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College Hockey:
A lack of surprises, Irish hope and rematches

The biggest surprise in the opening weekend of the Hockey East playoffs was that there were not any surprises at all. That leads the list of things I learned this weekend in Hockey East:

1. Favorite survive single elimination

Plenty was made about the first-round single elimination series in Hockey East, mostly that some very good teams could have their seasons end on a strange bounce or bad break. Instead, all three favorites won this weekend with Maine, Vermont and Notre Dame all edging their respective opponents. The one-and-done opening round certainly had plenty of dramatics as Maine’s empty-netter made for the only game decided by more than a goal. But when all was said and done, the favorite moved on and a traditional 1-through-quarterfinal series will begin next Friday throughout Hockey East.

2. Irish smiling at Pairwise prospect

With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, maybe it’s fitting that plenty of Notre Dame Irish eyes are smiling after the Irish held off Boston University, 3-2, on Saturday and, in doing do, moved to 9th in the PairWise heading into a best-of-three series vs. Boston College. While the task ahead is a difficult one, even if the Irish can win one game against the Eagles they could solidify their NCAA tournament position. The eighth-place Irish have the third-best PairWise in the league and are pretty darn close to making themselves a lock in the NCAA picture.

3. Rematches abound in the quarterfinals

For three of the four hosts in next weekend’s Hockey East quarterfinals, their opponents will look quite familiar. Boston College, Massachusetts-Lowell and Providence will face the team that they closed the regular season with (Notre Dame, Vermont and Maine, respectively). Only Providence, though, closed said regular season with victories, twice winning at Maine. Lowell split with Vermont, losing the final game of the regular season, and BC lost a single-game to Notre Dame to close their slate. It certainly makes preparation for all coaching staffs involved as little easier, but it should also make for some interesting grudge matches that develop when opponents play frequently over a short period of time.

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