Finishing atop your league ensures you the number one seed in the playoffs. But in sports like men's college soccer, where one game, and sometimes one goal, can oust a team from the post-season, where your team has been seeded prior to that game matters little.
That reality caught up to the UVM last night when the top-seeded Catamounts hosted number four Albany in the America East conference semi-finals and saw their hopes for a championship dashed in a 1-0 loss.
The Great Danes are no strangers to frustrating UVM in shut-out victories, this being the fifth straight shut-out win over the Catamounts. The decisive goal was scored in the 32nd minute on a strike by Albany's Nico Solabarrieta, just one of two shots Albany put on UVM's goal in the entire first half, while the Catamounts directed six shots on Albany's net.
But the upshot is that Albany will move on to face UMass-Lowell in the league title game Sunday, and whoever wins that will get an automatic bid to the division one NCAA tournament. UVM finishes the season at 10-8-1 and there's an outside chance they could get an at-large invitation to join the tournament, as they did last year, but the odds are against it, meaning the Catamounts will have to try and repeat their regular season success from this year in the next campaign, and then find a way to get past Albany when it matters most, in the playoffs.
In the NBA, the Boston Celtics stretched their winning streak to ten straight games with a 107-96 victory over the L.A. Lakers last night, and as remarkable as that double digit streak is, what's more amazing is that Boston is getting it done even as injuries mount to some of their best players.
We already know about the season-ending injury to star forward Gordon Hayward, but the Celtics were also without the services of veteran Al Horford last night, who was kept out of the game for concussion protocol, and then late in the second quarter rookie Jayson Tatum, who's been terrific in his inaugural season, left the game with an ankle injury and did not return. Tatum will be fitted with a walking boot until X-Rays later today can determine the extent of the damage, and there's no word yet on how long Horford might be out. He's also been sensational during the ten-game winning streak, especially on the boards, averaging 9 rebounds per game.
So it was left to Boston's new go-to leader, Kyrie Irving, to pick up the slack, but he got plenty of help from the impressive Australian big man Aron Baynes, who matched a career high last night with 21 points to go with Irving's 19, and also pulled down eight rebounds.
Brandon Ingram and Jordan Clarkson led the Lakers offense with 18 points apiece, but rookie Lonzo Ball finished with just nine and was booed lustily by the Boston fans every time he touched the ball, which is really unfair, since it's his motor-mouthed Dad and his proclamations that his son is the best player since Michael Jordan, if not better than the greatest player ever, that has rubbed so many fans outside of L.A. the wrong way.
Celtic Marcus Morris summed it up pretty well after the game, expressing disappointment that Ball, who's comported himself with none of the bombast evidenced by his father, was on the receiving end of so much fan hostility. "He's a good kid. It's his dad," Morris said. "He's got a big mouth, everybody knows it." So, yes, it seems unfair to blame the son in this instance for the sins of the father.
To the NHL, and the NY Rangers wins streak is now at five games after a 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden last night. The Bruins, like their basketball counterparts, are dealing with a MASH unit of their own on the injury front, playing without their leading scorer Brad Marchand, number two center David Krejci, and veteran forwards David Backes and Ryan Spooner. But every team deals with injuries, and the fact is that Boston has still not been able to put together two wins in a row this season, mired in the middle of the eastern conference pack, and generating little momentum to break into the upper levels.
The Bruins were victimized last night by a player many hoped would be wearing black and gold, Jimmy Vesey, the former Harvard University stand-out who rejected Boston's overtures in free agency, electing to sign with the Rangers instead. Vesey scored twice in a thirty second span in the first period, and the Bruins never really recovered.
The Bruins got goals from veterans Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, but the rest of the squad, featuring many players from the Providence minor league club thanks to the spate of injuries, failed to make an impact.
And it doesn't get any easier for the Bruins, who now travel north of the border to face one of the league's best teams in the Toronto Maple Leafs Friday night. The Leafs were 4-2 winners over the Minnesota Wild last night, behind a 35-save performance from Frederik Andersen, and the Leafs showed off their deep roster by winning without injured star forward center Auston Matthews, who's out with injury. Four different players, Nazem Kadri, Patrick Marleau, Connor Carrick, and Connor Brown all found the back of the net for Toronto.