Reading, MA – The ECAC Quarterfinal round gets underway on Friday. Two series will take place in New York, while Connecticut and Massachusetts each host one before moving on to Lake Placid, NY for the Championship weekend.
Quinnipiac has been the iron of the ECAC all season. They are the only school with a chance to qualify for the NCAA tournament if they were to lose this weekend. Any of the “contenders” like Clarkson, Harvard, or Cornell will need to win the automatic berth as ECAC tourney champ.
After a weekend off from competition the top four seeds are back in action and are ready to further their aims towards the Whitelaw Cup and NCAA postseason aspirations. Here’s PuckingOff’s look at the four series and who will win.
St. Lawrence University Saints @ Quinnipiac University Bobcats
SLU clawed back from a 3-2 deficit on Sunday against Brown to advance to the Quinnipiac series. The Saints got production from Justin Paul and Josh Boyer in their two wins, along with big-play from Emil Zetterquist in goal. The senior from Stockholm, Sweden will have his work cut out for him between the pipes this weekend. Zetterquist and the Saints will face a deep, experienced Bobcat team led by former Massachusetts Minutemen star Oliver Chau.
Quinnipiac‘s graduate transfer student has been phenomenal in blue and yellow. Chau has a 13-19-32 stat line through 36 games. He’s a reigning conference playoff and NCAA Champion and knows what it takes to win. I could go on and on about Chau but QU still has sniper Wyatt Bongiovanni and Michael Lombardi to bring additional offense upfront. Scary when you have to add the “upfront” part to the sentence because Zach Metsa and TJ Friedmann have almost 20 goals between them on the blueline. The entire D corps has over 60 assists on the season as well.
And let’s not forget to mention Yaniv Perets in goal for the Bobcats. The freshman from Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec, is ranked first in GAA with a mind-numbing .820 GAA, first in save percentage (.955), shutouts (11), and is way down near 60th in saves because QU doesn’t allow as many shots on goal to begin with. Should he falter, Dylan St. Cyr, a former starter at Notre Dame is the backup. St. Cyr has equally impressive stats this season in a smaller sample size. 10-1-1 1.11 GAA and a .939 SV% with 5 shutouts. Good luck St. Lawrence…
Prediction: The Bobcats in two. SLU was lucky to get out of their own building in three, don’t expect the Saints to travel to Hamden, CT., and compete. It’s a harsh assessment but the previous meeting at TD Bank Sports Center was an 8-0 curb-stomping. This will be only slightly less so.
Union College Dutchmen @ Clarkson University Golden Knights
The Dutchmen prevailed over Princeton to advance to this quarterfinal tilt against Clarkson. It was a balanced attack from forwards Liam Robertson, Collin Graf, and Gabriel Seger with some Brandon Estes and Dylan Anhorn sprinkled in on defense. Goalie Connor Murphy only allowed three goals in the two-game series on just over 50 shots. The Dutchmen just don’t have what it takes to beat Clarkson on the road twice.
The Golden Knights have been to the NCAA tourney three times in the previous four seasons. Casey Jones has plenty of experience on his roster and Clarkson re-tooled by integrating transfer portal students with their own holdovers. Forwards Matthieu Gosselin, Anthony Romano, Zach Tsekos, Jack Jacome, and Anthony Callin to name a few have all been around the block for Clarkson. 45 goals between them. Then add in sophomore Alex Campbell’s 14 goals and graduate transfer student Luke Santerno’s dozen and it’s a long night for any goalie.
The backend isn’t short on experience, or height for that matter. Michael Underwood, Brian Hurley, and Boston Bruins prospect Dustyn McFaul have manned the Clarkson blueline forever and the Golden Knights added Lukas Kaelble from Lake Superior St. to add some offensive zip. All nine defensemen on the roster stand 6’+.
The big question is in goal. Sophomores Ethan Haider and Jacob Mucitelli have been the duo this season, while Haider has 16 games under belt from last season. Haider has decent numbers 12-9-5 with a 2.35 GAA and a .909 SV%. He just hasn’t had real ECAC playoff experience. However, it will be enough for this series.
Prediction: Clarkson sweeps Union. The two split the season series but the Dutchmen needed extra time on home ice. Clarkson has improved since struggling out of the gate. The Golden Knights know what it takes to make noise in March
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Engineers @ Harvard University Crimson
RPI struggled to put away Dartmouth last weekend at Houston Fieldhouse. Essentially all three games were one-goal differentials. The game three score was only 5-3 because of an empty-net power-play goal for RPI in the final minute. Simon Kjellberg had a big game on Sunday from the Engineer blueline with two power-play goals. The Engineers needed their big guns to show up all weekend and they did come through. Justin Addamo had two goals in Friday’s 3-2 loss while Kjellberg and Jakub Lacka helped propel RPI to victory on Saturday. Junior defenseman Mason Klee popped his second goal of the year at the right time to notch the GWG in the 3-2 win.
Harvard is loaded offensively and can score on all four lines, as well as from the back end. Junior defenseman Henry Thrun is tied with sophomore Alex Laferriere for the team lead in points with 27. Six goals and twenty-one assists for the Anaheim Ducks pick Thrun, and 14G-13A for the Los Angeles Kings prospect Laferriere. The Crimson has the offense. Their big question, as has been the same one asked year after year is do they have the goaltending?
Yes, they do. Mitchell Gibson has been solid in his 23 appearances. The junior from Phoenixville, PA. is 14-8-1 with a 2.04 GAA and a .919 SV%. The Crimson will go as far as Gibson takes them. He shut out Quinnipiac in a 1-0 thriller just a few weeks ago. The Washington Capitals pick turned back 39 shots in holding the Bobcats scoreless for the first time all season (Cornell would do the same a week later.)
Prediction: Harvard in two, but I’m hoping for three so I can attend on Sunday. The Crimson are at full strength. Harvard lost at home to the Engineers in January 2-0 but was without players due to the World Juniors before they were canceled due to COVID. When the two met again in Troy, NY a few weeks ago the Crimson had a full squad and won 5-1. That won’t bode well for RPI. I can see Dave Smith‘s squad pulling out a road win at Bright-Landry since they did do it already, regardless of who was or wasn’t on the ice. Linden Marshall is quite capable of stealing a game.
Colgate University Raiders @ Cornell University Big Red
The two ECAC travel partners need no introduction. Cornell’s time off should help settle down the rattled ship that is the Big Red. The previous few weeks have been rocky but this is part of the goal for Mike Schafer‘s club, get to the ECAC playoffs and get to work. It’s “go” time, and Matt Steinberg, Max Andreev, and Ben Berard are locked and loaded on offense. Sam Malinski, Travis Mitchell, Tim Rego, and Cody Haiskanen have the blueline covered.
The question is between the pipes. Do the Big Red have what it takes in goal? They’ve pretty much split the season with senior Nate McDonald and freshman Ian Shane, and some fellow freshman Joe Howe sprinkled in earlier this season. Shane has gotten the last few starts, including an impressive 42 save shut out of Quinnipiac, on the Bobcats ice to boot, just two weeks ago. The 6′-0″ Manhattan Beach, CA. native followed that up with another 23 save shutout at Princeton.
The Raiders got the scoring they needed to put away Yale. Will they get it again against Cornell? The Young Brothers, Alex, and Colton showed up for the series in early February, they’ll need to for this one too. Colgate’s Griffin Lunn and Paul McAvoy need to continue the scoring ways for the Raiders to beat Cornell two of three.
Prediction: This is the tricky one of the bunch. A few factors are to be considered in picking this winner. Colgate has come on strong over the final month and easily dispatched of a weak Yale team last weekend. Cornell has struggled over the same period. In the Big Red’s case, they have been missing the steady influence of head coach Mike Schafer who has been out the past two months dealing with health issues. It is possible that he gets cleared to return to the bench for this series which will provide a boost to Cornell. The two schools split their weekend series in early February, which coincided with the Raiders’ resurgence. Head says Cornell, heart says Colgate. I’m going with Colgate in three.