Friday night was arguably one of the better night’s the ECAC has had in non-conference play in a while. Union picked up a road win against Northeastern behind a pair of Brett Supinski goals, while Quinnipiac beat Boston College and Clarkson had a big win against Wisconsin. Add in St. Lawrence, who picked up a win against Holy Cross, and ECAC teams went 4-0 on the night. It may seem a bit early to talk about pairwise, but this night will prove crucial when the Pairwise rankings come into play later in the season. Saturday was just so-so, but Union finishing off the road sweep in Boston was a big weekend for the Dutchmen and one that will put the league coaches on notice.
One thing that has become obvious in the early going, is that the league should have eight or nine really good teams, while the bottom three (Brown, RPI and St. Lawrence) might see some struggles. Union, Clarkson, Colgate and Quinnipiac are a combined 11-3-1 in their opening games, while RPI is 0-3-0 and SLU is 1-3-0. Honestly, this is a really good position for the league to be in with five of my top seven teams yet to drop the puck on their seasons. Obviously, time will tell on what will actually happen but going forward the league looks good.
Now here are my thoughts for the week:
Union’s start is pretty good
The fact that Union is 4-0-1 should never be surprising, considering Rick Bennett is behind the bench, but this season’s start is especially good. After an opening win against Army, the Dutchmen went 1-0-1 against Nebraska Omaha, of the NCHC. That was a decent weekend, considering Nebraska Omaha is in the NCHC and should provide a pairwise boost come season’s end. Although the sweep against Northeastern wasn’t perfect, Union took every chance brilliantly and it never really let the Huskies gain momentum. A lot of it was brilliant game-planning by Bennett, but most of it was execution by the backline. Despite bending on both nights, allowing 72 shots on the weekend, the Dutchmen kept the strong Huskies at bay. They allowed their opponent little in the grade-A area and Darion Hanson was big when needed. If Hanson and Jake Kupsky can be solid for Union this season, the Dutchmen are a serious contender and can challenge Cornell at the top of the ECAC.
One of the reasons I say that, is because Bennett’s teams can usually score a bunch and this team is going to be a really high scoring team. Sebastian Vidmar is a tough customer and he was huge in Union’s win on Saturday. He scored the opening goal on the power play to give the Dutchmen a 1-0 lead midway through the first and he sealed the deal in giving his team a 3-1 lead late in the third. His linemate, Brett Supinski, was key to Friday night’s win. After Union fell behind by a pair, early on, Supinski scored a pair late in the period to tie it up. He also provided an assist to Vidmar’s goal to tie it at 3-all The two combined for five goals on the weekend and a pair of assists. Given Union has other guys who can light the lamp consistently, like Anthony Rinaldi, Cole Maier and others, one should expect Union to keep the hot start going.
Quinnipiac looks more poised, but questions remain
I had a hunch Quinnipiac would be a lot better this year and the first three games prove that. As I said, however, in the preseason still holds true today, teams 1-9 in the league are going to be really good. We also knew that Quinnipiac was going to be strong on the backend but have questions scoring. So far, the Bobcats are exactly the team we predicted. A win against Vermont, ehh pretty ok, ditto to a win against Connecticut, but the win against Boston College is pretty impressive.
I will give a ton of credit to the Bobcats, as they held Boston College to a paltry 21 shots in the game. This is exactly what we should expect from the Bobcats, as they arguably have one of the better defensive cores in the ECAC. In their three games, they have held opponents to just 58 shots, or less than 20 per game. In today’s college hockey, that is brilliant stuff. If a goalie has a .925 save percentage in a season, that type of defending would allow about a goal and a half a game. Although the Bobcats seem a bit different stylistically, as they aren’t dominating games or corsi, there seems to be a renewed focus on defending in front of their goalie. Situational defense has always been a question for Rand Pecknold’s team, even in good years, so if they can keep that up there is no reason to think Quinnipiac won’t be back at the top of the ECAC.
Despite the win, however, we left the night with the same questions we started the season with and that is who would provide the goals? Priskie is one of the better offensive defenders in the country and there are others on the backend that will provide goals. Odeen Tufto has a pair of goals, while a pair of freshmen have combined for three more but the rest of the forwards have just one. QU will probably need more contributors in the forward ranks, but admittedly it is still early. The start should be a sign of renewed optimism in Hamden, but we will see when the Bobcats get into the ECAC.
Good bounceback from Clarkson
Clarkson had a rough weekend at Penn State last weekend, but the Golden Knights came to play this weekend. A win over Wisconsin was a pretty nice opening to the weekend, considering the Badgers had swept Boston College the weekend before. The Golden Knights took control early, allowed Wisconsin to tie it up in the third, but they never wavered and got a big goal from Kevin Chsryszyn to take a 3-2 lead with 6:30 to go in the game. Of course there was always a chance against Holy Cross, and it almost happened, but the Golden Knights squeaked out a win the next night for a home sweep.
One of the ways Clarkson built its NCAA resume last year, was non-conference wins last year against quality teams. A win against Wisconsin goes a long way and it should help, but there are still big questions that need to be answered. The defense is a patch in comparison to what it was last year and although the offense has been decent, who will fill Sheldon Rempal’s role on offense? I liked what Casey Jones’ freshmen provided this weekend. Josh Dunne had a goal and an assist against Wisconsin, while defenseman Brian Hurley had a three point weekend. Although not on the scoresheet as often, Nick Campoli also was pretty key in the weekend. Another key contributor Grant Cooper, who was hardly in the lineup last year, has three goals and an assist in his last three games. It seems as though Clarkson has found some replacements, but again its early. The only thing that matters in their regard, is the weekend sweep and fight after a rough weekend.
-Cornell is looking really good in its exhibition game against Guelph tonight. They are up 6-0 to start the third period, behind six different goal scorers. Despite the strong starts around the league, I still feel they are the team to beat.
-RPI deserved a better fate against UConn on Saturday, but a couple of tough breaks in the third period made it very difficult. More consistency over the 60 minutes is probably key for them.
-Colgate’s great weekend against UNH at home last weekend, was quickly set ablaze by RIT on Saturday. Poor defending and a rough third game from freshman Mitch Benson put a possible 3-0 start, into just a 2-1 beginning. Like I said preseason, there might be some hiccups in there but Colgate is going to surprise some. Nick Austin, one of the team’s best defenders, was also on the mend last night, so his loss could be a big one if its for a length of time.
-St. Lawrence has struggled out of the gate, but a win against Holy Cross was a good way to get some confidence back in Mark Morris. It was toppled by a mad Wisconsin team on Saturday. The Saints will be better this year, but by how much?