A few weeks ago, it wouldn’t have been suggested that St. Lawrence would head three hours east and win the Catamount Cup but over the weekend the Saints did just that. A win against Vermont was a positive development for the team that went 1-14-1 in the first half, the fact it was able to beat UMass-Lowell the next night showed that anything can happen in college hockey and anyone can beat any team. Considering what that program has gone through, it will go down as a bright spot in a season that is largely gone south. Below, I will talk about whether it is a sign of things to come or whether it might be a mirage.
Dartmouth and Princeton were two other teams that had good weekends, as the Tigers picked up two ties against St. Cloud State while Dartmouth had a win/tie against UNH and Minnesota-Duluth, respectively. I will talk about Princeton below, but I will wait on Dartmouth for a feature later this week. Both Harvard and Yale had up-and-down weekends, while Union and RPI struggled to the tune of two losses.
The weekend’s results continued the rocky non-conference results that the ECAC has put together this season, but the saving grave has been teams like Cornell and Clarkson have been impressive. That is why both teams are currently in the top-4 of the pairwise, while others have fallen back. It will take a be tough to get more than two teams into the NCAA’s, but it is possible. The league has played a tough non-conference schedule, as a whole, and has fared decently well against top teams.
Without further ado here are my thoughts of the week.
Below the break: Great Response from Yale, Princeton needs to build on last weekend, Can St. Lawrence sustain it?
Yale with a Good Response on Two Counts
Just over a month ago, Yale lost to UNH at home, 4-0. On Saturday, the Bulldogs turned the tide on the Wildcats and beat them, 4-2. In the opening game of the Ledyard Classic on Friday night, the Elis looked lost in a 5-0 loss to Minnesota Duluth.
All this put together amounted to lineup changes up and down the line chart for Saturday’s game against UNH. The Bulldogs responded in a big way and it was evident from the start of the game. Robbie Demontis scored on the power-play in the second period, but UNH responded later in the period. The impressive part of the game was that Yale took control early in the third period, scoring two quick goals off Wildcat mistakes. It never looked back from there.
“I wish we didn’t need to make the changes to get them to respond,” said Allain on Saturday. “I thought tonight (against UNH), we had the compete and work ethic needed to win at this level.”
The Bulldogs have been hit or miss this year, much like they were at times last season. After a 3-2-0 start to the year, Yale lost five games in a row. Since a 2-1 loss against Rensselaer, it has won three of four. The only blemish, the UMD loss last Friday. On Saturday, the Bulldogs looked like a team that had something to play for and will be interesting to see if they can build on it. The interesting thing to me, is there are many guys that aren’t living to potential in the top six. They have plenty to improve but the response seems to be there.
“I would have to say it is close (to our best game),” said Allain on the UNH win. “Our win at Union was a pretty good hockey game as well. First, for us to beat a good team this has to be our bottom-line and this can’t be our best game. We have to be able to bring this each and everynight, which is a challenge.”
Princeton Showed a New Level this Weekend
While in the press box of one game, I sometimes watch other games. To say I was glued to the Princeton-St. Cloud series would be understatement. I watched both games and was mightily impressed with the way the Tigers were playing the top ranked Pairwise team in the nation.
The Tigers were playing to their strengths and were attacking SCSU at every moment. Despite struggling to hold a two-goal lead on Friday, I felt that Princeton’s forwards were doing a great job getting the puck down the ice and they were showing the talent they have. Princeton has had few moments that have proven my second place, ECAC selection in preseason correct, but this weekend showed to me the Tigers may just have a run in them.
The problem for the Tigers has not been offense, as they own the 11th best offense in the country. The big problem has been defense, where it allows three goals per game and 35 shots per game. Over the weekend, Princeton allowed a ton of shots but Ryan Ferland was good in net and made some big saves when he needed to.
Ferland’s numbers are decent and if his form continues, it could certainly lead to a boom for the Tigers. I personally think, Princeton has the talent up-front to make a run but whether it can get the defense to go with it remains a question. The weekend against St. Cloud was positive but it needs to build on it.
Can St. Lawrence make a Run in the Second Half?
For much of the first half, St. Lawrence struggled to just put out a full lineup. In some games, the Saints had just eight forwards and dressed a defenseman to fill out a third line. Their run of injuries was tough and then the news broke that the program was under investigation. This all probably led to everyone writing them off, albeit incorrectly. People failed to realize just how dire their injury problems had become and fact of the matter was, the Saints had some talent but didn’t have numbers to go along with it. I will say the same now that I said then; the numbers game was just not competitive in today’s college hockey..
The break came at a great time for them and for the first time in a while, the Saints had a full line-chart over the weekend. Guys like Mike Marnell returned and provided them a big boost up front. This all led to a big win on Friday night against Vermont, who has had its fair share of struggles this season as well. But another win against UMass-Lowell seemed to be a stretch. They got a big shorthanded tally midway through the first and never looked back, in a 3-0 win over Lowell.
One thing I gather from experience is to not take anything from games right after the break. There is always one team that wins one of the Christmas tourneys each season that comes out of nowhere to do so and nothing usually comes from it… Not saying it won’t happen, because SLU is a different animal with all the injuries, but my experience says this happens and a bounce normally doesn’t occur.
Air Force winning the Ledyard in 2013-14, UMass winning the same tournament the year before, Colorado College winning the Florida tournament last season are a few examples that come to mind. The reason behind this is it is tough to recover from a porous start and SLU had a monumentally bad one, at 1-14-2.
St. Lawrence can make a run, it has the talent to do so, but with everything surrounding the program I am not convinced this means a thing.