As I stated last week, the standings were a lot closer than met the eye. Both Union and Quinnipiac had the weekend off from ECAC play, playing non-conference games instead. Teams right behind them, like Clarkson, Colgate and Cornell played two conference games and the three of them gained on the top two teams. One team, Clarkson will pick up another game this weekend and has a possibility of leading the conference by the end of the weekend. The Golden Knights have two games this weekend sitting three points behind Quinnipiac in third, while Union sits in second place just a point behind Quinnipiac and two ahead of Clarkson. Union has a lone conference game against Harvard this weekend.
In recent weeks, the ECAC conference has excelled in non-conference tilts and this past weekend was no different. Union picked up a big two wins on the road against New Hampshire. Quinnipiac defeated Merrimack College on Friday, but fell to those same Warriors on Saturday. In terms of inter-conference records, the conference sits in third place in winning percentage but if the tournament started today, the league would have five teams in the NCAA tournament. Two teams, Quinnipiac and Union, would have one seeds in the tournament as well as the two sit third and fourth in the Pairwise Rankings. Without further ado here is what I think this week:
Union’s Colin Stevens Deserves More Respect and Accolades
Union’s Colin Stevens has done masterful work in the Dutchmen net. When Stevens has started in the Union net, the Dutch are 13-2-2 but when he isn’t the guy his team has gone 2-2-1. Those numbers right there should give him the Dryden award at the end of the year but I have seen too many not giving him the credit that he is due. Yes his numbers might not be as impressive as Quinnipiac’s Michael Garteig’s goals against average, but then again if you look at save percentage his numbers are by far and away better.
Over the weekend, Stevens was the best player on the ice for Union against New Hampshire. The Dutchmen gave New Hampshire a ton of shots and Stevens stood on his head throughout the weekend. In the the two games against UNH, Stevens saw 80 shots and made 78 saves.Not only did he save 97.5 percent of the shots he saw, he stopped many that were point blank and quality scoring opportunities for the opponent. His play was the reason why Union walked out of the Whittemore Center with two huge non-conference wins.
I was able to watch Stevens live on Saturday and to say the least I can see why he has been so successful. His positioning is by far the best I have seen in a goaltender within the ECAC. That positioning allows him to always be in the right spot and not overreact to shots that some goaltenders would. Along with his positioning, his defense and him seem to be on the same page. Despite seeing a ton of rubber, his defense bent but didn’t break. To play on the big sheet that is what a team must do. For Union though, it has a very underrated goaltender who will continue to win.
Welcome Back Clarkson
Clarkson went 1-4-1 to start the second half and struggled in all aspects of the game. Tech got back into conference play over the weekend and it came up clutch with two wins. It was of course a week after I moved them way down in the ECAC Power Rankings so in all honesty I hope it was bulletin board material.
Clarkson swept Yale and Brown over the weekend, moving them within three points of the top. That might not seem very impressive, but with the right bounces this weekend it could find itself on top with a game in hand on Union and Quinnipiac. Both the Bears and Bulldogs entered the weekend hot, with Brown unbeaten in six and Yale unbeaten in four. Both of those wins will go down as two of Tech’s most impressive this season. Clarkson is 8-2-1 at home on the season, but has performed on the road as well going 6-3-1.
Many, including myself at times, have felt as though Clarkson would regress back to the median, but credit it in that it hasn’t when it comes to conference play. Tech has continually won games and surprised many of people. Its defense is strong and Casey Jones has done a phenomenal job of not only coaching, but playing advocate for this team in the community. Cheel Arena is hopping again and the locals are flocking back to watch this team. There is certainly something special about it I must say. It might not be the most talented, but more often than not the most talented team doesn’t win. No team in the country will outwork Clarkson.
Cornell is Vintage
One of the advantages of being a regular at Harvard, is being able to sit next to a New England Sports writing legend, John “Jocko” Connolly, on occasion. As we were watching Cornell-Harvard on Friday night, we were discussing how Cornell was vintage in nature, as Cornell has always been known for being big. This Cornell team is just that. It is a mixture of everything you would probably want in a hockey team.
One of the more impressive things about this Cornell team, was how it was able to take advantage of a young, inexperienced Harvard squad. In the first 30 minutes, the Big Red owned the Crimson and possession. It manhandled the much smaller Crimson and kept them at bay for long periods of time. The Big Red left wing is especially big, with Joel Lowry at 6’2″, Christian Hillbrich at 6’6″ and Rodger Craig at 6’5″. Few teams are able to match up the skill and size, but Cornell does just that. It is what you would expect from a Cornell team, it is vintage in nature.