With the Beanpot tossed aside for another two weeks like a bowl of Union three bean salad, there is ample time to look at the surprisingly unchaotic ECAC playoff race with only 18 days left in the regular season.
Let's put all prejudice aside, shall we? Harvard is in good shape, not great, with a 9-6 Division One mark and a seventh place standing. So now the icemen just play it cool, win the games they should and then laugh it up when they make the playoffs and Dartmouth doesn't.
The trouble is that this is ECAC hockey, not backgammon, and things don't always happen the way they should.
One need gaze no further into the past than last season, when Harvard was in sixth place with only a week to go and two games to play. The Crimson lost to Dartmouth on a goal coming with just eight seconds left to play (a game which those flannel idiots still won't let anyone forget), but then beat Yale decisively, 5-3.
Result: Harvard somehow ends up in ninth place, out of the playoffs the victim of late season hot streaks by Providence and RPI.
It is unlikely the same thing will happen this year (although ironically Providence and RPI once again stand the best chance of booting the Crimson out of the playoffs for the second straight time). Harvard's hockey team is undeniably stronger this year, having remained above the 500 mark despite All those Injuries.
The icemen are healthy, hungry and more consistent. The only roadblock could be that they play their last seven games in just 15 days, an even tougher schedule than in the N.H.L., and those guys get paid for all their globetrotting.
So basically the top seven positions look set, though not necessarily in that order. Although B.U. is still unbeaten, many believe that Cornell, authoritative winners of its last nine contests, could be the strongest team in the nation right now (Harvard still has two games left with the Big Red. Fun city, huh?).
Clarkson has lost its last two games and Boston College hasn't been the same without defenseman Charlie Antetomaso and should be worse with goalie Paul Skidmore, injured in the last Monday's Beanpot. Look for red hot New Hampshire to bump at least one of them out of the top four.
Teams 11 through 17 don't stand much of a chance, but a word must be said about Yale. After getting off to such a super start under second year man Tim Taylor (The Bulldogs were 4-1-1 at one point), the Elis ran out of gas somewhere along the line. With four games left against B.U., Harvard (2), and Providence, it looks as if they'll have to save the big comeback for next year.
As for playoff spot number eight, it looks like the Friars have the inside track at this point. Cruising along until they met up with B.U. and B.C. in successive games, Providence should get its act together fast, helped along by the easiest schedule of the three teams involved. The Providence-Northeastern clash on the 27th will probably decide things.
As for RPI, they've been too inconsistent and their schedule is too difficult. Northeastern has a long heritage of non-playoff hockey teams, so why ruin it this season?
The smell of neatsfoot Oil in the air and the sound of Loyal Park saying "You're all in the picture" can only mean that baseball season is just around the corner. With this in mind, belated congratulations to Paul Halas, Harvard's answer to the strong, silent type. Paul will captain the 1978 edition of the Crimson nine.
Although football season is seven months away, Harvard reserve quarterback Pat Daly already has his wristbands picked out for next fall's campaign.
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