Cornell began the season with then-undefeated Boston College at Lynah. The two games saw the same result but could not have been more different. The season did not get much better from there. The Red has yet to win a game on its home ice and sits at tenth in the conference in points. But, you may say, each team has played a different number of games. Intrepid reader, you are not wrong. Adjusting this metric is the approach preferred by this contributor. However, the adjusted metric in this case yields the same result: Cornell is earning 0.86 points per game and falls in tenth in the conference. (Few changes yield using this metric, notably with Colgate jumping Dartmouth.) With each team rounding out the remainder of its schedule, Cornell needs to seriously wonder for the first time since 2007 if it will even make the ECAC Hockey playoffs.
Though some may think this to be an exaggeration, with 15 conference games remaining in the season, this is intended to be a wake-up call, not a death knell, on the 2015-16 team. If the season ended today, Cornell would be the second team left out of the ECAC Hockey playoffs, playing its last game of the year in February for the first time since February 17, 2007. There is a mountain to climb if this team wants to keep playing through the end of February and into March, here is what it needs to do in order to make the playoffs.
The Best Case Scenario
One of the many reasons that this is unlikely is that the remaining 15 games include every single opponent in the conference, including opponents that Cornell lost to (Clarkson, RPI, and Quinnipiac), teams that Cornell failed to beat at home (Colgate and Union), and opponents that Cornell has yet to face this season (Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, and Brown).
Now that the hopeless optimists in the group have been placated, let’s move on to the more sobering statistics, the more likely scenarios.
So the historical statement that would be made if Cornell misses the playoffs should not be lost on true Lynah Faithful. But what about the teams that have made it in over the past 11 years? Many who do statistics like to look at point totals from previous years. This method is flawed, but most statistics require assumptions. So let’s lay the assumptions on the table and run these numbers. The main assumption through this model is that each year, parity is roughly equal. Looking at the data, that assumption doesn’t necessarily hold. Some years have people placed in eighth and ninth at an equal number of points (14 in 2012, 18 in 2011), while other years there are cliffs as big as nine points (notably last year with the last team in at 20 points and the first team out at 11 points).
So, with those flaws laid bare, here are the numbers. Since 2007, the highest number of points a team has had to have to squeak into the last spot is 21. That team was Cornell in 2009. The lowest number of points that a team was able to squeak in with is 14 as Brown edged RPI in tiebreakers in 2012. The average over that time was just under 18, so we will round to 18 out of convenience. If history is an indicator, let’s see where Cornell would have to finish over its last 15 games to make the playoffs in the highest possible year, the lowest possible year, and the average year.
Easiest Scenario: 14 points at the end of the regular season
Average Scenario: 18 points at the end of the regular season
Hardest Scenario: 21 points at the end of the regular season
Modeling This Year
If we inch the rate of points per game up ever so slightly (to one point per game) that requires the Rouge to get 16 points or a record above 0.500 in the second half of no worse than 8-7-0 or 1-0-14. While Cornell is 4-2-0 in its last three weekends of play, Yale began the new year with a pair of losses to the feline travel partners and RPI went 0-1-1 against Mercyhurst in Erie. Cornell begins its games at Bright-Landry and Thompson this weekend.
The 4-2-0 record may comfort some, but it was a long Winter break before that. Cornell hasn’t taken the ice in almost four full weeks. Will the team that comes out look more like the team that won the Windjammer Classic or the team that couldn’t manage to win in Lynah in the Fall? That’s right, patient readers. Remember, Cornell failed to win a game in Lynah Rink in the Fall 2015 semester. Cornell went 0-1-2 in conference and 0-3-2 overall at home in Lynah Rink. Cornell’s only wins this season have come on the road (particularly at Hobey Baker Rink, Appleton Arena, the Onondaga War Memorial, Mercyhurst Ice Center, and Gutterson Field House). Cornell plays more of its remaining games in the (typically) friendly confines of Lynah Rink. Eight games are scheduled for Lynah while seven games are scheduled for the road.
Expectations vs. Reality
“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed."
The time for excuses is over. Cornell women’s hockey will make history this year. This writer hopes it is not one of infamy.
“To wish was to hope, and to hope was to expect."
Expectations will begin to become reality at 7:00 pm.