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With the completion of the regular college hockey season but a week away, and the commencement of the ECAC playoffs only three days beyond that, the Division I standings have assumed their normal state of semi-chaos, brought about as much by unexpected stumblings of the leaders as by renewed signs of life in those previously considered dead.
Within the past two weeks, Harvard has fallen from first to third, exchanging places with Cornell. New Hampshire, formerly faced with a quarter-final match somewhere in the upstate New York wilderness, now appears assured of the comforts of home ice. And Dartmouth and Boston College, which were wallowing hopelessly in January, have played remarkably since exam break, winning between them nine games of eleven.
In all, 11 of 17 Division I squads still have a realistic chance of obtaining one of the eight playoff berths. Consequently, within the next eight days, no less than nine matches are scheduled that will have a definite bearing on the final seedings. Of them, the most important is the Cornell-Boston University showdown for the top position at Boston next Wednesday.
Each has lost three games this winter, including one apiece to Clarkson. The Terriers, defending national champions, have already lost to Cornell by a goal earlier this winter, and were beaten by two goals at Boston College two nights ago. But since the game is at Boston, where Cornell has fared poorly ever since the ECAC playoffs last year, it should be considered a toss-up.
As for Harvard, the Crimson seems certain to receive the third seed next Monday, and should face either Penn or Clarkson at Watson Rink a week from Tuesday. New Hampshire, which defeated Clarkson, St. Lawrence and Harvard within four days during January, looks good for fourth, despite its 5-2 loss at Providence Wednesday.
From fifth place on, the seedings hinge entirely on the outcome of next week's games. Penn, 11-7 in Division I play, is tied with Clarkson for the number-five position, with home games against St. Lawrence, Princeton and Boston College remaining. Clarkson, meanwhile, plays at St. Lawrence and RPI, and hosts New Hampshire during the final eight days. It is a possibility, although slim, that if New Hampshire loses its games with weak Colgate and Army, that either the Golden Knights or the Quakers could wrest the fourth spot away.
RPI, loser of three straight games, is a shaky seventh, and has played the least demanding schedule of any of the contenders. It is somewhat likely that the ECAC seeding committee, in light of RPI's recent slump, their 11-0 loss in the first round last year, and their deserved reputation as brawlers, may leave them out of the final eight. If that happens, there will be a scramble among Dartmouth, Boston College and Providence for the seventh and eighth berths. The Friars, after a rough mid-season, have taken care of Northeastern, Brown and New Hampshire in succession, and if they can manage a victory at Boston University Saturday, will have superb credentials for inclusion in the tournament.
Meanwhile, Brown, which gave Harvard quite a bit of trouble in last year's quarterfinals, is virtually a hopeless case as far as a bid is concerned. The Bruins have lost 10 of their 18 games, and have contests with Harvard and Cornell remaining. And Yale, as is its custom, is still another year away.
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