Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Beauty of Playoffs

It's playoff time around the ECAC, with the women's semifinals tonight and the opening round of men's hockey starting tomorrow night for seeds 5-12. There's plenty of excitement and perhaps the best part is the need for a winner. No longer for this season will tie games be capped off by a five-minute OT and then perhaps a tie (though ties are OK- still better than a shootout, if you'll excuse the editorializing). Instead, a full 20 minutes are put on the clock, the ice gets cut and then teams head out until there's a winner. And if there's no winner at the end of 1, the game keeps on going.

That very aspect of the playoffs was on full display last night, as the record for longest collegiate hockey game was shattered. Queen's and Guelph, in Game 1 of the Ontario University Athletic women's hockey finals, went an astounding six overtimes (the 1st OT was only 10 min.) and played 167:14 minutes of hockey before Queen's got the game winner in a 2-1 final. For some perspective, the only two NHL games that have gone six overtimes date back to the 1930's, a 164:46 win for the Maple Leafs 1-0 over the Bruins and a 176:30 win for the Red Wings over the Montreal Maroons in 1936, the lone goal coming from Mud Bruneteau. The most recent long game lasted a paltry 5 OTs in comparison, the 2000 Keystone Classic between the Flyers and Penguins that lasted 152:01. Even more amazing, Guelph was a mere 4.2 seconds away from winning the game until Queen's tied it up. This is Queen's fourth 2-1 multiple-OT win of the playoffs. The first three all went to double OT and the game winner came from Brittany McHaffie. In the last one, the game winner went to...McHaffie's twin sister Morgan. You can't make things like that up.

The ECAC is no stranger to overtime playoff games. Out of the top 5 longest overtime games in NCAA D-I men's hockey history, three were during the ECAC playoffs and another involved an ECAC team and a former ECAC team. Union Dutchmen fans are probably closing the story right now, as they've been on the losing end of the two longest NCAA games, a 3-2 loss to Yale in 2006 (five years ago tomorrow) after 141:35 minutes in the ECAC opening round, and what had been the longest collegiate game of all-time until last night, the 3-2 loss last year to Quinnipiac in Game 1 of the Quarterfinals after 150:22. In 2000, St. Lawrence beat Boston University 3-2 after 123:53 in the NCAA Regionals and in 2003, Colgate beat Dartmouth 4-3 in Game 1 of the ECAC Quarters after 121:05. On the women's side, the longest game is the 1996 ECAC Women's Championship game, a 3-2 win for New Hampshire over Providence after 145:35.

So are there any contenders to take the record back from Queen's and Guelph within the ECAC this year? Quinnipiac might be the favorite as they've had 7 ties in league play this season and 8 ties overall. They also went to OT twice more in the league, losing both times. History might say Union, since both of the longest games in NCAA history have taken place at Messa Rink. And of course, I have to point out that if all the favorites win in round one, the ECAC quarterfinals will be a rematch for Quinnipiac and Union at, of course, Messa Rink.

As for Queen's and Guelph themselves, well, unlike how Quinnipiac and Union last year then had to play again 18 hours later for Game 2, they at least get a little rest. Their Game 2 is Friday night. It's certainly one to keep an eye on.

For more on the story, head to the place we first saw it, Y! Sports' Buzzing the Net blog written by Neate Sager, and his twitter account, @neatebuzzthenet. And check the game report for the Queen's-Guelph game here.

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