Plenty of things to take away from this past weekend, the penultimate for Hockey East. The one that strikes me the most was BU’s resilience amid the team’s greatest controversy in memory. That tops my list of three things learned this week.
1. Nothing off the ice seems to deter this BU team on the ice
Twice this season, BU could’ve given up, thrown in the towel. First it was the loss of both Corey Trivino and Charlie Coyle, just days apart. Then last weekend, Max Nicastro joined Trivino as the second Terrier arrested for sexual assualt. There is a task force now investigating this team, which in itself could cause these players to fold like a house of playing cards. But instead, BU went to Vermont and earned a 5-0 win on national TV on Friday and then, probably in its most gutsy performance, forced overtime late on Saturday against the Catamounts and then won in the OT on an Alexx Privitera goal (Privitera returned from injury this weekend to replace Nicastro). The Terriers kept themselves not only relevant amidst controvery but in the hunt for the Hockey East regular season title. Hats off.
2. No doubt, Boston College is the clear favorite
Anyone who doubted that BC was the team to beat after a two-game sweep at Maine on January 20 and 21 has learned by now that doubt was misdirected. Since those two losses, the Eagles have won nine straight and are two wins next weekend at home versus Vermont from entering the post-season on an 11-game win streak. It is a pattern we have seen very often from the Eagles, but even so, last weekend’s desimiation of Providence by a combined 10-0 score proved this team is now in a completely different league than the nine other Hockey East clubs. I don’t know what will bring this team back to Earth. And if they never arrive back, expect another national title in Chestnut Hill.
3. Two teams really came up big under pressure
Two weekends left and I think that both Massachusetts and Merrimack hit the right note at the right time. You might add Northeastern to that group for its win over Maine on Friday, but a 7-1 loss to the Black Bears on Saturday took some of the excitement from the Huskies performance. Back to the Minutemen and Warriors, both performed well under pressure. Massachusetts was against the wall on Saturday knowing another loss could end the season. But the Minutemen responded with a 4-2 win over New Hampshire and now sit tied for eighth – and the final playoff spot – with Northeastern. Merrimack, entering this weekend with recent struggles, could have fallen right out of the home ice conversation. Instead, the Warriors earned three points against Massachusetts-Lowell and remain in the hunt for not just home ice but potentially as high as second place in Hockey East.
There is so much hockey left to play and I will elaborate on the entire playoff rate in Thursday’s column. Hard, though, not to get excited for yet another closing weekend of Hockey East play where so much will be on the line.