And Down The Stretch They Come
There are just two weeks to go in the regular season of the ECAC West and the playoff race has tightened up. Two teams have a shot at the top, while three other teams are vying for home ice. Lets take a team-by-team look around the league and see where they stand.
First, a review of the playoff format and tiebreaker criteria for the ECAC West. The tiebreaker criteria are:
1. Comparison of game results between the tied teams (head-to-head)
2. Number of league wins
3. Comparison of results against common opponents
4. Overall record
Teams that finish in the top five positions make the playoffs. The fourth place team will host the fifth place team in the first round on Wednesday, Feb. 27. The winner of that game will meet the regular season champion on Saturday, Mar. 1, while the second place team will host the third place finisher on that same evening.
The winners of those two games will play for the league championship the following Saturday, Mar. 8, at the higher seeds rink.
The Elmira Soaring Eagles have been flying high all season long, riding the warm air currents of a 19 game unbeaten streak at the start of the season to the top of the league. But they hit a bit of a wind sheer in its last two games, losing to Neumann and tying Hobart, and that has given a glimmer of hope to the rest of the league.
The Soaring Eagles are still in the pilots seat and are the hands down favorite to take the regular season league title. They have a four point lead with four games remaining.
Any combination of two points from Elmiras pair of games this weekend with Manhattanville will clinch first place, since the Soaring Eagles would own the tiebreaker criteria against the Valiants.
If Elmira gets swept by both Manhattanville and Hobart in its remaining games, the Soaring Eagles could finish as low as third.
Manhattanville currently sits in second place, only one point ahead of third place Neumann. The Valiants must take at least three of four points from Elmira this weekend to have a chance at first place. But they would need help from Hobart, doing the same to Elmira next weekend, to finish off the title.
Realistically, Manhattanville is looking to secure second place and a home semifinal playoff game. If the Valiants cant take three points from Elmira this weekend, it will come down to the last weekend in a series with Neumann, who currently owns the tiebreaker (head-to-head).
Neumann is idle this weekend, so the Knights will have to scoreboard watch as the other teams are in action. They could finish as high as second, if Elmira takes it to Manhattanville this weekend and then Neumann cleans up against the Valiants next weekend.
Or the Knights could end in as low as fifth place if the wheels completely fall off the bus. Finishing in their current third position would allow Neumann to avoid the midweek quarterfinal play-in game on Feb. 27.
Hobart and Utica round out the playoff contenders. They are currently tied for fourth place and play a pair of games at The Cooler this weekend.
Utica owns the tiebreaker criteria against Neumann, and a single win this weekend will take the same criteria against Hobart. The Pioneers can finish as high as second or as low as fifth.
Realistically, Utica will most likely finish third. They complete the season in a two game series with Lebanon Valley next weekend and those points will allow Utica to move up in the standings while the other teams beat each other up. A determining factor in Uticas final standing will be whether the recently surging offense can up the torrid pace.
Hobart, like Neumann and Utica, can finish anywhere from second to fifth. Hobart owns the tiebreaker with Neumann, but needs to sweep Utica this weekend to take the tiebreaker from the Pioneers.
With Utica getting points from Neumann next weekend, the Statesmen need to sweep the Pioneers this weekend to have a realistic chance of finishing above fourth place.
Lebanon Valley is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and now are just playing for pride to finish off their season. They have a rare late season non-conference game this Saturday at Geneseo then head to Utica for a pair of games to finish off the year next weekend.
Manhattanville senior Jason Murfitt continues to knock down school records in remarkable fashion. He broke the all-time Valiants scoring record last Friday when he notched a goal at 13:09 of the second period, helping his team to a 8-1 win over Lebanon Valley.
Murfitt now has 118 career points, surpassing Chris Seiferts (1999-2003) previous standard.
The next record on Murfitts radar is career assists. He currently has 67 helpers and is eyeing Seiferts career record of 72 assists.
Camouflage Night at The Cooler
Hobart Hockey Helpers (HHH) is going stealth for this Friday’s game with Utica. The Statesmen will be wearing camouflage uniforms for the game in an effort to raise awareness and money for the Wounded Warrior Project.
One of the jerseys will be raffled off during the game, and the rest will be auctioned off at a later date from the HHH website. Also for sale at the game will be HHH hats with donations going towards the project.
Coming together to support the camouflage sweater event is a partnership of alumni, local businesses and restaurants.
Game of the Week
Both of the series this weekend could have a huge impact in the standings. Manhattanville has the last chance to put the brakes on Elmiras run for the title, while the Soaring Eagles are looking to hit their stride again after two recent stumbles.
Lower down in the standings, Hobart and Utica are each trying to break out of their fourth place tie. Both have identical 5-5-1 league records and have been up-and-down in league play since the holidays. If a team is going to make a late season move, now is the time.
If you are a fan of college hockey, either series would be worth attending this weekend.