Did You Know: The Clarkson Hockey program has amassed 10,001 goals since the 1920-21 season?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

ECAC(HL) Men's 1st Round Playoff Preview - Part 2

As the opening faceoff draws closer CHF will take a look at the 6-10 matchup pairing Yale and Union. This series will be a tough one to call as Yale has looked very good at times this season, while Union is a very strong home team.

Why Union will win:
Union is 10-3-4 at the Messa Rink at the Achilles Center this year, and their 6th place finish in the league is their best finish since 2003 when they also finished 6th. In 2003 11th seeded RPI knocked off the Dutchmen in a 2 game sweep. Union is looking to win it's first playoff series since joining the ECAC in 1992 and is looking to win just it's third ECAC tournament game ever. To put it mildly, history has not been kind to the Dutchmen. However this is a different Union team lead by a senior goaltender who has made a case to take the Dryden award this year. Kris Mayotte has put up a .915 save percentage and a 2.42 GAA in 34 starts this year and has 5 shutouts under his belt as well. This is Mayotte's team and how he performs will be how the team performs in the first round.

Look for Union to come out firing and try to take an early lead, the Dutchmen are 12-0-4 when scoring first this year. This does not bode well for rookie Yale goalie Alec Richards who will most likely be making his first playoff starts. Richards is 6-13-2 this year and has, at times, looked brilliant in net. However the defense in front of him gave up 1016 shots this year, which is 35 per game. This is by far the most allowed by a defense in the conference and and is seven more per game than Union who sits at 28.75 shots allowed per game. Yale is 4-14-2 when surrendering the first goal in a game and will be looking to weather an early storm from the Dutchmen.

Both teams struggle on the powerplay ranking 11th and 12th in the league. Union comes in at a paltry 11.5% and Yale fairs a little better at 14.5%. Expect both teams to show their ineptitude as these were the 1st and 3rd most penalized teams in the conference. Yale racked up 724 minutes for 25 PIM's per game while Union rang in at 21.9 PIM's per game. Expect plenty of 4 on 4 and 5 on 3 situations to develop which should play to the advantage of the home team. With Yale coming in with a 82.1% penalty kill, Union should have plenty of opportunities to cash in. In their previous two meetings Yale racked up 62 penalty minutes compared to Unions 56. Like it or not, the referee's and special teams are going to make a big difference in this series, with the slight advantage going to the Dutchmen.

Why Yale will win:
During Yale's midseason "warm spell" where they went 7-4-3 the Bulldogs scored 48 goals and allowed 38. Yale will need to tap into some of this offense who in the last six games has scored only eight goals and has given up 23. Not an easy task against Mayotte. Yale will need to turn to its senior leadership and leading scorers Jeff Hristovski and Joe Zappala. These two along with sophomore Jean-Francois Boucher will need to solve Mayotte for the Bulldogs to have any chance.

As mentioned above Alec Richards will need to have his best weekend on the road and steal a game from the Dutchmen. In his first season Richards has put up decent numbers considering the number of shots he faces a night. In 22 starts and three games of mop up duty he has compiled a .907 save percentage and a 3.22 GAA and has put himself in contention for all rookie team consideration. In his 25 games he's seen 798 shots, about 32 a game. Richards is capable of taking one from the Dutchmen, but taking two might be asking for too much, even from a talented rookie.

One can not look past the intangibles in this series and the futility of the Dutchmen in the playoffs. It will be Tim Taylor's job to get his squad to start believing they can win, and that the bounces and luck will go their way in this series, while it will be Nate Leaman's job to try and rid his team of two recent playoff exits at the hand of Clarkson, and to try and get his team in the right frame of mind. Personally I think its easier to get a team to think that they will get the bounces rather than to get a team to stop thinking they are doomed. Not that Union is thinking that at all, but it has to be on the back of the minds of fans and players alike.

Union wins, but its ugly and it goes three games.

Union 5 - Yale 4
Yale 6 - Union 2
Union 4 - Yale 3


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