The hourglass is running out on the 2005-06 ECACHL regular season, but as time flies by the playoff picture in the league does not appear to be growing any clearer. If anything, the number of teams in contention for coveted spots (the bye teams and teams that will host a first round ECACHL playoff series) only increased with the weekend’s results.
Cornell and Colgate, who had only recently dispatched Clarkson and St. Lawrence during encounters in Hamilton and Ithaca, stumbled when they were forced to go on the road. Their struggles, along with Dartmouth’s sweep of Quinnipiac and Princeton, helped propel the Big Green into a tie for second place in the league standings. Both Dartmouth and Colgate sit one point behind league-leading Cornell.
After a slow start, Dartmouth is in the midst of a six-game unbeaten streak. Rensselaer and Union started winning streaks of their own by sweeping Brown and Yale, which helped enhance the playoff status of the teams from the Capital Region.
With two weekends left on the regular season schedule, seven teams are currently still eligible for the top spot in the league according to some helpful calculations from ECACHL Assistant Commissioner Laura Stange. Currently Cornell, Colgate, Dartmouth, Harvard, St. Lawrence, Union and Rensselaer could all finish in first, provided the right series of wins and losses occurs. Perhaps even more remarkable, though, is the fact that every team in the league could still conceivably finish with home ice in the first round of the league playoffs. Here is a quick list of each team, in their current standings, and the extent of their possible final positions:
• Cornell: Currently in 1st place, the Big Red can finish anywhere between 1st and 7th. If Cornell collects three points this weekend, the team will have assured itself of a first round bye.
• Colgate: Currently tied for 2nd place with Dartmouth, the Raiders can finish anywhere between 1st and 8th. If Colgate sweeps this weekend, it will have guaranteed a first round bye.
• Dartmouth: Currently tied for 2nd place with Colgate, the Big Green can finish anywhere between 1st and 8th. Just like Colgate, if Dartmouth sweeps this weekend, it will have clinched a first round bye.
• Harvard: Currently tied for 4th place with St. Lawrence, the Crimson can finish anywhere between 1st and 9th.
• St. Lawrence: Currently tied for 4th place with Harvard, the Saints can finish anywhere between 1st and 9th.
• Union: Currently in sole possession of 6th place in the ECACHL, the Dutchmen can finish anywhere between 1st and 10th.
• Rensselaer: Alone in 7th place in the league, the Engineers could finish as high as 1st or as low as 11th.
• Clarkson: Currently in 8th place, the Golden Knights can finish anywhere between 3rd and 12th.
• Yale: Two points behind Clarkson in 9th place, the Bulldogs might finish as high a 5th or as low as 12th.
• Princeton: A point behind rival Yale, the Tigers are in 10th place in the league. Princeton might finish with the 5th seed in the ECACHL playoffs, or it might be the 12th seed.
• Quinnipiac: In 11th place, the Bobcats can finish anywhere between 6th and 12th.
• Brown: Although it is bringing up the rear, Brown could still qualify for home ice in the first round of the playoffs with the 8th seed or the team could finish in 12th place.
It has not been the best two weeks for Colgate; first the Raiders lose a tough home-and-home series to rival Cornell and then they have to skate into the North Country to play Clarkson and St. Lawrence.
“The North Country trip is always tough for anyone in our league,” said Colgate coach Don Vaughan. “It certainly proved to be that way for us as well. We came home with only one point after a tough road trip.”
The trip did not go so well; Colgate collected a single point on the trip, as it lost a 3-2 decision to St. Lawrence that was not as close as the score indicated and then played to a 1-1 tie with Clarkson the next night. Vaughan felt that the Raiders were, in part, lucky to come out with that one point and he gave much of the credit for the close games to his netminder, sophomore Mark Dekanich.
“Mark gave us a chance to be in the games and to win them,” Vaughan said.
He is relying on Dekanich to do the same this weekend against Dartmouth and Harvard when they skate into Starr Rink. Colgate split its road trip against the teams earlier this season, and Vaughan attributed the 3-2 win in Hanover to Dekanich’s 42 save effort against the Big Green. When recalling the previous game against Harvard-where the Crimson scored six unanswered goals before going on to a 6-4 win-Vaughan emphasized how impressive Harvard was in transition. Though his team will have home ice on its side this time around, the tight games against Dartmouth and Harvard in November underscored how important it would be for his team to clinch a first round bye and home ice in the second round of the playoffs.
“There’s a lot on the line this weekend with the top four teams playing for a bye and home ice,” he said. “We don’t expect anything but a playoff atmosphere for both games.”
Harvard coach Ted Donato, following his team’s 5-0 win over Northeastern in the Beanpot Consolation, had similar thoughts about the importance of the weekend’s games.
“This game [against Northeastern] was very important for us…a loss would have been devastating in the PairWise for us,” he said. “The top four teams in our league play against each other this weekend, so this was a very important game for us to build momentum.”
Donato’s counterpart across the ice on Friday night, Princeton coach Guy Gadowsky, echoed Vaughan’s comments during a phone call this week.
“Because of Eric Leroux, we had a chance to win both games [against Harvard and Dartmouth],” Gadowsky said. “Against Harvard, we battled back to where we could have gotten a point…but we came away with nothing.”
On Friday against Harvard, Princeton exchanged goals with the Crimson for the full sixty minutes of play. The score went back-and-forth, repeatedly. Harvard-Princeton. Harvard-Princeton. Harvard-etc. Harvard’s Jon Pelle scored the game-winning goal not quite two minutes into overtime. And a similar scene was repeated the next evening in Hanover, N.H. as Dartmouth’s Tanner Glass tallied the game-winning goal just before the four minute mark of overtime.
The games were at once hopeful and disappointing, as they showed at once all the progress that the Tigers have made this season while at the same time reinforcing the distance still to travel before they will be considered a top team in the league.
“I think we’ve responded well [to our losses] this season,” Gadowsky said. “We’re looking to get back on track this weekend.”
The Tigers will be facing a pair of teams, in Rensselaer and Union, that are both coming off a strong home ice sweep last weekend against Brown and Yale.
The Dutchmen advanced with a 2-1 win over Brown and a 5-1 victory over Union, and much of the credit for those wins goes to Union netminder Kris Mayotte, who is this week’s Goaltender of the Week. The pair of wins helped Union keep pace with Harvard, St. Lawrence, Rensselaer, and Clarkson in the battle for a playoff spot that will qualify for a first round bye (4th).
“It’s a battle in this league,” said Union coach Nate Leaman. “I feel like we have a good team and we’ve had a good season, but I feel like everyone in our league has gotten better.”
“We’ve put ourselves in a good position, and we have to concentrate on and control what we can control,” Leaman said. “The tendency is to start scoreboard watching, and we can’t start doing that.”
Last weekend was an important weekend, especially with the ECAC Hockey League standings where they are,” said Rensselaer head coach Dan Fridgen. “It squeezed the teams in the middle
“It was important to stay ahead of Clarkson, we’re trying to catch-up to Union, and we put some distance between us and Yale,” he continued. “This weekend is even more important than last weekend.”
For Fridgen’s team, the most important development from last weekend may not have been the four point home sweep or the win in the Big Red Freakout! For the team’s possible postseason success, the return to the lineup of senior defenseman and captain Brad Farynuk may have been more important since the Engineers had been either skating only five defensemen per game or else utilizing talented forward Kevin Croxton as a blue-liner.
“I was very happy with the defense this weekend,” Fridgen said. “The return of Brad took the load off of the other guys, and they did a very good job against Yale, who has some very talented forwards who can do good things with the puck.”
For Clarkson coach George Roll, his team’s success this weekend against Colgate and Cornell started with the play of netminder David Leggio and grew from that point to encompass the team’s whole defensive effort. The sophomore, who only appeared in five games during his freshman season, allowed one goal on 24 shots during Friday night’s 3-1 win over Cornell and stopped 24 of 25 shots sent his way during a 1-1 tie with Colgate.
“This past weekend we got very good goaltending,” Roll said. “If we get that type of goaltending, we can compete with any team in our league.”
“And we played good defense in front of him for back to back nights for the first time this season,” he added.
The prime example of that was the Golden Knights play during penalty killing situations; over the weekend, Clarkson held Cornell scoreless on six chances and likewise stopped all four of Colgate’s opportunities.
“I think our penalty kill was the difference in the series,” Roll said. “We wanted to key on a couple of guys-try to keep Moulson out of the equation and Burton on the other side.”
“Your best penalty killer is your goaltender, and he made big saves when we needed him,” he continued. “It was a big morale boost for us; it was a big confidence builder for our team to get three points last weekend.”
“Both Yale and Brown are good teams; we have to be ready for two tough games if we want to secure home ice in the playoffs.”
As part of a special double bill this weekend, fans that have access to CSTV will be able to watch two quality college hockey games. The usual Friday night game is a Hockey East encounter between Boston College and Maine, but on Saturday Cornell will host Harvard in an uncommon late-afternoon/early evening start. The puck is scheduled to drop at 5:30 p.m. and CSTV will be broadcasting live from Lynah Rink.
Later that same evening, fans in New York State with cable access can see Colgate host Dartmouth at 7:00 p.m. Time-Warner cable will be broadcasting live from Starr Rink in Hamilton.
ECACHL Honor Roll
My weekly notes on the top player, goaltender and rookie in the ECACHL have been missing for the past two weeks, due to my own administrative error. Over that span, St. Lawrence senior T.J. Trevelyan was named the Player of the Week (POTW), followed by talented Princeton forward Grant Goeckner-Zoeller.
Dartmouth’s Mike Devine was named the Goaltender of the Week (GOTW) after helping Dartmouth sweep Rensselaer and Union, and he was followed in that honor by Cornell’s David McKee after the junior guided the Big Red to a home-and-home sweep of rival Colgate.
Two weeks ago, Yale’s Alec Richards was named the ECACHL’s Rookie of the Week (ROTW) after holding Colgate and Cornell to a pair of goals each. That was the third time this season Richards was named the league’s ROTW, to go along with his two GOTW nods. Following Richards last weekend was forward Brian Leitch of Quinnipiac, who is the Bobcats seconding leading scorer with 32 points on 12 goals and 20 assists.
The latest edition of the Honor Roll has some familiar faces; Trevelyan was named the POTW for the second time in three weeks, and Union goaltender Kris Mayotte was named GOTW for the third time this season.
Player of the Week
Trevelyan was instrumental in helping St. Lawrence wrest three points away from Colgate and Cornell. Against the Raiders he scored a game-tying goal late in the second period, and then assisted on the game-winner in the third. The next night against Cornell, Trevelyan scored two goals less than a minute apart to help the Saints jump out to a 3-0 lead.
For the season, he has collected 17 goals and 23 assists and he leads both his team in the league in point scoring. Trevelyan is especially important to the Saints power play unit; he has scored 7 of his 17 goals with the man-advantage.
Goaltender of the Week
Union netminder Kris Mayotte was honored for the third time this season as the GOTW after a pair of strong performances in net that helped Union pick up four points last weekend.
On Friday night in his team’s win over Brown, Mayotte held the Bears to one goal on 26 shots and helped stop all six of the Bears’ power play chances. The next night against Yale he stopped 28 of the 29 shots he faced, back-stopping the Dutchmen penalty kill unit that stopped six of the seven Bulldog chances.
For the season Mayotte has a 2.16 goals against average, which is second best in ECACHL games, and a league-leading .928 save percentage.
Rookie of the Week
Rensselaer forward Matt Angers-Goulet was named the league’s Rookie of the Week after scoring two goals and an assist in the Engineers’ wins over Yale and Brown. He is the top scoring freshman on Rensselaer’s team with four goals and five assists.
On Friday against Yale, Angers-Goulet recorded two power play goals, one the game-winner, and he added an assist on the game-winning goal the next night against Brown. It was Angers-Goulet’s first multi-point weekend of his career.
USCHO.com/CSTV Division I Men’s Poll (Feb. 13)
No. 6 Cornell-Cornell slipped three spots in this week’s poll after salvaging only one-point on a road trip into the North Country. Given the talent level of both Clarkson and St. Lawrence, I’m not surprised that voters felt it necessary to only drop the Big Red down three slots. Cornell was leapfrogged by both BC and BU, but will have the chance to re-gain some ground this weekend against two top teams in Dartmouth and Harvard.
No. 18 Harvard-Harvard dropped on spot from last week’s poll, a poll which was released hours before Harvard’s 5-3 loss to BU on the opening night of the Beanpot. Since that loss, the Crimson’s only game was a 5-4 overtime victory against a much-improved Princeton team. I was surprised that Harvard fell in this week’s poll; either my fellow voters recalled Harvard’s Beanpot loss more clearly than I thought, or they were unimpressed with the team’s win over Princeton. Regardless of those considerations, though, Harvard has since won a 5-0 decision in the Beanpot Consolation and has the opportunity to record victories over two quality teams on the road this weekend. If Harvard can come away with three points or more, I’d expect a healthy bump up in the polls would be due.
No. 20 Colgate-Although I put the Raiders on my ballot, I was very surprised to see them make the cut at No. 20 in this week’s poll. Given the Raiders struggles on the road last weekend, I felt certain voters that would have more readily chosen St. Lawrence (who was the top bubble team, a mere 7 points behind Colgate) or Dartmouth since those teams recorded three and four points wins respectively.
No ECACHL teams fell out of the Top 20 this week.
The PairWise Rankings
As in previous weeks, I’d like to include with my weekly column a short section focusing on the top three or four ECACHL teams and their particular PairWise situations. This section of my weekly column is simply a broad overview. For more detailed information, make sure to read senior writer Jayson Moy’s “Bracketology” articles and executive editor Scott Brown’s “PairWise Analyzed” articles every Wednesday.
For my analysis, I’ll utilize .004 Road, .0025 Neutral, and .001 Home for calculating the RPI “bonus”. Using those numbers, here’s where the ECACHL teams fall:
• 4-2 win versus Michigan State
• 4-3 win at Harvard
• 5-2 win versus St. Lawrence
• 4-1 win versus Colgate
• 3-2 win at Colgate
• 6-1 loss at Dartmouth
• 3-0 loss at Princeton
• 3-1 loss at Clarkson
Notes: Last weekend’s struggles in the North Country did not hurt Cornell too badly, but they did represent a wasted opportunity for the Big Red to up its total of wins against two Teams Under Consideration (TUCs). This weekend presents another such opportunity for Cornell, as two more TUCs-Dartmouth and Harvard-will skate into Lynah. Taking four points this weekend would be a strong boost to the Big Red.
• 5-3 win at Boston College
• 4-3 win at St. Lawrence
• 1-0 win at New Hampshire
• 1-0 win at North Dakota
• 5-2 loss at Quinnipiac
• 5-1 loss at Dartmouth
• 5-3 loss versus Boston University
Notes: It was noted last week that the Crimson dropped a great opportunity to improve its PairWise position when it lost to Boston University in the Beanpot. Since that time, the Crimson recorded an overtime home ice win over Princeton, and then proceeded to dominate Northeastern in the Beanpot Consolation. But as was noted last week, Northeastern’s abysmal record served to turn even a win over the Huskies into PairWise harm for Harvard.
Currently 11th in the PairWise, Harvard’s last four games are all against current TUCs-Colgate, Cornell, St. Lawrence and Clarkson, in that order. If Harvard is able to collect 6 points from those four games, it will have helped itself tremendously. In some respects, though, the Crimson may also be rooting for either Clarkson or Dartmouth (both of whom have recorded a win over Harvard this season) to drop from TUC status.
• 2-1 OT win at Wisconsin
• 5-3 win versus Providence
• 2-1 win at Vermont
• 3-2 win versus Colgate
• 3-2 loss at RIT
• 3-1 loss at Brown
• 4-3 loss at Princeton
• 3-1 loss at Quinnipiac
Notes: The Saints helped themselves by recording three points against TUCs, and next weekend looms as a critical one for St. Lawrence. Wins over Harvard and Dartmouth could boost it higher in the PairWise, leaving open the possibility of an at large NCAA berth. In the meantime, though, the Saints must be vigilant against Yale and Brown this weekend. Anything less than a pair of wins will be both a disappointment and a blow to the team’s postseason possibilities.