SPORTS

Hockey playoff format needs to be addressed

Posted 3/3/22

Last weekend the Rhode Island Interscholastic League dropped the puck on the boys and girls hockey playoffs. Although there were some close matchups and it is shaping up to be a great finish, I have …

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SPORTS

Hockey playoff format needs to be addressed

Posted

Last weekend the Rhode Island Interscholastic League dropped the puck on the boys and girls hockey playoffs. Although there were some close matchups and it is shaping up to be a great finish, I have a gripe.

Although I am all about inclusion and giving kids the chance to compete, I have to say that I am totally against the format in which every team reaches the playoffs. It comes down to a few reasons that were just solidified last weekend.

First off, and the biggest reason, is how it eliminates any true competition in the regular season. Sure, seedings determine home ice and sometimes a first round bye, but to allow every team a chance to compete in the postseason really does diminish the point of the regular season. You might as well just rest your top players and get ready to take off when the postseason arrives.

The other reason unfolded multiple times last week, and it is the fact that there are some huge mismatches that are needlessly played.

The most notable example was the Cranston girls co-op taking on Smithfield.

The Cranston girls finished in last place while Smithfield was undefeated in the regular season. Smithfield rolled to a 14-0 win in the first game of the series, and the second game was called off the next day.

This isn’t baseball, or tennis, or golf. Hockey is a contact sport and is one of the most physically grueling games out there. Sometimes, it is simply not safe to match two teams up back to back nights.

Now, if we are going to nitpick here, girls high school hockey does not allow checking and the pace is not as fast as the college or professional level. But still, these girls push their bodies every time they step on the ice and there was no reason for those two teams to be scheduled for a best of three series. I mean absolutely no disrespect to Cranston, as those girls have hung in there and worked hard all year despite their struggles, but it was pretty pointless to throw those two teams together.

Another example is the Warwick boys against undefeated La Salle. Warwick had one win in the regular season while La Salle was unbeaten and a powerhouse.

Sure enough, the Rams cruised to back to back victories to reach the next round. Again, nothing but respect to Warwick, who was much better and more talented than its record suggested.

But overall, the series was a formality. The boys were probably more excited to play than the Cranston girls as their matchup was more competitive, but you get my point.

I cannot stress this enough: I am for inclusion and large playoff brackets.

These kids only have four years to compete in high school sports, and few actually play all four years. I am all about giving these kids the chance to compete and to play for titles and playoff runs, even if their records are not sterling.

However, there is no point of a regular season, no point of a postseason, if every team qualifies just for showing up. And for a sport like hockey, there are times when it is just in the teams’ best interest to forego a lopsided matchup.

Here are a few more thoughts that I have regarding the last week of postseason play.

First off, I was actually surprised to see Hendricken basketball lose to Classical.

The Purple were the higher seed and topped the Hawks in each of their regular season meetings, but hear me out.

The reason why I was surprised, is that it is usually so difficult and rare to beat a team - especially one as good as Hendricken - three times in a row. It just does not happen all that often and I felt pretty strongly that the Hawks were going to get it done.

Was I shocked, stunned?

No, but I was expecting a Hendricken win. The Hawks will qualify for the open state tournament with a solid seeding, so their season is not over yet, but apparently Classical is as good as advertised.

Another team that turned out to be as good as advertised is the Cranston West girls basketball team. The Falcons caught fire in the second half of its regular season schedule and was arguably the top team in the state over the course of the final month.

Then, West upset higher seeded Barrington and was tied late in the third quarter against Bay View in the semis. The Falcons grew into a well-rounded force and will definitely be in the mix in the next two weeks for the state championship.

Catherine Albizu is a steady offensive performer, and Maddie Alves is a force defensively. Maylina Cotto-

Santiago has emerged as one of the state’s most clutch shooters, while Kaitlyn Antonucci is as consistent a forward as there is.

They’ve also gotten some big contributions from other role players as well. West has a chance to do some damage here in the next week or two.

The last item I wanted to touch on was the Little East Conference’s women’s basketball championship in which top-ranked Rhode Island College beat UMass Dartmouth.

It was a wonderful story for Johnston, as three of their natives were involved. Antonia Corsinetti scored a career-high 27 points in the win for the Anchorwomen and won MVP honors, while Jordan Moretti and Kaylin Zalewski hit the court for UMass.

That is one of my favorite parts about covering local sports … I love covering standout high school players and seeing them reconnect at the college level.

There is always something a little nostalgic about it, and to see three girls from the same town in one game, especially a championship, is awesome to see.

Congratulations to those three girls for shining at the next level.

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