Can anyone else believe that we have hit the last weekend of the season? It seems like just yesterday that Clarkson faced off in the Ice Breaker, but we have reached the last weekend of the year my friends. Union clinched the Cleary Cup outright on Saturday night with its win against St. Lawrence. Colgate became the second team to clinch a first round bye in the ECAC tournament, as it defeated QU on the road. Quinnipiac at 25 points needs just one point to clinch a first round bye, while Cornell sits in fourth and needs a win to clinch because Clarkson three points behind owns the tiebreaker on it. Only Yale and Clarkson could stake a claim on catching QU or Cornell for a bye.
Just like the battle for positioning for byes is interesting so is home ice, but Clarkson and Yale have clinched spots for home ice if they are unable to catch a bye. Rensselaer and Brown currently hold the final two home ice positions. RPI sits in good position but needs to pick up two points, either by a win or a St. Lawrence loss because the Saints would hold the tiebreaker if RPI only picked up one point when St. Lawrence picked up two wins. Complicated stuff but it’s like that I guess. Brown is ahead of St. Lawrence by one point and ahead of both Dartmouth and Harvard by three. The right things would have to fall into place fr Harvard or Dartmouth to get a first round home series, but it isn’t impossible. Princeton will enter the ECAC tournament as the twelfth and final seed, finishing in last place.
Union’s Run The Last Four Years is Approaching Dynasty Status Within the League
On Friday night, the Dutchmen clinched at least a share of the Cleary Cup and on Saturday it clinched the Cleary cup outright. It did so with three and two games remaining, which is in itself impressive. The title marks the third time in program history that it has won the Cleary Cup. Its was also its third in four seasons. The Dutch have also won consecutive Whitelaw Cups entering the season, so I guess win another of those would and it’s probably a dynasty of some sort within the league.
Union has only been defeated three times, within Conference play. Its losses have been to three different teams, in St. Lawrence, Quinnipiac and Colgate. The latter team was actually the only team to win the season series against the Dutch, going 1-0-1 against them this season. For Union, its run has not gone without almost everyone underestimating them after a rough start in non-conference play but it has gone out to prove its might in conference play, which it has. This weekend it finishes up its season with games on the road against Brown and Yale. But lets mull over the fact it has won three of four in the regular season, together with consecutive Whitelaw Cups. What Rick Bennett has created at Union, with limited resources, has to be applauded.
Colgate Continues to Just Get Better and Better, I Am Ready To Call Them A Contender
I saw Colgate a few weeks ago at Brown, and to say that I was underwhelmed is an understatement. I saw them again at Quinnipiac and it just continues to grow. The growth of this team over the season has been astounding. Earlier in the season, it lost to Quinnipiac, 7-2 at home, getting outshot 43-12 in the process. On Saturday night, it was the aggressor for much of the first two periods and was actually able to hang with another great team, in QU, defeating them 3-1.
Colgate is young and raw, as most of its key contributors are sophomores. I said in the preview in preseason that if it got any defense whatsoever it would be dangerous and here they are today, sitting in second place in the standings with a home quarterfinal and a bye already locked up. The Raiders play with great confidence and the Spink twins are just special hockey players, with great hockey sense. They also have an unfathomable chemistry that few teams have, Don Vaughn had this to say about his young team:
“Guys have settled into their roles. In terms of chemistry, I can’t remember a team like this one that I have had in a long time.”
“Spiro is a real calming guy for us, he doesn’t really say too much but he just goes about his business. Some other guys on the team, like Mike Borkowski have a great bench presence and a way of calming guys down on the bench. Darcy Murphy is kind of a humorous guy that will crack a joke. It is little things like that, that sort of bring you back to focus. This group is little more mature beyond their years and it has been a fun ride but we know we have a lot of hockey left.”
Colgate has two wins against the top four in Pairwise this half and two ties, while it has gone undefeated against those teams. Add another impressive win against Quinnipiac and Colgate’s growth from inconsistency to riches is all the more impressive. For a year that has probably seen it show up on the scene a season early, its contender status to me is only growing.
Lets go ahead and say this… I see no middle ground for this team. It will either go out winning the ECAC’s and make the Frozen Four or it will falter very early in both tournaments. For now, though, lets call them a serious contender for everything possible because it continues to get better, night in and night out. The growth of this team is something of phenomenal, but chemistry is funny like that.
Cornell Looks Poised for a typical Run
Cornell may not be the most flashy team on the planet, but it gets the job done. It is the most physical team I have seen this year and whoever plays it in the tournament will be in for one grueling weekend. Quinnipiac was beat up after the Friday night game against the Big Red and looked the part on Saturday night against Colgate.
Along with being big and physical, Cornell has an efficient offense that just has a can do attitude. Despite getting just 14 shots against Quinnipiac, it scored twice in a 2-1 victory. It also gave up 41 shots, but really it did a great job blocking shots and keeping the Q to the outside portions of the ice. Quinnipiac only got dangerous looks late in the third when it was pressing and even then Cornell was doing a great job with interior coverages and keeping a team that usually gets tons of great looks, to very little against its goaltender.
The X-factor for Cornell will be Andy Iles. He is arguably the best goaltender in the league right now, save Colin Stevens at Union. I like to call him a wily veteran, well because he is. He is solid with positioning and is able to make that big stop when needed. If Cornell has any success going forward Iles will be a big part of it. His play will make or break Cornell, his consistency is often times a big question mark but there is no doubting his experience. The latter point might be what carries Iles and the Big Red to a nice run, the talent is certainly there and look for it to happen.