Friday, March 19, 2010

ECAC Playoffs: Adieu to Albany

This season marks the final year that the ECAC Championships will be held at the Times Union Center in Albany, and sadly, of 13 teams (all of the current teams plus Vermont), the only one that never got to play in Albany is... RPI. Union becomes the 12th program to drop in on the Capital City today as they take on St. Lawrence. Meanwhile, surprising Brown takes on their mirror image when they face Cornell.

#11 Brown vs. #2 Cornell (4:00 pm)
(Cornell swept season series, 6-0 and 5-3)

The Bears (12-19-4) are absolutely much farther than anyone should have reasonably expected they would get. Low on talent but also on pressure, Brown has, in successive weeks, outlasted two heavily favored opponents in RPI and top-ranked Yale (who should still be good for an NCAA bid). RPI and Yale both play a high-tempo speed based game that the Bears were able to slow down just enough to get by, but in Cornell (19-8-4), they face a team that focuses on defense with a solid counter-attack, and that's a horse of a different color.

The Big Red showed no rust last week in quickly dispatching Harvard in two games and look to be peaking at about the right time. Although Cornell could use at least one win on the weekend to basically guarantee their ticket to the NCAA tournament, they will more than likely be in either way. Brown, of course, must win the ECAC title to continue playing after this weekend, but they're running into a buzzsaw that they won't be able to beat using their tactics from the last two weeks.

Prediction: Cornell 4, Brown 1

#5 St. Lawrence vs. #3 Union (7:00 pm)
(Union swept season series, 4-3 and 4-2)

The Dutchmen (20-11-6) ended almost two decades of frustration by finally advancing to the ECAC Championships for the first time in school history when they knocked off Quinnipiac in (technically) three games, despite losing the longest game in NCAA history in Game 1. The win in Game 3 gave Union their very first 20-win season in Division I (and third all-time). Although they are a team under consideration for the NCAA tournament, they're going to need to come through with their first ECAC hardware in order to go to their first ever Big Dance - Union is one of only two "Big Four" conference schools that has never been to the NCAAs (Alaska).

St. Lawrence (19-14-7) went into Hamilton and ended Colgate's odd season in just two games, making up for their dismal late season run by cleaning up the last bye team and making it back to Albany. Kain Tisi reclaimed his starter's role against the Raiders, and has backstopped the Saints to three consecutive playoff wins.

This should be an outstanding game, and there's really no favorite. The crowd will more than likely be behind the Dutchmen, as they'll have the benefit of sleeping in their own beds, but St. Lawrence is back, and when they're on they can run with the best of them. Strap in and hold on, this could be a classic.

Prediction: St. Lawrence 5, Union 4

The consolation game will take place tomorrow at 4pm, while the title matchup is at 7.

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