The final week of the regular season is upon us, and it sends the Saints to Cornell and Colgate, the two opponents directly below SLU in the standings. Cornell (30 points) sits just below St. Lawrence (32) in the standings, and 7th in the PairWise, while Colgate is five points back and 9th in the PairWise. A weekend sweep not only locks up the second spot in the ECAC, it should go a long way in securing SLU’s spot as a host of a regional in the NCAA tournament, and who doesn’t want NCAA tournament hockey in the North Country?
First up is Cornell, and the Big Red are no easy foe, despite SLU’s 5-2 win at Appleton about a month ago. Cornell hasn’t lost since that game, going 4-0-2, but all of those games came against teams in the bottom half of the ECAC, and only a lone game against Yale has come against a playoff team. St. Lawrence is also the only ECAC team Cornell has failed to beat this season, so the matchup on paper favors the Saints.
The matchup on paper, however, is irrelevant once the players step on the ice, and Lynah Rink is never an easy place in which to be an opponent. The Saints have been a strong road team, with just a single loss away from Appleton, which took place on neutral ice, so technically, SLU’s road record is undefeated at 13-0-2. They are the only undefeated road team in the ECAC, but again, this is not typical ECAC rink.
The Saints will put that record on the line against the Big Red, who continue to play solid defense and get consistent goaltending from Paula Voorheis, but the offense still isn’t there at a high level, especially against the top half of the ECAC. In 8 games against the other five teams in the top half of the ECAC, Cornell has 16 goals. They’ve scored 3 goals just twice in a game against a top 6 ECAC opponent, both against Quinnipiac. They’ve won largely on the strength of its defense, which isn’t a bad way to build a team, but when the goals don’t come, it makes it hard to consistently beat the other strong defensive teams who have scoring.
One of those strong defensive teams that also has scoring is St. Lawrence. They boast the league’s second best offense, at 3.5 goals per game in ECAC play, while allowing the second fewest, just 1.4 per game, tied with Quinnipiac. They also have the fourth best power play in league contests and the fifth ranked PK.
All three members of the Miller-Webster-Marchment line are in the top 6 of ECAC scoring, while only Hannah Bunton makes an appearance in the top 14 for the Big Red, at 7th, one spot behind Miller but with 6 fewer points.
SLU will be out for blood after a disappointing 0-1-1 weekend at Appleton, and are sure to come out flying against Cornell on Friday. As the better offensive team and the better defensive team, SLU need only play to its strengths as it did earlier in the year against Cornell, and they should pick up a crucial win that will guarantee them second in the ECAC.
The Saints will then close out their 2016-2017 regular season with their first game in the new Class of ’65 rink at Colgate. Colgate handed SLU a 4-3 overtime loss in their game at Appleton, so the Saints will carry their hopefully-still-undefeated road record into Saturday looking for some revenge.
Colgate is unranked right now, but have won six games in a row and 7 of their last 8 after a rough patch in the middle of the season. This team stayed undefeated almost as long as SLU did, starting 12-0-1, but the bump in the road they hit in January took them out of competition for the regular season title. The Saints must take this Colgate team seriously, despite it’s absence in the polls, partially because Colgate has already beaten SLU once, but also because the Raiders are a flat-out good team.
Jessie Eldridge continues to lead the Raiders in scoring with 37 points in 32 games, and she’s joined at the top of the scoring list by her fellow sophomores Shae Labbe (29) and Bailey Larson (25). The sophomore class has contributed more than just goals for the Raiders however: Julia Vandyk has provided excellent goaltending, with a sub-2.00 GAA and a .929 save percentage.
Their penalty kill is outstanding at 91.9% and their power play outpaces SLU’s, connecting 18.5% of the time, but at 5-on-5, the teams are pretty even, and the edge should go to SLU because of their top end scorers. Eldridge is certainly effective, but her 20 points in 20 ECAC contests would put her third on the team if she played for SLU.
Colgate is a well-rounded team, but they run into trouble most often in the third period. They’ve allowed at least one third period goal in all but one of their seven of their losses, while the Saints have outscored opponents 29-19 in the final period. It’s not quite as impressive as their 33-5 advantage in the first period, but I guess you can’t be that good for three periods.
While Colgate can’t catch SLU in the standings, a win against the Raiders will also go a long way in helping SLU’s PWR cause. ‘Gate is ninth in the PWR, but if they beat Clarkson on Friday, and hopefully they will, they would most likely rise at least one spot, making a win over them on Saturday that more helpful to the Saints.