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Reflections from the Hockey East Championship Weekend and NCAA selection process

These are the three things I think I learned in this final pre-NCAA tournament week.

1. Boston University finally put together a strong first period at the TD Garden.

The Terriers’ first three games at the Garden this year — the Beanpot and Hockey East semifinals — hardly showcased a team on the way to a top seeding in the NCAA tournament. In each case, BU emerged from the opening 20 minutes with a tie, but played some shaky hockey while being outshot a cumulative 38-26.

In the Hockey East title game, however, the fourth time proved to be a charm. BU scored the first two goals en route to a 2-1 first period lead and a 5-3 win.

Opening its Northeast Regional contests with a bang like they did on Saturday night will go a long way to getting the Terriers back to the Garden and a Frozen Four semifinal appearance.

2. New Hampshire finished the season at the level of an NCAA tournament team.

Yes, the Wildcats dug themselves a deep hole in the first half of the season, but over the second half they proved themselves to be on par with teams getting the invite to the big dance.

In that time, UNH counted five wins against NCAA tournament-bound teams, including a quarterfinal series win over Providence.

And although the Wildcats fell to eventual champion BU on Friday, they acquited themselves very well indeed.

3. Hockey East needs a better non-conference record next year.

The league had to sweat out a third entrant, Providence, into the national tournament. It could easily have been stuck with only two.

The search for the reason goes no further than its nonconference record.

Yes, Hockey East dominated Atlantic Hockey, 15-1-0, but that didn’t count for much in the PairWise because no Atlantic teams were close to at-large berths.

Hockey East did acceptably against the ECAC, 24-19-5, but that league was in danger of getting only a single invite itself until well into its tournament games. Additionally, Merrimack and Vermont, two teams that didn’t make the NCAAs, did the bulk of the damage there, going 10-1-0 combined.

And most conclusively, Hockey East’s record against the other three leagues was only a single game over .500.

One game over .500 doesn’t qualify as “a rising tide lifts all ships.”

 

Hockey East picks – Mar. 20-21

One weekend left and Dave holds a slim one-game lead over me in the picks. I was able to pick up two games last weekend correctly picking UMass Lowell in games one and three and New Hampshire in game one.

Now let’s hope Dave doesn’t run the four-corner offense and pick exactly the same as me.

Jim last week: 7-4-0
Dave last week: 5-6-0
Jim to date: 164-88-25
Dave to date: 165-87-25

Hockey East Tournament (TD Garden, Boston)

Friday, March 20 – Semifinals

Vermont vs. UMass Lowell, 5pm (NESN, NBCSN)
Jim’s pick: These two teams were pretty evenly matched three weeks ago. But Lowell did take three of four points that weekend. Thus, I’m sticking with the River Hawks.
UML 3, UVM 1
Dave’s pick: I liked what I saw in Lowell’s three games against Notre Dame last weekend. Additionally, the River Hawks have a huge experience advantage when it comes to playing at the TD Garden. Vermont hasn’t gotten to the Garden since 2010 and hasn’t won a game there since 2008. Lowell has, of course, won the Hockey East tournament the last two years.
UML 3, UVM 1

New Hampshire vs. Boston University, 8pm (NESN, NBCSN)
Jim’s pick: I’m really going out on a limb here but I think this UNH team is playing good enough hockey right now to pull off the major upset.
UNH 3, BU 2
Dave’s pick: I don’t think Jim’s pick is crazy at all. The Wildcats are playing terrific hockey right now. That said, if I were picking before Jim, I’d go with the Terriers. Their offense and power play are tough matchups for any team. They remain the clear favorite.
However, I’m picking after Jim, this is our final week of picks, and I have a one-game lead. The only way I can lose our competition is to pick differently than Jim.
So do I pull a Pete Carroll and pick BU here? Or with the win within my grasp, am I more like Bill Belichick — and I’m not referring to both of us having no fashion sensibility at all – and take the win?
UNH 2, BU 1 (OT)

Saturday, March 21 – Championship game

UNH/BU vs. UVM/UML
Jim’s pick: Going to pick all scenarios, which interesting doesn’t mean I think BU can’t win this championship if they get to the finals.
UML 4, UNH 2; BU 4, UML 3; BU 4, UVM 2; UVM 3, UNH 2 (OT)
Dave’s pick: The only matchup I’d be choosing differently if I were picking first (or if I were tied) is the potential UVM – UNH final. I’d pick UNH by a 3-1 score in that one.
And I must admit being tempted to list it that way here, since both teams are underdogs to advance to the final game, and I’d really like UNH in that contest. What could it hurt? What are the odds?
But then my inner Belichick reacts the same way the coach responded to the early season question from the media about Tom Brady’s status.
Cue up Queen and “We Are the Champions.”
UML 4, UNH 3 (OT); BU 4, UML 2; BU 4, UVM 1; UVM 1, UNH 0 (OT)

BU, Lowell hold, Vermont upsets with emotion and UNH takes extra drama to advance

Boston University and UMass Lowell each advanced to the Garden but both did so in very different ways. That leads the three things we take away from this weekend.

1. Terriers easily advance, Lowell reaches Garden after battle.

It was incredible to see BU get past Merrimack with such ease. Given that every other series went three games, all game three tough, consider the Terriers the early favorite in Boston.

But it’s hard to look past UMass Lowell and the 13 goals they pumped past Notre Dame’s Cal Petersen. It seems like ages ago Petersen stopped 87 saves to set the NCAA record against Massachusetts. The River Hawks offense is looking quite potent heading to the Garden.

2. Vermont, Sneddon emotionally advance

If you happened to watch NESN’s telecast of game three between Vermont and Boston College, a 1-0 win for the Catamounts to reach the final four in Hockey East, there was a great moment in the final minute when Vermont called timeout. Holding that slim one-goal lead, Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon burned his timeout to compose his team. At the end, the excitement and emotion Sneddon showed to give his team that final motivation was refreshing. It reminds us all how emotional this game can be, even for the coaches.

3. Game three OT – what is better

There were two game three overtimes on Sunday, one in Hockey East between New Hampshire and Providence. And it was the Wildcats winning on a Jay Camper goal at 12:43 of OT that advanced UNH to the Garden. I may be overspeaking when talking about bonus hockey as I wouldn’t want to be involved emotionally in this game. But there may not be any more pure moment of excitement in sports than advancing your team in the postseason on a make-or-break overtime goal.

Hockey East picks – March 13-15

The first round of the playoffs is usually a time to fatten the picks percentage, but not this year. Jim picked up another game on me to inch within three.

Too little, too late? We’ll see.

As with last week, we’ll pick all three games even if we believe there will be a two-game sweep. That way there’ll be a prediction for every possible contest.

Dave last week: 5-4-0
Jim last week: 6-3-0
Dave’s record-to-date: 160-81-25
Jim’s record-to-date: 157-84-25

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday-Sunday, March 13-15

Merrimack at Boston University 
Dave’s pick: The league’s top offense against its weakest. Can the Warriors make these games 2-1 and 1-0 defensive struggles? That’s their only hope, and I don’t think it’ll happen.
BU 4, MC 1; BU 3, MC 2; BU 4, MC 1
Jim’s pick: I agree with Dave that the only way Merrimack wins is a 1-0 or 2-1 game. They’re not going to score five and I don’t think they’re going to limit BU to less than 2.
BU 3, MC 1; BU 3, MC 2; BU 5, MC 2

New Hampshire at Providence
Dave’s pick: These two teams always seem to face each other in the playoffs, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all for this series to go three games. But Jon Gillies should make the difference.
PC 2, UNH 1; PC 3, UNH 2 (OT); PC 3, UNH 1
Jim’s pick: I think this is the most difficult series to pick because you just don’t know how well UNH can limit this Providence offense.
UNH 3, PC 2; PC 3, UNH 1; PC 4, UNH 2

Vermont at Boston College
Dave’s pick: Bet the under on any total goals wager in this battle of defenses. The Catamounts could take advantage of BC’s rustiness in the opener, but I think BC is peaking at the right time. I wouldn’t be stunned to see the Eagles here in Boston at the Frozen Four.
BC 2, UVM 1 (OT); BC 3, UVM 1; BC 3, UVM 1
Jim’s pick: This is becoming a broken record, but if Vermont can hold the Eagles offense at bay, they may have a chance.
BC 3, UVM 2; BC 3, UVM 1; BC 2, UVM 1

Notre Dame at Massachusetts-Lowell
Dave’s pick: I’ve gone back and forth on this one many times. Is Lowell all the way back to the top form it displayed earlier in the season? Is Notre Dame as good as it looked in the final three weeks against Providence, BU, and BC? This series has three games written all over it with a 50-50 shot for both teams, but I’m going with the hot goaltender, Cal Petersen.
UND 3, UML 2 (OT); UND 4, UML 3 (OT); UND 3, UML 2 (5OT)
Jim’s pick: This might be my best chance to pick up a game or two, or end this contest against Dave altogether. That said, Lowell is 8-1 in the Hockey East playoffs over the last two years. That has to mean something. Though I’ll pick a sweep for the River Hawks, I’m not shocked if this one goes three.
UML 3, UND 1; UML 3, UND 2 (OT); UML 2, UND 1

Thoughts on the surprising Hockey East first round

These are the three things I think I learned this week.

1. Five overtimes? Really? Five?

I was on the West Coast this past week and when I got the chance, I checked in on the Hockey East scoreboard. I watched with mounting astonishment as the Notre Dame – Massachusetts contest kept going on and on.

And on and on and on.

The matchup expected to be the most lopsided — the fifth-seeded Irish, who were coming in quite hot, against the last-place Minutemen — went five overtimes. And more than halfway through that fifth OT before UMass pulled off the upset.

The game finished at 1:24 in the morning, took five hours and 49 minutes, and goaltender Cal Petersen garnered number one star for his 87 saves in a losing effort.

In the lingo of Facebook and Twitter: SMH!

(Translation for those not into social media: Shaking My Head.)

2. The season ends for Northeastern, UMass, Maine, and Connecticut.

As serious underdogs this past weekend, UMass, Maine, and UConn were expected to end their seasons. The stunner here is Northeastern.  The Huskies had overcome a brutal start to the season and become a top team playing as well as anyone.

Merrimack, by contrast, struggled mightily down the stretch.

When I saw that the Warriors won the opener, I thought the one weekend pick in which Jim and I differed — the second game of this series, in which he picked Merrimack — became a near lock. There was no way Northeastern was losing in two straight to a team that had entered the series with one win in its last 13 and none in its last nine.

Way.

It took most of a second overtime, but the Huskies fell.

SMH.

3. So much for the chasm between the top seven teams in the league and the rest.

The regular season standings pointed to a significant gap after Vermont in seventh place. New Hampshire closed that with a strong stretch drive into eighth, but this first round appeared to be comprised of all mismatches. You could seemingly bet the ranch that there’d be at most one third game and there absolutely, positively wouldn’t be an underdog advancing.

Goodbye ranch.

As noted above, 11th-seeded Merrimack swept six-seed Northeastern. Number 12 seed UMass took five-seed Notre Dame to a third game, thanks to the epic opener discussed at the top of this piece. And Maine took Vermont to 16:05 of overtime of its third game.

Only UNH had the expected smooth sailing over UConn.

Again and for the hat trick, SMH.

Hockey East picks – Mar. 6-8

I picked up two games on Dave last weekend, but still have a massive hill to climb, particularly as I don’t expect Dave to pick too differently from me in this first round of the playoffs. Because these series are best two-of-three, we will pick all three games, even if we believe there will be a two-game sweep. So if you see us pick a team to win three games, understand why.

Jim last week: 8-2-1
Jim to date: 151-81-25
Dave last week: 6-4-1
Dave to date: 155-77-25

Hockey East first round (Friday-Sunday)

No. 12 Massachusetts at No. 5 Notre Dame
Jim’s pick: If UMass were at home, I’d have more faith. On the road, I think this should be Notre Dame’s series.
ND 4, UMass 2; ND 3, UMass 2; ND 3, UMass 1
Dave’s pick: Notre Dame’s performances down the stretch — better than .500 in six games against Providence, BU, and BC — have me convinced. The Irish should sweep or, at worst, emerge in three games.
ND 4, UMass 1; ND 3, UMass 2; ND 4, UMass 1

No. 11 Merrimack at No. 6 Northeastern
Jim’s pick: If there is one series I see a potential upset, it is this one. Not because I don’t believe in Northeastern, but because I do believe goaltending can steal playoff games and Merrimack has a stud in Rasmus Tirronen. Still, I’m picking NU in 3.
NU 3, MC 1; MC 2, NU 1; NU 2, MC 1

Dave’s pick: I can’t agree with Jim on this one. Merrimack has won only a single game since Jan. 17 and the was one in which Lowell thoroughly outplayed the Warriors. I’d be surprised to see this one go to three.
NU 4, MC 1; NU 2 MC 1; NU 4, MC 1

No. 10 Maine at No. 7 Vermont
Jim’s pick: I think Maine has the potential to be a dangerous out, and it is hard to beat a team SIX times (Vermont was 4-0 vs. Maine this season) in a single season. That said, I’m not picking against Vermont.
UVM 5, Maine 3; UVM 4, Maine 1; UVM 3, Maine 2
Dave’s pick: I think this is the series most likely to go to three games or have an underdog emerge with the upset. Vermont has been too lukewarm for me to think this matchup will be a cakewalk.  I still think, though, that the Catamounts will emerge.
UVM 4, Maine 3 (OT); UVM 3, Maine 2; UVM 2, Maine 0

No. 9 Connecticut at No. 8 New Hampshire
Jim’s pick: Despite the fact that these two teams are closest in the standings in terms of a first-round matchup, I think this could be the most lopsided as each team ended the regular season headed in different directions. That said, Rob Nichols could be a dangerous factor in this series that you should watch for.
UNH 3, UConn 1; UNH 4, UConn 2; UNH 3, UConn 2
Dave’s pick: I agree that despite the usually tight eight- vs. nine-seed matchup, this series isn’t likely to play out that way. UNH is running on all cylinders; UConn, running on empty.
UNH 3, UConn 1; UNH 4, UConn 1; UNH 4, UConn 1

Finally crowning the champ, cream rising to the top and PairWise concern

Boston University clinched a share of the regular-season title more than a week ago but the league was waiting until the Terriers clinch outright to present the trophy. The fact that took a while leads the three things I learned this week:

1. The Terriers are champs … finally

BU has known for a while they could call themselves regular season champions in Hockey East, but it wasn’t until the final night of the regular season that the Terriers knew they would have hold that championship all to themselves and earn then top seed in the playoffs. It was a bit of a difficult ending for BU – a loss and tie to Notre Dame and a loss on Friday to Northeastern (sandwiched around, of course, a Beanpot title). But BU dominated the Huskies on Saturday night to not only clinch to solo championship but head into a bye week with some confidence.

2. The creme has risen to the top

When you look at the final Hockey East standings, it is certainly the hottest teams come season’s end that rose to the top. The four teams that earned first-round byes – BU, Providence, Boston College and UMass Lowell – all played solid hockey over the final couple of weeks of the regular season (BU might be the one exception, but a Beanpot win believe it or not helps make a tough ending look better). The four teams that will host first-round series also seem to be clicking. It’s hard to tell which of the teams playing next weekend are most dangerous, but a quick look at the matchups shows that all four of the teams hosting – Notre Dame, Northeastern, Vermont and New Hampshire – played pretty good hockey down the stretch (Vermont might be considered the exception, but the Cats did earn a road win at Boston College and a road tie at UMass Lowell within the final three weekends).

3. It could be a thin year for Hockey East in the NCAA tournament

Ugly. That’s the only way to describe the PairWise outlook for Hockey East right now. While Boston University, Providence and Boston College all seem to have pretty solid NCAA footing, there isn’t currently a ton of home for more than three teams to make the NCAA tournament. UMass Lowell sits right below the bubble in the PairWise, while Vermont (19th) and Northeastern (t-20th) are the only other teams that can seemingly reach the NCAA field without winning the Hockey East tournament. All three of those teams will likely have to reach the Hockey East semifinals to even have a chance.

Hockey East picks – Feb. 27-28

I’d have bet the ranch that I was picking up a game on Jim when he took Massachusetts over Providence.

And I’d have lost the ranch.

But I got that one back with Boston University’s overtime win in the Beanpot, so I remain six games up.

Dave last week: 7-3-3
Jim last week: 7-3-3
Dave’s record-to-date: 149-73-24
Jim’s record-to-date: 143-79-24

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Feb. 27

Maine at Providence
Dave’s pick:  The Friars should sweep with this series being entirely in their own barn, but their inability to take four points in hardly any weekend does concern me.
PC 4, Maine 3
Jim’s pick: I have concerns too, but I’m not betting against Providence at this point.
PC 4, Maine 2

Massachusetts at Connecticut
Dave’s pick: You’d think that home ice would dictate a UConn win, but the Huskies have struggled mightily the last few weeks while UMass has played well.
UMass 2, UConn 1
Jim’s pick: I fell like UConn has to right the ship at some point and the last home game of the season – a place that has been kind – is the only place to start.
UConn 2, UMass 1

Vermont at Massachusetts-Lowell
Dave’s pick: I’m feeling better about Lowell’s chances after the big win over UMass and, even more significantly, the tie at BC.
UML 3, UVM 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: This will be one of the ultimate grinder series with both teams fighting to earn a bye and home ice in the quarterfinals.
UML 3, UVM 2.

Northeastern at Boston University
Dave’s pick: I can’t believe that the Terriers will fritter away another opportunity to clinch sole ownership of the regular season title.
BU 4, NU 3
Jim’s pick: These teams played an emotion-filled game on Monday. But part of me believes that loss might start a tailspin for these Huskies.
BU 4, NU 2

Merrimack at New Hampshire 
Dave’s pick: As noted in this week’s column, I see UNH sweeping this weekend to gain the last home ice berth.
UNH 4, MC 2
Jim’s pick: I like UNH at home. But as you will see later, no sweep pick for me.
UNH 2, MC 1

Boston College at Notre Dame
Dave’s pick: Notre Dame’s impressive performance last weekend at BU has me concerned, but I’m going with the Eagles.
BC 3, UND 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: At least on night one, I think the Eagles will prevail.
BC 3, UND 1

Saturday, Feb. 28

Merrimack at New Hampshire 
Dave’s pick: The Warriors, whose overall record got them nationally ranked, slide into the cellar.
UNH 3, MC 1
Jim’s pick: I feel like senior night will provide the spark to get this team going.
MC 2, UNH 1 

Boston University at Northeastern
Dave’s pick: The Huskies salvage a split in the series, though after their loss on Monday in overtime it’ll hardly feel that way. It could even be a blowout, if BU ignores the Pairwise implications and just sits on their first-place laurels.
NU 4, BU 1
Jim’s pick: I think that BU takes this sweep and glides into the playoffs red hot.
BU 3, NU 2

Maine at Providence
Dave’s pick: Although I suspect one of the two games in this series ends in a tie, I’m certainly not going to start picking ties now.
PC 3, Maine 2
Jim’s pick: As much as I want to agree with Dave that this series will probably yield points to Maine, I think I am compelled to pick Providence at home.
PC 3, Maine 2

Vermont at Massachusetts-Lowell
Dave’s pick: A split in this series feels like by far the most logical outcome, but I’m not going to open myself up to Jim gaining two games on me if I pick the split the wrong way. Besides, I think the River Hawks’ shaky confidence got a huge boost in the last two games.
UML 2, UVM 1
Jim’s pick: As much as Dave talks about confidence, I think more about Lowell being a team that is generally built for the postseason and that postseason begins this weekend locking up a bye.
UML 4, UVM 2

Boston College at Notre Dame 
Dave’s pick: Here’s another probable split in which I’m going to use Tigran Petrosian chess tactics to stymie Jim. I also think the Eagles are the better team even if they’ve had a tough time with Notre Dame and it’s in South Bend.
BC 4, UND 3 (OT)
Jim’s pick: I will go against Dave here. Notre Dame is playing too well to tank the final weekend, even to BC. They salvage the split.
UND 3, BC 2

Hockey East: Who can finish first, who can get a bye, and how easy it will be to predict

These are the three things I think I learned this week.

1. Boston University can do no worse than finish as co-champions with Boston College.

But the Terriers could lose in a tiebreaker (listed below) to see which team gains the number one playoff seed. BU could be number two.

It would, of course, amount to a gut-wrenching collapse for the Terriers. They’re still four points ahead of the Eagles with two games to go, and that’s after hosting a Notre Dame club that has been up and down all year and coming away with only a single point.

BU will need to get swept by Northeastern while BC sweeps suddenly-hot Notre Dame in South Bend. That’s hardly a likely combination, but it could happen.

If so, that will leave the two archrivals tied with 29 points. They’ll also be 1-1 in head-to-head action and have identical 13-6-3 league records. That means BU and BC would then start comparing records against the third place team.

Which is topic number two below. In short, though, BU would take the tiebreaker if that third-place team is Massachusetts-Lowell or Vermont. BC would take it if it’s Northeastern (which will have had to sweep BU to force this tiebreaker scenario). Providence and Notre Dame are not factors here because BU and BC both split with the Friars, and the Irish will have been swept by BC, and thus will not finish high enough to factor in this decision.

Which also means it won’t come down to a coin flip.

Got all that? Test on Friday night at 7 p.m. for 50 percent of your grade.

2. After BU and BC, it’s a free-for-all in the battle for a first-round bye.

And BC could be in the mix, too. While the Eagles are the only team remaining with a shot at BU and first place, their two games in South Bend could send them plummeting as low as sixth.

Providence, Lowell, Notre Dame, and Northeastern can all overtake BC for second place, yet all four could fall as far as seventh (or eighth in the case of Northeastern).

Vermont can’t finish higher than third, but finishes out the six teams who all have a shot at a top-four finish and a resulting first-round bye.

3. Based on Saturday night, anything can happen.

Only New Hampshire avoided an upset among the favorites. The Wildcats completed a sweep over faltering Connecticut.

Beyond that, though, the best a favorite could manage was Vermont’s scoreless tie at home with Merrimack.

The rest: Notre Dame, Maine, and Massachusetts all upset, respectively, BU, Northeastern, and Providence.

So buckle your seat belts this weekend. It could be a wild one.

HOCKEY EAST TIEBREAKERS

At the conclusion of the regular season, teams will be ranked by the number of points accumulated. If two teams are tied for first place, they will be declared co-champions.

For playoff seeding purposes, the following tiebreakers will be used at the conclusion of the regular season

1. Head-to-head results between the tied teams

2. Number of wins in conference play

3. Best record against the first-place team(s), then the second-place team(s), then the third-place team(s), and so on

4. Coin flip

If more than two teams finish in a tie, the same criteria will be applied to reduce the number of teams tied, and then the process will commence again.

Hockey East picks – Feb. 20-23

Another atrocious week picking for me means I have pretty much handed Dave the title.

Jim last week: 5-6-1
Jim to date: 136-76-21
Dave last week: 7-4-1
Dave to date: 142-70-21

Friday, February 20

UMass Lowell at Boston College
Jim’s pick: This one will seem like I am going out on a limb right here, but the impressive offensive performance by Lowell last Saturday combined with BC’s defensive struggles last weekend make me believe in the River Hawks.
UML 5, BC 4
Dave’s pick: I’m still not convinced that the River Hawks are out of their funk. When going 1-1-1 against last-place UMass constitutes good news, that makes me stick with Old Reliable. (That’s a reference to BC having lost only three times since the end of November, not a quip about Jerry York’s age.)
BC 5, UML 3

Notre Dame at Boston University
Jim’s pick: Yes, both teams are coming off a loss, but I simply think BU is the better team.
BU 4, ND 2
Dave’s pick: Looking at the two teams’ records before that last loss shows why I’m going BU all the way.
BU 4, ND 2

Northeastern at Maine
Jim’s pick: With the Huskies offense clicking the way it is, can you really pick against them?
NU 5, Maine 2
Dave’s pick: Maine has been hot and cold; Northeastern, red-hot.
NU 4, Maine 2

Massachusetts at Providence
Jim’s pick: One thing we’ve learned about UMass is that it is a good team on home ice. This game is on the road, which makes the pick a bit easier.
PC 4, UMass 2
Dave’s pick: I’ll agree with Jim on the pick, but I’m not sure how 5-10-1 constitutes being a good team at home. PC picks up the first two points of a must-sweep weekend.
PC 5, UMass 1

New Hampshire at Connecticut
Jim’s pick: Even on home ice, I don’t feel sure picking UConn until it shores up its defense. Allowing 25 goals in four games (and one was a shutout) while scoring just three has me worried about this Huskies team.
UNH 3, UConn 1
Dave’s pick: UNH has been splitting weekends with some very good clubs; UConn has mostly been getting clobbered. I’m not sure if the Huskies can get back on track before the playoffs.
UNH 4, UConn 1

Merrimack at Vermont
Jim’s pick: The Catamounts may have only earned a split last weekend but I think they are playing better hockey.
UVM 3, MC 2
Dave’s pick: With five straight losses and only one win in its last nine, Merrimack has hit the skids in a serious way. Vermont hasn’t matched its first-half success, but still looks like a clear favorite.
UVM 3, MC 1

Saturday, February 21

Notre Dame at Boston University
Jim’s pick: The Terriers finish off the sweep and clinch the top overall seed in the playoffs.
BU 4, ND 2
Dave’s pick: The Terriers have been a model of consistency. They haven’t lost two straight all year.
BU 5, ND 2

Northeastern at Maine
Jim’s pick: It will be a close one but I still expect NU to come out on top.
NU 3, Maine 2 (OT)
Dave’s pick: I think the sweep will come easier than that. The Huskies have been playing as well as anyone.
NU 4, Maine 2

Providence at Massachusetts
Jim’s pick: This one in Amherst, I think I’m actually going to go against common wisdom and pick the Minutemen.
UM 3, PC 2
Dave’s pick: I don’t care what the venue is, Providence is simply a much, much better team. If the Friars can’t sweep the league’s last-place team, how far are they going to go?
PC 4, UMass 2

Connecticut at New Hampshire
Jim’s pick: UNH finishes a much-needed sweep to keep hopes alive for first-round home ice.
UNH 4, UConn 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed. In three of the Huskies’ last four games, they’ve been outscored 25-2.
UNH 5, UConn 1

Merrimack at Vermont
Jim’s pick: Another pick for a weekend sweep. And Vermont’s hopes for a first-round bye get a lot better.
UVM 2, MC 1
Dave’s pick: Agreed, once again, for all the reasons I mentioned above, plus this coming in Vermont’s barn.
UVM 3, MC 1

Monday, February 23

63rd Beanpot (Boston, Mass.)

Harvard vs. Boston College
Jim’s pick: Even a few weeks delayed, this is a huge game for the PairWise for both teams.
BC 4, HU 3
Dave’s pick: Two weeks ago, I was picking Harvard, but the Crimson have fallen on harder times. Yes, they took three of four points last weekend, but before that they lost four straight and six of seven.
BC 4, HU 2

Boston University vs. Northeastern
Jim’s pick: I picked the Huskies two weeks ago when the game was snowed out. Nothing that has happened since has changed my mind.
NU 3, BU 2
Dave’s pick: I’m sticking with BU, but readily acknowledge that this one could go multiple overtimes.
BU 3, NU 2 (2OT)

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