Sunday, December 27, 2009

Midseason ECAC Power Rankings

Did you miss us? Of course not. I'm sure you all had a happy holiday, so we'll dispense with the small talk and get down to business.

Here's how we see the ECAC, *rightnow*.

1. Union - It's only taken 19 seasons, but the kid brothers have finally started to grow up. The Dutch have been living on the edge all season - as evidenced by their 8 overtime games so far already - but they've been ridiculously good. Remember that awesome overtime goal Chase Polacek scored in Schenectady? Yeah, that was their last loss. They're unbeaten in nine in a row since then (10 if you count the exhibition with the USNDPT, which they probably will if you ask their fans), although two were uninspiring ties with Brown and Lake Superior State and two were those jaw-droppers in Troy that we really don't want to dwell on. They're the last unbeaten team in the ECAC. Live it up while it lasts, boys. You've earned it. No excuses for blowing it in the playoffs this year.

2. Quinnipiac - Raise your hand if you thought Quinnipiac was going to be this good this year. All of you with your hands in the air are terrible liars. Defense was supposed to be the Bobcats' sticking point before the season started, but Dan Clarke has been lights out in net and the Q's scored goals in bunches. That means, more often than not, they're scoring more goals than they are allowing. Confucius says that's a good way to win hockey games. If not for their slip ups late in the first half - most notably a loss to Brown and a tie with Holy Cross - the Bobcats would be in the top spot. They're still in first place in the ECAC by points and they're still going to be a force to be reckoned with in the second half if they can keep things moving the way they had been at the end of November (when they were 12-1-0).

3. Yale - Remember when we whooped these guys on Black Friday? That's their only loss in the ECAC so far (which makes those 2 big points for the Tute). In fact, they only have three losses all year and that is by far their worst - one goal losses to Vermont and UMass don't look nearly as bad. The Bulldogs are still everything they were made out to be at the beginning of the season and they look to be strong contenders for both the Ivy League title and the ECAC title as expected. In fact, they're pretty much where people expected they would probably be at this time in the season - so why are they third in these rankings? Quinnipiac and Union have just been that much more impressive.

4. Cornell - Our friends in Pyongyang will probably view this as a loogie in the face, considering that they're ranked 4th in the nation in the last USCHO.com poll before the holiday break. That's too bad, because that ranking is badly overrated. True, the Big Red are an impressive 7-2-2, but who have they beaten? Niagara. Dartmouth. Harvard. Princeton. Brown. The only truly impressive wins on their record are a home win over Colgate and a road win in Troy - and they looked positively pedestrian in that game compared to the lofty heights that the poll voters have placed them at. They aren't horrible, obviously, and they're still contenders, but they're at best 4th in the ECAC right now.

5. RPI - Self-serving placement? Not as much as you might think. Although things haven't been 100% peachy since the win over Clarkson put the Engineers at 3-0 in the ECAC, things haven't been 100% lousy either. The Engineers do rank fifth in the league in KRACH, which is one of the better mathematical ranking systems out there in terms of comparing each team in the league to each other. They've got good wins over UNH, Yale, and BU - yeah, BU's rough this year, but not everyone goes to Boston and comes out with a win. Injuries have put this team behind the 8-ball as we've constantly mentioned here. So while they're now back in familiar lower-half-of-the-standings territory right now, the building blocks are certainly there for moving forward, and those games in hand are going to be rather useful.

6. Colgate - The Raiders started off slow out-of-conference, then burst to the top at the start of the ECAC schedule, trying to keep pace with Quinnipiac, but they've come down a little since they lost that pace with a tie against Yale. Since then, they're 2-4, including a stinko 7-6 loss at Canisius right before Christmas (although that could be a throwaway game similar to RPI's Niagara game). The only truly impressive game in that stretch was in Troy - but that was probably RPI's worst overall effort so far this season, at least in conference. I'm sure we could probably swap the Raiders with the Engineers on these rankings, especially in light of the head-to-head win and the fact that Colgate is literally directly below RPI in KRACH, but... nah.

7. St. Lawrence - This ranking, I think, doesn't really do the Saints true justice, but it's just about right compared to other teams in the league - there's a big gap between seventh and eighth, but SLU has the chops to be there in the end, for sure. They've been inconsistent, though. We saw them throw everything but the kitchen sink at RPI and only come away with two quick goals in the third period. They got nailed to the wall by Maine and shut out by Vermont. Like Cornell, the question with SLU is, who have they beaten? Army. RIT. Niagara. Sacred Heart. Clarkson twice (they lost once, too). Princeton. Harvard. That's racking up the wins, but it's not making that 8-7-2 record look exceptionally mighty. But I believe in them. They're where they need to be in the standings to make a run with some solid wins.

8. Brown - Yeah, Brown. Eighth. Hard to believe, but it's real. I'm not sold on the Bears being a good hockey team, but they've learned to play their system the right way and they've got five wins in a row after starting off the season 0-7-1 (with the one being a game that made Union look odd). Their big win is over Quinnipiac, but other than the Bobcats, they haven't really beaten anyone during their streak - UConn, Princeton, Harvard, and AIC are the unlucky four. Still, as bad as the bottom of the league has been to date, that five game streak is enough to put them at eighth. I highly doubt they'll be able to climb much higher than that, though.

9. Princeton - What. The. Heck. That's all you can really say about the Tigers so far this year. Lots of people thought Princeton was primed for a first-round bye. They were in the NCAA tournament with an at-large bid last year and brought back practically everyone from that team. But somewhere in it all, their defense decided to go to pot while their offense went into hibernation. Call it the reverse Quinnipiac effect, considering the Bobcats are where we thought Princeton would be, and the Tigers are where we thought the Q would be. Their last game was a win over UMass-Lowell, and that was their most impressive win of the season - they've lost against every other team of substance, and sometimes it was by a lot. They still have the potential, obviously, but they've put themselves behind early and it's going to be a pain to climb out.

10. Clarkson - Any RPI fan will tell you that Clarkson sucks, and this year it just happens to be literally true the way it was for the Engineers for the last few years. There's not been much to crow about - a nonconference win over St. Lawrence, wins over Niagara and RIT, and their lone win of the ECAC schedule so far, over Dartmouth. Yeah. Things are not kosher in Potsdam. Part of it might stem from the troubles of this summer, considering they were expecting to have another two defensemen on their roster. Oops. Not surprisingly, defense has been the issue, and the Knights are really struggling with it. This team definitely reminds me of RPI the last few years - lots of potential, but things just are not jelling the way they need to in order to make things work and it's devastating because of it.

11. Dartmouth - They should have been last considering how putrid their season has been, but they've been outclassed on that. A three-game win streak in late November has provided their only wins of the year - St. Lawrence, Providence, and Harvard. We never thought that little upset RPI provided in Hanover last year was an indication that the Big Green were bad, but it appears we might have been mistaken. Defense has been hard to come by, as they've given up at least 2 goals in every single game they've played this year. You spot teams a couple of goals, and they'll get some more if they have motivated talent. That's basically been the case here.

12. Harvard - Geez. This is a complete mess. They didn't have quite as lofty expectations as Princeton, but they were expected to at least vie for a first-round bye and they've fallen so much farther than their erstwhile intellectual superiors (did I just take a potshot? I believe I did). One win over Dartmouth is their entire victory slate for the 2009 end of the 2009-10 season unless they can beat Quinnipiac in Potsdam on Tuesday. Yeah, I'm not holding my breath either. Kyle Richter was let back into Harvard despite his previous realization that grade inflation wasn't enough for him (so he cheated on a few tests, nothing major), and that was supposed to bolster their defense, but he's been terrible. They brought in arguably the best freshman class in the league, but they've been stagnant - even 1st round draft pick Louis Leblanc, although he's only one man. The Crimson have done Dartmouth one better, giving up at least three goals in every game, and three is usually enough to win most times.

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