ECAC Opening Round Playoff Preview

The ECAC Hockey Conference playoffs begin this weekend in New York. Four of the conference’s six New York schools will host the bottom four teams of the ECAC. Three should advance to the next round, where Quinnipiac, Clarkson, Harvard, and Cornell await the winners. Quinnipiac won the Cleary Cup for finishing first overall in the regular season. The Bobcats ranked Top 10 for most of the season and even spent some time as the number one team in the NCAA. They are off for this week, so the focus is on these four matchups.

Yale University Bulldogs @ Colgate University Raiders

The Raiders finished the ECAC regular season 9-9-4 (14-16-4 overall) in fifth place. Don Vaughan’s squad finished the year strong, going 5-2-2 down the stretch. Led by the Brothers Young, junior Colton, and sophomore Alex, the Raiders offense averaged 2.5 goals a game. Colton Young and senior Josh McKechney tied for the team lead with 13 apiece, while the Young’s finished with 29 and 27 points, respectively. Carter Gylander (7-8-0-2)and Mitch Benson (6-5-3) carried most of the goaltending duties and allowed 2.55 goals a game. Gylander, a sophomore from Beaumont, Alberta, sports a .908 save percentage while Benson has a .911. Benson looks like his old self after dealing with injuries the last two years. He’s gotten a majority of the starts since 2022 began. 

The Bulldogs are 0-1-1 against the Raiders this season. Yale lost 3-0 in Hamilton, NY, back in November but tied in New Haven in January. It was Benson’s first game back in goal in almost two months, and the Bulldogs won the shootout 2-0. Yale went 7-14-1 in conference play and 8-19-1 overall. The Bulldogs finished last in the ECAC for the first time under Keith Allain (15th season) and went 3-7 over their last ten games in February. The bright spot is that they have won three out of their previous five, which included a road win over second-place Clarkson last weekend. This season, five players tallied double digits for points in the Yale lineup, maxing out on sophomore Ian Carpentier’s 8-5-13 stat line. Fellow sophomore Nathan Reid has shouldered the load in the crease going 6-8-1 with a .908 SV% and 2.71 GAA. The missed 2020-21 season crippled the Bulldogs this year.

Prediction: Colgate in 2. Yale’s lack of scoring will make this a quick one for the Raiders.

Dartmouth College Big Green @ Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Engineers

The Engineers swept the season series 2-0 in Hanover, NH, on February 1 and 6-3 in Troy, NY this past Friday. RPI finished the ECAC season in sixth place on a 10-12-2 conference record (15-20-3 overall), which is a bit of a step backward after the COVID marred the 2019-20 season when the Engineers finished 17-15-2 and came in fourth in the conference (13-8-1). Coach Dave Smith’s squad has felt the effects of missing the 2020-21 season and went 4-5 down the stretch in February. They did go 3-3 in their last six, picking up a 6-2 win against fourth-place Cornell at home on February 11. The Engineers finished third in goals with 96 total: seniors Ture Linden and Justin Addamo lead RPI with 16 and 11 goals each. Linden (31 pts), fellow seniors Ottoville Leppanen (24) and Jakub Lacka (22), and junior defenseman Simon Kjellberg (21) powered the offense. Graduate student Linden Marshall backstopped the Engineers for most of the year, going 9-13-3 with 2.53 GAA and .895 SV%. 

RPI celebrates a goal against Harvard at Bright Landry Arena on January 25, 2022. The Engineers won 2-0.

The Big Green, like the Engineers, struggled after missing a season of play. The new coach factor only added to the equation for Dartmouth. In the coach’s first season on the Big Green bench, Reid Cashman’s side went 6-20-3 (5-15-2 ECAC). Freshman Sean Chisholm was a revelation in leading the Hanover school in points (8-11-19), while junior defenseman Tyler Palocsik’s 13 assists pushed the attack forward when it was there. Senior Justin Ferguson and sophomore Clay Stevenson split the goaltending duties. Stevenson, a 6′-4″ native of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, had the most minutes, going 4-9-1 with .929 SV% and 2.39 GAA in ECAC action.

Prediction: RPI in three. The two teams have played twice in February, and the Big Green should be able to pull out one win throughout Friday or Saturday to force a Sunday game at Houston Field House.

Dartmouth College goaltender Clay Stevenson makes a glove save against Merrimack College on December 17, 2021 during a 2-2 tie @ Lawler Rink in North Andover, Ma.

Princeton University Tigers @ Union College Dutchmen

This season, the Union Dutchmen had faced some adversity when Head Coach Rick Bennett abruptly resigned on January 28, 2022, following a school investigation into “allegations about his coaching style and practices.” The Dutchmen were 8-12-3 (6-7-1 ECAC) at Bennett’s announcement. They had gone 7-6-1 under interim head coach John Ronan since January 20.

Senior defenseman Brandon Estes’ 27 points (6 G – 21 A) paced the Dutchmen on the ice. Sophomore forward Liam Robertson led all scorers with a dozen goals, followed by freshman Collin Graf with nine and senior Josh Kosack’s seven. Hudson Falls, NY native Connor Murphy transferred from Northeastern University this past summer and carried the load for the Dutchmen starting 30 games. Murphy went 12-16-3 with .918 SV % and a 2.70 GAA.

The Union College Dutchmen starting forwards Collin Graf (20), Chaz Smedsrud (8), and Christian Sanda before taking on the UNH Wildcats on October 8, 2021 at the Whittemore Center in Durham, NH. The Wildcats beat the Dutchmen 4-1.

Princeton lost both games against Union this season, 1-0 in Schenectady, NY back on December 3, 2021, and 7-3 in Princeton, NJ on February 5, 2022. Senior forward Corey Andonovski is the focal point on the offensive side of the ice (9-11-20). The 6′-1″ Andonovski picked up in 2021, where he left off in 2019-20 when he finished second in scoring (6-13-19). Jeremie Forget and Aidan Porter split the crease patrol duties for Ron Fogerty’s squad. The senior Forget went 6-6-2 with .887 SV % and 3.41 GAA while junior Porter carried a 2-11-0 record on .877 SV % and 3.71 GAA. Porter has started eight of the Tigers’ last eleven games, going 1-7. Forget won two of his last three starts in February. 

Prediction:  Union in two. 

Brown University Bears @ St. Lawrence University Saints

Third-year Head Coach Brent Brekke might only be sporting a 19-51-15 record in his short St. Lawrence career, but the Saints are the defending Whitelaw Cup champions after winning last year’s ECAC tournament. So the Canton, NY school knows how to get the job done in March. The only problem is their matchup in the first round this year, the Brown Bears. In February, the two schools traded 1-1 ties, a 1-0 shootout win for the Saints in Providence, RI on the 5th, and a 1-0 shootout loss at home this past Friday. 

The Brown University Bears celebrate Thomas Manty’s (8) goal during the Bears 5-2 loss at Harvard University on November 23, 2021.

The Saints seniors Kaden Pickering (6-12-18) and David Jankowski (3-11-14) lead the offense. SLU went 3-2-2 in February and took down Cornell in Ithaca, NY, in overtime. Emil Zetterquist started 29 games for the Saints in goal; he senior went 9-13-7 with a 2.61 GAA and .903 SV %. SLU took part in eleven one-goal games this season. 

The Bears finished 6-12-4 in ECAC play but went 2-5-4 in February. Junior forward Justin Jallen, defensemen Luke Krys and Samuli Niinisaari, and seniors Michael Maloney and Tristan Crozier are the cogs in the Bears offense. 

The Brown University Bears celebrate Michael Maloney’s third-period goal during the Bears 5-2 loss to Boston College on December 7, 2021.

Freshman Mathieu Caron handles the net while coming into postseason play with a 5-12-4 record and 2.75 GAA, and a .912 SV %. Caron has started every game in February.

Prediction: Brown in three. Both teams have been playing decent hockey over the last few weeks. Despite the Saints being the defending Champs, Brown is a scrappy squad, and there’s always an upset somewhere, and this is it (if the nine seed beating the eighth seed is an upset). 

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