Despite minimal conference games, the last few weeks have told us a ton about a lot of teams in the ECAC. Mainly there have been some positives, but many more setbacks as teams have tried to get back in a rhythm of playing regular games. The highlights of non-conference play, thus far, have been Union’s win over St. Cloud, who is second in the pairwise, and Clarkson’s recent win over Minnesota Duluth. The Golden Knights seem to be trending in the right direction and are certainly a team to watch going forward.
In terms of the Pairwise, Quinnipiac is fifth, while Union (15), Clarkson (16), Cornell (17), Yale (20) and Harvard (22) are bubble bound. If any of those bubble teams can pick up wins in the second half, it could mean good things for their chances of getting to the tournament come March. That said, the .477 winning percentage of league teams against the other conferences will make it tough for teams to break into the top-15.
As teams head into a more consistent conference schedule, it seems like teams like Clarkson, Brown and Harvard are trending in the right direction, while Quinnipiac, Yale and Dartmouth are trending down a tad. On Brown, we have to give them credit for the job they are doing in recent weeks…
The Bears are 4-1-2 in their last seven games and over the weekend won the Three Rivers Classic. They could have beat Providence, as well, just last week but fell just short., mainly because a questionable PC goal was allowed to stand.
Without Further Ado Here are My Thoughts for the Week:
Yale Seriously Missed its World Junior Duo
I had the chance to catch Yale against Maine over the weekend and it was clear that it was missing two key pieces. Since the break, the Bulldogs are 0-2-1 against a trio of bang average teams. Don’t get me wrong, Yale is a good team and their first half has showed just that, but the beginning of the second half has been a slog for them. It became pretty clear the two pieces that were integral in the first half were playing the WJC in Vancouver. Although both Jack St. Ivany and Phil Kemp were in the building on Monday night, neither were any condition to play. The two will be a big boost in the coming weeks, as Yale has every chance to win the Cleary Cup, as ECAC regular season champions.
Both are defensemen, which meant the Elis were pretty thin on the blueline. Although Yale’s defense wasn’t too bad on Monday, there were still many clear chances that Maine just didn’t capitalize on. I think the place both were missed most, was on the counter, which seemed pretty mellow. Against UNH, the defense fell apart and let the Wildcats back in the game after Yale took a 4-0 lead.
The Bulldogs are tied for the top spot in the ECAC and will get both back for a non-conference game this weekend against Sacred Heart. Yale has a tough road to the end of the season, with pairs of games against Quinnipiac, Clarkson and Princeton all on the docket in the run-in.
Colgate’s Nine Goals came out of Nowhere
Entering last weekend, Colgate had scored a meager 19 goals in its 16 games this season. Head Coach Don Vaughan must have wondered when the goals would come and whether his team would be able to pick it up in the second half. Over the weekend, in wins against Princeton and Quinnipiac, the Raiders scored nine goals in just two games. The wins themselves were impressive, as Quinnipiac had been the undisputed top dog in the ECAC much of the season, while Princeton was in the mix to maybe to be the next best.
If I look at parameters, it was easy to see why Colgate had success against the Bobcats. For the last two periods of the Quinnipiac game, the Raiders controlled the possession battle and made the Bobcats pay for their mistakes. It was very similar to what Colgate did against Princeton the next night. The Raiders were woeful in possession before last weekend and one could wonder if Vaughan worked on a stylistic change in the way his team breaks-out and controls the neutral zone, whilst on break. The 6-0 defeat to QU, in non-conference play, the week prior was painful but maybe they took their lumps in hopes of a new system paid off. It sure seems Colgate came out with a new approach over the weekend; which paid dividends as they are now in a tie for fifth in the ECAC Standings.
Quinnipiac’s Weekend Was Concerning
Quinnipiac was unquestionably the best ECAC team in the first half. Although Yale stood at the top of the standings, having played one more game than the Bobcats at that point, QU was undoubtedly the team to beat. They were much like the Bobcat teams of old, which dominated possession, killed you with character and had no mercy in terms of their cycle.But this weekend against Colgate and Cornell a lot of that changed, in a way the Bobcats turned back the clock to last season.
Last year, the Bobcats just were not relentless nor very difficult to play against. On Friday night against Colgate, that team reared its ugly head once more. After taking a 3-0 lead on the Raiders in the second period, the visitors took over the game and dominated the last 40 minutes. Although, Odeen Tufto scored a 5-on-3 goal to increase the lead to two in the opening stages of the third period, Colgate roared back to tie it and by the last five minutes the Bobcats were on the ropes. Ultimately the OT winner for Colgate was just ugly from a QU perspective, a missed coverage coming out of the neutral zone and Jeff Stewart streaked in all alone.
Even when Quinnipiac has been good in the past decade, the defensive zone marking has often been questionable at best. It is why when they are relatively even in possession stats, the Bobcats have struggled. This weekend Colgate, who has struggled mightily in possession, were relatively even and so was Cornell the next night. Although I personally believe this is a flash in the pan for Quinnipiac, it is something worth watching because they have had similar stretches in the past.
Brown is back to being the team they were about a half decade ago, which is good for them and they ECAC. They are certainly a surprise to many, but when I watch them I think they can certainly finish 5th-7th in the league. They will be a tough out… Make sure to checkout the feature on Brown. I personally think the program has some good days ahead.
What a weekend for Union… Beat one of the top teams in the country one night and the next lay an egg. The Dutchmen will be interesting in the second half, but are already behind the eight ball in the league standings. I don’t see a huge jump for them into a bye spot.
Who do I think will be the bye teams? Yale, Quinnipiac, Clarkson and Cornell, in that order. Dartmouth and Harvard will be the other teams in that mix.
Speaking of Dartmouth… Weird team, but it is because they have a glut of talent up front and little on the back-end. This forces them to play extremely offensive.