One game for all the marbles*

Many coaches have said that the Hockey East league title will come down to the final night of the regular season. All of them were correct.

By virtue of Providence beating Massachusetts-Lowell, Boston College and Vermont skating to a 4-4 tie, and Maine’s victory over New Hampshire, tomorrow’s game between Lowell and Providence has virtually become the Hockey East regular season title game. Win the game, win the title.

That, though, is where the asterisk comes in. If either Lowell or Providence wins on Saturday, they’ll earn 34 points and the regular season title all to themselves. But what if there is a tie?

A tie will earn both teams a share of the title. But if either BC or UNH earn wins on Saturday, they’ll jump to 33 points and also earn the co-champs title.

You read that right. There is a possibility for a four-way tie for the league title. A representative from Hockey East was on-hand at Lowell’s Tsongas Center on Friday night to present the trophy in case the River Hawks clinched the title. Can the league split that person four ways for Saturday?

Some other key notes from Friday night:

  • Maine and Vermont earned the final two playoff spots by virtue of the Black Bears win and UVM’s tie. The question is which team will take 7th and which takes 8th. Vermont will enter Saturday with a one point lead. The lead is a virtual two-point lead, though, because the Catamounts won the season series with the Black Bears, 2-0-1.
  • Providence may control its own destiny to win the regular season title, but a loss could be devastating. If PC loses and BC, UNH and BU all win on Saturday, Providence will finish tied for fourth with BU and lose the tie-breaker meaning the Friars would be on the road for the first round of the playoffs.
  • With its victory on Friday over Massachusetts, Merrimack keeps a slight glimmer of hope to take the final home ice spot. If Merrimack wins on Saturday and BC and UNH both lose, all three teams would be tied with 31 points. If BU loses, it would fall to sixth with 30 points. BC would take the third seed, Merrimack the fourth and UNH would fall out of home ice. That, though, takes a lot of stars to align.
  • While all Lowell needs is a tie to clinch a share of the regular season title, in most scenarios Lowell would not be the top seed in the playoffs unless they win the title outright. The only way the River Hawks win a tie breaker for first is if it is against Providence (i.e. BC and UNH either tie or lose on Saturday). Lowell would take the top seed if tied with Providence alone based on number of league wins.
  • While all eight teams that will play in this year’s Hockey East tournament have clinched their berths, none have locked themselves into a seed. For that matter (and I could be incorrect on this one, so correct me in the comments section if I’m wrong), but Lowell remains the only team in the league to have clinched home ice in the playoffs.