One round of the Hockey East tournament is in the books. And while three series needed three games to decide the outcome, only one provided an upset (that would be Providence becoming the first-ever No. 7 seed to advance). That said, plenty to learn from this first round of Hockey East tournament play.
1. Goaltenders are leading the way
You can look at all of the four teams that advanced — Boston College, Boston University, Maine and Providence — and there was one common thread: all four teams’ goaltenders were phenomenal. The leader of that pack might be BU’s Kieran Millan, who was outstanding in all three games but was on another planet with a 68-save performance in game 3, a 5-4 double overtime win for the Terriers. BC’s Parker Milner may have seemingly had the easiest route — a two-game sweep of Massachusetts — but had to make 58 saves in the two games. Providence’s Alex Beaudry posted a shutout in Sunday’s third and deciding game against Massachusetts-Lowell. And Maine’s Dan Sullivan, who allowed four goals in a loss on Saturday, gave up just a single goal in Maine’s two wins. Expect the TD Garden to see some great goaltending performances next weekend.
2. One team must now wait
This will be a very difficult week for Lowell, which seemed like an NCAA lock entering the quarterfinals but, with a three-game loss to Providence now must wait and see whether its body of work through the season is good enough to land in the NCAA field for the first time since 1996. The River Hawks will need to root against teams next weekend. Providence, Michigan Tech, Bowling Green, Cornell, Harvard and Colgate can all strip NCAA bids away from bubble teams if any of those teams win their conference tournament. Thus, the only teams safe in the PairWise are those who finish 11th or higher. Lowell is currently ninth (N.B. Denver and Wisconsin are still playing as I write this and could further impact the PWR). Needless to say, Norm Bazin and his staff will have a difficult wait this week.
3. It’s hard to say goodbye
Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Merrimack all had their seasons end this weekend. For the Minutement and the Wildcats, extending the season past the Hockey East tournament would have required winning the Hockey East tournament. Both of those teams put forth incredible efforts. Merrimack, which at one point was the top-ranked team in the nation, spent the entire season nationally ranked for the first time in program history. Obviously, losing in the quarterfinals was extremely difficult for the Warriors but this team has put forward two straight solid seasons and could leverage that to be a hockey power for years to come.