Wednesday, January 26, 2011

ECAC Power Rankings (January)

Time for our next-to-last (yes, it's getting to be that time) edition of the ECAC Power Rankings. The ECAC standings are starting to congeal into place as schedules start to become more regular, but the power rankings don't go strictly by wins and losses. They play a role, but there's also the national scope to consider.

As we approach February, in a bizarre way it is actually starting to look like the pre-season rankings in some way. You've got the clearly defined top team, and then a number of "bands" in which you can pretty much mix and match the teams therein. Two through four, five/six, and seven through nine seem pretty interchangeable, don't you think? But hey, this is the ECAC.

1. Yale - This one's still a no-brainer, and it doesn't appear to be something that's going to change any time soon. The Bulldogs lost to Brown two weeks ago, and a week later had the most first-place votes they've received to date in the USCHO.com poll (all but four). That tells you just how good this team is. We project them to have locked up a first-round bye and will win the Cleary Cup for the third year in a row.

2. RPI - Call me a homer if you want. The fact of the matter is, the Engineers are 2nd in the league in KRACH, one of the best methods for comparing teams to each other. If you'd asked this two weeks ago or even last week, RPI's probably 3rd or 4th, but they've proven they've got the maturity to make it through bumps in the road.

3. Union - The Dutchmen are doing well in ECAC play and are extremely well positioned for the first-round bye, but need to do a little work to keep themselves in the national picture. Their route is the same as the route for RPI - just keep winning. That'll help them secure a second straight bye and potentially position them for their first ever NCAA tournament.

4. Dartmouth - KRACH would say I've underrated the Big Green, especially in light of their win over New Hampshire earlier this month and their winning streak which was only snapped by their loss at RPI. Dartmouth jumped on Union to win but was swept badly by RPI. Still, they're right there in the thick of things both nationally and in the fight for the bye.

5. Princeton - The Tigers are coming out of their exam period and will be looking to ensure that they stay part of the discussion for the first-round bye, a position many (this observer not included) didn't think they had a prayer for when the season started. Hobey is proud - this is a young team competing well. The challenge comes in having five games against Yale, RPI, and Union in February, however.

6. Brown - The Bears have usurped Quinnipiac as "the most Jekyll and Hyde team" in the league. One week, they're beating the #1 team in the country and giving Boston University fits. The next, they're being sore losers against Clarkson. Fitting, then, that the team that's either very good or horrifyingly cheap lands right in the middle.

7. Cornell - Just when you thought they were going to disappear into the background, the Big Red rattle off three wins in a row and are 4-1-1 for the month of January. The tie, however, was against last-place Colgate and the loss was a bad loss at home to Union. Still, the good month so far has re-positioned the Big Red to at least be in line for home ice and if they keep it up, back into the bye discussion.

8. Clarkson - The Golden Knights, as we predicted, are falling back to earth a bit thanks to their tough January schedule. They do have the one overtime win over RPI and the aforementioned victory at Brown, but they are 2-4-0 this month against some very good teams. They haven't completed their season series against anyone, and play each team in the ECAC one more time.

9. Quinnipiac - Perhaps it's telling about the strength of the ECAC this season when a team with a winning overall record is this far down in the list, but this does seem to be where the Bobcats fit in best. They swept Nebraska-Omaha at home to finish out the month of December, but have been hot and cold since, losing at home to Cornell and settling for a tie in the second game of a two game set at Canisius. Still an unpredictable team.

10. St. Lawrence - There's a pretty marked dividing line between the top nine and the bottom three, but the Saints are pretty firmly ahead of the bottom two as well. Just as we expected, the Saints are a young team that's struggling to survive, but the signs of future potential abound. Even though they'll likely be on the road in the first round of the playoffs, they're building the foundation for a solid team in the future.

11. Colgate - The Raiders are in the midst of a terrible season that was supposed to be exciting, but they've also proven themselves to be ridiculously snakebitten in the last month or so. They've lost an eye-popping 11 games by just one goal and while their special teams are indeed horrible, they've at least proven to be capable of being "in" the games that they play, even though they can't get the win.

12. Harvard - The same can't be said for the Crimson. Frequently, they display poor offense and defense and are simply not competing well within the ECAC. Hope lies on the horizon with a strong recruiting class incoming next year, but it appears to be a lost season in Cambridge. Since starting the season 2-1-0, the Crimson have just five one-goal losses in their current stretch of 13 losses in 14 games.

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