Regular season championships carry no weight in selection for the NCAA tournament, so it’s easy to look past them as inconsequential.
I don’t buy into that.
Yes, there are two championships that are more important — a league postseason title, which carries an automatic bid to the national tournament, and the NCAA crown — but don’t discount what a team has to go through to win the first league title.
I often go back to Denver coach George Gwozdecky, who has often told of how he thought it was more difficult to win the WCHA’s MacNaughton Cup than the national championship. It was one of those statements that you might dismiss at first, but the more you think about it, it may be true.
In the WCHA, it’s typically a 14-weekend marathon in which you have to handle success as if it’s no big thing and deal with setbacks quickly to keep them from turning into trends. The time period varies, but it’s the same deal around the rest of the leagues.
A couple of them bring things to a conclusion this weekend, and it’s hard to picture a better way to wrap it up than what Atlantic Hockey has going on. Air Force and RIT, tied for first place with identical 19-5-2 league records, play a two-game series in Rochester to end the regular season.
If the series ends up in a split, the tiebreaker will come down to the goal differential in the season series between the teams, and Air Force enters this weekend plus-1 — it won 2-0 and lost 3-2 in overtime at the Academy in December.
However it ends, that’s a great way of deciding things, even if it only settles who gets the top seed in the tournament and which team gets the last change in the conference playoff title game, if both of them get there.
The ECAC Hockey title could come down to Sunday’s Colgate-Yale game. The Bulldogs need three points from two games this weekend — they also play Friday against Cornell — to claim first place outright.
Notre Dame already has the CCHA title wrapped up, but Ohio State has a chance to overtake Alaska for fourth place, the final spot with a first-round bye. To do it, the Buckeyes will need at least three points from a home-and-home series against Miami. With a regulation/overtime win and a shootout loss, the Buckeyes will have the same league record as the Nanooks but scored one more goal than they allowed in a series against Alaska.
The WCHA, Hockey East and CHA all have another weekend of play after this one, so there’s plenty that can still play out in those three leagues.
The best thing about these two weeks: This is just the beginning of the fun.