While there are some huge games this weekend, including the SUNYAC semifinals, the ECAC East, ECAC Northeast and NESCAC quarterfinals and the MCHA tournament, this is also somewhat of a slow week. Twenty teams have completed their seasons, and playoff-bound squads from the NCHA and ECAC West have a bye week before their final showdowns. Seven teams in the USCHO.com poll are idle this week.
Before taking a look at the important developments on the ice, there were plenty of off-ice happenings to go around.
Mum’s the Word
Wesleyan fans knew something was up last Friday when 11 of 12 seniors didn’t dress for the Cardinals game at Conn. College, a 5-3 win. The same scenario played out the following night in a 2-0 loss at Tufts. The only senior to play the final weekend of the season was goaltender Jim Panczykowski. Wesleyan dressed only 15 skaters each night.
On Sunday, word came that Wesleyan, which finished seventh in the regular season, was out of the NESCAC playoffs. The Cardinals were supposed to play at Trinity on Saturday in the quarterfinals. Instead, Tufts, which had finished ninth and out of playoff contention, moved into the eighth and final spot, pushing Amherst from the eighth seed to the seventh seed. The Lord Jeffs, slated to go to Middlebury, will now take on Trinity while Tufts plays the Panthers.
So what happened? No announcement was made by Wesleyan or the NESCAC. The NESCAC release on its playoffs didn’t even mention that Wesleyan should have been playing, instead just listing the revamped seedings as if it had been that way all along.
Calls to the NESCAC and Wesleyan were met with a simple, “No comment.” When asked if there would at some time be a reason given for the move, again, “No comment.”
Sources close to the program have told USCHO.com that the seniors were suspended and the team’s season abruptly ended when the administration discovered that an initiation party had been held before the season started, and at that party the school’s alcohol policy was violated.
Wesleyan’s administration apparently went with a “zero tolerance” response to those rules being broken.
That’s their prerogative, but not releasing any information to the public or even the school community made matters worse. In the absence of even a generic “Violation of team/school rules” statement, rumors and speculation have abounded, and the dreaded word “hazing” has been mentioned.
Wesleyan can’t have it both ways. It’s understandable if privacy rules prohibit the school from going into details, but some sort of explanation, even a general one, was appropriate. Otherwise, if you don’t want to make news surrounding the hockey team public, then play in closed rinks with no fans. Don’t issue press releases on your team. Do not reveal who is on your team. Do not reveal the scores of games.
If you reveal those things, you sure as heck better reveal why you don’t show up for a playoff game. Otherwise, you’re only making things worse. In this case, it was much ado about very little.
“It’s wasn’t hazing,” said one source. “It was an initiation party. Attendance was optional. Some players weren’t even there. That’s why Panczykowski played (last weekend). He wasn’t there (at the party).”
The party happened during a brief interim when Wesleyan didn’t have a coach. Buddy Powers, who had initially accepted the job after longtime coach Dave Snyder retired, resigned before the season began. Former Brown assistant Chris Potter was named interim coach in mid-October.
Potter has done a great job this season, and deserves strong consideration for the permanent position. Hopefully, this incident, which sources say occurred before Potter was hired, won’t affect that.
Wear Your Long Johns
It was a history-making day for Hobart last Saturday.. The Statesmen’s come-from-behind 5-4 win over RIT in the afternoon, followed by a Manhattanville loss at Elmira that evening, gave Hobart its first ECAC West regular-season title ever.
More firsts for the Statesmen include their first win over RIT in 12 seasons, and their first-ever ranking in the USCHO.com poll.
Since the ECAC West awards home ice to the regular-season champ, then it was a no-brainer to schedule the semifinals and finals on March 6 and 7 at the Geneva Recreation Center, right?
No so fast. The Geneva Rec Center isn’t a typical college hockey rink, at least not any more. There are only three locker rooms. Four are normally required to host the ECAC West tournament, so teams can prepare for the late semifinal while the first one is going on.
Also, the rink only seats about 500 people, and those that come are exposed to the elements. The rink has a roof and three walls, but is not fully enclosed. Temperatures at game time have routinely been in the teens or twenties.
“I have never been so cold in my life,” said a coach recently about a game earlier this season, when the wind chill was below zero. A referee reportedly came down with frostbite after officiating a game at the Rec Center in January.
Having broadcasted a few times there myself, I can attest how cold it can get during games. Still, Hobart deserves the right to host, and that will be the case. After a meeting with the Athletic Directors at Hobart, RIT, Manhattanville and Utica, the ECAC announced on Tuesday that the ECAC West tournament will indeed be held at the Geneva Rec Center.
A few modifications to the standard procedures are necessary. The first semifinal between RIT and Manhattanville was moved up a half hour to begin at 3:00 pm. The second semifinal between Hobart and Utica was moved back by 30 minutes, to 7:30 pm. This will allow time to clear out the locker rooms between games so that they can be reused. Also, individual game tickets will be sold instead of a three-game or two-day pass, allowing for the stands to be cleared between games on Friday.
Weather.com’s extended forecast for Geneva, N.Y., calls for temperatures in the upper twenties and thirties those days. Not bad, but an extra sweater may be required.
We’ve Got The PWR
This week USCHO debuted its revised PairWise Rankings. They mimic the NCAA rankings process by comparing the same criteria used to issue the weekly East and West rankings, and eventually used to select the at-large teams and seed the field for the NCAA tournament. The criteria are:
USCHO’s rankings can differ slightly from the NCAA’s because ours weighs the criteria equally, while the NCAA reserves the right to weigh them differently. Here’s how they currently stack up. Ours is current for games played though 2/25, while the NCAA’s is for games though 2/22:
|Team||NCAA Rank||USCHO PWR Rank|
Teams that have been ranked in the top 15 by the NCAA in the past, and therefore are still on the list of regionally ranked teams are Williams and Utica.
|Team||NCAA Rank||USCHO PWR Rank|
St. Mary’s has been ranked in the top seven by the NCAA in the past, and therefore is still on the list.
Besides the possible differences in weights given to each criterion, USCHO’s PWR is different because it’s updated automatically as scores are entered, and USCHO’s include a national PWR, attempting to compare teams between the two regions. The top 15 in that PWR are:
1. St. Norbert
4. Wisconsin-River Falls
5. St. John’s
8. Lake Forest
9. New England
Back On the Ice
Now, on to the hockey:
The MIAC regular season concludes this weekend, with St. John’s holding a comfortable three-point lead with two games to play, by virtue of a 4-1, 1-0 sweep over St. Thomas last weekend. The Johnnies, Tommies, Gustavus Adolphus and St. Mary’s have all clinched playoff spots. St. Olaf and Augsburg are still in the running for the fifth and final berth, but The Olies have the inside track. The two teams are tied for fifth, but St. Olaf has a pair of games against last-place Hamline, while Augsburg has to take on first-place St. John’s.
The ECAC East playoffs begin this weekend with quarterfinal action. Norwich gets a bye into the semifinals. Second seed New England hosts Mass-Boston, while Skidmore travels to Babson and Salem State hosts Southern Maine.
The ECAC Northeast regular season ended on Wednesday, and quarterfinals are this weekend. Top-seeded Curry hosts Salve Regina, Lebanon Valley has Suffolk, Wentworth hosts Fitchburg State, and Mass-Dartmouth travels to Framingham State.
The NESCAC also holds its quarterfinals this weekend. Middlebury hosts Tufts, Trinity hosts Amherst, and Williams and Hamilton travel to Colby and Bowdoin respectively.
The MCHA will hold its entire playoffs this weekend. Lawrence and Northland square off in the play-in game on Friday, with the winner taking on top-seeded Marian in the semifinals on Saturday. MSOE and Minnesota-Crookston play in the other semifinal with the championship game on Sunday.
Heads or Tails
Sometimes it really does come down to a coin flip. In women’s hockey, Bowdoin and Middlebury wound up tied for first place in the NESCAC. The teams split their games against each other, and wound up deadlocked though seven increasingly complicated tiebreakers.
The eighth and final one is a coin flip.
There was a lot on the line. The top seed got a bye in the quarterfinals and the right to host the semifinals and championship game.
“Yes, there really was a coin flip,” said Robb Modica, assistant director for conference operations at the NESCAC.
“(Administrative Director) Andrea Savage did it while I witnessed it. Heads was Bowdoin, tails was Middlebury. It landed on heads.”
Out of curiosity, I asked Modica what kind of coin it was. I thought maybe the NESCAC had a special one.
“Nope,” said Modica. “Just a quarter.”
Gee, with all that on the line, they could have at least used a 50-cent piece.