As always, the ECAC is not where we thought it would at this point in the season. Yale isn’t the dominant defensive team we thought it would be, Harvard’s offense is second to Quinnipiac, Cornell (I picked them 11th in preseason dumb ehh?) looks like a team to be reckoned with come March and well who thought RPI would ever have a nine game unbeaten streak?
The ECAC standings are extremely tight heading into the second half, with Quinnipiac having 14 points and Cornell close on its heels at 13. Cornell’s only ECAC league loss came to Quinnipiac, in a game it had a three goal lead and couldn’t hold on. Harvard and RPI are tied for third at 11 points, while St. Lawrence and Yale round out the top six with nine and eights points respectively. Any of those six teams are contenders at this point, because the bottom half have been less than stellar, or as I would like to say there is a step down in quality.
One of the biggest ECAC storylines of the first half is the quality of hockey being played throughout the league. The inter-conference record has been sparkling, although it has come down a bit in recent weeks. The .632 winning percentage in non-conference play has the league setup well in terms of the pairwise, as currently five teams are in NCAA tournament positioning. Quinnipiac sits first in the all important Pairwise rankings, while Harvard, Cornell, St. Lawrence and Yale sit sixth, seventh, 11th and 13th in those rankings. Even RPI sits in good positioning, as it is 17th in those rankings. Last year, the NCHC had a .652 inter-conference record and it had six teams in the tournament. Even more important for the ECAC as a league, it has a 24-16-3 against the two best conferences in the country, the NCHC and Hockey East. Maybe the ECAC is the best right now? Ya, lets see how the non-league games go in the next few weeks.
Well and to finish off I would like to say Happy Holidays to all. Hope all of you have an enjoyable holiday, no matter what you celebrate. See you in a week or so for my annual trip to Hanover’s Ledyard Bank Classic.
Awards and Teams
ECAC Player of the First Half: Jimmy Vesey (Harvard)
The argument could be made for Sam Anas and Nick Lappin, but Vesey leads the league in both points per game and goals per game. In eight less games, Vesey has just three points less than Anas and has two less goals.In league play, it isn’t even close as Vesey leads in points and is second in goals to QU’s Tim Clifton. I guess this is expected, but I don’t even think Vesey is living up to potential yet this season, which is scary for teams in the league. Look for Vesey to turn it up in the second half and make a run at that Hobey. Michael Garteig has been fantastic in the QU net, but I feel as though he has too much offensive support to give him both player and goalie of the half awards.
Second: Nick Lappin (Brown), Third: Sam Anas (Quinnipiac)
ECAC Goalie of the first half: Michael Garteig (Quinnipiac)
Michael Garteig is having a whale of a first half. He is 15-1-2 on the year, has a 1.24 goals against average and has a .948 save percentage. His play has been stellar and he has bailed out his team on many occasions. He gets the best goal support in the conference, however, and one can argue that helps a goalie a lot. Garteig has been a rock and has played in every Bobcat game this season.
Garteig is followed closely by Merrick Madsen for this award. Madsen had a 0.96 GAA, a 5-0-2 record and a .966 save percentage. His numbers have been advantaged and hindered by the fact he has played less games, but man has he been good. The Crimson are 1-1-1 without him on the year. Five ECAC goalies have GAA’s under two a game.
Second: Merrick Madsen (Harvard), Third: Mitch Gillam (Cornell)
ECAC Rookie of the First Half: Tommy Marchin (Brown)
Marchin looked great on regional television at the Belpot in Belfast, Northern Ireland and he has had a good first half. He has been consistenly the best rookie in the league by, in my eyes, a wide margin. The youngster from Michigan has been nothing but score goals. He has six goals in his first 12 collegiate games and had four of those against Colgate and UMass-Lowell in Northern Ireland. He has 13 points on the season and leads all rookie scorers in pts per game, averaging over one each game. The rookie class is extremely strong in the ECAC this season.
Second: Chase Priskie (Quinnipiac). Third: Anthony Angello (Cornell)
First Half First Team
F. Jimmy Vesey (Harvard)
F. Nick Lappin (Brown)
F. Sam Anas (QU)
D.Eric Sweetman (SLU)
D.Devon Toews (QU)
G. Michael Garteig (QU)
Rookie Team of the First Half
F. Tommy Marchin (Brown)
F. Anthony Angello (Cornell)
F. Ryan Donato (Harvard
D. Chase Priskie (QU)
D. Max Gottlieb (Brown)
G. Cam Hackett (RPI)
Power Rankings, with first half review by team
1. Quinnipiac (15-1-2, 6-0-2 ECAC):
Not sure there has been another ECAC team that has been even close to Quinnipiac so far this season. The Bobcats have been the best team from wire to wire thus far, and have dispatched the best of competition in the process. Its sweep of St. Cloud, might go down as two of the most impressive wins in the country this season. Its wins against Harvard, Yale and Cornell have solidifed their positioning. Travis St. Denis has quietly been one of the better players in the country and the Bobcats have again found consistent contributions from freshmen.
2. Cornell (8-1-2, 6-1-1)
If not for Quinnipiac’s almost undefeated first half, Cornell would be the story of the first half. The Big Red were expected to struggle scoring, but that has hardly been the case. The Big Red are averaging 3.10 goals per game and have lost to just Quinnipiac, by a goal. Mitch Gillam has been strong in net, with phenomenal 1.69 GAA and .937 save percentage. Anthony Angello, a freshman, has been a big boost to the Cornell offense. The top six Red scorers are non-seniors, with two of them being freshmen. They are hardly the team we thought they would be, so time to give them credit.
3. Harvard (6-1-3, 4-1-3)
Harvard began the season as the team we thought they would, as it scored seven in its opener against Dartmouth. They have all the offensive tools, but have looked pretty decent defensively and in net. Merrick Madsen has been good for the Crimson, with a 0.98 GAA and .966 save percentage. Jimmy Vesey and his line has been as advertised and Ryan Donato has been a decent addition up front. Harvard is probably where I thought they would be at this time, as it still is young in key places and on defense. Bruins prospect Wiley Sherman has become a solid D-man for the Crimson and improvements can be seen up and down the roster. It already has a tournament win in the Notre Dame tournament and a key win against RPI in that tournament. Harvard should only improve from here.
4. Rensselaer (10-6-3, 4-1-3)
RPI has probably been the most disrespected team in the country thus far. Ya, the way the get wins isn’t always pretty, but they have bee getting the job done. Their nine game unbeaten streak was second best in the conference, until it was broken by Harvard in South Bend. It has gotten key contributions from Riley Bourbonais and his 16 pts, 10 goals, while its youngsters have also been good. During its nine game unbeaten streak, the RPI was without Jason Kasdorf. Cam Hackett was 6-2-2 in relief, while Kasdorf was injured and he came up big.
5. St. Lawrence (10-5-2, 4-2-1)
St. Lawrence looks poised for a run at Lake Placid this year and in all honesty they have been the quietest good team in the league this season. The Saints are exactly the team we thought they would be and you know what? Kyle Hayton and SLU’s defense is really really good. The Saints score three goals per game and allow under two. They have been consistent all half, recieve balanced scoring and when needed Hayton has been solid. SLU has nice wins against UNH, Penn State and Miami this season. They also have a tie against Quinnipiac, which was also a solid result on the road. SLU is my sleeper in the second half, they look poised to move up.
6. Yale (6-4-2, 3-3-2)
Yale already has more losses now than I thought they would have all season. The Elis have dominated many games, but much like the Yale team of last year it lacks offensive firepower to put pucks in the net. Its 7.6 percent shooting percentage is second worst in the ECAC and is in the bottom ten in the country. The Elis take the second most shots per game, have a corsi that places it third in the league at 54.8% but have the league’s ninth ranked offense. It doesn’t make much sense, but it does because the Bulldogs just do not have finishers up front. It has nice pieces that can possess the puck, but it lacks firepower. For all intensive purposes, Yale can beat anybody but because of its lack of offense it can lose to anyone, like when it lost to Princeton.
7. Union (7-6-4, 2-5-1)
Of late, Union has been one of the better teams in the ECAC. It is on a five game unbeaten streak, with wins against UMass, Dartmouth, Vermont, and Merrimack. When Union wins, it is scoring in bunches and getting decent defense. The Dutchmen have been getting 3.57 goals per game in wins, while scoring just 1.83 goals in losses. During its current five game unbeaten streak, it has allowed just nine goals with four of them coming in a tie to Harvard. The progression has been a good one for Union, as it had a one win in eight game stretch during the mid-part of the half. Union has seen overtime eight times on the season and is 2-2-4 in the extra five minutes.
8. Princeton (3-5-0, 4-9-0)
The Tigers have more league wins than four teams and are equal in conference wins with two others. It is unexpected, but they have been much better in all facets of the game. Right now, they are more consistent than the teams below them which is why they are in this position. In its last two league games, it swept Yale and Brown on the road which were impressive results. Up and down the lineup, it is getting contributions from young players, all the while Colton Phinney continues to be one of the most underrated players in the country. Read my feature on Princeton recapping its first half.
9. Clarkson (7-6-2, 0-5-2)
Clarkson maybe shouldn’t be here, but the Golden Knights are better than their record in the league indicates. I am not sure I have seen a team that is 7-1-0 in non-league play be winless this late into the conference season. Tech is scoring just a goal per game and giving up just south of three pre game in league play. In non-conference play, it scored four per game and allowed just 2.25 goals per game. The numbers and lack thereof are staggering in all honesty. One has to wonder what it all means, for the outlook. I was once really high on Clarkson, as its possession is still second in the league. Clarkson has 57.4 percent corsi, they are better than their record indicates and I expect them to move up.
10. Brown (2-5-2, 2-7-3)
Brown has arguably the second best line in the ECAC, as Nick Lappin, Mark Naclerio and Tommy Marchin have had a phenomenal season. The three have combined for 41 points and 18 goals in just 12 games for the Bears. Unfortunately, the defense has been good, bad and ugly so far this season. Brown has had flashes where it showed it was a top six team in the league and it showed it may be at the bottom of the league. A tie against UMass-Lowell was an impressive result and it was the better team against Cornell in a game it lost in mid-November, but injuries to defensemen have caused the Bears to lose its prowess it was showing on that end for a couple weeks. Bruno has exhibited inconsistent goaltending and it is on a three game losing streak.
11. Dartmouth (3-7-1, 3-5-0)
Dartmouth has wins against Brown, Princeton and RPI so far on the year. I those games, it has allowed just six goals and scored 12. But its losses have been concerning, as it has allowed 5.53 per game. The season so far is very comparable to the first half it had two years ago, when its defense was less than stellar. Its goaltending was supposed to be a strength but it has ended up being its biggest downfall. It finished the first half giving up six goals to UNH, much like it started the season giving up seven against Harvard. Dartmouth hosts its annual holiday tournament to start its second half.
12 Colgate (5-11-1, 2-6-1)
The Raiders have exhibited one of the quickest fall from glories in sometime within the ECAC, as it has dropped from the ECAC title game last season to the league’s worst goal margin this season. Gate is 11th in the conference ahead of Clarkson and has struggled defensively. It gives up 3.76 goals per game and it has only scored 2.47 a match. No one expected this but the weakness comes with a lack of numbers, as it has just 23 roster players which is a minimum. The losses of top end players and early departures have set it back a ton, but one has to wonder if their is going to be fightback in the second half.