Sure, the Crimson has beaten tougher opponents throughout the course of the season, but no other game had as big of an impact on Harvard’s standing in the ECAC.
Here’s why. With the Crimson’s 4-0 victory, Harvard amazingly found itself back in a second-place tie with Clarkson and Dartmouth. The Crimson is now in good position to secure home-ice advantage for the first round of the ECAC playoffs with a strong showing next weekend at Princeton and Yale.
Not bad for a team that has gone only 2-6-1 in its nine games since exams.
On the flip side, a loss to Union would have left the Crimson in a sixth-place tie with Rensselaer. That would’ve put Harvard out of a home-ice position and put pressure on the Crimson to sweep next weekend’s games.
Even with Saturday’s win, Harvard can still finish anywhere from second to seventh in the league. So it goes in the parity-laden ECAC, where pretty much anything can happen.
In an attempt to make sense of this, here’s a look at the playoff scenarios for each team in the league.
1. Cornell (19-6-2, 15-3-2 ECAC)
The Big Red has already clinched the ECAC regular season title, but certainly has something to play for next weekend at Rensselaer and Union. Cornell is currently in eleventh place in the national PairWise Rankings, which usually determine at-large selections to the twelve-team NCAA tournament.
But because all teams from the MAAC and CHA—whose tournament champions will receive automatic bids—are below the Big Red in the rankings, Cornell is, in theory, one place out of an at-large bid. To advance to NCAAs, then, Cornell must either win the ECAC tournament and claim the automatic bid that goes along with it, or else bump its PairWise rankings up high enough to merit an at-large bid. Certainly, the ECAC as a whole would prefer the latter because it’s the only way the conference will get two teams into the NCAAs.
2. CLARKSON (13-13-6, 9-6-5)
DARTMOUTH (12-10-5, 9-6-5)
HARVARD (11-12-4, 10-7-3) (tie)
Don’t be fooled by their second-place position—these teams are much closer to seventh-place Rensselaer than Cornell. But each member of this trio has the luxury of controlling its own destiny—sweep next weekend and you’re home for the first round of the playoffs.