College Hockey:
Hellebuyck leads River Hawk repeat, five in NCAA field and a somewhat unfortunate pairing at Big Dance

Connor Hellebuyck was a brick wall. That’s all you need to know about this past weekend in Hockey East.

1. Double shutout leads River Hawks to back-to-back title

You can’t win if you can’t score. That was the simple lesson learned by both Notre Dame and New Hampshire at the Hockey East Championship this weekend. The reason neither the Irish nor the Wildcats could find the back of the net was Massachusetts-Lowell’s Connor Hellebuyck. The sophomore netminder was simply phenomenal for the River Hawks making tough saves look easy all weekend. Hellebuyck became the first ever back-to-back tournament MVP, earning the vote this year unanimously.

2. Hockey East gets record five teams in field

There were a few tense moment of watching and waiting this weekend for Hockey East teams on the NCAA bubble but at the end the at-large bubble burst for only one team – Northeastern. All of the remaining teams with at-large hopes made the field: Boston College, Lowell, Notre Dame, Vermont and Providence. New Hampshire knew coming into the weekend it had to win the Hockey East title and got to the doorstep but couldn’t upset Lowell. The five teams in the NCAA field ties for the most Hockey East has placed in a field (2007).

3. League’s ”two best teams” in same region

The immediate reaction of Commissioner Joe Bertagna when shown Saturday night what I expected would be the field (and was correct) was that it was disappointing to have what most consider Hockey East’s two best teams – Lowell and BC – in the same region. BC, the regular season champ, and Lowell, the postseason title holder, will be joined by WCHA champion Minnesota State and NCHC champ Denver making the Worcester regional arguably the most difficult of the four. You have to believe whatever team comes out of the Northeast Region will be the favorite to win the national title.

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