Hockey East: A Weekend in Review and a Weekend Preview
Photo from Jim Pierce: Joe Vitale (26) and Mike McGlaughlin (background) of the Huskies and Kieran Millan (center) of the Terriers scramble in front of the net at the Beanpot Championship a few weeks ago.
Northeastern and Boston University are currently seperated by one point with one weekend left.
Hockey East Awarded Mike McGlaughlin the Pro Ambitions Rookie of the Week Award after scoring two game-winning goals and adding an assist this weekend.
What Happened This Weekend:
For probably the first time all season, all five Hockey East matchups resulted in sweeps. None of the top four played against each other, so all have clinched home-ice for the Hockey East Quarterfinals.
The No. 1 Boston University Terriers took the home-and-home series from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst Minutemen. Friday night at UMass, BU had to come back from being down 3-0, but eventually win 6-3.
UMass will now battle for positioning in the standings on the final weekend, while the Terriers will look to move to the top as the four points have guaranteed them at least a second-place finish.
The No. 4 Northeastern University Huskies got a shutout from Brad Thiessen at Matthews Arena Friday night, then continued dominant play, ending home-ice hopes for the University of Massachusetts at Lowell Riverhawks.
Lowell lost its comfortable hold on fifth place and now cannot move up, as they can only tie the teams ahead of them. They would not win the tie breaker.
Northeastern kept up the pace and remains one point ahead of BU in the standings.
The Merrimack College Warriors were downed by the No. 9 University of New Hampshire Wildcats quickly ending the Warriors' playoff hopes and catapulting UNH back into the National Top Ten.
The Wildcats currently own the third-place tie breaker, but they play the third-place team this weekend.
The Warriors are now two points from not finishing in last place, something they had hoped wouldn't happen this season.
The Friars of Providence College had their playoff hopes taken away by the No. 20 Boston College Eagles, who were out of the rankings for the first time all season, but made their way back in.
With the wins, BC will not finish below sixth in Hockey East but can only move up to five. The Eagles were the only team to join the Top 20 this week, as they replaced Lowell.
The University of Maine Blackbears lost two in Vermont (the second in overtime) to the No. 7 University of Vermont Catamounts.
While Maine didn't get any points, they did clinch a playoff spot. Unfortunately for them, it will only grant them a matchup in Boston against the Terriers or the Huskies. They cannot move up as they could only tie Amherst, who owns the tie-breaking procedure against them.
This Coming Weekend's Games and What They Mean:
The races can be boiled down to this: Merrimack and Providence playing for pride, NU and BU for first place, New Hampshire and Vermont for third place, BC and Lowell for fifth place, and UMass and Maine just making sure they are in shape for the first round.
Hands-down, the most important matchup of the weekend is UNH at Vermont. Both games are in Vermont, and the team that takes the most points finishes third overall.
The consolation isn't bad; win or lose, both teams get a first-round home-ice series. Of course, they both want to win heading into the playoffs.
If they split, UNH takes third, as they are currently winning the season series 1-0.
Massachusetts and Merrimack have a home-and-home starting in Merrimack. After an embarrassing showing against BU, the Minutemen will hope to turn the tables lay on the league's worst team a similar smack-down to the one they suffered.
UMass also has to get ready to play against the No. 2 finisher in the league, which could potentially be Boston University.
Merrimack is playing really for nothing; they are two points behind the Friars and are currently losing the tie breaker, so they need a minimum of three points. I don't see them getting that many.
Maine plays two in Lowell and is four points behind UMass, but lost the season series 2-1, so they lose the tie breaker and therefore can't move up.
Lowell is essentially playing to determine which raucous stadium they get to play in. While it isn't entirely up to them, I am sure they would rather win out and take momentum to Vermont or New Hampshire.
The following two battles will determine first place.
Northeastern has beaten BC twice this year, once in the beginning of the season, when BC was ranked No. 1 overall, and again in the first round of the Beanpot.
Northeastern needs at least the same amount of points as BU in order to win. But the way the Terriers have been playing, that looks like it will be all four.
Boston College needs two more points than Lowell to move up, but again, this is just to determine which tough road series they get to play. Either way, they have to go play a good team in a hostile building.
There is much more at stake for Northeastern: They could lose the regular-season title and have to play a team that beat them twice (though both losses were on the road).
But more importantly, losing another title to Boston University (and this time on the last weekend of the season) could be morally devastating.
No. 1 BU Terriers vs. PC Friars: BU is rolling on the nation's longest unbeaten streak. Don't look for them to blow it this weekend against a non-playoff team. Then again, the Friars are playing for pride now, and they have beaten BU. In fact, the last time BU lost was against Providence at Agganis Arena.
Friday @PC: 4-1 Terriers. Sunday @BU: 4-0 Terriers.
UMass Minutemen vs. MC Warriors: Neither team has anything on the line, really, except for the fact that they both got swept last weekend. Look for the pair of contentious games to be won by the home team.
Friday @MC: 2-1 Warriors. Saturday @UMass: 3-1 Minutemen.
No. 9 UNH Wildcats @ No. 7 UVM Catamounts: By far the most anticipated series of the weekend, and with both games in Vermont, the Catamounts have the advantage. I think UNH will be able to make this interesting, though, as I don't think regulation will settle either game.
Friday: 3-2 UVM. Saturday: 3-3 Tie.
ME Blackbears @ UML Riverhawks: With both of these games in Lowell, I don't expect the Riverhawks to have much trouble. They hit a bump in the road last weekend, but I think they will use this weekend to rebound and take some momentum into the playoffs.
Friday: 4-2 UML. Saturday: 3-1 UML
No 4. NU Huskies vs. No. 20 BC Eagles: The Huskies have owned the Eagles all season. They went from an unranked team taking down the No. 1 to a favorite pounding a lower-ranked squad. NU is just on a whole 'nother level than BC, both between the pipes and skating around the ice.
Friday @NU: 2-0 NU. Saturday @BC: 4-3 NU.
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