With the ECAC race as close as it can be, the couple of weeks will be very interesting to see play out. Cornell only took a point out of a weekend against Yale and Brown, after a disappointing tie to Brown and a heavy loss to Yale. The Big Red’s lead at the top of the league is just one point, as Quinnipiac sits on 24 points. Beyond those two, the league continued to be tight down to seventh as the top-seven teams are separated by just seven points. Ultimately, all those teams have a mathematical shot at the regular season title but I would keep the favorite as Cornell, with Quinnipiac right on their heels. Yale is two points back and has been getting hotter, of late, while Clarkson and Harvard are three points back.
The final bye will probably be one of the things to watch, as Clarkson and Harvard are currently tied on 22 points, while Brown and Dartmouth are three points back. I could see Dartmouth getting in that mix, but Brown’s schedule is pretty tough down the stretch. Brown plays Harvard on Friday, while the Big Green have a crucial game against Yale. The home ice berths seem pretty comfortable for the team’s 6-8, as RPI is four points behind Union and five behind the pair in sixth. Union, of course, is an enigma and we await to see which is the real one that will show up in the tournament.
Quinnipiac is still pretty close to a lock for the NCAA tournament, as it sits pretty in the top-six of the pairwise. Positions third to sixth are pretty close in RPI rating, so a big weekend for the Bobcats could help it move up. Really, however, just one win counts for anything, the Clarkson game is huge. Cornell, Clarkson and Harvard are bubble-minded as the three are 10th, 13th and 15th, respectively. Positions 9-16 are relatively close in RPI ratings, so any stumbles could move those teams out of the picture.
Here are my thoughts for the week:
Cornell’s injuries may be catching up to it
Cornell has struggled for consistency in its lineup this year, as the Big Red have hit the ice with 18 different lineups. Injuries have taken their toll on Cornell in a major way, as big names such as Cam Donaldson, Brendan Locke, Jeff Mallot and others have been on the mend. Over the weekend, the Big Red looked comfortable against Brown, but coughed the win up with a disastrous stretch of 53 seconds that lost them the game. On Saturday, it was run out of Ingalls Rink against Yale, in a 5-2 loss against its ancient rival.
Cornell has largely gotten through the injuries without a hitch, but it sure seems they are starting to effect the play. A one point weekend in Rhode Island and Southern Connecticut certainly didn’t help, as it could have left the weekend with at least a three point lead in the League standings but instead it will fight it out with a one point lead in the final weekends.
The TV package, albeit good, is Changing the Flow of the Game
Had a chat with a coach in the ECAC this weekend and I had realized that the tv deal has changed the game, in a lot of ways, but the effects are probably more than you would expect. Of course the constant timeouts mess up the flow of the game, but it also allows coaches to roll their top-lines more in the third period. This of course is advantageous to some teams, like Clarkson, Quinnipiac and Harvard, who have big top-lines but disadvantageous to teams to others who don’t have a powerful top line and thus rely on depth.
But the play of the game is probably the more important aspect, as teams get momentum but lose it with the minute, or whatever it is timeouts, throughout the period. The games lack flow, they are start-stop and the kicker they take a minimum 2.5 hours. These were necessary changes, by the way, and I am in no way arguing they are bad, but they have put a major change in the way ECAC games are played and worse, how long they take.
Clarkson Needed that Harvard Win in the Worst Way
Clarkson has struggled over the past four weekends to get in any type of the rythym. Since the Golden Knights were in the race for the Cleary Cup, Clarkson has sported a 4-4-0 record, with a gyration of wins and losses. In a sense, this has been sparked by a struggle to generate offense. Although, the Golden Knights can shut teams down on the defensive side, its offense struggles to get more than 25 shots on goal per game. The Knights have been compensating with the sixth best shooting percentage in the country, at 11.6%, but the struggle to generate offense is costly. In there last three losses, Clarkson has scored just two goals and have been shutout in a pair of them.
The Golden Knights still have an outside shot at the Cleary Cup, but at this point it just needs to hold onto the bye it currently has. With games against Cornell and Quinnipiac in the last two weekends of the year, it will be a difficult road to navigate to get that bye, however. Clarkson is well set up for the tournaments and I think it will end up getting that bye, given the questions going forward with Harvard’s goaltending.
Picks for the Week
Quinnipiac 5 SLU 1
Clarkson 4 Princeton 3
Cornell 5 RPI 3
Union 4 Colgate 2
Dartmouth 3 Yale 1
Brown 6 Harvard 4
Clarkson 3 Quinnipiac 2
Colgate 4 RPI 3
Union 2 Cornell 1
Yale 4 Harvard 1
Brown 2 Dartmouth 2
Princeton 7 SLU 0