Three Things I Think: ECAC 2/3

Posted by: Josh Seguin

Separation from positions two through eight is hard come by in the ECAC standings right now, but the only tie in the league is 11th where Princeton and Colgate are tied with eight points. The seven teams between 2-8 have a progressive seven point difference. Harvard has 19 points, RPI has 18, while each of the teams below them have one less point until reaching ninth place Union which is three points behind eighth place Clarkson. Dartmouth and Quinnipiac played an interesting, 7-5 game in Hanover on Friday night and the Bobcats remained undefeated in ECAC play. Right now Quinnipiac, is running away with the league (6pts up) and it is time to acknowledge that fact.

I think the biggest question going forward is not the title race, but whether or not Quinnipiac can finish the season with less than two losses on the season in league play. Both of these numbers would be historically significant, because the league has only seen less than two losses ten times, with most of them happening before the 1980’s arrived. The last team to have one loss in ECAC play, was 1984-85 RPI. That RPI team went 20-1-0 in the ECAC, losing its first game to St. Lawrence and then ran the table with 20 straight wins. There has been only one team in ECAC play that went undefeated, which was 1969-70 Cornell that went 21-0-0. That Cornell team is often the bench mark of college hockey, as it also holds the distinction of being the only team that finished a season undefeated, 29-0-0. Although Quinnipiac also has more ties, finishing with ┬áless than two losses would be a monumental feat to say the least. The Bobcats have played 14 games and are 11-0-3 with eight games remaining in the ECAC. It has been a historic run for Quinnipiac thus far, who are 20-1-5 overall this year.

The national picture has gotten better in recent weeks, despite teams dropping. Quinnipiac is the clear number one in the pairwise and will be even if it starts dropping games, while Harvard is seventh. Those two are joined by Yale, Rensselaer, Dartmouth and Cornell in the top 16. All four of those teams are in jeopardy with losses over the next few weeks, as Dartmouth and Cornell are 15 and 16, while Yale and RPI are right in front of them at 13 and 14. If the tournament, started today four league teams would be in, while two others would just miss out. All in all, this is fine but we also know how much of a grind the ECAC is.

Home Ice is certainly an advantage this season

One of the things that has become a major trend this year, is how important home ice is to certain teams. Rensselaer has been good at home, Quinnipiac of course has been good, so has Cornell and Dartmouth but there is one team that is just near unbeatable at home, that team is Clarkson. The Golden Knights are 10-1-2 at home this year, have outscored opponents 44-19 and have just looked like a different team on its own ice. They have been less than stellar on the road at 3-7-2, which has put them down in the standings in the national picture but they have been very impressive at home.

Clarkson has been good at home, but so has every team in the top eight of the league. Clarkson and Quinnipiac have ten wins each at home, while SLU has nine. The top eight are a combined 58-20-10 at home this season and have outscored opponents 279-174. Five teams, Dartmouth, RPI, Cornell, Clarkson and Quinnipiac have a combined 10 losses at home. With numbers like this, getting a bye and into the top four will be a major goal for each team this season, as it looks to play a bigger difference than it does in most seasons. The numbers if anything, are interesting. Clarkson is 10-1-2 at home, QU 10-1-3, RPI is 7-2-3, while Cornell and Dartmouth are 7-3-0. All of those teams are in the top 16 in winning percentage at home.

Why are the numbers so mind-boggling at home this season, among the leagues best teams? The answer is unclear, for the most part if you ask me. Of course teams have an advantage playing in front of their home fans, but for teams like Clarkson and Dartmouth it comes about more by the advantage of being able to matchup their best players against the other teams best. Also there is the faceoff advantage, of putting down the stick first that is also something that should be notable. Whatever it is, home teams have ruled the roost so far this year. Well, Quinnipiac has just dominated regardless and that is their separation among the rest of the field because as Sam Anas told me on Saturday, teams really have no advantage in matching up with them because of the depth of scoring.

Clarkson is Hot because its goaltending is better

We have already talked about Clarkson’s home record, but the Golden Knights are much improved in the second half, as it had zero wins in ECAC play during the first two months of the conference season. It was a struggle that centered around goaltending and frustration, as the corsi numbers and shots numbers were among the best in college hockey.

When Clarkson’s defense is on and is looking good, it is among the best in college hockey and certainly the best in the ECAC. Ya there are the struggles to move the puck from its defensemen, but in the zone the Golden Knights are as good as any team. when a team struggles to find the back of the net frustration can effect every aspect of the game, this was the biggest issue for Clarkson when it wasn’t finding the net. For them, its long road swing really got them out of sync.

It is no secret that Clarkson’s goaltending has been less than perfect this year, but over the last four weekends it has been much improved. On the season, it has a team save percentage of .900, which is well not very good and cost them many games. Since Greg Lewis took over the starting duties in Potsdam, the Knights are 6-1-2 and have given up just 10 goals. Lewis himself in the time frame has a 1.37 goals against average and a .941 save percentage. Lewis is a good story because he has struggled at Clarkson and has lost the starting job on many occasions over the season. But for now, he has been the difference for Clarkson.

SLU should be better and was over the weekend

For the first time this season, St. Lawrence picked up a sweep in ECAC play. I probably would have predicted it to come earlier, but the Saints have had their struggles in recent months after a red hot start. Since a five game losing streak that all but took them out of contention for an NCAA berth, SLU has won three of four games and has looked better at both ends of the ice. This is probably what I would have expected of the Saints, the recent play is probably more in tune to what it should have been doing the last couple of months.

SLU really struggled to put the puck in the net when the times were tough but it seems as though those problems have gone away. Over the weekend, they received a pair of goals from Drew Smolcynski and Joe Sullivan en route to a sweep of Cornell and Colgate. The Saints were able to find the back of the net six times and built upon its strong play the weekend before, when it scored six against Brown and dropped a close 3-2 game to Yale.

SLU’s biggest advantage on offense is its depth among its forward lines, which were just not producing. Last season the Saints came out of nowhere to be one of the better teams in the ECAC, led by an extremely balanced offense. This season it has been much of the same, but at a lower level. The advantage can also be a disadvantage, as it really doesn’t have that line it can really rely on upon when times are tough like a few other teams in the ECAC.

for all intensive purposes, St. Lawrence should be near the top of the ECAC and should be competing for an NCAA berth, but right now it just isn’t there. The defense has been pretty good, led by Eric Sweetman and Gavin Bayreuther, so has goaltender Kyle Hayton. For the Saints to continue the success, it will need to ride the waves of what should be a tad better offense that had just been quiet during its struggles. Lets not forget however, this was a top ten team nationally until January.

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