Number 4 and 5 in our NCAA Poll are facing off in a Saturday afternoon ECAC conference matchup.
Both teams played different opponents Friday night, and both skated a way with a win. Princeton needed overtime to beat St. Lawrence in New Jersey while Clarkson beat Quinnipiac in Connecticut.
William Whyte: This is a matchup of two of the very best teams in the country outside the WCHA bubble. Clarkson’s entire top line of Elizabeth Giguère, Loren Gabel, and Michaela Pejzlová is in the top five points-per-game scorers in the country. But very top of that list is Princeton’s Sarah Fillier, and Princeton has two other skaters in the top twenty. Princeton is outshooting opponents by 9.71 shots a game, Clarkson is outshooting them by 8.23. Clarkson is outscoring opponents by 2.15 goals a game, Princeton is outscoring them by 1.95. From the few games I’ve seen for each team, Clarkson is a bit more prone to defensive breakdowns. 4-3 Clarkson. No! 4-3 Princeton! No! 4-3 Clarkson!
Gabriella Fundaro: As William points out, this game will feature some of the most dynamic scorers in the country. Clarkson’s trio of Élizabeth Giguère, Loren Gabel, and Michaela Pejzlová is sure to have a say in this one, as is Princeton’s top line of Sarah Fillier, Carly Bullock, and Maggie Connors. On the blue line, the Golden Knights’ Ella Shelton and the Tigers’ Claire Thompson have emerged as bona fide number one defenders this year, and both teams have a really nice top-four around them.
One big benefit for Clarkson: Pejzlová’s numbers in the face-off circle. She’s won 58.2% of her faceoffs this year, and ranks second in the country in total face-off wins (343). For the Tigers, it has to be their power play, which is clicking at 27.9%, tops in the nation. Keeping that unit off the board gives the Golden Knights their best chance of winning. I think we’ll see a 3-3 tie at game’s end.
Valerie Fox: Two of the top teams in the East. The Tigers have been on an absolute TEAR, having still not lost since their opening series at Wisconsin, while Clarkson has been their typical strong selves and have won six in a row. Both teams have potent offenses and solid defenses. I’m a believer that defense wins championships and Clarkson’s been a bit shakier on that end. Throw in Princeton being unbeaten at Hobey Baker Rink and I’m gonna take Princeton 4-2 in this one. It wouldn’t surprise me to see that score flipped, though. This might be one of the best games of the season.
Grant Salzano: This is a great matchup, but wow, none of the computer rankings are all that impressed with either of these teams’ strength of schedule. Of course, they are playing *each other*, so that’s not going to be a very helpful way of guessing who’s the stronger team.
I’m going to go with Princeton to win, I’ll say something like 4-3, for a couple of reasons. Reason #1 is that both teams are undefeated at home, and this one is in New Jersey. Reason #2 is that Clarkson just hasn’t done anything impressive lately. Sure, Princeton has a draw against Colgate a couple games back... but they also have a 5-0 smacking of Cornell on the same weekend. Clarkson is on a nice winning streak... but all against some of the worst teams in a conference with a very bad set of “worst teams.”
So, Princeton. That’s what I’m thinking for this weekend. But it’s certainly close enough to go either way.
Nathan Vaughan: This is going to be a good matchup to know what the PWR might settle into. These teams are neck and neck for home ice in the NCAA tournament and haven’t played each other yet so a precious PWR point hangs in the balance. My problem with Princeton is that due to Ivy League scheduling constraints they don’t have much of an OOC slate: yes, they opened against Wisconsin, but since then the only good teams they have played are Cornell and Colgate with whom they went 2-0-2. Then again, Clarkson hasn’t fared so well against ranked teams, going 0-3-1. This is going to come down to which Clarkson team shows up, the electric offense that has won the last two national championships or the team that lost to Yale. My gut says Clarkson after seeing their top line in Belfast and I will stick with it, predicting a Clarkson win, not that it will be pretty.
KRACH: The KRACH calculator gives Princeton at 54.76% chance of winning.
GRaNT: The GRaNT rankings, created by Grant Salzano, predicts a score of Princeton 2.95, Clarkson 2.56, or basically a 3-3 tie with a reasonable chance of a 3-2 Princeton win.