Irish eyes smile, River Hawks keep defense alive and one team (make that TWO teams) need to keep practicing

After Notre Dame beat Boston College on the final day of the regular season, there was a reason to believe that the Irish could beat the Eagles in a best-of-three series. Still, it was difficult to pick Notre Dame. That leads the three things I learned this week:

1) Notre Dame proves postseason proficiency

I have said it for a few weeks: you need to be worried about Notre Dame if for no reason than this team last year won the CCHA tournament. This past weekend, the Irish shocked Boston College, 7-2, in game one. They then lost game two but rallied for a 4-2 victory in game three. If nothing more, you should believe in this Notre Dame team. If you’re smart, you’ll believe this Notre Dame team could become the first #8 seed to win the Hockey East tournament.

2) Massachusetts-Lowell remains alive for repeat

Advancing in tournament play in easy fashion just isn’t Lowell’s style. Remember back to last year when the River Hawks were Hockey East champs, they needed overtime in the quarterfinals to eliminate Maine, rallied to beat Providence in the semis and then won a 1-0 game with a third period goal for the title. A year later, still nothing comes easy for Lowell. The River Hawks led for just 77 seconds in Friday’s 3-2 victory over Vermont and never led in Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss. Sunday, Lowell jumped to a 2-0 lead but couldn’t extend that lead despite controlling the game. After UVM potted a late power play goal in the second, Lowell had to return to the team that shut teams down defensively and finally earned a 2-1 win to advance to the Garden. The River Hawks should have a new promotion next season: free batteries for Lowell fans’ pacemakers. They certainly need it.

3) Vermont (and maybe Northeastern) needs to keep skating

The Catamounts may have lost to Lowell, but they can’t put the skates and sticks away just yet. Vermont still could qualify for the NCAA tournament if things fall right next weekend. If most of the conference tournaments are won by favorites (i.e. teams in the top 16 of the PairWise on the last day of the season), Vermont should earn an at-large bid. The most difficult part for the Cats is that they no longer control their destiny. Thus, in addition to continuing the practice, UVM will also need to do a lot of scoreboard watching. (Update, Monday 3:51 PM ET: According to Jim Dahl’s calculations, Northeastern still has a 7% chance of getting into the tournament)