Wednesday, November 30, 2011

ECAC Power Rankings: November

OK, now that every team in the league has at least a month under their belts, it's time for the monthly power rankings, sponsored by... nobody.

The early season rankings take a team's entire body of work into account, not just ECAC games - so just because Cornell is in first in league standings doesn't necessarily mean they're first in the power rankings. These are generally weighted toward more recent results, meaning how the team fared in November is more important right now than how they did in October.

1. Cornell - They didn't have to be number one, but here they are. There's no other team in the league that has been not only consistently in every game they play, but for the most part winning all of those games quite like the Big Red. Only three losses on the year, each by just one goal. The offense has done enough by and large when the defense has struggled, and vice versa (evidenced by three straight shutouts before the loss to BU). That's a recipe for success.

2. Union - If not for one awful home weekend against Brown and Yale, the Dutchmen are probably tops here, especially given their road romp over Michigan last weekend that turned more than a few heads (although the Wolverines are in freefall right now). They pretty clearly have answered the questions they had in net and behind the bench from last season, and the offense hasn't missed much of a beat. This is a team ready to compete for ECAC hardware once again.

3. Colgate - While they've had a few bumps along the way, the Raiders have at least been fairly consistently in the win column all season. The offensive problems Colgate had last season have basically evaporated thanks to Austin Smith and Chris Wagner's breakout performances over the last two months, and the Raiders have bounced back from every single loss this season with a win in their next game. Currently, they're sporting a three-game winning streak with four wins in their last five, allowing just three goals in those wins.

4. Yale - I'm sorry, but if you claim to be one of the best programs in the country, allowing 7 goals against an 0-11-0 team (Sacred Heart) and then losing to boot is not something that's going to bolster that claim in the slightest. Easily the worst loss of the season for the ECAC in its entirety, and that's saying something. That one loss was enough to move them from contention from first or second down to here, but without it Yale has actually done very well thus far, to include a streak of slick goaltending with three straight shutouts. The Bulldogs are still a dangerous team.

5. St. Lawrence - The Saints have bounced back well from one of the worst starts you could imagine (including a 10-3 drubbing at Michigan) to pick up a whole bunch of league points with five wins in their last seven games. That's a serious turnaround from the 0-5 start, but it was a brutal early season schedule - two games against Ferris State (remember them?), at Michigan, at RIT in front of 10,000 fans, and then hosting Union. That's not to say that SLU has necessarily been overwhelming in the last seven, but they've at least found the winning edge.

6. Harvard - The Crimson have been pretty solid of late, a one-goal loss to St. Lawrence the team's only major blemish in the last five games (3-1-1). They have just two more games before going on break, and then comes the opportunity to truly prove themselves with two big non-conference games at the end of December at North Dakota. If they can stay consistent, they can be a threat, but Harvard's biggest problem right now is defense - they don't have much, and their offense may not have the chops to bail the team out with the same level of regularity in the future.

7. Quinnipiac - That the Bobcats are still ranked this high after the troubles they've had recently underscores just how much the bottom half of the ECAC is hurting right now, and how relatively close many of them are. A big pick-me up win at UMass last weekend brought a six-game winless streak to a halt and represented the first time in five games Quinnipiac had scored more than one goal (including a pair of shutouts). So why are they ranked this high? In October, much as they did two years ago, the Bobcats were practically unstoppable, both offensively and defensively. If we'd done an October power ranking, they'd have had a fair shot at number one.

8. Dartmouth - Now that the RPI power play is beginning to find life, attention is starting to focus within the league on just how terrible the Big Green are at scoring on the man advantage - truth be told, it's pretty much always been worse than RPI's, if only because it took them a very long time to notch their first power play goal of the season - they are almost dead last nationally on the power play and it's starting to take its toll. Dartmouth has just one win in their last six games, many of which they probably could have done better in with power play tallies, but the defense has been rough, too.

9. Clarkson - Man, the Golden Knights would be wasting the competition in Atlantic Hockey if that's where they called home. They're 6-0-1 against the conference. Outside? 2-5-2, their only wins coming against floundering Dartmouth and RPI. It's been that kind of night and day for Clarkson thus far. The defense has been relatively inconsistent, but the bigger problem is that outside of playing Atlantic Hockey teams, the offense and the defense just aren't always covering each other when one has a bad night. That's a sure setup for inconsistency, and that's what we've seen.

10. Princeton - Do the Tigers miss Guy Gadowsky? Probably. But they miss consistent goaltending and offense the most. It's Sean Bonar's team this year, and his numbers are down from last year's showing while in platoon with Mike Condon. That by itself probably wouldn't be that bad, except that there hasn't been an awful lot of growth when it comes to scoring, either. Like many other teams in the back end of the conference, Princeton has occasionally found goals very hard to come by, which tends to require the defense to be turning cartwheels to overcome and more often than not, it just isn't the case.

11. RPI - I was very tempted to put RPI last (where they are in the league standings), but some of Brown's more recent games make that really questionable. Let's be blatantly honest here. The Engineers, by the end of the season, may well have some of the most solid all around defensive numbers in the league. But the offense has been remarkably  bad on an epic level, and although most of their games have been low scoring, they still haven't been on the positive side of most of them.

12. Brown - While RPI at least is showing some signs of their offensive funk ending, Bruno is right smack in the middle of theirs - and displaying it against some pretty weak competition. RPI may have had their offensive woes going longer, but the Bears have back-to-back shutouts at the hands of American International and Holy Cross. Yeah. That's AIC's first shutout of a non-conference opponent since they returned to Division I in 1998 - and they played D-III teams early on.

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