Ladies and Gents we are a month away from the College Hockey Conference Playoffs and sequentially the NCAA Playoffs. So here is what you need to know headed into the last month of the Regular Season of Cawlidge Hawkey.
College Hockey is broken up into six conferences. Each conference champion gets an atomic bid to the NCAA Playoffs. The remaining ten slots are pulled from the College Hockey National Rankings. So essentially you want your favorite University to be inside the top twelve for a shot at the big dance.
The landscape breaks down like this.
American International is running away with the conference. They are 15-8-1 however they are not ranked in the top 20 so the best path for them is winning their conference playoff. Now the Atlantic may not be the most exciting conference in college hockey, but their playoff bracket is brutal. They play two best of three series and then two single elimination games. It is a true war of attrition and any team can win it.
Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA)
Minnesota State is running away with the conference and sitting pretty at number 6 nationally. Bowling Green is their closes opponent, but they are Ranked 16th nationally and nine points behind them in conference. Their playoff format is three rounds. First two are best of three and championship game is single elimination. Hard to imagine anyone other than the Mavericks making the NCAA Tourney.
Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC)
This conference is really competitive. Cornell is leading the division and is 10th in the national rankings. The conference boats half the teams with winning records, and four teams national ranked. The playoffs start with a quarter final that is best of three. Then two single elimination games. Quinnipiac is a perennial powerhouse they are ranked 4th in the country. Clarkson is ranked 9th. Union is also ranked 20th. Yale, Harvard, and Dartmouth are not nationally ranked but are in the conference playoff picture with winning records in conference. The ECAC is a conference to keep an eye on moving forward, but with the exception of Quinnipiac it’s hard to imagine any of these teams being dangerous in the NCAA Playoff.
The final three conferences will make up the majority of the tournament and are most likely to produce the winner.
Massachusetts aka UMass is currently winning the conference and 2nd in the country. So chances are they hold that spot atop the conference. Mass-Lowell and Northeastern are both nationally ranked but both are outside the top 10. There are a lot of teams in this conference with winning records. This makes me hesitant to say that UMass wins the conference, but since they have only lost five games all season it’s hard to imagine they won’t qualify on national ranking alone.
The Big Ten
Arguably the most competitive conference in all of college hockey. This is the murders row of programs. Ohio State currently sits atop the heap boasting a number 3 national ranking. Notre Dame and Penn State join them in the national rankings. Add to that the other programs not listed own 23 national titles between them it’s not easy to win this conference. Need proof? Since the Big Ten Hockey Conference was formed in 2013-14 Season there has yet to be a team to win it twice. These teams play the best of the best all season long and when given a chance they tend to shine in the NCAA Tournament. Ohio State is due, Steve Rohlik has been building that program up for a while now and it’s time for them to go on a run.
National College Hockey Conference (NCHC)
The most important thing to keep in mind about this conference is that every team makes the conference playoffs and any team can win it. The NCHC has made and broken National Championship bids in the past. The last three years the winner has been from this conference and the past two years have been an all NCHC final. Right now St. Cloud State is atop the conference and nation. Number one in both and considering they have only lost four games all season it’s hard to imagine them slipping up. They lost to Northeastern, Union, Minnesota-Duluth, and North Dakota. All four of those teams are nationally ranked, and only drew splits in the two game series. No team they have played this seasons has beaten them twice. St. Cloud has only appeared once in the Frozen Four. They have only won the conference twice, in spite of winning the regular season title in 2013, 14, and 18. I would like to say they could win it. The team is well balanced with 5 guys with ten goals or more, nine players with fifteen points or more, and a goalie boasting a 2.09 GAA and a .906 Savage Percentage. But this conference is so stacked its hard to pick a winner. Other powerhouses in the conference are Minnesota-Duluth 2nd in the conference, and 5th in the country and defending National Champions. Western Michigan is 3rd in the conference 8th in the country, and Denver is 4th in conference and 7th in the country. Any of these teams could win the whole thing.
My picks to make a big run this year are Ohio State, Quinnipiac, and Minnesota Duluth. All three teams have been there before and performed well. They all sit high in the national rankings which means they don’t have to win their conference to get in. Plus Duluth and Ohio State were in the Frozen Four last year. Traditionally the champion comes from the Frozen Four of the year prior.
College Hockey’s post season serves as an appetizer the the NHL Postseason. From February till April every game of hockey matter, and I honestly can’t wait. So let’s drop the puck bois!