The CHA and the WCHA put all of their teams into their conference tournament making the regular season largely a play for seeding. The ECAC and Hockey East (as of last season) put eight of their twelve and nine teams respectively into their postseasons.
That means for five teams in each conference the end of the regular season is the end of the line for them. (I suppose if like 20 teams were inelligible for postseason play a team could conceivably still make the NCAA tournament despite not making their conference tournament.)
Usually the ECAC is pretty well stratified into four good teams, four mediocre teams, and four bad teams and Hockey East only gained their ninth team (Merrimack) last season and it was pretty obvious from the start that it would be the new team sitting out the 2016 Hockey East Tournament.
Not this year!
This year the two conferences, and large sections of women’s hockey as a whole, are a complete mess. The ECAC is split into two really good teams (Clarkson and St. Lawrence), four good but man you lose some questionable games teams (Quinnipiac, Princeton, Cornell, and Colgate), one mediocre team (RPI), and five I think you’re bad but I’m not really sure just how bad teams (Yale, Dartmouth, Brown, Harvard, and Union).
In Hockey East nothing makes sense. Good teams beat bad teams. Bad teams beat good teams. Mediocre teams do a little bit of both, BUT THEY DEFINITELY DON’T DO THE THING YOU THINK THEY’LL DO AT ANY GIVEN TIME. BC lost to Maine. They beat Merrimack by one goal. *throws papers in the air*
I’m here to talk about elimination so I’m going to ignore the top six. Their spots in the ECAC tournament should be all but assured.
The most shocking thing is HOLY CRAP HARVARD IS TERRIBLE. For reference, Harvard’s worst ECAC finish is 5th and their worst ECAC record is 12-7-3 (which was actually last season). They just lost to Union today for the first time ever in 27 games. To put this all even further into perspective, Union hasn’t even scored 10 goals against Harvard yet. TOTAL.
The standings have actually stayed pretty much the same this season inthe bottom half, but the gap continues to be small. Dartmouth looked like the worst team in the conference for a while but they have three straight wins and Harvard, Yale, and Brown coming up. Yale has only beaten Union and Harvard. RPI has only beaten Brown, Harvard, Yale, and Cornell.
It’s not a stretch to say that these six teams are largely only capable of beating each other. Who gets the most wins out of that is anyone’s guess. Union has the toughest path, seeing each of the top six teams once and RPI twice along with Harvard and Dartmouth. RPI, being their traveling partner and playing the same teams, also has a tough road.
Everyone else has a mishmash of games against the other bottom teams with top opponents sprinkled throughout. Yale is done with Clarkson and St. Lawrence so they’ve got the easiest path, but the team to watch is Dartmouth.
The Big Green are not a good team, but they can do some damage at home where they can get the matchups they want. All three of their ECAC wins are at home and they’re .500 on the year in familiar confines. Dartmouth plays Cornell, Colgate, Clarkson, and St. Lawrence at home among the top group along with Brown and Yale. It’s not likely for them to grab more than two wins, but with Cornell and Colgate struggling at times, it isn’t impossible. Their road opponents are each of the bottom teams once. With them being the closest to making the cut they may well win the round of musical playoff spots.
The Hockey East elimination spot is a tale of two teams. Maine and Merrimack have swapped the bottom spot a few times and neither makes much sense. Maine’s wins have come against Boston College, Boston University, and a sweep of Northeastern this past weekend. You might recognize those as largely the best teams in the conference.
Merrimack, meanwhile, has beaten Northeastern, Vermont, and Connecticut. They also have a win over Maine. Versus the two teams immediately above them the Black Bears and Warriors are 0-6-1.
The advantage here is clearly Maine with the point advantage and two games in hand. They also have more remaining games against the bottom of the table, playing New Hampshire, Providence, Connecticut, and Merrimack in eight of their nine remaining games (each twice).
Of course it’s possible that only the latter two of those will matter. The lone meeting between Maine and Merrimack this season came in mid-October and the Warriors torched the Black Bears 5-1. They built the entire 5-1 lead over the first two periods and held a 20-15 shots advantage before coasting through a 15-6 shots deficit in a scoreless third. That was in Maine’s building too. The final two matchups are at home for the Warriors. It’s perhaps worth nothing that Maine is 0-9-1 on the road.