Sunday, February 19, 2012

Where We... Sit

The ECAC regular season is complete.

RPI (6-14-2) finishes in a tie for 8th place with Brown (5-13-4), but lose the tiebreaker based on an 0-1-1 record against the Bears and occupy the 9th position in the ECAC, out of a playoff spot. The Engineers miss the playoffs for the first time since 2007-08, and the second time overall since joining the league.

Brown, notably, reaches the playoffs for the first time since 2004-05, ending a long drought for a program that lost 3-2 in the national championship game in 2002.

The remaining seven teams all reached the playoffs last season. Colgate's last playoff appearance was in 2009-10. Yale last reached the quarterfinals in 2007-08. Union has never reached the ECAC playoffs, but reached a new high as a program by not finishing in last place for the first time in Division I (9 seasons), and reaching a new high point total of six, beating the previous standard of four.

Quarterfinal matchups are as follows:
#8 Brown at #1 Cornell
#7 Quinnipiac at #2 Harvard
#6 Princeton at #3 Clarkson
#5 St. Lawrence at #4 Dartmouth

There are two games remaining in the regular season.

RPI (5-12-3) is in a tie for 11th place with Brown (5-12-3), occupying the 11th seed position by virtue of a season sweep. Both teams are eliminated from consideration for home ice in the playoffs, trailing the #8 position by six points with four points remaining.

The Engineers lose the tiebreaker with 10th place Princeton (6-11-3) thanks to the Tigers' season sweep completed last night. Princeton also cannot reach the #8 position, however.

They would go to the third tiebreaker (points against Top 4 teams) against Dartmouth (7-10-3). At present, RPI would win this tiebreaker because for it to come into play, the Engineers must sweep Colgate and Cornell, two Top 4 teams, giving them 4 points against current Top 4 squads against only 2 for Dartmouth. However, only two Top 4 teams are officially known at this time (Union and Cornell), and any team currently in the Top 8 has the potential to reach the Top 4.

Here's how the point totals would play out in a tiebreaker.
Union - Both teams were swept.
Cornell - RPI 2, Dartmouth 0 (tiebreaker requires RPI win at Cornell on Saturday).
Colgate - Both teams split (tiebreaker requires RPI win at Colgate on Friday).
Clarkson - Both teams were swept (tiebreaker requires Dartmouth loss at Clarkson on Friday).
Harvard - Both teams tied Harvard twice (come on, it's Harvard, the tie machine).
Quinnipiac - Dartmouth 2, RPI 0
St. Lawrence - Both teams split (tiebreaker requires Dartmouth loss at St. Lawrence on Saturday).
Yale - RPI 2, Dartmouth 0

Thus, the only teams that really matter for the tiebreaker are Cornell, Quinnipiac, and Yale, since the others are a wash. Since Cornell is guaranteed to be in the Top 4, that would give RPI a distinct advantage. Dartmouth could push things to a Top 8 tiebreak if Quinnipiac reaches the Top 4, by which point all of the above teams come into play. Thus, the Engineers will win a tiebreaker with Dartmouth. (Thanks to Jason Klump for the heads up)

The Engineers can therefore potentially reach the #9 seed, but it would require 4 points this weekend, and for Dartmouth to be swept by Clarkson and St. Lawrence, and for Princeton to take no more than one point this weekend. All of this is moot by Saturday if RPI does not defeat Colgate AND Dartmouth does not lose to Clarkson.

Three-way ties resolve in this fashion:
BRN/DRT/RPI: RPI, Dartmouth, Brown
BRN/PRN/RPI: Princeton, RPI, Brown
DRT/PRN/RPI: Dartmouth, Princeton, RPI

The only possible four way tie: Dartmouth, Princeton, RPI, Brown

On Friday, in addition to the Engineers beating Colgate, fans should be pulling for Clarkson over Dartmouth,  Yale over Princeton, and Brown over Quinnipiac. The Union-Cornell and St. Lawrence-Harvard games are immaterial.

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