Headed into the playoffs, several teams aren't playing up to their spot in the standings...
1. Quinnipiac -- 17-2-3 (24-5-5), 1st
...and the Bobcats aren't one of those teams. Quinnipiac is the oldest and deepest team in the conference. Ranked first in the nation, they don't need to win the ECAC to make the NCAA tournament, but anything less would be disappointing.
2. Union -- 10-8-4 (17-12-5), 4th
The #20 Dutchmen barely earned a first-round bye and have only played .500 hockey over the last month. But their experience and incredible group of defensemen playing in front of Troy Grosenick give them a strong advantage in the post-season.
3. RPI -- 12-7-3 (17-12-5), 2nd
The #17 Engineers have charged up the table with wins in 9 of their last 10 by dominating puck possession. The games haven't been close either, with seven wins coming by three goals or more. Ahead of Union and tied for 14th in the PairWise Ranking, they need a strong tournament showing to secure an NCAA nomination.
4. Yale -- 12-9-1 (16-10-3), 3rd
After dropping five in a row at the beginning of February, the #13 Bulldogs have righted the ship just in time for the playoffs with three straight wins, albeit by one goal each. Their group of star forwards is streaky, making them a dangerous tournament team. Ranked 12th in the PairWise, Yale is in a similar position as RPI regarding an NCAA berth.
5. Cornell -- 8-11-3 (12-14-3), 9th
A team that hasn't even earned home ice in the first-round? At number 5? Amazingly, if Cornell had defeated Yale this past Saturday, they might've jumped the Bulldogs into the top four. The Big Red had gone 4-0-1 in the previous five games. During that stretch, they became the only team to beat RPI since January and only tied Harvard due to a referee's error. No one - especially first-round opponents Princeton - wants to face this team right now.
6. St. Lawrence -- 9-9-4 (16-14-4), 6th
The Saints followed a four game win streak with three losses to close the season, but two came against RPI and Union. Hosting the first round at Appleton is a big advantage, not that it should mean much against Colgate, but St. Lawrence will be lucky to get past the second round.
7. Brown -- 7-9-6 (11-12-6), 7th
A hot goaltender is the great equalizer in all forms of hockey. Behind Anthony Borelli, who has played lights-out since taking over the starting job, the Bears have hung tough against some of the ECAC's best. Nobody envisioned this team earning a first-round bye, and they are favored over Clarkson, from whom Brown has taken 3 of 4 points this year.
8. Dartmouth -- 9-9-4 (13-11-5), 5th
The Big Green finished 5th in the conference, mostly on the strength of early season points. They won only two of their last nine games, and both of those by one goal. Dartmouth is vulnerable and inconsistent, but their stellar record at Thompson Arena (10-4-1) should worry Harvard fans.
9. Princeton -- 8-10-4 (10-14-5), 8th
The Tigers' play over the last month has been less than inspiring. Saturday's win over Harvard was their first in six games, and their lack of depth at both forward and defenseman is worrisome over the stretch of a conference tournament. Princeton somehow earned home ice for the first round, only to draw the surging Big Red. The Tigers are underdogs at Hobey Baker Memorial.
10. Harvard -- 6-14-2 (9-17-3), 12th
The Crimson's February run couldn't rescue them out of the first last-place ECAC finish in their history. However, Harvard fans have to be happy with the team's form as of late, and provided that Saturday's loss to Princeton was a blip on the radar, the Crimson have a good chance to upset Dartmouth.
11. Clarkson -- 8-11-3 (9-18-7), 10th
The Golden Knights lost their final three games of the season by a combined score of 15-2. They have been maddeningly inconsistent all year long, but an 11th ranked defense has to have Brown middle-of-the-road forward group excited.
12. Colgate -- 6-13-3 (14-16-4), 11th
The Raiders have been so bad over the last month, they almost snatched last place away from the Crimson. Colgate has only won one of its last ten, and outside of a top-ranked powerplay, they rank in the bottom half of the conference in every major category. The loss of Spiro Goulakos has hurt the Raiders greatly.
We will have a preview of the Harvard-Dartmouth series, to be broadcast this weekend on whrb.org and 95.3 FM WHRB, up on this site tomorrow.