We’re now down to four in the ECAC men’s hockey playoffs. Three of the four top seeds made it to Lake Placid for the ECAC Hockey semifinals and championship game starting on Friday, while No. 6 Harvard is the only team to make it after playing in the opening round.
This year’s tournament also has some higher stakes to it as St. Lawrence, Colgate and Harvard all have to probably win the tournament to get the automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. The current pairwise rankings have Quinnipiac currently sitting tied for 10th, while Harvard and Colgate are on the borderline at 15th and 16th, respectively. (St. Lawrence sits out of range tied for 21st.)
However, Robert Morris will more than likely grab the automatic bid from Atlantic Hockey and cost someone a spot. If there are other upsets in conference tourneys, that will take away from a Harvard or a Colgate that will need an at-large berth if they don’t get the auto bid.
I think Quinnipiac is a lock to get into the field, but beating travel partner Harvard will help their case should they trip up vs. St. Lawrence or Colgate.
I did get three out of four series right. I didn’t see Harvard winning, but that was a pick ‘em series.
(4) Colgate vs. (2) St. Lawrence
How Colgate got here: Swept Dartmouth in the best-of-three quarterfinals, 2 games to 0.
How St. Lawrence got here: Swept RPI in the quarterfinals, 2-0.
Season series: Colgate won 2-0 (Won at home 5-2 Nov. 14; Won at SLU 2-0 Jan. 10)
Players to watch: St. Lawrence, F Brian Ward, (9 goals-16 assists 25 points);Colgate, F Tyson Spink, Jr. (14-17-31)
Breakdown: St. Lawrence is playing with house money as the Saints were picked to finish 11th in the conference. The young kids have thrived under the leadership of Greg Carvel and spread the scoring around. It also helps when you have top five goalie like Kyle Hayton, who was just nominated for the Mike Richter Award, in net. SLU could be a factor if the group stays together next season.
Colgate keeps playing its game and using defense and goaltending to get results, and this is despite having constant injury problems. Goalie Charlie Finn may not have the numbers of Hayton, but has been stellar between the pipes for the Red Raiders. Kyle Baum is also a guy that can pump in goals for a team that finished runner-up to last year’s national champions, Union.
It’s always hard to beat a team three times in one year, but I think Colgate can get it done with their defense and timely goals.
(6) Harvard vs. (1) Quinnipiac
How Harvard got here: Swept Brown 2-0 in the best-of-three first round; Beat Yale 2-1 in the quarterfinals.
How Quinnipiac got here: Beat Union 2-1 in the quarterfinals.
Season series: Tied 1-1 (Both teams won 5-2 on the road)
Players to watch: Harvard, F Kyle Criscuolo Jr., (17-27-44); Quinnipiac, D Connor Clifton (0-5-5; Drafted by the Arizona Coyotes, 5th round, 2013).
Breakdown: Harvard finally broke its lengthy losing streak to Ancient Eight rival Yale after Nashville Predators selection Jimmy Vesey scored the OT winner in game three. Vessey is the leading goal scorer in the country with 27 and is a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. The Crimson can score and will punish you if you give them a power-play opportunity.
Quinnipiac got hard series before dethroning national champion Union in three games. The Bobcats will be without top scorer Sam Anas (23 goals), who suffered a leg injury in the game three victory over the Dutchmen. Clifton will anchor a defensive group that will have to slow down Harvard’s tough offense. The loss of Anas will hurt Q-Pac, but players like Tampa Bay Lightning selection Matthew Peca can make plays. The game will depend on what team can impose its style of play on the game. The game will favor Harvard if it’s a free-flowing, up-and-down game, but it will favor Quinnipiac if the game is tighter and more physical. I’ll go with the Cleary Cup winners, Quinnipiac in a tight one.
As for the title game, there are so many good storylines surrounding each team.
Can Quinnipiac win without its top-scorer Sam Anas?
Can St. Lawrence continue its surprising run and get into the NCAAs?
Can Colgate get over the hump and win the tournament?
Can Harvard win despite not getting a bye?
There’s plenty of intrigue to be had this weekend in Lake Placid. I’m taking Colgate to steal the auto-bid to the NCAA.
Dan Mount writes about the Nashville Predators and ECAC hockey for The Hockey Writers. He can found on Twitter @DanMountSports.