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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Harvard Men's Hockey Preview Part IV: Schedule and Season Predictions

In the final edition of our blog preview, we'll take a look at the ECAC at large, as well as some highlights of the Crimson's regular season schedule. Click through to get our ECAC season predictions and schedule thoughts.

ECAC PREDICTIONS

TOM
1. Princeton - Gadowsky's effective offensive system and return of Zane Kalemba in net means the Tigers don't miss a beat from last season.
2. Cornell - Just as big and tough as ever, but their weakness will be goal-scoring on the road.
3. Yale - Who can replace Alec Richards in net? The scoring is there, but goaltending is a big question mark.
4. Harvard - Team speed, defensive experience, and the return of Kyle Richter will jumpstart the Crimson after a difficult 2008-09.
5. Dartmouth - A good young team from last season gets a year older and stronger.
6. Union - The Dutchmen return most of their offensive production, but it will be up to a young defensive corps to win games on the road.
7. Colgate - If All-American forward David McIntyre and sophomore Austin Smith get things going offensively for this young team, the Raiders' youth on the blue line will be less of a concern.
8. Quinnipiac - Finding a netminder and scoring to replace the departed senior class are the first priority, and 13 freshmen skaters mean that Q-pac will be up-and-down at times.
9. St. Lawrence - The Saints may return Alex Petizian, but the graduation of last year's prolific senior class hurts.
10. Clarkson - Off-ice issues this past summer don't make things any easier for the Golden Knights, who need to find more scoring this season.
11. RPI - The scoring will be there with Chase Polacek and the freshman class, but the Engineers may be putting too much on second-year netminder Allen York.
12. Brown - Still some ways away from competing, but last year's first-round upset of Harvard and the arrival of alum Brendan Whittet as coach bode well for future seasons.

BRENDAN
1. Cornell -The biggest weakness for the Big Red will be a lack of secondary scoring, but this is a solid defensive team, with a great goalie, and the only ECAC team to make it past the first round of the NCAA tournament.
2. Princeton - Princeton’s strength has been their offense, but despite having a great goaltender in Zane Kalemba, the Tigers are not a strong defensive team. They are promising to work on it, and if they get there, they might take the title themselves.
3. Yale - It will be interesting to see the type of year Yale has after their first-ever ECAC title - will they be able to survive a season with the targets on their back? This might be a little more difficult with the loss of Alec Richards.
4. Harvard - This team last year had an atrocious middle of the season and they couldn’t get a win on the road - yet their post-Beanpot success left them only two points out of fourth place and the bye. Hard not to see the Crimson improving with its talented freshmen class, which should give them more wins on the road and during that December-February stretch.
5. Union - This seems to be the media darling for the ECAC’s shocking run. This is a program that has turned around and they will be pushing for a bye this year.
6. Dartmouth - Where Dartmouth ends up finishing will all depend on if they end their pattern of a strong start followed by a lousy finish in the season. Sophomore Jody O’Neill will be the guy in net and could make that happen.
7. Quinnipiac - Quinnipiac is going to be a strong team this year, but they will be a young team and have some questions to answer in net - similar to last year’s Crimson, but with a lot more talented teams in the league to deal with.
8. RPI - RPI could certainly have a decent year with freshman Brandon Pirri, who has opened the season strong, but they will be battling for home ice, not a first round bye.
9. Clarkson - Matt Beca could lead this Clarkson team to do some good things, and they have a good home ice advantage, but it’s hard to see this team attacking the top of the ECAC.
10. St. Lawrence - St. Lawrence looks like they are set for a down year- Alex Petizian is floundering early with a 3.76 GAA, and they might be forced to stick with sophomore Robert Moss in net. Freshman Kyle Flanagan is playing well, and it’s always hard to rule out a North Country team, but they just don’t seem like they have enough this year.
11. Colgate - Colgate has a young blue line that could cost them against some of the many talented offenses in the ECAC. They could move up from the bottom, but the rest of the ECAC looks too talented to let that happen.
12. Brown - Brown will be a dangerous team this year, as they showed at the end of last year with their sweep of the Crimson, but they are still trying to rebuild as well. Teams will have to be careful to finish out games with Brown and not leave points out there, but that won’t help Brown move out of the cellar.


2009-10 SCHEDULE HIGHLIGHTS

Nov. 7 @ Cornell - Harvard and Cornell at Lynah is always a memorable tilt, but this year it will be a good early-season road test for the Crimson, especially for goalie Kyle Richter and the freshmen forwards. Harvard has done well against Cornell in recent years, and this game could be an early-season-defining win for the Crimson.
Nov. 14 @ Princeton - The fifth consecutive road game for the Crimson to open the season will be another challenge away from the Bright Hockey Center after Harvard failed to win a single road game last season. Harvard suffered a difficult loss at Hobey Baker Rink last January, but a win or tie here would set up the Crimson for a strong stretch of play at home in November and December.
Nov. 22 vs. Boston University - The Crimson welcome the defending national champions back to the Bright after nearly knocking them off in the first round of the Beanpot last year. In the early going, the Terriers have looked like they're shaking off a championship hangover.
Jan. 8/9 @ Minnesota - Mariucci Arena is one of college hockey's best venues, and these are Harvard's only regular season games against non ECAC or Hockey East opponents. Going into this weekend, the Golden Gophers are still seeking their first regular-season win.
Feb. 1 & 8 vs. BC, Northeastern or BU (Beanpot) -  From early indications, the Beanpot could be interesting this season. BU and Northeastern have struggled out of the gate, and BC (Harvard's first-round opponent) is trying to bounce back from a down season. Furthermore, for the first time the Crimson will practice and play games throughout the month of January, meaning that they will be better prepared than in previous seasons.

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