Monday, December 2, 2013

ECAC Power Rankings - November 2013

As has been mentioned about a million times now, we typically do power rankings at the end of November, December, and January as benchmarks for where teams in the ECAC are during points of the season where it can be fairly accurately determined for all 12 teams (October being out due to a lack of Ivy participation, February out because the standings are all that matters). So here's November's entry. Bottom line? The league's pretty deep.

1. Quinnipiac (13-2-2, 6-1-1 ECAC): Not much to complain about in Hamden for sure. We said before the season started that the Bobcats' loss of a whole host of seniors from last year wasn't likely to be a big problem, and that's pretty much been the case. Quinnipiac has scored more than two goals for every goal they've allowed this season, which more than gets the job done. That fresh, new blue line look? Let's just say it's working. Sophomore Michael Gartieg is 2nd in the nation with a 1.64 GAA, but only 32nd in save percentage at .915. When the top defense in the country is rolling a goaltender ranked that far down in save percentage, you know the defensemen are more than doing their job.

2. Yale (6-2-2, 3-1-2): The questions about Yale's ability to keep the puck out of the net may not have been 100% solved, but it does look like they believe they have an answer in Alex Lyon. The freshman has been between the pipes for each of the Bulldogs' last four games, which have seen Yale go 3-1 while never giving up three goals in a game. Prior to that defensive stand, and during most of it as well, the puck hasn't had much of a problem hitting the back of the net offensively, which is something that'll always give a team a fighting chance even if the defense isn't fully stable.

3. Cornell (7-4-1, 4-3-1): Almost put the Big Red second by virtue of their 2-1 home victory over the Bulldogs, but regardless, this team has bounced back nicely from their early ECAC hiccups. The Big Red had won four straight contests before falling to Boston University on Thanksgiving weekend, during which time they showed the ability to score goals while displaying some flexibility in net as freshman Mitch Gillam got his first start against Niagara, picking up the victory (and, incidentally, scoring a goal). Their October road sweep at Nebraska-Omaha is looking much better now as well, given the hot streak UNO has embarked upon since.

4. Union (8-3-2, 5-1-0): After a shaky start, the Dutchmen have re-established themselves at just about the right time to put themselves in position to take another run at the top spot in the ECAC that eluded them during the regular season last year. A 7-1 record since the start of November will do that, especially since so many of those games were ECAC contests. The goaltending still isn't where the Dutchmen have been used to over the last three or four years, but the defense in front of that goaltending has been superb and the offense is getting the job done, with a huge assist from Shayne Gostisbehere back at the point, who has proven to be a danger to score every time he's touching the puck.

5. Clarkson (10-3-1, 4-2-0): If there's one knock on Clarkson's torrid start to the season, it's the quality of opponent that they've been taking down - KRACH ranks their schedule thus far as the easiest among the teams in the top half of the nation in that ranking nationally. Indeed, the Knights' only true quality win thus far was a 3-2 home victory over Cornell. Two other games against top opponents were losses to New Hampshire and Yale. They'll have the opportunity to prove that their solid defense against weaker opponents is no slouch with some of the games they have coming up - notably, St. Lawrence's dynamite attack and three straight games (yes, that's a thing somehow) against UMass-Lowell.

6. Colgate (7-7-1, 5-3-0): If you saw the Raiders in their loss to RPI, you're probably wondering just how it is that they're in the top half of the league's power ranking. Well, consider the Raiders to be the anti-Knights, because their schedule so far is the 4th most difficult in the entire nation according to KRACH. They've played Ferris State and St. Cloud State twice each, Quinnipiac, and Yale, and yet they still have a .500 record. That doesn't happen by accident. The defense could be better, but Colgate's super sophomores are proving that they do have the ability to carry this team at least somewhat, and the body of work suggests that their stinker against RPI was an exception and not the rule.

7. St. Lawrence (8-6-2, 2-2-2): We warned you not to read into the question marks surrounding Greg Carey's ability without Kyle Flanagan. He's doing just fine, thank you very much, at 1.81 points per game, tops in the country. The Saints may just be one of the most exciting teams in the conference, if only because they've engaged in wild shootouts with almost everyone. As dynamic and strong as the Carey line has been (Greg and his brother Matt, usually paired with junior Chris Martin), the SLU defense has frequently left a lot to be desired. They've limited opponents to less than three goals only five times this season, and the first three were in the first three games (Maine twice, and Ferris State). That contributes to the four losses the team has suffered when notching three of their own.

8. RPI (7-5-2, 2-3-2): Although they boast a strong offense and the nation's leading goal scorer in Ryan Haggerty, the Engineers have played a number of games, especially recently, that were huge let downs. It's hard to say exactly how much of an impact the loss of Jason Kasdorf has played in the Engineers' inability thus far to live up to expectations since Scott Diebold hasn't been terrible, but of late his numbers have dropped dramatically. Many of RPI's wins are against some pretty low-end competition, and some of the losses are against supposedly lesser teams as well (3 of Harvard's 5 points in 8 ECAC games are from the Engineers, for instance). The "three goal" rule has been almost completely hard and fast for the Engineers - 7-1-2 when they score three or more, 0-4-2 when they give up three or more.

9. Harvard (4-6-1, 2-5-1): The Crimson looked like they were pretty game for a decent season after opening up with three excellent showings in their first three games, one against Bentley and two against RPI. Other than a 6-3 victory over New Hampshire, it's been nothing but pain since then, including becoming the first casualty of a Dartmouth team that was struggling something fierce on defense. That one win over an improving Wildcat team gives Harvard the edge over Brown, who plays the Crimson on Friday, but it's a razor-thin difference. Senior netminder Raphael Girard has top 10 numbers nationally in GAA and save percentage, but none of that means anything when Harvard's young, talented forwards just aren't putting the puck in the net enough to produce results. The one goal last Saturday against a Dartmouth team that had managed to keep the opposition under five on only three previous occasions (each time giving up three) is hopefully the bottom if you're a Harvard fan.

10. Brown (3-6-1, 1-4-1): There's little denying that the Lorito-Naclerio-Lappin line has been very good for the Bears early on this season. Unfortunately, defense and special teams have not been able to back up that production, and neither has most of the rest of the offense. The Bears have given up at least three goals in every single game they've played this season, and as time goes by, more and more teams seem to be placing their emphasis on stopping that top line of the Bears and forcing the team to diversify their attack, which hasn't really come to fruition yet. Aside from Brown's upset victory over Yale that got their season underway in New Jersey on October 25, their only two victories are against two other Ivy League teams going through some extreme struggles right now, Princeton and Dartmouth.

11. Princeton (3-10-0, 2-6-0): All is not well if you're an Ivy League team and you're the first one in the conference to 10 losses on the year, although Princeton with their January exam schedule forcing games into November can frequently be a solid candidate for such an honor if it is to be had by an Ivy. Nonetheless, the Tigers have been genuinely bad for just about the entire season so far, led by a defense that ranks 55th out of 59 teams in the country, and an offense that ranks 52nd. They're in the bottom half of the country on the power play and penalty killing. Two of their three victories are against Dartmouth, the only team in the league hurting worse right now. Injuries are a big part of the problem, with star player Andrew Calof out until probably just before New Year's, but there's very little going right anywhere for the Tigers right now.

12. Dartmouth (1-8-0, 1-6-0): Ick. We might have crowed about having predicted Quinnipiac's strong play and Greg Carey's beastly numbers, but we may have screwed up royally with Dartmouth. After nine games, the Big Green have just 22 goals, just 7 more than RPI's Ryan Haggerty has alone. 47th nationally in offense and just two from the bottom in defense, neither side of the puck is functioning right now. That makes it all the more maddening that the Big Green somehow boasts the 2nd best power play in the entire country and has just one win in 9 games to show for it. Pretty much all facets Dartmouth's game have, in the past, shown themselves to be better than they've been so far, but other than on the man advantage (which accounts for 10 of those 22 goals), it's been an awful lot of heartache so far in Hanover.

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