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Bobcats claw closer to Cleary

The biggest story of the weekend was Quinnipiac’s home sweep of the North Country, which – when paired with St. Lawrence’s loss and tie at QU and Princeton – earned the Bobcats a six-point cushion on first place. With just four games remaining in the regular season, the Q-Cats have all but wrapped up their second Cleary Cup. Quinnipiac is enjoying the spoils of a 9-0-1 run in league play, a streak in which it has out-scored opponents 29-14 and vaulted into a 10th-place tie in the PairWise Rankings.

This is the team that esteemed colleague Nate Owen and the rest of the media picked to finish third in the preseason; the coaches tabbed Quinnipiac fifth, and I had them way down at ninth. This is the team whose coach, Rand Pecknold, never neglected to point out that its 27-man roster included nine freshmen and eight sophomores. The Bobcats are exceptional for their success despite youth, and their league success despite non-conference mediocrity. There is no telling what the postseason may bring for QU, but it has certainly done terrific work to maximize its odds.

Brown, Princeton bound for the busses

Perhaps it was already a foregone conclusion, but stratification of the league became clearer this weekend for a number of teams. For Brown and Princeton, it was not a welcome development.

Despite a win and tie – its best two-game result of the season – Princeton is destined to play a first-round road series, and odds are good (though by no means likely) that it will be a long roadie: Clarkson and Dartmouth each hover around the fifth-place spot.

Brown is on a hot streak of its own, winning its third in a row (3-1-1 in its last five), scoring a season-high six goals in a 6-3 win at Rensselaer and tying its season high for goals in a weekend (seven) with Saturday’s 1-0 squeaker at Union. Despite all that, Bruno is road-bound for the first round: At nine points, the Bears cannot catch the eighth-place spot, currently occupied by either Cornell or Clarkson (18 points each).

Six in the mix

Like underclassmen in a phone booth (do phone booths even exist anymore? Anywhere?), half of the league is uncomfortably close to each other around the first-round-bye line.

Yale (22 points), Harvard (21), Dartmouth (20), Colgate (19), Clarkson and Cornell (18 each) are a couple good – or bad – games away from each other. Yale is currently alone in third place, while Clarkson and Cornell are tied for seventh and looking over their shoulders at RPI and Union, four and five points back respectively.

Each team in the league has two home games and two road games remaining, and with even Princeton and Brown heating up, it’s all but pointless to attempt to handicap the home stretch. Harvard, Clarkson, and Colgate have struggled lately and will have to right the ship to wrest one of those top four spots; Yale, Dartmouth, and Cornell have fared pretty well of late, and aim to stay on that track.