As each week moves along, we learn more about all the teams in the conference. Over the weekend, RPI continued its seven game unbeaten streak, Quinnipiac remained undefeated and SLU made inroads and proved that maybe they belong in the conversation as well. Clarkson provided QU with its first blemish on the season, in a 1-1 tie in Hamden but were unable to back it up, dropping a 3-0 game to a much improved Princeton team that I will talk about in more depth below.
Rensselaer and Quinnipiac are tied at the top of standings, as the Bobcats squandered their chances to take an outright lead with two ties. Both teams are now 4-0-2 and have 10 points already in the bank. Harvard and Cornell are nipping on their heels, as the Big Red picked up a win at Brown and an impressive tie at Yale, but every team in the top six remain within three points of the lead. The Pairwise continues to be bloated, but this weekend will prove to us just how many teams are capable of being in the tournament. There are big games up and down the schedule this weekend. Harvard and RPI participate with Notre Dame and Western Michigan in the Shillelagh Tournament in South Bend. Dartmouth travels for a pair against Michigan, while Colgate and Brown participate in the Friendship Four. All told, the ECAC has six teams in the top 15 of the Pairwise, thanks mainly to a .667 win percentage in non-conference contests.
If you haven’t read the wonderful piece by CHN editor, Adam Wodon, on the Big Ten’s attempt to put an age limit in college hockey, I highly suggest you read it in the next couple of days. Also, as is normall customary for me, I would like wish all my readers a very Happy Thanksgiving. I hope everyone enjoys their families and falls asleep because of all the Triptofan. Oh and don’t forget there are great college hockey games on Friday morning, from Belfast when Colgate and Brown open the Friendship Four on NESN and TSN at 11am eastern time.
Don’t say Parity but call it Really Good
When Clarkson tied Quinnipiac on Friday, I thought that it was a good result for Tech and it was actually the result that I predicted. But what happened the next night proved to me what I and many coaches already felt, which is the league is much better this season than it has been in recent years. Princeton is better, Brown is better the top teams are better and the league is very balanced, top to bottom.
There are many “good” teams in the league, but don’t use the word parity for the reason that Keith Allain used in preseason when he said that ‘it often gets used in correlation with “mediocrity.’ Do we really think there is mediocrity or do you think there are many good teams in the league? I am going to think the latter.
When I look at the league’s performance in non-conference play, it is daunting. A .674 win percentage and a 15-8-1 record against the NCHC and Hockey East says this discussion is valid. Those two are traditionally the top two conferences in the country, and right now the ECAC has their number. Rensselaer started its season off with a win against Boston College, who hasn’t lost since, Union beat a good Boston University team, Quinnipiac is rolling over NCHC and Hockey East opponents, while St. Lawrence and Clarkson have also produced great results. I would like to remind everyone, the supposed top two teams in the league during preseason (Harvard and Yale) have played just two non-conference games combined. This weekend would go even further in proving what I think we already know, that there is no mediocrity but many good teams.
One of the problems that the league has had in recent years, is that it has had two or three great teams with a few teams that were equally down at the bottom of the league. Brown looked great in a loss to Cornell holding the Big Red to just 16 shots and just two grade A’s the entire game. Princeton I will talk about below, Clarkson can beat anyone, despite being winless in league play, it is 5-1-0 in non-conference play. Cornell is obviously better, while Harvard ,Yale and Quinnipiac are as deep and talented as any teams the league has had in a while, less Union a few years back. all the league games that I have been to this season, the play has been phenomenal and it has felt like tournament games…
One has to think it only gets better. As one coach told me in recent weeks, “the days of having those should be wins are over because all 12 teams can win on a given night right now. The Princeton’s, the Brown’s and those so called easy games, if you want to call them that, just aren’t there this year.”
Princeton Gets off the Schneid
I think the collective opinion is that Princeton is better this season. Every team that I have talked to that has played the Tigers, have agreed that Princeton is going to be a tough out every single night. This opinion has taken a turn for the absolute in recent weeks and on Saturday the improved play led to its first win, against Clarkson a team that had just tied a seemingly unbeatable Quinnipiac team.
One of the things that I follow when I don’t see a team as often as I wish I did, is shots on goal. Last season, Princeton was absolutely atrocious in that category and Colton Phinney was often times on the receiving end of a barrage of shots that he needed to save. This season, its offense has been producing offense which was a foreign topic last season. It has averaged six more shots on goal per game, up to 30.6 from just over 24 last season, and its corsi is also up two points. In recent weeks it has only gotten better, along with the Tigers. Princeton is just another example of how the league isn’t going to have a tough out.
Cornell is Vintage but it is also Missing Key Pieces
One of things that I have always marveled about Cornell, is there size and the defensive nature of their game. It seems the same can be said this year and they are missing key pieces up front. Over the weekend, the Big Red scored just a long goal but gave up zero on the weekend in two shutouts. They kept Brown, a pretty offensive team most nights these days, in a battle of the trenches that in all honesty Brown was winning but Cornell managed to come out with the win because of goaltending and a timely, opportunistic goal. It was vintage Cornell hockey, the style I remember from a few years ago.
The weekend was a far cry from what the Big Red have done in the first few weeks of its season, where it scored 23 goals in it first six games. I have written about this offense already, but Cornell can only get better with its full compliment of forwards. It is missing six now and four of them I would consider I high end. But until then the defense and goaltending have to pick up the slack, which it has already. My thoughts after the Brown game were that they were again big, mean and had tons of skill to go along with it. As I have said before, Cornell is again a force to be reckoned with, look out ECAC.