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March 13, 2014 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

ECAC Quarterfinal Preview

by Joshua Seguin/Staff Writer

The ECAC first round had only one upset of a higher seed, as Dartmouth defeated Rensselaer in three games.

The matchups in the quarterfinals are full of intrigue, led by the rematch of last year's national championship game, and two coaches facing their alma maters.

10. Dartmouth at 1. Union
Season series: 2-0-0 Union

Dartmouth's season went to the brink in the first round. It entered the third period of game three trailing by two. The Big Green, though, pulled off a microcosm of its season, coming back to tie it, then, with 2:14 remaining, getting a goal from Brad Schierhorn to take home the win. Union on the other hand was the Cleary Cup Champion, with a week to spare.

The matchup features two of the hottest teams in the conference. The Big Green enter 6-2-1 in their last nine games, while Union is 8-0-1 in that span. The two played a quarterfinal matchup last season, which Union won in two games.

Dartmouth had a dreadful start to its season, with only three wins before February. The Big Green have seven of their 10 wins from Feb. 1 on. Despite dressing just 11 forwards most of the last few weeks, the Big Green have played better on both ends of the ice. Dartmouth has scored more but has also played better defensively. The latter is the biggest reason why it has turned its season around.

Dartmouth is still really young, with only two seniors in its lineup most nights. Its forward lines feature no seniors and its captain, Tyler Sikura is a junior. It has improved immensely from game one to the playoffs. Coach Bob Gaudet promised this early in the year and reiterated the fight his team had on Sunday.

“This team has something special to it. There is no quit in any of the guys in this locker room,” Gaudet said. “They wanted to go out and empty the tank in the third period."

Union has a different idea and can be relentless. There hasn't been a more consistent team in the ECAC this season. It helps that it has two of the best defensemen in the country, Shayne Gostisbehere and Mat Bodie.

Union gets balanced scoring up and down its lineup; 10 skaters have 19 or more points. Senior Daniel Carr and junior Daniel Ciampini have 17 goals apiece, leading the offense. It has clinched one of the four top seeds in the NCAA tournament and currently sits third in the Pairwise, a position it should keep regardless of this weekend.

8. St. Lawrence at 2. Colgate
Season Series: 2-0 Colgate

This series could be the most entertaining of all. Colgate and St.Lawrence both play fast, offensive hockey. Both teams are in the top five of the conference in scoring.

St. Lawrence swept Brown last weekend, winning in overtime Friday night and 3-2 on Saturday. When it wins, it does so with great defensive play and goaltending. When it loses, the defense and goaltending is non-existent. In its seven wins this half, the Saints have allowed just eight goals. In its eight losses, it has given up 41.

For St. Lawrence, Colgate presents a huge challenge. In the season series, the Saints were outscored 12-6 in two meetings.

"The challenge for us is they play at a real high pace," SLU coach Greg Carvel said. "They have a lot of speed in their game all over the ice, both with the puck and without it. They do a great job creating time and space. We will be prepared but I have a lot of respect for that team. I wasn't surprised they went out and beat Minnesota and Ferris State."

Freshman defenseman, Gavin Bayreuther, has been impressive this season. His offensive ability is as good as it gets from a defenseman in college hockey, and he has an NCAA-best 35 points to show for it.

"He finished third in the league in scoring, which for a freshman defenseman is quite a compliment for a young player," said Carvel. "He is a very gifted offensive player. When he gets a chance he finishes it. His game has really evolved since he got here. He distributes the puck well but we are still working with him defensively. Still a very raw player but he is going to be a good player for us."

The Saints need their star, Greg Carey, to find the back of the net. The senior Hobey candidate, has seen his goal numbers take a huge decline in the latter part of the season. He has just three goals this half and just two in his past 16 games. His team has found a way to win without him, but would it have won more with him scoring at a higher clip? Any team with a player of his caliber has a chance to pull an upset.

"We are living off of secondary scoring right now," Carvel said. "Matt and Greg Carey have quieted down. Our younger guys are scoring for us, which is great, but we just have to get the Careys contributing again."

Colgate started the second half with a shootout win at the Minnesots tournament, which propelled the team to a second-place finish and a 10-3-3 record in its last 16 games. It also has a number of high-profile wins, including Union and Ferris State twice.

The Raiders have tightened up defensively in the escond half, allowing a stingy two goals a game. This resurgence has been led by freshman Charlie Finn in net. His .933 save percentage is good for 10th in the nation this half.

Along with the good defensive numbers, the Raiders have the talent to find the back of the net. This offense is led by the Spink twins, Mike Borkowski and Kyle Baun. The offense has been balanced but the Spink twins are special hockey players, with good vision. St. Lawrence needs to know where they are at all times.

6. Yale at 3. Quinnipiac
Season series: 1-0-1 Quinnipiac

The defending national champion, Yale, swept Harvard over the weekend. The sweep marked the first time the Bulldogs have won consecutive games in the same weekend all season. Their opponent? The defending national runner-up, Quinnipiac, the team it shocked in the National Title game. Add the fact that these two schools are separated by mere miles and this one will probably be a matchup to see.

"Right now we want to win hockey games," Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. "No matter who we played this weekend it really didn't matter. We had to play somebody and it happens to be a good hockey team. It is going to be a tough task but we are excited for it."

Quinnipiac has been mired in a struggle in recent weeks. This struggle has coincided with the absence of Jordan Samuel-Thomas and his presence in front of the net. The Bobcats are just 4-5-1 in its last 10 games after an 18-3-5 start.

Quinnpiac's defense is young and raw, but the Bobcats possess the puck more than any team in the country. Its defense is ranked second in the country, giving up a stingy 1.89 goals per game. This is a direct product of its possession domination.

Michael Garteig has played in every game this season and held up well with a 1.84 GAA.

Jordan Samuels-Thomas should be in the lineup for the Bobcats, while Dan Federico remains a huge question mark.

Yale has struggled against Quinnipiac, except for the one very important game last season that they won. Since 2011-12, QU is 5-1-2 against its neighbor to the south.

"Yale, as always, is great in transition." said Pecknold. "They have some real high end players, not just forwards, that get involved. Their defensemen get up in the rush and create that second wave. Over and over again that is where they score a lot of goals.

It will always be known for its high-octane offense but this Yale team also plays pretty well defensively. Part of the impressive defense has been the play of freshman Alex Lyon in the Yale net. Lyon sits third in the conference in both GAA and save percentage. If anything, Yale might have more consistency in net now then it did this time last season, which is a scary thought.

Yale has struggled to put performances together this season. Sweeping the Crimson should give them a bit of confidence heading into this weekend. It has been through pressure before, but this tournament is another test and it will need to win it to defend its national title.

5. Clarkson at 4. Cornell
Season Series: 1-1-0

Clarkson needed three games to defeat Princeton last weekend. It dropped an overtime decision in game one, but rebounded to win the final two. Picked 12th in most preseason polls, Clarkson has fought through the season and last weekend was no different. Cornell on the other hand had a quiet fourth-place finish to gain home-ice advantage against Clarkson, led by Cornell alumnus and former assistant coach Casey Jones. This matchup has all the makings of being a battle, as both teams are big and physical.

Clarkson struggled late but won when it mattered to assure itself the fifth seed. It is not a flashy team — it is still rebuilding in Jones' third season — but it has been getting the job done through adversity. It is a veteran team that plays solid defensively, which should bode well for it in this series.

Guys such as Alex Boak, Paul Geiger and Kevin Tansey are top defensemen in the league. Often times the best defensemen don't put up points and are missed, but those three are as solid as they come on the blue line, despite the lack of scoring.

Clarkson struggles to score, but Allen McPherson and Ben Sexton are the catalysts to the attack. Sexton has been hurt a lot in his career, and just came off missing a few games with a concussion to play in the Princeton series.

As tough and as good defensively as Clarkson is, Cornell is much the same. It is the biggest and most physical team in the conference and it uses that to its advantage by wearing teams down. This could be the determining factor in this upcoming series.

Cornell has an efficient offense. It took the fewest shots in the league but it gets quality chances and they find the back of the net 10 percent of the time. There have been many games where it had less than 20 shots and still won.

Cornell has the wily veteran in goal, Andy Iles. His numbers might not top the league, but he is very consistent and can steal games. His 2.20 goals against average and .920 save percentage are middle of the pack, but his experience is untouched. It could be an difference-maker in this series. His counterpart will be freshman Steve Perry for Clarkson.

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