In Brian Sullivan's Weekly ECAC Hockey Column for USCHO, in addition to the Weekend Wrap up of the Conference Action where he gives out who he thinks is a contender and a pretender as the conferences gets into his final month of the ECAC Hockey Conference Regular Season. He writes the case for Austin Smith being a major contender for the Hobey Baker Trophy as were closing in on a month to go before the fan voting on the Hobey Baker Website wraps up on March 1st.
Currently the Colgate Raiders sit in 3rd Place in the ECAC (14-9-3 Overall, 8-5-1 Conference) with 8 games left to play as they sit just 4 points back of Conference Leading Union. However, they are also just 2 points back of Clarkson who sit in 5th Place, so it's shaping up to see that Colgate will be fighting it out to finish in the top 4 which would get them a 1st Round Bye in the ECAC Playoffs and a guarantee home series in the Quarterfinals which would really help their chances of making the ECAC Championship Week on March 16-17 in Atlantic City, N.J.
In the NCAA Pairwise Rankings, the Raiders sit in 22nd right now so making the Tournament as an At Large Bid is currently proving to be a hard proposition at the moment, in fact, some experts are thinking that the ECAC Could be a Single Team Conference this year so it's critical for the Raiders to look sharp going into the Playoffs to have the best chance possible to win the Conference to get an automatic spot in the NCAA Tournament when it gets underway on March 23.
Here's this week's ECAC Column from Brian Sullivan on USCHO
Who's Hot Today
No point pretending anymore: this league is flat out wacky. Cornell's seven game unbeaten streak? Gone. Colgate's six game winless slide? Gone in the same series; not it's a two game winning streak. Harvard kicked it's eight-game winless skid to the curve; turning it into a 4 game unbeaten run.
Yale, ECAC Hockey's recent standard barer, was 5-1-1 and 8-6-2 earlier in the year; The Bulldogs are now 9-10-2. Clarkson - once 6-1-2, then 9-10-5 is now back on top at 12-11-5 with only one loss in its last five games. Rensselaer, once left for dead by most pundits (I'll even include myself in that group to some extent), is 4-2-1 in its last seven.
Here's the facts: Dartmouth has nine games left. Union, Harvard & Princeton have seen left. The standings by points are the same as by winning percentage, with the exception of Harvard and Clarkson: the Golden Knights have the edge on the Crimson at their current respective paces. Nothing has been mathematically determined yet, but the weight is definitely increasing on St. Lawrence and RPI to climb out of the cellar.
It always seem as through there's a long way to go and a lot of hockey to played there... until there isn't.
You'll have to forgive me; there just aren't that many puns out there that incorporate "Dutch". Fortunately, i'm not the only one stumped by Union: the Schenactdy icers are blasting through all comers lately, winning six of seven (6-1-0) and having lost only once in the Eastern Time Zone since Mid-November (10-1-3) the non EST Losses were at Denver & Colorado College in late December.
It's not as though November marked some major turning point either. Union was 5-3-3 prior, but also 2-2-0 against ECAC. The guys in garnet haven't sniffed .500 since, stacking W's like flapjacks and turning 2-2-0 into 9-3-3 and sole possession of first place.
A couple of sudden replacements have paid massive dividends in the Capital District. Newly minted head coach Rick Bennett has done a masterful job of taking over the program builder Nate Leaman, building what is currently the highest scoring, defensively stingiest team in the Conference. Sophomore Troy Grosenick deserves quite a bit of credit in his own right, stepping into the boots left behind by New Jersey Devils Prospect Keith Kinkaid; he's excelled. The Dutchman's backstop leads the conference in league goals against average (1.49), save percentage (.946) and winning percentage (.792, 9-2-1).
Union is in the Drivers Seat, with two big weekends against the Cornell-Colgate traveling tandem yet to play. I can't muster another prediction... but the Dutch have done all that could be asked of a team that is seeking it's second Cleary Cup in as many years, and it's second in program history.
Colgate, Smith make a splash
Quoth the Raiders: We're not dead yet!
Colgate did all it could end a dreary January on a positive note, smothering Cornell at Lynah (2-1) and blasting them at Starr (5-3). The wins ended up maintaining the 'Gates' hold on third place, once all the results were in, giving it a one point lead on Harvard (and a game in hand) and a two point lead Quinnipiac. It's never to early to count points in a 22 game regular season... especially when you've only earned one lead in the first three weeks of the month.
Senior forward Austin Smith rolls on, accumulating his 25th and 26th goals of the season on Saturday, and points number 39,40 & 41 on the weekend. He's annihilating the rest of the country in goals-per-game (a perfect 1.00 per game - 26 goals in 26 games, 0.22 ahead of second place), he has 12 multi point games (including three three point-nights and one four point outing), and has been held off the score sheet twice all year. He's not even padding his own total with power play goals (only four so far)... in fact, he has more shorthanded goals then he does's PPG (six).
Yeah, that deserves it's own paragraph: six shorthanded goals! (Most in the Country, of course).
Smith is one point shy of the national scoring lead (as calculated by points-per-game) and has to be considered - at this point a no brain er for the Hobey Hat Trick. He has pulled far, far away from any of the ECAC's Hockey other potential hobey canadidates, and it makes me sad to consider that where he plays will most likely work against them. Who else in the big boy pool of Hobey Baker Contenders? players like Spencer Abbot (Maine, leads the nation in scoring). Players like Jack Connolly (Minnesota-Duluth, fourth in scoring, but a title winner). Players like Ryan Schwartz (Colorado College) and Nick Bjugstad (Minnesota, tied with Schwartz for second nationally in goals per game).
They are considered - by narrow minded eyes - the real contenders, because they play in the championship conferences: Hockey East and the WCHA, in these cases. They play "real competition", where area's ECAC Hockey is... well, somehow, not.
And I say, that's baloney.
Smith scored a goal and an assist at Nebraska-Omaha. He had two goals - one each night - against Miami (OH). He notched assists against Vermont and against Merrimack, and tallied a goal and a helper against Ferris State. (That's not even including his 5-5-10 line against Atlantic Hockey Foes this season). The only opponents who successfully kept him off the books were Yale and Quinnipiac... both on the road, by the way.
Furthermore, there is more to be said for accumulating points with goals (rather then assists) then meets the eye. Obviously, nobody ever won a game with assists - goals are the only thing that count on the big board - but there is also a dirty little seceret around college hockey that many assists aren't even worth the pixels their published with. Some/rinks/teams/scorers have a reputation for handling only assists with unjustifiable exuberance, and there's no time like a Hobey Baker Race to inflate the stats at every possible opportunity. I'm not making any specific accusations, mind you, but i'm not saying any such activity would surprise me in the least, either. On Smith's behalf, it's almost impossible to create a goal to award. Assists however - especially on the secondary variety - are quite more malleable product.
Last and no means least, I will ask you all one thing: all things being equal, would you rather have a guy who gets a goal a game, or an assist per game? Because here and now, that's what the the contenders are sporting. And only one of them can boast the former @AustinforHobey
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