The headscratchers of the world got no relief over the Nov. 11-12 weekend as the ECAC Hockey league’s two undefeated teams from the previous weekend (Union and Dartmouth) didn’t get a single win.
Instead, previously struggling St. Lawrence joined preseason favorite Yale and rising force Cornell as the big winners on the weekend. The magic number, parity-wise, was down from 10 winning teams the previous week to eight this past weekend.
Yale has benefited from a deep lineup, certainly, but junior goalie Jeff Malcolm has been a standout. Over the last three games, he has made 111 saves on as many shots. That number includes the 27 shots Rensselaer tried to get past him Friday and the really tough 45 saves on 45 shots he made Saturday against Union.
Malcolm is currently second in the nation in goals against average (1.33) and is tops in save percentage (.960), counting the 74 goalies who have played at least a third of their teams’ minutes.
We’re learning that shutouts are a fashionable trend in ECAC Hockey. Half of this weekend’s 12 games ended in goose eggs, including four on Saturday. Granted, two of those were by Yale, but RPI’s Bryce Merriam, St. Lawrence’s Matt Weninger, Colgate’s Eric Mihalik and Princeton’s Sean Bonar joined the deny party.
Yes, Rensselaer finally earned its first victory in the conference (1-3), also the Engineers’ first win overall since beating Minnesota State way back on Oct. 8. What will that monkey, formerly on their backs, do now that he’s free?
Merriam made 22 saves against Brown in the 1-0 win for his first career shutout. Baby steps. I understand.
Mihalik secured his first career shutout as a sophomore for the Raiders by beating Dartmouth, 4-0, on Friday. It hasn’t been the easiest season in the world for him, holding a 3.00 GAA and an .896 save percentage through eight contests. This was a welcome change of pace.
Princeton has been the hardest team to figure out so far. The Tigers start out with a tie against the powerhouse Bulldogs, lose a couple, beat an up-and-coming Harvard squad, lose a couple more and then they beat 6-3-3 Clarkson, 3-0, on Saturday. Bonar made 26 saves for his Tigers for a very special Alumni Day at Hobey Baker Rink.
As for Weninger and the Saints, see below.
Before that, a hats off to the Clarkson Golden Knights’ Paul Karpowich, as he just let in one of 44 shots against Quinnipiac in a 1-1 tie on Friday. Close to a shutout, but no cigar.
A much-needed U-turn
St. Lawrence didn’t necessarily scare anyone out of the gate, going 0-4 in non-conference play and losing their first league game against a then-hot Union team.
Look again and the Saints are near tied for the top spot in the conference standings with a 3-1-0 league record (with Cornell and Yale). St. Lawrence has won its last three in a row and join their fellow league leaders in walking away from the most recent weekend unscathed.
Sophomore Matt Weninger has let in just two goals amid this three-game winning streak, registering his first shutout of the season exactly a week before his second. In the first, the Saints jumped past a still limping Rensselaer squad, 2-0.
The home Princeton team put a couple past Weninger on Friday night, but at Quinnipiac, he stood tall to stop 18 regulation shots and then five more in the overtime before their other best player so far, Kyle Flanagan, gave the team a 1-0 win. He tucked in a Gunnar Hughes rebound in the extra session.
Confidence is high with the Saints, who enjoyed their first league weekend road sweep since Feb. 27-28, 2009.
Watch the point!
With a lot of the focus thus far on the goalies of the weekend, you can only guess that they’ve gotten hoarse in screaming at wingers to refuse any shots from Number 6 on Cornell.
Junior defenseman Nick D’Agostino rang up four goals this weekend, two each at Harvard on Friday (both on the same power play) and at Dartmouth on Saturday. His second goals in each game were also game-winners. This’ll be a tough one for those voting on player of the week – “Malcolm, D’Agostino, Malcolm, D’Agostino, headache.”
Cornell head coach Mike Schafer was certainly pleased with D’Agostino’s contributions on Friday in Cambridge.
“He played awesome, it was one of the better games he’s played,” said Schafer. “He’s really learning how to turn it up and be a leader. I thought he did a tremendous job.”
In each of the Big Red’s games of Oct. 29 (5-4 loss to Mercyhurst) and Nov. 4 (6-2 win at Yale), he also put in two assists. Showing a human side, he was held scoreless and was minus-1 against Brown in a 5-4 Cornell loss on Nov. 5.
He is clearly a threat to wingers’ endurance, not to mention their precious plus/minus ratings. The Bolton, Ontario native clearly understands the value of hard work – after all, he is enrolled in Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He is a foreman in this workplace, leading active Big Red players with 43 career points since 2009.
More bad news for Cornell opponents – freshman Brian Ferlin (with eight points in his last four games) is the top points-per-game rookie in the country at 1.60. The Jacksonville, Fla., native is tied with D’Agostino for third overall nationally as well. St. Lawrence’s Flanagan is second by a hair (1.62), while Notre Dame’s T.J. Tynan leads the nation at 1.73.
A reader last week asked me what my pick was for Tuesday’s Union at Rensselaer game. I responded that I wanted to wait and see what happened this weekend before venturing a guess (and that’s really all these picks can be – guesses, especially given the parity this year). However, I would have to say I envision Union not straying too far from wins and defeating the Engineers. Now that RPI has a win under their belt, they can charge forth more confidently at least knowing what works, but the Dutchmen probably have a few too many weapons who are now frustrated after an 0-2 weekend.
Union 3, Rensselaer 1