We are a few weeks into the college hockey season, and while not every team has played an official conference game yet, up until this week, everyone had a conference schedule laid out.
The only conference left out was the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Association (ECAC). However, they have finally formatted a conference schedule for the remainder of the 2020-21 men’s and women’s seasons.
Why Did it Take So Long?
Well, COVID-19 obviously.
The pandemic has forced each conference and school to do everything they can to play hockey, and do so while ensuring the safety of players and staff of the teams across the country. Even then, some teams have struggled to get games in. Of the 60 programs in NCAA DI, as of Sunday, less than half have played a single game this season.
What really hit the ECAC hard, specifically, was the Ivy League’s decision to not allow any winter athletics to be played this season. Of the 12 teams in the ECAC, seven of them are members of the Ivy League. The only stand-alone team to pull the plug on the season was Union, who made their decision shortly after the Ivy League.
This left only four teams in both of the men’s and women’s conferences. Clarkson, Colgate, Quinnipiac and St. Lawrence.
How it Will Play Out
While one may believe the ECAC would wait for the new year, the conference decided they would begin the season on the last day of the longest year ever, as Quinnipiac will face St. Lawrence on Dec. 31.
The men’s schedule will consist of the four teams playing each other six times from late-December until early March, giving each team 18 conference games.
For the women, they technically have already started, as Clarkson and Colgate have played each other four times. The remainder of the schedule will see each team play each other four times, giving them 12 official conference contests.
Each schedule consists of a few open dates that will allow matchups that are postponed due to coronavirus to be rescheduled. As with most of college hockey, the ECAC also announced spectators will not be allowed to attend games at this point.
“The compilation of the league schedules are the result of the collaboration of our administrators and coaches,” ECAC Commissioner Stephen Hagwell told the media on Wednesday. “Who have worked tirelessly to create, to the extent possible, a safe and healthy environment in which our student-athletes have an opportunity to compete. We look forward with great anticipation to see how things play out during the season.”
As for the postseason, all tournament games will be contested at on-campus sites, meaning that the ECAC Championships will not be handed out at the 1980 Rink in Lake Placid NY. The women’s hockey championship weekend is currently scheduled for March 5-7, while the men’s is set for March 18-20.
Who are the Favourites?
Heading into the conference schedule, three of the four schools will have already played inter-conference matchups and will be in full stride heading into January. The only team that has yet to play is St. Lawrence. The Saints will play one game against Colgate prior to the beginning of their conference schedule on Dec. 27.
While the Saints may be a little rusty coming out of the gates, it will be tough for them and the Colgate to jump over Quinnipiac and Clarkson.
The Bobcats and the Golden Knights look to be the two squads that will be competing for the Whitelaw Cup as ECAC Champions. The teams finished second and third in the conference last season behind No. 1 Cornell, with Clarkson posting a 16-5-1 conference record, and Quinnipiac right behind them, going 14-6-2 in conference play.
It is not as clear who will be in the top two on the women’s side. The absence of Cornell (who went undefeated in conference play last season) opens the door for the Golden Knights, who finished third in the ECAC behind the Big Red and Princeton with a 14-4-4 record in conference action. Clarkson is also bringing back the conference’s leading-scorer, Elizabeth Giguere, who finished tied for second in the country in scoring with 66 points.
Behind Clarkson, it looks like Quinnipiac and Colgate will be the two teams vying to be in the championship conversation. Both the Bobcats and Raiders return their leading scorers, as Lexie Adzija returns for Quinnipiac, while Sammy Smigliani and Danielle Serdachny come back for Colgate.
The Bobcats have the advantage goal, as they bring back Logan Angers, a former member of Canada’s Women’s Under-18 team.
Friday, Dec. 11
No. 2 Boston College def. Connecticut, 4-3 in overtime
The Huskies gave the Eagles everything they had on Friday night, even coming back from a two-goal deficit in the third period to send the game into extra time. Yet, Boston College prevailed as Marshall Warren scored with just under two minutes remaining in overtime to keep the Eagles undefeated.
Logan Hutsko led the Eagles with a pair of goals, while Henry Wilder picked up the win in his first start of the season.
New Hampshire ties Maine, 1-1 (Maine wins a in a shootout)
In both school’s first games of the season, the Wildcats looked strong, outshooting the Black Bears by a two-to-one margin. However, Maine’s netminder Matthew Thiessen stood on his head, stopping 37 of the 38 shots he faced. The two goals in regulation were scored only 32 seconds apart, as New Hampshire’s Kalle Eriksson and Maine’s Lynden Breen traded tallies in the third period.
After a scoreless overtime, Simon Butala ended the contest with the winner in the shootout, giving the Black Bears the extra point.
Western Michigan def. Colorado College, 5-2
After a couple of tough losses to start the season, the Broncos have won back-to-back games, this time against the Tigers. Ethen Frank scored twice for Western, with Josh Passolt, Drew Worrad and Ronnie Attard each registering a pair of points in the win.
No. 16 Bowling Green def. Ferris State, 3-2
In a rather physical game, the Bulldogs hung with Falcons, on the road, until the final seconds. That is when Max Johnson deflected the game-winner with 12 seconds left in regulation, giving Bowling Green their fifth win of the season. Seth Fyten scored the first goal of his collegiate career for the Falcons, with Zack Rose making 17 saves in the win.
Long Island def. RIT, 4-3
The new kids on the block earned their second win in program history, this time after trailing early to the Tigers. After RIT went ahead 2-0 by the early stages of the second period, the Sharks reeled off three unanswered in the frame to take the lead, then Zack Bross added his second of the game in the third to put the game out of reach. Garrett Metcalf was great again in goal for LIU, making 33 stops on the night.
Penn State def. No. 20 Arizona State, 3-2 in overtime
The Nittany Lions continue to try and put their early-season lapses behind them. It certainly was not easy in this one, as the Sun Devils came back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game and force overtime. However, the Nittany Lions recovered, and Connor MacEachern’s first of the season in overtime sealed the win for Penn State.
MacEachern, along with Alex Limoges, posted a goal and an assist in the victory.
Saturday Dec. 12
No. 15 Notre Dame def. No. 14 Ohio State, 3-0
For the second time this season, the Fighting Irish have won back-to-back games. The victims this time are the Buckeyes, thanks to a solid defensive performance, and a 20-save shutout from Dylan St. Cyr. Graham Slaggert scored a goal and an assist, with Michael Graham and Alex Steeves scoring the other two for Notre Dame.
No. 17 Northeastern def. Merrimack, 8-2
The Huskies finally hit the ice on Saturday, and it was apparent they were chomping at the bit to play, as they beat the Warriors soundly. Jordan Harris and Steven Agriogianis each scored two goals and an assist, while Zach Solow scored a goal with two assists on the night. Connor Murphy had a solid outing in goal, making 22 saves in the win.
Connecticut def. No. 2 Boston College, 3-1
In quite the shocker, the Huskies handed the Eagles their first loss of the season. Second-period goals from Jonny Evans, Marc Gatcomb and Nick Capone sent UConn on their way to their first win of the season. Tomas Vomacka stopped 27 shots in the winning effort.
Evans did not just hit the back of the net in the game…
New Hampshire def. Maine, 6-2
After falling in the shootout, the Wildcats bounced back to pick up the regulation win over the Black Bears. Angus Crookshank scored twice, with Cam Gendron and Joe Hankinson adding a goal and an assist each. Mike Robinson was exceptional between the pipes, making 32 saves in the win.
No. 13 St. Cloud State def. No. 1 North Dakota, 5-3
In an unprecedented outcome, the Huskies handed the Fighting Hawks their second loss of the season. St. Cloud State had five different goal scorers, including Kevin Fitzgerald and Easton Brodzinski scoring a goal and an assist. David Hrenak was outstanding, making 33 saves in the winning effort.
No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth def. No. 9 Denver, 4-1
The Bulldogs are making a strong case on why they are the best team in the country. Koby Bender posted a goal and an assist and was credited with the game-winning goal. Nick Swaney and Tanner Laderoute both helped out with two assists each. Ryan Fanti registered his fourth win of the season, stopping 26 of 27 shots.
Miami (OH) def. No. 18 Nebraska-Omaha, 1-0
This win featured a whole lot of firsts for the RedHawks.
It included the first collegiate assist for Matthew Barbolini. He set up freshman Hampus Rydqvist, who scored his first career goal, which ended up being the game-winning goal (obviously, the first game-winning goal of his career). The goaltender, Ludvig Persson, earned his first win, and his first shutout, of his career with a 30-save performance.
Certainly an interesting way to earn their first win of the season.
Bemidji State def. Michigan Tech, 6-3
In their second game of the season and their first game in 20 days, the Beavers outscored the Huskies to get in the win column. Alex Ierullo led the attack with a goal and an assist, with both Owen Sillinger and Aaron Miller registering two assists. Zach Driscoll earned the win, stopping 29 of the 32 shots he faced.
No. 16 Bowling Green def. Ferris State, 6-2
The Falcons completed the weekend sweep of the Bulldogs in convincing fashion. The top-line of Max Johnson, Cameron Wright and Brandon Kruse combined for seven points. Johnson scored a goal and an assist, Wright scored a pair of goals, with Kruse chiming in with three helpers. Eric Dop improved to a 4-0 record with a 25-save performance.
RIT def. Long Island, 5-1
The Tigers turned it around to earn the weekend split. After falling behind, RIT scored the final five goals to pick up their third win of the season. Elijah Gonsalves, Kobe Walker and Will Calverley each scored a goal and an assist for the Tigers. Ian Andriano picked up his first win of the season in goal, making 23 saves.
No. 7 Clarkson def. Mercyhurst, 4-3 in overtime
After losing to Niagara last week, the Golden Knights avoided another upset going up against the Lakers. After Mercyhurst took the lead late in the third, Anthony Callin scored with just over 90 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime. On their second shot in the extra frame, Connor McCarthy scored to improve the Golden Knights to 3-2.
Sunday Dec. 13
No. 14 Ohio State def. No. 15 Notre Dame, 3-2
The Fighting Irish seemed on their way to sweeping the Buckeyes, leading 2-1 into the third period. However, a major checking-from-behind penalty on Ryder Rolston gave Ohio State a glorious opportunity. Quinn Preston took advantage, scoring twice in 45 seconds to send the Buckeyes on their way to victory. Mark Cheremeta assisted on both of Preston’s goals while scoring one of his own earlier in the period.
No. 19 Providence def. No. 8 UMass-Lowell, 4-2
In the River Hawks’ first game of the season, rust was apparent as they only put 14 shots on net. Yet, the game went down to the wire, tied at two heading into the latter half of the third. That was when Michael Callahan scored to put Providence out in front, and they held on to register their first win of the season. Callahan, along with Tyce Thompson each scored a goal and an assist in the contest.
No. 17 Northeastern def. Merrimack, 6-3
The Warriors looked to cause a stir after going up two in the first period, but the Huskies quickly got back right on the right foot, scoring five unanswered to help earn the sweep. Aidan McDonough had himself a three-point night, with one of his two goals credited as the game-winner. Jordan Harris picked up a pair of assists, giving him five points on the weekend.
Colorado College def. No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth, 4-1
Well, so much for what I said earlier.
The Tigers get into the win column by stunning the Bulldogs. Grant Cruikshank set the pace with some special teams excellence, scoring both a power-play and shorthanded goal. Freshman Dominic Basse gets the first win of his collegiate career in his second start, stopping 30 of the 31 shots he faced.
No. 1 North Dakota def. Western Michigan, 6-3
Less than 24 hours after their loss to St. Cloud State, the Fighting Hawks were forced to try and quickly turn it around against an increasingly confident Broncos team. Thankfully, the offense came to play for North Dakota. Riese Gaber scored twice, with both Shane Pinto and Grant Mismash picking up a pair of assists.
No. 18 Nebraska-Omaha def. No. 13 St. Cloud State, 2-0
While there were only two goals scored in this one, that does not mean there were not a plethora of chances, at least for one team. The Huskies brutally outshot the Mavericks, 41-19. Yet, Omaha’s goaltender, Austin Roden, was sensational in his first start, stopping every shot he faced, including 18 in the third period to keep his team out front. Tyler Weiss and Kirby Proctor each notched their first goals of the season in the win.
Michigan Tech def. Bemidji State, 3-0
Michigan Tech came back with a much better effort, most notably from their goaltending. Blake Pietila got the start and earned the first shutout of his collegiate career by stopping all 31 shots he faced. Trenton Bliss scored his second goal of the weekend, with Colin Swoyer picking up two assists in the win.
Penn State def. No. 20 Arizona State, 5-4 in overtime
To say this game was odd would be an understatement.
The Nittany Lions fell into a big hole in the first, as the Sun Devils scored three goals in just over a minute. The two traded goals before the end of the period, but Arizona State took a 4-2 lead into the first intermission. Penn State scored twice in the middle stanza to tie the game. Shockingly enough, neither team scored in the third, so the Nittany Lions and Sun Devils went to overtime once again. This time it was Connor McMenamin who played the hero.
Limoges had himself another good game, this time scoring twice for Penn State.
No. 7 Clarkson def. Mercyhurst, 6-2
The Golden Knights looked a lot more like a top-10 team in their win against the Lakers on Sunday than they did on Saturday. After already taking a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes, Clarkson scored four times to send them on their way to the weekend sweep. Mathieu Gosselin and Alex Campbell each had huge games, as both found the back of the net twice, and assisting on two more.
I’m a broadcast journalist from West Michigan, with an incredible passion for the game of hockey. After playing in goal for 16 years, I realized that my time on the ice was up, and chose a slightly different path working in the media. It is just as demanding, just a little less physical.