Seven D-III leagues will decide champions this week, and one league, the MCHA, has chosen its winner. And on Sunday night, March 6, the NCAA will award bids for the Men’s Division III Championship. Let’s take a look at where things stand in each league, and what the prospects are for NCAA bids, first looking at the eastern region, and then the west.
The top seeds all won quarterfinal games on Saturday. Norwich shut out Castleton State 16-0, in a game that saw Kurtis McLean eclipse Keith Aucoin’s career goal scoring record, with four goals and four assists. Babson shut out Mass.-Boston, 8-0, Southern Maine advanced with a 6-1 win over Skidmore, and New England College beat Salem State, 7-1.
Next Saturday, Norwich hosts New England College while Babson faces Southern Maine. The winners advance to the ECAC East championship game on Sunday.
NCAA Prospects: The winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAAs. Southern Maine and New England College must win the championship to make the tournament; Babson and Norwich each have a shot at a Pool C at-large bid, although losses in the last weekend of the season by the Cadets to Williams and Middlebury have made their hopes for an at-large bid a bit precarious. A semifinal loss by the Panthers would give an edge to Norwich, should the Cadets lose in the ECAC East finals, but the Cadets would still trail Oswego in the selection criteria, and would need Trinity and Manhattanville to receive Pool A and Pool B bids, and no upsets in the west. A loss by Babson could put the Beavers at risk in comparison to Oswego and Middlebury, pending the Panthers’ performance in the NESCACs.
All four higher seeds advanced on Saturday in the ECAC Northeast quarterfinals.
Curry eked out a 3-2 win over Framingham State; Plymouth State downed Fitchburg State, 6-1; Mass.-Dartmouth advanced past Salve Regina, 4-1; and Wentworth avenged a regular season-ending loss to Johnson & Wales, winning 6-2. On Wednesday, Mass.-Dartmouth hosts Wentworth and Plymouth State travels to Curry to decide who will meet on Saturday for the conference championship.
NCAA Prospects: Only the winner of the ECAC Northeast tournament will qualify for the NCAAs via the league’s autobid. Curry, which last year got a Pool C bid, is the only NCAA-ranked team in the league, and is too far down the list to have a shot.
Utica rebounded from a 6-6 tie at Neumann on Friday, in what was essentially a meaningless game for the league standings, to trounce Manhattanville, 5-1, on Saturday and clinch the regular-season title. It was the first loss on home ice for the Valiants this season. Elmira qualified for the fourth playoff spot with a 6-3 win on home ice vs. Hobart on Friday, knocking the Statesmen from the ECAC West playoffs for the first time since the 1997-98 season. It also marked the second time in two seasons that the previous year’s champion missed the league playoffs; Elmira, champion in 2003, missed the 2004 ECAC West tournament.
NCAA Prospects: Only Manhattanville has a shot at a Pool C at-large bid, and barring any upsets in the west, would be the top Pool C in the east if Trinity wins the NESCAC. A win over Manhattanville in the league championship game, should both teams advance, would give Utica a 3-0-0 head-to-head record against Manhattanville and a better record against ranked teams, but the Valiants would still have better numbers in the other three selection criteria, but not by a wide margin. Would the committee weigh head-to-head heavily enough to give Utica the bid, and would it make a difference if Manhattanville would qualify for a Pool C bid? This might be the toughest decision the committee has to make, and it could mean that a D-III ECAC West champion misses the NCAA playoffs for the first time.
Utica’s best chance for Pool B comes if RIT beats Manhattanville in the semifinal and Utica beats Elmira and RIT to win the league championship. Utica would then have head-to-head two games to none, a better record against ranked teams, and a better record against common opponents. Manhattanville would have winning percentage and SOS Index, but the SOS Index margin would be slim.
The top four seeds in the NESCAC also advanced to the league championship at Trinity next weekend. Trinity beat Tufts, 9-2; Middlebury blanked Hamilton, 3-0; Colby advanced with a 7-0 shutout of Williams; and Bowdoin downed Amherst, 6-4. The four winning squads meet next Saturday, with Bowdoin meeting Trinity and Colby taking on Middlebury. Bowdoin and Trinity tied, 4-4, at Bowdoin in their only meeting of the season, while host Colby blanked Middlebury, 2-0, during the NESCAC campaign.
NCAA Prospects: The champion gets an automatic bid. Trinity should remain the top Pool C team in the east even if the Bantams lose in the championship game. They aren’t a lock for the postseason, but are as close to one as any team in the east. A win by both St. Norbert and St. John’s should lock up Pool C for Trinity before they take the ice Sunday, should the Bantams get past Bowdoin. Pool C is a bit of a stretch for Middlebury; should they lose, the Panthers would be tied in criteria with Oswego for the top Pool C slot if Trinity, Manhattanville, and Babson all get Pool A or B bids and there are no upsets in the west region. Colby and Bowdoin need to win the NESCAC to advance, although Bowdoin is a borderline Pool C candidate.
Geneseo and Plattsburgh advanced to the SUNYAC finals at Geneseo next weekend. The Knights tied Fredonia, 3-3, on Friday, and dropped the Blue Devils, 5-1, on Saturday, to advance. Plattsburgh, the tournament’s No. 4 seed, stunned top seed Oswego, 3-2, in overtime Friday, and by a 3-1 margin on Saturday to return to the SUNYAC finals.
NCAA Prospects: Neither Geneseo nor Plattsburgh can back into the NCAAs; either must win the league championship to advance. Oswego is a longshot at a Pool C slot, but only if Trinity and either Norwich or Babson win their leagues, Manhattanville takes the Pool B slot, and no western teams are upset. Babson leads Oswego in criteria, but would pull about even with a loss. Even then, Babson, Oswego, and Middlebury would split in the five criteria with each other. The NCAA committee would either have to value some criteria more than others, or go to the eight secondary criteria.
Milwaukee School of Engineering captured its first Harris Cup by taking a two-game series from Minnesota-Crookston, winning Friday’s game 3-2, in a contest that saw all five goals come on the power play, and downing the Golden Eagles, 4-3, in overtime on Saturday. Brian Soik scored the winning goal at 2:51 of overtime to give the Raiders their first MCHA title.
NCAA Prospects: None. While the MCHA is eligible for Pool B, MSOE ranks behind Manhattanville, Utica, RIT, and Hobart for that at-large bid.
St. John’s is the top seed in the MIAC, with St. Thomas at No. 2. The other three seeds were decided in the final weekend of league play, with No. 4 St. Olaf hosting No. 5 Gustavus Adolphus on Tuesday for the right to take on the Johnnies, while Bethel locked up the No. 3 seed, and will face St. Thomas.
NCAA Prospects: With only one loss, a second loss by St. John’s would not keep the Johnnies from taking a Pool C bid. All four other teams in the MIAC playoffs would have to win the league title to get an NCAA berth.
St. Norbert squeaked past Lake Forest, 2-1, in one NCHA semifinal, while Wisconsin-Superior trounced Wisconsin-River Falls, 6-2, in the other semi. The Green Knights and Yellowjackets tied twice in the regular season, 5-5 at St. Norbert, and 2-2 at Wessman Arena.
NCAA Prospects: With only one loss in the west region, a second loss by St. Norbert would not keep it from taking a Pool C bid. Superior would get a Pool C bid with a loss, but only if there are no upsets. If Manhattanville and Trinity win bids outside of Pool C, and St. John’s wins the MIAC, the Yellowjackets would receive a bid. But a loss by St. John’s bumps Superior to No. 2 in Pool C in the west should St. Norbert win the NCHA, and a loss by Trinity in the NESCAC or a Pool B win by Utica would bump Superior. No other NCHA teams are in the running for Pool C.