Hockey East: A Weekend and a Season in Review

TJ FergusonCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2009

This Weekend

The big story is that the No. 1 Boston University Terriers took the regular season crown.  On the last day of competition, they beat the Providence College Friars 3-0 to pass the fourth-ranked Northeastern University Huskies in the standings.

Friday night, BU demolished the Friars 8-2 to stay on pace with the Huskies, allowing them to stay in the hunt.

Even if the Friars had swept the series, they would be watching the playoffs on TV, as they have finished in last place.

For the entire season, the Huskies owned or were co-owners of first place in Hockey East.  Saturday night, they had a chance to clinch the regular season title but were severely outplayed at Conte Forum by the No. 18 Boston College Eagles.

The final score of that game was 4-1, coming just one day after the Huskies won a 2-1 overtime thriller at home against BC.  They scored the game-tying goal with just 25 seconds remaining in regulation.

The Ninth-Ranked University of New Hampshire Wildcats and the No. 7 University of Vermont Catamounts split their weekend series, giving the third seed to UNH.

The UMass Lowell Riverhawks split their weekend series in Orono visiting the University of Maine Blackbears.

Both teams will be on the road in the first round, as UML finished fifth and Maine eighth.

Lastly, the Merrimack College Warriors and the UMass Amherst Minutemen split their home-and-home series with the home team winning both games.

Amherst will be heading to the playoffs, while Merrimack will be hitting the books.  The Minutemen couldn't have moved this weekend, but two wins probably would've been nice heading into the playoffs.

Merrimack will have to settle for its conference-leading sixth postseason absence.

The Season in Review

When the unranked Huskies upset the No. 1 Eagles in the first Hockey East action of the season, you just had to know that this was going to be a crazy year.

Providence's only wins in 2008 came against non-conference opponents.  Then, the new ear came, and they got a new goalie named Alex Beaudry.

They started 2009 conference play 3-0-1 and made it look like another team was entering the mix.  Then, they stalled out and only earned six points in their last 15 games.

Boston College was the preseason favorite, and coming off Beanpot, Hockey East Tournament, and National titles, they deserved to be.

The Eagles are now on the verge of not making the NCAA tournament. They probably have to win the Hockey East tournament but are on the road for the first round, against a tough team in UNH.  Plus, they had to settle for the Beanpot Consolation game.

UNH and UVM probably didn't disappoint or exceed any expectations, and you can't really complain about finishing in a tie for third place, when there were two top-five teams ahead of you.

The Northeastern Huskies proved their success was no fluke last year, rather the fluke was their second-half slide.  They finished the regular season ranked fourth in the nation and earned the second seed in the Hockey East Tournament.

Lowell showed that they had an edge to them.  They rallied late and separated themselves from the bottom half of the league; however, they will need to be more consistent in the future to prove that they are on the same level as the top half.

Maine performed better than they did last year, but for Blackbear fans, it probably wasn't good enough.  While this program is rebuilding, it probably won't be too long of a road back to prominence and they will expect much better performances down the line.

Amherst had a rough year.  Every time it looked like they were going to turn on a good run, they'd hit a road block.  They even had the top-ranked BU Terriers on the ropes 3-0 down the stretch, only to lose the game 6-3.

Merrimack again will not make the playoffs.  However, they technically weren't last this season, which may provide a little glimmer of hope for next year.  They tied with Providence for last but won the tie breaker, so were technically ninth.

The Terriers of Boston University had a very good year.  Many would say they were not expected to do this well, but everyone I know who knows anything about Hockey East was more scared of BU than any other team.

They quickly climbed the ranks to No. 1 and when they got there, they were on top more often than not.  They finished first, are the favorites to win the Hockey East Tournament, and are no doubt one of the favorites to take home the National Championship.

The Upcoming Hockey East Tournament

The season is over, every conference is done, and will at least be starting their playoff procedure this coming weekend.

Hockey East will undoubtedly make up its fair share of the 16-team field to enter the National Tournament.  But first, I want to give a quick preview to the Hockey East Playoffs starting this weekend.

All quarterfinal games will take place March 13-14.  If any of the series require a third game to decide it, then a third game will be played March 15.

No. 1 Boston University will host No. 8 UMaine at Agganis Arena in Boston, Massachusetts.

No. 2 Northeastern will host No. 7 UMass at Matthews Arena also in Boston, Massachusetts.

No. 3 UNH will host No. 6 Boston College at the Whittemore Center in Durham, New Hampshire.

No. 4 UVM will host No. 5 Lowell at the Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vermont.

The winners of these series will then play the semifinals on Mar. 20 and the championship on Mar. 21.  All three games will be played at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.

The winner of the Boston University series will play the winner of the UVM series, and the winner of the Northeastern series will play the winner of the UNH series.  The winners of each of these games will then play in the championship.

The National Tournament and Hockey East

Last year, Hockey East sent just two teams to the tournament—New Hampshire and eventual national champs Boston College.  This year, Hockey East could send four!

Who is in:

Right now I'm going to breakdown the resumes and chances of the Hockey East Teams Under Consideration (TUC)


Boston University

Ranked first in the nation, holding the No. 1 RPI rating, and No. 1 in the Pairwise Rankings.  Add to that, they are the favorites to win the Hockey East Tournament and even if they don't earn the auto-bid, no one will exclude them from this year's field.  IN


Northeastern University

Ranked fourth in the nation, fourth-highest RPI rating, and tied for fifth in the Pairwise Rankings.  I don't think anything that happens to them in the HEA playoffs can move them out of the tournament.  IN


University of Vermont

Ranked seventh in the nation, fifth-highest RPI rating, and tied for fifth in the Pairwise Rankings.  It will be hard for this team to fall out.  I don't think that they will, even if they are swept by Lowell in the first round, but it would move them down.  IN


University of New Hampshire

Ranked ninth in the nation, seventh-highest RPI rating, and tied for seventh in the Pairwise Rankings.  They are a lock for the tournament, especially if they get out of the first round.  IN


University of Massachusetts at Lowell

Unranked, 22nd-highest RPI rating, and tied for 22nd in the Pairwise Rankings.  I don't think that this team can make the National Tournament without winning Hockey East.  They only have three comparisons and there is just not enough left for them to improve their resume.  OUT


Boston College

Ranked 18th in the nation, 17th-highest RPI rating, and tied for 19th in the Pairwise Rankings.  They are in a crowded spot in the Pairwise Rankings.  The three teams tied for 14th are just four comparisons ahead of the 21st team. 

A deep run may boost their TUC record enough to win a couple extra comparisons and with some help, they may also see other teams drop off.  However, I don't think they will be able to do enough, unless they win Hockey East again.  OUT


The rest of Hockey East is not considered a team under consideration.  Therefore, unless they win Hockey East, they will not get in.


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