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College Hockey:
Gentlemen, start your beard-ing

The matchups

First, congratulations to Cleary Cup champion Union, who took the regular-season crown for the third time in four years (2010-11, ’11-12, and this season).

The Dutchmen are joined in their well-deserved bye week by second-place Colgate, third-place Quinnipiac, and fourth-place Cornell. Kudos, especially, to the Big Red for a tenacious rally against arch-rival Harvard; Cornell’s overtime victory secured the league’s final bye seed.

And now, the first round:

12 Princeton @ 5 Clarkson: Clarkson swept the season series, 4-3/3-1.

11 Harvard @ 6 Yale: Yale won the season series, 1-0-1, and also beat the Crimson 5-1 in a non-conference game at Madison Square Garden.

10 Dartmouth @ 7 Rensselaer: RPI swept the season series, 7-1/4-2.

9 Brown @ 8 St. Lawrence: Brown won the season series, 1-0-1.

Of moderate interest, none of the low seeds lucked into a local draw (e.g. 2009-10 Clarkson, which got to sleep at home between first-round “road” games at St. Lawrence). For those curious, the shortest trip of the first round belongs to Dartmouth (131 miles); the distance just slid in under Harvard’s trek to New Haven (134), though due to the directness of the route, the Crimson are likely to spend less time actually on the road.

On the other end of the spectrum, Brown will rack up nearly three times that mileage: It’s 360 miles from Providence to Canton. And last but not least, 12th-seed Princeton truly endures some last-place treatment with 386 miles of road between its Garden State campus and Potsdam, N.Y. Estimated travel time: Six and a half hours.

The one, the only, the PairWise

At this point, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Union is a lock for the NCAA tournament field, currently occupying the third one-seed in the rankings. Quinnipiac is looking pretty strong as well, but the algorithm is simply too sensitive for me to declare the Bobcats tourney-bound just yet (though I’m tempted to).

At the moment, Cornell is in a tie for 13th in the PWR, and holds an edge over Vermont in the Rankings Percentage Index (RPI). That’s a good thing. Unfortunately, the Red cannot afford to resign from the ECAC playoffs too early, or that 13 will turn into a 20-something in a heartbeat.

Colgate looks good at 16 – the Raiders are on the happy side of that burgundy line – but that line is deceiving. The Atlantic Hockey auto-bid/champion is almost guaranteed to hail from beyond the PWR’s top 16 (Mercyhurst is the AHA’s standings leader and strongest PWR presence at 34th), so that will bump the No. 16 program – Colgate – into golf season with nary a shrug. Raiders need to win a couple of series to solidify their at-large status.

Finally, Yale (19th) and Clarkson (24) are on the outside looking in. It may seem unlikely – especially for Clarkson – but I’m not ready to state definitively that either of them must win the Whitelaw Cup in order to qualify for the Big Dance. The Golden Knights would need a lot of help and a deep postseason run, but stranger things have happened.

Everybody else? Just win, baby.

Right time/wrong time

Who’s timed their hot streaks just right? Who’s at risk of free-falling right out of the 2013-14 season?

Hot…

Union is 8-0-1 in its last nine, now good for the longest active unbeaten streak in the nation thanks to Notre Dame’s OT upset of Boston College on Saturday. The Dutchmen aren’t so much building a fire as keeping it burning, having only lost four times since Halloween (23-4-2).

Colgate hasn’t put on the season-long laser show that Union has, but the Raiders’ 10-3-3 record since New Year’s is nothing to sniff at. The ‘Gate has only surrendered three goals or more in a game four times in that stretch.

Don’t look now, but 10th-place Dartmouth has only lost once in its last six games (4-1-1), and that defeat was the squeaker at Colgate on Saturday. If only the Green power play had been as effective as their penalty kill.

… not.

That thud you heard on Saturday was Princeton hitting the bottom. The Tigers are 2-12 in the second half of the season, and haven’t mustered more than one goal in any of their last four games (0-4). Injuries or not, it’s frankly a year to forget in the Garden State.

Harvard appeared poised to make another postseason run, but the last two weekends put a damper on those plans as the Crimson sputtered to a 1-3 record to close out the scheduled docket.

Brown is 2-7 since its January 31 dumping of Colgate; the Bears were also shut out in both games last weekend.

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