All four home teams won their playoff series in the opening round of the ECAC Hockey postseason.
Now, they’ll head on the road to try and repeat that success.
Colgate and Union swept their respective opponents, while St. Lawrence and Rensselaer won in three games. The Saints beat Brown 4-3 in overtime on Sunday, while RPI scored four third-period goals to beat Dartmouth 5-3. It was the Engineers’ first playoff series win at home since 2004.
“We talked as a group about this invisible line that you have to cross to find playoff success,” RPI coach Dave Smith said after Sunday’s game. “That invisible line was extremely thick, and I thought we played well all weekend. We lost the first game, and we were losing tonight and the guys just didn’t give up.”
The sixth-seeded Engineers travel to fourth-seeded Harvard this weekend. That was supposed to be the matchup in March 2020 at Houston Field House, but that series, along with the rest of the college hockey season, was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With last weekend behind them, the Engineers will look to carry Sunday’s momentum into the matchup with the Crimson.
“Moving forward, nothing is going to be easy,” RPI junior forward Ryan Mashie said. “It was good to get three games in and play that kind of hockey because you never know what is going to happen next weekend.”
Here’s a look at the four series set for this weekend:
Season series: 2-0 Quinnipiac
Last year, the Saints shocked top-seeded Quinnipiac in the league title game with a 3-2 win in overtime. But the Bobcats dominated St. Lawrence in the two the regular season matchups this season, sweeping the Saints by a combined score of 11-3.
The Bobcats were led by a defense that allowed 14 goals in 22 league games, while the Saints only average two goals per game in league play. Quinnipiac has been led by its depth all season; No. 2 goalie Dylan St. Cyr would likely start on a lot of other league teams, while leading scorer Oliver Chau won a national championship with Massachusetts last season. St. Cyr didn’t see more playing time thanks to Yaniv Perets, who is a finalist for both the Ken Dryden award for the top goalie as well as the league’s player of the year after finishing with a .964 save percentage in conference play.
This is a matchup of the top two penalty-kill units in the league and two of the bottom power-play groups. The Saints were 1 for 2 on the man advantage in Sunday’s win over Brown and will need to carry over some of that momentum if they want to have a chance to upset Quinnipiac for the second season in a row.
Prediction: Quinnipiac in two
Season series: 1-1
Union beat Clarkson in overtime when these teams first met back in November, but Clarkson followed that up with an 8-2 blowout win in January.
Like Quinnipiac, the Golden Knights have a veteran group, led by fifth-year players and captains Zach Tsekos and Jack Jacome. It took Clarkson a little while to put it together, but it only lost two league games in the second half of the season.
Sophomore Ethan Haider was the primary starter in goal for much of the season, but freshman Jacob Mucitelli came on strong in the second half and ended with a 7-0-1 record and .938 save percentage in conference play. Each goalie started a game during Clarkson’s final regular season weekend.
The one area where Clarkson hasn’t excelled this season in league play is on the penalty kill. The Dutchmen power play was solid in league play and scored in each of the two games against Princeton last weekend.
While the Golden Knights split playing time in goal, junior Connor Murphy started every game in net this season for Union.
Murphy might be able to steal a game in net for the Dutchmen, but Clarkson is arguably the most balanced team in ECAC Hockey.
Prediction: Clarkson in three
Season series: 1-1
Entering the season, Harvard was expected to score plenty of goals with the talent in its lineup.
That ended up being the case, but the Crimson finished with their highest seed in the league tournament since 2017 thanks to a strong season in goal from Mitchell Gibson. The junior had a .927 save percentage in league play and was named one of the finalists for league’s top goalie award.
For RPI, senior forward Ture Linden was named a finalist for the league’s player of the year after finishing tied with three players, including Harvard freshman Alex Laferriere, for the league lead with 12 goals. Linden’s nomination comes after he only scored nine goals during his first two seasons (The Engineers did not play last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
RPI’s Jack Watson had a strong season in goal as a freshman, but he’ll be challenged by a Harvard lineup that might have some of the most dynamic playmakers in the league.
Prediction: Harvard in three
Season series: 1-1
Colgate and Cornell might be travel partners, but the two teams haven’t played an elimination game since 2006. (The Big Red beat the Raiders 3-0 in the now defunct consolation game in 2012).
A late-season slump by Cornell gave Colgate a chance to surpass its travel partner for the final bye in the league tournament, but the Big Red ended the regular season on a three-game winning streak to secure fourth place.
There are some similarities between the two teams: Both are in the top ten in Division I men’s hockey in faceoff winning percentage, while each team has had three different goalies see significant playing time this season. Senior Mitch Benson started both games against Yale last weekend for Colgate, while freshman Ian Shane has taken over as the Big Red’s primary goalie in the second half, finishing with a .938 save percentage in conference play.
Cornell is deep offensively, as illustrated by third-line center Kyle Betts, who finished the regular season with nine points in nine games. That depth should give the Big Red the edge.
Prediction: Cornell in three