There are a maximum of 15 games remaining to be played in Hockey East. I enter this weekend eight games behind Dave. I should be waving the white flag. But my never-give-up mentality is keeping me alive. Then again, Dave can just match all of my picks this weekend and I’m done. So let’s just say that my white flag is hanging out of my back pocket.
Jim last week: 5-3-1
Jim to date: 103-78-25
Dave last week: 5-3-1
Dave to date: 111-70-25
#8 Maine vs. #1 Massachusetts-Lowell (Thurs., Fri., Sun. at Tsongas Arena)
Jim’s pick: I know that many will say Maine was playing its best hockey down the stretch, but so was Lowell. And I believe the River Hawks best is significantly better than Maine’s.
UML 4, Maine 1; UML 3, Maine 2; (if necc.) UML 4, Maine 2
Dave’s pick: I agree completely with Jim. Over their last 22 games, the River Hawks are 18-3-1. While the Black Bears took the regular-season series, 2-1, one loss came early and the other with Connor Hellebuyck sidelined due to injury. Maine will make it more interesting than Jim thinks, but the results will be the same.
UML 3, Maine 2; UML 4, Maine 3 (OT); (if necc.) UML 3, Maine 2
#7 Vermont at Boston College (Fri., Sat., and Sun. Kelley Rink)
Jim’s pick: Vermont played some great hockey near season’s end, but they now run into a Boston College team that has seemingly had their number when games are played in Chestnut Hill. I do see Vermont keeping it close, but don’t see them winning.
BC 3, UVM 2; BC 3, UVM 1; (if necc.) BC 5, UVM 2
Dave’s pick: I underestimated the Catamounts all season long and may repeat that mistake yet again, but I can’t see the Eagles getting pushed to a third game.
BC 4, UVM 2; BC 4, UVM 1; (if necc.) BC 4, UVM 1
#6 Merrimack at #3 Boston University (Fri., Sat., and Sun. at Agganis Arena)
Jim’s pick: This is one of the series I see going three games. Despite BU’s sweep of the Warriors in the regular season, I see this being a very close series with a razor-thin margin of error for each team.
MC 4, BU 3; BU 4, MC 2; (if necc.) BU 3, MC 2 (OT)
Dave’s pick: I’ve been bullish on the Warriors all season long so you’d think that I’d go with them here, especially with BU losing Garrett Noonan and Matt O’Connor. But BU swept this series and in impressive fashion: a collective 12-4 margin with none of that inflated by empty-net goals. So there’s a significant match-up issue here between two teams with very active defensemen. That, plus I see the Terriers giving their legendary coach an emotional send-off.
BU 4, MC 2; BU 3, MC 2; (if necc.) BU 4, MC 2
#5 New Hampshire at #4 Providence (Fri., Sat., and Sun at Schneider Arena)
Jim’s pick: There is one storyline that really is in play this weekend: which goaltender will play better. I expect Jon Gillies to handle the pressure of his first playoff and I think he may be the edge Providence needs to advance.
PC 3, UNH 2; UNH 2, PC 1; (if necc.) PC 3, UNH 2 (OT)
Dave’s pick: Back in November, I expected to see UNH in the Frozen Four. The Wildcats were playing terrific defensive hockey and a great all-around game. But since then, they’ve faltered, most recently going 2-3-5 over their last 10, including losing home ice by managing only a single point in two games at home against Maine. Meanwhile, the Friars have gone 5-2-4 down the stretch, including wins over BC, Lowell, and UNH. Since they are a young team, they could fail to put two exceptional efforts together back-to-back and require a third game like Jim predicts, but I think they’ll sweep.
PC 3, UNH 2; PC 3 UNH 2 (OT); (if necc.) PC 3, UNH 2