It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Some people get jazzed up for the holidays. Others its about the start of a season like spring or summer.

For me, there’s only one season that counts: college hockey’s playoff season.

Things got underway this past weekend in formal (CCHA, ECAC, AHA) and informal (WCHA title, Hockey East’s home ice battle) ways. And coming home and reading about triple-overtime games and amazing third-period rallies I must say really gets me going.

What has seemingly been one heck of a battle all year long was magnified on the ice last weekend. All of that should only continue this week as two leagues – AHA and CHA – enter the “Final Five” playoffs and will crown champions, while the other four are poised for quarterfinal action (what does the WCHA call this round any way?)

While there has to be a focus on the prize at hand, in this case a league title, there are SO many schools that have to worry about the national tournament implications if they lose:

Boston College: Just two wins since the Beanpot was enough to squeak them into home ice, but a loss this weekend to Providence could spell the end of the season.

Boston University: It’s been a heck of a run down the stretch for the Terriers, but if they can’t get past UMass-Lowell this weekend, it’s likely curtains.

Vermont: Similar to BU, the Catamounts made a nice rally in the second half, but the day is certainly over if they can’t get past Northeastern.

Northeastern/Providence: These teams both spent quality time this season on the good side of the tournament bubble. That bubble is dead for either with a loss, while a series win still gives no guarantees.

Princeton: Guy Gadowski and crew have put together an impressive season, but the overall weak schedule of the ECAC this season could leave the Tigers on the outside looking in if they don’t advance to the league final four.

Notre Dame: It would be a shame if the Irish miss the tournament, but right now that’s a legitimate reality. Notre Dame has to get past a tough Ferris State team this weekend and then may even need to reach the CCHA title game to earn an at-large bid.

Minnesota-Duluth: Below .500 or not, the Bulldogs are on the wrong side of the bubble and are faced with the task of traveling to Denver this weekend. It’s more than likely a win-or-go-home for Duluth, which could put to sleep the bantering of whether a below .500 team deserves a chance at an NCAA bid (thought to earn the bid, it’s likley Duluth would get back to .500, but that’s semantics, right?)

Minnesota/Minnesota State: This isn’t exactly a must-win for the pair to advance, but losing this series would put either club square on the bubble forcing them to sit with fingers crossed that the conference tournaments don’t provide any bubble breaking upsets. ]

Wisconsin: Sitting at No. 13 in the current PWR, Bucky will look to solidify its ranking at St. Cloud this weekend. For the Saints, they’ll likely play with a desperate mentality, though, as it’s possible they miss the at-large bid should they not advance to the Final Five.

As for the teams that can more than likely sit back and relax: Colorado College, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Miami, Denver and Clarkson all seem like pretty solid locks, no matter what happens this weekend. Remember, though, I’m hardly a computer so don’t take my word for it.