Round 1 of the ECAC playoffs gets underway this weekend, and this year the first round has some NCAA implications. RPI has some NCAA tournament hopes, and thus this weekend is very important to them. RPI actually would benefit more from losing to Colgate rather than losing to Cornell in the next round because they would be hurt quite a bit by two more TUC losses, but I doubt they would want the precarious position of having to defend their PWR spot with two weeks of not playing hockey.
RPI v. Colgate
We might as well start with the Engineers. Sitting at 13th in the Pairwise, RPI is led by Chase Polacek, who led the conference with 44 points in the regular season and is a likely Hobey finalist once again this year. RPI also has the highest scoring defenseman in the conference, Sophomore Nick Bailen, who has 33 points. Outside of Yale and Union, RPI has the stingiest defense in the ECAC as well, allowing only 2.21 goals per game, and a lot of that credit goes to Allen York, who is 3rd in the conference with a .927 save percentage.
These two teams split their season meetings 1-1, and though Colgate is only 7-24-3 on the year they have been playing much better as of late, going 4-2-1 in their last 7 games. That stretch includes wins over Dartmouth and RPI and a tie with Yale. It seems defense should be credited for the Raiders mini-resurgence; Colgate allowed 1 goal in three of those games, and 2 in another. Given they are last in scoring defense in the conference giving up 3.44 goals per game, and their two goalies are the bottom two in save percentage, I would say it is more luck than anything, but perhaps Colgate has found some magic. Either way, I think that magic runs out this weekend and RPI sweeps.
Quinnipiac v. Brown
Rather than the irresistible force v. the immovable object, this series seems like a matchup between the very resistible force and the very movable object. Quinnipiac is 11th in the conference in scoring at 2.44 goals per game, and Brown is 11th in defense, allowing 3.41 per game. Clearly something has to give, and I am assuming neutral fans hope that it is the Bobcats’ horrible offense.
The two players to watch in this series are Brown’s Jack Maclellan (14-17–31) and Harry Zolnierczyk (16-15–31).
This series seems tough to call, but it seems like as good a time as any to go for a road upset, so I am taking the Bears in 3.
Princeton v. St. Lawrence
Princeton sits 25th in the pairwise and pretty much needs to win the ECAC playoff crown to receive an NCAA bid. The Tigers have been on a slide lately, losing 5 of their last 8 games, though they haven’t lost to the Saints this season. Princeton is tied for third in offense in the conference, and benefit from the third best power play in ECAC hockey.
At the start of the year it seemed like St. Lawrence might be one of the worst teams in the whole country. While they haven’t been great, they have some nice wins this year, including over Yale, RPI and Cornell. Freshman Greg Carey has had a nice year, scoring 18 goals which is second among ECAC rookies, and Sophomore Kyle Flanagan has 10 goals and 31 points on the year, suggesting the future is fairly bright for St. Lawrence.
Still I don’t think the Saints have enough this year, and I like Princeton in a sweep
Clarkson v. Harvard
Another close series, the Knights and Crimson tied the season series 1-1 this year, with Harvard winning just last weekend. Harvard is 5-1 in their last 6 games, and have done a nice job of winning both high and low scoring games. Harvard is by far the worst offense in the league, scoring just 2.14 goals per games, and has been middle of the pack defensively.
Clarkson meanwhile has been the far more consistent team this year, though they are 10th in defense. A large part of that is their penalty minutes. Clarkson takes the most penalties in the conference, being in the box for 18 minutes per game. Fortunately for them they have a decent penalty kill, but it still is a big contributing factor in their allowing so many goals.
This one seems closer based on the records than it does based on the stats, so I am taking the Knights to sweep in this one.