Yin and Yang
Like the rest of society, college hockey has its positives and negatives, its
heroes and its villains. Incidents of the past two weeks involving SUNYAC
players have brought that out.
On the positive side, there’s Rocky Reeves of Buffalo State. The third-year forward from Anchorage, Alaska has been named as a finalist for the Hockey Humanitarian award for the second straight year, and has to be considered a favorite to win the award as the only returning finalist. If he does, he would be the first Division III male player to do so.
Reeve’s achievements off the ice are too numerous to mention here, but here are some of the highlights: raising funds for the homeless and cancer victims, working with survivors of sexual abuse and getting books into the hands of people who otherwise couldn’t afford them.
Rocky is a Dean’s List student that has made the SUNYAC all-academic team the past two seasons.
Oh, and he plays hockey too. Reeves is one of the reasons who Buffalo State is having its best season to date, currently tied for third place in the SUNYAC. The Bengal captain is fifth on the team in scoring with eight goals and nine assists.
Reeves, as well as the other finalists for the Humanitarian award (Dan Casella from Dartmouth, Tom Conti from Lawrence, and Jeff Wilson from Union) are excellent role models for the thousands of youth hockey players in the U.S. and Canada who aspire to be good college hockey players as well as good people.
Unfortunately, there has to be an opposite end of the spectrum, and the latest to assume that role is Mark Cole of Plattsburgh State. Cole was arrested early Sunday morning for attacking teammate Jeff Hopkins after finding Hopkins with Cole’s girlfriend.
Hokpins required treatment at the local hospital; Cole went to jail and is suspended indefinitely from the team.
This story has all the makings for a good, gossipy scandal; its main ingredients are sex and violence, after all. But it’s really just another in a long line of examples of poor decisions and dumb behavior that we see so much of these days.
Cole isn’t the first and won’t be the last hockey player to bust a teammate in the mouth over a girl, but he plays for Plattsburgh State, which is as close to a pro team as you get in that part of the state. The Cardinals get about as much coverage in Plattsburgh as the Yankees do in New York.
Unfortunately, it’s more coverage than Reeves is getting in Buffalo.
Here’s a miscellaneous factiod: There are 173 Division III games remaining on the regular season schedule, and only seven are non-conference affairs.
That means that the leagues are getting down to serious business. For some
conferences, there are as little as three weekends left.
With six conference games to play, Norwich, despite its recent mini-slump, leads second-place Salem State by a whopping eight points. The Cadets can clinch the regular season title with a sweep this weekend, but that may be a tall order since they must travel to Bowdoin and Colby. Salem State is at New England and St. Anselm, and any combination of two Norwich wins or two Salem loses will clinch for the Cadets.
At the bottom of the standings, UMass.-Boston must rally to avoid finishing last and having to face Norwich in the first round. Right now, the Beacons are the eighth Division III seed even though they are in tenth place. St. Michael’s (currently fourth) and St. Anselm (eighth) play in a separate ECAC Division II playoff which also includes the D-II teams from the ECAC Northeast.
Elmira took a major step in dislodging three-time defending regular season champ RIT from atop the standings. The Soaring Eagles 4-2 win on home ice means that if both teams win all their other league games, Elmira can clinch the regular season title with a win or tie at RIT on February 16th.
That’s easier said than done, however. Elmira must face Manhattanville twice, and the Valiants took two of three from the Soaring Eagles last season.
If RIT and Elmira wind up tied for first, the tiebreaking system is: 1. Head-to-Head results 2. League Wins 3. Record against common opponents
Elmira can take care of things with a win and a tie or a sweep, but RIT holds the third tiebreaker. The Tigers are currently 10-0 against common opponents, while Elmira is 5-2.
With most teams having five or six games left, this is a four horse race between Lebanon Valley, Johnson & Wales, UMass.-Dartmouth, and Wentworth. All are tied for first with 18 points, but LVC has the edge. The Flying Dutchmen have a game in hand, and have already beaten Johnson & Wales and UMass.-Dartmouth.
That makes this Sunday’s game between LVC and Wentworth the biggest one of the year for both teams. The Leopards will try to put a dent in the Lebanon Valley defense, which has allowed just 11 goals in nine conference games.
At the beginning of this season, the MIAC announced that it had adopted a new playoff format, and a couple of weeks ago it was modified again. The new format was to be a four-team single elimination tournament held at a neutral site, replacing the old four team best of two with a possible minigame semifinals and finals series that had been in place for the last several years.
A few weeks ago, it was decided to add a fifth team. There will be a play-in game between the fourth and fifth place teams before the semifinals begin, a “Final Five” like that used by the WCHA and ECAC.
St. Thomas currently holds a seven point lead in the standings and has already clinched one of the five playoff spots.
Marian hold a 10 point lead with six games to play. The Sabres have won 19 straight conference games, its streak extending back to January of 2001. Marian can clinch its first regular season MCHA title with a sweep of MSOE this weekend.
At the other end of the standings are defending regular season champ Minn.-Crookston and Northland. The teams square off this weekend in a two game series that will probably decide the fourth and final playoff spot.
St. Norbert maintained its five point lead in the standings with a 4-4 tie at Wis.-Superior last Saturday. With four games to play, the Green Knights need just three points to lock up the regular season title. They host Wis.-Eau Claire and Wis.-Stevens Point this weekend.
The Pointers have won five of their last six games and are looking to lock up a home ice quarterfinal series. Dropping out of the top four was Wis.-River Falls, losers of three of its last four games to drop out of the USCHO.com poll and from third to fifth in the NCHA standings.
The main question in the NESCAC is: Who will blink first — Middlebury or Bowdoin? The teams are tied for first place, with the Panthers having a key game in hand on the Polar Bears.
Only the top seven teams make the playoffs, and right now that leaves Wesleyan, Tufts and either Conn. College or Amherst (currently tied for seventh) out of the picture. The Camels and the Lord Jeffs each have 12 points, which would be good enough for fourth place in the ECAC East. The NESCAC is 51-13-9 so far this season against its sister conference.
Oswego moved into a first-place tie with Plattsburgh, but the Cardinals hold the tiebreaker. Oswego defeated Plattsburgh 3-2 in overtime last Friday, but the Cards beat the Lakers 6-4 way back on November 2. If the teams tie for first with identical records, the next tiebreaker is goal differential in head-to-head play.
With five league games left, Plattsburgh and Oswego have clinched two of the six playoff spots, both with healthy six point leads over third place Buffalo State and Cortland. Just four points separate the next four teams in the standings, with Fredonia and Brockport currently out of the running.
Rocky Reeves will have a say in who wins the SUNYAC championship, while Mark Cole most likely will not. Rocky may find himself at a podium in Minneapolis on April 5th, while hopefully Mark will find himself finishing his freshman year of college.
Good luck to both.