What’s Been Clinched, What Can Be Clinched: Feb. 24, 2018

It’s amazing to think that a five-month journey ends tonight. Atlantic Hockey teams wrap up their regular season this evening, ending a long trail lined with blood, sweat and tears. The highest of highs are bookended, truly, by the lowest of lows, with everyone living and dying on every single shift of every single game.

Tonight, the seedings are finalized. The final horn sounds, and the 11 teams comprising this league learn their first round or quarterfinal fates. The playoffs give off their own air of drama, but for tonight, how that road is paved finally becomes clear.

Here’s what we know about each team and what can happen for them heading into tonight. As always, I apologize if my math is off or my inferences are incorrect in any capacity.

1) Mercyhurst (34 points, 15 conference wins)
What’s been clinched: The Lakers continued to roll last night, beating RIT, 4-3. They now enter Saturday two points ahead of Canisius. Depending on tonight’s outcome, Mercyhurst is either the first or second seed in the postseason.

What can be clinched: The only way the Lakers don’t win the regular season championship is if they lose and Canisius wins. Canisius and Mercyhurst split earlier this season, but since the Golden Griffins have more conference wins, a Canisius win and Mercyhurst loss defaults the title to the Griffs on the second tiebreaker (conference wins).

2) Canisius (32 points, 16 conference wins)
What’s been clinched: The Golden Griffins assured themselves of a top two seeding with a 2-1 win over Niagara last night.

What can be clinched: Canisius can clinch the regular season championship with a win and a Lakers loss. Any other scenario assures them of the second slot.

3) Holy Cross (30 points, 12 conference wins)
What’s been clinched: Holy Cross finishes its season with a bye-clinching victory over AIC on Thursday, and they clinched a top four spot thanks to Air Force’s win over Robert Morris.

What can be clinched: The Crusaders are two points clear of fifth-place Army West Point and one point ahead of the Falcons, but they hold head-to-head tiebreakers over both. But an Air Force win tonight drops them to fourth, where they would play Army West Point or RIT in the quarterfinals. An Air Force loss keeps the Crusaders in third, where it would await the winner of a first round matchup.

Holy Cross can still wind up in a three-way tie with Army and Air Force. If that happens, the Crusaders finish third.

4) Air Force (29 points, 13 conference wins)
What’s been clinched: The Falcons have all but clinched a first round bye unless one specific scenario happens.

What can be clinched: This is where the standings start getting dicey. Air Force finishes third with a win. Air Force finishes fourth with a tie and a West Point loss, regardless if RIT wins or not (head-to-head win by Air Force). Air Force finishes fifth with a loss and an Army West Point win or tie.

There’s also scenario with a three-way tie that exists if Air Force ties and Army West Point wins. If the Falcons and Black Knights both tie Holy Cross, Air Force winds up as the odd team out based on head-to-head record agains the other two teams. Holy Cross finishes third because the Crusaders are 2-0-2 in that scenario, setting up Air Force at Army West Point in the quarterfinal.

There’s also a scenario with clinching options if Air Force, Army and RIT all finish in a three-way tie. But since I’m pretty sure the space-time continuum will just crack if that happens, let’s ignore it unless it comes to fruition.

5) Army West Point (28 points, 11 conference wins)
What’s been clinched: Mercyhurst’s win over RIT combined with Air Force’s win over Robert Morris helped open the door for Army West Point. The Black Knights wrapped up home ice in at least the first round thanks to Canisius’ win over Niagara.

What can be clinched: Army can finish as high as fourth or as low as seventh depending on what happens tonight. The Black Knights finish fourth with a win and an Air Force tie or if they wind up in the aforementioned tiebreaker scenario.

They finish fifth if they win and Air Force wins.

Army cannot hold fifth if they finish tied with RIT or Robert Morris. RIT swept the Black Knights back in late October (remember when I said October games somehow have a way of creeping back into March?), and the Colonials hold the deciding tiebreaker – head-to-head winning percentage against the top-ranked teams, starting with first place.

The Black Knights finish sixth with this scenario: tie and RIT win, loss and RIT tie/win, loss and RMU win (as long as RIT loses to Mercyhurst)

6) RIT (27 points, 13 conference wins)
What’s been clinched: RIT has at least a first round home series.

What can be clinched: RIT can clinch fifth place and a first round bye with a win and an Army tie. They can also clinch with a tie and an Army West Point loss. They also clinch fifth if they somehow wind up in a three-way tie with RMU by virtue of a perfect 6-0 record against the two teams.

RIT finishes sixth with a tie and any Army West Point points. The Tigers finish seventh only if they lose and Robert Morris wins.

Again, there’s a scenario involving a three-way tie with Air Force with Army. I believe RIT might have a shot at fourth place with that, but I’m trusting that this won’t happen.

7) Robert Morris (26 points, 12 conference wins)
What’s been clinched: RMU has at least a first round home series.

What can be clinched: RMU can still clinch a bye under a very direct route: RMU win and both RIT and Army West Point lose. The tiebreaker in this scenario is actually the fifth criteria used (head-to-head record against conference teams starting with first place). RMU finished better against Mercyhurst and Canisius (2-2 and 1-1, respectively) than Army West Point (0-1-1 and 0-2, respectively).

RMU finishes sixth in the following scenario: Army wins or ties, RIT loses, and RMU wins. Any RIT points combined with any Army points takes fifth and sixth off the table.

8) American International (24 points, 10 conference wins)
What’s been clinched: No home ice advantage.

What can be clinched: AIC cannot catch Robert Morris. The Colonials went 3-1 against the Yellow Jackets this year, so there’s no scenario where they can pass into seventh place.

AIC’s game against Bentley is essentially for home ice advantage. If the Yellow Jackets win, they clinch home ice in the first round. If they lose, either Bentley or Niagara gains the home ice advantage. If Bentley-AIC finishes in a tie, then Niagara needs to lose in order to pass the Yellow Jackets to eighth place.

AIC finishes ninth if Bentley wins and Niagara loses. They also finish ninth with a loss and a Niagara tie. In that scenario, AIC and Niagara finish tied on points, but the Yellow Jackets win the third criteria (head-to-head goal differential).

AIC finishes tenth with a loss and a Niagara win. There is no way there can be a three-way tie with these teams.

T-9) Bentley (23 points, 9 conference wins)
What’s been clinched: No home ice advantage.

What can be clinched: Bentley clinches home ice with a win and a Niagara loss or tie.

The Falcons finishes ninth with a tie as long as Niagara loses. Bentley finishes tenth if they tie Niagara in any capacity in the standings, depending on what happens with Sacred Heart, in which case 11th place is still on the table.

T-9) Niagara (23 points, 10 conference wins)
What’s been clinched: No home ice advantage.

What can be clinched: Niagara clinches eighth as long as the Purps finish one point better than AIC. So if the Yellow Jackets lose, they need at least a tie. If the Yellow Jackets tie, they need to win.

Niagara finishes ninth if they equal the AIC point totals, so a tie would be met with a tie or a win would be met with a win.

If Niagara loses, they finish at least tenth as long as Bentley and/or Sacred Heart lose. The Pioneers are only one point behind them both and can pass them with a win or tie.

11) Sacred Heart (22 points, 9 conference wins)
What’s been clinched: No home ice advantage.

What can be clinched: Sacred Heart is the only team that cannot clinch home ice in any capacity tonight. But the Pioneers are the absolute wild card in this whole scenario. They could still finish as high as ninth with some direct scenarios.

With a win, SHU can pass Bentley and Niagara if both lose their respective games.

If Sacred Heart finishes tied with Bentley, the Pioneers finish ahead of the Falcons by head-to-head tiebreaker. If Sacred Heart finishes tied with Niagara, the Purps push ahead thanks to the conference wins tiebreaker.

If Bentley, Niagara and SHU all finish tied, the Pioneers win the head-to-head tiebreaker among the three schools and finish ninth. They went 4-2 against Niagara and Bentley this year, where Niagara went 3-2-1. The difference can be directly linked 3-3 tie Bentley scored against Niagara this year where the Falcons scored twice in the final five minutes.