With a month remaining in the regular season, the ECAC Hockey standings are tight with six teams separated by two points.
Cornell and Yale each have 17 points while Clarkson and Harvard each have 16 points and Dartmouth and Quinnipiac have 15 points apiece.
The reasons are many for the cluster at the top and one can look to this past weekend.
Harvard stopped Clarkson’s eight-game winning streak, Cornell couldn’t sweep Colgate to take the sole possession of first place and Yale blew a 3-1 lead Friday against Union where with a win, could have put them on top with 19 points instead of 17.
How will the race play out? Brown, who sits in seventh with 13 points, could have a lot to say in the final month. In their final nine games, the Bears have six games against the top six, including two with Quinnipiac. The only team they don’t play in the top six is Clarkson.
The Bears have been playing well and are 7-3-0 in their past 10 games and could make the standings even closer.
The Golden Knights may have the toughest schedule remaining within the top six. They have two games with Quinnipiac and another two games with Cornell, plus a contest remaining against Harvard and Dartmouth. They will be tested either way when the conference tournament starts, but a strong record will help with their PairWise as they currently are tied for 10th.
A team that could either make or break their season in the final month is Union, as the Dutchmen currently sit eighth. Union is 12-7-4 overall but just 5-6-1 inside the conference. In the past 10 games, they are 4-4-2. Seven of the ten remaining games on their schedule are against teams in the top six, facing Cornell, Dartmouth and Harvard twice each.
Harvard, another team who’s getting hot at the right time, can make some noise in both the conference picture and the national picture. The Crimson have three games remaining inside the top six. With the Beanpot on tap, they are only team with nonconference games remaining that could also help their PairWise. Harvard is currently 15th.
“The focus is really on taking each day at a time, each game at a time,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said to the media after the 7-3 win over St. Lawrence last Saturday. “I think with this group, it’s really about continuing to improve and doing things the right way. I think we are starting to play to our strengths more and more. In general, the ECAC is wide open. There are some really good teams but there are a lot of teams with a lot of positives going on that can be dangerous at the end of the season.
“We hope to be one of those teams.”
Cornell has two games against Clarkson that will shape the conference tournament picture and their PairWise ranking, where they are ranked ninth. They also have a game against one other top six team in Yale. The Big Red face Rensselaer and St. Lawrence twice each.
Dartmouth could be considered flying under the radar but may make a run in the last month of the season. The Big Green travel to Boston Friday to face Harvard, a team they beat in a wild 7-6 game in their first game of the season. As the Crimson’s travel partner, they also have a game remaining against Yale and Clarkson.
Quinnipiac has a pair against the Golden Knights and the Bulldogs. Depending on how Brown and Union do down the stretch, those games could be important to the Bobcats, who own the best overall record at 18-5-1. Their .771 winning percentage is also the best in the conference. They are the top ranked team in the conference in the PairWise, ranked fourth.