November 22, 2011

ECAC Hockey Journal: Road win hopes die in New York

By Dan Guttenplan

The Princeton and Quinnipiac hockey teams discovered the new black hole of ECAC Hockey last weekend. 

Cornell goalie Andy Iles (photo: Cornell Athletics)

Cornell goalie Andy Iles (photo: Cornell Athletics)

There will be no more difficult road trip for ECAC teams than a weekend swing through Cornell and Colgate.

Quinnipiac and Princeton had brutal weekends, both failing to pick up a single point in road trips through Hamilton, N.Y., and Ithaca, N.Y.

Quinnipiac, thought to be a contender for an ECAC title, was outscored by a combined score of 7-1 in losses at Colgate and Cornell. Princeton did the reverse commute, falling by a combined score of 8-1 in losses at Cornell and Colgate.

Not coincidentally, Cornell (5-2, 5-1 ECAC) and Colgate (8-4-1, 4-2) sit atop the ECAC standings, along with St. Lawrence (4-6, 4-2) entering Tuesday night's play.

Colgate coach Don Vaughan believes the results last weekend were more a result of the parity of the ECAC rather than a new trend in which teams struggle on trips through New York.

"I think any team can beat any other team on any given night," Vaughan said. "There have been some years when three or four teams separate themselves from the pack, but I don't think this is one of those years. You better be ready to play every night."

Vaughan's argument has evidence to support it. Cornell, Colgate, St. Lawrence, Yale, Union and Dartmouth all have .500 or better records through the opening month, and no team is undefeated.

However, it's looking as if Colgate and Cornell will have the distinct advantage of playing off each other in attempts to secure an ECAC title. A road trip is tough enough in the sprawling ECAC, but back-to-back road games against two top-15 teams in the nation is daunting.

Colgate likely has the top player in the league in Austin Smith, who has already won ECAC Player of the Week twice and has 15 goals through 13 games. Cornell boasts the hottest goalie in Andy Iles, who has a shutout streak of 142 minutes and 28 seconds, which ranks eighth in program history.

And here's another advantage for the Big Red and Raiders: The ECAC's short league season. Where most conferences play 27 or 28 league games, the ECAC plays 22. So, for opposing teams looking to capture an ECAC title, a back-to-back sweep through upstate New York is all the more devastating.

This season, Starr and Lynah Rinks may be where ECAC title hopes go to die.

Game of the Week

Boston College at Yale, Saturday

These schools combined to form two of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Division 1 tournament last spring.

BC (9-4) is coming off a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Notre Dame Saturday. Fighting Irish sophomore Bryan Rust snapped a 2-2 tie with 1.1 seconds remaining.

ECAC Hockey power ratings

1. Yale (5-1-1, 3-1-0 ECAC Hockey): The Elis will play only 12 games in the first semester before playing 17 games between Jan. 1 and Feb. 25.

2. Cornell (5-2-0, 5-1-0): The Big Red are averaging 4.1 goals per game.

3. Union (6-3-3, 3-2-0): The Dutchmen have tough non-conference games against Michigan, Merrimack, Denver and Colorado College before the end of 2011.

4. Colgate (8-4-1, 4-2-0): Austin Smith may start hearing his name in the same sentence as Hobey Baker's.

5. Dartmouth (4-4-0, 3-3-0): This marks the line of demarcation that separates the contenders from the teams like the Big Green.

6. St. Lawrence (4-6, 4-2): Winners of four of their last five, St. Lawrence will be tested with two home games against Michigan Tech this weekend.

7. Brown (3-3-1, 2-2-0): Brown may not have the firepower to compete for an ECAC title, but no team looks forward to facing goalie Mike Clemente.

8. Quinnipiac (7-6-2, 1-4-2): The Bobcats haven't won a game since Nov. 1.

9. Harvard (2-3-1, 2-3-1): The Crimson have wins over Colgate and Clarkson and a tie against Quinnipiac. They could be on their way up the ladder.

10. Clarkson 7-4-3, 2-3-1): Paul Karpowich was brilliant in net for the Golden Knights in their 4-0 victory over Dartmouth Saturday.

11. Princeton (2-6-1, 2-5-0): The Tigers could have another pointless weekend at the Denver Cup Classic with games against Denver and Providence College.

12. RPI (2-10-0, 1-4-0): The Engineers hope the bye week can do for them the same thing it did for St. Lawrence (4-2 since).

Dan Guttenplan can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.