March 6, 2008
Playoffs Set To Begin With A Bit Of Predictability

By Joe Gladziszewski

For all of the supposed uncertainty and surprise in ECAC Hockey, this weekend has the strong potential to be surprise-free.

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.

ECAC Hockey Notebook

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.

National TV Schedule

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 Lynah Rink.

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.


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.

No. 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.

No. 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 against Brown.

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.


• 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 goals.

• 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