Almost the Home Stretch

It seems like I just took my Christmas tree down and yet there’s only a few weeks left in the regular season. The NCHA and MCHA regular seasons conclude next weekend, with the rest of the leagues following shortly after. We’ll crown a national champion 40 days from today.

Here’s a breakdown of where we are headed into the final weeks:

ECAC East: Each team has four games left, and seven squads still have a mathematical chance of finishing first, although I expect Norwich to take the regular season title. Only Mass-Boston is eliminated from home ice at this point.

ECAC West: Hobart scored a big 3-2 win at Elmira last Saturday moving the Statesmen into a tie with the Soaring Eagles for first place. With each team having four games left, the five playoff teams have been determined, with winless Lebanon Valley out of the running. My prediction is that Elmira, which has an easier schedule down the stretch, will finish first.

ECAC Northeast: The Feb. 18 game between Mass-Dartmouth and Nichols may decide the regular season championship. The Bison lead the Corsairs by three points with each team having four games left, including the match with each other. Salve Regina and Framingham State have been eliminated from playoff contention. Newcomer Westfield State is currently tied for the fourth and final home ice spot.

MIAC: With two weekends left in the regular season, eight of the nine MIAC teams are still alive for one of five playoff spots. A huge weekend series looms as first place St. Olaf squares off with second-place St. Thomas. The Oles lead the Tommies by four points.

MCHA: With two games to go, Adrian has locked up the regular season title, and Lawrence has clinched a home ice playoff game. Concordia (WI), Minn-Crookston and Northland will be on the road for the playoffs, leaving Marian, MSOE and Finlandia to battle for the final two home ice spots.

NCHA: UW-Superior clinched the regular season title on Saturday and will host lame-duck Lake Forest in the first round. UW-Stout, St. Scholastica and St. Norbert have all sewn up home ice in the first round.

NESCAC: With four games left in the regular season, Amherst and Middlebury are tied for first, and play each other on Feb 20. in a game that could decide the regular season title. Both teams have locked up at least a home-ice quarterfinal game. Williams, Trinity and Conn. College are battling for the final two home ice positions. Hamilton and Bowdoin are out of the running for home ice, but have clinched a spot in the NESCAC tournament. Tufts, Colby and Wesleyan are fighting for the final playoff spot.

SUNYAC: Plattsburgh has the inside track on the regular season title, and Oswego is also looking good for a first round bye. Morrisville has been eliminated from playoff contention, leaving Brockport, Cortland, Potsdam, Geneseo, Buffalo State and Fredonia still alive for the final four playoff spots.

Check back next week for an update, as well as some early NCAA predictions.