Winter has set in over the northeast. The temperatures are dropping and the hockey is heating up. The ECAC has some of the best teams on offer in college and some of the sport’s most compelling stories. Before the new year begins, let’s take a look at how the ECAC has shaped up, the state of the teams, and the prospects for each unit moving forward.
St. Lawrence Saints: 1-14-1 Overall, 0-7-1 Conference
Winters in Canton are hard, even with great hockey. When the Saints are struggling as they are, the cold wind bites even harder. Greg Carvel led them to success during his tenure, but with his departure to UMass, the hope has left Canton. St. Lawrence is allowing 4.06 goals per game, scoring 1.86 goals per game, giving up power-play goals 27.2% of the time, and they’ve allowed the most shorthanded goals in the ECAC. Jacob Pritchard has been a bright spot, but unfortunately, there’s not much to go on now.
The Saints play Vermont and Lowell in the Catamount Cup in Burlington.
Rensselaer Engineers: 3-11-3, 2-5-1
The Engineers are long removed from their glory in the 1980’s. The last time the team reached the NCAA Tournament was in 2011 and the team has not seen much success lately. This year, the Engineers still draw rowdy fans but don’t have the talent for this season. First-year head coach Dave Smith has led his team to a pair of ties against Ohio State and an overtime duel with Notre Dame. Jacob Hayhurst and Evan Tironese are the leaders on the forward line and have some quality performances under their belt. Smith has developed some of his freshmen as well, mainly Emil Ohrval, Billy Jerry, and Jon Richards.
The Engineers have some potential for growth and development. Smith can bring the Engineers back to contention, but it will take time. RPI opens the season at home against Maine on the 29th and 30th.
Dartmouth Big Green: 3-8-1, 2-4-1
Dartmouth has been a cellar team for many winters. This year again features a slumping team, but there is optimism to be had. Dartmouth ended the first half with a split at Magness Arena, with the Big Green overcoming a 3-0 deficit to beat the reigning National Champion Denver Pioneers 5-4. That’s the biggest win in many moons in Hanover, but it’s not enough to lift the team to contender status. Dartmouth is giving up 3.42 goals per game and is -20 in goal differential, third worst and second worst respectively.
No one has more than three goals or seven points, and the power play is scoring 9.1% of the time. Dartmouth has been an upset team the last two years, but the Big Green do not have title expectations this year.
Dartmouth hosts the Ledyard Bank Classic on December 29th and 30th. They play New Hampshire and Minnesota Duluth.
Quinnipiac Bobcats: 6-10-2, 3-5-1
Hamden is a hard place to play. The Bobcats play a bruising style that wears down opponents and grinds out wins. Unfortunately, the defensive and special teams output has not been strong enough to carry Quinnipiac to meet lofty preseason expectations. They were voted second in both the preseason coaches and media polls and no one thought the Bobcats would be in the “Others Receiving Votes” category of the major polls. Quinnipiac is giving up 3.06 goals per game, a middle of the pack performance, and the power play is only scoring 13% of the time, 8th in the ECAC. These two factors will make the biggest difference for the Bobcats in the second half of the season. Rand Pecknold’s unit has plenty of talent in Odeen Tufto, Tanner McMaster, and Chase Priskie.
The Bobcats can cause trouble for the top tier of ECAC schools. The Bobcats open their second half with an in-state matchup with UConn at the XL Center on January 2nd.
Princeton Tigers: 6-7-1, 3-5-1
Hobey Baker Rink is hosting one of the most offensively potent teams in the conference. The Tigers are averaging 3.50 goals per game and 6.36 assists per game, both tops in the ECAC. Max Veronneau, Ryan Kuffner, and David Halsley all have nine goals in 14 games played and Alex Riche and Josh Teves both have 11 assists. This team can score in many different ways. Unfortunately, the defense is not up to scratch. The team is allowing 3.07 goals a game, fourth worst in the ECAC. Ryan Ferland is a middling goaltender in both save percentage and GAA, and the blue line has not given him much help. Were the defense improved, Princeton would be a contender instead of just a glass cannon. There’s time to improve the defense and become an upset story.
The Tigers host top-ranked St. Cloud State to open the second half of the season on the 29th and 30th.
Yale Bulldogs: 5-7-0, 4-6-0
Yale’s 2013 National Championship win feels so long ago. The Bulldogs have pulled off some major upsets this year, beating Harvard and Union on the road. Unfortunately, the glory years have passed. Joe Snivley has 7 goals in 12 games played and Ryan Hitchcock is a quality skater on the top line. After them, the offense is not up to par. The power play is the worst in the conference, only connecting on 7.3% of their opportunities. Sam Tucker is a good starter, but not a top flight ECAC goalie. The defense has struggled in front of him too. The team is -3 in the goal margin, and has seen their defense go from a calling card to a liability. Keith Allain has some pieces to work with, but this likely will not be a championship season for the Elis.
Yale opens their second half in the Ledyard Bank Classic in Hanover, NH, against Minnesota Duluth and UNH on the 29th and 30th respectively.
Brown Bears: 5-7-1, 4-6-0
Meehan Auditorium has been starving for a winner for many years. This year’s Bears are a good team with things to build on, but not a title contender. Seniors Sam Lafferty, Charlie Corcoran, and Tim Lappin provide stability and good neutral zone play.
Underclassmen Brent Beaudoin and Alec Mehr provide young talent to build around for the future. Unfortunately for Brendan Whittet, this year’s team does not have the tools to go deep in the conference playoffs. The scoring is not where it needs to be and the goaltending, while competent is not championship caliber. More work remains to be done in Providence.
Brown will skate for the Mayor’s Cup against Providence at Schneider Arena on January 3rd.
Harvard Crimson: 4-5-1, 4-3-0
Last year for the Crimson was a magical ride to the Frozen Four. The expectations were for the Crimson to pace the ECAC again and contend for a national championship. Unfortunately, Harvard needed to integrate eight freshmen into the rotation while playing a brutal schedule.
After the first three games, the Crimson haven’t been back home at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center. The seven-game road stretch included a brutal weekend against Colgate and Cornell, both games that Harvard lost, and a sweep at Mariucci Arena by Minnesota.
The young players adjusted and got accustomed to college hockey in that time. Jack Bowlby and Henry Badini have blended nicely with returning forwards Ty Pelton-Byce, Michael Floodstrand, and superstar Ryan Donato.
Adam Fox, Wiley Sherman, and John Marino give the Crimson one of the strongest blue lines in the ECAC while Merrick Madsen has struggled in net. The senior captain has been good, but not as good as last year. He will need to be a rock for Harvard to go on a roll like last year. The skating talent is there for another run.
Harvard opens the second half of their season in Burlington, VT against Lowell and UVM in the Catamount Classic on the 29th and 30th.
Colgate Raiders: 8-6-4, 4-1-1
The Raiders have been by far the biggest surprise in the ECAC. They were voted to finish last in the preseason media poll and next to last in the coaches poll. Instead, they’re 4th in the conference and a surprisingly brutal team to face. Colton Point has led the team with a 1.90 GAA and .932 save percentage in goal.
Bobby McMann and John Snodgrass lead a talented, young group of forwards for the Raiders. Nick Austin and Willie Brooks anchor a solid blue line. If the Raiders can keep the offense up, they can surprise their way back to the NCAA tournament.
Colgate hosts Quinnipiac to open the second half of the season on January 5th.
Cornell Big Red: 10-2-0, 5-1-0
Cornell has the most storied tradition in the ECAC. Last year, Mike Schafer led the Big Red to their first 20 win season since 2010 and their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2012.
This year, the Big Red are riding a large infusion of young talent to one of the best starts in program history. They toppled BU for their first Red Hot Hockey win at Madison Square Garden, and their only conference loss has come against #4 Clarkson.
The Big Red don’t have one superstar to lead the offense, but many talented forwards with high skill ceilings to give opponents different looks. Trevor Yates, Anthony DeAngello, and Morgan Barron have the high point totals. Cornell also has the second lowest goals against total in the nation with Matthew Galadja leading the way in net.
Cornell is one of the favorites for a deep tournament run and a return to the NCAA tournament. Cornell opens their second half against Canisius in Ithaca on the 30th.
Union Dutchmen: 10-8-1, 6-2-0
The Dutchmen started out cold as ice to start the year. They lost their first five games of the year, struggling to replace Mike Vecchione and Spencer Foo on the forward unit. After some adjustments, the Dutchmen have themselves in position to contend again.
Jake Kupsky and Darion Hanson have been a top-tier goalie tandem with freshmen Hanson going 7-1 in his starts.
The Dutchmen offense is ranked fourth in the ECAC with two 10 goal scorers in Ryan Scarfo and Anthony Rinaldo. Brett Supinski has the second most assists in the conference.
The Dutchmen are turning around their season at the right time and have the talent to push for another spot in the NCAA Tournament this year.
Union starts their second half with a trip to Omaha, NE, to play the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks at Baxter Arena on the 29th and 30th.
Clarkson Golden Knights: 15-3-1, 8-0-0
Last season saw the Golden Knights finish with a middling 18-16-5 record and a 3 game series loss to Cornell in the ECAC Quarterfinals.
This year, Jake Kielly has taken the jump from quality starter to potential Mike Richter Award winner. The sophomore from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, is leading the nation in GAA (1.42) and shutouts (5). He also has the third-best save percentage (.947).
The offense has given him plenty to work with. Sheldon Rampal is leading the nation in goal scoring with 16 goals in 25 points in 19 games. Devin Broussard is leading the ECAC in assists with 17. Nico Sturm and Jack Jacome round out a potent offensive unit that has the Golden Knights enjoying the best season in many years.
This team is ranked 4th in the nation and one of the clear favorites to not only win the Whitelaw Cup in Lake Placid, but to reach the Frozen Four.
The Golden Knights start their second half with a home game against 20th ranked Canisius on January 2nd.