6, 2008 Playoffs
Set To Begin With A Bit Of Predictability
For all of the supposed uncertainty and surprise
in ECAC Hockey, this weekend has the strong potential to
All season long the coaches talk about teams
being closely matched and equally capable of winning on
a given night or weekend. Keys to success in the long run
are consistency and the ability to win close games, and
the four teams that have done that best this season are
enjoying some time away from the rink to prepare for next
weekend's quarterfinal round.
St. Lawrence's Mike McKenzie was a healthy scratch
last weekend, but will be back in the lineup at Colgate
as the Saints look to extend a two-game winning streak.
The middle and bottom sections of the standings
include teams that have shown an ability to beat some of
the best teams in the league, but have also struggled at
times. The separation was just 10 points in the standings
between fifth-seeded Cornell (25) and the joint 10th-place
teams (15), but the way that this week's playoff matchups
settled out shows strong favorites in each of the four series.
See the playoff capsules below for this year's
records in each series between those teams but be forewarned
... it isn't close.
Take the Dartmouth-Cornell series for starters.
The Big Red won both meetings by a combined score of 10-1,
including a 6-0 shutout of the Big Green last weekend at
Colgate didn't just sweep St. Lawrence in
the two league games, the Raiders added another win for
good measure in the first round of the Citizen's Bank Governor's
Cup in Albany in late November.
Quinnipiac got a season sweep of Brown with
wins by scores of 6-3 and 3-0. Those wins came during a
16-game stretch during with the Bobcats went 12-2-2.
Yale was the only of this weekend's four home-ice
teams to drop even a single point against its opponent,
with a 1-1 tie against Rensselaer back in early November.
But just last weekend, the Bulldogs posted a 3-0 shutout
over the Engineers that included a 34-21 shots on goal advantage.
All of those histories make the home teams
prohibitive favorites this weekend, but none of them will
overlook their opponents as each of the lower-seeded teams
has proven to be dangerous. Each has at least two wins against
the top four ECAC Hockey teams so far this year.
Brown has wins over Harvard and Union this
year, while RPI beat Harvard, Princeton, and Union (in the
Governor's Cup). Dartmouth has wins in the league against
Clarkson and Union, along with non-league victories over
New Hampshire and Boston University. St. Lawrence has beaten
all four of the top teams in ECAC Hockey, including a win
in the season series against Clarkson and a sweep of Princeton.
Form held in last year's tournament, as each
of the higher-seeded teams in this round of the playoffs
advanced. And even though this weekend's home teams have
held the advantage over their opponents for the regular
season, don't be so quick to conclude that they'll all breeze
through to the quarterfinals.
The unpredictability still exists, and that's
why they play the games.
SEEN AND HEARD IN ECAC HOCKEY
First Time For Everything:
Princeton and Union and have earned a first-round bye for
the first time in the short six-year history of the current
playoff format. Each faces a unique challenge preparing
for next weekend.
ECAC Hockey First Round Matchups
No. 12 Dartmouth
at No. 5 Cornell D: 11-14-4 (6-13-3 ECACH) C: 14-12-3 (12-9-1 ECACH) Season Series: Cornell leads 2-0-0 Big Green Fact: Dartmouth allowed
78 goals in league play, the highest total of any
team, and nine more than the next highest. Big Red Fact: This is the sixth year
of the current playoff format. Cornell earned a first-round
bye in the previous five, a streak that ended this
season. How Dartmouth Wins: Get better goaltending.
Even though they lost both regular-season meetings,
they outshot Cornell in each game. How Cornell Wins: Stay hot on the
power play. The Big Red were 3-for-4 with the man
advantage in last week's 6-0 win over Dartmouth.
11 Brown at No. 6 Quinnipiac B: 6-19-4 (6-13-3 ECACH) Q: 17-13-4 (9-9-4 ECACH) Season Series: Quinnipiac leads 2-0-0 Bears Fact: Brown played .500 hockey
over its last 10 games, with a 5-5-0 record after
getting just one win in its first 19 games this season. Bobcats Fact: Seven different players
accounted for the nine goals scored by Quinnipiac
against Brown this year. How Brown Wins: Score early. Getting
off to a good start on the weekend against a team
with six straight losses bodes well for the Bears. How Quinnipiac Wins: There are 293
shopping days left until Christmas. The Bobcats started
playing some of their best hockey in December, and
need to recapture that spirit.
No. 10 RPI at
No. 7 Yale RPI: 11-21-4 (6-13-3 ECACH) Y: 13-12-4 (9-9-4 ECACH) Season Series: Yale leads 1-0-1 Engineers Fact: Since the start of
their Thanksgiving weekend tournament, Rensselaer
is 5-18-2. Bulldogs Fact: Yale has lost its
last three series when it's been the higher seed. How RPI Wins: Build on last Friday's
win, not Saturday's loss. RPI scored twice in the
final 2:04 to rally for a 2-1 win at Brown. How Yale Wins: Keep playing strong
defense. They allowed just one goal in 125 minutes
of hockey against RPI this year.
9 St. Lawrence at No. 8 Colgate SLU: 12-18-4 (7-13-2 ECACH) Gate: 14-14-6 (8-9-5 ECACH) Season Series: Colgate leads 3-0-0 Saints Fact: Mike McKenzie and Kevin
DeVergilio were healthy scratches last weekend, but
will be back in the lineup this weekend. Raiders Fact: Colgate allowed just
one goal in each of its three wins against St. Lawrence
during the regular season. How St. Lawrence Wins: Have a long
memory, not a short one. Things haven't gone the Saints'
way against Colgate this year, but last year's success
can give the team confidence. How Colgate Wins: Improved special
teams. The Raiders are converting at 11 percent on
the power play, and allowed four power-play goals
against Dartmouth on Saturday.
Princeton lost its last two regular-season
games up in New York's North Country and will look to right
the ship during the bye week. While they've taken strides
every season, improving their league standing and overall
record, the Tigers have yet to experience success in the
ECAC Hockey tournament. Princeton has one series win in
the last four years, which came in last year's first round
Union's been great at earning home-ice berths
in the ECAC playoffs, but it hasn't translated to success.
They've been home for the first round in four of the last
five years, but failed to win any of those series (two vs.
Clarkson, one vs. Yale, one vs. Rensselaer). Six of the
eight losses that comprised those series were by a single
goal, something that Union has proven to be much better
at this season. The Dutchmen were 7-3-0 in one-goal games
this year in ECAC Hockey play, and 9-4-0 overall.
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM
OF THE BAG
• Clarkson earned two big wins at home
to close the regular season, improving its record at Cheel
Arena to 14-1-1 on the season. Confidence is high for the
Golden Knights on a veteran team that has the experience
of winning this tournament one year ago, and went 5-1-2
in eight league games following an early-February trip to
Colorado College. A deep and talented senior class leads
the way, and they would like nothing better than to close
their collegiate careers with a deep postseason run.
• If you missed this week's Found On
A Cocktail Napkin, the topic looked at how the playoff bye
teams in ECAC Hockey and the CCHA might spend their spare
time this weekend.
• Clarkson's Matt Beca was selected
as the INCH National Player of the Week.
• Harvard is another one of the hottest
teams in ECAC Hockey. The Crimson spoiled Cornell's senior
night and got a big win on the road to clinch one of the
last two home-ice spots in the playoffs with a 3-1 victory
at Lynah Rink on Saturday. Seniors scored all three Harvard
• The Crimson went 6-0-1 in their last
seven ECAC Hockey games and moved up from seventh place
to third in the standings.
• Two of the four playoff series this
weekend match teams that just played last weekend, in the
same exact arenas where last week's games were played. Both
were convincing wins for the higher seeds – Cornell
blanked Dartmouth 6-0 and Yale shutout Rensselaer 3-0.
• Princeton's Lee Jubinville won the
ECAC Hockey scoring title with 31 points on 10 goals and
21 assists in 22 league games. He also holds the lead in
overall scoring with 37 points on the year.
• Union finished tied for fourth place
but won the tiebreaker edge over Cornell, by virtue of winning
both head-to-head meetings against the Big Red. As the highest
remaining seed, if Cornell advances this weekend the two
teams will meet again in Schenectady next weekend.
• The All-Ivy League hockey teams were
announced this week, and Princeton's Jubinville was named
Player of the Year while Cornell's Riley Nash was selected
as Rookie of the Year. Princeton, Harvard, and Cornell each
had four players named to the All-Ivy teams.
• Rensselaer and Yale have only met
once before in the ECAC playoffs, way back in 1987, when
they tied 4-4 in a third-place game at the Boston Garden.
• The Stick Salute and Bench Minor sections
of this week's notebook are scrapped in favor of the playoff
capsules, but we'll drop a Bench Minor into the Fries for
a comment read on a message board earlier this week. A fan
of one of the participating teams this weekend lamented
the fact that they couldn't come up with any combination
of results that allowed their team to be home again for
the following weekend.
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report. Joe Gladziszewski can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.