Individual sports like tennis often have ladders where participants challenge others of similar ability but a slightly higher ranking, and then the challenger moves up the ladder with a win. The schedule this weekend offers something similar in several leagues for the last full slate of games in 2015.
The purest example occurs in the WCHA, where the league’s top two teams meet in a series, as do its third and fourth, fifth and sixth, and seventh and eighth.
The CHA is almost as competitively matched. Here the first and third teams square off, while the team in second is visited by the one in fourth, and the fifth-place squad travels to the one in sixth.
ECAC Hockey doesn’t have two-game series, so it has more variety in its schedule this week as always. The action does include a number of opponents dueling in the standings, such as the top two teams, as well as the bottom two. Every team in the league has a least one game versus a team that it could either overtake or be passed by in the standings by the conclusion of Saturday’s games.
Hockey East? When you consider that more than half of the nine-team league is currently tied for fourth place, it would be hard to craft a schedule that did not have standings implications.
Here are some of the games that figure to be most closely contested.
Lindenwood at RIT, Friday, 2 p.m. EST, and Saturday, 2 p.m. EST
The Tigers are still looking for their first points in the league, and it would figure that hosting the fifth-place team would provide the best opportunity. However, as we’ve seen in recent years, RIT doesn’t always do things as one might expect. The Lions took three of four points in Rochester a year ago.
Yale at Rensselaer, Friday, 3 p.m. EST
After two straight years in the postseason, the Bulldogs are currently on the outside of the playoff picture. RPI is one of the teams above them that they could easily catch, so these two points are huge. The Engineers last won a game in this series in February 2013.
Brown at Union, Friday, 3 p.m. EST
The Dutchwomen are still looking for their first win overall; they won’t get a better chance than this. The Bears, winless in the ECAC, are the last remaining team on Union’s schedule over whom it has an advantage in scoring margin.
St. Cloud State at No. 10 Minnesota-Duluth, Friday, 3:07 p.m. CST, and Saturday, 3:07 p.m. CST
Thanks to upsets of North Dakota and Harvard the past two weeks, the Bulldogs broke into the rankings. Nobody is talking about the Huskies, but UMD would need a sweep to pass them in the standings.
Robert Morris at Mercyhurst, Friday, 7 p.m. EST, and Saturday, 2 p.m. EST
The CHA team that most seems to relish facing the league bully gets its first chances this season.
Colgate at No. 5 Clarkson, Friday, 7 p.m. EST
Despite being winless in the ECAC, Colgate could pass the Golden Knights if its first victory occurs in Potsdam. The Raiders did win there three years ago, so their seniors know it can be done.
Cornell at St. Lawrence, Friday, 7 p.m. EST
The Big Red find themselves trailing the Saints. That’s often been the case, although in recent years, it has usually been reversed.
No. 9 North Dakota at No. 6 Bemidji State, Friday, 7:07 p.m. CST, Bemidji State at North Dakota, Sunday, 2:07 p.m. CST
When these two played back in October, it took a game and a half before anyone scored. Look for offensive explosions this time. You won’t see them, but it never hurts to look.
No. 3 Minnesota at No. 1 Wisconsin, Friday, 7:07 p.m. CST, and Saturday, 3:07 p.m. CST
Participants in the 2015 Frozen Four collide for the first time. Enough said.
Boston University at Connecticut, Saturday, 3 p.m. EST, Connecticut at Boston University, Sunday, 3 p.m. EST
BU stole the game on Oct. 2 thanks to a Rebecca Russo buzzer beater.
Dartmouth at Princeton, Saturday, 4 p.m. EST
These points could factor into who hosts and who doesn’t once the quarterfinals arrive.
No. 7 Harvard at No. 4 Quinnipiac, Saturday, 4 p.m. EST
Showdown for the lead in the ECAC, plus pivotal PairWise jockeying.
Dartmouth at New Hampshire, Tuesday, 7 p.m. EST
Granite State bragging rights are on the line. The road team last won in 2011, when they played twice and both teams fell at home.