With the 3-0 win over Princeton completing the road sweep last night, Harvard men's hockey advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2010 ECAC Hockey Playoffs. Harvard, as the ninth seed, could face any one of the top four seeds in the quarterfinals - #1 Yale, #2 Cornell, #3 Union, or #4 Colgate. After the jump, you'll find our breakdown of the possible quarterfinal match-ups for the Crimson, and which one would be ideal.
#5 St. Lawrence vs. #12 Clarkson - The North Country teams may have finished the season far apart in the standings, but it's been a grinding series, with both games going to the extra frame. Hard to pick a winner for tonight, it's been a toss up both nights, but give the edge to the Saints at home.
#6 RPI vs. #11 Brown - The Brunos sprung the 3-1 upset on the Engineers Friday night, but after Seth Appert shuffled his lines and rallied his charges, RPI responded with a 4-1 win Saturday night. RPI won't be caught looking past Brown tonight, so we foresee the Engineers advancing.
#7 Quinnipiac vs. #10 Dartmouth - Dartmouth was the trendy pick for the first-round upset, and their chances look good to follow up tonight on last night's solid 6-3 win over the Bobcats and move on to the quarterfinals.
ECAC Hockey reseeds the eight teams remaining after the first round, so with the other three first-round series yet to be decided, Harvard could still face any of the top four seeds sitting that are idle this weekend. Who they face comes down to how many other first-round upsets there are:
- If the higher seeds (St. Lawrence, RPI, Quinnipiac) all advance, Harvard travels to Yale.
- If two of the three higher seeds advance, Harvard travels to Cornell.
- If one of the three higher seeds advances, Harvard travels to Union.
- If none of the higher seeds advance, Harvard travels to Colgate.
Our educated guess: Two of the three higher seeds advance past the first round, and Harvard travels to Cornell. But no outcome from tonight's game would shock us - after all, this is ECAC Hockey.
AT #1 YALE - A tough matchup against the highest scoring offense in the nation, but they're without star forward Sean Backman for the rest of the season after he suffered an injury in practice this past week (thanks to Brian Sullivan of USCHO for that news). Furthermore, Yale begins their spring break on Friday (same as Harvard) and that makes playing at the Whale far less intimidating - without a rowdy student section, it's a far more sedate atmosphere. Best of all, Harvard knocked off Yale in January at the Bright with a strong effort, so this is a series that would give Harvard a shot.
AT #2 CORNELL - The toughest quarterfinal matchup by far... Cornell swept the Crimson in the regular season with two forceful wins, and while every Harvard-Cornell game at Lynah has a playoff feel, Harvard would have to play near-flawless hockey against the Big Red to have a shot at advancing past Ben Scrivens, the Lynah Faithful, and the brothers Nash. In short, the most difficult playoff draw for Harvard.
AT #3 UNION - Harvard swept Union in the regular season, thanks to a strong goaltending efforts from Ryan Carroll at Messa Rink and Kyle Richter at the Bright Hockey Center. Messa Rink is not a difficult place to play, and although it can get rowdy, Harvard demonstrated composure and poise in an exceptional third period of play there back in January.
AT #4 COLGATE - Colgate swept Harvard during the regular season, but Starr Rink is the least difficult road atmosphere to face of the four. Harvard couldn't slow down Austin Smith (three goals, one assist in two games against Harvard) and David McIntyre (four assists) during the regular season, so if they can stifle the the leaders Colgate's attack, they'll have a good shot at advancing.
The ideal matchup is #3 Union, but Harvard will need help from two of the three lower seeds tonight to travel to the Capital District. Otherwise, the best matchup might be #1 Yale - shaky goaltending and a quiet Yale Whale make the Bulldogs less intimidating than at first glance. To get there though, they'll need St. Lawrence, RPI, and Quinnipiac to take care of business on home ice.