This Week in the ECAC West

Thrilla in Manhattanvilla

It may not have been Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, but those who walked into Playland Ice Casino last Saturday saw more fighting than hockey.

Friday’s game actually set the stage for the donnybrook that occurred late in the second period Saturday evening. Manhattanville built a 4-1 lead on Neumann by midway through the second period on Friday by putting in three power play goals. The Knights chipped in two power play goals of their own late in the second period to make a game of it, but Valiant Ross Oldcorn tallied the eventual game winner less than two minutes into the third to put the game out of reach.

“We played well, opened up a pretty good lead, and except for a couple of power play goals we were good,” said Manhattanville coach Keith Levinthal. “We played very well and the game could of easily been a larger goal differential. We were skating well.”

The third period on Friday was a rough one as Neumann started to see its season slipping away and Manhattanville defended its home rink. The period was filled with a steady stream of physical penalties, including six roughing calls and a smattering of elbows and slashes. Referee Brian Caie made an attempt to put a lid on it, but was obviously outmatched and unable to control things as the teams combined for 102 minutes of penalties.

This theme carried over into Saturday night, as the same official crew took the ice despite repeated discussions with the league about replacing the crew with more experienced referees who might be better able to control this rivalry.

Saturday’s tone was set just seventeen seconds into the contest when Neumann’s Erik Stoyanvich checked a Manhattanville player hard into the boards from behind, dislocating his shoulder. Referee Caie only awarded Stoyanvich a minor penalty and the tone for the game was set.

Each team had scored a goal by midway through the second period as the goaltenders put on an exhibition. But the first half of the game continued the rough style of play from Friday night’s contest with a steady stream of players heading to the penalty box for roughing and other physical infractions.

Things finally boiled over at 17:46 of the second period. The teams had been jawing and bumping each other after whistles all night long and something finally snapped. Next thing anyone knew, a brawl erupted and it was pandemonium all over the ice as helmets and gloves went flying.

Due to the chaos, stories vary about what actually sparked the brawl and who did what. The game was delayed for 35 minutes while the referees used game film from both schools to sort out the mess. Eventually, referee Caie simply gave up trying to figure it out and awarded everyone on the ice a game disqualification (seven for Manhattanville and eight for Neumann) whether they deserved it or not. Two Valiants and three Knights earned double DQ’s during the fracas. In total, 194 minutes of penalties were assessed due to the melee.

The ECAC reviewed the game tape and reports filed by both schools, and placed both teams on probation through the 2006-2007 season. Exactly what the terms are of the probation is unclear.

“The lack of discipline and unsportsmanlike conduct displayed by these individuals serves not only to undermine the principles of fair play, but it also discredits intercollegiate ice hockey,” said Interim Commissioner of the ECAC Steve Bamford. “We want to send a clear message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.”

The ECAC also assessed additional game suspensions, although they are not releasing to the public specifically how many games each player is suspended for. In total, fifteen players from both teams have been suspended for a combined 42 games.

Both teams were left with very short benches for the remainder of the game, but obviously the starch had been taken out of everyone. No more penalties, nor goals, were tallied through the third period and overtime, and the game ended in a 1-1 tie.

“I was proud of my guys who were left,” said Levinthal. “They fought hard in the third period. We only had twelve guys playing and I was pleased that they refrained from escalating the situation at all.”

The disqualifications will leave both Manhattanville and Neumann with short benches heading into important games this weekend. Neumann is probably in the worst shape as they struggle to make the playoffs against Hobart.

Manhattanville lost four of its defensemen to the DQs because it was on a defensive line change when the fracas started. But the Valiants have one of the longest rosters in the ECAC West, and will have to look towards its depth this weekend as they host Utica.

“Friday night we are absolutely in trouble against Utica,” said Levinthal. “Saturday we come back and are ok, but the momentum is on their side.”

And Down the Stretch They Come

It’s the last weekend of the regular season and five teams remain fighting for the ECAC West playoffs. While Manhattanville has the inside track on the regular season title, both Hobart and Utica could still possibly beat the Valiants to the line.

The tiebreakers for the ECAC West, if needed, are:

–Head to Head
–Number of Conference Wins
–Record vs. Common Opponents
–Overall Record

The first two tiebreakers could come into play this year, depending on what happens this weekend.

Here is a team by team analysis of where each stands and what they need to do this weekend to reach the promised land.

Manhattanville, having earned three points last weekend from Neumann, has assured itself of either a first or second place finish. The Valiants are sitting pretty and only need to earn one measly point from a pair of games this weekend against Utica to clinch the regular season title.

If disaster should strike, and Manhattanville gets swept by Utica, then the Valiants will finish in second place no matter what else happens because they own the tiebreaker with Hobart but lose the tiebreaker to Utica.

A Valiants sweep this weekend would put Manhattanville in the drivers seat for an NCAA Pool B or C bid down the road.

Utica can clinch a playoff spot by taking a single point against Manhattanville, or if Hobart takes a single point from Neumann. However, the Pioneers are aiming higher.

If Utica can sweep Manhattanville, then the Pioneers will be looking for Neumann to take at least a point from Hobart. That would mean that Utica and Manhattanville end in a tie at the top with twenty points each. Utica would own the first tiebreaker in head-to-head record against the Valiants with a 2-0-1 record.

Utica could finish as low as fifth, and miss the playoffs, if they are swept by Manhattanville, Hobart is swept by Neumann, and Elmira sweeps Lebanon valley.

Hobart’s path to the playoffs is clear, but to get them to the top will take a little more work to figure out. The Statesmen lock up a playoff berth by gaining a single point from Neumann this weekend, or if Lebanon Valley manages to win a game against Elmira.

Hobart is the third and final team with a chance to take home the big prize of the regular season title. The Statesmen first need to sweep Neumann on the road, and then have Utica sweep Manhattanville, also on the road.

That would setup a three way tie on the top of the pile with Hobart, Manhattanville, and Utica all at twenty points. The first tiebreaker of head-to-head records is a classic case of circular reasoning, so does not settle the affair.

Manhattanville owns a 2-1 record versus Hobart. Hobart owns a 2-1 record against Utica. And Utica would have a 2-0-1 record against Manhattanville if they sweep this weekend.

So, we must look to the second tie-breaker criteria of conference wins to find clarity. Assuming events unfold as above, Manhattanville and Utica would each have nine league victories. However Hobart, who has avoided contracting the tie bug this season in league play, would have ten wins and hence would take the regular season league title.

The only way Hobart could miss the playoffs is if it gets swept by Neumann, Elmira sweeps Lebanon Valley, and Utica takes at least one point from Manhattanville.

Elmira has the inside track on the fourth and final playoff spot, after a long season where it looked like they wouldn’t even be in consideration. After finally beating Hobart last week, the first victory by the Soaring Eagles over the Statesmen since November 10th, 2001, Elmira has set itself up well for the final run.

The Soaring Eagles have two ways to make the playoffs. The easiest way is to simply take at least as many points from Lebanon Valley as Neumann takes from Hobart.

If Neumann were to sweep Hobart, then Elmira would need to take at least three points in the series against the Flying Dutchmen. In that case, Elmira owns the head-to-head record against Hobart 2-1 and proceeds to the playoffs.

Another twist of this last case is if Manhattanville sweeps Utica. This would make a three way tie between Elmira, Hobart, and Utica for the last two playoff spots. Head-to-head is another circle, where Elmira owns Hobart 2-1, Hobart owns Utica 2-1, and Utica owns Elmira 2-0-1.

Conference wins favor Elmira and Hobart each with eight, and it would be Utica on the outside looking in with only seven league victories.

Elmira will miss the playoffs if Neumann sweeps Hobart and the Soaring Eagles fail to take three points from Lebanon Valley.

Neumann is the final case to deal with. After an extremely positive first three quarters of the season, the Knights have collapsed down the stretch. The nosedive started when Elmira came to southeastern Pennsylvania and swept the Knights three weeks ago. Since then, Neumann’s only win was against Lebanon Valley.

But even after all that, the Knights’ fate is still in their own hands. If they sweep Hobart, or take more points from Hobart than Elmira takes from Lebanon Valley, then they will make the playoffs.

Neumann can finish as high as second if the stars all line up correctly, or can miss the playoffs entirely without a good showing this weekend.

So it all comes down to the final weekend of the regular season, with everything on the line for four of the team’s as they try to extend their season. Manhattanville is the only one so far with a ticket punched for the post season. Elmira, Hobart, Neumann, and Utica are still standing in line, ticket in hand, waiting to see who will make it.