These are the three things I think I learned this week.
1. Merrimack has got to be the most underrated team in the league.
I’ll admit it. As impressed as I was with the Warriors when I featured them in the column two weeks ago, I thought their outrageously difficult schedule down the stretch would eventually relegate them to sixth place.
Well, they’re more than just resilient and gutsy. They’re pretty good, certainly better than most people give them credit for.
The Warriors are now 5-1-1 in their last seven, taking five of six points from Maine, four of six from New Hampshire, and ending Massachusetts-Lowell’s 11-game undefeated streak.
By defeating UNH and Lowell — both teams that had been projected to earn NCAA tournament selections — Merrimack has taken over third place, just three points out of first while holding a game in hand.
2. Maine and UMass are making their playoff cases
Don’t look now but these two teams are a collective 6-1-1 over their last four games. Maine is 3-0-1; Massachusetts, 3-1-0. As such, they’ve taken huge steps toward making the playoffs.
UMass hasn’t just eeked out wins over marginal teams. The Minutemen have stunned Boston College, 5-2, and Boston University, 5-1.
Maine swept BC in its own barn, tied Providence, and defeated a Lowell team that a week ago was the hottest in Hockey East.
If I were a Vermont or Northeastern fan, I would be feeling very nervous right now.
3. Only Boston College is heading into the Beanpot on a high note.
BC defeated Vermont in convincing fashion, 4-1. Other than that, the other Boston teams took it on the chin. UMass spanked BU, 5-1; UNH topped Northeastern 3-1; and Rensselaer shut out Harvard.
What does it all mean?
We’ll find out tonight. But a week ago a lot of people thought BU was emerging as the favorite, considering BC’s recent struggles.
Not anymore, at least not to these eyes. The Eagles appear to be right back in the driver’s seat.