Hockey East Playoffs Around The Corner But a Lot is Still to Be Decided

TJ FergusonCorrespondent IFebruary 19, 2009

For those of you who do not know, the trophy shown above is awarded to the champion of the Hockey East Conference Tournament. Last season it went to the Boston College Eagles, who are currently ranked 17th in the nation and sit in the sixth spot in the conference.

Going into this weekend, the No. 4 Northeastern University Huskies, No. 1 Boston University Terriers, No. 6 University of Vermont Catamounts, and the No. 12 University of New Hampshire Wildcats have already clinched a playoff spot.

Realistically, Northeastern, BU and UVM are the only three teams who still have a chance to take home the regular-season title.

Technically, UNH could still get it, but I think they are just a little too far out of the mix. Plus, they have to worry about the Riverhawks from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell stealing their home ice advantage in the first round.

The Eagles get to write their own story—they play the ninth place Providence College Friars twice.  If BC wins one of those games, it would be enough to clinch a playoff spot.

If Providence wins both of them, BC might still be in trouble.

If Providence is going to take anyone's spot in the post season, I think it will be University of Massachusetts at Amherst Minutemen or the University of Maine Blackbears.

Both teams are tied in sixth with 17 points, just a five point cushion on making the postseason.

The Merrimack College Warriors haven't yet been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but they are nine points back from eighth, and will need to win out.

Weekend Matchups

From here on out, I believe there are only home-and-home series left.  If I am wrong, then one team will get lucky and have two home games against the same team in a weekend.

Starting with the home ice battle, Boston College plays UNH.  The Wildcats currently have three points in the standings on the Eagles.  BC can make this race interesting, UNH can bury them, or they can split the weekend and leave it up to the remaining games to decide it.

If things work out, this series could end up being a first round matchup.  Lowell, the team in fifth place, just one point back of UNH, is playing Vermont this weekend. 

Now this series is an exception, Vermont is home for both games.

If Lowell can pull off a double upset and sweep this series, they really don't have to worry about the UNH-BC result as they will leap-frog Vermont in the standings.

Vermont will be looking to sweep the series for a chance to move into second place, or at least a tie for second place.

Moving to the bottom, Providence has a chance to crush all hope for Merrimack and make the next two weekends really scary for someone else in the conference.

This home-and-home series features to two worst teams in Hockey East. If Merrimack takes four points, they tie the Friars and have to hope one of the last playoff teams don't get any points to stay alive.

As a fan of hockey and playoff races, I'm rooting for Providence, even though I don't think they will be able to win anymore games after this weekend because their schedule pits them against BC and BU for the final two weekends.

Both the Friars and the Warriors will probably be score-checking the second installment of Maine at UMass series.  Again, both games are at one site.

Both Maine and Mass will be looking to clear themselves of Providence and earn the tiebreaker against each other—currently Maine is 1-0-0 in the season series.  Providence wants one team to win both games—they don't care who.

Now onto the most important meeting of the weekend, and really, the season to this point. Northeastern plays Boston University Friday at Agganis Arena and Saturday at Matthews Arena.

Northeastern currently has a one point lead on the Terriers.  BU also leads the season series 2-0 (1-0 HE, the one that counts for playoff seeding), including a 3-0 win at Agganis earlier in the season and a 5-2 win in the Beanpot Championship.

Back to Vermont, UVM is four points behind Northeastern and three behind BU.  UVM winning twice this weekend gives them 31 points on the season.

I think it is safe to say they are hoping for a split and gaining two points on both teams.  While it would keep them in third place, it would move them two points closer to both squads and that No. 1 seed.


Away Team  (Away Team Score-Home Team Score)   Home Team

Friday Night:

No. 4 Northeastern   (1-3)   No. 1 Boston U.

Maine   (1-3)   Massachusetts

Lowell   (2-3)   No. 6 Vermont

No. 17 Boston C   (3-5)   No. 12 New Hampshire

Saturday Night:

Maine   (3-2)   Massachusetts

No. 12 New Hampshire   (2-1)   No. 17 Boston C

Providence   (2-1)   Merrimack

Lowell   (1-4)   No. 6 Vermont

No. 1 Boston U   (2-4)   No. 4 Northeastern

Sunday Afternoon:

Merrimack   (0-3)   Providence