Heading into the stretch run in the ECAC is always a love-hate relationship for me as a reporter.
The good teams always drop games they should win and the teams that have been struggling usually come up with big results.
Over the weekend it began as Clarkson fell to Quinnipiac and Princeton, while Cornell fell to Rensselaer. It was a weird weekend, but outcomes like this are not abnormal as ECAC teams tend to beat up on themselves.
Clarkson and Cornell have some leeway in terms of the pairwise, but more losses like they had last weekend will be damaging. The Big Red also announced this morning that Mitch Vanderlaan will be out for the regular season, but it sounds like there is hope for a playoff return.
This weekend Clarkson and Cornell will face off in Potsdam in what could be the biggest game of the stretch run. The Big Red enjoys a three-point lead in the ECAC standings on the Golden Knights. Cornell is fourth in the Pairwise after its loss to RPI, while Clarkson has dropped in recent weeks from a peak of two down to seven. It was inevitably a big game, but it probably won’t impose the influence it could have been a few weeks ago when both were ranked in the top four in the country.
Clarkson has a two point lead on Union in third and three points on Harvard in fourth. The Crimson have a gulf of four points on Colgate in fifth, but also have one less league game. Two points separate Colgate in fifth and Princeton/Dartmouth in seventh, while Quinnipiac is three points back of fifth. Another big game this weekend will be when Yale hosts Quinnipiac on Friday night, as the Bulldogs sit in ninth just one point back of the Bobcats in eighth. That race should be fascinating to watch going forward.
For now, here are my notes for this week:
Below the Break: Ryan Kuffner has been scoring at a high rate, is Quinnipiac back on Track, Colgate relies on Colton Point, Clarkson’s struggles, RPI and Harvard will be fine.
Did you know Ryan Kuffner is second in the ECAC in goals?
Doing some stat-work the other day, I found out that Ryan Kuffner has 19 goals and is scoring at a clip of 0.83 goals per game. Interestingly enough, the top three scorers in the ECAC are all Ivy League players and two of the top three are Tigers, as Max Veronneau leads the league in points with 32. Princeton was named CHN team of the week today and you should read editor Adam Wodon’s piece on them.
Princeton has been really good, offensively, and leads the ECAC in scoring at 3.30 goals per game. The issues have been in the defensive zone. I have been saying for weeks that if I was a top team, I wouldn’t want to see Princeton in the ECAC tournament. They are far more talented than their current league position, they can score and one should think the defense is turning around…
Is Quinnipiac back on track?
Talking to Rand Pecknold earlier this week for a feature on Odeen Tufto that will be out next week, I realized much that I have said about Quinnipiac is correct. The Bobcats have struggled to get to its identity and have struggled finding the work rate necessary in its system to win hockey games.
But all that could be changing, as QU picked up a big weekend sweep against St. Lawrence and Clarkson on the weekend. Thing is… Quinipiac has some talented defenders and it still possesses the puck a ton. They just need to find finishers that will put the puck in the net. Tufto has proven his playmaking ability as a freshman, while Alex Whelan, Tanner MacMaster and Bo Pieper have provided most of the goals.
The Bobcats will be dangerous in the ECAC tournament because of their experience, but I am not sure the depth is there to dig out of their current mess nor make a deep run.
Colgate relies on Colton Point a ton.
When Colton Point is on he is probably the best goaltender in the country, but he benefits little from the Colgate offense. The Raiders have the third best defense in the ECAC and fourth best in the country, but the offense averages just 2.18 goals per game, which is 10th in the league.
An interesting comment from Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet last weekend after their game against Cornell mentioned that “Colton Point is an NHL level goaltender playing college hockey.” That is high praise from a man like Gaudet who has three decades in the game, as a coach.
The thing about good goaltenders is they always give their team a chance and it allows skaters to mesh over time. Despite the goal scoring woes, the Raiders are fifth in the ECAC and have stayed relatively afloat in recent weeks. Like Princeton, Colgate is extremely dangerous come tournament-time because of Point.
Clarkson’s Struggles are surprising.
I know, I know…the #SeguinCurse is a thing; It seems to haunt every team, but really it’s not that. The fact that Clarkson is 1-3-2 in its last six games is really surprising because Clarkson has a good goaltender in Jake Kielly and it has a dynamic, yet snake-bitten first line that is arguably the best in the country.
After 14 straight wins, the Golden Knights were high and have fallen hard. There were signs the break wore on them. Despite going 3-0 in the first three games, they really weren’t playing all that well or doing the things that had made them successful in the first half. They have the coaching and talent to get it back to form. Kielly has also struggled in recent games and we all know he will be fine.
Clarkson’s run is surprising, but it happens to many good teams. They just go through lulls in their season around this time and usually turn it around right before the beginning of tournament. I almost expect it to happen Friday against Cornell….
Does RPI’s win over Cornell show progress?
No, welcome to the ECAC where this happens every year. Then again, RPI did many great things and I hope they can build on them. There have been many bright spots this season for the Engineers, although the win column isn’t exactly increasing regularly. There seems to be a tiny bit of progress and a light at the end of the tunnel.
Harvard will be fine.
Anybody else still tired from Harvard’s double OT thriller against Boston University on Monday? Yah, I know I am. In all seriousness, though, the Crimson played well and deserved to win in regulation but seemed to wear down in the overtimes. Last Friday after a win against Dartmouth, Ted Donato talked about how he thought his team could “dictate pace” more often than they have. I felt they were able to do this for long stretches against the Terriers on Monday.
Harvard is still in a good position in the ECAC, in fourth, but they need to stick with the process. The talent is there, but it is young. Losing Ryan Donato to the Olympics is going to be tough, but there is enough talent to get through it. As Coach Donato also said on Friday “it will give others a chance to step up and play a big role.” I expect guys like Jack Badini and Henry Bowlby to really shine in the next couple weeks.
They also have that defense and Merrick Madsen. The Crimson are fine and should hold on to that bye. Look out when the Tourney comes…
1. Cornell (19-3-1, 13-2-1 ECAC) – Lost 1- The Big Red, despite a loss to last place RPI, are still the best team in the conference. As I said about Clarkson above, they will find their stride again quickly. This week: at Clarkson/SLU
2. Clarkson (19-6-3, 11-3-2) – Lost 2 – The Golden Knights have fallen on tough times, but it still has a dynamic top line and one of the best goaltenders in the country. Friday night will be huge if they want to have a chance at winning the Cleary Cup.
3. Harvard (10-9-4, 9-5-3) – Lost 1 – The Crimson were impressive in a loss against a red hot BU team on Monday. They were also impressive on Friday against Dartmouth in another win. The Crimson will be there at the end with the high-end talent they have and the defense. This week: at Union
4. Union (16-13-1, 11-5-0) – Win 1 – Union has won five of its past six games after a stretch that saw them lose five of seven. The Dutchmen have been surprising to some degree, considering the amount they lost in the offseason. But that Rick Bennett coaching is a factor. vs Harvard/Dartmouth
5. Princeton (10-10-3, 7-8-1) – Won 4 – The four game winning streak from the Tigers is probably more like the team we expected during preseason. Princeton is dynamic on offense and has scored 20 goals in those four contests. The streak might continue on this weekend. This week: at Brown/Yale
6. Colgate (12-12-4, 8-7-1) – Lost 1 – The Raiders dropped a tough 3-1 decision to Union last weekend after winning a pair in a row. Gate has been up and down since its hot start.
7. Dartmouth (9-12-2, 7-8-1) – Lost 2 – Dartmouth has some impressive wins this year, notably against Denver and Clarkson, but the consistency hasn’t exactly been there. There have been signs of life in recent weeks. Before the losses to Cornell and Harvard, the Big Green had won three straight games, including a win over Clarkson.
8. Quinnipiac (11-13-4, 6-8-2) – Won 2 – It is still hard to believe that Quinnipiac is under .500. Considering it has never happened in its DI history it would be a shock if it actually happened. See what I said above.
9. Yale (11-11-1, 6-9-1) -Won 2 – The Bulldogs picked up a pair of OT wins against Arizona State last weekend, but it has been topsy-turvy of late. The season hasn’t gone well, but it also hasn’t been a disaster. Just so-so I guess.
10. Rensselaer (5-20-4, 4-11-2) – Win 1 – A win over Cornell was quite impressive and moves RPI up for this week.
11. Brown (6-13-4, 5-10-1) – Loss 1 – Brown is just getting bye this season, but have been better than in recent years. The defense is still an issue. but Bruno can score and in bunches.
12 St. Lawrence (6-20-2, 2-13-1) – Loss 2- After winning its first two ECAC games the week before, the Saints were swept on the road by Quinnipiac and Princeton. It has been a tough season in Canton and it seems things are a little better now. At least they got wins in the league now because it was getting to the point where I was wondering if it was ever going to come.