Another week down and two more to go in the regular season. Last weekend, Union grew its lead at the top and the bottom teams had a good weekend. Union now has a four point lead at the top of the standings on Quinnipiac, while the Bobcats have a two point lead on the hard charging Colgate Raiders in third. Cornell has fallen a bit in recent weekends, as it has lost three games in a row and now has no chance at the league regular season title. The Big Red have 20 points, which is three points behind third place Colgate, tied with Clarkson for third and it sits one and two points ahead of sixth and seventh place Yale, RPI respectively. The fight for the last bye is possibly going to be the the most entertaining of the battles in the coming weeks.
Another interesting fight is going to occur for the last home ice spot. Brown picked up an impressive home win against Quinnipiac on Saturday night but its followers followed suit. The Bears hold the eighth position by a point on both Harvard and St. Lawrence. Dartmouth picked up a weekend sweep and now sits three points behind Brown. Harvard and Dartmouth both struggled for long stretches of the season, but have come alive in the last week or so. The two travel partners picked up seven of a possible eight points in the North Country.
Trends are growing within the conference that must be noticed. Harvard, Union, and Colgate seem to be on the rise. QU, Clarkson and Brown seem to be trending down at this point. Those trends are big because of what is happening in the standings, as they are so closely packed. Without further ado here are my thoughts this week.
Harvard and Dartmouth Had a Sweet Paradise in the North Country
It is weird to think that Harvard and Dartmouth have both struggled immensely this year because both have some talent. But last weekend the travel partners had a sweet paradise up in the North Country, that few teams in the ECAC have. Between the two they picked up seven out of a possible eight points on the road against Clarkson and St. Lawrence.
Harvard is now unbeaten in four games. It had a win and a tie against Clarkson and St Lawrence, respectively over the weekend. The Crimson have upped its defense in recent weeks and it is showing on the scoreboard. Since a 6-0 loss to Northeastern in the Beanpot semifinals, the Crimson have given up just four goals in four games. Steve Michalek has become its go to goaltender, after much of the season in leaned on Raphael Girard. Michalek has two shutouts during the four game stretch, but his teammates are playing concerned defense in front of him. Harvard still has a chance at a first round home series, as it sits just one point behind Brown.
Dartmouth was the only team to pick up four points in the ECAC over the weekend, as it picked up a big road sweep. The weekend sweep was its first of the season and the first time it picked up more than two points in a weekend this season. The consecutive wins also marked only the second time it picked up back to back wins this year, with the first time occurring against Harvard and Yale in late November/early December. The Big Green have won three of its last four games and have a huge opportunity to get back into the race for the final home ice berth, as it currently sits just three points out of said position.
Dartmouth is also starting to get healthy again, with Eric Nielley and Tyler Sikura both back in the lineup full time. Those guys are key to its offense. this weekend Dartmouth scored a combined nine goals in the two games, including six against a usually responsible Clarkson defense.
For both the Big Green and the Crimson getting back into the race for these positions seems to have happened out of nowhere. The two have been winning in recent weeks and both have the talent to get into the race. I figured that Dartmouth’s hole was to big to dig out of, but I was clearly wrong. For now, though, lets just bask that two more teams are making claims that they belong in the many races occurring.
Clarkson my Knight, Where Have you Gone?
Clarkson was the story of the first half, but the second half has hardly been rosy. Tech hit a new low this weekend, as it was swept by two teams in the bottom third of the league, Harvard and Dartmouth. It was two teams that it swept on the road in November with a full roster. On Friday night, it was locked in a defensive battle with Harvard and lost tot he Crimson 1-0 in overtime. The next night, though, Tech had a rough going and got blown out of its own building, in a 6-1 loss .
Clarkson was hit with the injury bug last weekend, as Ben Sexton missed the weekend with an injury. Sexton is the key offensive piece for the Golden Knights. Without him its offense has struggled over the weekend, scoring just one goal in two games. Along with the injury, the Knights are also dealing with the departure of TJ Moor.
It might not get any better this weekend for the Knights, as it travels to its own nightmare of a building, Messa. Clarkson has not won at Union since September of 2005 in the first round of the ECAC tournament and it hasn’t won a regular season game at Messa since January 13, 2001. To make matters worse, the recent series against Union is rather one sided, as Clarkson is 1-11-0 in its past 12 against them. Its opponent Saturday, is RPI and the Engineers are hot so it gets no easier for the tumbling Golden Knights. Clarkson is just 4-10-1 in the second half, after a 13-4-1 first half.
Cornell is Struggling
A team that I thought was going to compete for the ECAC regular season crown, just two weeks ago has kind of fallen back in recent weeks. Cornell has lost three games in a row and has been defeated by an aggregate of 13-3 in those games. Although, the three losses have been to RPI, Union and Colgate the Big Red have the talent to muster more offense on a nightly basis than just one goal. The struggles in the last week, mirror the struggles it had much of last season when it struggled on both ends of the ice.
Andy Iles is struggling for the Big Red immensely, as he has a porous .845 save percentage during the three game losing streak and he has given up 11 goals in his past three starts. When Andy Iles is good, he is one of the better goaltenders in the nation. When he struggles he really has a tough go of it. That face has been his personal MO the last two seasons.
Cornell is now officially eliminated from contention for the Cleary Cup and now finds itself in a tie with another struggling team, Clarkson, for the last bye spot. The two hold just a one point lead on Yale for the final bye. For Cornell, its weekend against Princeton and Quinnipiac becomes all the more important. A win on Friday is ever important, against the Bobcats but also a tall order.