Five teams will conclude their 2015-16 season this weekend. Four of those are already known, while the other one will become apparent as the ECAC schedule concludes on Friday and Saturday.
In Hockey East, Merrimack wraps up its first varsity season when it hosts Vermont for a series. These are big points for the Catamounts, who can lock down fifth place with a sweep. UVM might get the fifth seed even without a point, but that is far less certain. What we know for sure is that the Warriors can turn their attention to next season after the games, Friday, 7 p.m. EST, and Saturday, 4 p.m. EST.
In ECAC Hockey, Union is still looking for its first win in its final two games, both on the road. No. 4 Quinnipiac will be looking to clinch its first season crown when the Dutchwomen visit on Friday, 7 p.m. EST. On Saturday, Union travels to No. 8 Princeton, where the Tigers need points to ensure that they’ll be hosting a quarterfinal the following weekend; start time is Saturday, 4 p.m. EST.
Brown has also been eliminated from postseason contention as it journeys to the North Country, but with a two-point lead on Union, it has the motivation of staying out of the basement. Up first is No. 5 Clarkson, Friday, 7 p.m. EST. The Golden Knights will need a lot of help to move up to first, but second place is within their control. The Bears conclude their season on Saturday, 4 p.m. EST, at St. Lawrence. The Saints are tied for sixth, but have only a two-point lead over ninth-place Cornell, so their postseason is not yet assured.
While Dartmouth could conceivably catch Yale in the eighth and final playoff spot, the Bulldogs own the tiebreaker over the Big Green. The Big Green finish on the road with the opportunity to play spoiler for different reasons. On Friday at 7 p.m. CST, Dartmouth visits Cornell, where the Big Red are one point behind Yale for the eighth spot. The Big Green conclude their season on Saturday, 4 p.m. EST, at No. 10 Colgate where the Raiders are looking to grab a home-ice berth.
Already in playoff mode
Four teams in the ECAC are dueling for three remaining playoff spots.
In addition to Dartmouth, Cornell welcomes Harvard on Saturday, 4 p.m. EST. The good news for the Big Red is that they own the tiebreaker with Yale, so if they get more points out of the weekend than Yale does, they’ll qualify for the postseason. It’s also possible for Cornell to displace either Rensselaer or St. Lawrence, who are two points ahead, but the Big Red lose both of those tiebreakers, so they’ll have to gain three points on either of those squads to pass.
Yale sits in eighth, and the only way to be certain of making the tournament is to sweep, although it is possible that it could advance even if it loses both. The Bulldogs visit St. Lawrence on Friday, 7 p.m. EST, and No. 5 Clarkson, Saturday, 4 p.m. EST.
St. Lawrence is tied for sixth with Rensselaer, and the Saints own the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Despite sitting in a sixth-place tie, Rensselaer’s position is precarious because of having to visit two ranked opponents; the Engineers may need help to advance. RPI is at No. 8 Princeton, Friday, 7 p.m. EST, and at No. 4 Quinnipiac, Saturday, 4 p.m. EST.
Pursuit of a crown
With one point in either of its two games, Quinnipiac will win its first ECAC title and secure the league’s top seed. Should it fail, that leaves the door open for Clarkson, which can steal the title with a four-point gain, or share it if it makes up three points on the Bobcats.
Also looking to nail down a trophy is Mercyhurst in the CHA, but this is old hat for the Lakers, who have taken at least a piece of every season title through the league’s first 15 years. Mercyhurst is a game ahead of Syracuse, so two points will ensure that the streak grows to 16. The Lakers host Penn State, Friday, 6 p.m. EST, and Saturday, 1 p.m. EST.
Syracuse is at home versus Lindenwood, Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. EST, needing to gain those two points to share in its first CHA title. The Orange and Lakers have already wrapped up the two byes for the quarterfinals.
Looking to host
The first-round hosts are set in Hockey East and the WCHA.
In the CHA, Penn State (17 points) and Robert Morris (16 points) hold third and fourth, but it is possible for Lindenwood, with 14 points, to overtake either if it gets help. The Colonials close their schedule hosting RIT, Friday, 7:05 p.m. EST, and Saturday, 3:05 p.m. EST.
Harvard is also looking to move into a host position in the ECAC. The Crimson are a game back of two teams, but they can make up that game and earn the tiebreaker when they visit No. 10 Colgate, Friday, 7 p.m. EST, in advance of their game at Cornell.
The rest of the games don’t have league implications beyond some shuffling of the seeds.
One such case is No. 6 Northeastern playing a home-and-home series with Boston University. If the Terriers sweep, they will be the second seed in Hockey East. Either way, this series is a potential preview of a league semifinal. BU hosts on Friday, 7 p.m. EST, and the action shifts to Matthews Arena on Saturday, 2 p.m. EST.
No. 2 Wisconsin at No. 3 Minnesota, Friday, 7:07 p.m. CST, and Saturday, 3:03 p.m. CST, could also be dress rehearsal for a WCHA final. However, those teams haven’t met in the conference tournament since 2011, despite having clashed in the NCAA tournament three times in the last four seasons. Long term, the results could figure into seedings come NCAA tournament selections. I hesitate to mention it, because the last time I did a game was partially preempted by a football coach firing, but Saturday’s game will be televised on BTN.