This is perhaps the best eight to make the ECAC in years. What might be lacking in terms of firepower at the top compared with some seasons is more than made up for by the depth of the eight. There are no easy outs. Unsurprisingly when you pare the conference stats down to games against other playoff teams, you get a mixed bag.
Still, having to worry about two different opponents (and the travel between them) is a lot different than being able to dial in and stay in one place. These four series could all be close, or they could all be blowouts. Nothing would surprise me.
#1 Cornell vs. #8 St. Lawrence
Cornell will follow last season’s series against all-world goaltender Lovisa Selander, a series which featured the first time an ECAC eight seed had ever won a playoff game, with perhaps the worst matchup for them from the bottom of this field.
There were only two teams to score more than one goal against the Big Red in the ECAC this season. One was Union. The other was St. Lawrence.
In a lot of ways these two are a lot alike. They both want to keep the puck out of their own net more than anything and have great goaltending to do it. Lindsay Browning of Cornell led the conference in save percentage with a .962 figure. Lucy Morgan of SLU was third at .934 (among those with 10 or more games played).
But Cornell relied on all-world defenders Jaime Bourbonnais (7-31-38) and Micah Zandee-Hart (7-19-26) for a lot of their scoring as they finished first and fifth on the team respectively. For St. Lawrence it was the forwards, and much of that was a youth movement. Freshmen Anna Segedi (11-11-22), Shailynn Snow (6-16-22), and Julia Gosling (8-10-18) finished second through fourth with senior Kayla Vespa (12-20-32) leading everyone.
Can those forwards prevent Cornell from controlling the game with their defenders?
Cornell – Kendra Nealey. She might have been fifth among Big Red defenders with a goal and seven assists, but she was a major factor in their success. The 5-11 blueliner was seemingly capable of controlling anyone in and out of the Cornell end.
St. Lawrence – Skylar Podvey. Podvey was a bit further up the SLU scoring chart, but also finished with eight points. As a junior she provided valuable experience to a defense that had three freshmen.
Prediction: Cornell in a tight two games
#2 Princeton vs. #7 Quinnipiac
The scores appear closer than they were as Quinnipiac scored late extra-attacker goals in both contests. It’s hard to decide if this was the best or worst possible matchup for Princeton, facing off against their travel partners and bus-mates.
In the recent past, Princeton has been a team that piled up shots and Quinnipiac was a team that…did not. They both drew a little closer to each other this season with the Tigers upping their shot suppression in only allowing 22.3 per game, and Quinnipiac opening things up with over 30 of their own per contest.
Rather than running a shot-heavy offense into a suppressive defense, this series is going to be about how well each team does the other’s thing. Can Princeton continue keeping shots down, and can Quinnipiac get theirs up like they did in the first contest?
Princeton – Solveig Neunzert. The freshman defender didn’t factor heavily into the Tigers’ scoring with a goal and six assists but she was instrumental in breaking up rushes and keeping Princeton’s shots-against number low.
Quinnipiac – Taylor House. The junior forward had a knack for lighting the lamp, finishing fourth on the Bobcats with eight goals even though her six assists pushed her all the way down to 10th overall in scoring.
Prediction: Princeton in 3
#3 Clarkson vs. #6 Colgate
One of the odder things about this year’s ECAC tournament is the two lower hosting seeds got perhaps the best draws for them. Clarkson got the only team from the bottom four that didn’t beat them during the regular season, though the Raiders did manage a tie.
Both games were punctuated by how much Clarkson could get to Colgate goaltender Liz Auby, which wasn’t very much. The Raiders got their fair share of chances, but the shot totals are misleading as Clarkson seemed to dominate at several points.
One of the interesting notes is that Colgate only managed two power play goals against this field, and one of them was against Clarkson. The Knights should hope (and expect) to have more success on special teams this time around.
Clarkson – Tia Stoddard. I’m not 100% sure, but I think Stoddard has spent significant time on a line with Kristy Pidgeon, Brooke McQuigge, Taylor Sawka, Morgan Helgeson, Taylor Turnquist, and Katherine Beaumier. Injuries to the Golden Knights have forced everyone to be versatile and perhaps none more than Stoddard who finds herself on the top power play and second penalty kill units. Those units are both top ten in the country.
Colgate – Malia Schneider. I’m not sure if Schneider quite qualifies as one of the bigger names heading into the season and after finishing third in scoring, but she provided an anchor of experience to Colgate freshmen Sammy Smigliani and Danielle Serdachny who finished one and two on the team.
Prediction: Clarkson in 2
#4 Harvard vs. #5 Yale
Like Clarkson, Harvard gets a somewhat favorable matchup in a Yale team they blew out twice, despite the shots being slightly to their disadvantage. In both of these games Harvard raced out to big leads, 3-0 in game one and 4-0 in game two.
But, both games came before the break so it’s possible that we don’t know quite exactly what these teams will look like against one another.
Harvard’s top two lines running roughshod over the Bulldogs. In game one the Bloomer – Gilmore – Hughes line combined for two goals and three assists. In game two the Moy – Della Rovere – Petrie line combined for all four goals and 3 assists.
Yale will need to find a way to slow those two lines down.
Harvard – Anne Bloomer. I don’t know if I even really believe this considering she’s second on the team in goals, but she has 13 goals on just 55 shots, or a 23.6% shooting percentage. Even wilder is that she hasn’t scored in at least her last 10 shots, which means she had a 28.9% shooting percentage at one point.
Yale – Grace Lee. The freshman forward may have gotten lost for some on a deep Yale lineup but she chipped in 9 goals and 10 assists, good for 5th.
Prediction: Harvard in 3