Will the real favorite please stand up
The standings are close and so has the play been in recent weeks. My perceived top three of Harvard, Yale and Quinnipiac aren’t exactly looking as strong as they once were, while upstarts St. Lawrence and Rensselaer are hanging around in the top five of the league looking to pounce. One of the things I have been asking myself in recent weeks is who exactly is the favorite right now? The casual person will look at the standings and see the Bobcats up by four points, followed by Harvard and the rest of the mess in the top eight or so. So I guess Quinnipiac?
I will caution and let you watch the highlights of the Merrimack-Quinnipiac game on Friday. Teams that make mistakes so glaring aren’t usually contenders but Quinnipiac will be there and be better. When it is good, it is really good and when it is ugly, it is very ugly. Harvard was the most consistent team in the first half, while Yale was right with them. The Bulldogs have been constantly consistent this half as well, but Harvard is just 2-2 with a second loss to Yale and a blowout loss to SLU. Based on what I have seen this half I almost want to say Yale is the team to beat. The Elis have two huge weekends upcoming, which can change that.
Rensselaer is an interesting case study and I talked about them earlier in the week. What they do have, is a great defensive core and goaltender in Jason Kasdorf. It is also getting healthy, which is always something that needs to be taken into account. Teams like Colgate, Clarkson and Cornell are also lurking. I have no idea right now beyond what I presented, kind of a weird feeling at this point in the season. I think Yale? What do you guys think?
Yale and St. Lawrence Play a Huge Game on Friday, featuring arguably the two best goalies in the ECAC
Yale is 5-1-0 in its past six contests, while St. Lawrence is 3-1-0 in its past four. Both teams have played consistent hockey this season and both are in good position for a bye or to host home game. They will probably be fighting among themselves for the former but it could be a huge game in terms of the Cleary for both squads if Quinnipiac falls off.
SLU is in a tie for third place, while the Elis have a game in hand in fifth place. The margin is one point, which means both teams could conceivably leave Friday in third place all to their own, hell SLU with a win and a Harvard loss could be in a tie for second at the end of the night. With a win tonight, SLU would own the tiebreaker against Yale, which is the head to head matchup. Earlier in the season the Saints won at Ingalls, 4-0, a loss that Yale has lamented on for many weeks.
The common denominator for both teams is goaltending. After seeing Hayton on Friday, I am ready to put him into the same category as Alex Lyon as the two best goaltenders in the league. Both goalies stop everything they should and bring a consistency to the game no other goalie in the league presents. Both are young and well positioned in the net. I like consistency, both these goalies give their respective teams confidence. Look for this to be an intriguing matchup. Personally I am interested to see how SLU responds after a shellacking of Harvard last Saturday.
A kind of relevant, but not really, non-conference game featuring league teams
I am all for teams playing in bigger venues and such; the more people that are watching a college hockey game mean more people that will become fans. RPI and Union will play its third annual Mayors Cup game in Albany on Saturday. I think we all remember the storyline that came out of last season’s game, the line brawl that some figured would ruin Union’s national title run. It ultimately was just a bump in the road for Union. Then again is playing a conference team out of league play at all necessary?
This season, Union is marred in an apparent National Championship hangover season. It has shown flashes of brilliance, a tie against Boston University and a win against St. Cloud mainly, but the struggles have been more apparent. Earlier in the season RPI swept the Dutchmen in a home and home league weekend. That weekend sent Union in a tailspin throughout November, it has since rebounded a tad to be a Jeckyll and Hyde team. Lately, Rensselaer has been hot after a nine game losing streak that occurred while it was marred with its injuries, it has since won three games in a row. This is a non-conference game that doesn’t count in the league standings so I will caution folks on giving it more due than it deserves.
The Engineers have won three consecutive meetings between these teams, after Union had dominated before in winning ten straight and 18 of 23 against its rival. Rivalries are good for college sports but playing in non-conference is something that only happens in college hockey. I don’t mind the Beanpot teams playing each other but really if you aren’t playing at a special venue, I.E. Madison Square Garden, a non-conference game is a waste of exactly that.
In all essences a non-conference game is to showcase the conference against teams you wouldn’t normally play. I guess the arguments can be made for them, I understand that, but isn’t two games in the regular season home and away enough? Over-saturating the games lead to exactly what happened last year and what usually happens when SLU/Clarkson play non-conference games, nonsense and suspensions. Giving it less of a value is in essence lowering the standards. The only thing at stake is a trophy and no league points. Regardless of what happens this week, RPI has two wins against Union and the Dutchmen will have none in games that matter. Thus the Engineers have all the bragging rights, no offense to the defending national champion.
Despite the importance of the pairwise the lack of long term meaning allows many of these games to get out of hand, which they do. At the end of the day, they will happen regardless what I think. Personally, I would rather see Union and Rensselaer play teams like Michigan, Boston College, Denver and many of the other teams we don’t often see on this coast. Ya tickets get sold and what not but is the risk worth it?
Harvard at Cornell: Harvard 3-2
Dartmouth at Colgate: 4-1 Gate
Yale at St. Lawrence: SLU 3-1
Brown at Clarkson: 2-1 Brown
Harvard at Colgate: 5-3 Harvard
Dartmouth at Cornell: 2-1 Dart
Yale at Clarkson: 4-1 Yale
Brown at SLU: 5-1 SLU
RPI vs Union: 3-1 RPI
This week’s Power Rankings
1. Yale (11-4-2, 6-3-1) – Last time 3
2. Harvard (11-3-2, 7-2-2) – Last Time 2
3. Quinnipiac (15-8-1, 10-2-0) – Last Time 2
4. St. Lawrence (11-10-2, 7-4-0) – Last time 9
5. Colgate (14-7-1, 6-3-1) – Last Time 4
6. Clarkson (8-11-4, 5-4-2) – Last Time 8
7. Rensselaer (9-16-1, 7-6-0) – Last time 10
8. Cornell (7-8-2, 5-5-0) – Last Time 7
9. Union (11-10-2, 4-7-1) – Last Time 5
10. Dartmouth (6-8-3, 3-6-1) – Last Time 6
11. Brown (4-13-0, 1-9-0) – Last Time 12
12. Princeton (2-14-1, 1-11-0) – Last Time 11