College Hockey Tournament Watch
After another exciting weekend of college hockey, the tournament picture appears that much clearer. As conference tournament play approaches, several teams are making statement victories. Meanwhile, other teams are falling flat and just barely hanging on by a thread to hope of an at-large bid.
The Atlantic Hockey conference remains a “one hit wonder” in terms of the tournament field. The conference’s top two teams suffered a relatively poor weekend, as AIC and Bentley both failed to record a win.
The lack of dominance in the Atlantic Hockey conference has left the door open for essentially any team to clinch the automatic berth through the conference tournament. Although, that team would have a tough first-round task, likely going up against the No.1 overall seed.
Eastern College Athletic Conference
It was a huge weekend on the ice for Harvard. The Crimson played themselves right into the tournament field by defeating fellow bubble teams Yale and Brown.
Harvard has now catapulted up to No.14 in the Pairwise, and second in the ECAC standings. The Crimson have a favorable last weekend of regular season action as well.
It was a weekend to forget for Cornell. The Big Red slipped to No.12 in the Pairwise following a disappointing overtime loss to No.45 Rensselaer. Cornell travels to Clarkson on Saturday, who is tied with the Big Red in the Pairwise.
This game will be huge for seeding both nationally and in the ECAC tournament, as just two points separate first and fourth place.
While it remains unclear how seeding and the automatic bid will shake out in the cluttered ECAC, Cornell, Harvard, Quinnipiac, and Clarkson all look probable to lock up NCAA tournament bids.
Don’t look now, but here comes Providence. The Friars have cracked the Pairwise top 10 after upsetting No.1 Massachusetts this past weekend.
Northeastern also cracked the top 10 with a weekend sweep of New Hampshire, killing off any at large hopes for the Wildcats.
With favorable schedules proceeding the conference tournament for Providence and Northeastern, both are serious dark horse candidates to take a No.2 regional seed.
UMass-Lowell has dropped out of the projected field to No.16 in the Pairwise after tying with Merrimack. The River Hawks still have time to get back to the tournament field but need to take care of business in their last three regular-season games while still putting together a decent conference tournament run to be safe.
National Collegiate Hockey Conference
St. Cloud State has already run away with the NCHC regular season crown, and currently sits at No.1 in the Pairwise, but the next two weeks will say a lot about this Huskies team.
This weekend, St. Cloud State must travel to No.11 Western Michigan. The Broncos have tournament aspirations of their own and will look to make a statement against the Huskies to solidify their own tournament berth.
Next weekend, St. Cloud State hosts No.3 Minnesota-Duluth. Depending on what transpires this weekend, the series could be a deciding factor in both teams’ status as a No.1 regional seed come Selection Sunday.
Denver quietly sits at No.4 in the Pairwise. The national champions from two seasons ago look to solidify a No.1 regional seed by taking care of business against Nebraska-Omaha and Colorado College, possibly passing Minnesota-Duluth if they stumble.
Western Collegiate Hockey Association
Minnesota State remains at No.5 despite losing to Alaska on Saturday. The Mavericks continue to put pressure on the top four seeds to remain consistent.
Speaking of small margins of error, Bowling Green continues to sit on the cusp of tournament qualification at No. 5 in the Pairwise. Any loss could prove costly for the Eagles. College Hockey News gives the Eagles a 55 percent chance to get the job done.
Sitting at a much lower chance of qualifying is No.20 Lake Superior State. The Lakers still hold a three percent chance at an at-large berth but would likely need to win out until the WCHA conference championship game.
The Big Ten has done itself no favors with its depth of competition. Ohio State has gone winless in its last four games, falling almost completely out of contention for a No.1 regional seed.
Penn State and Notre Dame are the only two remaining at large hopefuls in the conference. The two sides oppose each other this weekend, each with an approximate 20 percent chance at qualifying.
The only bright side for the Big Ten is that the conference is so full of parody, that the conference tournament is wide open
Arizona State has essentially already clinched an NCAA tournament berth. However, an impressive regular-season finale against Minnesota would staple the Sun Devils’ claim of a No.2 regional seed.
Andre Magaro is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.