March 7, 2014

ECAC Journal: It's tournament time

By Dan Guttenplan


A year after their surprise national title, the Yale Bulldogs have a big hill to climb as the No. 6 seed in the ECAC Hockey playoffs, which start March 7. (Dave Arnold/New England Hockey Journal)

The ECAC Hockey tournament begins March 7 for eight of the 12 teams in the conference. Union, Colgate, Quinnipiac and Cornell earned all-important first-round byes. Let’s take a look at the first-round action.

No. 12 Princeton at No. 5 Clarkson

Clarkson owns an 82-69-5 record in the conference playoffs, and is 3-6 in first-round series (8-13). The Knights are 6-2 against Princeton in conference postseason action. Clarkson has a 9-9-2 postseason record as the fifth seed. Since winning the 2007 ECAC Hockey Tournament title, Clarkson has been knocked out of the playoffs in its first postseason action in each of the last six years. Clarkson is 23-4 against the Tigers at Cheel Arena. Princeton freshman Colton Phinney played in goal against Clarkson last Friday and allowed three goals on 30 shots. Senior Sean Bonar has faced Clarkson six times. He is 2-3 in the series with a 2.65 GAA and a .915 save percentage.

No. 11 Harvard at No. 6 Yale

In the teams’ three meetings this season, Yale has had the upper hand, holding a 2-0-1 record against the Crimson. The teams tied 2-2 in their initial meeting at Ingalls Rink, and Yale went on to capture a 5-1 win in the inaugural Rivalry on Ice and a 5-2 victory in Cambridge two weeks ago. Harvard freshman Sean Malone came on strong down the stretch, posting a point in six of his final eight games. The rookie has seen Harvard post a 7-6-2 in games where he records a point. This season marks the first time in ECAC Tournament history that Harvard will play as the No. 11 seed. Harvard has a 1-2 series record as a No. 10 seed or lower. Yale has had a dozen games when a player has scored multiple goals this winter. The Elis are 11-0-1 in those games. The Bulldogs finished 5-1-1 in non-league games. Yale is 7-0-0 in games it has multiple power-play scores. The Elis have won three straight home playoff games, six of their last eight and nine of 13. The Bulldogs are 4-0-1 versus the Crimson since Harvard won two of three at Boston in the 2012 ECAC quarterfinals.

No. 10 Dartmouth at No. 7 RPI

RPI enters this series playing good hockey, but Dartmouth is playing as well as any team in the conference with the exception of Union. RPI is 3-2-2 in its last seven games, while Dartmouth is 4-1-1 in its last six. The Engineers and Big Green met twice during the regular season with RPI winning both games – 7-1 in Hanover, N.H., on Nov. 2, and 4-2 in Troy, N.Y., on Jan. 24. The Engineers have played Dartmouth 12 times in the ECAC Hockey Playoffs, going 7-5. RPI has never lost to Dartmouth in three home playoff games. Dartmouth sophomore goalie Charles Grant was the ECAC Hockey Goaltender of the Month in February. Entering this weekend, the Big Green senior class is 7-7 in postseason games, the best mark during a three-year run since Dartmouth was 8-6 from 2005-07.

No. 9 Brown at No. 8 St. Lawrence

The Bears and Saints will meet for the fourth time in the tournament and second time in the opening round, both of which have come at Appleton Arena. The Saints are 8-0 in the postseason at Appleton, 8-4-0 in first round games and 25-4-0 in quarterfinals. Brown has the distinction of being the only team in ECAC Hockey to earn at least one point against the Saints in each of the last 21 seasons. The Saints won the last playoff series against the Bears, 2-1, in 2006 with two of the three games going overtime. Brown won the last playoff meeting between the two, 3-0, in the 2010 third-place game. Bears forward Mark Naclerio ranks third in ECAC Hockey in points per game (1.17) and second in the conference in goals per game (0.55). Brown earned three points against the Saints during the regular season, including a 5-3 victory at Appleton Arena.

Player of the Week

Matthew Peca, jr. F, Quinnipiac

Peca had a memorable weekend, posting the only six-point performance of the 2013-14 season in Division 1. Peca had two goals and four assists in the Bobcats’ 8-0 win at St. Lawrence. In the process, he tied the Quinnipiac record for points in a game, while also becoming the 37th player in QU history to reach the 100-point mark. Peca picked up his seventh point of the weekend on Quinnipiac’s only goal in a 1-1 tie at Clarkson. He led all Division 1 players in points (7), assists (5), power-play assists (3) and power-play points (4) for the weekend.

ECAC Hockey Rankings

  1. Union (24-6-4; 18-3-1): The Dutchmen sent a message on the regular-season’s final weekend that they have bigger goals than simply winning the Cleary Cup, awarded for the ECAC regular-season championship. Having already clinched, they posted shutouts over Yale and Brown to run their nation-best unbeaten streak to nine games. 
  2. Colgate (17-12-5; 13-6-3): The Raiders were easily the biggest surprise in ECAC Hockey over the regular season, finishing seven spots higher than the preseason polls predicted. They earned the second seed in the conference tournament by beating one of the hottest teams in the conference, Dartmouth, in the regular-season finale.
  3. Quinnipiac (22-8-6; 12-6-4): An-injury riddled Quinnipiac squad finished off the regular season in impressive fashion. The Bobcats earned an 8-0 victory over St. Lawrence Friday to snap a three-game losing streak before earning a 1-1 draw at Clarkson.
  4. Cornell (15-8-5; 11-7-4): The Big Red were in jeopardy of losing their hold on a first-round bye when they were down 2-0 against Harvard on the final day of the regular season. The Big Red rallied for a 3-2 win to edge Clarkson for the fourth spot by two points.
  5. Yale (15-9-5; 10-8-4): The defending national champions enter the postseason feeling pretty good after posting a 5-0 win over RPI on the final day of the regular season. A sixth-seed in the conference tournament is probably not what the Elis had in mind entering the season, but a first-round matchup with Harvard should set the table for another intense postseason.
  6. Clarkson (18-14-4, 11-9-2): The Golden Knights did a nice job putting a three-game losing streak in their distant memory banks on the final weekend of the regular season. They beat Princeton 3-1 before earning a 1-1 tie against Quinnipiac. The reward: The fifth seed in the conference tournament with a first-round matchup against Princeton, a team that has lost five straight.
  7. Dartmouth (8-17-4, 7-13-2): The Big Green, who earned the 10th seed in the ECAC Hockey tournament, represent the team nobody wants to play after going 4-1-1 over the final three weeks of the regular season. Dartmouth goalie Charles Grant held Cornell and Colgate to a total of two goals in two games last weekend.
  8. RPI (14-14-6; 8-9-5): The Engineers appeared content to end the regular season one period early as they allowed four third-period in a 5-0 loss to Yale. The punishment is a first-round matchup with Dartmouth, a team that has earned more points in its last six games than any other team in ECAC Hockey except for Union.
  9. Brown (11-15-3; 8-13-1): The Bears had a soft close to the season with shutout losses coming at home against RPI and Union. They’ll have only themselves to blame as they take to the road for an opening-round ECAC Hockey tournament matchup against St. Lawrence.
  10. 10.  St. Lawrence (13-16-4; 7-11-4): The Saints had to be feeling grateful to catch Princeton for the final game of the regular season, needing a win to earn home ice in the first round of the ECAC Hockey tournament. St. Lawrence dealt the Tigers a 5-0 loss and faced only 14 shots.
  11. 11.  Harvard (10-15-4, 6-12-4): Kind of a weird final weekend for the Crimson, who beat Colgate and held a 2-0 lead over Cornell before falling in the last minute of overtime. The young Crimson will gain some valuable experience facing off with the defending national champion Yale Bulldogs in the opening round of the ECAC Hockey tournament.
  12. 12.  Princeton (5-24-0, 4-18-0): And to think Princeton’s season started with a promising 3-2 victory over Dartmouth in overtime. As it turned out, the Tigers were 2-0-0 against Dartmouth on the season and 3-24-0 against everyone else.

Twitter: @Dan_Guttenplan