The fact that Boston College clinched the regular season title a night after Valentine’s Day hardly means that there won’t be excitement in Hockey East in the final weekend of the regular season. That is one of three things I learned this weekend in Hockey East:
1. League races from two through eight incredibly tight
There has been little settled in the Hockey East playoff picture. Boston College is the top seed in the tournament and Massachusetts, Boston University and Merrimack will be hitting the road for the single-elimination first round. Everything else is relatively up in the air.
Massachusetts-Lowell and Northeastern both will avoid the opening round but neither has clinched home ice. Because Notre Dame has only one game remaining, it can only get as high as sixth place and thus will be hosting a first-round game. Vermont can finish from third to eighth. Every other team in that mix (Lowell, Northeastern, Maine, New Hampshire, Providence) can finish as high as second place. Look forward to a crazy couple of nights of scoreboard/standings watching next weekend.
2. Vermont seniors earn first wins at Merrimack
Every now and again, we are provided with statistical abnormalities. Such was the case heading into this weekend’s Vermont-Merrimack series given that the Catamounts hadn’t won at Lawler Arena since Feb. 14, 2009, a season in which Vermont reached the Frozen Four. The Cats earned a 4-1 victory behind Mario Puskarich’s natural hat trick in the third period. Ending another long streak, it was the first hat trick by a Vermont player since Oct. 8, 2010. The Catamounts finished off the weekend sweep the next night with a 4-3 victory.
3. Lowell’s improbable tie vs. Eagles ‘felt like a win’
If there is one team you don’t want to fall behind to these days, it’s Boston College. The No. 1 Eagles held the often-potent Lowell offense off the board for five periods of hockey this weekend. But an explosive third period on Saturday at home for the River Hawks earned them a point. Trailing 2-0, Lowell scored twice in a span of 2:27 to tie the game, a welcome sight to the record 7,649 fans that packed the Tsongas Center. Granted, getting only one point from the weekend loosens Lowell’s grip on the second seed in the playoffs, but as coach Norm Bazin said on Saturday night, that was a tie that “felt like a win.”