It’s been four years since RPI hosted a playoff series and that last one didn’t exactly end all that well with ECAC newbie Quinnipiac sweeping the Engineers out of the playoffs in two games. The last time Brown and RPI met in the playoffs, it was 2005 and the games were in Providence, Rhode Island. Brown swept that series in two games.
Of course, anyone who dares to bring distant history between these two teams into play to come up with a potential outcome is crazy and should not be trusted. In fact, don’t even let that person have regular scissors, give them safety scissors and only allow them to cut construction paper very poorly with them. I’d also suggest keeping them away from the Elmer’s glue too because they might ingest all of it.
Now if we’re going to do the right thing, we’re going to look things over by comparing what the teams did this year and for Brown, despite the 11th place finish, it’s a year of accomplishment and they’ll enter the playoffs with a sense of fearlessness. Why not? They went into last year’s playoffs as one of the worst teams in the country and knocked off the fifth seeded Harvard Crimson. This years team is decidedly better but they’ll get a bigger test than they did last year in dealing with RPI.
RPI goes into the playoffs this year sitting in the exact opposite position they were in last year hosting the 11th seed rather than being the 11th seed. Last year’s team went into the playoffs playing a little bit better and capitalized on then freshman goalie Allen York’s stellar play in sweeping out Dartmouth. This time around the expectations are much higher and winning in the first round is a necessity, but they’ll get a taste of what they doled out to Dartmouth last year as Brown is going to make life difficult for the Engineers.
Brown’s plan will be to pressure the RPI puck carriers deep in their own end and to bottle up the neutral zone to keep RPIs free-wheeling attack at bay and to eliminate chances. It’s not fun to see, but the key for RPI to loosen things up is to score first and get a couple of them. The other key for RPI is to play smart. Brown was effective at drawing penalties against RPI at their matchup in Providence this year, whether they were real or not is up for debate, but they drew them nonetheless and if there’s a fact of life in the ECAC its that the men in stripes are going to be wildly inconsistent. You can’t really prepare for it but you have to know what to do just in case things get out of hand one way or the other.
I know, that sounds stupid but it’s a way of life in the ECAC… At least until it’s the semifinals and the finals when things get cleaned up a lot. Go figure.
Many folks are banking on this series to be short and sweet and starting to look forward to an RPI-Union playoff series next weekend. I’m not much of a fan of looking past anyone, but if you’re a fan this is what ends up happening a lot of the time as it is. RPI is going to have to earn just about everything this weekend if they’re going to come out of this weekend alive. All season long, Brown has played everyone very tough and they don’t allow other teams to do anything easily against them and that’s certainly going to be the case this weekend as well.
Brown doesn’t fear being the Cinderella team and playing with nothing really to lose can be a benefit to a team like this that will come out and play tight, system hockey to keep things close so that a lucky bounce here or there can turn the game for them. Essentially everything I’ve said about Brown is a long-winded version of what Joe Glads at INCH had to say about them.
As for self-servingness, I’ll be providing color analysis of this weekend’s games for WRPI radio and with the bonus that the game will also be carried via video thanks to RPI TV on UStream. It’s their video and WRPI’s audio, so you can actually see if we’re making up what we’re talking about. Keep in mind, we don’t have access to this video as we’re doing the game so yeah, if we screw up that’s our bad.
To show that I can do a little bit of follow up work, it’s time to check in and see how I did ranking out the ECAC. As I let it known back in September, I was one of the media members asked to give my pre-season rankings on how I thought the ECAC would turn out. For reflection’s sake, here’s how I had the twelve team league ranked out:
I stood by those rankings then with the qualifier being that the ECAC is so tight in the middle of the pack that places in the standings could flip or flop in any way possible. I even toyed with the idea of drawing those teams from a hat and letting fate decide things for me. While that may have been “reckless” of a journalist to do, I’m just some hoser on the Internet with a website.
Anyhow, the ECAC wrapped up conference play this past weekend setting stage for the start of the conference playoffs on Friday. Here’s how the standings wrapped up:
So let’s compare things and see where I went brutally wrong. First up, the reasonably accurate assessments.
I had Yale set to win the ECAC, and they did. So did everyone else who was polled. Big deal. Yale was the defending conference champions and while they had (note: still have) questions in goal, they’re still a very good team but not one that is unbeatable by any means. They have a world of offensive talent and I sometimes believe that they’d rather get into a Firewagon hockey showdown with their opponent rather than try to play the chess match.
I had Cornell slated for third and they finished second, and for these purposes I’ll give a one place off proximity victory. Like I said on Puck Daddy weeks ago, you know what you’re going to get from Cornell and it’s going to frustrate the living hell out of you. Consistency like that is a rarity in the ECAC and it’s a good reason why Cornell always floats to the top of the conference. Missing them by a spot isn’t a big deal, although compared to who I had slated to finish second… Perhaps I deserve a slap in the back of the head. We’ll get there soon enough, don’t worry.
For the 5-12 spots I managed to get St. Lawrence correctly at fifth and was one spot off with both RPI and Brown. Everyone else? Forget it. I missed terribly on Union College and really missed badly with Colgate. I overshot badly on Harvard, Clarkson and Dartmouth. Screw it, I got more than half of these badly wrong. When you look at how the coaches ranked things out, I guess I don’t feel quite so bad. The coaches whiffed badly on St. Lawrence but all knew something was amiss with Clarkson, probably something to do with an off-ice scandal involving players set to provide depth for the Golden Knights.
So what do we gather from all this? A couple of things. One, the coaches will always know a little bit better about some of these things than the media (filed under: No shit, Sherlock). Also, the ECAC is so close to being in full parity mode that the pre-season polls are rather meaningless and function solely as a dick-measuring contest. I don’t say that spitefully because I missed so horribly, it’s just how it goes.
Thankfully college hockey is a different beast than say… College football whose pre-season polls serve to set the bar (unfairly) for everyone else the rest of the season. At least with college hockey you can hash things out a bit clearer over the course of a regular season and the methodology that goes into picking the NCAA Tournament field is a bit more mathematically centered so the amount of complaining at the end of the conference tournaments is kept to a minimum and the smokey room selection process is virtually non-existent.
As for the ECAC Playoffs, the matchups set up like this:
Yale, Cornell, Union and Colgate all get byes in the first round.
#5 St. Lawrence vs. #12 Clarkson
#6 RPI vs. #11 Brown
#7 Quinnipiac v. #10 Dartmouth
#8 Princeton v. #9 Harvard
The First Round and subsequent Quarterfinal round are played in the Best of Three format. When action shifts to the Times Union Center for the semis and finals, it’s single elimination time. The Best of Three rounds also mean games can go to overtime and take as many overtimes as needed to get a winner, just like the NHL Playoffs, and can create fascinating scenarios because the games are all played from Friday-Sunday. If you get a game with multiple overtimes, those teams could be back out on the ice the next night/later that day to play the next game.
As for predictions for how the playoffs will go, I’ll leave it up to a known movie expert to handle that for me.
Would you expect any better from me after I was able to guess two out of twelve teams in their spot in the standings correctly? I know when I’ve been beaten.
In truth though, each of these first round meetings set up interesting perspective. SLU and Clarkson are bitter rivals and that rivalry can’t be taken lightly as the series record between the two teams this season is 1-1-1. Brown and RPI split their two meetings this year. Quinnipiac and Dartmouth are equally schizophrenic. Princeton and Harvard each have boatloads of talent but lack on killer instinct and consistency. Your guess is as good as mine, but if you want to use last year’s playoffs as a measuring stick, expect upsets. Last year’s 11 and 12 seeds both won their first round playoff series after both of those teams (RPI and Brown) had miserable regular seasons but defeated their opponents (Dartmouth and Harvard) in two games. Brown even managed to shutout Harvard in both games to pile on to the stunning results.
Fortunately for the top four seeds, they’ve seen everyone in conference enough this season to have good scouting reports and if the seeds hold, it sets up well for some teams to have more than enough of a book on their potential quarterfinal opponent. For example, Union could face RPI in the next round, a team they’ve played four times already this year. That’s still a long way off though and, as the ECAC is getting to be well known for, nothing is guaranteed in the playoffs.