ECAC 2022 Playoffs First Round Preview

The ECAC Hockey playoff bracket is now set (photo: ECAC Hockey)

The ECAC playoffs are back for the first time since 2019, and this year it takes on even more importance. Due to the conference having a down year, only Quinnipiac is in position for an at-large bid as of now meaning every other team must win the championship to continue their season. Let’s get into it.

(5) Colgate vs. (12) Yale

We start off with a matchup that I think is closer than it’s probably being given credit for. Both teams have been playing well recently. Yale might be the 12 seed, but they’re 3-2 in the past 2 weeks and are playing their best hockey at the right time. Colgate has been even better as they went 5-2-2 in February, and those 2 losses were to Quinnipiac and Clarkson who finished top 2 in the standings. Based on how well both teams are playing, this should be a high energy, fast-paced series. Yale really is not as bad as their 12 seed would indicate. Their score-adjusted corsi and score-adjusted shot share are 44.8% and 46.3%, respectively. While these still aren’t great marks, they are both better than all the other bottom 4 teams in the standings. They don’t play that poorly; they simply have very bad finishing talent, which has led to their offensive deficiencies (1.9 goals per game). In net, they will likely either go with Nathan Reid (.902 SV%) or Luke Pearson (.916 SV%). I would go with Pearson as I always thought he’s their most talented goaltender, even from before the season due to his strong play in juniors. He also has their best numbers this season in net. Despite this, Reid has started the majority of their games. Colgate has been good at controlling play with a 50.0% score-adjusted corsi and 51.8% score-adjusted shot share. Their finishing and goaltending are both about average. Mitch Benson has been solid with a .911 SV%, and he is expected to be their starter. Head to head, Colgate won the first matchup in November, and the teams tied in January. Overall, Yale has the metrics and recent play that makes me think they’ll be able to swipe a game in the series, but I’m still taking Colgate. Prediction: Colgate in 3

(6) RPI vs. (11) Dartmouth

From an RPI perspective, this is probably the best matchup they could have gotten since the other option heading into Saturday night was Yale. Unlike Yale, Dartmouth has not been hot recently. They went 3-7 in February, and all those wins were against Yale and Princeton, who are the other teams in the bottom 3 of the standings. RPI hasn’t been hot or cold with a 4-5 record in February. In terms of play, Dartmouth really struggles to both score and defend because they are one of the worst teams in the country at possessing the puck. Their score-adjusted corsi is 39.1%, and their score-adjusted shot share is 36.7%. Both are second worst in the country. RPI is average at controlling play with a 49.6% score-adjusted corsi and a 49.4% score-adjusted shot share, but on Friday, RPI totally dominated the possession game against Dartmouth. RPI thrives against teams that can’t control the puck, and that showed in the season series between the two teams with RPI sweeping by scores of 2-0 and 6-3. Dartmouth’s only real hope is that Clay Stevenson (.924 SV%) can steal the series and continue his outstanding season now that they finally are starting him every game. However, his former junior hockey teammate Jack Watson (.927 SV%) is just as capable of stealing games. The difference is that Dartmouth needs Stevenson to do it, and RPI doesn’t need Watson to do it. If RPI plays like they did Friday, they will have no issues. Watson will certainly not be letting up 3 goals on 7 shots again. Prediction: RPI in 2

(7) Union vs. (10) Princeton

This is the closest matchup of the first round in my opinion because I think Princeton is better than their 10th seed, and Union is worse than their 7th seed. Union is definitely the hotter team right now as they just swept last weekend, and Princeton is on a 6 game losing streak. Union also swept the season series with 1-0 and 7-3 wins. However, Princeton controls play better than Union, and the main difference between these teams is that Union has reliable goaltending, while Princeton does not (this season at least). Princeton has a 45.7% score-adjusted corsi and a 46.2% score-adjusted shot share, while those numbers are just 42.5% and 39.9% for Union. The goaltending difference is that Connor Murphy has had a good season with a .918 SV%, while Jeremie Forget has only a .887 SV%. Forget has shown in the past though that he can be reliable in net. In 2019-20, he had a .912 SV%. Princeton should control the play in this series, but Murphy equalizes that advantage making this series truly a toss-up in my opinion. Most people would say to take the better goalie in a toss-up, but I think Forget is better than he has shown this season and Princeton is the better all-around team. Give me the Tigers. Prediction: Princeton in 3

(8) St. Lawrence vs. (9) Brown

This series is interesting because these two teams are similar in style. Both struggle to score due to a lack of finishing, and their defenses haven’t been good either. The difference is that St. Lawrence actually does a good job at controlling play and scoring chances (51.5% and 51.3% score-adjusted corsi and shot share), and these issues have been their downfall. Brown is poor at controlling play (40.8% and 40.3% score-adjusted corsi and shot share) in addition to the aforementioned problems, which is why they all-around are one of the worst teams in the country. SLU’s defensive problems stem from poor goaltending, which is surprising after Emil Zetterquist was excellent in 2020-21. This season, he only has a .903 SV%. Brown has found steady goaltending from freshman Mathieu Caron who has a .912 SV%, which is solid. As I said before, they just give up a ton of scoring chances and don’t possess the puck well. In terms of recent play, neither has been noteworthy. Brown went 2-4-4 in February and SLU went 3-3-2. Head to head, they tied both games, but I just think St. Lawrence is going to dominate the possession enough that their lack of finishing and goaltending won’t matter. Prediction: St. Lawrence in 2

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