Editor’s Note: This story was written by and republished with the permission of the Big Red Sports Network, which provides excellent Cornell sports coverage throughout the year for alumni, parents, students and fans everywhere.
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Going into the final regular season weekend vs. Brown and Yale, the Cornell Big Red Men’s Hockey team sits in seventh place in the 12-team ECAC hockey league. Their win over defending national champion Union on Saturday night guaranteed they would finish no lower than eighth in the league, meaning they will get a home playoff series.
However, despite the team’s up-and-down performance this year, there is still a chance of a top-four finish, and a coveted first round bye in the playoffs.
Courtesy of the ECAC website, here are the league’s current standings:
Cornell can finish anywhere from third to eighth place in the league, but the big question among Big Red fans is, “what would need to happen in order for Cornell to get a first round bye”?
The good news is that they are only two points behind Colgate and Harvard, the two teams tied for fourth with 23 points. The bad news however, is they don’t control their own destiny, and need a few teams to lose in order to get a top-four finish. They need help from Dartmouth and Harvard, who play Princeton and Quinnipiac this weekend, and Colgate, who along with Cornell will also play Yale and Brown.
Before going over each scenario, it is important to point out that Cornell currently owns tiebreakers over both Harvard and Colgate, having taken three of four possible points against each team this season. If they beat or tie Yale on Saturday, they will own the tiebreaker over them too. This is important because in the ECAC standings, head-to-head record is the first tiebreaker used, followed by league wins, and then comparison of results vs. top-four teams. However, Dartmouth has the tiebreaker over the Big Red, as they defeated Cornell in both matchups this year.
The following scenarios are listed below. Cornell needs at the very least, two points from this weekend two game road trip, but in order to give themselves even a decent chance of a bye, a four-point weekend is almost necessary.
Cornell wins one and loses one, or ties both (two-point weekend)
Colgate, Harvard and Dartmouth would have to go a collective 0-6. While technically possible, but extremely unlikely, especially with Dartmouth and Harvard each playing last-place Princeton this weekend.
Cornell wins one and ties one (three-point weekend)
This scenario would give Cornell 24 points, and would guarantee them a first round bye only if Colgate, Harvard and Dartmouth all gain no more than one point this weekend (a tie with Colgate or Harvard in the standings gives the edge to the Big Red, but not with Dartmouth). If any three of these teams wins a game this weekend, or even ties both of their games, Cornell cannot get a bye with three points.
Cornell wins both (four-point weekend)
Cornell’s best, and most likely only, chance at a bye is if they win against both Brown and Yale this weekend, putting them at 25 points. Doing so could get to them to as high as third place in the league. But that could only happen if Yale loses to Colgate; Colgate loses to Brown, and Harvard and Dartmouth each not getting more than 2 points.
Luckily, securing a fourth-place finish isn’t as complicated. In the case of a four-point weekend, Cornell would get a bye if Dartmouth and Harvard each get two or fewer points this weekend (meaning both teams would need at least a win and a tie to knock the Big Red out of the top four). Colgate on the other hand could win both games this weekend, and Cornell would still get a bye. This is because two wins for both Cornell and Colgate would put the Raiders in third place with 27 points, and Cornell and Yale tied at 24 points, with the tiebreaker going to the Big Red for winning the season series.
There is also the unlikely, put possible, scenario that Colgate, Harvard, Dartmouth and Cornell all tie for fourth with 23 points. If that were to happen, Dartmouth would win the tiebreaker, granted they get two points this weekend from a win.