The ECAC West power struggle has taken more twists and turns this year than Patrick Kane dangling through a crowd of goons.
First, Plattsburgh started behind the eight ball with an early-season tie to Neumann, then RIT was in the position of playing catch up after Plattsburgh took three of four points at home against the Tigers. Elmira put itself in prime position to take the crown after splitting with Plattsburgh a few weeks ago. However, now with just one week remaining in the season, we finally have a pretty clear picture of how things are going to shake out after RIT swept all four points from Elmira this weekend.
The only way the Tigers could clinch the regular season crown was a sweep, and they did just that, blasting Elmira 5-1 on Friday night at the Ritter and then following up with a hard-fought 2-1 victory on Saturday at the Domes, despite being outshot.
RIT is now in the clear driver’s seat to repeat as the ECAC West regular season champion, pending a sweep of Cortland this weekend. Plattsburgh has assured itself of the no. 2 spot no matter what Elmira does in its final two games at Oswego. The Soaring Eagles took a hard fall from grace, from needing just one win this past weekend to lock up the top spot and home ice throughout the playoffs to dropping all the way down to the no. 3 spot and have to play a play-in game, as well as meet Plattsburgh, pending a victory in the semifinal round.
Plattsburgh’s tie against Neumann also comes back to bite the Cards, as it now looks like they’ll finish one point behind RIT in the standings. Had Plattsburgh beat Neumann, the Cardinals would win the tiebreaker with RIT, having a 1-0-1 record against the Tigers in head-to-head meetings this year.
With only one week left to play in the regular season for every conference except the MIAC, let’s take a look at how the conference races are shaping up.
In the ECAC East, Norwich has already clinched home ice for the duration of the league playoffs, as it is 10 points clear of the next closest D-III team in Manhattanville. The Cadets however, need one more point to clinch the overall ECAC East title with Division I Holy Cross sitting four points back in second. NU will play Holy Cross on Saturday at 1 p.m. in both teams’ regular season finale. Third through six remains a cluster, with just three points separating four teams, and just one separating three of them.
Castleton currently holds a slim lead for the third spot with 17 points, while New England College and Salve Regina have 16 points. Southern Maine is in sixth with 14. None of the four teams play each other in head-to-head matchups, but NEC and Castleton each play St. Anselm and Massachusetts-Boston, which is one of the toughest swings in the ECAC East.
In the MIAC, Gustavus Adolphus continues its impressive domination of the conference, as the Gusties have already clinched their eighth straight MIAC regular season title. They have already won eight straight MIAC tournament titles, and will be looking for their ninth in a couple of weeks.
The NCHA regular season champion is a clear runaway for Wisconsin-River Falls, as the Falcons have 35 points and cannot be caught. After that though, things get very interesting, with a huge bottleneck fight for second to fifth. Wisconsin-Superior holds a slim one-point lead on Lake Forest for the no. 2 spot, but the Yellowjackets have a big home-and-home series with fourth place St. Scholastica this weekend. The Saints sit just three points back of Superior as well. Adrian is fifth with 22 points, and it hosts third-place Lake Forest for a pair of games. You couldn’t ask for better drama than what the NCHA has on tap this weekend, with all four of those teams playing each other and plenty left to be decided.
In the NESCAC, Middlebury has the inside track to host the NESCAC tournament after Amherst slipped up and lost 3-2 to Trinity over the weekend. Had Amherst won, the Lord Jeffs would be hosting in the friendly confines of Orr Rink. Bowdoin has emerged as a solid third place, while Trinity, Hamilton, Connecticut College and Williams are left to fend for the final quarterfinal host spot down to seventh place.
It’s hard to believe it that we’re already to the final weeks of the regular season, but buckle up, as we’re in for another great run to the finish this season!