With the regular season wrapped up in the ECAC, No. 1 Cornell men’s hockey has claimed the Cleary Cup after finishing the year on a nine-game winning streak. After receiving a first-round bye, the Red will again have another week to rest following the news that Yale will withdraw from the ECAC Tournament due to COVID-19 concerns. Cornell and Clarkson, the top two seeds in the tournament, will advance to the ECAC semifinals in Lake Placid. The rest of the field will be reseeded. Here’s how Cornell’s competition stacks up.
1). Cornell (23-2-4, 18-2-2)
After a 5-0 loss to Quinnipiac on Jan. 31, the Red was shaken. It was undoubtedly going to lose its status as the No. 1 team in the nation, and several of its weaknesses were exposed in the shocking loss. But in the past month, Cornell has come together, hashing out its kinks. This has resulted in a nine-game winning streak that was punctuated by the Cleary Cup as well as a 5-1 thrashing of Clarkson. Going into the ECAC Tournament, the Red is clearly the team to beat and has a solid chance of bringing home its first Whitelaw Cup since 2010.
2). Clarkson (23-8-3, 16-5-1)
Right behind the Red are the Golden Knights, who ended the season with an unceremonious 5-1 defeat to Cornell at Lynah Rink. While Clarkson missed out on the regular-season title, it remains a powerhouse in the ECAC with a very real shot of bringing home its second straight title. The Golden Knights defeated the Red in last year’s controversial title game. But, Clarkson has not played its best hockey as of late, only picking up one victory in its last four contests. And in its tilt against the Red, the Golden Knights’ nation-leading penalty kill ceded three power-play goals. Despite its recent struggles, Clarkson has a spot booked in the ECAC semifinals.
3). Quinnipiac (21-11-2, 14-6-2)
Last year’s No. 1 seed, Quinnipiac suffered a shocking defeat at the hands of Brown in the ECAC quarterfinals. This time around, the Bobcats will hope to advance a little deeper in the tournament. Quinnipiac has picked up some impressive upsets — like its 5-0 shellacking of the Red — but it has been inconsistent, suffering sweeps at the hands of Clarkson and Arizona State. Quinnipiac was originally scheduled to play Yale, but it will instead face Princeton.
4). Rensselaer (17-15-2, 13-8-1)
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the ECAC standings has been the rise of the Engineers. In its last three seasons, RPI finished 11th in the conference and bowed out of the first round in the ECAC Tournament. This time around, head coach Dave Smith has engineered a turnaround for his team. After a rocky start to the season, RPI turned it around when the calendar hit 2020, kicking off the year with a 3-1 upset of Clarkson. From there, the Engineers continued to pick up conference wins and bookended the regular season by outscoring their opponents, 17-2, in their last four games. After Harvard ceded its ECAC quarterfinal series due to COVID-19 concerns, RPI appeared to have booked a trip to Lake Placid, but after Yale’s withdrawal, it will instead square off against Colgate.
5). Colgate (12-16-8, 8-9-5)
Colgate finished the season with eight ties, the most in the conference. Whether that could be touted as grit or an inability to finish, Colgate needed to figure out a way to fully triumph over its opponents. The Raiders accomplished that in the first round, sweeping Brown. In the leadup to the playoffs, Colgate only notched a single victory while loading up on ties and losses. Now the Raiders will be tasked with downing RPI.
6). Princeton (6-20-5, 2-16-4)
The most shocking result coming out of the first round was Princeton’s sweep of Dartmouth. Before the playoffs started, the Tigers had only recorded two conference wins all season, but they matched that with a sweep of the Green last weekend. Princeton has a talented top line, but it struggled to execute throughout the season. A paltry regular-season record doesn’t mean much now if the Tigers are clicking. To keep its playoff run afloat, Princeton will have to forge another upset — this time against Quinnipiac.