Eight teams remain as we bid a fond adieu to Vermont and Northeastern. And as we take our first look forward into the Hockey East playoffs, there are some teams that enter on highs, some on lows and some somewhere in between. Here is a look at each.
On highs: Heaven isn’t high enough
Really, I feel like there is only one team entering on an absolute high and that’s Boston College, which has won 11 straight. As good as BC was down the stretch last season before losing to Colorado College in the opening game of the NCAA tournament, this year’s team is better. A lot better. I’m not sure if BC will lose another game, but I also feel comfortable saying that they won’t. This club is on fire, allowing less than two goals a game in every game in February and March. A team will have to crack the code if they’re going to beat the Eagles.
The other team I will put in this category is Massachusetts-Lowell. I sincerely believe the River Hawks are still a level below BC, but UML’s sweep over Providence propelled them to the #2 seed in Hockey East for the first time since 1996. UML also gets to take on the Friars, at home, in this weekend’s quarterfinals. It is very difficult to win four straight but if UMass-Lowell can do so, that will be a very hot team heading to the Garden.
In between: Keeping fingers crossed
There are so many teams that enter the playoffs playing decent hockey, yet still it is difficult to guarantee wins next weekend. The first is Massachusetts, which won its way into the playoffs in the final two weekends but have to face red-hot BC. Put the Minutemen against any other club and I’d be giving them half the chance. Feel like any team playing BC next weekend would have its work cut out for them. I do feel like both Maine and Merrimack are playing pretty well heading to the playoffs. Friday night was a bury for Merrimack, in my opinion. Maine’s 1-0 win on Saturday wasn’t impressive but was the example this team can get the job done in a one-game scenario. I also believe that New Hampshire will be a dangerous team in the quarterfinals. Even with a loss to Maine on the final day, UNH is facing a Boston University team that simply isn’t playing well heading to the playoffs.
On a low: Send the life rafts
Two teams are in dire straits heading to the quarterfinals. Boston University earned a win on Friday in a game head coach Jack Parker said his team didn’t play well and then lost on Saturday to drop to the third overall seed. Add in the ongoing investigation into the conduct of the hockey team, BU is a team in trouble. They may survive the first round but New Hampshire, a playoff tested team, isn’t a good matchup for the Terriers. At the same time Providence has struggled in the last two weekends and will face a Lowell team that swept them by a combined 9-3 score this past weekend. Throw in that the Friars are the #7 seed and that seed hasn’t won in Hockey East history and you may believe this is a team behind the eight ball.