Playoff previews: Hockey East women

Players on the 2012-2013 All-USCHO D-I Women's teams (Sarah Lefort). (Melissa Wade)
BU’s Sarah Lefort is a key to the Terriers’ offense. (Melissa Wade)

It’s conference tournament time.

Two weeks, three rounds, and four conference champions will be determined. More so than any previous year, a wide variety of narratives could unfold in most of the leagues. Let’s scratch the surface of what a few of those might be.

No. 1 Boston College versus Providence
Postseason history: The Eagles defeated the Friars 3-2 in overtime in a semifinal in 2011.

Boston College Eagles
Record: 30-1-2
Impact players: I could probably just insert a link to the whole roster, but they have both the country’s highest scoring player in Alex Carpenter and defenseman in Emily Pfalzer.
Hurdles to overcome: Traditionally, BC doesn’t seem to be at its best in the league tourney, winning the event only once, four years ago.
Why they will advance: The Eagles have the nation’s top offense, while Providence ranks 32nd defensively.
Why the Eagles will win the Hockey East tournament: BC went undefeated against this field in 22 games, so it is unlikely that anyone will stop them over the next four contests.

Providence Friars
Record: 6-23-4
Impact players: Providence has some nice senior forwards, Beth Hanrahan, Haley Frade, and Brooke Simpson.
Hurdles to overcome: The best time to face the top team in the country is probably not while on an eight-game losing skid.
Why they will advance: PC isn’t as big of an underdog as Bye — or maybe that’s not true.
Why the Friars will win the Hockey East tournament: Last season was the first year they didn’t reach the semifinals of Hockey East, so many of the Friars remember better days.

No. 2 Boston University versus Vermont
Postseason history: The two teams meet in the playoffs for the first time.

Boston University Terriers
Record: 21-8-3
Impact players: The Terriers have two of the country’s premier players, and they’ve put up nearly identical scoring lines with Sarah Lefort (22-21-43) and Marie-Philip Poulin (21-21-42)
Hurdles to overcome: BU can be very ordinary at times.
Why they will advance: While there were more favorable first-round opponents than Vermont, BU should manage just fine.
Why the Terriers will win the Hockey East tournament: Brian Durocher has them playing their best every year at tournament time.

Vermont Catamounts
Record: 15-17-2
Impact players: Dayna Colang outscored more-heralded teammates Amanda Pelkey and Brittany Zuback.
Hurdles to overcome: Vermont has yielded a lot of goals, including nine in the last game versus the Terriers.
Why they will advance: They shut BU out a month ago; now they just have to remember how they did it.
Why the Catamounts will win the Hockey East tournament: As much as this may seem like a mismatch, BU has just six more overall wins than does UVM; the second round is where a miracle will be needed.

No. 3 Northeastern versus New Hampshire
Postseason history: New Hampshire defeated Northeastern 5-0 in the semifinals in 2004.

Northeastern Huskies
Record: 12-15-5
Impact players: Kendall Coyne seems to have found a running mate in freshman Denisa Krížová.
Hurdles to overcome: After season-ending injuries to Hayley Scamurra and Paige Savage, production up front isn’t very deep.
Why they will advance: When Chloé Desjardins is at the top of her game, Northeastern can beat anyone — or at least, almost anyone.
Why the Huskies will win the Hockey East tournament: They have come so close to making the NCAA field a number of times in recent years, so it would be fitting that they do so now when nobody expects it.

New Hampshire Wildcats
Record: 9-21-3
Impact players: Point production drops off quite sharply after sophomore Jonna Curtis.
Hurdles to overcome: A matchup with Maine would likely have suited UNH much better.
Why they will advance: The Wildcats have been better of late and are on a 5-5-2 stretch.
Why the Wildcats will win the Hockey East tournament: They’ve done it as many times as any other program.

No. 4 Maine versus Connecticut
Postseason history: This is the first playoff meeting.

Maine Black Bears
Record: 10-18-3
Impact players: Senior Meghann Treacy in net gives Maine a chance every time out.
Hurdles to overcome: Only RIT’s power play converted at a lower rate.
Why they will advance: If before the season Maine was offered the possibility of a home-ice playoff series versus a team that didn’t reach double digits in wins, it would have jumped at the chance.
Why the Black Bears will win the Hockey East tournament: Maine might fare better if the league champ was determined by popular vote.

Connecticut Huskies
Record: 9-17-8
Impact players: Leah Lum has made a difference on the blue line as a rookie, and senior Sarah MacDonnell leads the team in scoring with 28 points.
Hurdles to overcome: It’s a strange situation to be opening the playoffs on the road in the same building where you swept a series the week before.
Why they will advance: Their first opponent has only one more win than they do.
Why the Huskies will win the Hockey East tournament: The Huskies path to a championship would figure to get easier if there is at least one other upset winner in Hockey East’s first round.

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