Nearing the midway point of the ECAC season, there are two teams that are a combined 18-1-1 in league play. Those two teams, of course, are Clarkson who is 10-0-0 in the ECAC, while Cornell is 8-1-1. The parity, or lack thereof, in the league this year is concerning to me. It sure seems that Clarkson and Cornell are going to be a runaway pair, which I will discuss below. Of course the St. Lawrence situation is tough and they have yet to win a league game. I assume they will before the end of the year, but time is running out to do so.
In terms of the pairwise, Clarkson and Cornell are solid and if the tourney started today both would be one seeds. Clarkson moved as high as the top spot over the weekend, but Notre Dame took that spot back when all the results came back in. Both, the Golden Knights and Big Red will have a tough time keeping those lofty positions because of the league’s record in non-conference play, if they were to lose games down the stretch. Clarkson has a better chance to keep it because it has five wins against teams in the top-17 of pairwise, not including its win against Cornell. I would also look for Harvard to maybe get in the picture in the coming weeks, which I will also discuss below.
Without further ado, here are my thoughts for the week, some predictions for the weekend and power rankings.
Below the Break: Lack of Parity in the league, Harvard Set for a Run, Princeton hasn’t been the team I thought they would be
Lack of Parity
I am trying to think of a year that has lacked parity as much as it has this year-and I am not sure I can find one in my seven-plus years covering the league. Clarkson is really good, I will give them credit, but what they have done a good job with is taking advantage of a weaker than normal ECAC. Cornell has largely done the same, as the Big Red have run up wins in the league at a staggering pace with its only loss to the aforementioned Clarkson. In terms of the pairwise, this is great, because winning percentage is one of the biggest determining factors but in terms of game quality it is just ehh.
Those two seem to be runaway choices to finish in their current positions and I am not sure anyone is going to barge their way up. Harvard could, but Union, Colgate, Yale, Quinnipiac and Dartmouth just don’t have the horses to pick up enough wins to barge into it. In terms of fourth in the league and the bye, I am not even confident Union will keep their position in the top-4 come late February. Stay tuned, I guess.
What I see in the league is this, Clarkson is the clear top dog and Cornell is close but just not on the same level. Honestly, Clarkson will lose a game somewhere in the league but I am just not sure who it will be; from what I have seen they are that far ahead from others. Cornell and Harvard might make the next tier in terms of how league teams have played, while Colgate and Union are in the next tier. Yale, Quinnipiac, Dartmouth, Princeton and Brown are all similarly inconsistent and are this is the next tier.
Quinnipiac is severely plagued by its lack of goal-scoring, but will also be plagued by the fact it has played more games than every team around it. The Bobcats have just nine league games left. Princeton will also be hindered by this, but I have a feeling they can move up because they can score goals in bunches; defense usually gets better as the season goes on. RPI and SLU are just off the pace of the rest.
It has all meant for a very strange year in the ECAC and it has led to Clarkson having a 14 game winning streak, with no signs it is coming to an end soon, and Cornell having just one league loss late in January. Feel free to comment on twitter about these thoughts. It is really not good.
When will Harvard’s push begin or has it already begun?
I am still convinced Harvard will be in the mix to be in the top three by the end of the season. They are already there, but I feel at some point they will take off and make it comfortably. I also feel as though they should be in Lake Placid, along with Cornell and Clarkson. I obviously never say definitives, I just feel as though Harvard is still the most talented team in the league, but they have hit on hard times with a really young forward group. Their defensive six are probably the best and deepest in the league.
Of course the wild card in all this was always going to be Ryan Donato, who will be out a few weeks as he participated in the Olympics. Donato is averaging a goal a game and has 17, which is second in the nation despite playing the Ivy League schedule of less games. He is an integral part of what the Crimson have done because Harvard’s next highest scorer has just six goals. His loss may curtail any progress, but who knows the freshmen are aging quick and should pick it up.
Then again I say push, but maybe it has already begun because the Crimson have lost just once since Thanksgiving. In the time frame, Harvard is 6-1-3 and has picked up wins against Union and Quinnipiac. Friday night’s matchup with Clarkson intrigues me, hence I am making the long trip north to see it.
Princeton has been largely disappointing
I was a little facetious and picked Princeton to finish second in the ECAC in the preseason. It was a lofty position considering recent years and the lack of an experienced sacred seven. This is not to say I am not a fan of what Ron Fogarty is doing, but maybe we got excited about what the Tigers accomplished last year. They beat some great teams and finished seventh in the league. Fast forward a year and the Tigers are underwhelming.
A pair of ties against St. Cloud were the high point for the Tigers. Princeton looked good that weekend and we could have thought maybe they had turned the corner. Since then, however, the results have not been good. The Friday after the St. Cloud weekend, the Tigers were run out of Lynah Rink in a 7-1 rout at the hands of Cornell. The next night, Princeton struggled again and lost to Colgate, 4-0. A 3-1 loss to Harvard ran the losing run to three that was eventually snapped against Dartmouth. These are largely not the results I have expected this season.
Princeton has been able to score in bunches, but hasn’t been consistent in doing it. A 9-2 win against Dartmouth was eye-catching, but they are certainly capable of high scoring games. The offense has not really been the problem, but it is more the inconsistent defense that has plagued it. The Tigers are 46th in the country in scoring defense and allow north of three goals per game. It was always going to be a challenge replacing Colton Phinney, but the consistency in goal just hasn’t been there. Although they get a mulligan because freshman Ryan Ferland has been good on occasion but the Tigers are struggling to keep pucks out their net.
Princeton might have the offense to make a run in the tournament, given the weaknesses in 4-10 seeding group. It will probably depend on who it plays in the first round and second rounds.
RPI at Brown: Brown won an exciting game on the road, coming back from down three in the third period, and I think they take this one from start to finish this time. Engineers just don’t have the offense to keep up. Brown 4-1
Harvard at Clarkson: This one should be one of the better games in the league this season. In the next matchup, in February, the Crimson will be without Ryan Donato but I am not sure even he will be enough in this one. I will stick with the hot hand. Clarkson 4-2
Dartmouth at SLU: The Saints have to win one at some point and maybe it is this one, but I don’t think so. Dartmouth 5-1
Colgate at Cornell: This should be a classic weekend for these two teams. Will stick with home teams… Cornell 3-1
Union at Yale: Union has hit the struggle bus of late, while Yale is red hot. I will go with the hot team and the one that is at home. 5-4 Yale
Quinnipiac at ASU: Arizona State has been pretty bad on Friday nights, but have picked it up on Saturday’s. I will stick with that trend. QU 4-1
Union at Brown: Both of these teams can score and this could be an interesting one. I will pick the upset, here. Brown 4-3
Dartmouth at Clarkson: Can’t see the Golden Knights’ winning run ending against the Big Green. 5-1 Clarkson
Harvard at SLU: This one has the chance to get out of hand, and I think it will. Crimson 8-1
Cornell at Colgate: See above, home teams rule. Colton Point shines. Gate 2-1
RPI at Yale: Yale should win this one and will. Elis 3-1
QU at Arizona State: See above… ASU has been good on Saturdays and that upset run will continue. 4-3 ASU
- Clarkson (18-3-1, 10-0-0): No question who is the top dog in the ECAC.
- Cornell: (14-2-1, 8-1-1): Cornell is nipping on Clarkson’s heels and Lake Placid is looking fun if the top-two now are two of the teams make it there in March. If you’re a casual fan, not caring what team makes it, book hotels now they are getting in scarce up there for the championship weekend because two large fan bases are really excited about their hockey teams.
- Harvard (8-6-3, 7-3-2): Harvard wasn’t good in its early non-conference schedule and is paying for it in terms of the pairwise, but in the league they have been third best. Think that continues. As I say every year, no one wants to play Harvard on the big sheet in Lake Placid.
- Colgate (10-8-4, 6-3-1): Colgate has been dangerous with Colton Point in the mix, as the Raiders are 10-5-4 with him in the lineup. It has been up and down of late, but as long as Point is around they have a chance in every game
- Yale (8-8-1,5-6-1): The Elis are unbeaten in four since a drubbing at the hands of Minnesota-Duluth. Last weekend, Yale tied a good Cornell team and picked up a 5-1 win against Colgate. The Bulldogs are certainly on the rise and a team to watch.
- Union (12-12-1, 8-4-0): Union is still overachieving this season and that is a credit to Rick Bennett, but the Dutchmen are just 2-5-0 since December 10th.
- Princeton (7-10-3, 4-8-1): The Tigers haven’t been good of late but do have two ties against St. Cloud, which are impressive. I am also taking into account that Princeton beat Dartmouth, who beat Quinnipiac on Friday. All three of these teams are close.
- Dartmouth (6-10-2, 4-6-1): I like what Dartmouth has done and the strides that have been made. The Big Green are 4-2-1 in their last seven games, including wins against UNH and Denver and a tie against UMD. Dartmouth beat Quinnipiac on Friday, at home.
- Quinnipiac (8-12-3, 4-7-2): Quinnipiac has been one of the biggest disappointments in college hockey, but the Bobcats have been better of late. But getting outshot 16-3 in the first period on Friday against Dartmouth, just shows the effort might not be there night-in-night-out.
- Brown (5-10-3, 4-8-0): The Bears have more wins than they did last year, but are winless in seven.
- RPI (4-16-4, 3-8-2): The offense just isn’t there consistently to make the Engineers a threat to most of the teams above it. RPI has been better this season than they were last year under Seth Appert, but still a tad behind.
- St. Lawrence (4-16-2, 0-9-1): Three words: What a mess.