February 27, 2014

Women's Journal: Bobcats know ties won't fly in playoffs

By Arielle Aronson

Kelly Babstock recently notched her 200th career point. (Photo: Quinnipiac Athletics)

It was a wild and crazy end to the regular season this year in the ECAC. Clarkson, Harvard and Cornell entered the final day of the season in a battle for the top three spots in the league. Since the three teams were separated by just one point in the standings on the final day of the season, the determination of the top three seeds for the league playoffs came down to the wire.

The end of the regular season was a disappointment for Cornell. The Big Red controlled their own destiny since they entered the final two games of the regular season in sole possession of first place, but finished third after they lost both games last weekend.

Harvard was tied with Clarkson for second place ahead of the final weekend, but the Crimson’s tie with Yale Friday combined with a Clarkson win over Rensselaer meant Harvard sat one point behind Clarkson on Saturday morning. Harvard beat Brown on Saturday to earn two points, but could not catch up to Clarkson, who won the regular season championship when it took care of business with a win over Union Saturday. Harvard will be the No. 2 seed in the ECAC tournament.

The ECAC tournament will feature three other New England teams as No. 4 Quinnipiac, No. 7 Yale and No. 8 Dartmouth also qualified for tournament spots.

Quinnipiac enters the postseason looking to polish up on the finishing details of its game. The Bobcats led the nation in ties this season with nine, but in many of those games, Quinnipiac had a lead that it let slip away. Since ties will not fly in the postseason, the Bobcats have spent much of the lead-up to the playoffs attempting to buckle down on its effort in all three areas of the game. 

“We’ve been evolving this half, we’re a little tighter defensively and we’re attacking much harder from an offensive standpoint so I think things are coming together at the right time,” said Bobcats coach Rick Seeley. “But our conference is tough. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing. It’s going to be a great series.”

The ECAC plays a semi-forgiving best-of-three quarterfinal format, which will take place at campus sites this weekend ahead of the single-elimination semifinals and a championship game held at campus sites next weekend.

Here’s a look at the ECAC playoff bracket:

No. 1 Clarkson vs. No. 8 Dartmouth

            Friday at 3:30 p.m.

            Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

            Sunday at 2 p.m. (if necessary)

No. 2 Harvard vs. No. 7 Yale

            Friday at 7 p.m.

            Saturday at 4 p.m.

            Sunday at 4 p.m. (if necessary)

No. 3 Cornell vs. No. 6 Princeton

            Friday at 3:30 p.m.

            Saturday at 2 p.m.

            Sunday at 2p.m. (if necessary)

No. 4 Quinnipiac vs. No. 5 St. Lawrence

            Friday at 7 p.m.

            Saturday at 4 p.m.

            Sunday at 2 p.m. (if necessary)

Over in Hockey East, the playoff picture at the top of the standings was more stable entering the final weekend of the season. Boston College and Boston University locked up the first and second seeds, respectively, before the final weekend, and Northeastern and Vermont were assured of home ice but used the weekend to determine who would finish third (Northeastern) and who would take the four-spot (Vermont).

The bottom of the standings featured four teams separated by four points entering the weekend, but it was only last-place Maine who improved its stock, as it swept then-fifth-place Connecticut to steal the fifth-seed away from the Huskies. Sixth-place Providence and seventh-place New Hampshire were both swept last weekend as well, so they were bumped down one place each in the standings.

That means No. 8 UNH has the unenviable task of facing No. 1 BC – who has only lost two league games all year – in the single-elimination quarterfinals.

Boston University enters this year’s tournament as the two-time defending Hockey East Tournament champions, but this March could prove more difficult for the Terriers, who were a mediocre 4-4 in February.

“Right from the get-go in the playoffs, it’s going to be a one-and-done scenario,” said BU coach Brian Durocher. “Maybe in the past couple years, we had that type of firepower where the No. 1 – No. 8 or No.2 - No.7 match-up was maybe a game where we were favored by a couple goals, but I think this year if you look around, it’s going to be a knockdown, drag-out one-goal game.

“You’re hoping the hockey gods and performances are on your side on that one day because it is a challenge.”

All quarterfinal games will be held at campus sites before the league moves to Hyannis for the semifinals and championship game.

Here’s a look at how the Hockey East quarterfinals shake out:

No. 1 Boston College vs. No. 8 New Hampshire – Friday at 7 p.m.

No. 2 Boston University vs. No. 7 Providence – Saturday at 3 p.m.

No. 3 Northeastern vs. No. 6 Connecticut – Friday at 7 p.m.

No. 4 Vermont vs. No. 5 Maine – Saturday at 1 p.m.

Player of the Week

Kelly Babstock, Quinnipiac

The senior forward hit the 200-career point marker in the Bobcats’ final regular season game with an assist in the second period of a 3-0 win over Colgate. Babstock is the first women’s hockey player in Quinnipiac history to reach 200 career points.

Power Rankings

  1. Boston College (Overall: 25-5-3, Hockey East: 18-2-1) – The Eagles look unstoppable heading into the postseason. They have just one loss on the books since Nov. 29 and just two league losses all season. Their 5-1 pounding over No. 2 seed Boston University to close out the regular season probably does not bode well for anyone else in Hockey East.

  2. Harvard (Overall: 21-4-4, ECAC: 16-3-3) – The Crimson have played in quite a few tight games recently, as six of their last nine games have either been one-goal or tie games. Harvard might be hoping practice in tight games makes perfect, as it faces a Yale team in the ECAC quarterfinals that it never beat during the regular season.

  3. Quinnipiac (Overall: 20-5-9, ECAC: 11-4-7) – The Bobcats clinched a home-ice spot thanks to a come-from-behind win over No. 3 Cornell last Friday and a 3-0 blanking of Colgate on Saturday. Their quarterfinal match-up against St. Lawrence will be tough, however, as they were unable to beat St. Lawrence during the regular season.

  4. Northeastern (Overall: 18-13-2, Hockey East: 13-6-2) – The late-surging Huskies enter the postseason with wins in 11 of its last 12 games, and if Northeastern can continue playing its best hockey right now, it could be in good shape to contend for its first Hockey East Tournament championship in program history.

  5. Boston University (Overall: 21-12-1, Hockey East: 14-7-0) – After recording all seven of its conference losses in the second half of the season, the Terriers have to be hoping they have gotten their losing ways out of their system. The home ice playoff berth might help in the quarterfinals, as BU is 4-0 in Hockey East quarterfinal games at Walter Brown Arena. 

Twitter: @aharonson28
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