March 10, 2011

ECAC Hockey Journal: Underdogs have their attention

by Phil Perry

Are Matt McCollem (right) and Harvard through getting knocked around? (photo: Dave Arnold Photography)

And then there were eight.

But we can’t leave it at that, can we? No, it’s impossible to ignore the wildly unpredictable first round of the ECAC Hockey tournament that whittled down the field of 12 to its remaining eight.

Last weekend was the weekend of the underdog, headlined by last place Colgate’s toppling of No. 5-seeded Rensselaer. The Engineers missed out on a first-round bye because of a tiebreaker and were then saddled with facing a beatable, but surging, Raiders squad that had won four of its last seven games.

When Colgate’s Robbie Bourdon scored in double-overtime of Game 3 to send RPI packing, it was the cherry on top of the ECAC tourney’s first round that saw the conference’s three worst regular-season teams advance to quarterfinal play this weekend.

Eleventh-seeded St. Lawrence shocked No. 6 Princeton to advance. And No. 10 Harvard not only beat No. 7 Clarkson, the Crimson swept the Golden Knights.

So, what can we draw from the uprisings of the conference’s Davids? Does it mean Colgate has a chance of beating top-seeded Unionon the road this weekend? Will the Saints dial up another miracle to beat Yale? Can Harvard remain hot against Ivy League rival Dartmouth and earn a trip down to Atlantic Cityas one of ECAC’s final four?

Probably not. But they’ve got our attention now.

NEHJ Players of the Week

Danny and Michael Biega, Harvard

The Crimson’s pair of brothers will have to continue to play well for Harvard to advance past Dartmouth. Senior forward Michael has scored three straight game-winners, while sophomore defenseman Danny has led the team in points (13) during its scorching 7-1-1 tear in its last nine games.

Looking Ahead

Harvard at Dartmouth, Friday, Saturday and Sunday (if necessary)

Our only remaining New England-on-NewEnglandmatchup, and the best chance for one of ECAC’s Cinderellas to advance, this will be a must-watch series.

Harvard’s found its scoring touch late in the season, averaging over three goals per game during its current five-game winning streak, but junior first-team All-Ivy League goalie James Mello (tied for first in the nation with a .929 save percentage) awaits in Hanover.

Around ECAC Hockey

Brown

The Bears were swept by Quinnipiac last weekend, but the week quickly turned brighter for Ivy League Player of the Year Harry Zolnierczyk. He signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers Monday. He will play out the remainder of this season on an amateur tryout agreement since his contract with the Flyers is for the 2011-12 campaign.

Clarkson

Golden Knights junior goalie Paul Karpowich finished the season with a school record 1,053 saves.

Colgate

Bourdon was the star on Saturday for his game-winner against RPI, but freshman goalie Erik Mihalik was the real hero. He made 40 saves in the deciding third game and became the first rookie goalie to win a playoff series for the Raiders in 16 years.

Cornell

The Big Red will try to use home ice to their advantage this weekend against Quinnipiac, but they haven’t proven they can thrive at home this season. They finished the year 7-7-1at Lynah Rink.

Dartmouth

Dartmouthshould feel good going up against Harvard this weekend. They swept the regular-season series, beating the Crimson in two games by a combined score of 13-4.

Harvard

Friday’s game against the Big Green should carry extra weight for the Crimson. In school history, Harvard has won 21 of 22 playoff series in which it won the first game.

Princeton

Another team that has bowed out of the tournament got some good news soon after its final game. Senior defenseman and captain Taylor Fedun signed a two-year deal with his hometown Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday. The mechanical engineering major helped his Class of 2011 be the winningest class in program history with 72 wins in four years.

Quinnipiac

The Bobcats continue to split their goalie workload, even during the playoffs. Both Dan Clark and Eric Hartzell recorded shutouts in Quinnipiac’s sweep over Brown last week.

Union

The Dutchmen will look to continue to dominate all facets of the game this weekend against Colgate. The rank first in the country in goals against (2.03) and are third in the nation in scoring, but almost as impressive has been their work on the dot. Unionis winning 57.5 percent of its face-offs this season.

St. Lawrence

The Saints were led by three freshmen – forward Greg Carey, forward Kyle Essery and goalie Matt Weninger – in their series win over Princeton. This weekend’s matchup will be a tall task for the rookie trio as their opponent, Yale, has not lost at home yet this season.

RPI

Yet another story of a college hockey team’s generosity here. Though RPI’s season ended sooner than it would have liked, it was still one to remember for 13-year-old adopted teammate Ben Mayo.

Yale

The Elis could surpass the school’s single-season record for wins this weekend against St. Lawrence. They’re one win away from the current record of 24 wins, set by the 2008-09 Bulldogs who won the regular-season and ECAC tournament championships that year.

Phil Perry can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.