It was Saturday night, and the Harvard men's hockey team was feeling glum.
The Crimson had just fallen to Clarkson, 6-2, in Potsdam, N.Y., to drop into sixth place in the ECAC. To make matters worse, the P.A. announcer had just informed the Walker Arena crowd that Cornell was beating RPI, 5-4, with three minutes left to play.
That meant Harvard had to come back to Walker this weekend for the first round of the playoffs.
"This is our worst nightmare come true," a gloomy forward Pete Ciavaglia said.
"There's not much we can do about it now," goaltender Allain Roy said. "We'll just have to suck it up and outskate them and outhit them, like they did to us tonight."
But they had spoken too soon. Minutes later, a report came in that the Engineers had taken the Big Red to overtime. A tie still would have meant a Harvard return to Potsdam. But RPI scored in sudden death, and that's when it really got confusing.
Cornell and Clarkson were tied for third place with 27 points apiece. The ECAC's first tiebreaker, head-to-head results, was inconclusive--the teams tied twice. Criterion number two, the squads' record against the league's top four teams, resulted in another draw.
But the Big Red nabbed the opportunity to host the Crimson on the basis of its record against the league's top eight, ousting the Knights by a single point.
Unsurprisingly, the Crimson was ecstatic. Harvard has defeated Cornell in the teams' last 11 meetings, including two convincing victories this season.
"Oh, Cornell's a tough place to play, too," a cautious Coach Bill Cleary said. "But I'd just as soon go up there."
Big Talkers at Walker: Harvard could have forced the Golden Knights to travel to Bright with a victory last weekend, but Walker officials apparently were not too worried about a Crimson win. The schedule of arena events posted outside the rink promoted "Harvard Tonight" as well as "ECAC Playoffs Next Friday."
Thank God for the Ivies: Harvard copped its ninth straight Ivy title this season with an 8-1-1 record within the Ancient Eight.
Outside the Ivies, the Crimson has plodded to a 5-12 mark. If Cornell sweeps the two-game playoff miniseries this weekend, Cleary will end his career with his first losing season since 1983-84.
Shuffling the Deck: After fourth-line forward Jim Coady filled in admirably for injured defenseman Kevin Sneddon during the Vermont/RPI weekend, Cleary decided to keep him at the blue line.
So before Friday night's match-up with St. Lawrence, Cleary moved sophomore defenseman Rich DeFreitas up front.