Tuesday, December 14, 2010

ECAC Power Rankings (December)

Time for our second round of power rankings - and these serve as a bit of a "first half" power ranking as well, given that only three teams (Colgate, St. Lawrence, and Union) have games that count remaining before Christmas.

1. Yale (11-1-0, 6-0-0 ECAC) - Being that they're the #1 team in the country, the country being a set that includes the ECAC as a subset, who else was supposed to be here? Seriously, given their record, there's no question about this one. Brian Sullivan last week theorized that if this team stays healthy, they have a chance to go undefeated in league play and after seeing them against RPI and Union, I'm hard pressed to say he's wrong. Over the last month, the defensive question marks appear to have been answered by a combination of puck possession and Ryan Rondeau in net.
Next up: Holy Cross on Jan. 2, at Dartmouth/Harvard on Jan. 7/8

2. RPI (9-4-3, 3-3-0 ECAC) - There's still practically nothing between RPI and Union, but the Engineers' results in the last couple of weeks nudges them ahead of the Dutchmen this month. The hard-fought, close game with Yale and the blowout of Brown contrasts with Union's close win over Brown and getting blown out by Yale. Throw in the convincing victory over BU and the reawakening of the offense (4 or more goals in four of the last six) and RPI's just ahead here. Given that the Engineers presently have had the most difficult schedule to date in the ECAC according to the computer rankings, their record is all the more impressive.
Next up: at Alabama-Huntsville on Dec. 30/31, Clarkson/St. Lawrence on Jan. 7/8

3. Union (10-3-3, 3-2-1 ECAC) - Here's the (very) slight knock on Union. Four of their wins have come at home against Army (54th in KRACH), American International (55th) and Sacred Heart (dead last). Now, the Dutchmen righteously destroyed those teams by a combined score of 30-6 in those four games, befitting their status as a top team, but given RPI's recent accomplishments, Union is here this month. But as mentioned above, there's not much between the teams. Their big tests will be coming in the next four games on the road.
Next up: at Western Michigan on Dec. 18/19, at #19 Minnesota/vs. Bemidji State on Dec. 31/Jan. 1

4. Dartmouth (6-4-1, 5-2-1 ECAC) - Any other season, Dartmouth would be under serious consideration as the top team in the ECAC before last Sunday given their resumé and considering nothing else, but this is no ordinary season. As it is, the Big Green are pretty firmly in the fourth position right now behind a monster of a team and a pair of travel partners who have continued to impress. The schedule gives the Big Green ample opportunity to stay among the top teams in the league, with five straight games coming up at home to close out their overall seven-game homestand, but that stretch includes a likely game with Boston College and a matchup with Yale. Their offense has been mostly unquestionable since that RPI/Union weekend a month back, their defense absolutely must keep pace.
Next up: Mercyhurst on Dec. 30, #5 Boston College or Colgate on Dec. 31, #1 Yale/Brown on Jan. 7/8

5. Princeton (8-5-0, 6-3-0 ECAC) - Still holding down the fifth spot a month later, the Tigers have proven that their hot start was no fluke. Winners of 8 of their last 10 games, Princeton has lit the lamp at least three times in each of their last five games while limiting their opponents to two or fewer goals in six of the last eight. The latter stat has been the touchstone for the Tigers of late - they have lost both of the games in which the opponent was able to reach three goals. The best news, however, is the upcoming schedule - the way things are going for the teams they have coming up, the Tigers may not face another tough game until their rematch with Clarkson in late January, certainly an opportune chance for Princeton to pick up some wins and position themselves for the bye.
Next up: vs. Bowling Green on Dec. 29, vs. Holy Cross or UConn on Dec. 30, Quinnipiac on Jan. 3

6. Clarkson (10-5-2, 4-2-1 ECAC) - The Golden Knights are certainly on their way up - for the most part, already having destroyed preseason expectations by reaching the 10-win mark before Christmas and now are in prime position to at least be at home in the first week of March. The reason that Clarkson isn't already ranked higher is fairly simple: they haven't played too many challenging teams yet this season. A 5-3 win over Princeton on Dec. 3 rates as their best win to date, part of a tear of six wins in their last seven games. The Knights have an opportunity to prove themselves in a big way coming in their next five games after the New Year, however - two games at home against recent #1 Minnesota-Duluth, followed by road games at nationally ranked RPI and Union and a road trip to current #1 Yale and Brown.
Next up: #4 Minnesota-Duluth on Jan. 3/4, at #14 RPI/#12 Union on Jan. 7/8

7. Brown (3-4-4, 2-3-1 ECAC) - The Bears have been moderately impressive from time to time this season, but the terrible defensive situation has not changed. Brown was in position to score road wins over New Hampshire and BU in the span of just five days, but defensive letdowns forced them to settle for ties. Then they wilted in the face of tough defenses and offensive outbursts from Union and RPI. The Bears impressed by sweeping Colgate and Cornell on the road, something they don't seem to have done in quite some time, and then reaching at least those UNH and BU ties in four straight games, but those ties now represent the beginning of five game winless streak after tying Providence in the Mayor's Cup.
Next up: vs. #10 Boston University on Jan. 1, vs. Michigan State or #12 Notre Dame on Jan. 2, at Harvard/Dartmouth on Jan. 7/8

8. Quinnipiac (8-9-1, 4-5-1 ECAC) - The best news for the Bobcats in the last month has been in completing the season sweep of Harvard. Besides a home win over Dartmouth on Nov. 19, that's also the only good news they've had, as every other game has been a loss. It's been the defense that has been suspect in that stretch, which includes a tough weekend being swept at home by Clarkson and St. Lawrence. If they can get straightened out, however, the Q does have the possibility of a pair of statement games on the way as they welcome a UNO team that has been surprisingly excellent for much of the year just after Christmas. A good showing in that series could set the tone for the rest of the campaign, in which the Bobcats are likely to be fighting for a home ice berth in the first round.
Next up: #8 Nebraska-Omaha on Dec. 30/31, at Princeton on Jan. 3

9. Cornell (4-6-1, 2-4-0 ECAC) - Any thoughts that Cornell was merely stumbling out of the gate that were prevalent at this time last month have been pretty thoroughly dashed at this point, and it now looks like the Big Red are going to have a difficult season. Cornell is a stupefying 2-5-1 at home this season, including a stretch of four straight ECAC contests in which the Big Red went 1-3-0. Where Brown and Quinnipiac have largely been struggling defensively, offense is the problem in Ithaca. When they score goals, they are usually in good shape despite a less than standard Cornell defense, but when they don't, it's a long night. They're unbeaten in three straight, but those games were against Colgate and two at home against 2-14-2 Alabama-Huntsville, the second of which was a tie. It doesn't get easier going forward, as they will be without top goaltender Andy Iles for the next four games.
Next up: vs. St. Cloud State on Dec. 29, vs. #6 Miami or #9 Maine on Dec. 30, at Princeton/Quinnipiac on Jan. 7/8

10. St. Lawrence (3-8-3, 3-4-0 ECAC) - The growing pains continue in Canton, but the Saints can at least take heart in the fact that this kind of season was practically expected. St. Lawrence has been just about a .500 team in conference, but most of those games have come at home (and one was in Potsdam). Defense remains the issue - freshman Matt Weninger is showing signs of the top goaltender he could grow into, but right now opposing teams continue to feast on him. Freshman Greg Carey is a legitimate contender for Rookie of the Year, but with sophomore Kyle Flanagan, he is shouldering the lion's share of the offensive responsibility. That's rarely a recipe for success. SLU is still looking for its first non-conference win, which they should at least be able to get by their last non-conference game against hapless Sacred Heart.
Next up: Vermont on Dec. 18, at #2 New Hampshire on Jan. 2, at Sacred Heart on Jan. 3

11. Harvard (2-8-0, 2-7-0 ECAC) - Whatever positives the Crimson were working with a month ago seem to have shriveled up and disappeared. After an upset win over RPI and another league win over St. Lawrence in early November, Harvard has proceeded to drop seven in a row, including four at the hands of Dartmouth and Quinnipiac. For a short time, the Crimson boasted the best defense in the nation, albeit with a small sample size, giving up only 7 goals in their first 4 games. The last four games have been especially brutal, as Harvard has been outscored 19-6 in that stretch, meaning both the offense and the defense has been out of sorts. Fortunately, they start out their second half with some lighter fare before jumping back into an ECAC schedule that they've been largely unable to tame thus far.
Next up: vs. Army on Jan. 1, at Vermont on Jan. 2, Brown/#1 Yale on Jan. 7/8

12. Colgate (3-10-1, 0-5-1 ECAC) - The Raiders continue to greatly underwhelm. Their only victories on the season are a pair against Army and one against Sacred Heart - see Union's entry for the magnitude of that truth. In the last month, they've also lost on two separate occasions to Niagara, a team that, while no slouch, Colgate was certainly not expecting to fall to twice. Only Alabama-Huntsville and Sacred Heart are ranked lower in KRACH than the Raiders. That's how rough it's been in Hamilton. Though their last two wins have been via shutout, they've given up four or more goals in eight of their last ten games. The offense hasn't even been that bad, as they've reached three goals in six of those ten games, and yet they're just 1-8-1 during that stretch. This weekend's games in Pittsburgh against Robert Morris need to be the firebreak, or it's going to be a long, long winter for the 'Gate.
Next up: at Robert Morris on Dec. 18/19, vs. #5 Boston College on Dec. 30, vs. Mercyhurst or Dartmouth on Dec. 31

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