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The best and worst possible outcomes for Hockey East teams on the final weekend

131203 20062358 The best and worst possible outcomes for Hockey East teams on the final weekend

Ryan McGrath and Massachusetts-Lowell have eyes on second place (photo: Melissa Wade).

While Boston College already has the Hockey East title sewed up, there is still so much lurking in the final weekend of Hockey East play.

Here is my attempt to help you break down the various scenarios each team faces:

Boston College

The Eagles have clinched first place and will play the lowest remaining seed after the opening round is complete.

Massachusetts-Lowell

The River Hawks stand alone in second place and will finish the season with two games at Vermont.

Best possible finish: Second

Worst possible finish: Fifth

The simple: With a single win or two ties, Lowell will earn home ice. A tie along with a tie or a loss by either Northeastern, Maine or New Hampshire will also clinch home ice.

The skinny: Lowell controls its destiny for not just home ice but second place. Though it appears mathematically possible for the River Hawks to drop to sixth, that would require both Providence and Maine getting at least three points this weekend, not possible because the two teams face one another. At the same time, the River Hawks are likely just one win away from locking up their third straight NCAA berth.

Northeastern

The Huskies stand alone in third place and will face Boston University in a home-and-home series beginning Friday at BU.

Best possible finish: Second

Worst possible finish: Fifth

The simple: Three of four points vs. BU will lock up home ice for the Huskies. Less than that, they’ll need other teams to help. The damning tiebreaker scenario for the Huskies would be a three-way tie for third with New Hampshire and Maine. That would drop them to fifth place and a road series in the quarterfinals.

The skinny: Northeastern controls its destiny for home ice and third place. If Northeastern climbs into a tie with Lowell for second, the Huskies own the tiebreaker, having beat the River Hawks twice this season. Additionally, Northeastern’s PairWise ranking is pretty solid, but one or (gulp) two losses to BU could significantly impact the Huskies’ RPI and drop them quickly in the national picture.

Maine

The Black Bears sit alone in fourth place and will host Providence for two games this weekend.

Best possible finish: Second

Worst possible finish: Seventh

The simple: Maine can clinch home ice with a sweep of Providence. Though getting three of four points would make it likely the Black Bears get home ice, they would need to pass either Northeastern or Lowell AND not be tied with New Hampshire. Maine loses the tiebreaker to New Hampshire if both teams reach 24 points based on the second tiebreaker (league wins).

The skinny: Home ice in the quarterfinals is critical for no team more than Maine, which is 12-1 at home as opposed to 1-10-3 on the road. The Black Bears are in complete control of their destiny and two wins against the Friars means the worst they can finish is fourth. This is also a big weekend for Maine in the PairWise, where the Black Bears sit in 17th.

New Hampshire

UNH is tied for fifth with Providence and will travel to Merrimack for two games this weekend.

Best possible finish: Second

Worst possible finish: Seventh

The simple: New Hampshire doesn’t control its home-ice destiny but does control destiny to avoid the single-elimination first round of the playoffs. Should UNH sweep Merrimack, the worst it can finish is solo fifth, as that would translate to Maine sweeping Providence as well. Should Providence sweep Maine and remain tied with the Wildcats, UNH would finish no worse than fourth as it would pass Maine and win the tiebreaker with the Friars.

The skinny: A sweep could put New Hampshire as high as second, but that would take a lot of help (Vermont sweeping Lowell as a start as Lowell holds the two-team tiebreaker with UNH). There are a few three-way tiebreakers that will favor UNH, namely if Lowell, UNH and Northeastern all finish with 23 or 24 points, in which case UNH comes out on top of the trio.

140104 18412877 The best and worst possible outcomes for Hockey East teams on the final weekend

Providence can finish anywhere from second to eighth, while Merrimack can do no better than 10th (photo: Melissa Wade).

Providence

The Friars are tied for fifth with New Hampshire but would lose the tiebreaker to UNH (exception: If UNH ties Merrimack twice and Providence splits with Maine, Providence would win the tiebreaker if Lowell finishes second).

Best possible finish: Second

Worst possible finish: Eighth

The simple: No team has a potential finish fluctuation as much as the Friars. While Providence could pass four teams if it sweeps this weekend, the more probable race the Friars should focus on is avoiding a first-round game. Two wins guarantee that. That is the only destiny that Providence completely controls.

The skinny: Even though Providence could finish as low as eighth, there is really only upside for the Friars. Moving down in the standings doesn’t change much as Providence will host the single-elimination first round whether it finishes in sixth place or eighth. Like Maine, this is a pretty crucial weekend when it comes to the PairWise as the Friars enter the weekend 16th, the first team below the cutoff line.

Vermont

The Catamounts are tied for seventh with Notre Dame but hold the tiebreaker based on league wins.

Best possible finish: Third

Worst possible finish: Eighth

The simple: Vermont controls no destiny. If the Catamounts are to move up into either third or fourth place and home ice in the quarterfinals or fifth place and a first-round bye, they’ll need help from other teams. The good news is that Vermont wins the season series vs. UNH.

The skinny: While wins could help Vermont in the Hockey East standings, they really would help the team in the PairWise. A sweep of Lowell wouldn’t just raise the Catamounts’ RPI, it would put the team about a win (maybe two, depending on other results) away from guaranteeing their place in the NCAA tournament.

Notre Dame

The Irish are tied for seventh with Vermont but lose the tiebreaker with the Catamounts.

Best possible finish: Sixth

Worst possible finish: Eighth

The simple: Notre Dame plays just a single game at Boston College (the other game in the series was played at Frozen Fenway) thus has little leverage in making a significant move in the standings. Notre Dame cannot escape the single-elimination first round but is guaranteed to be home for the game.

The skinny: After sweeping BU last weekend, Notre Dame is back above the PairWise bubble in 14th. A win against Boston College on the road could significantly improve Notre Dame’s RPI, possibly enough to push the team into the top 10 of the PWR.

Massachusetts, Boston University and Merrimack

The Minutemen are in ninth but have completed their schedule. The Terriers are 10th and play a home-and-home with Northeastern. The Warriors are 11th and will host UNH for two.

UMass best/worst finish: Ninth/10th

BU best/worst finish: Ninth/11th

Merrimack best/worst finish: 10th/11th

The simple and the skinny: All three of these teams have locked themselves into playing a road game in the single-elimination first round. The question is where the game will be played. Obviously, a road trip to Notre Dame will be the least preferred trip, though none of the teams will know where they have to finish to avoid that. Should Vermont and/or Maine have to host first-round games, there will be no preferable road trips for the opening round.

Around Hockey East

• Congratulations to Vermont alums Patrick Sharp and Martin St. Louis, who each captured the Olympic gold medal last weekend. Vermont was the only school with two Olympic medalists in men’s hockey this year.

• Further congratulations to Notre Dame goaltender Joe Rogers, who is a finalists for the BNY Mellon Wealth Management Hockey Humanitarian Award. Having overcome a physical disability himself — an underdeveloped right hand — Rogers has dedicated his time as a mentor to disabled youth. Rogers has befriended, mentored and acted as a role model for several young athletes throughout the country. He has also worked with several organizations, including Feed My Starving Children, Junior Diabetes and the River City Sled Rovers sled hockey team, for which he spends many hours attending practices, helping kids with their gear, and just talking hockey. In addition, Rogers is on the Board of Directors for Hockey Saves, an organization that unites hockey with members of the military and their families.

• While it is a foregone conclusion that Boston College’s Johnny Gaudreau will win the league scoring title (he has 35 points in 19 league games; linemate Kevin Hayes is next with 27) what isn’t as obvious is how dominant his 35 points are. In most recent years, the leading scorer in Hockey East play has had more than 35 points but those players had 24 or 27 games to reach that mark. Gaudreau’s points-per-league-game of 1.84 is the most dominant performance since Jason Krog, who scored 53 points in 24 league games in 1998-99.

• The same can be said for BC goaltender Thatcher Demko, whose 1.29 GAA won’t be caught by anyone this final weekend of the season. That is the lowest GAA in Hockey East since Maine’s Jimmy Howard posted the all-time mark of 1.15 in 2003-04.

USCHO covers Hockey East all week long on the Hockey East Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.


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  • Vinnie Vega

    With the UML OT win and the NU and Maine losses, UML locks up 2 place in Hockey East.

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