As the season goes along I try to find trends within how teams are playing and the form of each. Although I have seen the struggle of ECAC teams in non-conference play, I know that the quality of games in the league isn’t down. This season teams have been filling holes from last season, left and right, but as a league fans can point to the five ECAC teams in the top 18 of the Pairwise to realize maybe things aren’t so bad. The thing with that is, is the top teams have a ton of wins, while the bottom teams have struggled to pick up points against them. The top three (Union, SLU and Harvard) have a combined 22-3-4 record, while the bottom six are 12-37-5 in ECAC play this season.
One interesting stat that I have found, is that although defenses are struggling the offenses are still clicking at a high rate. In comparison to last year, most teams have a higher goals/game ratio. At this time last season, there were just two ECAC teams that were averaging north of three goals a game, Quinnipiac (3.78) and Harvard (3.93). The rest of the league was tightly bunched in a range from 220.127.116.11 goals a game.
This season the Crimson are off the charts at 4.58 goals scored a game, while Union (3.90), Yale (3.21), Clarkson (3.19), St. Lawrence (3.18) and Princeton (3.0) are each averaging higher than three. That realistically proves what many know, many teams are rebuilding defenses and the goaltending is a tad down from the last season. I suppose most fans like this kind of hockey and teams have adjusted to their strengths. Whatever it is most teams are scoring at higher rates.
Also read my thoughts on RPI’s Struggle this season, I feel they are an important case study of what can happen when things go seriously wrong.
Without further ado, here are my thoughts for the week…
Harvard Keeps Picking up Steam
Honestly, the Crimson are a scary hockey team and a serious frozen four contender. Every time I am able to watch them, I get visions of Union in 2014. Unfortunately for the Crimson, there are a few other teams that are dominant this year as well. They have a good balance, they have two great, young defenders, they have a plethora of talented forwards and if called upon Merrick Madsen can make the saves. Their lofty second place in the Pairwise is no fluke.
On the season, Harvard has scored in bunches and have outscored opponents by 2.36 goals per game. Its power play, clicks at 33 percent, which is an NCAA best and it scores at a clip of 4.57 goals per game. In its current six game winning streak, it has scored more than five goals per game and it has allowed just two. The penalty-kill may be the weakness, but even then it leads the nation in short handed-goals.
Whatever it is in Cambridge this season there seems to be a buzz that I haven’t seen in the ECAC since Union’s long run. It may sit in a tie for third place, but it is 7-1-1 on the year within the conference. Look for the Crimson to move up and continue to be a player nationally.
Cornell Looks to Make a Move
Is there a team more posed to make a second half run in the ECAC than Cornell? I would argue not. Arguably, that run has already started. The Big Red have a ton of games in hand on the teams above it in the standings, as it has six on QU who is in a tie for third and three on the top two teams in the conference. There are a ton of points at the forefront if Cornell is able to cash in.
After starting its league slate with a loss and a tie at Dartmouth and Harvard, the Big Red have gone 4-1-1 in ECAC play since. It has also gone 7-1-0 in its last eight games and have put themselves into the ECAC race and national picture. On Saturday, it stymied Merrimack in a 1-0 non-conference win to finish its non-conference season with a 5.2-0 mark against teams from the other league. Its only recent blemish, was a 2-1 loss to Colorado College in the Florida College Classic final.
One has every reason to think Cornell is moving up, because they have Mitch Gillam and their defense will always keep teams at bay. This season, unlike last, there seems to be more contributors on offense and Mitch Vanderlaan has eight goals on the season. As a team, they are averaging just under three goals a game.
Usually if a Cornell team can score three, it will win a ton of games. Certainly seems that the Big Red are going to be right in the hunt for the regular season crown and, possibly, an at-large NCAA tourney bid. It is currently in 15th and need to keep winning to move on up. But as I said in the introductory section, the top teams are winning a ton of games.
Brown’s Struggles are Deep
I didn’t expect much from Brown this season, based on recent seasons. It seems as though the issues that have plagued the Bears the last few years are coming back to bite again. Bruno is in 11th place in the standings and have struggled mightily to keep the puck out of its own net, which has been the issue over the past few years.
Brown does have some talent up front with Max Willman, Tyler Bird, Sam Lafferty, Charlie Corcoran and Tommy Marchin, which is a shame because if they could ever put it together at the other end they could be a decent hockey team. The Bears give up 4.33 goals per game and are second worst in that category. Their goaltenders also have a save percentage of .856 on the season. Considering the average in that category is around .915, that percentage is rather alarming.
Bruno was never able to use the momentum of its ECAC championship game berth in 2013 and it has been a struggle ever since. The cycle has continued that poor defense and goaltending has led to a world of problems on the ice. Its possession stats are better this year, as well, so maybe things are looking up.