Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Where We Stand (13 Feb)

Hi, everybody!  My name's Steven.  Tom's enlisted me as a walk-on to help with the season resets what with the end of the season approaching and all that.  Some of you may know me better as burgie12 on the USCHO Forums.  Anyways, it was nice to meet all of you, I hope you stick around and read what I have to say.

The Engineers have finished their season against five teams so far and the results aren't pretty.  They've been swept by Union and lost the season series to Quinnipiac (although, they managed a tie, which is more than nine other teams can say in ECAC play) and Princeton.  They've also split with Dartmouth and Harvard (who is fairly safely in last place).  The good news is that they've guaranteed themselves at least a point against each team (other than Union) and the only team against whom they still have games remaining that they can lose the season series to is Brown.

Combine the above facts with only three ties in the ECAC this season, and RPI is actually in a decent position with some of their tiebreakers.  A point against Quinnipiac (who is functionally locked into 1st place) should help if any tiebreakers go down to Record vs Top 4 and Yale is the only team in their immediate surroundings who has less than three ties, so it's unlikely (at this time) that RPI is going to start losing tiebreakers on ECAC wins.

As for a rundown of the entire league, Quinnipiac has a magic number of 2 points to clinch first place in the ECAC with three weeks remaining, which is just staggering.

Yale (19 points) has eclipsed the usual threshold for 8th place and home-ice advantage in the first round, but that number isn't quite as firm as the 24 / 25 points necessary for a bye and with the standings as bunched as they are, it's no use counting your chickens before they hatch.  They have assured themselves that they can't finish in 12th place, though.

On the other end of the spectrum, Harvard has officially eliminated themselves from bye contention and would be very hard-pressed to spend the first round of the playoffs at Bright Arena.

Other than that, it's a bloody mess in the middle of the standings, with every team beating everyone else senseless.

The Engineers have finished the season series against seven of their ECAC opponents.  They were swept by Harvard, Clarkson, and Quinnipiac (who all seem destined to be in at least the Top 5) and managed a tie against St. Lawrence this past Saturday, but still lost the season series.  They split against Princeton (with each team winning on the road), won the series against Dartmouth (winning at home and coming back to get a tie in Hanover), and swept their home-and-home against Union.

With regards to the four teams that they still have to play, they have already earned wins over the three teams behind them in the standings, meaning that they cannot lose those season series.  And, with only two ties, they are, again, in good standing if a comparison falls to ECAC wins.

RPI controls its own destiny for making the playoffs, but will require quite a bit of help to finish in 6th place.  Luckily, they will likely get some of that help because Dartmouth, who is currently parked right in front of Rensselaer in the standings, has to face the North Country duo and Cornell and Colgate.  Clarkson and Cornell are fighting for the ECAC crown (along with Harvard) and will not be willing to part with points easily while St. Lawrence is currently three points up on the Big Green in the standings.  Dartmouth does not have an easy closing schedule.

Realistically, RPI has locked themselves into 7th place with slight upward possibilities and minimal chances for losing ground (although they can mathematically fall all the way to 11th).  With so many games against the teams that are right behind them in the standings, though, it is essential that they don't lose their focus and get the points that they're supposed to get.

For the league as a whole, Harvard is the only team that controls their destiny for 1st place.  However, with both Clarkson and Cornell having to face the Crimson over the last two weekends of the season, points will not be easy to win and the fight for the crown will be fierce.

Quinnipiac and St. Lawrence have nearly locked themselves into 4th and 5th place in some order and will play each other on Friday to figure out who finishes where.  The loser, though, falls closer to Dartmouth, keeping things interesting for that #5 seed.

Dartmouth can theoretically finish anywhere between 4th and 8th, but are, for all intents and purposes, firmly entrenched in the #6 seed.

In the race for the final playoff spot, Colgate is the only team that controls their own destiny.  Union is functionally out, even though they're not mathematically eliminated, and Brown would need a small miracle to finish in the Top 8.  Yale does have the benefit of playing four of their remaining five games (all except the rescheduled Harvard game) at home, while Princeton won't see the inside of Hobey Baker Rink again this season.

If all of the teams in the Top 6 win all of their games against teams in the Bottom 5 (so, exempting the Engineers) (which isn't too much of a stretch), then RPI is guaranteed a spot, only Union would mathematically be eliminated, and Colgate would still be the team in the driver's seat for 8th place.

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