No, they're not out of it mathematically, but the Harvard hockey team's 3-2 loss to Colgate Sunday night just about silences the playoff talk floating around the Bright Center. The situation that seemed so promising a week ago now looks like this: a 6-9-2 record and a tie for tenth place in the ECAC with Boston University. Technically, the icemen are ahead of B.U. because they won this year's regular-season meeting, but after the eighth spot it doesn't matter much anyway.
With four games to go, the icemen have the luxury of perhaps one tie. They'll bus up to Dartmouth Wednesday night to face the Big Green--14-5-1 overall and awesome at home--come back to Bright for part II of The Game next Saturday, and then return North the following weekend to face the prince and the pauper: Clarkson (11-7; the conference's highest scoring team) and St. Lawrence (3-15--the cellar).
The way to do it is to save the tie for Clarkson, but even a draw up there demands a near-flawless performance. Back-to-back big games a nine-hour bus ride away from home isn't the best way to close out the season, but that's probably how Year 1 of the New Era will end. Not, as the wildly optimistic had predicted, in the Boston Garden.
Sunday night's win moved Colgate (8-8-1) into a tie for seventh place in the standings with Cornell (9-9), as five teams continue to battle for the remaining two playoff spots. The Red Raiders face only one winning team the rest of the way when they meet Vermont at home March 8 in their finale. Otherwise, it's Northeastern and New Hampshire before a friendly crowd, and only Princeton away--probably the easiest card of any contender.
By contrast, Cornell may have the hardest slate. The Big Red travels to Vermont next week, meets Princeton and Providence in Ithaca, and wraps things up March 8 when it faces off against B.U. at Walter Brown. None of those games are shoo-ins, and Cornell just might drop all four.
Six teams--B.C., Providence, Vermont, RPI, Clarkson and Dartmouth--are in, and six--New Hampshire, Northeastern, St. Lawrence, Brown, Princeton and Yale--are out. That leaves B.U. and Maine as contenders but both are long shots.
The Terriers are 7-10, which is technically equivalent to Harvard's 6-9-2 as ties count as half-wins and half-losses. They'll face RPU and Vermont at home, travel cross-town to B.C., and then take the Green Line back for the Cornell game. Like the Crimson, B.U. can't afford even one loss, and despite the tradition and the heart, it's tough to imagine wins over B.C. and Vermont.
Maine's problems are geographic. It finishes up with three road games--the Clarkson-St. Lawrence double plus Providence. Two wins and a tie would leave the Bears at .500, but anything less probably won't be good enough.
And that brings us back to the Crimson. The deciding factor will be who's hot, and right now Colgate is the best bet. The Raiders weren't impressive Sunday night, but that was coming off a 4-2 win over B.U. the night before. Now they go back home for three of four, and that should be enough to get them a spot for the first time since 1966.
The other berth is still up for grabs, and that's what the icemen are shooting for. If Cornell can win twice, they'll get it, but if not, Harvard may be next in line, unless B.U. gets nostalgic or Maine conquers the road.
A win Wenesday is a must, however. If the Crimson loses, it could come down to B.U.-Cornell on the 8th provided Clarkson beats Maine. And all this is assuming Colgate doesn't fold....
It's still too early to say for sure, of course, but right now the best bets are Colgate and Cornell. That would leave the icemen out of the action for the third consecutive year, but this time it's not a disappointment, as a young, exciting team has made '79-'80 a vivid, memorable season. I'm not counting the Crimson out, but as a famous philosopher once wrote: "It ain't gonna be easy."