top candidate to take over the job full time over Greg Lewis. Head Coach Casey Jones had this to say about Perry:
“He is very calm; that is the thing that has impressed us the most about Steve is the calmness about him. When he is at his best, shot totals are down against him because he doesn’t give up rebounds and swallows pucks up. He keeps the games really simple. He is not a big goalie but he does a great job keeping pucks within his shoulders, not allowing them to squeak out. We think he is a great goaltender but we have depth at that position.”
On Saturday, despite allowing four goals, Clarkson actually played really well defensively and stymied a pretty good Lowell team. It held its opponent to just 14 shots but Lowell was ever opportunistic and took advantage of every mistake that Tech allowed. Those mistakes were uncharacteristic but then again the game may have been a tad too fast for them to be comfortable. Scoring three against a potent Lowell defense will go down as a good thing for this team. Guys like Aj. Fossen scoring are a big deal for them. Depth will be key going forward but what exactly does Clarkson expect and this team expect to do in the coming months…
“We are at an institution, Clarkson, that has a tradition of winning,” said Jones. “We are trying to win a championship in the ECAC, which is an extremely deep league.”
Brown is Healthy Again and Poised to Improve With a Star Studded Big Three
One of the more impressive ECAC teams over the weekend was probably hardly noticed to most avid followers. Brown without much fanfare went out to Colorado, tying a really good Denver team and beating Colorado College on its own big sheet. Although, Brown disappeared and was mired with injuries in the first half it kept itself afloat, hovering around .500. This might prove to be the biggest stretch of its season, as the Bears might be on to bigger and better things.
Brown missed key pieces and was hardly healthy for much of the first half. There is no doubt, though, that Brown has arguably the best top three in the ECAC, with Matt Lorito, Mark Naclerio and Nick Lappin competing at a high level. The three combined for seven points against Denver and had all three goals in the contest. On Saturday, it was much of the same as the three combined for two of the four goals against Colorado College. If Brown can get these guys going at a high pace like it did this weekend and during the Liberty Invitational earlier in the season, Brown has every opportunity to be scary going forward. It might be that lower ranked team that no one wants to play.