I was able to take in the Hockey Haven rivalry, penned notably by the New Haven’ Register’s Chip Malafronte, on Saturday night at Yale’s famed Ingalls Rink. You should also check out his column from the game, which talked about how unsatisfying the result was for both sides. I was able to watch two of the better teams in the league fight toe to toe. While Yale was the better possession team and better in the neutral zone, Quinnipiac’s transition game was on full display. This transition led to both goals for Quinnipiac, who may or may not have been the best team on Saturday. I would argue they were a step behind its cross town rival for much of the first two periods and were lucky to leave the Whale with a lone point. Both teams played well in third period, which made for an entertaining last 20 minutes. for me just being in the Yale Whale makes me happy, what a great place to watch a game.
Although I think it is a bit overblown on how big of a rivalry it is, one can tell that Rand Pecknold and Keith Allain just do not like each other. That made for cinema in the first period when Allain caught Pecknold cheating in a player off an icing call, Allain flipped and pointed. Looked as though Allain wanted to say bad things to Pecknold, but in the end the deed was caught and the refs made it good. Other than that there was little hatred in comparison to some of the other more traditional rivalries and for a rivalry game the crowd didn’t seem any more jacked up than it would have been without Quinnipiac in town. And to make matters worse, both bands were in the house but both seemingly had off nights. I guess take that for what it is worth. It may not be up to the level of a BC-BU, Harvard-Cornell, UNH-Maine, or North Dakota-Minnesota but the signs were there that it is almost there. I have heard I will see a totally different atmosphere in Hamden, which I am totally looking forward to.
This weekend I plan on heading to the North Country for my premiere visit to Appelton and Cheel Arenas, barring more snow of course. Right now, the North Country is proving to be the toughest travel partner combo in the league. Clarkson and St. Lawrence played an entertaining game last Saturday night at Cheel Arena, which St. Lawrence was able to eek out a key road win. The win marked SLU’s fifth in a row and Clarkson’s first loss in four games. Both SLU and Clarkson sit in the top four of the ECAC standings, with the Saints in second place and Clarkson tied for fourth with Yale. Tech also holds the tiebreaker with Yale. Of course this gets me thinking to myself, wouldn’t it be cool if both those teams made it to Lake Placid? Personally, I think one of the two actually will but we will see what happens going forward. Better chances than last year for one or both to make it.
Union’s Defense and Neutral Zone Play is a Work in Progress
Despite a win on Friday night, Rick Bennett was not pleased with how the win was achieved. On the box score the result looked great, a 5-4 win, but on the ice the result was pretty choppy against a Harvard team that is in all respects to them, decimated to the point they can hardly present a viable roster against a good opponent. For Union though, it was clear why it currently sits in tenth place in the ECAC. It is a place even I thought was a bit low for the defending champions, but then again it seems perfect to what I saw on the ice.
The first pairing of Noah Henry and Jeff Taylor looked out of sync in the neutral and defensive zones for much of the Harvard game. Henry turned the puck over consistently and his decisions were at times, deflating to Union and questionable at best. I cannot remember a game this season, when I saw one defenseman turn the puck over so many times in a game. Most of the opportunities on that night were with the Henry, Taylor pair on the ice. The next night, it was the second pairing of Gingras and JC Brassard that had a rocky game against Dartmouth. The pair was on the ice for all three Dartmouth goals and many other great DC chances.
From the outside, changes might be needed on the defensive pairs. I understand trying to spread out the talent on the defensive pairs, but then again why not try putting the best guys together? The latter is what most teams try to do going down the stretch. Noah Henry and Jc Brassard will never be Mat Bodie and Shayne Gostisbehere, but then again Jeff Taylor and Sebastian Gingras are better defensemen than both showed this weekend. This poor play is leading to Union playing a very offensive game, that it is hardly used to. It is a dangerous game that is allowing them to score a ton, but its defense is sure taking a hit. Union has been known throughout its run of the past four years, of relying on its defense and goaltending, which is not happening this season.
Union has time to rectify the problems, but sitting in tenth place means a possible trip on the road for two consecutive weeks to begin the ECAC tournament, if it wishes to defend its three consecutive league titles. Its possible with the offense it has, but things need to change in the neutral zone and defensive zone real quick. Unlike some, a run to me seems unlikely based on what I saw.
Yale Is Due for a Run
A weird quirk to my schedule so far, is that I have seen the Bulldogs five times,second most among ECAC teams. Despite dominating Quinnipiac in its opponent zone in the first two periods on Saturday the third period saw the tide turned against it in some respects.
Yale’s biggest asset is its goaltender, I am sure everyone knows my thoughts on him by now because he is fantastic but it also has another another strength that I sometimes fail to see. Its forecheck has also been very good this season. Against Quinnipiac it was on full display and for long stretches hemmed the Bobcats in its own zone. This is a rarity because QU is also really good on the forecheck. It also used it to perfection against Harvard in two games, which gave the Crimson fits. If anything it has shown consistency and looks to last.
I have noted all season how good I think Yale is. The fact that it is now tied for fourth place in the league just seems right to me, in comparison to the seventh place it entered last weekend in. Built from the net out, Yale should be primed for a run, despite a plehtora of road tilts in its last eight league games. Yale seems to be a scary out going forward.
Princeton and Brown Get a Fitting Result
On Saturday night, the two bottom teams in the ECAC matched up at Brown’s Meehan Auditorium. The result? A fitting tie in an entertaining game. Both of these teams have struggled mightily, and both have a lone win in league play. It would have been fair for an ECAC fan to just ignore the game but it really should not be that way. Princeton has been better, a win against Army on Wednesday proved that. Brown I am just confused by.
Princeton will continue to get better under Ron Fogarty. I have watched a few of their games this second half and if anything they compete while lacking the talent of many in the ECAC. Recruiting will get better for them and a system is in place to just get better. The lopside results are the making of a lack confidence and increasing furstration for the Tigers.
Brown is a team I thought was turning the corner, but the tide has certainly flipped back to the negative in recent weeks. Since winning the Mayor Cup against Providence, the Bears are now winless in six games with five of those being losses. It is back to six true defensemen, as Dane Cooper has returned to the lineup. Continuity, however, has not changed the results in Providence.With a team with so much talent up front, it is mind boggling that they are in this position. It is what it is though and Brown will continue to fight through the struggles.