Another week of conference action and the standings are as close as they have been in a while. Quinnipiac continues to lead the league, while St. Lawrence and Harvard are tied two points back. All in all the top six are separated by just six points, while the top ten are separated by ten. The North Country was again a tough place to play over the weekend, as Clarkson and St Lawrence swept Yale and Brown respectively. St. Lawrence has been hard charging this half, I explained why in last week’s edition of this blog. The Saints have now won four games in a row and five of its last six, its lone loss being to Colgate. Clarkson meanwhile has won three games in a row, which followed a three game losing streak. Both those schools have more home games upcoming than they do road tilts, so one should expect the good play to continue in the North Country.
The national picture is again on the bleak side for the conference, but it is not horrible as many of the league teams are lurking on the outside looking in. Harvard continues to sit in the top five of the Pairwise, as it has pretty much from the outset of its season. Yale and Colgate are in 16th and 17th in the Pairwise, while five others are in the top 33. The Crimson have the Beanpot upcoming, which could help the conference with two big non-conference games. All in all, having one team in would be bad, but in the end the league will have tons of opportunities to pick up big victories against each other.
Clarkson Rallying Around an Injury to its Starting Goalie
I have talked a ton about Clarkson’s defense, as I should because it is really good. Recently, the Golden Knights lost its starting goaltender, Steve Perry, but the loss hasn’t been a huge one for Tech. In Perry’s absence, Greg Lewis has stepped in and been phenomenal. Since Perry’s loss, Clarkson has won three consecutive games and Lewis has allowed just two goals in those three tilts. Today he was also named the ECAC player and goalie of the week.
Lewis has had an interesting career at Clarkson. He went from all-in starter in 2012-2013, when Clarkson finished last place in the ECAC, to last year losing the starting job to Perry. All in all, Lewis has seen the worst of times during his career at Clarkson but this opportunity has to be one that he has been looking forward to. In his career, Lewis has a save percentage lower than .900, which is less than stellar. This season, that save percentage is at .944 and his GAA is 1.51 in five games. The last two games, have registered as shutouts for Lewis. For Clarkson havng a backup with so much experience has proven to be a blessing in disguise.
It is easy to say that Lewis and Perry are the biggest beneficiaries of the defensive style that Clarkson plays. Both goalies allow less than two goals a game and Clarkson allows the third fewest shots on goal per game, allowing a paltry 24 per game. Even those shots are mostly from the outside, which are beneficial to the goaltenders.
Clarkson could be scary going forward, as it has begun to score goals. In its last four contests, it has scored 15 goals. The offense has been anemic at times, but there is a lot of upside in that offense as well. The defense and goaltending though has proven that it will be the cornerstone going forward.
Which Union is the real one?
I hardly put a lot of stock into a non-conference game that features league teams but it was hard not to pay attention to Union’s six goal, third period onslaught against RPI on Saturday. For Union, the result was one of many mixed signals it has sent this season. It has wins against St. Cloud and Yale, but other than that its resume is less than stellar. In league play, Union has just four wins, with three of them against the league’s presumptive bottom two of Brown and Princeton.
Daniel Ciampini is having a monstrous season for the Dutchmen but it is largely getting forgotten because of Union’s inconsistency from night to night. On Saturday night, the Union forward found the scoresheet six times and scored a hat trick on the night. His 37 points and 20 goals overall, lead all ECAC skaters and is first in the nation, while his points and goals per game are second only to Jimmy Vesey of Harvard in league scoring. Ciampini has been Union’s best player all season.
Union should be better than it has and its spurts show that. I will get a better look at Union this weekend, as I will see them play Harvard on Friday night. Consistency is always tough as a defending national champion and the Dutchmen are clearly proving that. The national title hangover is clearly stronger than will right now, in Schenectady.
Since a 6-1-0 start to the season, the Raiders have been very inconsistent. This has been a shock to me because I felt as though Colgate was easily the best team in the league coming to the season. They were the coaches and media darling in preseason, but since that rock star start it has been to be frank below average. It is 8-7-2 in its last 17 games and have hardly played like the team we thought it could be.
Last weekend, was probably a microcosm of the season so far. On Friday, Colgate took the lead with just 13 minutes remaining but Dartmouth came back to tie it just three minutes later. Colgate was never able to find a goal to take the win. On Saturday, the game got away from the Raiders against Harvard. The Crimson made a 2-1 game after two periods a 6-1 final in the books. But it went further as, teh Raiders scored first and Harvard went on to score six in a row. Depth in the third period should not be an issue for Colgate, so the result and struggle in the third period is a huge shock for me.
The results have been shocking to me, but injuries have played a huge role. That said, Colgate should be better than it has been and it should be more consistent. Colgate sits in fifth in the league standings, just six points out of first place. It is much too early to count them out.