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Tuesday @ The Rink

CHAT LIVE With USCHO's Timothy Muir McDonald

Welcome to the CSTV.com moderated chat room!

On Tuesday, February 7 at 2:00 p.m. ET, USCHO ECAC Correspondent Timothy Muir McDonald stops by "Tuesday @ The Rink", presented by CSTV.com and USCHO.com. Tim will be taking all of your questions on college hockey.

** GET YOUR QUESTIONS IN NOW!!: Tim won't be stopping by until 2:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday, February 7th, but feel free to submit your questions now and we'll save them for his arrival!
CSTV.com Moderator: Welcome back to "Tuesday @ The Rink". We will be joined shortly by USCHO ECAC Correspondent Tim McDonald.
CSTV.com Moderator: Tim is here and we are ready to go.
Tim McDonald: Glad to be here, and I'm looking forward to talking some hockey this afternoon.

Brandon (massena): What has been going on with St. Lawrence lately? I have a feeling their chance for an at large bid is all but gone now, but would a sweep this weekend allow them a chance of any hope?
Tim McDonald: Well, the PairWise Rankings can always be a little difficult to interpret. Jayson Moy and Scott Brown both know far more about them than I do...but to answer your question, Brandon, I think the Saints have quite obviously been struggling of late. They played two teams in Quinnipiac and Princeton that are better than many people think, but they failed to hold the lead against Princeton in the third period, which I found concerning. That said, I think there is plenty of time left in the season. The Saints still have games left against Cornell, Colgate, Dartmouth and Harvard--all teams under consideration.

Chris (Longmeadow, MA): Cornell was your overwhelming ECACHL preseason pick with everyone else playing for second. Has your opinion changed and, if so, what is the difference?
Tim McDonald: Well, I think that asking me that now allows me to say that yes, I still think Cornell is the best team in the ECACHL. If you had asked me that same question before Thanksgiving, though, I might have had a different answer. I certainly think that Cornell is the most talented team in the league and where earlier this season the Big Red struggled somewhat to have all those pieces fit together, now I think they've really hit their stride. This weekend will be an interesting test for Cornell, though. If they can sweep Friday and Saturday, I think that will tell you a lot about how they'll do down the stretch.

Geoff (Newton): Tim, Harvard seems to be needing only a couple more blue chip prospects to put them at the top. Do you see the interest from the NPDT players or other top junior players pointing towards Cambridge?
Tim McDonald: Interesting question, Geoff. Certainly I think that the team does have clear holes, both on this year's roster and when you look ahead at next year's roster. With Ted Donato as a coach, I think you will see a gradual improvement in Harvard's recruiting classes over the next few years. I also think you can already see the difference in the type of player that Donato looks for, as opposed to the players that were recruited by Mazzoleni. I think the Crimson is moving towards a roster that's stacked with swift but small forwards who can really move with the puck and allow Harvard to play the type of up-tempo game that Donato himself played under Bill Cleary.

Maloof (Brighton): Hey Tim, love the weekly article. Tough loss for the Crimson last night, but they did put up one heck of a 3rd period. What are your thoughts on them challenging for the regular season title, and then into the playoffs?
Tim McDonald: Well, Mr. Maloof, I think the Crimson is not in an ideal position to challenge for the ECACHL regular season title. They currently have a game in hand on Cornell, Colgate and Dartmouth but are respectively 4, 3, and 1 points behind those teams. As for the playoffs, that's a more interesting question. I think it really depends on which Harvard team shows up. If the Crimson that appear in the ECACHL playoffs are the same ones that skated away with tough road wins at BC, UNH, and North Dakota, then I think Harvard has a legitimate shot against Cornell, Colgate or St. Lawrence. If, however, the team that was blitzed by Dartmouth before Christmas or the team that has lost on the road at Quinnipiac, Yale and Rensselaer shows up, then I worry that Harvard might not make it to Albany.

Rob (Meriden): Quinnipiac has obviously had its struggles in the league in its debut season, but then they go and pull off a weekend sweep like the North Country sweep last weekend or the Dartmouth/Harvard sweep in November. What do you think we can expect from the Bobcats in future seasons?
Tim McDonald: I expect a slow but steady improvement from the Bobcats over the next few years. I think the team clearly has talent and that, with the move to the ECACHL and the construction of a brand new rink, the quality of recruits that Coach Pecknold can attract will only improve.

Stephen (NYC): How good is Cornell? I find it very hard to judge, particularly given their opposition this year. Can they make a run at an NCAA championship?
Tim McDonald: I too find it hard to judge, Stephen. Given that Cornell has played a relatively weak non-conference schedule, it's hard to gauge them against the top teams from CCHA, HEA or WCHA. That said, early in the season they played well and split a pair of close games against a very good Michigan State team. The Big Red took a tight game from Harvard in November, and they played very well a few weekends ago when Clarkson and St. Lawrence skated into Lynah. What worries me, though, is that they haven't been as successfully defensively this season. While the team is winning, I think it needs to be able to shut out teams like Brown or Yale to prove to me that its defense will be up to the challenge when Cornell has to face a team like Miami or North Dakota.

Drew (New York City): What happened to Clarkson??
Tim McDonald: That's a good question, Drew. And one to which I don't have an easy answer. The team has obviously struggled in the second half, but they've also run into some teams (in, say, Princeton and Quinnipiac) that are much improved since the start of the season. I think Clarkson peaked early, and hasn't really been able to effectively respond to the fact that the games they won early on in the season have turned into games where they are now tied or on the losing end. I still think they are talented and, more importantly, if they are on their game, they match up very well with some of the league's best teams--St. Lawrence and Harvard, most especially.

Art (Troy): Four points separate 6th and 11th place in the league. With things being as close as they are, who do you think will be going on the road in the first round of the playoffs?
Tim McDonald: Hmmm, good question Art. Well, I think the most obvious team that will be on the road is Brown. And despite its improved play, I think Quinnipiac will join them. As for the 9th and 10th spots, it's tough to say at this point. But if forced to make a choice, I'd say Clarkson and Rensselaer will be on the road (meaning that I think Princeton will surprise a few teams and claim home ice with the 8th spot, possibily).

Chris (Longmeadow, MA): Do you have a dark horse candidate that can make a run through the ECACHL playoffs?
Tim McDonald: Well, I think that there are four teams that most ECACHL fans would say have a clear shot at winning the league Championship. In no particular order, those four teams are Colgate, Cornell, Harvard, and St. Lawrence (actually, I guess that was alphabetical order). Outside of those four, I'd say the team that is most dangerous is Dartmouth. While the Big Green have struggled at points this season, when they are on top of their game they have really man-handled two of those top four teams (Cornell by a 6-1 score and Harvard by a 5-1 score).

Tom (Etna, N.H.): Dartmouth has only lost once in the league since that awful 0-4 start, and now they're in a first-round bye slot for the playoffs. Do you like them to hold onto that position? What do you think of their chances in the league as a whole?
Tim McDonald: That's a good question, Tom. In part my answer to the previous question applies. I think that Dartmouth, if it's on top of its game, could legitimately upset any team in the ECACHL. It's questionable, though, whether the Big Green will get that first round bye. The schedule is tough down the stretch, with games against at Cornell and Colgate and a season-ending series against Clarkson and St. Lawrence up in Hanover. That said, Harvard has the exact same schedule so even if Dartmouth only treads water while Harvard struggles, the Big Green could claim that 3rd or 4th spot by default.

David (Lakeville, CT): Who has been ECACHL player of the year thus far? Rookie of the Year? Goaltender of the Year?
Tim McDonald: Excellent question, David. For Rookie of the Year, I think it's hard to overlook the play of Alec Richards from Yale. He's really solidified that team and been an integral part of their stretch run. By the same token, Mathias Lange has been very impressive for RPI. And you could always make the case for Quinnipiac's David Marshall. But I'll say Richards for ROTY. For Goaltender of the Year, I'd choose Colgate's Mark Dekanich. He's second in goals against average and first in save percentage and he's put up those numbers with a less talented defense than the one that plays in front of David McKee. Player of the Year is probably the toughest of all; there are a lot of good candidates--Moulson, Trevelyan, Cashman, Ouellette, Wilson (plus Dekanich and McKee). But I'll go with Tyler Burton because he's put up great numbers, including four game-winning goals.
Tim McDonald: That wraps up our chat with Tim.
Tim McDonald: Thanks very much for participating in CSTV's chat and for having me as your guest. I really enjoyed getting the chance to talk to everyone and if you have a question that was not answered, feel free to email me at ecacwriter@uscho.com.
CSTV.com Moderator: Join us next week for a special "Tuesday @ The Rink" Olympic edition. One of our guests will be 1980 U.S. Captain Mike Eruzione. Our second guest will also be Olympic-themed, so check back and see who it is.
CSTV.com Moderator: See you next week.

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