Important not to look ahead
They are formally known as "upsets." But in seeing Yale, Union, Clarkson, and St. Lawrence in the last month, there was not much question that the latter two teams were superior to the former two. Make no mistake, although Clarkson and St. Lawrence finished the regular season in marginal standing (ninth and tenth in the ECAC respectively), these two teams have the capacity to beat any team in the ECAC. Both teams work hard and are both opportunistic - perhaps the two most important traits of the quintessential team that overachieves in the playoffs at this level. With the exception of Princeton, there was not a substantial divergence between the first place and eleventh place teams. After all, Colgate's first place point total of 30 was the lowest first place point total in the ECAC's common era.
Like last weekend, anything can happen this coming weekend. Do not forget about this Clarkson team. Up at Potsdam earlier in the year, Cornell and Clarkson fought hard to a 2-2 tie. More recently and more pertinently, the match at Lynah took a much different shape with a more similar look on the scoreboard. Cornell dominated the first 30 to 35 minutes of the game, but could only muster a 1-0 lead. After not converting on several opportunities, Clarkson played to character in being opportunistic, scoring late in the third period. Despite dominating much of the first two periods, it was a tie game heading into the third. If not for a controversial late third period powerplay goal by Matt Moulson, the game could have had a much different result.
There was not much question that the Golden Knights were an extremely angry hockey team after losing a close game on a controversial goal as was portrayed in Dustin Traylen's blatantly obscene disenchantment at the officials after the goal and after the game. The difficult loss to endure seemed to only motivate the Knights as they totally dominated a higher ranked Union team (albeit only one spot higher in the standings) last weekend winning the first two games handily, 8-3 and 5-2. That is 13 goals in two games against a team that Cornell only managed one goal against in two games this season. Although Clarkson's offense rose to another level last weekend in Schenectady, Cornellís defensive scheme and strong goaltending will still have no problem handling the Knights' attack. Still, the point stands that this very hungry and angry Clarkson hockey team is one that can easily come in this weekend and upset Cornell if the Big Red does not bring their A-game. Let us not forget that this Clarkson team shutout first place Colgate the night before they came to Cornell. They can beat anyone.
Experience Key In Playoffs
Having the weekend off will unquestionably benefit the limping Big Red squad. But just as the Big Red will benefit from being idle, the Golden Knights will likely benefit from playing last weekend and seemingly finding their groove. They dominated the Skating Dutchmen in both games and the adrenaline is almost definitely pumping. Clarkson will be a fired up team on a mission this weekend and a team looking for revenge over the last game. That being said, Cornell is also ready for the playoff push. They won seven of their final eight games and are progressively getting healthy. They know that they need to win the ECAC tournament and they, too, will be on a mission. Also, do not bet against the Red in the tightly contested playoff games that they will play in over the course of the next month (depending on how far they make it). They have a lot of experience in these types of games, and having been there is a huge advantage in the playoffs. Exhibit A being University of New Hampshire last year. Although an inferior hockey team to Cornell (as seen in the first ten minutes of the game where Cornell totally dominated before being deflated by a disallowed goal), their wealth of big game experience came in handy as they played the perfect playoff game. Although the Big Red is not as good a team as they were last year, there are a lot of players that know what it takes to win these games from being there first hand.
Expect the Usual Single Quarterfinal Upset
Look for there to be at least one upset this weekend, following in the tradition of past ECAC playoff seasons. Last year, a high-powered Yale team, led by All-American Chris Higgins, fell to a hot goalie-led Brown squad (Yann Danis). This year, Colgate, Cornell, Brown, or Dartmouth could easily fall in the quarters, especially with the strength of the lower tier ECAC teams this season.
Look for Harvard to make their patented late run. They have tightened up defensively as evidenced by their surrendering of zero total goals last weekend versus an upstart Vermont team. Although Brown capped their regular season with a blowout of Vermont, they are an extremely vulnerable hockey team after struggling for the last few weekends of the regular season. They were shutout three of four games prior to the win over the Catamounts as their powerplay-run offense dried up. Danis will give them spectacular goaltending, but can their offense pull through against a respectable defensive Crimson team?
Perhaps the most overrated team in the ECAC, Dartmouth, has the makings of a team that could be upset. The prospect of being defeated on home ice by a very hard working, solid all-around Rensselaer squad is a realistic one. The Engineers unquestionably work a lot harder than the Big Green, which possesses a supposedly high-powered offense, yet really not much else. If the Engineers can shut down the Big Greenís big guns, which they likely will, they will have a great shot at advancing to Albany and there they would be a very tough team to play against.