No. 7 Colgate @ St. Cloud State: ECAC game of the week

Raiders try to keep pace on a trip out west.

Who: SB Nation No. 7 Colgate (15-2-2 overall, 6-2-1 ECAC) at St. Cloud State (5-14-1 overall, 4-11-1 WCHA)

When: Friday, January 6, 2017 (7:07 CT) / Saturday, January 7, 2017 (3:07 CT)

Where: Herb Brooks National Hockey Center, St. Cloud, Minnesota

How to Watch:

The Skinny

Coming off the winter break, the ECAC eases back into play with a number of low-table conference and mid-tier non-conference match-ups. Colgate against St. Cloud State gets the nod because of the criticality of the western swing for the Raiders’ postseason hopes.

Currently seventh in the SB Nation poll and fourth in the ECAC, Colgate looks to keep pace with the top six and nab two wins against a WCHA non-conference foe. As “wins against common opponents” is a selection factor for NCAA tournament at-large slots, a couple of victories against the Huskies may be helpful later in the year if the Raiders find themselves competing with Minnesota-Duluth or North Dakota for a bid.

On paper, this match-up looks promising for Colgate as the Huskies have only managed five victories all season. St. Cloud State has shown some fight at the Brooks Center, though, finding wins against North Dakota and Ohio State.

The Raiders enter the week 10th nationally in team offense, averaging 3.37 goals per game and 11th in team defense giving up only 1.84 goals a contest. That bodes ill for the Huskies who sit tied for 29th in offense, managing only 1.65 goals per game and 31st in defense, giving up a 3.10 goals per match-up.

Colgate has been particularly good on the power play this season - converting on nearly 21 percent of their chances while killing off penalties at a 93.5 percent pace. St. Cloud State does not draw many penalties - averaging only 6.95 minutes per game, better than all but three schools nationally - but look for the Raiders to take advantage if the Huskies slip.

Colgate Players to Watch

#9 - Jessie Eldridge, F

Eldridge has been a points machine for the Raiders this season; her 29 are good enough for fifth nationally and a tie for the ECAC lead. The sophomore is only one of three players in the country with 20 or more assists and she averages over a point and a half per game.

#33 - Julia Vandyk, G

In a season full of great goaltender play in the ECAC, Vandyk (13-2-2) has been one of the best. Seventh nationally in goals against average (1.57) with a .937 save percentage, Vandyk has been the anchor of a strong Colgate defense.

Players to Watch

#2 - Julia Tylke, F

Tylke is tied 14th in the WCHA in points per game (0.70) netting nine goals on the season. She was second on the team in goals in 2015-15 (9). The sophomore is a harbinger for the Huskies success in 2016-17 - they are 4-5-0 when she nets a point, 1-9-1 when she does not.

#27 - Alyssa Erickson, F

The junior has five goals on the season and grabbed points in the Huskies big home wins against North Dakota and Ohio State. She and Tylke will have to get going against Vandyk if St. Cloud State is going to upset the Raiders this weekend.

The Pick

The Raiders should be on alert - long road trips after lengthy breaks are often fraught with peril for ranked teams looking to avoid the upset. Colgate needs two wins here - with Wisconsin, Minnesota, St. Lawrence, and Clarkson all looking like locks for the NCAA tournament, at-large bids are starting to get pretty slim. Grabbing two victories on the road would certainly help the cause. It’s not to be, however, as St. Cloud State wins on Friday 2-1 and the Raiders get one back on Saturday 4-1.

Pick Record for the Season: 4-2-2