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College Hockey:
Eagles, Friars hot as races get even tighter in Hockey East

The end is near to the Hockey East regular season and the race for the league title, home ice and the final playoff spot all tightened up this past weekend. What a few weeks back was five points separating three teams for the league title is now two. Two weeks ago it seemed like New Hampshire and Providence were fighting for playoffs spots; now they’re in the home ice race. And Northeastern and UMass are getting near desparation time. All of that in three things I learned this week:

1. There’s a new sheriff in town

Games in hand are now a thing of the past (except for Maine, which has played one more game than every other team), and the team at the top is – almost unbelievably – Massachusetts-Lowell. With Lowell’s win on Friday over Merrimack combined with Boston University’s loss moved the River Hawks into first place. It’s the latest in the season that Lowell has ever had solo possession of the top spot. That said, there’s is ZERO breathing room for the River Hawks. A loss on Saturday to Maine leaves BU and Boston College a point back and the Black Bears and Warriors two back. It seems almost inevitable this race will come down to the final weekend.

2. Battling for playoff life turns to a battle for home ice

It was just two weeks ago that New Hampshire and Providence seemed like they would be fighting only for a playoff spot. Now the Friars are five points behind fourth-place Merrimack and Maine; New Hampshire is six. With only six games left for each team, it may be a far stretch to think these teams can just all the way to fourth place, but each team is hot right now. UNH took three points this weekend from Northeastern (win) and Merrimack (tie). Providence earned four points with an upset of Maine and a one-goal win over UMass.

Do or die time for NU and UMass

Both Northeastern and UMass are playing decent hockey (heck, UMass just beat the number one team in the country on Friday), but seem poised to be the two teams looking for the final playoff spot. It’s remarkable to think that either of these teams could miss the playoffs. But this is a race for points. Hard to tell which team has a more difficult slate remaining. Each play two against Maine (though Northeastern’s games are at home). Northeastern has to play two versus BU and Providence. UMass gets New Hampshire and Merrimack for two each. Like the league title, this final playoff spot may not be decided until the final night.

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  • Guest

    Hasn’t New Hampshire also played one more game?

    • After Further Review

      Yes, UNH and Maine have played one extra from the Frozen Fenway (waste of more outdoor hockey) game.

  • Paul G.

    That puts UNH closer to missing the playoffs rather than “fighting for home ice”. Who’s the spin doctor prescribing your meds, Jim?

  • Catnation

    unh gon win hockey east tourney baby. desmith is a brick wall

  • UNH Fan

    UNH won’t make home ice and they will not make it to the Garden.  They are doing well now but it took them all season to get it together.  Once they face a do or die situation I think they will crumble.  They are just too inexperienced.

    • bronxbomberz41

      they definitely won’t make home ice, but don’t count them out of the semis.  If they draw BC or BU for the quarter finals, I would say they definitely won’t make it (they always stink it up at Kelley Rink) but if they draw Lowell, Maine or Merrimack, i think they have an outside shot.  They’ve played all those teams tough so far picking up a win against each (1-0-1 @ Merrimack, overtime losses to Maine and MC).  Since DeSmith has been in goal the D has been much improved, just need a little scoring.  Moses isn’t a true scoring talent like Thompson or Butler were, and the Freshman are starting to put it togeter (Casey Thrush is second on the team in goals).  I don’t have high hopes for UNH, but you wouldn’t be a fan if you didn’t have a little hope right?