Big Green walk the walk

Dartmouth downs Union

There were a number of exciting games this weekend, but the marquee matchup was undoubtedly in Hanover, N.H. when 4-0-1 Dartmouth hosted 6-1-1 Union. The Dutchmen entered the Granite State on a seven-game unbeaten streak, while the home team was eager to prove that its undefeated record was no fluke.

Union worked hard for the early edge, out-shooting the Green 11-3 in the opening frame, but the Ivy’s junior goaltender Cab Morris was up to the task. Sophomore winger Brandon McNally scored on one of the Big Green’s three first-period shots, and the squad fought off the period’s only power play to take a 1-0 lead into the break.

Junior Eric Robinson – who leads the nation in goals per game (1.17, with seven in six games) – and classmate Matt Lindblad each lit the lamp late in the second period, opening up a 3-0 lead on the visitors. Union struck quickly in the third as juniors Daniel Carr and Matt Hatch cut Dartmouth’s lead to one with almost 18 minutes still to play, but Dartmouth’s defense stepped up and Morris stumped UC on its few remaining bids.

The result may be asterisked by those who would note the absence of Union starting goaltender Troy Grosenick, who will miss a month or so with what is purportedly an ankle injury, but the fact of the matter is that Dartmouth stymied a very experienced and dynamic offense when it mattered most. Next weekend looks even tougher than this one as the Green travel to Hamilton and Ithaca to take on Colgate and Cornell; the schedule gets no lighter the following weekend when the opponent is home-standing and top-ranked Boston College.

Dartmouth opened some eyes this weekend. Should the team maintain its undefeated status through the next three games, it will drop some jaws, too.

ECAC Hockey: Offensive powerhouse?

It’s early, but remarkable nonetheless: The ECAC is home to five of the nation’s top six scorers, and six of the top eight.

St. Lawrence senior Kyle Flanagan unsurprisingly leads the pack with seven goals and 16 points in eight games, and junior teammate Greg Carey (6-8–14) isn’t far behind in the nation’s No. 4 spot. Dartmouth sophomore Tyler Sikura’s 11 points in six games put him just off the pace with 1.83 points per game, good for third nationally, followed by junior star Andrew Calof out of Princeton (3-4–7 in four games). Rensselaer isn’t having the best start, but you’d never know it from sophomore Jacob Laliberte’s numbers: His 10 points in six games place him sixth in the country in offensive production. Finally, the aforementioned Eric Robinson at Dartmouth is averaging a point and a half per outing with seven goals and nine points in six games.

The conference is also rife with snipers, as seven of Division 1’s top 10 current goal-scorers play in the ECAC. Robinson’s 1.17 goals per game is at the top. Nashville prospect and Harvard rookie Jimmy Vesey (five goals in five games) is second. SLU’s Flanagan has seven goals in eight games, tying him for fourth; Yale’s Antoine Laganiere buried five goals in six games for sixth; SLU’s Carey and Princeton’s Calof and soph Tyler Maugeri are each on a 0.75 goals-per-game pace.

Perhaps many of these players are simply off to hot starts; we’ll have to wait and see. Regardless, it’s a lot more fun to watch than the alternative end of the spectrum.

Back to the “Big Four”?

Much has been written – by my own hand and others – about ECAC Hockey’s consistently dismal non-conference performance. It has been a decade since the league as a whole won as many games as it lost against the other “Big Four” conferences (the WCHA, Hockey East, and the CCHA). In fact, the conference regularly struggled to surpass the .400 mark in winning percentage against the Big Four.

It got so bad that I was driven to use space here last year to document ECAC Hockey’s futility against national-caliber opposition.

There are still a good number of intra-conference games to go, but so far, the ECAC has done well: The league is 18-12-7 against other conferences, including 6-4-2 versus the CCHA and 3-1-0 against Hockey East. The only league that has submarined the ECAC so far is the WCHA, against whom the conference is 2-3-1. In fact, ECAC Hockey currently boasts the best non-league winning percentage in D-I (.581) and the best winning rate against the Big Four (.568).

Again, there are still a significant number of non-con contests remaining around the holidays – not to mention the Beanpot… but as with the offensive numbers mentioned earlier in this entry, a good start never hurts.