As Chris mentioned this week, 2017-2018 is one of the tightest seasons in Atlantic Hockey (and college hockey) history. The league somehow managed to make a chaotic race to the finish, which we once dubbed a demolition derby, more hectic.
Holy Cross defeated AIC last night, 2-0, at the Hart Center, in the last game of the Crusaders’ season. As such, the playoff scenarios and what can be clinched going into tonight shifted.
Here’s the latest math on what has been clinched and what can be clinched going into tonight’s games. As always, I come with the disclaimer that my math could likely be off in this scenario because nothing is ever as it seems:
First Round Byes
-The Holy Cross victory last night clinched at least a spot in the top five for the Crusaders. That means three of those slots are now held, with Mercyhurst and Canisius clinching byes. But only Mercyhurst is guaranteed a spot in the top four, ensuring a quarterfinal home series.
-Canisius can wrap up a top four spot, though, with a handful of scenarios. The Griffins need only one point on their own (which is a tie against Niagara) to clinch a top four spot. But they can backdoor into the top four with an Air Force loss to Robert Morris or an RIT loss to Mercyhurst.
-An RIT loss to Mercyhurst also clinches a top four spot for Holy Cross.
-Air Force and RIT both can clinch a first round bye, but they both need Army to either lose or tie to Sacred Heart. Air Force would need an Army West Point loss outright because the Black Knights hold the head-to-head tiebreaker scenario, while RIT can get away with an Army West Point tie. Both of these are dependent on the respective team winning.
First Round Home Series
-Army West Point and Robert Morris are both three points clear of Niagara for a home ice spot in the first round series. Both can clinch that spot with as long as they don’t lose out and as long as Niagara doesn’t sweep Canisius. Sacred Heart is four points back but doesn’t hold a head-to-head tiebreaker win (with Army pending this weekend).
-Though it’s not on Friday night, let’s look at what the loss meant for AIC last night. My math says the Yellow Jackets would have clinched home ice with a win, but the loss opened the door for Niagara. Niagara is only one point back with four points on the table, where AIC now only plays Bentley on Saturday.
-A Purple Eagle win tonight vaults Niagara over AIC by a point and puts them in position to clinch home ice tomorrow, where a tie sets up a head-to-head battle on Saturday. A loss gives the driver’s seat back to AIC in Saturday’s game. So while it doesn’t set up a clinching scenario, what happens in Niagara-Canisius is of double importance to the fortunes of those teams in the back (including Sacred Heart, who is also a domino depending on outcome on Friday against Army West Point).