February 25, 2011

ECAC Hockey Journal: Top spot, seeds up for grabs

Wayne Simpson (Boxborough, Mass.) of Union (photo: Union College)

The last weekend of regular-season play in ECAC Hockey begins tonight, and there’s still plenty to play for.

The points scramble is on for every team trying to improve its seed in the conference tournament.

For four teams – Dartmouth, Cornell, Princetonand RPI – the results from this weekend will determine whether they’re playing next weekend in the first round of the ECAC Hockey tournament, or whether they have a bye. The quartet is separated by a mere two points, and there are only two spots in the top four up for grabs.

Unionand Yale are locked into the top two spots in the conference standings, but which will end up No. 1? Unionhas the upper hand going into its last two games because if both teams win out this weekend, the Dutchmen will win the Cleary Cup by one point.

Harvard won’t be playing for much in the way of seeding this weekend; they are one point out of last place in the conference going into their final two games. However, they will be playing for something – someone – that matters.

The Crimson have adopted a young man, Nathan Potvin of Hooksett, N.H., to be a member of the team. He has a locker with the nameplate to prove it.

Nathan, 12, has already beaten cancer once, but he’s now battling it again. He met Harvard coach Ted Donato (Dedham, Mass.) through the Friends of Jaclyn program, which works to get cancer patients connected with NCAA teams, and the Potvin family has been embraced by the coach and his players ever since.

“He’s part of our team forever,” Harvard junior forward Eric Kroshus told NCAA.com. “As long as he wants to come and hang out in the locker room with us.”

Plenty still to play for, indeed.

Check out the NCAA.com video of Nathan’s story here.

NEHJ Player to Watch

Tyler Fedun, sr., Princeton

The offensive defenseman and captain scored twice in a win over Brown last weekend, but he’ll have to play strong at both ends against RPI and then against the conference’s top team, Union, if the Tigers want a shot at a bye in the tournament.

Looking Ahead

Princeton at RPI, Friday

This might be the closest thing to a must-win game the ECAC has seen during the regular season, with both teams on the precipice of the top four in the conference. Princetonis currently two points out of the last spot for a bye, while RPI is just one point off the pace. If either team hopes to have next weekend off, this game would go a long way in helping their cause.

Around ECAC Hockey

Brown

Junior Bobby Farnham (North Andover, Mass.) scored in the third period Tuesday to cut Harvard’s lead in half, but the Bears (6-12-2, 8-14-5) couldn’t pot another and fell, 2-1. They’ll travel to the North Countrythis weekend for games with Colgate and Cornell to try to work their way out of the bottom third of the league.

Clarkson

If the Golden Knights (8-11-1, 14-16-2) can earn just one point this weekend against Harvard or Dartmouth, they will have clinched home ice in the first round of the ECAC tournament by cementing itself as one of the conference’s top eight clubs.

Colgate

It took some time, but it seems as though Colgate (4-14-2, 7-23-2) is just starting to make a push at the right time. The Raiders have won four of their last five and got their first home sweep of the year last weekend by beating Harvard and Dartmouth.

Cornell

Three points would guarantee the Big Red (11-7-2, 13-11-3) a spot in the coveted top four. Senior forward Joe Devin (Scituate, Mass.) leads the ECAC in goals in conference play (13) and will look to build on that number against Brown and then Yale.

Dartmouth

The Big Green (11-7-2, 15-9-3) had a chance to solidify itself in the top four last weekend, but they were swept by Colgate and Cornell. Senior forward and captainScott Fleming sits at 99 career points heading into games with St. Lawrence and Clarkson.

Harvard

The Crimson (5-14-1, 7-19-1) got a big week from sophomore defenseman Danny Biega. He registered seven points in three games with three goals and four assists, including the game-winning goal to break a 3-3 tie in the third period Friday at Cornell.

Princeton

The Tigers (10-8-2, 15-10-2) are the last team in contention for the top four, and they have a tough road ahead of them if they want to crack it. They play at No. 14 RPI on Friday and then at No. 5 Union Saturday.

Quinnipiac

The Bobcats (6-9-5, 13-13-6) need to points to land in the top eight and have home ice in the first round of the tournament. Junior captain Scott Zurevinski will try to have something to say about it. He’s averaged a point in each of his last six games and leads the team with 21 points (12 goals, nine assists) on the year.

Union

The Dutchmen (16-3-1, 24-7-3) got 20-point seasons from both Boxborough, Mass.’s own Simpson brothers. Senior John Simpson finished with seven goals and 15 assists, while sophomore Wayne ended with 13 goals and 14 assists.

St. Lawrence

The Saints (6-13-1, 10-17-5) will try to bounce back from their 5-2 Senior Night loss to Unionlast weekend. They travel first to Hanover, N.H., for Dartmouthand then to Cambridge, Mass., to see Harvard.

Renesslear

RPI (11-8-1, 19-9-4) has slipped in the rankings, dropping three of its last four. Two of those came to teams in the ECAC’s bottom half, Colgate and St. Lawrence.

Yale

The Bulldogs (16-4, 22-5) were paying attention when voting on their team awards. They voted Andrew Miller “best passer,” which is appropriate because he leads the conference with exactly 1.0 assists per game.

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