First, let's get the number out of the way. The historic conference of the East has earned a 26-11-4 record to date. That correlates with a jaw-dropping winning percentage of 0.683. The closest winning percentage for out-of-conference performance is from Hockey East. The secessionist faction owns a respectable 0.592 to date. Yes, ECAC Hockey has outperformed Hockey East by a result differential of 9.1%. We'll let the readers draw their own conclusions about certain geographic arguments in college hockey after that fact.
A 0.683 winning percentage is fine and good, but what can it mean? Being the skeptic that I am, I viewed that gaudy stat with some healthy suspicion. Programs and, by extension, conferences can inflate their out-of-conference performances through selective scheduling of lower-end opponents. This form of puffing would do a lot for interconference banter, but not much in terms of testing the quality of a conference's teams. In essence, it would make the aforecited winning percentages meaningless and mere propaganda.
The only logical step is to analyze success relative to the expected success of opponents. How can one do that? Until objective in-conference results are abundant, the most accurate way is to rely upon the opinions of those who know the teams and players of each conference best. Sorry, media, we value your opinions, but not all conferences do a media poll like ECAC Hockey does, so consistency precluded that means. So, the coaches's polls were the metric.
Coaches have a good read of which teams will be able to grapple with the best of their own conferences. They understand which teams have what it takes when push comes to shove in intraconference battles. So, I aggregated all of the preseason coaches's polls. Each conference does not have the same number of constituents. For example, being expected to finish sixth in Hockey East (Boston University) does not have the same valuation as expecting a program to finish sixth in the B1G Hockey Conference (Penn State). The readiest way to divide conferences of varying numbers of programs is through consistent statistical division.
Quartiles were the division that I implemented because they provide a holistic feel while not being so nuanced as to give specific numerical placement and thus defeat the purpose of an across-the-board approach. The first quartile is defined as teams expected to finish in the bottom quarter of their conference. The second quartile is defined as those teams expected to finish between the 25th and 50th percentile of their conference. The third quartile represents those teams expected to finish in the 50th to 75th percentile. The fourth quartile represents those teams expected to finish in the top quarter of their conference.
Okay, now that the explanation is done, here are the results (below provided in graphical form). ECAC Hockey has recorded wins against a well balanced set of out-of-conference opponents. Against three of the quartiles, programs of ECAC Hockey have won 27% of their out-of-conference games, amounting to 81% of their wins. A perfectly even division would be winning 25% against three quartiles with a cumulative 75%. So, balance is good, but it merely may illustrate the law of large numbers at work.
How many of ECAC Hockey programs's out-of-conference wins have come against non-conference opponents expected to compete for league championships? 46% of the wins that ECAC Hockey teams have won have come against teams expected to finish in the top half of their conferences. Yes, the historic conference of the East has earned nearly half of its wins against programs that coaches anticipate to be the top tier of their conferences this season.
Let's dig a little deeper. I mean, the last statistic could be inflated by playing teams right at the 50th-percentile mark. Maybe, ECAC Hockey is gaming the system on the fringes. Guess again. The expected champions of other conferences have been the vanquished in 15% of ECAC Hockey's non-conference wins. For comparison, consider that the expected champions of each league account for just over ten percent of non-ECAC Hockey college-hockey programs. ECAC Hockey is disproportionately defeating the anticipated crème de la crème of opposing conferences.
ECAC Hockey's 26 wins are weighted disproportionately toward programs with the highest in-conference expectations. Second guessing that? 27% of those wins came against teams expected to be the runners-up or champions of their conferences. Yes, ECAC Hockey programs have played and defeated programs expected to be in the lower half of their leagues, but the historic conference of college hockey has defeated the best en route to its phenomenal 0.683 out-of-conference winning percentage.
One final thing. Clarkson was chosen to finish last in ECAC Hockey. Let's consider that with the same weight that we have given polls throughout this analysis. The Golden Knights have contributed two of ECAC Hockey's wins over expected league champions. Yes, the program expected to finish dead last in ECAC Hockey has knocked off an expected conference champion. Twice.
The last gasp of detractors? ECAC Hockey programs play too many Atlantic Hockey teams. Yes, we have all heard this before. Foremost, Atlantic Hockey came of age last season and should be respected. But, to dismiss this half-witted argument, consider that ECAC Hockey owns a 0.571 out-of-conference winning percentage when excluding contests against Atlantic Hockey teams. That's a record better than the overall records of all conferences except Hockey East.
Furthermore, consider that programs of the B1G Hockey Conference, Hockey East, and NCHC have suffered six losses to Atlantic Hockey already. No ECAC Hockey team has lost to an Atlantic Hockey team yet this season.
What does this all mean? This is not a ra-ra our-conference-is-better-than-your-conference post. It is an objective analysis, trusting the informed judgments of the college-hockey community. What the results indicate is that ECAC Hockey's 26-11-4 out-of-conference is real. It is legitimate. It is not inflated. It is not a result of playing opposing conference's weaker teams. In fact, it is the result of taking wins out of the best teams from other conferences.
ECAC Hockey remains nationally competitive and the top-to-bottom out-of-conference success of ECAC Hockey teams this season indicates it will remain the most internally competitive conference when intraconference play begins on Tuesday. ECAC Hockey's out-of-conference success is actual. The last two seasons were not aberrations. The programs of the historic conference of the East will prove so in March and April.