By Ray Biggs
D3hockey.com Managing Editor
Here we go. As much as I don't personally want to believe it because the time left in the year is running short, the final weekend of regular season play has finally hit us. This is our last Friday of regular season hockey.
|In a race that can be reasonably classified as bedlam, Williams looks to land the knockout shot in the NESCAC this weekend. Can they do it? Or will another team grab the reins?
Photo: Hans Gulseth for D3hockey.com
As much as I dread the end, it's exciting at the same time. Some leagues, the NEHC and WIAC, are a step ahead this weekend with the start of playoffs. As we get set to hit the finish line of the regular season, and start whittling down our field of teams towards the ultimate number of one national champion, we thought we'd bring you a top end breakdown of our regular season conference races including those races that have already been decided.
NEHC- Norwich. With only one loss on its' overall record, the No. 1 Cadets became the first team in the nation to lock up a top seed back on January 28th, and will comfortably sit out the NEHC quarterfinals with a first round bye before playing an opponent to be determined next weekend. After the Cadets dominated with a string of regular season crowns among this group of peer institutions for nearly two decades, it's not all that surprising to see the kings reclaim their long-held throne.
ECAC West- Utica. After the No. 12 Pioneers were in complete disarray through the entirety of a midseason nonconference run, Utica responded to its' lone conference loss of the season, their seventh in a nine game period at the time, by not losing a game since. The Pioneers have won their last seven to fend off challenges from Manhattanville and Hobart and lock up the top seed in this year's conference tournament. With one game left on its' schedule, Utica has won a school record 12 ECAC West games and will await the lowest remaining seed in the ECAC West semifinals. Like at least one other team that was in contention for quite some time, Hobart, playoff time has already begun to warm up in the championship host city as an at-large remains the only way into the tournament for this league's membership.
Behind Utica, Manhattanville is the first or second seed in the tournament for an impressive eleventh time in fifteen years.
MASCAC- Plymouth State. The Panthers clinched it by driving in the final coffin nails on second place Salem State in games this week. The Panthers defeated Salem on Tuesday, and widended the gap further by winning against Fitchburg on Thursday while the Vikings were beaten by UMass Dartmouth. The end result is a seven point advantage for Plymouth with two games left to play for both teams, and thus, the league title is theirs.
WIAC- UW-Stevens Point. The defending national champs had to fend off Eau Claire in the regular season finale to clinch, and they did so in dominating fashion. They'll wait for an opponent to be determined in the WIAC semifinals next weekend.
SUNYAC- Oswego. The Lakers have 23 points, and are four points up on Geneseo and Plattsburgh with two games left for each of them. The title share hopes for one or both teams could vanish tonight with Plattsburgh and Geneseo due to meet in a game that will likely decide second place. A loss eliminates that team from title contention, a tie eliminates both teams, and a win or tie by Oswego does them both in as well.
As far as the top seed goes, the Lakers have that secured. The two trailing teams both lose tiebreakers to the Lakers at this point, with a 1-0-1 head-to-head record enough to push them over the Knights, and in a 1-1 season split, a +2 goal differential gets them past Plattsburgh. An Oswego point of any kind in the next two games takes all of this off the table.
NCHA- Adrian. The Bulldogs got closer to wrapping this up on Thursday when second place St. Norbert, who trails by a point, stagnated on an opportunity to jump ahead and put some pressure on by losing to MSOE. Adrian leads by a point with two games left on their schedule, while the Green Knights have one game left. A Bulldog win this weekend puts it away, as St. Norbert would have to win their last game with Adrian earning a point maximum in their two game set with Scholastica. to take the top seed and share the title.
A Bit More Difficult
CCC-We're down to two teams here. Nichols leads with 26 points over Endicott with 25. Both teams won earlier this week to stagnate the deficit, but the Bison lead is in a fair degree of trouble because the Gulls have an extra game in hand, and two more possible points still on the table. Nichols has one game left, while the Gulls have a pair. A Gull win and a Bison loss or tie on Saturday could put Endicott in the drivers' seat as it would make up at least the one point differential with two available standings points still in Endicott's pocket for them to win the title outright. A Nichols win and Endicott loss on Saturday, or a Nichols tie and no more than one Endicott point across the final two games are the only avenues left for the Bison to take the top seed.
In a tiebreaker scenario, head-to-head competiton would yield no winner with a season split between the two. The next tiebreaker is competition against the third place team, and Endicott holds a better record against both Curry and Salve Regina than Nichols can have, as the Bison still have to play Curry a second time with a prior loss against them while the Gulls swept the Colonels for the year. So tiebreakers swing in favor of the Gulls if they are required.
MIAC- We'll simplify a bit here, as the additional complexity of the MIAC point system will require it. The MIAC awards three points for a regulation or overtime win, two points for a shootout win, one point for a shootout loss, and no points for a loss of any other type.
Three teams are still in this thing at the moment, Augsburg and St. Thomas have the inside track in the lead at 30 points, and Hamline is the long shot sitting four points back. St. Mary's is a point back of Augsburg and St. Thomas, but is now powerless to change their status with their regular season completed. The other three teams have two games apiece remaining.
Simply put, three points, or a regulation win by either Augsburg or St. Thomas puts even a share out of reach for the Pipers, who will need a minimum of five points in the next two if the leaders picked up none, to have a chance mathematically at a share. From there, it may be a matter of who picks up more points between the Tommies and Auggies in the last two games. On a side note, the Auggies have gone to shootouts in four out of their last five games, so that's something to keep an eye on as far as recent history is concerned.
If it comes down to tiebreakers, the Auggies have the Tommies beat on head to head performance, and the Tommies have the Pipers beat in the same fashion. The second tiebreaker is number of wins in conference play, so the Piper men could actually pull past the Auggies there if Augsburg were to somehow end up tied with Hamline in the standings. The MIAC guidelines are unclear as to whether or not shootout results are tablulated in head-to-head as well, but Hamline did win both shootouts against Augsburg in a pair of tie games.
NESCAC- This just might be the wildest one of all, as four teams can still reasonably pull off a share of the the top regular season spot. We'll try to get to every reasonable eventuality here without getting too ridiculous.... we'll discuss the second and third tiebreakers and how they'll work on Twitter later if we really need them once the season is done and the dataset is finalized because some chips have yet to fall on the table.
Anyway, Williams (23), sits in the lead while Hamilton(22), Colby(21), and Trinity(20), still sit within three points of the lead. We'll start from the top down. Williams takes the top seed outright with two wins, or a win and a loss by Hamilton along with a loss or tie by Colby. If Hamilton and Williams win Friday, the deficit would stagnate and Hamilton would need a win against Williams on Saturday to take the top seed, and vice versa. A tie in that game gives Williams the top seed. Hamilton and Williams are currently tied on their head-to-head tiebreaker after a tie earlier this season.
A Hamilton win and Williams loss or tie also sets up a chance for either team to claim the top spot outright on Saturday, but a tie would keep them even and force tiebreakers. That could also bring Colby into the picture, who can take on a maximum of two points from Williams and three from Hamilton if they were to win both games to at least tie for the top spot.
Colby takes the top spot outright by getting to 25 points while neither Hamilton or Williams gets more than 24. They can do so with two wins and a loss and tie by Hamilton and Williams, or two Mule wins and if Hamilton goes 1-1 for the weekend and the Ephs lose both their games. Trinity can do no better than tie for the lead, as a team is getting to 24 points on Saturday no matter what.
Enjoy the games, and may the force be with you. If you pass enough upcoming tests on the ice, we just might see you in Utica. Good luck.