Immutable facts are that Quinnipiac and Yale will play at home in the second weekend while Brown, Colgate, and Princeton are heading on the road for the first weekend of the 2016 ECAC Hockey tournament. There are few certainties beyond that despite the obvious likelihoods that one may dare glean. This gives many ECAC Hockey fanbases false hope.
Stability, not volatility, has been the hallmark of February in ECAC Hockey. The thermometer ratings across these last three weeks indicate that there is little movement within the standings. There is no reason for the hopeful to believe that the last weekend will be any different. Standing changes per week are tabulated in this metric.
Across three weeks of standing changes for a combined 36 teams, 19 teams have remained positioned exactly on the same rung at the close of the weekend as they began the weekend. A team has better odds of winning a coin toss than moving in ECAC Hockey's standings this month of Valentine's Day, it appears. Only seven teams have moved up one position over the course of a weekend. Only once has a team jockeyed better than one position in the right direction. That team was St. Lawrence in the first weekend of February. A quarter of all teams have fallen one place in a month's span.
The average movement within a weekend's time is in fact remaining in place. Flatlining is what this model predicts. So, when getting your hopes up about home ice of the real or inflated variety, remember that your program is most likely to end the weekend exactly in the same place where it began it.
With little fluidity within the standing's hierarchy over the last month, what solace do these heating-and-chilling ratings offer coaches, players, and fans whose teams will find themselves beginning the playoffs in just over a week? Four of the hottest teams through three weeks of February likely will need to win on the road to reach Lake Placid. Those teams will be sent to a subset of hosts that in all likelihood will include at least two teams that have chilled in February relative to their performances in the first three months of the season. This presages two weeks out from the quarterfinals that upsets are coming.
What fanbase does not like a good road upset? How common are they? If one turns the page to ECAC Hockey's playoff annals, one-quarter of all teams that have made the East's championship weekend played in the first weekend since that weekend's advent. Fans whose teams are relegated to playing in the first round, don't make plans for March 18 and 19.
One last thing is deserving of note from this week's thermometers. Is Brown really the hottest team in ECAC Hockey? Brown got its first win of the month last weekend. The Bears are still earning less than one conference point per game (0.800, for those curious), but their February performance is 172% that of their November-through-January performances.
Brown is heating. Should their first-round and maybe even quarterfinal opponents be put on upset notice already? This weekend will tell if the Bears can gets wins or points out of Quinnipiac and Princeton. It is worth noting that Brown is the most common team to make it to championship weekend from the first round. Beware the Bears whoever meets them first.
At the end of the week, there will be more movement than this model predicts because ties will need to be broken at that time when they have not needed to be previously. Six teams are vying for real home ice. Five games played among those teams largely will determine which programs earn a postseason siesta. The way things stand presently is likely how they will end.
The dust will settle Saturday night at around 10:00 pm. The field for the beginning of the season's most exciting time will be sodded. The next installment of this series will predict which teams may be discourteous guests in the first round of the East's great tournament as first strides on the the road to Lake Placid are anticipated.