ECAC Mid-Season Power Rankings
I had wanted to do a post-November power rankings for all the ECAC teams with the Ivy Leagues having a month of games under their belt. However, I thought it made more sense to wait the extra few weeks and do a mid-season version with most teams taking a break until around Christmas. Now, we’ve got all 12 teams in this version of the power rankings.
There’s not too much to say here as Quinnipiac has continued the dominance they showed during October. They’ve risen to #2 in the country in the polls, and their winning percentage is the best in the country. Their success is built on the way they possess the puck as they lead also lead the country in score-adjusted corsi and score-adjusted shot share. In the post-October version of this, I mentioned how Quinnipiac had been unlucky offensively, but I expected that to change with their talent. My prediction was right, and they are now scoring on 9.7% of their shots, which is around the average. Their goals per game average has risen to 3.39 as a result. Yaniv Perets is providing elite goaltending in net, which is funny because with the way the Bobcats play defensively, they don’t even need it. Their shot suppression along with the elite goaltending has led to allowing only 20 total goals in 18 games. This team has no flaws, and I think we’ll be seeing them in Boston in April.
Cornell is being overshadowed right now by Quinnipiac, but they are an excellent team as well. Their winning percentage is 3rd highest in the country with a 9-1-1 record. They score 4.18 goals per game and allow only 2.18 per game. While they don’t have the elite goaltending they got accustomed to with Matt Galajda, it’s still solid, and their defense is so strong that the goaltender doesn’t really matter. Cornell’s underlying metrics are also extremely strong. Their score-adjusted corsi is 61.9%, and their score-adjusted shot share is 60.5%. Both of these metrics are top 5 in the country. Cornell does everything pretty well but is just a step below Quinnipiac. There are only 2 real causes for concern that I can see. The first is Cornell’s strength of schedule. Cornell has played a very weak schedule so far, one of the weakest in the country. They’ve played really well against that schedule to the point where I think they’ll continue their success when it gets tougher. We’ll find out pretty quickly because their two series to begin 2022 are against Arizona State and North Dakota. The second concern is that their shooting percentage is 14.5%. As I said about Colgate in the post-October version, that’ll be bound to regress at least somewhat. Cornell has talent, but it’s not so much talent that they will continue shooting 4% above the average over an entire season. Even when that regresses, Cornell will still be a very good team because of how well they control play and possess the puck.
I think Harvard’s record undersells how well they have played so far this season. They have a 0.632 winning percentage, which is top 20 in the country. Like Cornell, they have played a weak schedule, but the way that they have controlled play is promising. Their score-adjusted corsi is very strong at 56.0%, and while their score-adjusted shot share is not as strong, it’s still very good at 53.1%. These numbers are not like the typical Harvard team that we see. Typically Harvard isn’t that great at controlling play because they rely on their talent and skill to score more efficiently on less shots. This season, they are still shooting above the average, but they have added the play driving that they have missed in the past. The main reason their record doesn’t match this is because Harvard is only 1-3-1 in “close” games. Close is defined as a 1-goal or less margin after taking away empty-net goals. Assuming Harvard starts winning these, I expect them to contend for an NCAA tournament bid and finish top 4 in the ECAC.
I was very tempted to have Clarkson lower, but they have been getting results. The reason I thought about having them lower is that they have been very bad at possessing the puck and driving play. Their score-adjusted corsi and shot share of 47.5% and 48.5% are both ranked 8th among ECAC teams. That is not what you would expect from a team as talented as Clarkson is, and it is cause for concern for the remainder of the season. Clarkson will not contend in the ECAC or nationally if they don’t improve there. The reason they’ve been winning is because of their talent. They are finishing chances more than the average team due to their skill, and their goaltending is elite. Ethan Haider won ECAC Rookie of the Year for a reason last season, and this season, he is playing just as well with a 0.920 SV%. Because of their talent and goaltending, I actually think they can keep winning despite their shortcomings. The reason that I don’t label them a contender is because true top teams can match that talent and will take advantage of driving play more than Clarkson. Now, this is assuming that Clarkson continues to struggle in this respect. If they get back to possessing the puck at the level they have in past seasons, then they absolutely are a contender. Until then, I’m skeptical of them against top teams that they can’t beat with talent alone.
Colgate is a funny team. In the post-October version of the power rankings, I said that their scoring rate was not sustainable, and they were just getting lucky. Their shooting percentage has fallen back to earth, and now, they are averaging 3.11 goals per game, which is down quite a bit from a month and a half ago. It’s still quite good obviously, but now it is not luck-driven. What’s funny about Colgate (and what I didn’t expect) is that they actually control play very well now. They are generating more shots and chances and generally playing much better. However, they have still kept losing despite frequently outplaying their opponents. They were extremely lucky to be winning as much as they did at the start of the season, but since then, they have actually been very unlucky and should have won more than they did. Overall, I think the luckiness and unluckiness have evened out. About them playing better though, they are now 4th in the ECAC in both score-adjusted corsi and shot share at 52.4% and 52.5%, respectively. These are both pretty good, and if Colgate keeps those up, they could contend for a top 4 spot in the conference.
RPI would have been 5th in these rankings before the games in Alaska, where they lost the corsi battle and the shots on goal battle pretty thoroughly in the series. The 4 games were enough to lower both their score-adjusted corsi and shots share by about 2% each. Those are now at 50.6% and 51.7%, respectively, which is good, but both numbers were in the top 20 in the country before. RPI has been a solid team with fine goaltending and normal luck. The main reason their record does not match their underlying metrics is their play in close games. RPI is 2-7-2 in close games so far this season. If they were even just .500 in close games, they would be 10-8-3 overall. The most concerning thing about RPI was how they played against Alaska. If we see the RPI from before Alaska the rest of the season, they can contend for a top 4 spot in the ECAC. If not, they’ll have trouble reaching the goals the team set out for the season. I could write much more about RPI, but it’s getting saved for a separate article coming out soon!
7. St. Lawrence
St. Lawrence without a doubt is the unluckiest team in the ECAC so far this season. They control play at a similar level to RPI and Colgate with a 52.0% score-adjusted corsi and a 50.6% score-adjusted shots share. They are only scoring 2 goals per game, but their shooting percentage has been unlucky. It’s over 2% below average. While St. Lawrence doesn’t have a ton of talent, they have enough that I believe it’s due to bad luck rather than a lack of skill. Additionally, as a team, they have a horrendous 0.878 SV%. Backup Grant Adams has a 0.797 SV% in the 3 games he has played. This has forced to rely on preseason All-ECAC goalie Emil Zetterquist almost exclusively. After October, he had a 0.951 SV%, but he has struggled since then. Now, he has a 0.895 SV% overall. Given how good Zetterquist was last season and to start this season, I expect he will rebound, which will also help St. Lawrence a lot. Their record may not be that good right now, but when their shooting regresses to the mean and Zetterquist plays up to his abilities, watch out.
Princeton is another team that isn’t actually as bad as their record shows and has just been unlucky. They haven’t been as unlucky as St. Lawrence, but they’re pretty close. They also do not drive play as well even though they’re decent overall. Their score-adjusted corsi and shot share are 49.2% and 50.3%, respectively. These are both about average, but Princeton’s record is only 3-9-1. Their shooting percentage is only slightly higher than St. Lawrence’s, and their save percentage is even worse. While they should regress positively towards the average, I have less faith in that than I do with St. Lawrence. First, I think SLU has more talent than Princeton. Princeton isn’t devoid of talent, and I think their finishing will definitely get better. I just don’t know if it has enough skill to get all the way up to the average. Similarly, I have less faith in their goaltending duo of Aidan Porter and Jeremie Forget than I do in Emil Zetterquist. Currently, Porter has a 0.881 SV%, and Forget has a 0.872 SV%. Forget had a good season in 2019-20, but it wasn’t at the level of Zetterquist last season. I do expect that one of the two will start playing better, but I don’t know that they’ll have better than average goaltending even after they play better. Princeton isn’t nearly as bad as their record, and I think they’ll be the type of team that is an 8 seed come the playoffs but ends up a really tough match-up for the 1 seed.
We are now at the bottom 4 of the ECAC, where all of these teams are extremely bad. Ranking them is basically splitting hairs, but these teams are all among the worst in the country. Sadly, the conference always seems to be like this, and having the bottom 4 teams always among the worst in the country really hurts the conference in the pairwise. That’s a different topic though. Union is not a good team, but they have more going for them than the other bottom 4 teams. They are very bad at driving play; their score-adjusted corsi is 39.4%. Their score-adjusted shot share is even worse at 35.3%. Both are bottom 5 in the country. What allows them to be competitive in most games though is their goaltending. Connor Murphy has played great for them this season with a 0.923 SV%. Murphy was expected to be good but not this good, and that has been big for Union. Additionally, they have enough talent to be finishing only slightly below the average. While they still score below 2 goals per game, some teams are even worse. Union is a threat in every game they play because of Murphy, and that’s why their winning percentage is just barely behind Princeton. I think that he’ll allow them to compete for home-ice in the playoffs despite lots of deficiencies elsewhere.
Yale isn’t as bad as the other bottom 4 teams at puck possession. Their metrics are actually fairly respectable with a 47.1% score-adjusted corsi and a 43.5% score-adjusted shot share. Yale’s main issue is that their goaltending and finishing hasn’t been good. There’s some hope for their goaltending though. So far, they have split starts between Nathan Reid, Luke Pearson, and Connor Hopkins. Reid has a 0.889 SV%, and Hopkins has a 0.864 SV%. The hope for Yale’s goaltending is Pearson. He has a 0.913 SV% in the games he has played despite being just a freshman. I wrote in the ECAC pre-season preview that Yale would need to rely on him, and when they have given him the opportunity, he has delivered. Assuming he can keep that up, they should turn to him more. I don’t think there’s as much hope for their shooting getting better. They are only 2% below the average, but with Yale’s lack of talent, I don’t think they’ll regress towards the average positively like other teams. Even though Yale’s winning percentage is the worst in the conference, I think they’ll be better than the bottom 2 teams because they are doing much better at getting scoring chances and limiting scoring chances against.
Brown sort of combines the bad qualities of Yale and Union. Their play-driving is just as bad as Union’s with a 35.8% score-adjusted corsi and a 37.4% score-adjusted shot share. Like Union, both of those are bottom 5 in the country, and the corsi is actually the worst in the country. For some more reference, they only are producing 22.08 shots on goal while allowing 35.17 shots on goal per game. Their opponents are almost doubling them up in shots on goal on average. They have the same problems with finishing that Yale does, but like Yale, they simply don’t have a ton of talent. It’s unlikely that they get too much better in that regard. Luckily, they do have a pretty solid goaltending duo with Luke Kania and Mathieu Caron who have 0.913 and 0.911 save percentages respectively. That should help them, but they’re already 3-9 while getting good goaltending. They need to play much better offensively and defensively, but it’s tough to have faith that’ll happen.
Dartmouth and Brown were basically tied, and it was like splitting hairs choosing between the two. Ultimately, I put Brown ahead because their winning percentage is better. Dartmouth has both their score-adjusted corsi and shots share in the bottom 2 of the country. Their corsi is 2nd worst only ahead of Brown, and their shots share is worst in the country. Dartmouth is only averaging 2.18 goals per game despite having normal finishing luck, and it’s because they’re simply not generating enough shots on goal or zone time. Defensively, they’re allowing 4 goals per game because the goaltending has been poor on top of the lack of puck possession. This part is baffling because I wrote in the pre-season preview that Dartmouth should be able to rely on rookie goaltender Clay Stevenson right away given his success in the BCHL. He had a 1.77 GAA, .936 SV% and a 30-2-2 record in the year prior to going to Dartmouth, and that stellar play won him the BCHL Goaltender of the Year award. Well, he has been as advertised. So far this season, he has a 0.924 SV%. What makes absolutely no sense is that Dartmouth has started Justin Ferguson in the majority of their games. His career save percentage before this season was in the 0.700’s, and he hasn’t done too much better this season with a 0.846 SV%. It seems like they have figured out that they just need to ride Stevenson because he has started their last 3 games. If they keep going with Stevenson, that will help them a lot on defense. If they don’t, the best they can do in the ECAC is probably 9th or 10th.