Friday, April 12, 2013

2013: The Year of the Nerd

On August 6, 2012, an ECAC Hockey alum - RPI's Kobie Boykins, a forward on the team in the mid-1990's - was part of the team at NASA that landed the groundbreaking rover Curiosity on Mars.

It was another tale of ECAC alums doing what ECAC alums do - those that don't go on to play in the NHL (and even many who do) go on to become movers and shakers in fields from finance to industry, from science to small business.

But that's not to say that the league doesn't have its history of getting things done on the ice. We waxed eloquent over the summer at the addition of Adam Oates to the Hockey Hall of Fame, the announcement coming on the same day he was named head coach of the Washington Capitals.

That legacy, some said, was a relic of a bygone era. The ECAC, it was told, had been lapped by the power conferences, and was an afterthought on the national stage. Routinely written off, even as this tournament got underway. Even as the Frozen Four got underway with half the participants being members of the conference.

Today, the afterthoughts are... everyone else.

Quinnipiac and Yale place the conference in its brightest spotlight since the Hockey East split tomorrow night as they do battle to determine which of them will win the conference's first national championship since 1989, but this season, the ECAC went far, far beyond these two schools from southern Connecticut.

(And we proudly mention that we semi "called" Quinnipiac being good this year, pointing out just how stacked they were at pretty much every facet and how many seniors they had. True to Quinnipiac fashion, they just had to find a way to surpass even those expectations - something they've done in every season they've been in the ECAC. They did that during the regular season alone, and now they've kicked it up to a new level.)

In addition to winning the national championship, the conference also was responsible for the dethroning of last year's national champions, via a 5-1 demolition by the conference champions, Union.

We're never afraid to toot our own horn here at WaP - if the Bulldogs win tomorrow night, RPI will have defeated the eventual national champions twice this season, by a combined score of 10-2 (we've mentioned it a bit on Twitter, where more than a few people yesterday proclaimed that RPI was the best team in the conference at the end of the season). The Engineers finished in 2nd place in the conference, and despite an upset in the first round, were still in the national tournament picture until a wild finish to the conference tournaments bumped them out.

Brown was in that picture too, by their own doing. They gutted out a hard-fought series with the Engineers to give themselves a shot, and put themselves on the cusp with a masterful performance against that same team that you just saw humiliate the WCHA regular-season champs on the biggest stage of all.

Dartmouth had a tremendous first-half of the season in which they looked unstoppable. St. Lawrence had a tremendous second-half of the season in which they too looked unstoppable at times. And we haven't even talked about the league's perennial beasts - it wasn't Cornell's finest season by any stretch of the imagination, but they certainly finished strong.

Guess what? That's more than half the league mentioned just right there.

The last month has made this season property of the ECAC - the league will finish with an incredible 8-2 record in the NCAAs, with the only two losses coming at the hands of a fellow league member. The power conferences, they tried to take down Quinnipiac, Yale, and Union, and they went 0-for-6 for their troubles.

Now they can sit back and watch the newest hot rivalry in the ECAC take center stage, and put on a show. Yale has the tools to do this again next year (they'll have questions in net, but what else is new), while Quinnipiac's senior-heavy roster means they're more than likely going to have to take care of business this weekend.

Given how thoroughly these teams dominated their semifinal matchups last night (Yale was the aggressor for 59 minutes against a fantastic UML team, which underscores how good the River Hawks are that the game made it to overtime), we are in for a treat tomorrow night.

All you Hockey East, WCHA, NCHC, and Big Ten fans can tune in if you like. They're bound to put on a show for you. And if you don't like what you're seeing... then you don't like hockey.

EZAC, eh?

How you like us now?

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