Archive for the 'ECAC' Category

Injury Riddled St. Lawrence Struggling with Depth

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

Entering Brown’s Meehan Auditorium and taking a look at St. Lawrence’s line chart on Saturday night, I was struck by one thing and one thing only- On that line chart, the Saints had just three forward lines and three D-pairs, which is something I had never seen before in my career of covering DI college hockey. It has always been normal to see a team missing maybe one on that chart and dressing 17 skaters, instead of the normal 18, but seeing a team short three bodies is something I cannot think of. I am sure it happened a lot in the old days, but today it just never happens that way.

In retrospect, the line chart had just eight forwards listed as Philip Alftberg was playing a wing and he is a natural defender. Going deeper, eight of the fifteen were freshmen and only two of the forwards were upperclassmen. The fact half the lineup were freshmen would cause any team to struggle, but coupled with the depth issues it is just a disaster.

Depth is so key in college hockey and not having it often times leads to even more problems, so to see a team have so many injuries is something that is just uncommon. On Saturday, I felt SLU was giving their all and Mark Morris was coaching enough to show there is hardly an issue with either of those aspects, but the numbers game just was not in their favor. In fact, I will go as far to say being so short is just not competitive and if the injuries are long term, it will be a long season in Canton. It is normal for a team to be missing guys, but to be down 7 of 15 forwards is just tough.

Morris didn’t want to talk on Saturday, understandably so. Morris called me on Monday, and called this season “one of the most challenging seasons I have ever experienced.” Those are strong words considering how long he has been coaching at a high level. (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC, 11/14

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

Another weekend, another set of surprises in the ECAC. As I was watching results pour in over the weekend, I couldn’t help but to think to myself how topsy turvy the league is setting up to be. Quinnipiac fell twice in the capital region, falling to 0-4-0 in ECAC play, while Harvard is 2-3-0. On the flip side of those two is Union, who I picked 10th in preseason. The Dutchmen are now 5-1-0 in the ECAC play and have looked good in the process. Its only loss was to Clarkson last week, while it has defeated RPI twice, St. Lawrence, Quinnipiac and Princeton. Like the Dutchmen, Colgate is off to a surprising start and is 3-0-1 in ECAC play and is on an overall seven game unbeaten streak. The Raiders have also won their last three games and I will talk about this success below.

Cornell is the only defeated team left in the nation, at 6-0-0. The Big Red were expected to be up in the top echelon of teams but they are looking the part of one of the better teams in the ECAC. This success, is setting up for a huge showdown against long-time ECAC rival Clarkson. The REAL Golden Knights are also off to a great start, with a 4-0-0 record in the league. Honestly, these two teams have looked like the best teams but it is still early.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts of the week… (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC, 11/7

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Now that all ECAC teams have played games, there are certainly some interesting trends. Who would have guessed after the first full weekend of play that Quinnipiac would 12th on the table and 0-2? If you said you expected it, I would say you’re lying because since the Bobcats entered the league over a decade ago, it has not been 0-2 in the league. I will discuss their troubles below and a lot of it stems from the same questions that were asked in the preseason. Dartmouth, after a rough 5-0 loss in its ECAC opener against Harvard responded well and won both its games over the weekend.  Cornell is 4-0-0 to begin the year and had an impressive road sweep of Quinnipiac/Princeton on the weekend.

Because it has been a pair of weeks since I last posted, I wanted to talk about the Pairwise and the inter-conference record of the league-surprisingly it isn’t all doom and gloom. As early results poured in, it seemed as though the ECAC was going to have struggles. But as I have delved into the numbers further, the league’s record is 45-49-11 in non-conference play. If one subtracts St. Lawrence’s 1-7-0 mark in non-conference play, the league would be 44-42-11. This is right on par with last season and the current .481 record is fourth best among the conferences. With many of the better teams being Ivy League schools, that mark should only improve as the season heads into the holiday non-conference game binge.

Before I get to my three thoughts, I will mention I am going to Belfast for the Friendship Four tournament Thanksgiving weekend. So be on the lookout for my thoughts of that trip, as I am really excited about it and will probably post a travel blog on the experience in Northern Ireland… Until then here are my three thoughts of the week:

Below the break: Quinnipiac’s Goal Scoring problems, Cornell’s Big Sweep, Clarkson Recovers, team-by-team thoughts/power rankings (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC, Oct. 22

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

It always seems to come quick, but now that week three has gone and passed the Ivy League teams will finally join the fray. The early season has been interesting in terms of the league, but a few things are becoming quite clear: Quinnipiac might be a different team in terms of style than we expected, Clarkson has picked up some great wins behind goaltending from Jake Kielly, RPI is much improved, and St. Lawrence has been unable to catch steam with a brutal schedule.

Clarkson has led the way in the early non-conference play at 4-1-1, while Quinnipiac has gone 3-1-0. Union got off to an 0-5-0 start but swept its weekend against Niagara and RIT to improve to 2-5-0. Overall the conference has had tough sledding in the early non-conference period, but many of the teams have played tough schedules, like SLU. So far ECAC teams are 12-16-6.

Below the break I will discuss Clarkson’s hot start, SLU’s poor run of form and RPI’s boost in energy in the early going. (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC 2/23

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

It is always hard to believe when the last week of the regular season arrives. Only three teams have a shot at the Cleary Cup and subsequently the top seed in the ECAC tournament. Union sits in the catbird seat at the top, but are just one point clear of Harvard hot on their heels. Cornell also has a way to the title, at only three points back. The Big Red and the Dutchmen play in a game that could decide the regular season title on Saturday night in Ithaca.

Union, Harvard and Cornell are the only three teams to clinch a first round bye and home-ice in the quarterfinals. St. Lawrence needs just a point to clinch the other spot in the top four. It faces Dartmouth on Friday and Harvard on Saturday. I was really hoping for a game to decide the title, but it seems as though we won’t get it directly.

The national picture is looking very good for the top three teams as well. Harvard is comfortably third in the pairwise and one of the top seeds, if the NCAA tournament started today. Union is seventh in said rankings and Cornell is tenth. A Big Red win on Saturday would be a huge boost. Union has a tad more leeway with a loss. All other league teams would need to win the Whitelaw cup to gain entrance into the NCAA’s.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts for the week… (more…)

A look at the ECAC Stretch Run

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

Now that every team in the ECAC has played an equal amount of league games, the standings have  finally started to take shape. One of the first things I noticed at first glance, was the top four teams have separated themselves from the rest of the pack and those teams are only separated by a mere two points. Doesn’t it always seem that the races are close in the ECAC? Certainly the case this year.

Despite its loss to Harvard on Friday night, Union has the league lead at 27 points, Harvard is in second with 26, while Cornell and SLU each have 25. These teams seem to be in a drivers seat for the top four spots, as Quinnipiac is four points back with just four games to play. The Bobcats are still mathematically in the race for a bye but it would need some help. Six points back of the Cleary with just four to play seems quite the uphill battle for the Bobcats and with all the games left between the top teams, it is even more unlikely. (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC 2/2

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

Heading into the final few weeks of the season, one has to wonder where the time has gone. Just four weeks are left in the regular season and it appears that the top three have, in a sense, pulled away from the pack. SLU picked up a huge win against Union to take the lead in the conference with 25 points, but the Dutchmen have two games in hand and  trail by just two points. Harvard is also hot on the heels of the leaders with 22 points and could pounce with any slip-ups above them. Also look out for Cornell, who still has games in hand on fourth place Quinnipiac, Harvard and SLU. The Big Red could find themselves higher with big wins in the coming weeks. Cornell travels to Union on Friday night for an 8:30 contest that will be shown live on ASN.

The ECAC seems to be going as normal with interesting, surprising results across the board. On Saturday, Dartmouth went to Lynah Rink and defeated Cornell. A few years back, the Big Green had a similar result at Lynah as it seems the Big Red sometimes overlooks them after playing Harvard. It is one Cornell needed to bolster its national and league standing, but just couldn’t muster much out of it. The last couple years, Cornell has had a February and early winter swoon.One must wonder if it is happening again…

Unless SLU continues its hot play or Cornell goes on a run, the ECAC is seemingly a two-bid league into the NCAA as per-usual. Union sits in a comfortable position of sixth, while Harvard is also a two seed in eighth in the pairwise. SLU is in 14th and on the outside looking in, but obviously leading the conference could lead to a bid if they so win the conference title in Lake Placid. The Big Red are in 17th after their sweep at the hands of Harvard and Dartmouth. Without further ado here are some thoughts on the league (more…)

Yale Continues its Upward Trend in the ECAC

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

From game one to now, there is no team that has come further in the ECAC than Yale. Early in the season, the Bulldogs struggled to find an identity, had head-scratching performances against Colgate and RPI and in its first five league games the Bulldogs gave up 22 goals. The defense, which I wrote about in a feature last week, struggled to find a rhythm after losing its top four defensemen from last season.

Honestly, though, any team would struggle in this situation and it would have been understandable if Yale had its first bad season since Keith Allain took over, a decade ago. Yale left the first half near the bottom of the standings and in the low 40’s of the Pairwise rankings, a place you would never expect an Allain coached Yale team to be.

Those days seem all but over for the New Haven team. Big wins against Connecticut and defending Hockey East champion Northeastern, got the second half going on the right foot. In those games the Elis scored nine goals. Those games were undoubtedly positives, but then a  setback against Providence may have provided a turning-point. Despite losing by a 3-1 score, Yale was pushed around in a big way. Entering the third period, the Bulldogs had a meager six shots on goal and never got going. Considering how Yale plays, that was a head-scratcher and even Allain admits that. (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC 1/9

Monday, January 9th, 2017

As the season goes along I try to find trends within how teams are playing and the form of each. Although I have seen the struggle of ECAC teams in non-conference play, I know that the quality of games in the league isn’t down. This season teams have been filling holes from last season, left and right, but as a league fans can point to the five ECAC teams in the top 18 of the Pairwise to realize maybe things aren’t so bad. The thing with that is, is the top teams have a ton of wins, while the bottom teams have struggled to pick up points against them. The top three (Union, SLU and Harvard) have a combined 22-3-4 record, while the bottom six are 12-37-5 in ECAC play this season.

One interesting stat that I have found, is that although defenses are struggling the offenses are still clicking at a high rate. In comparison to last year, most teams have a higher goals/game ratio. At this time last season, there were just two ECAC teams that were averaging north of three goals a game, Quinnipiac (3.78) and Harvard (3.93). The rest of the league was tightly bunched in a range from 2.33.2.93 goals a game.

This season the Crimson are off the charts at 4.58 goals scored a game, while Union (3.90), Yale (3.21), Clarkson (3.19), St. Lawrence (3.18) and Princeton (3.0) are each averaging higher than three. That realistically proves what many know, many teams are rebuilding defenses and the goaltending is a tad down from the last season. I suppose most fans like this kind of hockey and teams have adjusted to their strengths. Whatever it is most teams are scoring at higher rates.

Also read my thoughts on RPI’s Struggle this season, I feel they are an important case study of what can happen when things go seriously wrong.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts for the week… (more…)

Rensselaer’s Struggle has Gone from Bad to Worse

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

When I wrote a feature in November on RPI it was just a struggling hockey team that was trying to find rhythm and momentum. I felt as though it would turn it around during the second half or late in the first semester. It had points where it seemed like that would be the case. Even then, the Engineers were in games until the end. There was  a 3-2 loss against Ohio State, a 3-1 loss to St. Lawrence, it led by two against Yale, late, only to have the Bulldogs come roaring back to win in overtime and there was an overtime defeat on the road to Union. Albeit losses, they weren’t ones that would get anyone’s head shaking.

Unfortunately, the results since then have been downright embarrassing and things have gone from bad to worse. As a Program, it is also approaching some program low-marks if the current trends continue.

Since I wrote that feature, the Engineers have won just once, to Arizona State, have gone a paltry 1-8-0 and are on a current seven game losing streak. It isn’t as if the Engineers are just losing nail-biters in their current seven game losing streak, either. They have given up five or more goals in six of those games and six or more in four of them. During the skid, they had a three-goal lead against Princeton evaporate in a game it ended up losing in overtime. In the third period and overtime, the Engineers put four shots on goal, while the Tigers had 30. Other than that the closest game was against Quinnipiac, a 4-1 defeat that they were outshot 51-15 in.

On the season, the Engineers have a -2.09 goal margin, which is the worst in the ECAC (next worst Brown -1.64). That margin is also the second worst in the country, to Niagara’s 2.35 margin a game. During the seven game skid that I talked about above, that margin shoots to -3.43 per game (39-15 or 5.57-2.14 per gm). For perspective, by the way, 50 out of 60 teams in college hockey have a loss/win margin of less than 1.0 and another five teams have a better goal margin than 1.35. RPI and Niagara are outliers, as they are the only two that have margins of greater than 1.75.

These are not results that RPI or any team in a major conferences should be having. No team in the country should be consistently allowing six goals a night and no team should be losing by 3.14 over a period of nine games. In most of those games, the result isn’t inflated by empty-net goals.

Usually there is more to blame when a college hockey program falls from grace than just a coach or a coaching staff, but the onus in these circumstances always falls there. Teams with the history and backing like RPI usually have a quick trigger, but lets also remember Seth Appert is still under contract until 2020-21. Unless some alum steps forward a buyout would be pricey and probably unreasonable.

That contract was signed in 2013, a season after RPI had a second place finish. The best finish since was last year, when the Engineers finished in a tie for fifth. It bowed out in the quarterfinals, being outscored 13-4 over two nights. Honestly, this year I figured they would come close to that, but it hasn’t happened. There is always some responsibility at that level and based on RPI fans I have read and talked to there certainly is.

As I was digging through the RPI team history, the Engineers are on pace to have its second worst season in its DI hockey history, the worst by percentage was in 1965-66 when it went 3-19-0 (13.64 win pct.). The winning percentage this season, is at a paltry 15.2 percent and over the last few weeks has been falling quickly.

The 19 losses it currently has is already the ninth most, in a season, since it became a founding member of the ECAC, in 1961-62. With 14 more games left in this season there are many more that can be added. Of note, the largest loss total that the engineers have had in a season, is 27 in ’08-09 and 26 in ’14-15, each in the last decade under Appert.

The fewest wins in a season it has had in the ECAC is era is three (65-66) but teams only played 22 games then. This season, the Engineers are on pace for just five, after rounding up from 4.86. This would be astronomically low for the RPI program, considering only once since 1970 has it even been in the single-digits.

It is tough to point to what exactly has gone wrong, but it is clear that defensively there have been some problems, as I mentioned above. There also comes the fact the Engineers have been outshot by an average of 10 on goal per game and giving up an inflated 36.39 shots per game. They have a 43.7 percent corsi that is sixth worst in the country.

Usually when a team is under pressure as much as RPI is, there will be trouble, unless they have great goaltending and a good system in place that keeps those attempts to the outside. Even then at 37 shots allowed per game, a goalie would need to have a .95 save percentage just to allow just two goals and a .92 to keep it to three. This is what RPI has had in the recent past, but now those areas seem to be a trouble.

Whatever has happened to RPI in recent weeks, is something that shouldn’t happen to a team of RPI’s stature, in the ECAC.  No program in the country is immune to these seasons, however, they happen. For a program like RPI’s, which has two national titles to its credit, this season has brought about a sad state of affairs. If things don’t turn quick, the blame has to go somewhere I suppose but is there really a sign it will? Lets just hope, it does turn around to some degree.