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No. 7 Clarkson Heavy Favorite in Parity-Laden Conference

Pouring over the teams in men's hockey for the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) is likely to induce a case of dj vu.

All the teams look about the same and they become hard to distinguish from one another. There is so much parity within the conference that it seems like the same preview is written for each team. Moreover, this has been the case for the past couple of years.

All the teams appear equal, that is, except for Clarkson.

The Golden Knights, which perennially challenge for the conference title, is the clear class of the league. With a deep team led by junior sniper Erik Cole and superbly coached by Mark Morris, the rest of the conference will be hard-pressed to unseat the defending ECAC champs this year.

While Clarkson's catbird seat should be quite familiar to it, some teams will find itself in new positions in 1999-2000. The biggest drop-off should come from New Jersey. Princeton has finally graduated the last of a superb talent cycle that forged the fabled "Orange Line" anchored by Jeff Halpern and Scott Bertoli.

This should be the year that Dartmouth climbs out of the lower rungs of the conference. It endured a miserable season in 1998-99, but provided last year's terrific freshmen class with a wealth of experience that should pay off this season.

As for Harvard, well, after a disappointing finish last year the coaches tabbed it to finish in fifth place. Considering that the Crimson will need a couple of months to adjust to new Coach Mark Mazzoleni's system, that prediction probably is about right.

With all the parity in the league, an exciting regular season will come down to the wire with all teams besides woeful Union having a shot at a playoff spot. Most will have some chance at being one of the five teams to host the first round of the playoffs.