March 7, 2008

ECAC Hockey: First-Round Preview

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With the regular season officially over, it is tournament time in ECAC Hockey. Under the format that was first adopted for the 2002-03 season, the top-4 teams in the league receive first-round byes and will get home-ice advantage for the league quarterfinals, which start one week from today. This year, the top-4 squads are Clarkson, Princeton, Harvard and Union. The other eight teams — including Cornell, which finished No. 5 in the league — aim to use this weekend’s first-round contests as a stepping stone to playoff glory. Each matchup is a best-of-three series and is held at the higher seed’s home rink. The winners will be re-seeded next week for the quarterfinals.
No. 9 St. Lawrence at No. 8 Colgate
St. Lawrence (12-18-4, 7-13-2 ECAC Hockey) swept a home series last weekend with Quinnipiac and Princeton to clinch the highest seed of the first round road teams. The Saints are led by junior Brock McBride, who has notched a team-high 12 goals, 18 assists and 30 points on the year.
Colgate (14-14-6, 8-9-5) has been a Jekyll-and-Hyde team all year. On one hand, they have a solid record against the league’s elite, tying Clarkson twice, beating and tying Harvard, and once beating Union, 8-0. But the Raiders have also struggled with consistency and will need to lean on star senior netminder Mark Dekanich in order to top the Saints. Colgate swept the season series with St. Lawrence.
No. 10 Rensselaer at
No. 7 Yale
Rensselaer (11-21-4, 6-13-3) started off the season strong, with quality wins over Princeton and Harvard. But since the turn of the new year, the Engineers have only won two league games. In order to recreate its early-season success, Rensselaer must have big games from its killer freshman duo, Tyler Helfrich and Chase Polacek.
Yale (13-12-4, 9-9-4) boasts a stingy defense, led by surprise star sophomore netminder Billy Blase, who has recorded a .243 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage on the year. The Bulldogs’ sophomore class is particularly strong, as the second-year duo of Sean Backman and Mark Arcobello lead the offense. In the season series, Yale beat and tied Rensselaer.
No. 11 Brown at No. 6 Quinnipiac
Brown (6-19-4, 6-13-3) has struggled this year, as it is the only ECAC Hockey team that has not won a non-league game. But the Bears can be dangerous, as they proved in a season-ending victory over Union. Sophomore goalie Dan Rosen has posted a 2.98 goals against average and a .912 save percentage to lead the squad.
Quinnipiac (17-13-4, 9-9-4) was one of the best teams in the league all season, but has slumped lately, losing six straight contests to finish the year, including an 8-0 drubbing by Clarkson on the final day of the regular season. Fortunately for the Bobcats, its last victory was over the Bears. Brandon Wong leads the team with 22 assists and 32 points. Quinnipiac swept the season series over Brown.
No. 12 Dartmouth at No. 5 Cornell
For more information on this matchup, please see today’s preview.