Breaking Down the 2017 ECAC Tournament

The ECAC quarterfinals are best of three series played at the home school of the top seeds. The semifinals and finals are single-elimination games played at the site of the conference’s regular season Champion, Clarkson, the following weekend.

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Who Should Win the Patty Kazmaier Award?

From the Patty Kazmaier website:

An award of The USA Hockey Foundation, the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award is presented annually to the top player in NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey. Other selection criteria include outstanding individual and team skills, sportsmanship, performance in the clutch, personal character, competitiveness and a love of hockey. Consideration is also given to academic achievement and civic involvement.

So it’s not solely an award for on-ice performance, though it has traditionally been given that way. One of the nice things about the statement above is that it does clear up some of the traditional confusion over most valuable player awards where some say “valuable” means best and others say it means most irreplaceable on their team. The Patty Kazmaier award is an award for the best player in women’s Division I college hockey.

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Free Streams February 17-18

Friday, February 17, 2017

6:00 ET (3) Clarkson @ Colgate (Patriot League Network)

The Golden Knights have clinched the ECAC top seed and hosting duties for the final two rounds of the ECAC tournament. Any points this weekend will prevent St. Lawrence from achieving a tie for first and the obnoxious shared title the ECAC hands out for points ties even though we totally have tiebreakers that can decide who wins the conference in the event of a tie.

6:00 ET Rensselaer @ (10) Quinnipiac (Quinnipiac All-Access)

Quinnipiac can rise as high as fourth in the ECAC. They sit two back of Colgate and one back of Princeton. They hold the head to head tiebreaker on the Raiders, but not the Tigers. Home ice is probably not that big of a get but considering the tightly-packed middle of the ECAC it might make all the difference.

RPI has a more intriguing weekend. They sit three points up on Harvard for the final playoff spot but they play 12-6-2 Princeton and 11-6-3 Quinnipiac. Meanwhile Harvard has 8-10-2 Yale and 3-17-0 Brown. Luckily for the Engineers they swept Harvard this season, including a 4-1 win last weekend, so they hold the head to head tiebreaker. They may well need it.

7:00 ET Merrimack @ Vermont (CatamounTV)

Vermont and Merrimack will Rally Against Cancer at the Gutterson Fieldhouse. Vermont can still rise as high as third in Hockey East. They sit one point back of Boston University and tied with Providence (while losing the head to head tiebreaker). For Merrimack they need to gain at least one point on Maine for the final Hockey East tournament spot. (The Warriors hold the head to head tiebreaker.)

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The Golden Knights are ECAC Champions Again

For the third time in four years the Clarkson Golden Knights are ECAC Champions. None of this shared title nonsense – we have tiebreakers for a reason – and none of the belief that the real champion is the Tournament winner.  The best team is the one that proves themselves over 22 games, not over four or five and the Knights have done exactly that, tying their best ever point total with two games to play.

Early on this weekend it looked like the primary gain would be keeping the ECAC hosting duties in the North Country.  Clarkson needed to gain one point on Cornell to ensure that either they or the Saints would win the conference trophy and host the final two rounds of the ECAC tournament. Instead Clarkson swept the weekend and St. Lawrence managed just a tie against Quinnipiac while losing to Princeton.

The clincher came late in a gritty, low-shot game that would see the Bobcats taking 21 shots to Clarkson’s 18. Rhyen McGill put a hard shot on net and goaltender Sydney Rossman couldn’t swallow or redirect the shot, popping the puck to a streaking Jessica Gilham with a wide open net.

Gilham would pot the goal that clinched the conference but it was Loren Gabel who had the standout weekend, notching two goals and an assist in the 3-1 win over Princeton. Even with Michaela Pejzlova out of the lineup the Knights top line has been red hot.  Cayley Mercer and Genevieve Bannon also had three points on the weekend.

The conference title was a nice grab on the weekend, but maintaining a hold on first or second was critically important. There’s a big difference between being in one of the top two spots and getting 8-10-2 Yale, 7-12-1 RPI, or 4-12-4 Harvard in the first round and finishing third and seeing 13-3-4 Cornell, 13-6-1 Colgate, 12-6-2 Princeton or 11-6-3 Quinnipiac. Luckily the Knights won’t have to worry about it as their semifinal and the final two rounds of the ECAC tournament will be played in the friendly confines of Cheel Arena. St. Lawrence probably isn’t too bummed either as they will also host their semifinal and only have to travel 11 miles should they advance.

This will be the Knights third ECAC regular season title and also their third in the last four years. Sadly the Knights have never won the ECAC tournament with 4-3 (OT) and 1-0 losses to Cornell in 2010 and 2014 and a 1-0 loss to Quinnipiac last season.

 

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Free Streams February 10-12

Friday, February 10, 2017

2:00 ET Providence @ Vermont (CatamounTV)

Third through seventh in Hockey East are separated by just four points and the top-four teams start the Hockey East tournament on home ice. These games are of huge importance. Providence has a win and a tie in the season series and will take the head to head tiebreaker with a tie.

6:00 ET Dartmouth @ Rensselaer (RPI TV)

The Engineers sit just three points above Harvard for the final ECAC tournament spot. If they can gain two more points on Harvard on the weekend they’ll clinch. Dartmouth, meanwhile, is facing elimination. A win or tie in this game will give them the season series against RPI but they’ll need to win out and get a lot of help to make it.

7:00 ET Connecticut @ Maine (Maine All-Access)

While Connecticut is in the mishmash of middle Hockey East teams, Maine is fighting for their lives. They’re one point back of the final playoff spot which is held by Merrimack. Connecticut won their only meeting.

7:00 ET Boston University @ New Hampshire (UNH Athletics)

While BU has been a significantly better team in recent history, the two sit tied in the Hockey East standings with the Terriers holding the tiebreaker via their win over UNH and better performance against the other team with 20 points, Providence. With two games left the Wildcats can still take the season series over the Terriers.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

2:00 ET Connecticut @ Maine (Maine All-Access)

3:00 ET Harvard @ Rensselaer (RPI TV)

If RPI ties Dartmouth on Friday this is win and in. If they beat Dartmouth this is tie or better and in. The Engineers beat Harvard on the road earlier in their season but Harvard has been a significantly better team of late. Don’t be surprised if the Crimson close the gap.

6:00 ET (9) Quinnipiac @ (3) St. Lawrence (Saints Women’s Hockey)

The top of the ECAC could either sort itself out this weekend or become even murkier as the first and second-place teams play the fourth and fifth-place ones. The Saints need just one point to clinch home ice to start the ECAC tournament.

6:00 ET (10) Princeton @ (4) Clarkson (Clarkson Athletics TV)

Clarkson is in almost the exact same boat as St. Lawrence with the key difference being they sit one point up in first and hold the head to head tiebreaker. A four-point weekend will have them clinching one of the top two spots. If they gain three points on the Saints and don’t lose any to Cornell they’ll also clinch the ECAC crown.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

3:00 ET (9) Quinnipiac @ (4) Clarkson (Clarkson Athletics TV)

3:00 ET (10) Princeton @ (3) St. Lawrence (Saints Women’s Hockey)

Quinnipiac and Princeton both sit just one point up on Colgate who has Brown and Yale this weekend. It’s not unlikely that the worse performer between the two could find themselves on the outside looking in for home ice.

Both Clarkson and St. Lawrence undoubtedly want the ECAC crown which gives them the benefit of hosting the final two rounds of the ECAC tournament, but missing out is a nice consolation prize. The schools are just ten minutes apart from one another so as long as Cornell doesn’t play spoiler, they’ll both be playing in fairly friendly confines.

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Big Ten Network to Carry Frozen Four

As the NCAA reported earlier today and the Minnesota Whitecaps tweeted, the Big Ten Network and NCAA agreed to a four year deal in which BTN will carry the 2017 National Championship and add the Frozen Four games in 2018 and beyond.

Big Ten Network is a fairly major network which (by the NCAA’s claim) “reaches 60 million homes nationwide” so this is a pretty big deal for women’s college hockey.  It should also bring with it a more professional quality of broadcast than has been available in the past.

However, it introduces some barriers to watching games that used to be streamed for free on NCAA.com.  (For (probably not) the last time, having to use a cable login is not free streaming.)  Streaming Big Ten Network via BTN Plus will cost $15 for the month’s subscription required to watch all three games.  It’s not a lot but it can be a significant amount for a lot of people who watch women’s hockey such as students, independent media, and the members of various marginalized groups that have found a home here watching a sport they love at minimal cost.  Hopefully it will be an opportunity to funnel some money into women’s hockey, which free streams don’t provide.

On a positive note, BTN Plus does have apps available for at least Apple and Android devices.  This makes it easier to stream on a TV.  It also gives some breathing room to those in poor or rural areas that rely on data-capped LTE or satellite internet that has exemptions for various music and video streaming apps.

I also am not sure it’s a good idea to enter into a contract with a network that has a vested interest in promoting only a handful of teams. Only Minnesota, Penn State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin are Big Ten teams.  It will be interesting to see the level of effort put in by the Big Ten Network should we see a championship game that doesn’t involve one of those four teams.

Hopefully at the end of it all this proves to be a step in the right direction.  (Hey, maybe we’ll see a D-1 women’s team from Michigan again soon.)

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Mess in the Middle of Hockey East

First and second place in Hockey East are mostly decided with Boston College clinching the top spot and Northeastern well ahead for second place.  Beyond that…oy.

hockey-east-middle

All of the teams from third to seventh have clinched a tournament spot (indicated by the x) but the order could change substantially between now and the start of the Hockey East tournament.  Three teams sit tied with 20 points with Boston University winning on tiebreakers. The Terriers sport a 3-0-1 record against New Hampshire and Providence and New Hampshire is 2-1-0 against the Friars themselves.

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