SUNYAC playoff Jenga

This is it. The last weekend of the regular season. No more, “We’ll get ’em next week.” No more, “We need some points next weekend.” No more, “We’ll learn from these lessons and apply them next week.”

For next week is the playoffs. This is your last chance to either get in them, host a game, or take a breather.

Let’s set the stage for what can happen when this weekend is over. Hopefully, your head won’t explode like mine did.

Before we begin, here are the tiebreaker rules as stated in the 2011-12 SUNYAC Handbook under the Ice Hockey Team Operating Codes and Tournament Information section.

1. The best record of tied teams against each other based on Conference play (tournament play will not be considered).
2. Number of total Conference wins over ties if points are equal.
3. Goal differential against each other in Conference play.
4. Goal differential against all other Conference teams.
5. Coin flip by Commissioner.

At the top, Oswego and Plattsburgh have clinched a first-round bye. The only question is who finishes first. The only way Plattsburgh can do it cleanly is if they sweep the weekend, including beating Oswego, and the Lakers drop both games.

If they tie, the only way that can happen is if Plattsburgh sweeps the weekend and Oswego ties Potsdam. This will give Plattsburgh the regular season title, since in this scenario, the Cardinals would have a 1-0-1 record against Oswego.

At the bottom, Cortland and Morrisville are already eliminated (well, the Mustangs were ineligible anyway). However, they both can play major spoilers, considering the teams they are playing.

Let’s move up from the bottom. Three teams are contending for two playoff spots — Geneseo (13 points), Potsdam (12), and Brockport (12). Potsdam has the edge because they are the only one amongst this trio that plays two games, albeit the final one is against Oswego.

Potsdam virtually wins the tiebreaker against Brockport in all scenarios. If both teams lose all their games this weekend, or Potsdam wins one game and Brockport beats Morrisville, the Bears win the tiebreaker based on more conference wins.

If Potsdam ties its two games and Brockport wins its two games, they will be tied with identical records. They beat each other by identical 5-3 scores, so it goes to conference goal differential. Right now, Potsdam is at minus-six, and of course if it ties both games, it remains at minus-six. Brockport is at minus-15. This means Brockport would have to defeat Morrisville by at least nine goals just to force a coin flip. Not score nine goals, but win by nine goals.

Thus, if Potsdam wins one game, they are in. Same with Geneseo if it beats Morrisville.

“We know the scenarios,” Potsdam coach Chris Bernard said. “For us, it’s just a matter of, if you win you’re in.”

“We’re the biggest Cortland and Oswego fans there are,” Brockport coach Brian Dickinson said. “We’re going to be Morrisville fans on Friday. We’re a point behind Genny, and can potentially leapfrog them if they lose on Friday. Friday is a big night. We can’t do anything except be fans of a couple of teams.”

A Brockport-Geneseo tie favors Brockport, thanks to a 1-0-1 record against the Ice Knights. A Geneseo-Potsdam tie favors Potsdam, thanks to a a 10-7 head-to-head goal differential. Geneseo doesn’t want to tie anyone.

What happens if there is a three-way tie for the last two spots? Based on the head-to-head amongst those three teams, the tiebreaker order will be Brockport (2-1-1), Potsdam (2-2-0), and Geneseo (1-2-1).

Interestingly, Geneseo and Potsdam still have a shot at a home ice spot for the first round. By virtue of the fact Buffalo State plays Fredonia, two teams tied for third with 15 points, only one team can gain ground (which is why it’s impossible for a four-way tie with Geneseo and Potsdam), unless they tie, which really complicates things. If they do tie, it would be the second time they did so this year, and thus the tiebreaker goes to Buffalo State with more conference wins, if it is the only one that ends up with 16 points.

The easy scenario is if Potsdam sweeps the weekend and the Buffalo State-Fredonia game has a winner. The loser will fall behind the Bears and go on the road.

If Potsdam ties one of these teams, the Bears have the edge over Buffalo State, since they beat them twice. They will also have the advantage over Fredonia, since the only way Potsdam can get three points is to win one of their games, giving the Bears more conference wins than Fredonia (they split their series).

As for Geneseo, if they win and Fredonia losses, Geneseo gets the home spot, since it will have more conference wins. If Buffalo State losses to tie Geneseo, they split their games by identical scores, so with conference goal differential, the Bengals would win it with a plus-18 versus minus-9 (before the games are played, but the margin is so great, it’s not going to flip).

Geneseo, Potsdam, and one of the Western New York teams could end up in a three-way tie for fourth place. In order for this to happen, there has to be a winner between the current third place games, Geneseo has to beat Morrisville, and Potsdam will need a win and a tie. They will all end up with 15 points.

If this scenario occurs with Fredonia, they all end up with 2-2 records against each other. For this scenario to play out, Potsdam and Geneseo would have seven conference wins to Fredonia’s six, dropping Fredonia to fifth. Then, the tie between Potsdam and Geneseo would have to be broken, and we know that favors Potsdam.

If this scenario occurs with Buffalo State, it would be settled by head-to-head in the order of Potsdam (3-1), Geneseo (2-2), and Buffalo State (1-3).

Now, for the fun one — if Buffalo State and Fredonia tie their game and Potsdam sweeps the weekend, there would be a three-way tie for the last two home spots. Guess what? Potsdam wins that tiebreaker.

That’s right, the team which is desperately hanging on to any playoff spot could end up finishing in third place. In this scenario, Potsdam would be 3-1-0 in the head-to-head amongst the three teams, followed by Fredonia (1-1-2) and Buffalo State (0-2-2).

We’ve seen crazy finishes before. Remember the year Potsdam swooped into second place out of nowhere on the last weekend? The year Fredonia collapsed, giving away a sure first place? Or, the year Brockport missed out on a playoff spot by one second?

So, sit back and enjoy this final weekend, or better yet, get out to a rink and witness it yourself. We’re bound for quite a ride.

SUNYAC Players of the Week (selected by the conference)

Player of the Week: Nick Panepinto, Jr., Brockport. Scored three goals in two SUNYAC wins to keep the playoff hopes alive. Brockport posted one of the biggest wins in school history with a 4-2 victory over nationally-ranked Plattsburgh Friday night. Panepinto scored the go-ahead goal with less than three minutes left in the third period. Saturday night, Panepinto scored the first goal of the game against Potsdam and added an insurance goal with five minutes left for a 5-3 final.

Co-Rookies of the Week: Troy Polino, Brockport, and Justin Scharfe, Geneseo. Polino scored the game-winning goal in a 5-3 win against Potsdam with 12 minutes left in the third period and added an assist earlier in the game. Polino is tied for fourth in the conference in rookie scoring with 15 points. Scharfe scored the eventual game-winner in the 4-3 victory over Potsdam on Friday after assisting on the third goal for the Knights. He currently leads Geneseo rookies in scoring with eight points on three goals and five assists.

Goalie of the Week: Oliver Wren, Sr., Brockport. Was the catalyst in net as the Golden Eagles posted back-to-back wins against nationally-ranked Plattsburgh and Potsdam over the weekend to help Brockport improve its playoff chances. Wren finished with a combined .932 save percentage for both games. Friday night he stopped 37 shots as Brockport posted its second win-ever over the Cardinals in 75 meetings. The following night, he made 31 saves against the Bears, avenging the early loss this season and moving into a tie for sixth place in the conference standings with 12 points.