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The conference’s 12 members roll into the new year whether they like it or not, and it’s not entirely arbitrary to break the league into three disparate tiers: Those on fire, the middlers and the teams in serious need of help.

Hockey Haven back on the rise

ECAC Hockey’s Connecticut programs are each hitting their strides before returning to conference play.

Yale is 8-3-2 overall and 5-1 in its last six games, including post-Christmas wins over Holy Cross (3-0) and No. 10 Vermont (3-1). The Bulldogs have risen to 14th in the PairWise early on, and face two more nonconference opponents this week (Northeastern and Harvard, in a nonleague game at Madison Square Garden) before closing out the season with 14 straight ECAC contests.

Up Whitney Avenue, No. 14 Quinnipiac is coming off a split weekend at tough customer St. Cloud State. The Bobcats are 5-2 in their last seven outings, allowing 11 goals with three shutouts. Twelve of QU’s remaining 14 games are in-league, and seven of those ECAC tilts come against opponents playing .500 or better hockey.

Harvard played only one game since the holidays, pinning a 6-2 comeback win on Rensselaer. The Crimson are on a seven-game winning streak and are the top-rated team in the PairWise.

Fighting through

Union (loss to Connecticut, win over Sacred Heart, tie at Boston University), Cornell (scoreless draw versus Lake Superior State, loss to Miami), Colgate (wins over Western Michigan and Robert Morris), Clarkson (win over American International) and Dartmouth (tie against Denver, loss to Boston College) had moderate success over the past week, though perhaps Colgate is finding its groove at long last. The Raiders are locked into league play from now on, so we will see.

Not the results they were looking for

Rensselaer, Brown, Princeton and St. Lawrence probably want mulligans on their post-Christmas play.

RPI has dropped eight straight since late November, including the Harvard loss and twin killings at home to Miami last weekend. Whatever went down with the Engineers’ internal leadership hasn’t helped matters, either.

Brown beat RPI on Dec. 6 to close out the first half, but Dartmouth’s Ledyard Classic provided no encouragement with a 4-1 loss to Boston College and a 5-3 loss to Denver. Next weekend brings the annual Mayor’s Cup home-and-home against No. 16 Providence; it’s all ECAC action after that.

Princeton endured three straight shutout losses straddling the break, first at Minnesota State, then twice against Quinnipiac last weekend. The Tigers have been outscored 20-7 in their six straight losses.

Finally, St. Lawrence played twice since the break. Both games were against 5-10-1 Northeastern, and neither game went well for the Saints. NU outshot the Saints 16-5 in the third period of Game 1, scoring thrice to come back for a 3-3 draw. On Saturday, the Huskies mustered only 20 shots overall but put three goals past Kyle Hayton before an empty-netter sealed the deal. It’s all league action from here on out for SLU.