This weekend all across the country, teams are gearing up for their respective conference playoffs. Some teams have already clinched berths, while some are still looking to solidify their positions.
Every conference except the MIAC will be playing its final games of the regular season this weekend. There are some great battles in the standings shaping up in nearly every conference.
In the ECAC East, Manhattanville has all but clinched the number one seed. The Valiants are two points clear of Norwich and hold the head-to-head tie-breaker over the Cadets with two games to play. Manhattanville simply needs to win or tie in one of their two games this weekend against St. Anselm and New England College and they will clinch because the Valiants have a game in hand on Norwich.
The eight playoff teams in the ECAC East are already set as Plymouth State has been mathematically eliminated. Holy Cross and St. Anselm are in-eligible for the postseason because they are not D-III teams. All thatâ€™s left to fight for in the ECAC East is who and where youâ€™ll be playing your first round games in the conference quarterfinals next weekend.
Amherst has clinched the NESCAC with a six point lead on second place Middlebury and just two games remaining for every other team. Amherst has finished its conference schedule and has a non-conference game with Norwich to close out its season on Saturday.
Middlebury leads Trinity by one point for second place. The Panthers host Colby and Bowdoin, while Trinity hosts Conn. College and Hamilton.
Colby and Wesleyan are fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot. Colby will face Williams and Middlebury in its final two games, while Wesleyan hosts Hamilton and Conn. College. Colby leads by one point currently.
Another week has passed by and the NCHA playoff picture continues to get cloudier. River Falls and Lake Forest tying both of their games solved nothing and only made the race tighter.
Eight teams will qualify for the postseason tournament meaning either Finlandia or Marian will be left out. Both teams currently sit tied with two points. Finlandia has the inside track to the final spot though by holding the goal-differential tie-breaker.
Up top, Adrian continues to lead the standings, but the Bulldogs have finished their regular season schedule. Lake Forest sits just one point behind and will clinch the number one seed with two points this weekend in the Forestersâ€™ series with Concordia WI.
River Falls needs one point to clinch the third seed. Eau Claire, Stevens Point, and Superior all sit tied for fourth with 16 points.
All three teams are fighting to lock up a home game for the first round of the NCHA tournament. Stevens Point has the inside track to the spot with two games against Finlandia, while Superior and Eau Claire will play each other for a pair of games.
Even if Lake Forest were to lose both games this weekend, the Foresters would still host the NCHA final four as long as they win their first round game due to Adrian being in-eligible to host.
Itâ€™s a good thing the MIAC has four games to play in its regular season, because there is still a lot to sort out amongst the Minnesota schools.
Gustavus Adolphus, St. Catherine, and St. Thomas are all tied with 21 points at the top of the standings. St. Catherine and St. Thomas will meet this weekend, which should go a long way in sorting out how the top three will end up finishing.
Gustavus Adolphus finishes up with St. Maryâ€™s and Augsburg to close out the season. St. Catherine faces St. Benedict and St. Thomas closes out with Concordia-Moorhead for a pair of games.
The Gusties appear to have the inside track, but as weâ€™ve seen all year from the MIAC, every game is unpredictable in that conference because of the low scoring, one or two goal games that seemingly are the final result of every game in the conference this season.
With five teams making the MIAC tournament and only eight possible points a team can gain in those games, St. Maryâ€™s and St. Olaf are sitting in good shape being five points clear of Bethel and Concordia-Moorhead for the fourth and fifth playoff spots. Each of their magic numbers is four points and they will clinch berths.
ECAC West Playoff Outlook
The powerhouse trio of Plattsburgh, Elmira, and RIT has all clinched berths in the conference tournament and if all plays out as expected, the three teams have locked into those respective positions for the playoffs. Plattsburgh and Elmira will get a first round bye with the ECAC West final four being hosted in Plattsburgh for the fourth time in five years.
However, the last three playoff spots are very much up for grabs in the final week of the season. Utica currently sits fourth with 14 points, leading Neumann by one point. Buffalo State is tied with Neumann for fifth place, but the Bengals are in-eligible for the postseason tournament. The final playoff spot appears as though it will come down to Oswego and Potsdam. Oswego currently holds a one point lead over the Bears.
Oswego hosts Plattsburgh for two games, while Potsdam and Utica play a pivotal home and home series as the two clubs jockey for postseason positions.
Neumann and Potsdamâ€™s postponed series from two weeks ago is scheduled to be made up on Tuesday and Wednesday and that series will also play a vital role in filling out the remainder of the postseason tournament.
Potsdam needs to gain two points on Oswego to clinch a berth in the postseason. If the two end up tied with 11 points, Potsdam holds a 2-1 head-to-head advantage over Oswego and holds the tie-breaker.
Utica coach Dave Clausen said that although his team has had an up and down season so far, heâ€™s optimistic about the Pioneers chances in the postseason.
â€œWith the postseason format in our league being a single game elimination, anything can happen. I think weâ€™ve proven we can play with any of the teams in our league in one game and I think weâ€™ve got a good shot.â€
Utica currently sits with a 10-11-2 record overall and a 6-8-2 record in ECAC West play.
â€œOur record isnâ€™t indicative of what our team is capable of,â€ Clausen said. â€œWe were looking in the first semester for an identity, but weâ€™ve started to pull it together in the second half. We really feel like we can play with anyone, we just havenâ€™t shown it in every game this season.â€
If the Pioneers are going to make a run, theyâ€™ll need their goaltender Jill Doherty to continue to put up solid stats between the pipes. Doherty is 10-9-2 on the season with a .925 save percentage and 2.53 GGA.
â€œI think when Jill [Doherty] is on sheâ€™s one of the best goaltenders in Division III,â€ Clausen said. â€œWe do have some good scorers in our top line with Lynny Gonzales, Darcy Hier, and Jodie Galuzzi. Weâ€™ve got some kids that are opportunistic and can score goals at the right time.â€