It is hard to believe that we have reached the final week of the regular season in the ECAC, as it seems very recent that Quinnipiac opened up the regular season schedule against Maine on the road picking up a win at the famed Alfond Arena. This guy would have not have foreseen the successes watching that game from the press box that night, but the rest is history and the Bobcats had the Cleary Cup clinched entering last weekend. Quinnipiac enters the weekend with just one loss in conference play, as they face Harvard and Dartmouth on the road.
Coming into the weekend seven teams will fight for three first round byes, as the top four teams get a bye. Currently Rensselaer, St. Lawrence and Yale control their own destinies as they enter this weekend with those positions joining Quinnipiac who has long clinched. Dartmouth, Union, Clarkson and Brown also have numerical shots at byes, but will need help from those above them. Home-ice advantage goes to positions five through eight in the standings, which numerically 11 out of 12 ECAC teams could end up hosting. See the current standings and I will go into the possibilities for each team.
If the NCAA tournament began today four ECAC teams would be included, but the scary part of it for the ECAC is the fact that Yale and Rensselaer are tied for 16th in the Pairwise Rankings that determine the NCAA Tournament field. This is the last entry without any surprise teams earning a berth from outside the top 16 and usually there is at least one from outside the top 16 that makes it. Realistically that means that one team, Quinnipiac, is a number one seed, while Dartmouth (13th), Yale (15) and Rensselaer (16) are all on the bubble.
1. Quinnipiac (23-4-5, 16-1-3) – Last Week 1 – Actual Standing 1
Is there really any question who belongs at the top of these rankings? They have been here since before the break and have lost just one conference game so far this season.
The Bobcats have long clinched a bye in the first round and home ice in the second round.
2. Rensselaer (15-12-5, 10-7-3) – Last Week 2 – Actual Standing 2
Rensselaer took over the second spot in these rankings two weeks ago and haven’t looked back since then. The Engineers are 7-2-0 in their last nine games, and despite losing to Cornell on Friday night are still riding a hot streak going into crunch time. I have been saying since early in the semester that Rensselaer would come up the standings and they have. The goaltender of the future, Jason Kasdorf, has become the goaltender of the present as the freshman has an 11-3-2 record on the season, allows a meager 1.63 goals per game and has a .938 save percentage. The scoring has also been balanced as six players have more 15 points and 11 have more than ten points.
Rensselaer clinches a first round bye with two points and can finish no worse than sixth, which means they have at least clinched home ice in the first round at the worst. Realistically they control there own destiny this weekend, as they host Clarkson and St. Lawrence.
3. St. Lawrence (16-12-4, 9-7-4) – Last Week 3 – Actual Standing 3
St. Lawrence entered Saturday in second place in the standings as they defeated Harvard, but fell to the Big Green of Dartmouth and fell right back to third, where they were entering the weekend. The Saints are 7-2-1 in their last ten contests and have finally started to put together performances, which was something they struggled mightily with in the first half of the season.
St. Lawrence, like Rensselaer, controls its own destiny but to fully control that destiny they realistically need at least four points. They would lose the first tiebreaker to Yale if they were tied with the Bulldogs for any position and two of the teams around them (Rensselaer and Union) they play this weekend. A win or a tie against Union would give them the first tiebreaker on the Dutchmen as they won an earlier meeting. After this weekend they could find themselves as low as seventh place and can’t go lower because they won the season series with Brown.
4. Yale (14-10-3, 10-9-1) – Last Week 5 – Actual Standing t-4
The Bulldogs would have the fourth and final bye right now, but have fallen on tough times in recent weeks. Following a Friday loss to Quinnipiac, Yale was riding a five game losing streak and things were looking pretty bleak, but within the bleak outlook Jeff Malcolm returned to action on Saturday, a 4-3 road win against Princeton. Malcolm automatically makes Yale better and hence I am raising them up a bit despite a loss. But it was to Quinnipiac so really it was a loss that everyone had on their schedule.
Yale holds their own destiny but they are tied with Dartmouth for the final bye. They had a 1-1 head-to head record, but Yale would hold the tiebreaker as they have more conference wins with ten than the Big Green’s nine. Four points would assure them the bye but if the weekend is a failure they have clinched home-ice in the first round, as they can finish no lower than eighth in the standings. The only team below them that they win the first tiebreaker with is Princeton who is currently in eighth place and they would hold the second tiebreaker against Cornell meaning the lowest they could drop is eighth despite having the chance of tying for eighth, this is highly unlikely. They are in good shape because of their 10 wins in league play, but still have work to do.
5. Cornell (11-13-3, 7-10-3) – Last Week t11 – Actual Standing t-9
Don’t look now, but Cornell is making a late charge at home ice. They are unbeaten in their last four contests and last weekend picked up a huge four points in regards to the standings defeating Rensselaer and Union at home.Everything has been coming together for them in recent weeks and giving the way they are playing teams probably don’t want to face them in the ECAC tournament.
Cornell can finish anywhere from fifth to eleventh in the standings are out of contention for a first round bye, because Yale defeated the Big Red earlier this season and even with them playing on Saturday Yale would have more wins in league play than Cornell. Home ice is a realistic possibility but four points are crucial, if they wish to have a home first round series’.
6. Brown (10-11-6, 6-8-6) – Last Week 6 – Actual Standing 8
The Bears are 4-2-2 in their last six contests and picked up three points last weekend on the road. On Friday night, Brown defeated Princeton and on Saturday the Bears traveled to Hamden Connecticut and tied the Quinnipiac. The remarkable part of the tie with Quinnipiac is that they are the only ECAC not to lose to the Bobcats this season, which is quite the accomplishment. Goaltender, Anthony Borelli allowed just four goals on the weekend and Brown has quietly put themselves in a position to move up.
Brown currently sits in the ever-important eighth position, which would allow them to host a first round series, but need wins if they were to become tied with anyone, as they have just six wins in conference play. They could realistically finish anywhere from sixth to eleventh in the standings.
7. Colgate (14-14-4, 6-11-3) – Last Week 7 – Actual Standing 11
I will admit, I am still really high on Colgate in comparison to most experts. Last weekend, the Red Raiders took down Union 4-1 and lost a close game to Rensselaer at home. Spiro Goulakos has returned to Colgate and his return could not come soon enough as Gate was struggling mightily on defense. Goulakos scored the game winner against Union on Friday night and his return could push Colgate that much further along.
Colgate still has an outside shot of home-ice in the first round but have been eliminated from contention for a bye. They can finish anywhere from seventh to 11th in the standings.
8. Dartmouth (13-10-4, 9-8-3) – Last Week 8 – Actual Standing t-4
Dartmouth split the weekend as they lost to Clarkson on Friday, 4-0, and they defeated a red hot St. Lawrence team on Saturday. Dartmouth has seen good results diminish as of late but they seem to be gaining their rythym back in recent weeks. Dartmouth really needs to begin stringing performances together if they wish to make the NCAA tournament, come seasons end.
Dartmouth sits in good position in a tie for fourth, but they would lose the tiebreaker to Yale so they really need four points this weekend. Realitically they could get two wins and still find themselves hosting a first round series’. They can finish anywhere from second to tenth in the conference. Their game against Princeton on Friday is going to be very important in terms of seeding. If tied with Cornell they would lose the tiebreaker to the Big Red and with a loss to Princeton, they would lose the tiebreaker with them.
9. Union (15-12-5, 8-8-4) – Last Week 4 – Actual Standing 6
I am at a loss for words at this point when it comes to Union. The core and talent is present for the Dutchmen but it just isn’t coming together for them. Last weekend, the inconsistency hit the bottom of the bell shape curve, one could figure, as Union was swept by Cornell and Colgate. Both teams sit below them in the standings and both have been even more inconsistent than they have. Union could still be a dangerous team in the tournament but they need to get consistent and they need to gain a rythym fast.
Union could still gain a bye in the first round but they need to win both of their games this weekend. They could realistically finish anywhere from second to tenth in the final standings.
10. Harvard (8-16-3, 5-13-2) – Last Week t-11 – Actual Standing 12
Is Harvard getting hot or is this just the build up before the big let down? It seems funny to ask that question, but the Crimson have come alive in recent weeks after being left out of the ECAC conversations for a long time, and rightfully so. Harvard is 3-1-2 in their last six games and have been playing good hockey of late, especially defensively and in net. Their road would be a long one but it would not be impossible. Last weekend the Crimson lost to red hot St. Lawrence on Friday, but picked up a huge 6-2 win on the road against Clarkson.
The Crimson are almost assurred of finishing in twelfth place, but their is a remote chance that they can get up to 11th before the weekend is done. The Bright Hockey Center will see its last home game of the season on Saturday night, when Princeton comes to town.
11. Clarkson (9-16-7, 8-9-3) – Last Week 9 – Actual Standing 7
On again, off again is the phrase that can best be used to describe Clarkson in recent weeks and that continued this week as Clarkson defeated Dartmouth, but lost to Harvard on consecutive nights. The shutout of Dartmouth was only their second shutout of the season and Greg Lewis made 28 saves in the game. The next night was total opposite of the night before as the Golden Knights gave up six to a surging Harvard squad.
Clarkson can take care of their own desitny with four points this weekend, but just two would clinch them home ice. The currently sit in seventh place. The could finish anywhere from third to 11th.
12. Princeton (9-14-4, 7-10-3) – Last Week 10 – Actual Standing t-9
Princeton gets the nod this week as the last team in these rankings. The Tigers have lost four games in a row, including losses to Yale and Dartmouth last weekend. They have lost six out of their last eight games and are seriously in a funk.
Princeton can finish anywhere from fifth to 11th in the standings and four points would desirable for them.