Hockey East: A Weekend in Review and a Weekend Preview
Photo From gonu.com (Steve Quailer)
Last Weekend's Results and What They Mean
Last weekend's marquee matchup saw No. 4 Northeastern University Huskies tie the No. 1 Boston University Terriers 2-2 at Agganis Arena and 1-1 at Matthews Arena.
Evenly splitting the four points up for grabs this weekend means the Huskies still lead the Hockey East by just one point, with each team having four games left on their schedule.
The No. 9 University of Vermont Catamounts are now tied in third place after taking just one out of four points from No. 20 University of Massachusetts at Lowell Riverhawks.
Vermont’s failure to not keep pace with NU and BU means that a dog will win the Hockey East regular season crown this year. It would take a lot from their opponents and those chasing them to change that.
The interesting part of that series was that both games were in Vermont, the first game was tied up at three to force overtime by Lowell with just 26 seconds left and Vermont was beat 1-0 in the second game.
With the three point weekend, the Riverhawks moved into sole possession of fifth place; they clinched a playoff spot and are now just two points shy of a quarterfinal home ice series.
No. 12 University of New Hampshire Wildcats moved into the tie with UVM for third and actually currently own the season series lead, having won the only time that the two teams faced-off this season, so they are currently winning the tie breaker.
The Wildcats took all four points, sweeping the Boston College Eagles in a home-and-home series. The pair of losses sends the Eagles out of the Top 20 for the first time all season and more importantly, into the bottom half of Hockey East.
The Eagles are tied with the University of Massachusetts at Amherst Minutemen who swept their two home game series against the University of Maine Blackbears with a pair of 4-3 wins—the first of which went to overtime.
Rounding out this weekend's action was the Providence College Friars shooting their playoff hopes in the foot, as they tied and lost to the Merrimack College Warriors.
The three-point weekend opens up an opportunity for Merrimack to slip into the last playoff spot, which, right now, will probably end up going to Maine, but it could get snatched up by the Warriors or Friars.
Merrimack’s remaining schedule is the easiest of the three, but Maine needs just one point or for MC to miss just one point, as the Blackbears won the season series, thus the tiebreaker.
Maine also leads the tie breaker on Providence, and while it needs more than just one point, I highly doubt the Friars will be able to take five or more points out of their final two weekends.This Weekend's Schedule
We’ll start with the team holding the final playoff spot.
Maine will host Vermont both Friday and Saturday hoping to take all four points and clinch a playoff spot.
They will at least try to keep themselves out in front of Providence who is just four points back and look to the final weekend to clinch.
Vermont, after a poor showing last weekend, will need to get some points. They had a fairly comfortable hold on third place and have had it for awhile. Now, they are looking down at fifth place and wondering how it got so close to them.
Going on the road in the first round is something no team wants to do, and having the last three weeks of the season to blame for losing home ice is not a good feeling.
Ask the Huskies about it; they were there last year. They lost in the first round in three games to a team that made the Hockey East Championship. That team happened to be the Vermont Catamounts.
Looking to Merrimack, they will play a home-and-home series with UNH, who is currently tied for third. This is a big series for both teams.
This series will pretty much decide Merrimack’s fate. They need to sweep it and need Maine to get swept. Assuming both of those will not happen, Merrimack will have an extra week to start planning its offseason and any changes that it will make for next year.
UNH can actually scrape its way into the race for the regular season title. While it will be hard to do, the Wildcats, along with Vermont are still within striking distance.
The Providence Friars play a home-and-home with the BC Eagles, who are just one loss away from not being able to win home ice in the first round. With a sweep, the Friars could move into a tie for eighth place, assuming Maine doesn’t earn any points.
Sweeping would also give the tie breaker to Providence, providing they win out and Boston College loses out. The latter is the more likely of the two, but both have to happen. So as a whole, I don’t think it is too likely at all.
Boston University plays a home-and-home with UMass starting in Amherst on Friday night. While UMass may not have the best of records this year, they have some impressive wins, including one against BU and two against Northeastern.
UMass has already clinched a playoff spot, as the best Providence can do is tie their point total. However, the Minutemen won the regular-season series, having the tie breaker and will make a playoff appearance.
The No. 1 ranked Terriers are looking to this weekend to pass Northeastern who plays a hot Riverhawks' team. Not a single member of the BU roster or student body expects to miss any of these four points. They just hope Lowell will take some from the Huskies.
However, the Minutemen like taking points away from ranked teams. Against Hockey East teams that at one point or another this season were ranked, they are 5-8-3.
Moving to the No. 1 teams' matchup, Northeastern starts up a home-and-home series, hosting Lowell on Friday. Looking at recent results, Northeastern has the hardest weekend of the league's top two, but with a point in hand, are in the better position.
Lowell is currently in fifth place with a five point cushion and just a two point overhead. This weekend could see them move into the top four or at least close the gap to just one point.Predictions
Riverhawks vs. Huskies: I think the Huskies will be too much. Thiessen looked weak in the Beanpot Championship, and then the following weekend against Amherst. He rebounded and played two great games against the Terriers.
I think he will be too much for the Riverhawks, 3-0 Huskies on Friday (@NU), 2-1 Huskies on Saturday (@UML).
Catamounts @ Blackbears: Vermont is good, and after a rough weekend, I think they will pick it up and get off to a strong start and look to fix their form heading into the playoffs; 3-2 UVM, probably going to overtime on Friday, 3-1 UVM on Saturday (both games at Maine).
Wildcats vs. Warriors: I’m not going to lie to you, Merrimack just isn’t any good, and UNH is coming off a solid weekend dominating BC; look for that to continue this weekend against a weaker opponent, as UNH realizes that they need to solidify their place in the Conference Standings. 5-2 Wildcats Friday (@MC), 4-0 Wildcats Saturday (@UNH).
Friars vs. Eagles: Both teams are coming off of disappointing weekends. However, I think BC falling out of the Top 20 is more disappointing to them, and they will be out with a chip on their shoulder—not only to prove their doubters wrong but to prove their weak play this season wrong.
I am willing to bet goalie Johnny Muse finds his freshman form. 2-0 Eagles Friday (@BC). However, Saturday will be a little different. Providence will get beat Friday, then realize that they can’t afford to lose anymore and will probably elevate their game, hoping Beaudry can stop everything; 2-1 Friars Saturday (@PC).
Terriers vs. Minutemen: The Terriers are good, but I have noticed that they can play down to some teams, as they have had some disappointing results this season. I think the Minutemen will stun them on Friday, (2-1 UMass @UMass), before skating into a beehive on Saturday, 6-0 BU @BU.
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