Another weekend, another set of surprises in the ECAC. As I was watching results pour in over the weekend, I couldn’t help but to think to myself how topsy turvy the league is setting up to be. Quinnipiac fell twice in the capital region, falling to 0-4-0 in ECAC play, while Harvard is 2-3-0. On the flip side of those two is Union, who I picked 10th in preseason. The Dutchmen are now 5-1-0 in the ECAC play and have looked good in the process. Its only loss was to Clarkson last week, while it has defeated RPI twice, St. Lawrence, Quinnipiac and Princeton. Like the Dutchmen, Colgate is off to a surprising start and is 3-0-1 in ECAC play and is on an overall seven game unbeaten streak. The Raiders have also won their last three games and I will talk about this success below.
Cornell is the only defeated team left in the nation, at 6-0-0. The Big Red were expected to be up in the top echelon of teams but they are looking the part of one of the better teams in the ECAC. This success, is setting up for a huge showdown against long-time ECAC rival Clarkson. The REAL Golden Knights are also off to a great start, with a 4-0-0 record in the league. Honestly, these two teams have looked like the best teams but it is still early.
Without further ado, here are my thoughts of the week…
Brown Can Move the Puck Better than in Recent Years
Brown has struggled with possession over the last few seasons; there is just no slicing it and sugarcoating but what I saw on Saturday from them was encouraging. The Bears had 40 shots before the third period began and sliced through an undermanned St. Lawrence team with consistency on Saturday. The stats told me beforehand that the Bears were competing in possession in its early games, but just weren’t getting results.
But why is this the case?
Well first of all, I will attribute a lot of it to an experienced group of forwards that are also pretty talented. Between Tyler Bird, Max Willman, Charlie Corcoran and Sam Lafferty there is certainly no lack of talent in the Bears’ top six. I would also mention the fact that the Bears didn’t lose anyone on the backend that would be worth noting. Bruno has lacked experience the last couple of seasons in its defensive corps and a year of staying put is huge. Although it is still young, it is certainly more experienced than a group that struggled immensely last year. I also noticed that the movement from the neutral zone, forward was immensely better and it helped to provide a punch. Coach Brendan Whittet has liked what he has seen from his team in the early going and knows the improvement is clearly visible.
The Bears also have a freshman defenseman that caught my eye over the weekend in Tony Stillwell. The biggest thing I noticed right away was just how different he was from the typical Bears mold. He is undersized, moves the puck extremely well and has a great snap shot from the point that will cause many goalies in the league some issues going forward. He is a big asset on a much improved power-play that has scored five goals in its first six games. He of course has also helped a defense that struggled to move the puck.
Brown has a 49.3% CF, which is something they have been in the mid 40% range for each of the last two seasons. An improvement here and on defense will go a long way in changing results. An early season win against Yale was eye catching and the win against SLU puts them halfway to its win total of last year, of four. After a 4-25-2 record last season, it appears Brown might be just on cusp of finding a good balance.
Quinnipiac’s Struggles are Bigger than Stats Can Tell
I talked about Quinnipiac last week, so bear with me here. It is really strange to see a Bobcat team get a lead and give it up like they did on Friday night against RPI. Up 3-1, early in the second period the Engineers got within one on a goal from Jacob Hayhurst. Exactly two minutes later, Viktor Liljegren scored the tying goal. RPI went on to win with Liljegren scoring the last three goals of the game to send the Bobcats into lament.
A lot has changed for Quinnipiac in recent weeks. After two road wins against NU in which the offense came alive, the offense has gone dormant. There has also been a noticeable lack of confidence in all aspects of the game that is very rare to see with a Rand Pecknold coached team. But the single biggest thing that must concern Bobcat fans, and was most noticeable in the RPI game, the once high work-rate that Pecknold’s teams are known for, seems stagnant at the moment. QU was winning the 50-50 battles in the early going against RPI but failed to do so in the latter portions of that game, which ultimately allowed the Engineers to impose their will. The next night, it was much of the same as Union pushed the Quinnipiac losing streak to four in the ECAC.
One has to think QU will revert back to the medium, at some point, but the work-rate that the Bobcats have built themselves on has to return. Obviously the offense needs to improve as well, as one-goal in three of its last four just won’t cut it and win hockey games. If not, an unexpected long season could be on the way for QU fans.
Colgate is Growing in confidence by game and it is fun to watch
Don Vaughan and I talked at length last week about his team and how despite the run, he didn’t feel his team was where they needed to be in terms of possession. Fast forward a week and it sure seems this part of the game is turning around. As the Raiders have built confidence, largely behind goaltender Colton Point, they have also grown in confidence. Now on a seven game unbeaten streak, not only are the Raiders getting results but they are playing good hockey.
I couldn’t help but think how wrong we are going to be on this team watching them against Harvard last Friday night. It held the Crimson’s usually high powered offense to few good chances and on Saturday it held on to defeat Dartmouth. Against Harvard, I felt it was robustly better in most aspects of the game, until late in the game where it was apparent score effects had taken hold.
Colgate is certainly the feel good story of the early season. Picked to finish in the bottom two by most, there is a lot to like with the way they are playing. It is also extremely young, so as long as it can improve like it has in recent weeks, it can be a dangerous team come ECAC tourney time. It certainly appears the early success is sustainable and that would be fine with me.