With this year’s Final Five at Lake Placid poised to be highly entertaining, we felt that it was our duty here at The Sun to break down the five teams left. One of them will be headed to the big dance, but this tournament is as wide open as any you will find in recent memory. That is partially due to top-seeded Clarkson’s early exit at the hands of a streaking Vermont squad last weekend in the ECAC quarterfinals. In a conference in which any team can win on any given day, picking a winner isn’t easy, but we’ll give it a shot anyway.
Odds — 2:1
With the exit of Clarkson, St. Lawrence slips into the top seed of this year’s tournament. This means the Saints will face a team that will likely be tired from the play-in game the night before. Last year, St. Lawrence used this to its advantage to beat an exhausted Cornell team in overtime, and should use the same edge to get to the finals of this year’s tournament.
Offense: The best offense remaining in the tournament. This group is solid, speedy and consistent. The team averaged an ECAC-best 3.53 goals per game (GPG). The Saints have put in at least three goals in the net in each of their past six games and scored at least four goals in each of their last four games. With four forwards in the league’s top-10 in scoring, St. Lawrence gets production from all over the place. If Erik Anderson is not healthy however, the team does lose a considerable chunk of its scoring. Chances are he’ll be playing, but may not be 100%.
Defense: This defense can skate well, but sometimes it seems more worried about counter-attacking than playing defense. It will take chances and give up a lot of shots, but will get a points in return. Senior Matt Desrosiers averaged nearly a point a game this year, mostly on the strength of 25 assists.
Goaltending: Suspect at best. Senior Jeremy Symington has a decent save percentage at .902, but his goals against average (GAA) is shaky at 3.21. He can be very good at times and very bad at other times (see four goals allowed in 16 minutes against Vermont in the last ECAC regular season game of the year for the squad). The only reason this team won’t win will be if the men between the pipes fall apart.
Special Teams: Second only to Cornell in ability, the Saints’ power play clocked in at an impressive 24% and the penalty kill posted a respectable 81.8%.
Odds: — 7:2
Cornell avoided the dreaded play-in game with Vermont’s win, greatly increasing its tournament odds. The Red has the ability to play with any team in the country and the ability to lose to any team in the country. How Cornell will respond to the bigger ice sheet at Lake Placid will be an important question it will have to answer.
Offense: Uhhh, right. Actually, the open ice could help out this group, which can generate quality chances but has trouble finishing the deal. The Re prefers to dump the puck and try to set something up as opposed to bull rushing into the zone and creating odd-man rushes. The team’s speed will really be put to the test this weekend with the larger ice surface. If Cornell puts home three goals (or more) in the net in both games it plays in this weekend, all bets are off. The team will carry home the trophy.
Defense: One of the best in the country. Helped out greatly by the return of sophomore Doug Murray, could be helped out even more by the return of senior tri-captain Danny Powell (still a question mark) this weekend. The defense is both strong (Powell and Murray) and quick (sophomore Mark McRae and senior tri-captain Larry Pierce). Don’t expect Cornell to allow more than three tallies in a game this weekend, even on the bigger ice sheet and even facing a good Harvard offense.
Goaltending: Junior Matt Underhill is consistently good and occasionally brilliant. His 1.86 GAA and .927 save percentage are both second best in the league, though he is certainly helped by a defense that blocks shots and lets him see what it can’t stop. He uses his size to his advantage and will be aggressive in the net.
Special teams: The best in the ECAC. Second in power play percentage at 21.2% and first in penalty kill at an unreal 89.7%. The team plays very disciplined hockey, which keeps it out of the penalty box. The more time this team’s power play unit sees, the better the Red’s chances of winning any game.
Odds: — 4:1
One word describes this team: dangerous. The Crimson is playing very good hockey right now, and last weekend’s sweep of a pesky yet talented Yale squad will do nothing but help its confidence. The team has not fared well against the top five teams in the ECAC this year, but all that gets thrown out the window with the start of the second season. This could easily be Harvard’s tournament, as the big ice sheet might allow this team to use its speed to exploit just about anyone.
Offense: Scary fast. This team is solid, speedy and has the playmakers who can put it in the net. Sophomore Dominic Moore has 41 points in 30 games this year. His brother, Steve, has 31 points in as many games. Anyone can score however, and anyone will (see a 7-4 thrashing of Yale Saturday night where six different Crimson scored). Again, the big ice sheet could be a big advantage.
Defense: This group can skate north-south as well as anyone, but is somewhat undersized. Its lack of size keeps it from being able to push players off the puck, which in turn leads to the team giving up a lot of shots. The defense relies heavily on its goaltender, who will need to be solid in the face of 30 to 40 shots each night.
Goaltending: Oliver Jonas has been called by some as the elite in this league, not because his numbers are great, but because of what he’s forced to do behind his defense. In reality, he can lose a game as easily as he can win one, so “above average” may be the best way to describe the senior. He will have to be on his game for a full 60 minutes if Harvard is to have any chance of winning the tourney.
Special teams: As mentioned at the top, dangerous describes this team in odd-man situations. On a scary note, this goes for both the penalty kill and power play. The PP checks in at over 20%, while the kill is second only to Cornell and features a sickening 10 shorthanded goals in 31 games. Man up or down, this is a team to watch out for.
Odds: — 7:1
The Green enter the second season on the heels of a tough war with RPI that left both teams fairly banged up. How badly the Green limped out of that series and how prepared it is for a war tonight with Vermont will determine whether or not it moves on to see St. Lawrence in the semis. The team was much better on Fridays than on Saturdays, which does not bode well for the Green’s chances. Winning three nights in a row may be asking too much form this group.
Offense: The group averages three goals per game, and while not spectacular, is unlikely to get shut out. This team plays more like Cornell than like St. Lawrence, looking to set up in the zone and find its shot. Dartmouth is a big team that likes to forecheck and will work hard for every goal it scores.
Defense: A big physical defense that is very reminiscent of the Big Red. If anything, the group lacks experience but will make it difficult for teams once this defense gets set up. Similar to the Red, the Green is susceptible to opponents that have speed, but that is not a given by any means.
Goaltending: Nick Boucher is likely the second best goalie left in the tournament and can steal a game for this team if he has to. Like Underhill, playing behind a good defense helps, but he is there to clean up the garbage when necessary. Unlike Underhill, Boucher is not big, but makes up for a lack of size with good speed and movement. The sophomore will likely attack Lake Placid with the same
bravado with which he attacks Lynah, making him a very tough goaltender for any squad to face.
Special teams: Average. Power play is above average, penalty kill below average. Dartmouth won’t rely on either to get through the tournament, but killing off is a must, especially against St. Lawrence, if the team gets that far.
Odds: — 25:1
Any given night in the ECAC, any team can win. Three nights in a row? After a weekend of exhausting overtime heartstoppers? Likely not. There’s a reason that Vermont entered the playoffs in the tenth seed — the team just wasn’t that good. But last weekend, Vermont did what no other team had done since the ECAC went to the Final Five format, knocking off the top seed in the preliminary round. The Catamounts took Clarkson in three games, but they won’t take Dartmouth, St. Lawrence and Harvard/Cornell on back to back to back nights.
Offense: The Vermont offense is very potent and skates well. The team has a legitamate Rookie of the Year candidate in Jeff Miles (12-19-31), and even though he’ll likely lose to RPI’s freshman goalie, Nathan Marsters, he has been a big addition for the team. The rest of the squad can score, and senior J.F. Caudron will be expected to put the puck in the net if Vermont is to have any chance.
Defense: The defense is very porous, giving up 3.24 goals per game this year. Even in the Clarkson wins over the weekend, its play was less than spectacular. Like Harvard, Vermont will rely heavily on its goalie to make stops, which is not a good idea when your goalie is not one of the league’s best.
Goaltending: This past weekend, Shawn Conschafter proved he was definitely the go-to guy for Vermont down the stretch. He was brilliant (including 39 saves in the OT win Sunday), but his performance at Lynah just a few weeks earlier made him appear pretty bad (five goals allowed in two periods). If he is on, he may steal one game, but the Saints will likely tear him apart.
Special teams: You don’t end up near the bottom of the league if your special teams are great. The Catamounts had some trouble with their power play, though they did score seven shorthanded goals in 165 penalty killing attempts. This past weekend, the power play kept Vermont’s season alive, and if it is truly clicking, then Dartmouth and St. Lawrence could have problems.
Archived article by Charles Persons