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Parting Schotts

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College Hockey Slap Schotts: NCAAs serves as motivation for Cleary Cup-champion Union

By Ken Schott
Monday, February 24, 2014

For the third time in four years, Union is the ECAC Hockey Cleary Cup regular-season champion.

The only difference this time is that the Dutchmen did it with a weekend left in the regular season. In 2011 and 2012, they needed to win on the final day of the regular season to clinch.

Union coach Rick Bennett has some interesting decisions to make on how to handle the final games of the regular season at Yale and Brown. One thing you can be assured, Bennett and the Dutchmen won’t be taking the games lightly. Even though they have the top seed for the ECACH tournament clinched, there is still plenty for them to play for this weekend.

Union needs to protect its status for the NCAA tournament. The Dutchmen will be there for the fourth straight year. Right now, they are a top seed, and are on track to be in Bridgeport, Conn., for the East Regional next month. It was in Bridgeport where the Dutchmen won the 2012 East Regional and went on to the Frozen Four.

“It’s the NCAA picture,” Bennett said after Saturday’s 6-2 win over St. Lawrence that wrapped up the top seed. “That’s all the incentive that we need going forward here. We’ll evaluate our guys in practice on Monday, see where everyone is health-wise and we’ll have to come up with a lineup on Friday. The big picture is we can’t let up.”

Bennett gave the team off Monday, so the first practice this week will be Tuesday. But how will the lineup look?

For starters, I wouldn’t expect to see center Max Novak play. He was injured in the Cornell game Last Friday and has missed the last three contests. It would make sense to give Novak this weekend off so that he can heal more. And with the first-round bye, that gives Novak more rest.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see freshman goalie Alex Sakellaropoulos get a start in one of the games this weekend. Junior goalie Colin Stevens has started 15 straight games, so the time is right to give him a game off. Sakellaropoulos’ didn’t too badly in his last appearance. He got the start against then top-ranked St. Cloud State Dec. 13 and made 34 saves in a 4-1 win.

And don’t be shocked if several players get limited to no ice time if the game is out of hand. Bennett gave defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere the third period off in Saturday’s game.

Bennett has that luxury. But as he said, the focus is now strengthening the Dutchmen’s position for the NCAA tournament. Striking the right balance will be the key.

Quarterfinal-round tickets
Union hockey announced Monday that tickets for its best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series are now on sale.

The games will be March 14, 15 and, if necessary, 16. All games will be at 7 p.m. at Messa Rink.

Tickets cost $36 for adults for the three-game series, and $18 for students with ID. Individual game ticket costs are $12 for adults and $6 for students with ID. Tickets can be purchased online at UnionAthleticsTickets.com. For more information, call 388-6020.

Quinnipiac skidding
Quinnipiac, last year’s Cleary Cup champion and NCAA Frozen Four runner-up, is in the midst of a streak it hasn’t experienced in a couple of seasons.

The Bobcats were swept at home by Cornell and Colgate over the weekend. Coupled with last Saturday’s loss to Brown, the Bobcats have lost three straight. The last time they did that was in the 2011-12 season, when they lost to St. Lawrence, Colgate and Cornell Nov. 12-19. That was part of a six-game winless streak (0-4-2) that started with a loss to Dartmouth, followed by ties to Harvard and Clarkson.

Union steady
Union third in the USCHO.com/NCAA Hockey top-20 poll for the third straight week.

The Dutchmen (16-3-1 ECACH, 22-6-4 overall) earned 901 points, 17 more than last week’s poll. They beat Clarkson, 5-0, and St. Lawrence, 6-2, over the weekend to clinch the top seed for the ECACH tournament for the third time in four years.

Union is the highest-ranked ECACH team in the poll. The Dutchmen close out the regular season this weekend with games at Yale on Friday and at Brown on Saturday.

The Dutchmen held on to third in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll.

The top four teams in both polls are the same four squads that played in the 2012 Frozen Four. Boston College is ranked first, Minnesota is No. 2 and Ferris State is fourth.

USCHO.com/NCAA poll
Team (First Place Votes) Record Points Last Poll

1 Boston College (49) 25- 4-4 999 1
2 Minnesota (1) 21- 4-5 946 2
3 Union 22- 6-4 901 3
4 Ferris State 23- 7-3 834 6
5 St. Cloud State 18- 7-5 781 4
6 Wisconsin 19- 9-2 732 8
7 Massachusetts-Lowell 20- 8-4 679 7
8 Quinnipiac 21- 8-5 650 5
9 Northeastern 18-10-4 588 9
10 North Dakota 18- 9-3 575 11
11 Cornell 14- 7-5 479 13
12 Providence 17- 9-6 450 12
13 Michigan 15-10-3 372 10
14 Notre Dame 19-12-2 326 15
15 Yale 14- 8-5 300 14
16 Colgate 16-11-5 269 19
17 Vermont 17-11-3 261 16
18 Maine 15-11-4 141 17
19 Minnesota State 19-13-0 86 NR
20 Denver 14-12-6 30 18
Others receiving votes: Ohio State 25, New Hampshire 23, Minnesota-Duluth 15, Clarkson 13, Western Michigan 12, Air Force 7, Mercyhurst 6.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll
(First-place votes in parentheses)
Rank School Last Week’s Ranking

1. Boston College, 509 (33) 1
2. Minnesota, 477 (1) 2
3. Union, 435 3
4. Ferris State, 405 5
5. St. Cloud State, 364 4
6. Wisconsin, 325 8
7. Quinnipiac, 287 6
8. UMass Lowell, 280 7
9. Northeastern, 232 9
10. North Dakota, 230 11
11. Cornell, 163 13
12. Providence, 103 12
13. Michigan, 94 10
14. Yale, 51 14
15. Colgate, 46 RV
Others receiving votes: Notre Dame, 42; Vermont, 27; Maine, 4; Minnesota State, 4.

My vote
I have a vote in the USCHO.com poll. Here is how I voted.
1) Boston College
2) Union
3) Minnesota
4) Ferris State
5) St. Cloud State
6) Wisconsin
7) Northeastern
8) Quinnipiac
9) UMass-Lowell
10) North Dakota
11) Providence
12) Michigan
13) Cornell
14) Notre Dame
15) Yale
16) Vermont
17) Colgate
18) Minnesota State
19) Air Force
20) Mercyhurst

PairWise Rankings
Union is tied with Ferris State for third in the PairWise Rankings. The Dutchmen are on target to be the top seed in the NCAA tournament East Regional in Bridgeport, Conn.

Quinnipiac dropped from sixth to seventh. Cornell and Colgate are in a three-way tie for 11th with Vermont.

The PairWise Ranking is a system which attempts to mimic the method used by the NCAA Selection Committee to determine participants for the NCAA Division I men’s hockey tournament.

To see the rankings, click here.

Daily Gazette/ECACH Four Stars
Time for my four stars of the week.

Player of the Week — Daniel Ciampini, Union

The junior forward had two goals, including one short-handed, and an assist in Friday’s 5-0 win over Clarkson. He had an assist Saturday against St. Lawrence.

Goalie of the Week — Andy Iles, Cornell

The senior netminder made 40 saves in Friday’s win over Quinnipiac. He had 24 saves in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Princeton.

Rookie of the Week — Mike Vecchione, Union

The freshman center had a goal and two assists in Friday’s game, and picked up a goal and an assist Saturday.

Team of the Week — Union
The Dutchmen won the Cleary Cup and top seed for the ECACH tournament for the third time in four years.

If you have any comments, post them below, or e-mail them to me at schott@dailygazette.com. You can follow me on Twitter @slapschotts. Also, please become a fan of two Facebook pages — The Daily Gazette On Ice, and my "Slap Schotts" college hockey segment page.

Good Monday! Good Hockey!

Follow @dgazettesports on Twitter.

 

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