Understanding the standings

Most sports base their standings in terms of winning percentage or games ahead or behind. Hockey’s points system can lead to the impression that one team leads another, when in truth the advantage is entirely due to having played more league games.

Hockey East is a prime example, as Providence holds a share of the lead with 11 points, even though their winning percentage of .611 is only fourth best in the conference. Boston University owns the top winning percentage at .800, but because they’ve played four fewer games than Providence and three fewer than Boston College, the Terriers trail the Friars and Eagles by three points.

The HEA race figures to unfold such that BC, BU, PC, and Northeastern wind up as the top four in some order. Using that rationale, wins over these teams figure to be good wins, and points lost to the other four teams bad losses for anyone hoping to win the league. Doing a quick check of such games and awarding points for good wins or ties and subtracting those points lost to underdog opponents, BC would be +5, with gains from wins over PC, BU, and two over NU, but a loss of a point in a tie to UNH and two for losing to Maine. The Friars are -3 on the basis of no quality wins and a loss and tie to Vermont and Maine respectively. Northeastern is right at zero; it has beaten all of the bottom teams and lost its only games to the top half, both to the Eagles. BU comes in at +4, with a win over each of BC and PC and no bad losses.

That suggests to me that BC and BU are actually the two teams in the best shape in the conference. Given that the Terriers have three games in hand over the Eagles and trail them by three in the standings, BU should have an edge. Of course, this analysis is blind to factors such as home and road games remaining, but results haven’t necessarily gone to form in that regard anyway. The Terriers are likely satisfied just to still be essentially even in the race, having played their league games without injured stars Marie-Philip Poulin and Jenelle Kohanchuk.

The ECAC race is much easier to decipher, as Cornell leads Quinnipiac by a point and has a game in hand. Harvard is essentially even with the Big Red, down two points but having a game in hand, however, the Crimson suffered a head-to-head loss to Cornell. I expect most of the drama in this league to be regarding what teams qualify for the conference tournament and which earn the right to host, particularly the former.

In the WCHA, Minnesota has the apparent lead by three points over Wisconsin, but the Badgers have two games in hand, one fewer conference loss, and an easier schedule remaining. Note that the WCHA’s games are worth three points rather than two, so margins are tighter than they may appear. The battle to claim a top-four spot and host a quarterfinal series figures to be competitive, as five teams currently have winning records. Perennial power Minnesota-Duluth is not among them, sitting at 2-5-1; the Bulldogs’ schedule eases from here, as they are half done with four of the five teams above them. There looks to be a considerable gap between the top six and bottom two again in the WCHA, so the pressure is on to finish in the top two and avoid a first-round match-up with a more dangerous opponent.

Analyzing the CHA is a snap; league play has yet to commence.

Weekend highlights
Boston College claimed both ends of a crucial home-and-home series from Northeastern, 3-1 and 4-1. Heading in opposite directions, Harvard won a pair of league games at home from Clarkson, 2-1, and St. Lawrence, 6-1, while Dartmouth was shut out by the same foes, losing 2-0 to the Saints and 1-0 to the Golden Knights. Princeton grabbed a 3-0 lead on home ice, only to stumble, 6-4, versus Colgate. Sometimes, even an expected result can be surprising, such as RPI taking a 3-2 lead over Wisconsin into the final frame before dropping, 4-3. Finally, Minnesota-Duluth continued to find the conference road rocky, splitting 4-1 and 3-4 decisions with Bemidji State.

Early NLI signing period
The fall period for signing a National Letter of Intent wrapped up on November 16, and a few programs have released a list of their signees; specifics are available on their sites. The teams that have issued a release and the number of student athletes signed are: Minnesota — six, Minnesota-Duluth — four, North Dakota — six, and St. Cloud State — two.


  1. Not that it matters one iota, but Union and Yale above BC?? Western Michigan, Wisconsin and Rensselaer above BU, CC, Maine, and even Cornell?? Come on…

    • Dude…it’s the ECAC beat writer. I’m glad he’s giving credit to the teams he covers (and Yale still is #1 overall in the Pairwise and has won its comparison with BC, don’t forget). And Cornell’s getting a gift by being #20…they seriously lucked into that 4 spot in the ECAC.

    • I tend to put my ballot together with the idea of ranking teams based on their season success-to-date. Obviously that’s a very subjective assessment – as would be almost any ranking system – but I hope that will explain why I ranked Union over Yale, both over BC, or RPI over BU, for example. Fortunately, my rankings mean less and less with each passing playoff round!

  2. Brian….nice job on the ECAC Picks. Are you sure you follow college hockey???Doesn’t take much to write for USCHO.

    • Doesn’t take much to criticize on the internet, either. I don’t recall receiving your challenge to take me on in the head-to-head picks earlier this year, as many of your fellow fans did.

  3. Dear Commissioner:

    Major changes needed in ECAC playoff format. Starting next year, teams that finish 9-12 in the regular season should be melting the ice on their home arenas following the last regular season game. The ECAC playoffs should start with 8 teams, just like Hockey East. Having all teams make the playoffs renders the regular season games rather meaningless. It would have been good for the ECAC to field three teams in the NCAA tournament. Now it will only be two as two of three viable teams (RPI, Princeton) were eliminated in round one with no chance of NCAA tourney berth. Eliminated by teams that underperformed all season only to get on a streak late in the season. Good for Colgate, SLU and Harvard, but bad for the ECAC. The teams that will benefit the most are Maine, BU, Wisconsin, Colorado College, etc. – all teams on the bubble. The ECAC should have fielded three, possibly four teams in the NCAA this year, but now it will only be two. HE will have five: BC, UNH, Merrimack, BU and Maine, thanks to a terrible ECAC post-season format.

  4. OK, keeping up with the crazies — and the hot hands, here’s a try on this weekend: Yale and Cornell, but also Colgate and Harvard.

  5. flanagan with no team behind him.  are you kidding? carey drewiske essery hughes…plus wenninger in net (top 4 in every one of your lists on your own site) still writing them off based on there start this season..tisk tisk


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