Last season, Cornell struggled right out of the gate in conference games. The Red recorded one win, one draw and two losses in its first four contests. As a result, the Lynah Faithful paid little attention to the top of the conference; fans were concerned mostly with the Red’s competition in the middle of the standings. Cornell never seriously recovered or mounted a title challenge, finishing seventh in a disappointing, injury-plagued campaign. Cornell’s bright start this season has revived the habit of the Faithful: assessing other teams who might compete with the Red for the conference’s top few spots. Let’s run the rule over the other 11 ECAC teams, in the order that Cornell should consider them a threat to raise the coveted Whitelaw Cup, the ECAC’s championship trophy.
Quinnipiac – The Bobcats won the ECAC regular season championship last year, yet defending a title always presents a new challenge. So far, Quinnipiac is passing this challenge with flying colors. They’re currently undefeated — with thirteen wins and two ties in fifteen games — and are the only team to beat the Red so far this year.
Harvard – The Crimson has posted strong seasons in recent years and were a trendy pick to retain their ECAC tournament championship. They are 4-1-1 and boast possibly the league’s best offense. Star forward Jimmy Vesey is generally recognized as the best player in the conference.
Yale – Stingy on defense, Yale remains a resilient squad. They have struggled with scoring goals so far, but they still have won half of their conference games. They have the reigning ECAC goalie of the year in Alex Lyon.
St. Lawrence – Second in the ECAC last year, the Saints are 3-1-1 so far. Their excellent season last year was out of the blue, as the coaches picked them to finish eleventh in a preseason poll, but they are continuing their success this year.
Rensselaer – RPI is one of two teams still undefeated in the conference, with a 4-0-3 clip. History suggests they will struggle to keep that up, but they are currently tied with QU for first in the conference, so they have to be recognized as legitimate title contenders until their form slips.
Brown – Out of nowhere, perennial basement dwellers Brown has put together a potent offensive lineup this season. Their defense is still leaking goals which will probably prevent them from mounting a serious bid for a top-four slot, but they will not roll over as easily as in past years.
Clarkson – It is tough to properly judge the Golden Knights; they impressed at the beginning of the season in non-conference play but have struggled in the conference, failing to record a win in five games. Just the opposite of RPI, history suggests that Clarkson will pick it up and manage a finish in the middle of the league.
Colgate – The Raiders were a consensus pick for one of the top four slots coming into this year, as many believed the Spink twins’ scoring would power them to victory. However, Colgate has suffered from depth issues. They have an extremely small roster — just 23 players — so their non-injured players are basically playing every game. As a result, the team seems to be suffering from fatigue.
Dartmouth – The Big Green lost an influential senior class and have not exactly hit the ground running this season, with two wins and four losses in conference play. They were shellacked 7-1 at Michigan last weekend and seem a long shot to compete for a top spot this season. However, don’t be surprised if they rally for a position in the middle of the standings.
Union – The 2012-13 national champions knocked Cornell out of the playoffs last season. However, the Dutchmen have faltered at the beginning of this year, with a 1-5-0 record. The loss of last season’s leading scorer Daniel Ciampini crippled their offense, and the defense has allowed the third-most goals in the conference.
Princeton – Having recorded only one conference win all of last season, the Tigers must be thrilled to have already reached that total so far, shutting out Clarkson 3-0 recently. There is certainly a possibility that Princeton could avoid another last-place finish in the conference this year.
While Quinnipiac, Harvard and Yale pose the biggest threat to Cornell, there is no such thing as an easy win in the ECAC. Cornell will need to produce a strong effort every night to compete with such a formidable conference.