Reading, MA. – The last four ECAC Hockey teams are off to Lake Placid, NY, to vie for the Whitelaw Cup as ECAC tournament champions. All four schools are deserving of their spot; none upset any team to get there. It’s the top three seeded teams and the fifth seed. All are tremendously talented, and anyone can pull off the ultimate victory on the historic Lake Placid ice. The semifinals and final will be on the NHL size ice sheet for the first time.
Quinnipiac is here as the number one team in the conference. The Bobcats won the regular season Cleary Cup as having the conference-best record. They dispatched the St. Lawrence Saints in two games, 4-1 and 4-3 in double overtime.
Clarkson placed second overall and edged the Union Dutchmen in back-to-back overtime wins 3-2 and 4-3. The three and four seeds each needed a third game on Sunday afternoon to punch their tickets.
The Crimson outlasted RPI in three after coming back from a three-goal third-period deficit in the final four minutes in game one for an OT win. The Engineers repaid the come-from-behind favor in OT on Saturday before running out of gas in a 3-1 Crimson win.
The Raiders outlasted Cornell 2-1 in game three at Lynah Rink Sunday. Colgate dropped game one 3-1 before winning the next two to make their first trip to Lake Placid in seven years.
Only Quinnipiac guarantees to qualify for the NCAA tournament of the four remaining schools. Clarkson is in the 16th and final spot bubble, while both Harvard and Colgate need to win the tournament to be eligible with the ECAC Tournament Championship’s automatic bid.
Harvard University Crimson 19-10-3 (14-6-2-0-0-2 ECAC) vs. Clarkson University Golden Knights 21-9-6 (14-4-4-0-2-3 ECAC)
Friday will be the third straight matchup between the two schools in the ECAC semis. Clarkson has won them both.
Clarkson Head Coach Casey Jones said sophomore Ethan Haider would get the start in goal on Friday against the Crimson. In the previous meeting between the two, a 6-2 Knights win in Potsdam, NY, on November 12, 2021, Haider stopped 37 of 39 Crimson shots.
THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS WIN IT IN OT!
— ECAC Hockey (@ecachockey) March 12, 2022
“I’m excited for them this weekend,” said Jones of his seniors, of which he has six, to go along with four graduate students. “I think there’s a lot to be said about having a senior pull and having some older guys. The end of the line is pretty close, a lot closer than some other guys, and having that pull, means a lot.”
Jack Jacome has been at Clarkson for the last five seasons. He leads a group that has been to ECAC Finals and NCAA tournaments. Chris Klack, Anthony Callin, Nick Campoli, Brian Hurley, Michael Underwood, and Zach Tsekos have been in the trenches for Clarkson the past few years and have
“I’m anxious for this group to get there and get after it a little bit because they’ve missed the last couple of years when I thought we had good teams that were pushings towards that (championships).”
Clarkson added defenseman Lucas Kaelble from the Lake Superior State Lakers program, which won the WCHA title and qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time in almost 20 years. The 6′-2″ graduate student has 162 games under his belt and ,,, for Jones and Clarkson.
“Certainly, we thought he was going to add some offensive punch back there for us, we were aware of that,” Jones said. “We weren’t sure if he could shoot it, but he’s been an important piece for us. He’s been good in big games and big moments. He’s got some experience in that regard too.”
“We had our fingers crossed,” added Jones. “We thought there’d be a good offensive punch to bring in for us and he’s obvioulsy done that.”
“Basically, you have the senior class,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato. “The junior class didn’t have a chance because of COVID. Then we have a freshman class and a sophomore class that wasn’t on campus. We have 15 guys on our roster that hadn’t played college hockey (before this season) nevermind playoff hockey.”
What the Crimson lack in experience they make up for in offensive talent. The Crimson also has ECAC Rookie of the Year Alex Laferriere. The Los Angeles Kings prospect has 14 goals and 15 assists in 32 games for the Crimson.
The Crimson have seven seniors on their roster. Co-captain Casey Dornbach, Baker Shore, R.J. Murphy, and Jack Donato have been through the battles and were on the 2018-19 team that made it to the same NCAA Regionals as Clarkson. Marshall Rifai was also a team member but didn’t play as much as the others. He has stepped up his game throughout the season and is a solid defender. His stat line (5G-7A 12P) is good, too, considering the offensive talent up front.
Harvard has offense in spades with Matthew Coronato, Nick Abruzzese, Sean Farrell, and John Farinacci. Then there are defensemen Henry Thrun, Ryan Siedem, and Ian Moore, who combined for 51 assists. Harvard is quick, and they move the puck just as fast. Coronato has 15 goals, while Laferriere has 14. Farrell and Farinacci score in bunches.
As it is most years, the wildcard for the Crimson will be in goal. Mitchell Gibson has been steady all year. 16-9-1 2.09 GAA and a .918 SV%. He’ll need to be sharp against Clarkson.
“Mitch is an important part of our success,” said Donato. “I think anytime you look to win a league title, you will need excellent goaltending and some important and timely saves. We have a lot of faith in Mitch, and we’ll need him to be at his best this weekend.”
Prediction: Each team’s most significant question mark is in goal. Like many of my predictions, it is a heart vs. head matchup. My head says Clarkson, my heart says, Harvard. I have to go with my gut on this one because I don’t want the Crimson season to end. So I’m going with Harvard in a nailbiter, 3-2.
Colgate University Raiders 18-17-4 (9-9-4-1-0-3 ECAC) vs. Quinnipiac University Bobcats 30-5-3 (17-4-1-0-1-1 ECAC)
This season, Colgate hasn’t had much success against Quinnipiac, losing both games by a combined 9-1 score. The first game was a 5-1 Bobcats win at Colgate, and the second was a slightly better 4-0 loss at Quinnipiac. The Bobcats are a possession team and have a solid structure on defense. Should that structure break down or fail, there is Yaniv Perets, the ECAC Goalie of the Year and ECAC Player of the Year. Perets has insane numbers this year. The freshman from Dollard-des-Ormeaux is 20-4-2 with a .89 GAA and .952 SV% with 11 shutouts. Perets has allowed only 24 goals all season.
“They posses so well,” said Don Vaughan, Colgate Head Coach. “Then when you do have opportunities you have to beat, probably, the best goalie in the country.”
— ECAC Hockey (@ecachockey) March 13, 2022
“We have so much respect for Quinnipiac, and we know it’s going to be a battle. They’re just so deep,” added Vaughan. “We’re prepared to defend; that’s how we got by Cornell. We went into the weekend, knowing that we’re going to spend time in our zone more than theirs.”
Making the challenge even harder for Colgate is the injury to Colton Young. The Raiders junior lead the team in scoring with a 15-17-32 line. In the Cornell series, the Raiders lost Colton to an injury. Colgate still has his younger brother Alex and his 10-21-31 stat line, good for second on the team.
“On Sunday night we put Matt Verboon there,” said Vaughan of who he expects to step up in Colton Young’s absence. “Matt went in a scored a huge goal. Matt’s come to life heer in the last couple of weeks. He’s also another guy with a great shot, a big important part of our power-play.”
Quinnipiac won the first of their games against SLU 4-1 before falling into a 2-0 hole in game two on Saturday. They clawed back to earn the 4-3 double OT win to punch their ticket to upstate New York for the first time since 2017.
“I just loved our poise on the bench,” said Head Coach Rand Pecknold of the game two deficit. “We had no panic; we just believe we were going to come back. We’ve had a couple of games like that.”
Despite QU’s success in the last few years, they don’t have a lot of hardware to show for it. The regular season Cleary Cup is excellent, but the Bobcats want more. They last won the Whitelaw Cup in 2016, their lone postseason hardware.
The Bobcats brought in Oliver Chau as a graduate transfer student from the defending National Champions, Massachusetts, to solve that problem. The 5′-9″ forward from Oakville, Ontario, led the Bobcats’ offense with 13 goals and 19 assists for 32 points.
“I think Oliver Chau has been one of the best two or three forwards in our league,” said Pecknold. “I’m just beyond excited and thrilled with his production this year. He’s one of the best 200-foot players I’ve ever had.”
“He has the puck all the time, defends, competes, plays offense. His points are up there. He’s one of our top scorers,” added Pecknold. “Chau’s been outstanding. He’s a great teammate, a great leader. He’s a big reason why we’re as good as we are this year.”
“He knows how to win. He’s great in big games,” Pecknold said before adding, “Like the North Dakota weekend (5-2 win and a 3-1 loss at QU in October), those two games he was the best player on the ice for either team. Anytime we played a big game this year he’s been outstanding.”
Prediction: I want to say that Colgate wins in an upset, but I think that Quinnipiac is too good defensively for an offensively challenged Raiders squad. The Bobcats win, big too.