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.