As always the regular season hits its last weekend really quick, but here we are. Quinnipiac should clinch the Cleary Cup on Friday against Brown, but ya know Bruno has wrecked the dreams of Bobcats fans before and so has Saturday opponent, Yale, who could steal the Cleary Cup from its New Haven rival. Of course this script was written in Atlantic City and Pittsburgh in the year 2013, so it couldn’t possibly be relived? I doubt it, but stranger things have happened. QU has had a great season, but of late Yale has been better, so I am interested to see what happens this weekend.
Yale has a bye locked up and Harvard needs just a point this weekend to clinch one. The mess in the standings begins behind them. St. Lawrence currently has the fourth spot and is followed just one point behind by Dartmouth and RPI. Cornell also has a chance at the bye and sits two points back of SLU. The Saints and Dartmouth have a huge opportunity to make hay on Friday as the two of them will meet in a defacto bye championship game, well not really because good ole RPI and Cornell could sneak past if the two tie. I will take the Saints at home, because they have been really good in Canton this year.
Union still has a chance to host a first round series, as it sits in ninth just three points behind Clarkson. I find this comeback as unlikely but who knows I guess. What we do know is that Colgate, Brown and Princeton will be travelling in the first round of the ECAC tournament.
In terms of the pairwise, four ECAC would be in if the tournament started today. Quinnipiac remains in its lofty position at the top, Yale has climbed all the way to seventh with its great run of form, Harvard is in 12th but has a little cushion and Cornell after a strong weekend has moved into the 14th position. Of course, the Big Red shouldn’t rest on its laurels because someone could make the tournament that shouldn’t. Right now both the WCHA and AHA champions would be out of the top 16. Check out this article on the current tournament picture.
Tournament Success or Bust for Quinnipiac This Year
I love Quinnipiac, I love what Rand Pecknold has built and I think the Bobcat players are some of the best character guys in the league, but there is something missing with all the success. Despite having three of the last four Cleary Cups (ya I am giving them this year, they will at least share it), the Bobcats still have not won an ECAC title. Winning the Whitelaw is a must for Quinnipiac this season.
With as good as Quinnipiac has been since I have been covering the ECAC, it is amazing to me that I have watched the Bobcats lose in the ECAC semifinal each season. The one that got away to me is 2013, when the Bobcats were the best team in the country and they were playing Brown in the semifinal game. That year must sting, but even last year must have hurt because it gave up three early goals and only got back in the game late. Whatever it is, QU struggles to advance in the ECAC tournament.
Whatever happens in the semifinal round of the ECAC probably should be solved this season. If it doesn’t make it past that point and it fails to advance in the NCAA tournament, its season probably will and should feel like a failure. This would all be a shame considering how good the Bobcats have been this season. Regular season success and winning regular season titles are tough and an achievement. At the end of the day, however, this isn’t Europe. programs are not judged on what they do in the regular season but rather on what they do in tournaments. I would argue a regular season title is tougher, but public opinion and sports fans in this country do not agree.
Last year I argued the complete opposite, that it didn’t need to find success because it had already overachieved to a point. This season entering the league tournament with just one league loss, it would be a serious disappointment if the Bobcats didn’t win a Whitelaw.
What the unfortunate thing is, QU at this moment isn’t even the ECAC tournament favorite. Its form in recent months has just gotten it by. It has trailed a bunch and it has been forced to comeback late in games. Comebacks usually aren’t a thing when goals are hard to come by in tournaments. Quinnipiac has been impressive, but without the capstone of an ECAC title, its success this year will be forgotten real fast.
Brown Revving up for another run?
Brown always seems to be that team that every higher ranked team has to worry about going into the ECAC tournament. This season it seems to be that team again that could make a surprise run through the ECAC tournament.
In 2009, the Bears made an improbable run to the ECAC final four upsetting six seed Rensselaer and number one seed Yale. In 2013, Bruno made a more impressive run all the way to the finals as a seven seed. The most impressive win in that year, was its semifinal win against Quinnipiac who at the time was the best team in the country. Could Brown possibly do it again?
One may think I am going crazy, but Brown is arguably playing its best hockey right now. In its last three games, the Bears are unbeaten with a win against Clarkson and ties against Cornell and SLU. It has hardly been the season I expected for Brown, but as I argued above the ECAC tournament is all that matters. Just like it could ruin a great, historic season; winning a series or two or more could brighten a dark season. The Bears are probably not a contender, but the story would be nice in Lake Placid, again…
Tournament Hockey is the best hockey
Last night, I was covering high school hockey locally and I thought to myself how great tournament hockey is. Despite the lack of skill I was watching, in comparison to what I see on the weekends, the passion and the love of the game is still there. The schools were separated by less than 20 miles and both student sections were phenomenal, loud and everyone was having a good time. In the end it turned out to be a 6-1 game, but the first period was just phenomenal where the teams played a 1-1 draw.
Whether it is junior hockey, pee-wee hockey, high school hockey, college hockey or the NHL anything that has high stakes is fun to watch. No matter the skill level hockey is at its best in a one and done format. The hits are harder, players fight for loose pucks more and there are more blocks. Oh and the best thing to me the ability to have a winner without altering the game to get a pseudo winner, like the NHL does.
My opinion is, college hockey tournaments are the best. Nothing beats the Yale/Harvard quarterfinal game three last season, which was arguably one of the better all around games I have ever seen. I also was in the building when UNH scored with 0.1 seconds left in a regional semifinal in 2009 and when RIT advanced to the Frozen Four in 2011. These moments and games cannot be replicated in any sport. The joy of hockey is that any team can win on any given night and that most games will be close, one goal games.
In terms of the ECAC, we know there will be upsets this season. I expect one of the four bottom teams (Union, Colgate, Brown and Princeton) to advance to a quarter-final because it usually happens. The last time a bottom four team didn’t advance through to the Quarters was in 2007-08. Last year Harvard won as a six seed, so in most cases the seeds are just for matchups because any team can beat another. We have another week to wait, but man lets relish this time of year.