There were two big winners in Hockey East last weekend. Make that huge winners.
New Hampshire swept archrival Maine, 6-3 and 5-4. The back end of that sweep came perilously close to a loss with an off-balance Gustav Nyquist hitting the post on an empty net after outracing goaltender Matt DiGirolamo to the puck. That would-be go-ahead goal for Maine would have come with 45 seconds left.
Having dodged that bullet, UNH got the win with 16 seconds remaining on a Paul Thompson backhander from below the goal line, banking it in off goaltender Shawn Sirman’s pads.
It doesn’t get much better than sweeping a weekend (and season) series against a nationally ranked opponent and having the victim be your archrival and have the wins vault you into first place.
Merrimack came awfully close to topping UNH’s big weekend, though, and in some respects may have done just that. The Warriors topped Northeastern in overtime, 4-3, on Friday night after erasing 2-0 and 3-2 deficits. They then dispensed with the drama one night later, crushing Massachusetts, 11-2.
The wins didn’t come against archrivals like UNH’s did, but the overtime win came with just 29 seconds remaining.
Besides, the Warriors didn’t just solidify their positioning for home ice, picking up four points on fifth-place Maine, they also moved into a third-place tie with Boston University. And since they hold a game in hand over the Terriers, they’re now arguably Hockey East’s third place team.
You don’t have to consult the media guide to know that this is unquestionably the latest in the season Merrimack has been able to make that claim.
Boston College and Boston University both won their lone games on the weekend, their light schedules coming as a result of Monday’s Beanpot games. BC shut out Massachusetts, 5-0, while BU topped Massachusetts-Lowell, 3-1.
Both the Eagles and Terriers lost ground in the standings, BC falling out of a tie for first and BU into a tie for third, but they were giving games in hand so there was no big surprise there.
Vermont also had to be happy with its weekend, taking three of four points against Providence, following a 1-1 tie on Friday with a 7-1 explosion one night later.
That win was a big one not only in terms of its lopsided nature but it also because it acted as a five-point game. With Vermont entering the weekend one point behind Providence in the race for the final playoff berth, the win gave the Catamounts two points, denied two to the Friars, and also gave Vermont the playoff tiebreaker. (The two teams had tied the two previous head-to-head contests.)
Conversely, Providence was a more than modest loser on the weekend despite taking one of four points.
Northeastern and Lowell both lost singletons as noted above.
UMass lost twice, taking it on the chin for a collective margin of 16-2. Ouch!
Maine, however, had the most to gain or lose on the weekend. As a result, the Black Bears have to be considered the “biggest” loser on the weekend. They’re now five points out of home ice contention and have dropped to a tie for 23rd in the PairWise.