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2017-18 NCAA Preview: ECAC

After Clarkson’s championship win, the ECAC looks to be even more competitive and dominate in 2017-18.

Will Clarkson make another run at the championship title this year?
Clarkson University Athletic Department

Clarkson’s upset over Wisconsin in last year’s championship only solidified ECAC’s position as one of the dominant conference in the NCAA, capable of competing with the best. This upcoming season is sure to find Clarkson looking to repeat as national champions, while other ECAC teams try to make their way from the fringe to a top position in the conference. These teams have the potential not only to perform well in their conference, but in the NCAA as a whole.

Last Year’s Conference Standings

  1. Clarkson, 40 pts (19-1-2) - Beat Wisconsin 3-0 for the
  2. St Lawrence, 35 pts (16-3-3) – Made playoffs, lost 6-0 in first round
  3. Cornell, 31 pts (13-4-5) – Made playoffs, lost 3-1 in first round to Clarkson
  4. Princeton, 30 pts (14-6-2)
  5. Quinnipiac, 29 pts (13-6-3)
  6. Colgate, 27 pts (13-8-1)
  7. Yale, 18 (8-12-2)
  8. Rensselaer, 15 pts (7-14-1)
  9. Harvard, 14 pts (5-13-4)
  10. Brown, 10 pts (5-17-0)
  11. Dartmouth, 10 pts (5-17-0)
  12. Union, 5 pts (2-19-1)

In the conference tournament quarterfinals, Clarkson swept Rensselaer, Cornell swept Colgate, St Lawrence swept Yale, and Princeton beat Quinnipiac two games to one.

In the semifinals, Clarkson bean Princeton while Cornell topped St. Lawrence. Clarkson won the ECAC Champions, before eventually becoming the National Champions as well.

Look Back at Last Season

Last season found several of the ECAC teams off to a good start. St. Lawrence won three of their first four games, Princeton won their first three games, and Quinnipiac won their first five games. Clarkson had a bit of a slower start, but eventually got to a point where they won ten games in a row in October and November. Several ECAC teams were in the top ten week after week, including Clarkson, Princeton, St. Lawrence, Cornell, Quinnipiac, and Colgate. It would be Clarkson who would continue to dominate, topping the polls week after week and ending the year on an 11-game win streak.

Three teams made it the National Collegiate Women’s Championship: Clarkson, St. Lawrence, and Cornell. Cornell and St. Lawrence both lost in the first round. However, Clarkson went on to win it all after beating a strong Minnesota team 4-3 in semifinals and then Wisconsin 3-0 in a shocker of a game in the finals.

It is worth noting that there was a big difference between the performance of the top six teams versus the rest of the teams in the conference, who struggled to win games on a regular basis.

The off-season brought some important changes to ECAC coaching staff. Dartmouth head coach Laura Schuler assumed head coaching duties for the Canadian Olympic Team. In her absence, longtime St. Lawrence men’s hockey coach Joe Marsh was named interim coach. Marsh coached the St. Lawrence men’s team for 27 years, amassing 482 wins throughout his tenure. Princeton also added a winner to their coaching staff, naming two time national champion Kelly Nash as an assistant coach. Nash made three championship appearances with Wisconsin.

Looking at the Top (in the Future)

  1. Clarkson
  2. Princeton
  3. Quinnipiac

This isn’t too wild of a prediction, as Clarkson just won a national championship, and Princeton and Quinnipiac were heavy hitters in the conference last season. While Princeton and Quinnipiac didn’t quite make the top three last season, they were repeatedly in the weekly polls. Princeton adding a national champion to their coaching staff will help bring an offensive focused winning mindset to an already talented team. Quinnipiac added a handful of talented freshmen to their lineup this offseason, which will add a bit of spark and momentum.

If Clarkson starts this season with even just half of the momentum of last year, they’ll be on pace for another Frozen Four appearance. With most of their championship team still intact (they have six juniors and five seniors on the roster this year), the Golden Knights should find themselves in good standing throughout the season.

Dark Horse Team

This may turn out to be a dud of a take, but one team to keep an eye on is Dartmouth. Adding a new coach to the mix can either be instrumental or detrimental to a team, but Joe Marsh could prove to be an asset to the Big Green. Marsh has extensive knowledge of what makes a winning team, and adding him to the mix, even on a short term basis, could be the spark Dartmouth needs to win some games this year. It also helps that he’s coming in on a positive note and not a negative one. Change can be good, and this has the potential to be something special.

Players to Watch

Shea Tiley (Clarkson, senior, goaltender)
Shutting out Wisconsin is not an easy feat. Shutting out Wisconsin in a championship should be impossible, but not for Shea Tiley. Tiley shut out the Badgers in a terrific Frozen Four Final performance last season, and she’s back for one more year with the Golden Knights. The secret to any winning team is good goaltending, and Tiley is as good as it gets. Look for her to beat her 1.58 GAA from last season this year as she finishes out her NCAA career.

Hannah Miller (St. Lawrence, senior, forward)
Another senior, Miller had a career year with the Saints, winning ECAC Player of the Month once and averaging 1.33 points per game. Miller quickly became known for coming in clutch: she had three game winning goals throughout the regular season.

Karlie Lund (Princeton, junior, forward)
As just a sophomore, Lund led the Tigers last season in scoring with 44 points (21G 23A) in 33 games. At one point, she managed an 18-game point streak spanning over the course of three months. If that’s what she can do as a sophomore, expect big things from her now as an upperclassmen leader on her team.

Five Can’t Miss Games

Clarkson at Northeastern (9/29)
Want to know if Clarkson is going to continue their momentum from last season? First chance to see the Golden Knights is in this Friday night game versus Northeastern, a team that looked pretty good last year.

Saint Lawrence at Clarkson (10/21)
The NCAA Championship banner will be raised at what is sure to be a good game between the #1 and #2 ECAC teams of last season.

Cornell at Clarkson (10/28)
As the #3 team in the ECAC last season, Cornell made the playoffs but was knocked out in the first round 3-1 by conference rival Clarkson. This is a playoff rematch that shouldn’t be missed.

Boston College at St. Lawrence (11/10)
Boston College knocked St. Lawrence out of the playoffs last year with a massive 6-0 win. Expect the emotions in this playoff rematch to be high.

Quinnipiac at Princeton (12/8)
Quinnipiac and Princeton are going to be major players in the ECAC next season, and watching them face off against one another is bound to be exciting and invigorating.

Final Take

This year, the ECAC will give the WCHA a run for its money as the dominant conference in the NCAA. With National Champions Clarkson poised for another playoff run and other teams chomping at the bit to be the best of the best, the ECAC will be a force to be reckoned with.