March 21, 2014

ECAC Journal: Bobcats the lone New England team still alive

By Dan Guttenplan


The return of Jordan Samuels-Thomas (Hartford, Conn.) has the Quinnipiac Bobcats looking good heading into the ECAC semifinals Friday. (Quinnipiac Athletics)
 

Championship weekend for the ECAC Hockey tournament returns to Lake Placid, N.Y., for the first time since 2002. The semifinals, which include the top four seeds for the second time in the last three years, will be played Friday, March 21, with the championship game set for Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Friday’s early game pits fourth-seeded Cornell against top-seeded Union, a squad looking for its third consecutive Whitelaw Cup. Cornell returns to the semifinals for the eighth time in the last 10 years. Last year’s Big Red fell short of the semifinals, falling the second round of the playoffs.

“We’re looking forward to being back to a final-four team,” Schafer said in a press conference Tuesday. “Not getting there last year was a wake-up call.”

On the other hand, Union is as hot as any team in Division 1, and the Dutchmen can make a case for having one of the nation’s top programs over the last three seasons. Union’s 11-game unbeaten streak is tied with Minnesota for the best active run in the country. Senior captain Daniel Carr recorded his third 20-goal season of his career this season, and he has seven in the last five games.

“He was the difference-maker against Dartmouth (last weekend),” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “He’s embraced a leadership role.”

In the late game Friday, second-seeded Colgate will continue its surprising season with a matchup against third-seeded Quinnipiac. The Bobcats lost to Brown 4-0 last year in the semifinals at Atlantic City, N.J., so they’re hoping a change of venue brings better results.

Quinnipiac received a boost from the return of forward Jordan Samuels-Thomas (Hartford, Conn.) from injury last weekend. Samuels-Thomas missed six games, and the Bobcats went 1-4-1 during that stretch. His return last weekend gave the Bobcats three solid forward lines.

“That one extra kid makes us deeper,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said.

Colgate was picked by many to finish in the bottom third of the ECAC Hockey standings this season, but has surpassed expectations due to the playoff freshman goaltender Charlie Finn, who earned the starting job over Christmas vacation. No ECAC Hockey team besides Union has posted a better record in 2014 than Colgate.

“We knew what we had (in Finn),” Colgate coach Don Vaughan said. “With any player, there’s an adjustment period, especially a goalie.”

Schedule

All games in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Friday, March 21

Semifinal Game 1: Union vs. Cornell, 4 p.m.

Semifinal Game 2: Colgate vs. Quinnipiac, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 22

Championship: 7:30 p.m.

Predictions

Friday, March 21

Union 4, Cornell 0 – The Dutchmen run their unbeaten streak to 12 games.

Colgate 4, Quinnipiac 1 – The Raiders punch their NCAA tournament ticket with this win.

Saturday, March 22

Union 3, Colgate 0 – The Dutchmen will close out a dominant ECAC Hockey season without allowing a goal in Lake Placid.

Player of the Week

Darcy Murphy, Colgate University
Sophomore, Forward
Murphy became the fourth Raider this season to register a hat trick with three goals in a 4-3 win over St. Lawrence on Saturday. Two of the three goals were power-play goals as he took the lead on the team in that category with seven goals on the power-play.

ECAC Hockey Rankings

  1. Union (26-6-4; 18-3-1): The Dutchmen are looking at a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, as they are currently riding an 11-game unbeaten streak. Still, with everything they have accomplished over the last three seasons, an NCAA title is the only goal.
  2. Colgate (19-12-5; 13-6-3): The Raiders are ranked 15th in the PairWise, so they’ll likely need a victory over Quinnipiac in the ECAC Hockey semifinals to assure themselves of an NCAA tournament berth.
  3. Quinnipiac (24-8-6; 12-6-4): The Bobcats achieved some level of redemption over the weekend with a series sweep of Yale in the ECAC Hockey quarterfinals. In a way, the sweep avenges Quinnipiac’s loss to the Bulldogs in last year’s national championship game, although the stakes were much higher last April. Either way, Quinnipiac effectively ended Yale’s national-title defense.
  4. Cornell (17-9-5; 11-7-4): Sitting at No. 16 in the PairWise rankings, the Big Red likely need two wins this weekend at Lake Placid on the final weekend of the ECAC Hockey tournament to secure an NCAA tournament berth.
  5. Yale (17-11-5; 10-8-4): The Elis entered last weekend ranked 17th in the PairWise. After falling to Quinnipiac in back-to-back games, they likely played their final game in their national title defense. They allowed five goals each in consecutive games for the first time since 2008.
  6. Clarkson (21-17-4, 11-9-2): The Golden Knights had their best season in six years, but they’ll likely remember the disappointing finish in Game 3 of the ECAC Hockey quarterfinals – an overtime loss to Cornell. Clarkson captain Ben Sexton is a finalist for the league’s Best Defensive Forward Award.
  7. Dartmouth (10-20-4, 7-13-2): The Big Green can be proud of their ECAC Hockey tournament performance after an otherwise disappointing season. Although they were swept by Union  last weekend in the quarterfinals, they snapped Union’s four-game shutout streak and played well enough to win both nights.
  8. RPI (15-16-6; 8-9-5): The Engineers lost two forwards – sophomore Mike Zalewski and junior Ryan Haggerty (Stamford, Conn.) – to the pro ranks last week.
  9. St. Lawrence (15-19-4; 7-11-4): Saints freshman Gavin Bayreuther is a finalist for the ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Year Award, after a season in which he ranked first nationally for scoring among defensemen with 35 points. The Canaan, N.H., native led all freshmen in the nation with 22 power-play points.
  10. Brown (11-17-3; 8-13-1): The Bears went out with a whimper, failing to earn a single point over the final weekend of the regular season and the first round of the ECAC tournament. It’s disappointing for a team that played in the conference championship game last season.
  11. Harvard (10-17-4, 6-12-4): The Crimson fell in the first round of the ECAC Hockey tournament for the second year in a row, and this time was particularly painful as it came at the hands of Ivy League rival Yale in a sweep. The Harvard coaching staff will have a difficult time recruiting against Yale in the next 12 months, considering Yale’s program is leaps and bounds ahead of Harvard at the moment.
  12. Princeton (6-26-0, 4-18-0): The Tigers were 4-24-0 against teams not named Dartmouth.   

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