March 6, 2003

Around the ECAC: Week One's Playoff Preview

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Although the No. 2 men’s hockey team along with Harvard, Dartmouth, and Yale have first-round byes this weekend, eight other teams, seeded five through 12 in the ECAC, will open up postseason play and vie for four slots in the second round. Here is a look at the first-round matchups.

No. 5 Brown (12-11-5, 10-8-4 ECAC) hosting No. 12 Princeton (3-24-2, 2-18-2)

Previous Meetings: Brown 5, Princeton 2 @ Princeton, Dec. 7

Brown 4, Princeton 0 @ Brown, Jan. 10

The Tigers are coming off what has arguably been their best weekend and are playing their best hockey of the year. Unfortunately, that isn’t saying much considering the club has won just two league games this season and three overall.

Princeton is winless in its last ten ECAC contests, and it’s hard to find any bright spots. The team has been impotent on offense, scoring just 60 goals in 29 regular season games. But the defense has been even worse, giving up 4.66 tallies every night out.

Meanwhile, Brown’s postseason hopes fall on goaltender Yann Danis’ shoulders. The Brown defense, backed by Danis, allowed the third fewest goals during conference play (54). Like the Tigers, the Bears also had trouble finding the back of the net, scoring just 65 goals in 22 ECAC matchups.

This series has all the makings of a grind-it-out, low scoring series considering the lack of firepower on both sides.

No. 6 Union (14-16-4, 10-10-2) hosting No. 11 RPI (10-23-3, 4-15-3)

Previous Meetings: RPI 4, Union 2 @ RPI, Dec. 7

Union 3, RPI 3 @ Union, Jan. 10

Without a doubt, Union has been the surprise team of the ECAC. Picked by most to finish near the bottom of the pack, the Dutchmen will host a first-round playoff series. Freshman goalie Kris Mayotte has been a revelation in net, allowing fewer than three goals per contest. Offensively, Union has three players who averaged over a point per game in sophomores Jordan Webb and Joel Beal, and senior Nathan Gillies. While the Dutchmen are only average on the penalty kill (84.4 percent), they have scored six shorthanded goals, with Gillies netting four of them.

While Union was a pleasant surprise, RPI was a disappointment. A season after winning 20 games and making it to the ECAC semifinals where they lost to Cornell, the Engineers won just 10 this season. More troublingly, RPI has won just three of its 20 games since it knocked off Union in early December. The good news is that as much as it has struggled, it still took three points from the Dutchmen this season.

This upstate New York series could be an upset waiting to happen if RPI can pull its team together.

No. 7 Clarkson (12-18-3, 9-10-3) hosting No. 10 Vermont (11-8-3, 8-14-0)

Previous Meetings: Clarkson 1, Vermont 0 @ Clarkson, Jan. 11

Vermont 6, Clarkson 3 @ Vermont, Feb. 14

Expected to be one of the better teams in the conference, Clarkson struggled with internal team issues early in the season that sent the team down a slippery slope. However, Clarkson has the talent and defense to make some noise in the postseason. The Golden Knights, led by sophomore defenseman Randy Jones, had the fourth best defense in the league and the second best penalty-kill unit. They’ll need to be good on the kill, since they’re one of the most penalized teams in the nation.

After a horrific 2001-02 season in which it only won three games, Vermont improved dramatically this year. However, if they’re going to advance the first round, the Catamounts’ special teams units need to step up their play. Vermont’s penalty kill was the worst in the conference, giving up goals almost a quarter of the time. Its power play, in contrast, was one of the best in the ECAC, scoring at a clip of 20 percent. Against, Clarkson, that unit will need to make the most of the opportunities it gets.

Vermont played a tough game against Clarkson on the road and won, so it can definitely hang with the Golden Knights. The real question is can Clarkson’s penalty kill continue dodging bullets?

No. 8 Colgate (14-16-4, 9-10-3) hosting No. 9 St. Lawrence (10-19-5, 7-12-3)

Previous Meetings: Colgate 1, St. Lawrence 1 @ St. Lawrence, Jan. 5

Colgate 4, St. Lawrence 4 @ Colgate, Jan. 24

After struggling for much of the season, Colgate played as well as any team in the conference towards the end of the year. The Raiders were undefeated in their last four games, including an impressive 4-2 victory on the road at Yale. But how in the world did they tie Princeton in the season finale? The key for the Raiders, as always, will be Scooter Smith. The sniper scored 16 goals in just 22 league games, and has the ability to carry the team on his back.

St. Lawrence has had a mediocre year, but it has shown flashes of brilliance, including a win over New Hampshire in early December. The Saints need to avoid special teams situations, as they rank last in the ECAC with the man advantage and second-to-last on the penalty kill. Rich Peverley is going to be the man to watch, as his 14 goals in league play was good for fourth best.

The two teams are as even as can be, as evidenced by ties in both regular season games. All the games in this series should go down to the wire.

Archived article by Alex Ip