Todd: Well, Jim, it sounds like you witnessed one of the more memorable Beanpot championship games in recent memory Monday night when Boston College outlasted a tremendous effort from Northeastern, 7-6 in overtime. Neither team ever had more than a one-goal lead, which is notable in a 13-goal game. What’s going to stand out to you from this year’s Beanpot?
Jim: A few things stand out. One is that Northeastern is a much better team than their record. In ways, it deserved a better fate as it worked ridiculously hard the entire night. At the same time, I think Boston College proved just how important postseason experience is. Both weeks they went to overtime. Both weeks they came out on top. BC’s senior class has played some very big overtime games over the years. The calm they showed, particularly last night, showed that experience pays off.
Todd: On the other end of the Beanpot standings is Boston University, which finished fourth for the first time since 1980. I seem to recall the Terriers were missing a few good players in 1980, but that’s another discussion. It sure seems like they’re playing themselves out of a NCAA tournament spot — remember, this team was No. 1 in the country not too long ago — and, from reading the postgame quotes Monday, coach Jack Parker knows it.
BU has a little bit of time to pull things back together and a favorable remaining schedule, but it’s pretty obvious that something needs to be stirred within the Terriers to get them back into the tournament.
Jim: You could tell that BU knew they dug themselves the hole with last night’s loss. BU remains tied for 17th in the PairWise, so it’s not all gloom and doom, but wins against weak opponents down the stretch in the regular season won’t do much to boost BU’s RPI or record against teams under consideration. Losses in those games and you can write the eulogy for the Terriers.
At the other end of the PairWise is a pretty interesting Yale team. The Bulldogs lost again last weekend, this time to St. Lawrence, but their hold on the top spot in the PWR is strong. BC, the No. 2 team, loses all three criteria to Yale and it would take a lot to flip that. There’s a lot of time left but I feel like we can already pencil in the No. 1 seed in Bridgeport.
Todd: I think you’re right there, although Yale’s lead in the RPI has dwindled with these recent losses. But, with three losses in the last few weeks not moving the Bulldogs out of the top spot in the PairWise, I think it will take a lot more losing to move them out of the top four.
Before we get too far into this, I wanted to recognize our first conference champion. With two weeks of the Atlantic Hockey regular season left, Rochester Institute of Technology has wrapped up its fourth title in the last five years. The Tigers are going to have to win the playoff title to get into the NCAA tournament, but if they do, I don’t think anyone’s going to want to be the No. 1 seed that draws them in the first round.
Jim: I do believe after Bemidji State’s run two years ago and RIT’s last season, no team will want to walk in as the No. 1 seed in the big dance only to face the unknown that is the Atlantic Hockey champion. I have to admit, I didn’t even realize RIT had locked things up as two weeks out from the regular season finale is pretty impressive. That said, I’m pretty sure that Atlantic Hockey is the only conference in the nation that will crown a champ prior to the final weekend. The other four leagues all have either a tie atop the standings or a one-point race. Looking at the four, which do you think is the most competitive race coming down the stretch?
Todd: I think the WCHA is going to be a heck of a race in the final three weeks, with three teams having a legitimate chance to be the champ. But as far as final-weekend fireworks, I don’t know if you’re going to be able to beat Hockey East — again. Wasn’t it just last season that Boston College and New Hampshire played for the crown on the final weekend? Well, it might happen again with those teams set for a home-and-home series on March 4 and 5. The Hockey East schedule-makers sure know how to end it with some drama, don’t they?
Jim: No doubt the schedule makers in Hockey East have that crystal ball well tuned when it comes to the final weekend. Though you know that Merrimack, which last week proved it belongs in the same class as BC and UNH with a sweep of the Wildcats, might throw that off this year.
Todd: Time to look at what’s coming up this weekend. It’s an interesting weekend in the WCHA: The top six teams play the bottom six teams in the league standings, which could lead to some interesting shake-ups by Sunday. Wisconsin got pushed to the PairWise bubble after being swept at Nebraska-Omaha last weekend, and we’ll see how the Badgers respond at home against rival Minnesota.
In the CCHA, keep an eye at the Western Michigan-Michigan series at Yost. The Broncos need a PairWise boost, and they could get it with a couple of wins over the Wolverines.
What are you looking at this weekend?
Jim: Interestingly, there are a bunch of top-of-league vs. bottom-of-league matches in both Hockey East and the ECAC. That makes probably the most compelling paper matchup Dartmouth and Cornell on Saturday. Well, that and a two-game rematch of BC and Northeastern, who play a home-and-home series. Maybe we’ll see an 11-10 game this weekend.
Until next week …