Yale men’s hockey coach Keith Allain (Worcester, Mass.) is the first to admit things like a first-round bye and home-ice advantage help in the ECAC Hockey tournament.
Just don’t expect the coach of the defending national champions to throw in the towel now that his team is likely to play on the opening weekend of the conference tournament.
“My expectation is that Yale will be the (ECAC Hockey) team playing the best in March,” Allain said.
Allain’s Elis played the best of any team in the nation last March, earning the university’s first national title in any sport. However, they didn’t do it the traditional way – by dominating in a conference tournament en route to a national title.
Last year, Yale fell short of the ECAC Hockey tournament championship game, dropping an embarrassing 5-0 loss to Union in the semifinal. Then, the Elis seemed content to let the season end in Atlantic City, N.J., dropping another 3-0 loss to Quinnipiac in the championship game.
Yale slipped into the NCAA tournament as the 16th – and lowest – seed, before catching fire against the top teams in the nation. The Elis beat three No. 1 seeds en route to the national title.
“The most important thing about the first-round bye is you get a chance to rest, recuperate and prepare in a different way than when you play on back-to-back weekends,” Allain said. “A couple of years ago (2011-12), we didn’t get the bye, and we played a three-game series against Brown, and a three-game series with Harvard with a couple of overtime games. By the end of those six games, we were gassed.”
Yale lost to Harvard in the quarterfinal round in 2012. This year, it looks like Elis will have to go a similar route – only more successfully – if they want to return to the NCAA tournament. The Elis sit two points behind Cornell in the ever-important race for the fourth seed, the lowest that will earn a first-round bye, heading into the final weekend.
“Home ice is important,” Allain said. “First-round byes are important. They all make a big difference.”
Player of the Week
Daniel Ciampini, Union College
Ciampini extended his goal-scoring streak to six games with a pair of goals in Friday's cup-clinching victory over Clarkson. He scored the game-winner, a short-handed goal and finished with three points to post his eighth multiple-point game of the season. Ciampini also took over the Dutchmen goal-scoring lead with his 16th marker of the season. He now has 30 points on the season, which is second on the team. He finished with a plus-3 rating on the weekend.
Game of the Week
Dartmouth at Colgate, Saturday (7 p.m.)
It’s a meeting of two of the hottest teams in the conference. The Raiders have 12 wins in ECAC Hockey with a 7-2-2 mark in the second half of the season. The 12 victories in league is the most since Colgate had 14 in 2005-06. During the Big Green’s current four-game unbeaten streak, Charles Grant is 3-0-1 with a 1.46 goals-against average, boasts a .955 save percentage and has stopped 126-of-132 shots.
ECAC Hockey Rankings
1. Union (22-6-4; 16-3-1): The Dutchmen clinched the top seed in the ECAC Hockey tournament with a victory over St. Lawrence Saturday. Junior forward Daniel Ciampini is the hottest player in the conference with a seven-game point streak and a team-leading 16 goals.
2. Quinnipiac (21-8-5; 11-6-3): The Bobcats are in the midst of their biggest slump in two years as they have lost three in a row and four of five. If they don’t pick up at least two points this weekend in a road set at St. Lawrence and Clarkson, they could conceivably be playing on the opening weekend of the ECAC Hockey tournament.
3. Colgate (16-11-5; 12-5-3): The Raiders, 9-2-3 since the turn of the calendar to 2014, clinched a first-round bye in the ECAC Hockey tournament with a sweep of Princeton and Quinnipiac last weekend. They scored nine goals in the two games.
4. Cornell (14-7-5; 10-6-4): The Big Red can wrap up a bye weekend during the opening round of the ECAC Hockey tournament by earning three points this weekend in a home set against Dartmouth and Harvard.
5. Yale (14-8-5; 9-7-4): The Elis likely assured themselves of playing on the opening weekend of the ECAC tournament with a 3-3 overtime tie against Dartmouth on Saturday. They outshot the hosts 42-27 in the frustrating draw.
6. Clarkson (17-14-3, 10-9-1): The Golden Knights clinched home ice in the opening round of the ECAC Hockey tournament last weekend and could conceivably finish as high as third in the conference. That’s a long shot, though. Expect the Golden Knights to play opening weekend.
7. Dartmouth (7-16-4, 6-12-2): Look out for the Big Green in the ECAC Hockey tournament. They have gone 3-0-1 in their last four with the one tie coming against defending national champion Yale in a game the Bulldogs absolutely needed for a first-round bye.
8. RPI (13-13-6; 7-8-5): The Engineers assured themselves of playing on the opening weekend of the ECAC Hockey tournament last weekend when they picked up just one point in a home set against St. Lawrence and Clarkson. It’s only fitting the Engineers will play opening weekend considering they haven’t won two in a row since late January.
9. Brown (11-13-3; 8-11-1): The Bears put themselves in position for home ice in the tournament with a win Saturday against Harvard. However, it won’t be easy as they face RPI and Union at home this weekend.
10. St. Lawrence (12-15-4; 6-10-4): The Saints can finish anywhere between sixth and 11th in the league standings heading into this weekend’s home set against Quinnipiac and Princeton.
11. Harvard (9-14-4; 5-11-4): A sign of better times to come: 51 of Harvard’s last 54 goals have been scored by either freshmen or sophomores, including the last 33.
12. Princeton (5-22-0; 4-16-0): The Tigers are limping to the finish. They were outscored 10-2 in games against Cornell and Colgate last weekend.