Heading into the final few weeks of the season, one has to wonder where the time has gone. Just four weeks are left in the regular season and it appears that the top three have, in a sense, pulled away from the pack. SLU picked up a huge win against Union to take the lead in the conference with 25 points, but the Dutchmen have two games in hand and trail by just two points. Harvard is also hot on the heels of the leaders with 22 points and could pounce with any slip-ups above them. Also look out for Cornell, who still has games in hand on fourth place Quinnipiac, Harvard and SLU. The Big Red could find themselves higher with big wins in the coming weeks. Cornell travels to Union on Friday night for an 8:30 contest that will be shown live on ASN.
The ECAC seems to be going as normal with interesting, surprising results across the board. On Saturday, Dartmouth went to Lynah Rink and defeated Cornell. A few years back, the Big Green had a similar result at Lynah as it seems the Big Red sometimes overlooks them after playing Harvard. It is one Cornell needed to bolster its national and league standing, but just couldn’t muster much out of it. The last couple years, Cornell has had a February and early winter swoon.One must wonder if it is happening again…
Unless SLU continues its hot play or Cornell goes on a run, the ECAC is seemingly a two-bid league into the NCAA as per-usual. Union sits in a comfortable position of sixth, while Harvard is also a two seed in eighth in the pairwise. SLU is in 14th and on the outside looking in, but obviously leading the conference could lead to a bid if they so win the conference title in Lake Placid. The Big Red are in 17th after their sweep at the hands of Harvard and Dartmouth. Without further ado here are some thoughts on the league
Brown is Better but its goaltending, special teams and discipline is holding them back
My first thought watching Brown on Friday was that man this team is better than the results it is putting together. It was a rather surprising thought, because Bruno is 4-16-1 overall and a paltry 3-11-0 in the ECAC. Thing is, the Bears move the puck extremely well at 5-on-5 play and are one of the better teams in the ECAC within that situation, which is funky because its special teams are downright awful and its goaltending have just not been up to snuff. For the latter reasons, the Bears have struggled mightily to keep pucks out of its own net and have been on the opposite side of many blowouts. Teams with a .701 penalty-kill, coupled with a save percentage of .863 just won’t find much success.
The Bears have talent on its top two lines, with juniors Sam Lafferty, Tyler Bird, Max Willman and Charlie Corcoran finally finding a rhythm. The four of them are really fun to watch and are producing this season. Despite that, Brown just can’t put the results together and struggle to keep pucks out of its own net. I was really happy to see Brown moving the puck from the D to the forwards well, because that is something that it struggled with in recent years. Honestly, this year I am at a loss for words of how they are where they are.
The penalty-killing and goaltending numbers are probably connected to one another, because the old adage states that the goaltender is your best and most important penalty-killer. Ever since Anthony Borelli led the Bears to an ECAC final in 2012-2013, the Bears goaltending has been suspect at best. Good teams become great ones with great goaltending and with a less than average goaltender they can finish near the bottom. Whatever this is, defending or the goaltender, Brown just cannot put it together in that end.
My last point is discipline. Although I wasn’t a fan of many of the penalties called on the Bears on Friday night against Yale, they were called and Brown needs to do a better job of staying out of the box and knowing how a game is called. Up 3-1 against Yale on Friday night, it looked like it had the Elis right where it wanted them but then the rush to the box began. It gave up nine power plays in the game, with the Bulldogs going 3/9. Yale got to within 3-2 on a goal seconds after a power play had ended and scored the game tying/game-winner on power-play tallies. All told, all four were the result of penalty-killing miscues. Brown was MUCH better 5-on-5 but the specialty teams just weren’t good.
Maybe it will all come together in the tournament and late in the season when penalties are less frequent, But who knows I guess. All I know, is that Brown is better on the eye-test, the talent is coming out up front, but the goaltending and special teams are costing them.
Dartmouth Has Been Very Inconsistent, but is there a Reason?
Dartmouth has great results but have also struggled at times. Troy Crema was named the ECAC player of the month in January and has been scoring at a high pace. As great as that is, the Big Green have been downright inconsistent.Wins against Cornell and Harvard within the last few weeks have been great results, I cannot emphasize enough how good these are. But a 7-0 loss to Yale two weekends ago, a loss to Brown and a defeat at the hands of Colgate are just eyesores. Why such uneven performances?
Well, mainly Dartmouth is inexperienced in goal and other than its three seniors, it is relying upon underclassmen to find production. In some games this happens, but in others it does not. It is effecting its defending more than it is up front. The Harvard and Cornell games are great examples of how young teams with talent can be great teams, but even coach Bob Gaudet admitted after the 7-0 loss to the Bulldogs that his team was young and the results on any given night could go either way. There will be highs and lows for the Big Green.
The Big Green have some exciting young players in Cam Strong, Daniel Warpecha, and Will Graber. They will score a ton of goals in their career, but right now expect the “highs to be really high and the lows to be really low.” It just takes young teams time to to mature.
Union is Developing Secondary Scoring
Union is 4-1-0 since a loss to Boston University in early January, have scored 18 goals, have been playing great hockey and have continued in the top eight of the pairwise. One would think on paper that Mike Vecchione and Spencer Foo were leading the offensive charge, but in fact that has not been the case as the two offensive stars have scored just two goals. What was once Union relying on those two for offense, has turned into one of the most balanced offensive teams in the country. This fact, should scare many teams in the ECAC and should make Union the favorite, finally, to be ECAC regular season champs.
Although Vecchione and Foo have been regular entrants on the scoresheet, of late others are making a huge mark on the offense. One of the biggest examples is Cole Maier, who has three goals in his last three games. With 11 goals on the season Maier, now a sophomore, has developed nicely to become a solid scorer for the Dutchmen. Sebastian Vidmar, who is also on the line with Foo and Vecchione, has been solid since returning from injury. He has 11 goals and 17 assists on the season. Then there is Brett Supinski, who is fourth in the ECAC with 19 assists. His play-making abilities has really bolstered Union’s Secondary attack. There are more but Union’s offensive- depth is starting to show against most teams in the league.
One of the things that has made Union more dangerous this year is that its defense plays a large role in the offense. Jeff Taylor was instrumental in Union’s national title run in 2014, the now senior is making an impact and his eight goals are second-most in the ECAC among defenensemen. Junior Nick Desmione also has six. The Union defense has contributed 49 points on the year and have been an intregral part of the offense.
The only question will be whether these trends continue, I assume they will. At this point, I think you have to count the Dutchmen as the ECAC title favorites despite the loss to SLU over the weekend. Union has a crucial game against Cornell on Friday.