by Paul O'Donnell
The constellation of possibilities are essentially endless with 4 to play but the Barons served notice to the front runners that they are still in the game with their emphatic 6-1 victory over the Brooklyn Knights on Sunday. The Barons must treat their remaining games as must win and even that might not get them into the post season party.
This year, with the new three division alignment in the conference, the division winners and the 2nd placed team with the best overall record will enter the playoffs. Taking a current look you'll see the Barons could still win the division despite being down by 8 points to the Westchester Flames. The very last regular season game pits those two face-to-face at Carey Stadium on July 23 and who enters the playoffs could be determined that night. Note that the loser of that contest could miss the playoffs completely depending on results elsewhere, while the winner could win the division and thereby get into the party.
In other words, winning the division could be the only way into the post season.
The Barons have a game in hand over the Flames who also must play the undefeated Cape Cod Crusaders in their next match before their season ending road swing where they play back-to-back games on that final weekend at Reading and then at Ocean City in the finale.
Currently, the Barons are 1 point down to the Williamsburg Legacy as the best of those that are non-division leading teams. In the event of a tie on points the first tie breaker is head to head competition which would not decide anything in this case as the season opener saw these two teams end in a 1-1 draw at Carey Stadium back on May 13. Both the Legacy and Barons have 4 to play.
On that score the Barons remaining games are all at home where they have a streak of 27 unbeaten. If the Barons are able to keep that streak going they will almost certainly make the conference playoffs. The operative word here is "almost". It is also very much in the Barons favor that their recent matches have seen the return of their goal scoring prowess notching 12 in their last three games. Total goals scored could be significant as it is one of the tie breakers that could come into play.
Currently, the advantage in that tie-breaker goes to the Barons over the Legacy but the Barons find themselves down 10 in that category to the Flames. This actually is one reason why the Barons only chance to make the playoffs may be to win the division. To do that, the remaining games are all in that must win category.
So lets say the Barons must win out and continue their hot hand scoring goals as well. Here's part of why. If the Flames lose to the Crusaders and the Barons on that final day they could still win the division IF they defeat the Reading Rage AND the Barons do not win ALL of their remaining games. If the Barons do win out, they could win the divison by a single point over the Flames even if they win at Reading after a loss to Cape Cod. That could only happen if the Barons WIN each of their remaining games.
As I said up front there is a myriad of possibilities in this but, suffice to say that if the Barons do not win all of their remaining games they could very well miss out on the playoffs. A single draw for the Barons and 3 wins, and any win by the Flames would see the Barons in 2nd in the division with the possibility of the Legacy also entering the playoffs with the best overall record for teams not winning their division. That could also happen even if the Barons do win out and so does the Legacy. In that case, the Legacy would top the Barons by a single point.
This is why I say the Barons must WIN all of their remaining games to be there at the end, and even that is not a guarantee of making the playoffs at this point unless it means they win their division (ie, the Flames win only 1 of their final 3) . This possibility exists because the Legacy could also win out and total points in that event would go their way if the Barons do not win the division.
The reason the Barons need to continue their hot hand scoring goals is it is also quite possible that the Flames and Barons could end the season tied on points. In that case the Flames current big advantage in goals could be the difference maker. This sounds really bizarre but it is quite possible they could end tied and lose on a tie-breaker and miss the playoffs by the Legacy getting more total points on the season or also win a tie-breaker. I told you this gets pretty wild!
The mission then is to WIN them all. That SHOULD get them into the post season.
Yes folks, it is that close and the likelihood is it will not be decided until that final weekend match with the Flames.