Hockey East Championship Weekend Preview

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Hockey East Championship Weekend Preview

The Quarterfinal Recap

Well, I can say I predicted all the quarterfinal match-ups correctly, but I was wrong about the second-round pairings that would ensue.  I didn't take into consideration that the teams are reseeded, which changes things.

This past weekend, the two upsets ended in road sweeps, while the two unsurprising advances ended in three games.

The No. 5 Northeastern University Huskies are now just one of five teams in Hockey East history to lose game one of the quarterfinals and then win the last two to advance.

They defeated the University of Massachusetts at Amherst Minutemen in an overtime thriller to record the comeback series victory. 

Husky goaltender Brad Thiessen is my player of the series, as he gave the Huskies three great games and could be the biggest reason for the comeback.

No. 2 Boston University Terriers won a close 2-1 contest to take game one from the University of Maine Black Bears.

The second and third games were blowouts with Maine pulling the upset in game two, then getting stomped in game three to allow the Terriers to move on to the Garden.

No. 11 University of New Hampshire Wildcats played host to the No. 15 Eagles from Boston College and got swept.

The Eagles came in and played like a team that is not ready to be done with their season.  They earned a 5-3 win Friday night, then got a stellar performance from John Muse in goal on night two to win 1-0 and advance to the Garden.

The last series saw another upset sweep, this time it was the No. 10 University of Vermont Catamounts getting edged out by the No. 19 University of Massachusetts at Lowell Riverhawks.

The Riverhawks managed an overtime win on night one before taking a two goal win in the second and final game of the series to advance to the garden.

The Huskies and Riverhawks will play each other in the semifinals for the first time since 1988, a year which also happens to mark the last time Northeastern won the Hockey East Tournament.

The Eagles will then play the Terriers for the final spot in the championship game, these teams last met in 2007 when the Eagles ousted the Terriers 6-2 in the Semifinal.

Predictions

I'll start with the Huskies vs. the Riverhawks.

The regular season series was one sided in this one, with Northeastern earning the 3-0-0 sweep.  Two of the games were played at Lowell and Thiessen got a shut out at Matthews Arena.

This will definitely be an interesting match-up as both teams finished off their series each with a decisive win and an overtime win.

Northeastern added a loss at the beginning of the series, but they just were not getting any puck luck in that first game, even after they scored, the game had upset written all over it, considering Amherst also won the regular season series.

The Lowell series against Vermont had upset written all over it too, as Lowell was able to go to the Gutterson Fieldhouse in the regular season and take three points.

So, we have two teams that are rolling right now with two straight playoff wins.  Both teams are in the type of form most are dreaming of and both now have a chance to win the Lamoriello Trophy.

Lowell will have to find a way to beat Thiessen and keep Northeastern off the board.  The one game they scored more than two goals against the NU netminder, the Huskies piled up one more for a final score of 4-3.

The Huskies will have to do what they did all season against Lowell.  Winning a season series 3-0 is no fluke, it means you have the other teams number.  There is however the thought that any team on any day can win any game.

That being said, the Huskies have to remember that no one in the Hockey East can show up to a game and win on skill alone.  Especially against a team like the Riverhawks who have the ability to come out of nowhere and pull off a surprise win/tie.

Lowell will have to play like they did against UVM this weekend to pull off this upset, but I think this Cinderella story, along with their season, is done.  NU 4-2.

Now on to the Terriers and Eagles semifinal contest.

After NU and UML settle their semi, the two perennial Hockey East powerhouses will duke it out for the last spot in the championship game on Saturday.

The Terriers won the season series 2-0-1 with the tie coming at Agganis Arena.  However, the other two games were not really close at all.

The Eagles are also now playing a team that had its nations best 17 game winning streak snapped by a team that no one thought had a chance.  This will mean the Terriers will probably be a lot more careful and a lot harder to play the rest of the way.

The Eagles are coming off a sweep of the Wildcats, John Muse has perhaps found something, or maybe it is just the playoff atmosphere, that makes him really good in net.

Shutting out the UNH Wildcats is not easy.  They were shut out twice this season, once to BU and the other to Maine, go figure.

Before that, I think it was like 90 something games, I don't remember the exact statistic but they showed it on NESN during the UNH @ BU game when the Terriers earned a 5-0 shut out victory.

Anyway, Boston College is the defending National Champion and they need to win the Hockey East Tournament to earn a bid and they know it.

In order to win, BC will have to find that playoff form they had last year and someone, *cough* Brock Bradford *cough* will have to step up and put up a Nathan Gerbe type performance to do that.

John Muse finding and keeping his freshman form will work wonders in helping, but I don't think you can beat BU without scoring three or four goals (they have lost one game in which they gave up two or fewer goals, 2-1 @ UNH).

For the Terriers to advance to the final, they will need to just keep being BU.  The defenders can't afford mistakes, but it's not like they make many to begin with.  When they do, Kieran Millan is one of the best goalies in the nation.

But after this past weekend, the biggest hurdle will be beating John Muse and the BC defense.  Scoring hasn't been a problem at all for the Terriers, so if they are willing to face any challenge, that is it.

I expect this one to be a shootout, but again, the other Cinderella story is over and a new champion will be crowned this year in both Hockey East and the Nation.  BU 6-4.

The Final

I'll look first at my prediction, Northeastern vs. Boston University.  The Terriers won the season series 2-0-2, the fourth game was the Beanpot Championship.

I doubt the Huskies want to pass up what may be their last chance at winning against this team this year, especially considering they already handed the Terriers the regular season crown and the Beanpot.

For the Huskies to win, Thiessen will have to stand on his head.  If Northeastern is going to beat the Terriers they need a solid performance out of their netminder.

They also need to figure out the scoring thing, they scored a combined five goals against BU in their last four meetings.

Ryan Ginand will have to find his early and mid season scoring touch, Joe Vitale will have to play more like he did last year and become a scoring and set-up threat.

The Huskies would also probably like to see Tyler McNeely back in the lineup as he has been out for awhile now with a broken arm.  Although after the performance Kyle Kraemer had in the two games he played in the quarterfinals, both wins, whose spot will McNeely take?

For BU to win, they will have to repeat the Beanpot, they probably don't need to score three shorthanded goals again, but stopping the already weak Husky power play will be something that will help keep the DogHouse quiet from the Garden Balcony and essentially out of the game.

I don't know about other schools, but Coach Greg Cronin, along with several Husky players, has said that the crowd at Matthews gives them so much motivation to win and gets them more pumped up than anything.

That is another thing the Huskies will need to do, keep the crowd in the game, score early, and make the arena loud.  I'm not saying it will hinder BU's play, but it may raise Northeastern's to the next level.

Either way, I have to go with the favorite on this one, but I think it will be close.  BU 3-2.

Now I want to assume my semifinal predictions aren't right and predict what will happen in the finals if it isn't Northeastern vs. Boston University.

Boston University 4-1 UMass Lowell

Northeastern University 2-1 Boston College

UMass Lowell 2-4 Boston College

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