Notre Dame upsets No. 1 Boston College while Providence wins two at Maine. These two teams are playing their best hockey heading into the playoffs. That leads the three things I learned this week:
1. Irish upset Eagles to take six-game unbeaten streak into playoffs
Notre Dame pulled off an impressive upset of the top-seeded Eagles on Saturday, winning 2-1 in overtime at Kelley Rink. And even though the win didn’t do anything to move the Irish up in the standings, the Irish enter the playoffs Hockey East’s hottest teams. Notre Dame will host Boston University in next weekend’s single elimination play-in round having allowed just a single goal in the last four games, all wins. It is a long road ahead for the Irish, needing to win this weekend, then upset one of the league’s top teams in the quarterfinals just to reach the TD Garden. But remember one thing: Notre Dame would have been the defending champions if the CCHA still existed, so this is a team that knows how to play down the stretch.
2. Providence back on track with bye into quarterfinals
You had to be concerned about the Friars heading down the stretch. A five-game winless skid put home ice and even a bye for the first round in extreme jeopardy with two weeks remaining. But four wins to end the season, including a two-game sweep at Maine this past weekend makes Providence one of the most dangerous teams heading into the playoffs. A big difference has the return of the Providence offense. Scoring just five goals in the five-game slump, the Friars potted 13 goals in the four wins to end the season. With Jon Gillies in net, you have to believe that a three-plus goals per game pace should be enough for this Friars team to win.
3. Maine, Northeastern have cause for concern heading into playoffs
Two of this season’s best stories – Northeastern and Maine – were both swept this weekend, each controlling destiny for both home ice and a first-round bye. The Huskies ended up backing into a bye while Maine will host a play-in game next weekend and neither team will have the confines of home in the league quarterfinals. Northeastern ended the season 3-6-1 in its final 10, while Maine were only a tad better down the stretch, 4-5-1 in its last 10. Both will need to right the ship or seasons that at one point had great promise could end prematurely over the next two weekends.