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Hockey East picks: Oct. 24-25

Jim beat me by a game in week one and then by another in week two.  Apparently by the start of the playoffs, he’ll be ahead of me by 21 games.

Dave last week: 12-4-1
Jim last week: 13-3-1
Dave’s record-to-date: 19-10-2
Jim’s record-to-date: 21-8-2

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Oct. 24

Colorado College at Boston College 
Dave’s pick: Not all .500 clubs are created equal. Give me the Eagles.
BC 4, CC2
Jim’s pick: Colorado College is in a true rebuilding year. And the Eagles are licking their collective chops.
BC 5, CC 1

Alaska-Anchorage at Maine
Dave’s pick: It’s revenge time for the Maine-iacs. At home they’ll fare much better than on their trip to the frozen tundra.
UM 4 UAA 2
Jim’s pick: The Alaska teams enter this weekend a combined 7-0-1. I know the road can cause havoc, but after picking Maine to open last weekend, I think I’ll go with the Seawolves here.
UAA 3, UM 2

Merrimack at Mercyhurst
Dave’s pick: I may be a Hockey East snob and Merrimack is undefeated, but I think the Warriors are in for a tough time on Mercyhurst ice.
MU 3 MC 2
Jim’s pick: I may be as big of a Mercyhurst and Rick Gotkin fan as there is outside of Atlantic Hockey, but I think Merrimack has enough fire power to win these road games.
MC 3, MU 2

Michigan at Massachusetts-Lowell
Dave’s pick: When it comes to the River Hawks, cue up The Monkees and “I’m A Believer.”  (Young ‘uns can Google that reference.)
UML 3 UM 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: I am a believer, too. And though I think Friday is a tough matchup, if Lowell gets good goaltending, they win on home ice.
UML 4, UM 2

Michigan State at Boston University 
Dave’s pick: In his only league game, phenom freshman Jack Eichel scored twice and assisted on two others. In two exhibitions, he’s averaged four points. I’m picking Eichel himself to outscore Michigan State.
BU 4 (and Eichel 2), MSU 1
Jim’s pick: I like BU here but think this game may be a lot closer than Dave believes.
BU 4, MSU 3

Niagara at Notre Dame 
Dave’s pick: This is game five in Notre Dame’s opening slate of eight, count ‘em, eight home games. But regardless of the venue, I’d take the Irish over winless Niagara, which has been outscored 22-6.
UND 6, NU 2
Jim’s pick: Agree with Dave. On paper this is an easy weekend for Notre Dame. Let’s hope it translates to the ice.
UND 5, NU 2

Providence at North Dakota
Dave’s pick: This battle of heavyweights — the fifth-ranked Friars against third-ranked North Dakota — comes down to home cooking.
UND 3, PC 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: What a tough game to pick early in the season. I, too, go with home ice in this one.
UND 4, PC 3

Massachusetts at Northeastern 
Dave’s pick: The Huskies get off the schneid and prove they’re a better team than what they’ve shown so far.
NU 3, UMass 2
Jim’s pick: I’m with Dave on this one.
NU 3, UMass 2 

Saturday, Oct. 25

Connecticut at Vermont 
Dave’s pick: Considering UConn’s upset of Quinnipiac, this will be a closer game than expected, but the Catamounts will maintain their unsullied record.
UVM 4, UConn 2
Jim’s pick: Vermont is a better team than most still give them credit for being.
UVM 5, UConn 2

Massachusetts at Boston College
Dave’s pick: This one ain’t gonna be pretty.
BC 5, UMass 1
Jim’s pick: I actually bet on this one being close. But BC will still win.
BC 3, UMass 1

Michigan at Boston University
Dave’s pick: On neutral ice, I’d definitely go with the Wolverines. And I’m this close to picking them at Agganis as well. But I’m going with the home ice advantage.
BU 4, UM 3 (OT)
Jim’s pick: Sorry, Dave. It’s hard to believe that Michigan will leave this trip without a win.
UM 3, BU 2

Alaska-Anchorage at Maine
Dave’s pick: The Black Bears avoid early-season panic in the streets with an Alfond sweep.
UM 3 UAA 2
Jim’s pick: This weekend should be a split. But Maine needs to prove something to me before I pick them again, even at home.
UAA 3, UM 2

Merrimack at Mercyhurst 
Dave’s pick: The percentage play is to pick a split, and I suspect Jim will and, just like last week, he’ll call it the right way. But I think the venue proves decisive.
MU 3 MC 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: Dave is incorrect. I’m going with a Merrimack sweep. 5-0 for the Warriors, even if the opposition isn’t PairWise boosting.
MC 4, MU 2

Niagara at Notre Dame 
Dave’s pick: Niagara won’t get off the schneid this weekend.
UND 4, NU 1
Jim’s pick: Again, this should be the easiest series of the weekend to pick. Let’s hope I’m right.
UND 5, NU 2

Michigan State at Massachusetts-Lowell
Dave’s pick: The River Hawks remain undefeated.
UML 5, MSU 2
Jim’s pick: Lowell’s offense keeps chugging along and the record at the end of the weekend will warrant significant attention.
UML 4, MSU 2

Colorado College at New Hampshire
Dave’s pick: In their first home game, the Wildcats get back to .500.
UNH 4, CC2
Jim’s pick: Tough weekend out east for the Tigers. UNH cruises at home.
UNH 6, CC 2

Providence at North Dakota
Dave’s pick: Call me a Hockey East traitor, but I just think home ice prevails. On neutral ice, it would be a different story.
UND 3, PC 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: I don’t like picking against Hockey East this much, but I just have some concerns about facing North Dakota this early in the year.
UND 2, PC 1

 

Teams sweeping, splitting, and… uh-oh, getting swept

I think I learned these three things this week.

1. Vermont is better than I thought, and Notre Dame completed an important sweep.

These two teams both swept this weekend, but I thought Vermont’s was the more significant. I was surprised and impressed when the Catamounts opened the season by taking it to Northeastern in its own barn, 6-2. But I still thought they’d split their home-and-home series with a Clarkson team that won 21 games last year.

Instead, The Catamounts swept to bring their record to 3-0, outscoring their opponents 11-3. But with two roads wins over very good teams, Vermont has already topped trhe road win totals of three Hockey East teams last year.

Notre Dame, on the other hand, has played all four of its games at home. The Irish got off to a rocky start this year with two losses while hosting the Icebreaker Tournament, but rebounded with two wins over old rival Lake Superior State.

Considering the mileage Notre Dame logs each year, it was important to square up its home record.

2. New Hampshire and Massachusetts avoided early-season holes with “better than expected” splits.

Both of these teams lost their season opener last week, then headed out to Michigan for two-game sets from which they could have been expected to return with 0-3 records.

UMass got destroyed in its opener with Boston University, 8-1, then lost its first game at Michigan State. Although it’s hard to call mid-October games important, grabbing that first win on Saturday by rallying with two goals in the final five minutes, could at season’s end be seen as a key early turning point.

UNH opened with a loss at second-ranked Union — no shame in that — but was then facing No. 10 Michigan for two in its own barn. Last season, the Wildcats dug itself an early hole it never totally crawled out of with a 1-4-1 record against similarly tough competition, so a deja vu of going 0-3 would have been most definitely unwelcome.

Instead, the Wildcats defeated the Wolverines, 5-1, on Friday, and almost made the very good weekend a terrific one. Down 2-1 in the third, UNH outshot the hosts 16-8, but couldn’t get the equalizer.

Still, both UMass and UNH had to feel pretty good about splitting.

3. As for Northeastern and Maine… uh-oh. My early-season optimism was unfounded.

Only two Hockey East teams have yet to secure a single point: the Huskies and the Black Bears.

Northeastern allowed Vermont to come into its building a weekend ago and give it a 6-2 beating. So I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Huskies lost twice at sixth-ranked Colgate. But getting shut out both nights, 3-0, makes for an ominous start. NU has now been outscored 12-2 in its first three games.

Maine got swept at home by No. 2 Union, which by itself wouldn’t be tragic, but the Black Bears also lost two in Alaska. Opening the season 0-4 while getting outscored 16-5 ups the stakes for next week’s return engagement at home against Alaska-Anchorage.

Hockey East picks: Oct. 17-21

Just like Hockey East teams out-of-conference, neither Dave nor I posted a very good record in week one. Still, I have a one-game lead on the old man.

Jim last week: 8-5-1
Jim to-date: 8-5-1
Dave last week: 7-6-1
Dave to-date: 7-6-1

Friday, October 17

Northeastern at Colgate
Jim’s pick: The Huskies haven’t looked too great in either their exhibition or against Vermont and Colgate is supposed to be among the better ECAC teams this season. Makes this pick easier than you’d think.
Colgate 4, NU 2
Dave’s pick: Northeastern didn’t inspire confidence getting shellacked at home by Vermont, 6-2. Now the Huskies are on the road against an even stronger opponent.
Colgate 4, NU 1

Union at Maine
Jim’s pick: With Maine back home, I believe they will get a split out of this weekend. Question is, which game will the Black Bears win? I’ll go with the home opener.
Maine 3, Union 2
Dave’s pick: I suppose a split is the smart pick, but Union has impressed me too much the past few years.
Union 4, Maine 2

Lake Superior at Notre Dame
Jim’s pick: The Irish have what should be an easy opponent for a bounce back from last weekend.
UND 3, LSSU 1
Dave’s pick: Agreed. Notre Dame rebounds in impressive fashion.
UND 4, LSSU 1

Quinnipiac at Massachusetts-Lowell
Jim’s pick: The way Lowell looked last weekend, I’d love to pick a sweep in this series. But I’ll begin by picking a home win.
UML 4, QU 2
Dave’s pick: I’m going with a home ice split even though the last few years Lowell has started slowly.
UML 3, QU 2

New Hampshire at Michigan
Jim’s pick: A very difficult opening schedule for UNH continues in Ann Arbor. I think this team will get at least one win here, so I’ll go with the opener.
UNH 2, UM 1
Dave’s pick: I see a lost weekend on the road for the Wildcats.
UM 3, UNH 2

Clarkson at Vermont
Jim’s pick: Vermont’s offense seems to be awake from the get-go, and that’s a very good thing.
UVM 5, CU 2
Dave’s pick: In their own barn, the Catamounts continue their strong start.
UVM 4, CU 2

Massachusetts at Michigan State
Jim’s pick: Without knowing much about Michigan State, I will tend to side towards home ice.
MSU 5, UMass 3
Dave’s pick: The Spartans didn’t exactly light the Big Ten on fire last year, but I see them as stronger than UMass. Home ice is icing on the cake.
MSU 4, UMass 1

Saturday, October 18

Connecticut at Merrimack
Jim’s pick: This may be a tough season for UConn and the opener in Hockey East won’t prove a good one.
MC 4, UConn 2
Dave’s pick: Cynics may call this the opening salvo in the battle for last place. Maybe so, but while I expect growing pains for UConn, I think Merrimack could surprise.
MC 4, UConn 2

Vermont at Clarkson
Jim’s pick: Even on the road, I like the Catamounts here.
UVM 3, CU 2
Dave’s pick: The Catamounts have gotten off to a great start, but I’m going with Clarkson in the home end of the home-and-home.
CU 3, UVM 2

Northeastern at Colgate
Jim’s pick: Not to be completely negative towards a good Huskies team, but I don’t have the confidence in them just yet.
CU 3, NU 2
Dave’s pick: The Huskies go to oh-for-three on the season.
CU 4, NU 2

Union at Maine
Jim’s pick: The defending national champs bounce back with a road win on the second night.
UC 3, Maine 1
Dave’s pick: I also see a Union win, but it’s to complete a sweep.
UC 4, Maine 2

Massachusetts at Michigan State
Jim’s pick: Similar to Northeastern, I just don’t have confidence enough yet to pick the Minutemen, especially on the road.
MSU 3, UMass 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed, although I’m not sure I’ll pick up confidence in UMass anytime soon.
MSU 3, UMass 1

Lake Superior at Notre Dame
Jim’s pick: The Irish complete a much needed sweep.
UND 5, LSSU 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed. It’s a nice switch from getting swept to doing the sweeping.
UND 4, LSSU 2

Boston College at RIT (Blue Cross Arena, Rochester, N.Y.)
Jim’s pick: Though RIT is known to pull off some upsets in its annual homecoming game, I’m not ready to pick against the Eagles here.
BC 4, RIT 3
Dave’s pick: I was surprised to see the Eagles lose to Lowell last weekend; I don’t expect to be surprised again this week.
BC 4, RIT 3

New Hampshire at Michigan
Jim’s pick: I just can’t see Michigan getting swept on home ice.
UM 4, UNH 2
Dave’s pick: I think it’s an impressive sweep for the Wolverines.
UM 3, UNH 2

Massachusetts-Lowell at Quinnipiac
Jim’s pick: I like the River Hawks but just think this is a difficult series to sweep, particularly with a two-plus hour drive for this game.
QU 3, UML 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed. The home teams prevail in this home-and-home.
QU 3, UML 2

Tuesday, October 21

Quinnipiac at Connecticut
Jim’s pick: Quinnipiac’s tour through Hockey East earns them another win.
QU 4, UConn 2
Dave’s pick: It may be quite a while before I pick a UConn win.
QU 5, UConn 2

Lowell, UVM legit? Favorites fall and non-league struggles

Are Massachusetts-Lowell and Vermont better than their positions in the coaches’ poll suggested? Conversely, are some of the top teams in the poll headed for tough times this year? And as far as non-league play goes, Hockey East may like to forget this weekend. This leads my three things I learned from the opening weekend of play across Hockey East.

1. Lowell and Vermont are pretty darn good.

We all have been led to believe that this year might not be as good as last for either the River Hawks and Catamounts. And though the sample size is small, both teams proved they’re ready to compete this past weekend, each notching impressive wins against higher-ranked opponents. Lowell, picked to finish seventh in the coaches’ poll, grabbed a first-period lead against No. 4 Boston College and held off a rally, earning a 5-2 victory. There are still plenty of questions marks, particularly goaltending which wasn’t overly tested by the Eagles. But one thing is clear: this team will score goals. The same can be said about Vermont, which simply dismantled No. 16 Northeastern. The Catamounts were ranked eighth in the coaches’ poll despite coming off a season that featured a trip to the NCAA tournament.

2. Tough weekend for ranked Hockey East teams.

Ranked teams in Hockey East posted a dismal 3-6-0 record this weekend with third-ranked Providence splitting at Ohio State, BC losing to No. 17 UML, No. 12 Notre Dame going winless at home in the Ice Breaker, Northeastern falling to Vermont and No. 19 New Hampshire falling to No. 5 Union. Providence’s OT victory on Saturday at OSU, Lowell’s win over BC and No. 20 Boston University’s rout of Massachusetts (that featured two goals, two assists from touted-rookie phenom Jack Eichel — more on that on Thursday) accounted for the lone wins by the ranked.

3. As poorly as ranked teams fared, Hockey East teams out of conference really struggled.

It was just days ago that in my Hockey East preview I was touting how strong Hockey East was a season ago out of conference. After weekend one, that success if far in the rear-view mirror. The league posted a 3-7-1 record in out-of-conference play, lowlighted by Notre Dame losing twice to Rensselaer and Minnesota-Duluth, Maine traveling thousands of miles to Anchorage, Alaska, only to fall twice and extend last year’s struggles away from Alfond Arena, and newest member Connecticut mustering just a tie at third-year program Penn State. The lone highlight of non-league play was likely Merrimack (yes, the Merrimack team most picked near the bottom) earning two one-goal wins against (former PC assistant-David Berard coached) Holy Cross. Yes, this is simply one weekend but with non-league games front-loading many Hockey East schedules, a marked improvement is needed if the conference RPI is to remain high late in the season when it counts and Pairwise discussions begin in earnest.

Hockey East picks – Oct. 10-12

Another year beckons and hope springs eternal.

Let’s get right to the games.

Dave’s record-to-date: 0-0-0
Jim’s record-to-date: 0-0-0

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Oct. 10

Boston University at Massachusetts  
Dave’s pick: In one game, the Terriers equal their total number of road wins from all of last year.
BU 4, UMass 1
Jim’s pick: A lot of people are anxious to see just how good this BU team can be. Well, a lot of people not wearing UMass sweaters.
BU 4, UMass 2

Boston College at Massachusetts-Lowell
Dave’s pick: BC’s questions up front will best Lowell’s questions in goal.
BC 4, UML 2
Jim’s pick: Difficult game to pick because the game is being played at Lowell and the place will be rocking.
BC 3, UML 2

Merrimack at Holy Cross
Dave’s pick: The Warriors should be better this year, and this becomes the first evidence.
MC 3, HC 2
Jim’s pick: With this game being played at Holy Cross, I’m going to pick the moderate upset here.
HC 3, MC 2

Providence at Ohio State
Dave’s pick: The Friars show why they’re expected to be the class of Hockey East.
PC 4, OSU 2
Jim’s pick: A tough road test for a highly-touted Providence team. They should still pass, though.
PC 3, OSU 1

Connecticut at Penn State  
Dave’s pick: How big of a step forward has Penn State taken? And what about UConn? This outlook remains murky.
UConn 3, PSU 2
Jim’s pick: Like Dave eludes to, it’s hard to know what either team will bring to the table. Thus, I’m going with home ice.
PSU 4, UConn 3

Icebreaker

Rensselaer at Notre Dame 
Dave’s pick: The Irish suffered key losses at every position but still should be one of Hockey East’s and the country’s top teams.
UND 4, RPI 2
Jim’s pick:  Agree. Notre Dame should have enough to win against RPI.
UND 4, RPI 2

Kendall Hockey Classic

Maine at Alaska Anchorage
Dave’s pick: I’m going with the home team here. I like the Black Bears, but last year they won only once on the road.
UAA 3, Maine 2
Jim’s pick: And it certainly doesn’t help that the Black Bears are making what is likely the longest road trip in college hockey (okay, maybe Fairbanks is longer).
UAA 4, Maine 2

Saturday, Oct. 11

Vermont at Northeastern
Dave’s pick: The Huskies weren’t much better at home last year than on the road, and the Catamounts were similarly balanced, so it isn’t home ice that I’m picking. It’s the Huskies.
NU 3, UVM 2
Jim’s pick: This game is a coin flip to me. Both teams have the talent. Comes down to which one shows up.
UVM 3, NU 2

Connecticut at Penn State
Dave’s pick: Penn State salvages the split.
PSU 3, UConn 2
Jim’s pick: It’s a sweep for the Nittany Lions at home.
PSU 4, UConn 2

Holy Cross at Merrimack
Dave’s pick: The Warriors claim the back end of the home-and-home to earn a sweep.
MC 4, HC 2
Jim’s pick: Home ice will turn the tables for Merrimack.
MC 5, HC 3

Providence at Ohio State
Dave’s pick: The Friars pull off a difficult road sweep.
PC 3, OSU 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: A good start to an exciting season for the Friars.
PC 2, OSU 1

New Hampshire at Union
Dave’s pick: This could be a tough year for the Wildcats, but there will be no shame in losing to the defending national champions.
Union 4, UNH 1
Jim’s pick: If this game were in Durham, I’d go with UNH. But it will be a tough road game in a very excited Messa Rink.
Union 3, UNH 2 

Kendall Hockey Classic

Maine vs Alaska
Dave’s pick: Will Maine’s struggles on the road extend to this year and a long trip to Alaska with no points to show for it? I’m going with a breakthrough and a split.
Maine 3, Alaska 2
Jim’s pick: Sorry Black Bear fans. Maine is going to have to win a few road games before I am confident to pick them away from Alfond.
Alaska 3, Maine 1

Sunday, Oct. 12

Icebreaker

Minnesota/Minnesota Duluth at Notre Dame
Dave’s pick: The Irish will beat Duluth, but if the opponent is the Gophers, that’s a different story.
UND 3, UMD  2/ UM 3, UND 2
Jim’s pick: Agree. This is Minnesota’s tournament to win, even though it’s being played in South Bend.
UND 4, UMD 2/UM 3, UND 1

 

Hellebuyck leads River Hawk repeat, five in NCAA field and a somewhat unfortunate pairing at Big Dance

Connor Hellebuyck was a brick wall. That’s all you need to know about this past weekend in Hockey East.

1. Double shutout leads River Hawks to back-to-back title

You can’t win if you can’t score. That was the simple lesson learned by both Notre Dame and New Hampshire at the Hockey East Championship this weekend. The reason neither the Irish nor the Wildcats could find the back of the net was Massachusetts-Lowell’s Connor Hellebuyck. The sophomore netminder was simply phenomenal for the River Hawks making tough saves look easy all weekend. Hellebuyck became the first ever back-to-back tournament MVP, earning the vote this year unanimously.

2. Hockey East gets record five teams in field

There were a few tense moment of watching and waiting this weekend for Hockey East teams on the NCAA bubble but at the end the at-large bubble burst for only one team – Northeastern. All of the remaining teams with at-large hopes made the field: Boston College, Lowell, Notre Dame, Vermont and Providence. New Hampshire knew coming into the weekend it had to win the Hockey East title and got to the doorstep but couldn’t upset Lowell. The five teams in the NCAA field ties for the most Hockey East has placed in a field (2007).

3. League’s ”two best teams” in same region

The immediate reaction of Commissioner Joe Bertagna when shown Saturday night what I expected would be the field (and was correct) was that it was disappointing to have what most consider Hockey East’s two best teams – Lowell and BC – in the same region. BC, the regular season champ, and Lowell, the postseason title holder, will be joined by WCHA champion Minnesota State and NCHC champ Denver making the Worcester regional arguably the most difficult of the four. You have to believe whatever team comes out of the Northeast Region will be the favorite to win the national title.

Seven Hockey East teams in the NCAA tournament? That’s not-so-far-fetched whatsoever.

Since the beginning of the New Year, I’ve been talking about a seemingly unlikely scenario that six Hockey East teams could reach the NCAA tournament. Well, in the sense of being greedy, it’s not out of the questions that seven – yes, seven - Hockey East teams could punch their NCAA tickets.

For a couple of teams – namely Northeastern and, to a lesser extent, Vermont – there needs to be few or no upsets today and tomorrow to help their chances. But one upset that won’t crush either team’s hopes is New Hampshire coming away from the Hockey East tournament with the Lamoriello Trophy.

Should the Wildcats win and the highest team in the PairWise win all of the remaining games, Hockey East would get seven teams into the tournament. Here is what I plugged into the PairWise Predictor to get that result:

Atlantic Hockey

  • Semifinal #2: Niagara defeats Robert Morris
  • Semifinal #1: Mercyhurst defeats Canisius
  • Championship game: Mercyhurst defeats Niagara

Big Ten

  • Semifinal #2: Wisconsin defeats Penn State
  • Semifinal #1: Minnesota defeats Ohio State
  • Championship game: Minnesota defeats Wisconsin

ECAC

  • Semifinal #2: Quinnipiac defeats Colgate
  • Semifinal #1: Union defeats Cornell
  • Championship game: Union defeats Quinnipiac

Hockey East

  • Semifinal #2: New Hampshire defeats Providence
  • Semifinal #1: Massachusetts-Lowell defeats Notre Dame
  • Championship game: New Hampshire defeats Massachusetts-Lowell

NCHC

  • Semifinal #2: Western Michigan defeats Denver
  • Semifinal #1: North Dakota defeats Miami
  • Consolation game: Denver defeats Miami
  • Championship game: North Dakota defeats Western Michigan

WCHA

  • Semifinal #2: Bowling Green defeats Minnesota State
  • Semifinal #1: Ferris State defeats Alaska-Anchorage
  • Championship game: Ferris State defeats Bowling Green

Read more:  http://www.uscho.com/rankings/pairwise-predictor/#ixzz2wbZgFo7W

If you click on the above link, you can see the actual PWR for that scenario. There may be additional scenarios that produce this same result. Regardless, such a crazy potential for this league.

 

 

Hockey East Picks – March 21-22

Surprisingly, I had a half-decent record in the crazy quarterfinal round of games, thanks in large part to picking the entire New Hampshire-Northeastern series correctly. And with a .670 winning percentage entering the final weekend of games, I can now officially claim domination over Dave. I had him beat when he went on injured reserve and I kept going with a percentage vs. percentage race. But even there I slaughtered him.

Jim last week: 7-4
Jim to-date: 157-70-28 (.670)
Dave to-date: 123-65-24 (.637)

Friday, March 21

Hockey East Semifinals
No. 8 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Massachusetts-Lowell
Jim’s pick: This is such a difficult game to pick. Throw out the head-to-head, which Lowell leads 2-0-0, as Notre Dame was missing a ton of players that weekend. This Irish team is so red hot it’s difficult to pick against them. Yet I’m going to do just that.
UML 3, ND 2

No. 4 New Hampshire vs. No. 3 Providence
Jim’s pick: If Jon Gillies can carry this Providence team and the PC power play can remain hot, I think they win.
PC 4, UNH 2

Saturday, March 22

Hockey East Championship
Jim’s pick: Though I picked a Lowell-PC final, below I will pick all of the possible games. What it comes down to for me: whichever team wins the first semifinal wins the championship.
UML 2, PC 1; UML 3, UNH 2; ND 3, PC 1; ND 4, UNH 2

Irish eyes smile, River Hawks keep defense alive and one team (make that TWO teams) need to keep practicing

After Notre Dame beat Boston College on the final day of the regular season, there was a reason to believe that the Irish could beat the Eagles in a best-of-three series. Still, it was difficult to pick Notre Dame. That leads the three things I learned this week:

1) Notre Dame proves postseason proficiency

I have said it for a few weeks: you need to be worried about Notre Dame if for no reason than this team last year won the CCHA tournament. This past weekend, the Irish shocked Boston College, 7-2, in game one. They then lost game two but rallied for a 4-2 victory in game three. If nothing more, you should believe in this Notre Dame team. If you’re smart, you’ll believe this Notre Dame team could become the first #8 seed to win the Hockey East tournament.

2) Massachusetts-Lowell remains alive for repeat

Advancing in tournament play in easy fashion just isn’t Lowell’s style. Remember back to last year when the River Hawks were Hockey East champs, they needed overtime in the quarterfinals to eliminate Maine, rallied to beat Providence in the semis and then won a 1-0 game with a third period goal for the title. A year later, still nothing comes easy for Lowell. The River Hawks led for just 77 seconds in Friday’s 3-2 victory over Vermont and never led in Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss. Sunday, Lowell jumped to a 2-0 lead but couldn’t extend that lead despite controlling the game. After UVM potted a late power play goal in the second, Lowell had to return to the team that shut teams down defensively and finally earned a 2-1 win to advance to the Garden. The River Hawks should have a new promotion next season: free batteries for Lowell fans’ pacemakers. They certainly need it.

3) Vermont (and maybe Northeastern) needs to keep skating

The Catamounts may have lost to Lowell, but they can’t put the skates and sticks away just yet. Vermont still could qualify for the NCAA tournament if things fall right next weekend. If most of the conference tournaments are won by favorites (i.e. teams in the top 16 of the PairWise on the last day of the season), Vermont should earn an at-large bid. The most difficult part for the Cats is that they no longer control their destiny. Thus, in addition to continuing the practice, UVM will also need to do a lot of scoreboard watching. (Update, Monday 3:51 PM ET: According to Jim Dahl’s calculations, Northeastern still has a 7% chance of getting into the tournament)

Hockey East picks: March 14-16

Time to pick the quarterfinals. I may have been perfect in the opening round, but it’s difficult to pick a best-of-three. So often, if a team wins game one, they sweep. But this year’s Hockey East field is about a tightly stacked as possible. Thus, sweeps will be difficult.

That said, even if I pick a sweep, I’ll also pick a game three result as I expect to be incorrect multiple times this week.

Jim last week: 3-0-0
Jim to-date: 150-66-28 (.672)
Dave to-date: 123-65-24 (.637)

#8 Notre Dame at #1 Boston College
Jim’s pick: I know that Notre Dame is red hot entering this series. I know the Irish also beat BC on the last day of the season. But I just feel this BC team is built for the playoffs. It won’t be easy, but I feel this will be a BC sweep.
G1: BC 3, ND 1; G2: BC 2, ND 1; G3: BC 3, ND 2

#7 Vermont at #2 Massachusetts-Lowell
Jim’s pick: This series feels identical to ND-BC. Vermont beat the River Hawks to end the regular season and I feel this is a very good Catamounts team. But Lowell has the tournament experience and that is a difference maker to me.
G1: UML 2, UVM 1; G2: UML 3, UVM 2; G3: UML 3, UVM 1

#6 Maine at #3 Providence
Jim’s pick: This is a series I see going the distance. The key for Providence is whether or not they can score goals. They did in Orono in the last week of the season, but hard to tell if that scoring magic continues. Regardless, I see the Friars advancing.
G1: Maine 3, PC 2; G2: PC 4, Maine 2; G3: PC 3, Maine 1

#5 Northeastern at #4 New Hampshire
Jim’s pick: Another series I see going three. But yet again, I see the home team advancing. I think Northeastern is probably the better team on paper, but UNH has experience in the postseason and that makes a difference.
G1: UNH 4, NU 2; G2: NU 3, UNH 2; G3: UNH 4, NU 3 (OT)

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