Another week, another one filled with interesting results. The Princeton Tigers appear to be the team to beat in the ECAC right now. The Tigers are 3-0-1 in the league and recently seem to score just for fun. Behind them, a mess of teams has been on-again, off-again in recent weeks. Like Quinnipiac and Dartmouth. The Big Green lost to Brown on Friday, but beat Yale on Saturday. Likewise, Quinnipiac defeated RPI and lost to Union.
Since the RPI sweep, the Dutchmen have just a lone loss against Princeton. It is easy to see now: Those losses to the Engineers will prove costly. Cornell is obviously a team to watch, but the team has only played two league games. The Big Red swept Northern Michigan this weekend to make it four straight wins. Colgate deserved a better fate on Saturday against Ohio State, while Brown has looked better so far.
Again, you can look at the standings and pairwise rankings, but give it a few weeks before you take either seriously. Without Further ado, here are my thoughts for the weekend:
Ryan Kuffner is again on Fire for Princeton
If you thought coming into the season that Ryan Kuffner would slow down his goal scoring pace, you would have been really wrong. Kuffner, who scored 29 goals in 36 games last year, has been fantastic this season and has seven in his first five this year. This weekend he had another three and helped Princeton to a three-point weekend against Union and RPI. If he continues to score at his current pace, the senior would accrue 50 goals over a 36 game season. He has won ECAC player of the week the last two weeks.
One thing is for certain for the lad, he knows where the net is. Historically, he has scored on about 20 percent of his shots. Last season, when Kuffner scored 29 goals, he did so on 141 shots with a shooting percentage of 20.6 percent. This season, obviously a small sample size, Kuffner has taken 24 shots and scored on 29 percent of them. In his sophomore year he scored on 16 percent of his shots. He is a prolific scorer with good linemates, and his scoring pace is dizzying. Obviously the pace and shooting percentages will probably go down, but he has certainly been impressive in the early going. Kuffner’s contribution has been central to Princeton’s achievements in the past 12 months.
Cornell is back, but this weekend will tell us a lot
After Michigan State’s sweep, Cornell reeled in ways few thought they would at the beginning of the season. But as is the trouble for the Ivies, they were playing a team that week that had more practice and more game time. Since that weekend, the Big Red are 4-0-0 and have evened their non-conference record. After giving up nine goals in the opening two games, the Big Red’s defense has allowed just seven in the four games since. Although the defense hasn’t been extraordinary, giving up less than two a game will still win hockey games.
One of the things that Cornell has done this year is develop its forward lines. Mitch Vanderlaan has yet to score a goal and the Big Red are two games above .500 through four games. He has seven assists, however, and Cornell has a bunch of new faces contributing. Morgan Barron has four goals in six games, while Cam Donaldson has three. A few freshmen are also making a big impact, with the biggest being Michael Regush, who has four goals. This is what Cornell needed to be successful this year and it seems they are right on course.
While we can talk about improvement in the last four games, this weekend will tell us where Cornell really is. The Big Red will host Quinnipiac on Friday night, where I am sure Rand Pecknold and Mike Schafer won’t pregame tea. Quinnipiac is 7-2-0 on the year, but both losses have come against good ECAC teams in Dartmouth and Union. QU will go to Lynah looking for redemption after being swept in the ECAC quarters last year. If Friday wasn’t enough, the Big Red will face the Princeton offensive juggernaut on Saturday. Four points would be a statement of intent this weekend for Cornell, but proving where they are would be more important going forward. We think the future is good, though the sample size is really small.
Brown gets a deserved win
Two weeks ago, I wrote that Brown deserved a better fate in its opening weekend and it also did so last week. On Friday night, the seemingly much improved Bears finally picked up a win against a good Dartmouth team. It was a deserved win because there seems to be a lot of growth up and down the lineup. I can look at stats and say things are better but the results are also improved. Before Friday’s win, in each of its three losses, the Bears lost by just a goal in each. Last season, it had 19 losses and only four of them were by a goal.
It is clear that Brown is in more games this season and has looked better. The big piece of that is a much improved defense that has allowed just under three goals a game. Yah, it doesn’t seem great. I get that. But considering Brown gave up north of four two years ago and just under 3.5 last season, this is progress. Gavin Nieto has been more consistent in net, which has been a big piece of that progess, as well.
The Bears top-3 scorers are freshmen, and if they have some patience, a developing recruiting pipeline should come to fruition in the coming years.
A few weeks back, I came across a news article out of Brown about a big gift to the hockey program. To me the importance of this is huge. The gift has, in a sense, been unfairly put on the back-burner. The $3 million dollar gift is the largest Brown University has received for a coaching endowment in its long history. This gift is a big step because at times the school has failed to support its hockey team to the standards its history deserves. Brendan Whittet is a good coach, but a lack of financial support bogs down his program. One can hope this is the start of something really good for Bruno because there is no reason the Bears cannot succeed in the hockey-mad city of Providence.
Dartmouth’s results have been uneven, but the defense is young and they are working in a new goalie. Interestingly enough, the Big Green picked up their first shutout against Yale since January 13, 1979… The goalies that night? Bob Gaudet and Keith Allain… Thanks to @Dartmouth_MIH , the best twitter account out there for that beauty.
Wanted to write about St. Lawrence, but what is there to write? Seriously… losing 4-1 to Mercyhurst is bad enough, but being outshot 40-19? Yah, that is not a good look, kids.
That is all for this weekend, I suppose. Cheers I guess, have a good week.