Last night, a lot happened in the ECAC, and I figured I would give an update on some of my thoughts heading into a full slate of Saturday games.
Clarkson is now the top ranked Pairwise team in the country after its, 4-1, win against Union on the road. The Golden Knights have won 13 games in a row and are now 9-0-0 in league play. Clarkson is first in the standings and has a three-point lead on Harvard/Cornell. Union fell to fourth in the standings, while Colgate is right on its heels. There is a steep divide between the top five teams and Dartmouth in sixth, with a four point difference.
Clarkson Rolls On. Who ends the Winning Run?
Each time I see Clarkson, I feel as though they only get better.
Despite having some rough patches in the second period on Friday night, the Golden Knights stood behind goaltender Jake Kielly and pulled away in the third.
No matter what Union threw at them, I never thought they were losing that game and it seemed like they were comfortable.
The Golden Knights are deep at forward, have great goaltending, work hard and their defense is exemplary at both ends of the ice. Teams with this much balance go far in the tournaments and one should think Tech should continue on this roll. There is so much to like about this team and if you listen to Union coach Rick Bennett, he would tell you the same:
“They are right up there with the best teams we have seen,” said Bennett. “They have phenomenal goaltending, D that play hard and physical, they have some skill and then the forwards, there is a lot of depth there. It is a very demanding team to play against and you need to play three periods of a grinding style. It is a very tough matchup for any team.”
On Friday night, I was particularly turned towards the play of the defense and in particularly the shots each of them have. Jere Astren’s first period goal was a bomb and so was Aaron Thow’s. Interestingly enough, Thow entered the zone, called for the puck, received it and slapped it home. It wasn’t even just those two as all six defensemen have heavy shots that have a knack for the net. From experience, this is tough to stop.
With a winning streak now at 13 games and nine in the league, I have begun to think who in the ECAC can knock them off. Union is now off the schedule, as the Knights beat them 3-2 and 4-1 in a pair of meetings. Harvard should be a big pair of games and Tech plays them at Cheel next Friday night. The first game against Cornell was no contest, as Tech went too Lynah and beat the Big Red, 5-2. They host Cornell on February 9. Of course every team in the ECAC is a tough out and I would assume they will lose multiple times, but it is always fun to think about. I assume it will be a weird one.
Until then, Clarkson just rolls on.
“It is nice,” said Clarkson coach Casey Jones. “We used to find ways to lose these games, when we were younger. We were on our heels in the second and we got some maturity about us that we don’t panic and stay the course. We trust we will turn the corner and it did.”
Bennett was not pleased with Union’s effort
Giving up a goal 50 seconds into a game is never ideal, especially against a team as good as Clarkson. The first minute was an ultimate disaster for Union all around and Clarkson was all over the Dutchmen early on. For this… Rick Bennett sent his entire first line to the locker room to think about it, but allowed them back five or so minutes later. He confirmed this in his presser.
“Well it is a breakdown… We talk about this numerous times,” said Bennett. “It is a turnover and then a line change after we turned it over. There is two mistakes and then the third one is in the back of the net-this is from a veteran. This is beyond me. We talk about keeping it simple and for the love of whatever, it is frustrating. That leads to our veterans taking dumb penalties and then we were skating up hill. Against a team like that you are begging for it. We didn’t want to win bad enough and that is the bottom-line.
“Yes I did (send players to the locker room after that), after that shift. That was pathetic and if you are going to be pathetic, you can go be pathetic in the locker room.”
Union responded to tie it later in the first on a goal by Sebastian Vidmar, but Clarkson took the lead again later in the period.
Although Union dominated large swaths of the second period, it never was able to find the almighty equalizer. The third period, again, was a disaster as Union was unable to build on momentum.
“The frustarting part for me, is we can play with them but it is easy to say that after a game,” said Bennett. Honestly, I think we showed that but it just isn’t consistent enough. I will take that back, maybe we can play for them for 30, just not 60. We didn’t get to their net, like they wanted to be in front of ours.”
Bennett was particularly bemused by the net-front play and was asked to grade his team’s willingness to do so:
“Zero Effort and soft. That is on me and I will get them to get there. I will keep putting veterans in the stands. You better play hard. Last week, against Harvard we played hard but we didn’t get rewarded for it. So be it, get over it and over yourselves. Some guys have been reading too much on themselves. I will spare the freshmen tonight. It was just embarrassing.”
Union has been a surprise so far this season, but Bennett realized his team could stick with a team like Clarkson. Bennett has the tendency to send messages to his team in games against good teams, like Clarkson is this year. Who could forget his rant against North Dakota last year and a few years back, the year Union won a national title, he had a classic after a game with Colgate.
There should be a ton of changes tonight for Union…
“You bet (there will be changes),” concluded Bennett. “I don’t know how widespread. I gotta watch this film and see if I can keep it together. It will be a tough video session and some kids better come with some tough skin. We are a part time team right now.”
I am interested to see how Union responds to it, Bennett is a master in getting the most out of his teams.
Harvard picking up steam
The Crimson are unbeaten in six and are 6-1-1 since December 1st. I have always felt that Harvard would come alive at some point, mainly there is too much talent on that team to be around .500. The Crimson have now moved into a tie for second in the ECAC and are three points behind Clarkson.
Ryan Donato has certainly been the catalyst to that, as the now junior has 16 goals in Harvard’s 16 games. His goal-pace is sparkling and noticeable because he is almost a quarter of a goal per game higher than Jimmy Vesey was in his Hobey Baker year. Donato will go to the Olympics next month and it will be interesting to see how the young Crimson handle it.
Harvard’s forwards are extremely young and it seems as though they have taken time to settle. Nothing says to me this run won’t continue and Harvard will be a tough out in the ECAC tournament. Look towards next week’s matchup with Clarkson to see just how far they have come.
Dartmouth Continues On
You have to love what Bob Gaudet has done with a young Dartmouth team. They are playing with confidence, scoring goals and just playing the game the way it is meant to be played. Last night, Dartmouth got a go-ahead goal in the waning seconds and defeated Quinnipiac.
The Big Green are now 4-1-1 in their last six games and the youngsters continue to get better. I have a feeling they might be in the mix for the last Lake Placid spot, if they get the right matchups. Dartmouth is quickly approaching that two year stretch of years that they are relevent and are a tough out for every team. Wins against Denver, UNH and now Quinnipiac may just prove they are there.
Colton Point Leading Colgate
Colgate is the biggest surprise in the ECAC and Colton Point is the biggest reason. Point is 10-4-4 on the year and his 1.75 GAA and .944 save percentage is sparkling. When Point plays Colgate is 10-4-4, when he doesn’t the Raiders are 0-3-0.
Colgate is a surprising fifth in the league and with Point, they can beat any team on any given night.
-Yale has picked it up and are 3-1-1 since a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Minnesota-Duluth. They had a similar good stretch last season, so I am interested to see if it falls of like last year.
-Cornell keeps on trucking and are now 13-2-1 on the year. Despite the record, I am not sold on them being a legitimate contender for the Whitelaw Cup in March. Not sure the offense continues and they hung by a thread against Quinnipiac last week.
-Speaking of Qunnipiac, their struggles boil down to a lack of finishing. Against Cornell, the effort was there and they didn’t get a result. Last night, the Bobcats were outshot 16-3 in the first period… That probably should not be happening.At 8-12-2 and 4-7-1 in the ECAC, the Bobcats need wins and need them fast. They are tied for sixth, seventh and eighth in the league but they have also played more games than those around them. QU heads to ASU next week and a game against Harvard tonight looks to be a challenge