Ivy League teams off to fast start in ECACs

I know it’s (very) early, but even a quick glimpse at the ECAC men’s ice hockey standings illustrates a developing trend in the conference: the ever-increasing success of the six Ivy League schools.

Travel partners Brown and Harvard have each won four of their five contests, and their eight points apiece have them sharing the top spot. Yale and Cornell have each won three of their four games, and the Bulldogs and Big Red are tied for third with six points.

The ECAC is a 12-team conference containing six Ivy League teams and six other northeast teams. Pennsylvania and Columbia do not have varsity programs in men’s ice hockey.

The top four squads in the league are from the Ivy league, and this placement is noteworthy on two counts.

First, these early standings are not likely to change all that much. Cornell was the easy preseason favorite to dominate the conference, and with a 19-7 goals for/against margin, the Big Red has done little to question that prediction to date. Brown and Harvard have potent offenses and stingy goaltenders, and opponents will have to face the travel partners back-to-back. With 18 goals in their last three games, the Yale skaters have shown that the Bulldogs will be one of the league’s most exciting teams this year. It is early, but two points now count the same as they do on the final weekend of the regular season.

Second, if sustained, the overall success of the Ivy teams this year is a further continuation of a trend that has been developing for the past several years. Consider the average finishes for the Ivy schools since 1996-97, respectively: 8, 6, 7.5, 7.3, 6.5, and 4.6 last season. Only one of the last six seasons saw the Ivy League’s finish not improve from the following year.

But then again, the early Ivy League success this season is somewhat surprising, considering what the Ivy schools are up against. Different admissions standards aside, the other six teams in the ECAC would seemingly have another advantage by virtue of playing double the games to date than any of the Ivy teams. The most games played by an Ivy squad so far is six, while five of the other six schools have played at least 10 games. Several of these schools were playing games before the Ivy institutions were even allowed to have formal practices.

It is unfair to make predictions for the final season standings after the season has begun, but I anticipate that the top four teams in the league will be from the Ivy League. I am not saying that it will be the same four teams, but considering how the league has shaped up with between one-fifth and one-quarter of the league schedule played, it is not unlikely.

The usual suspects seem plagued with problems this year. Clarkson recently terminated its very successful head coach Mark Morris after an investigation into a practice incident with a player, and while the team has been a respectable 2-2-1 so far in league play, at some point the whole incident will likely catch up with the Golden Knights. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has not found any type of offense yet; the Engineers have scored only 29 goals in 12 total games. Union has gotten off to a relatively fast start at 2-1-1, but the Dutchmen rely on two freshmen goaltenders, both of whom were vulnerable to Yale’s offense this past weekend.

Conclusion: This winter looks good for Ivy League hockey institutions.

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