Thoughts on the surprising Hockey East first round

These are the three things I think I learned this week.

1. Five overtimes? Really? Five?

I was on the West Coast this past week and when I got the chance, I checked in on the Hockey East scoreboard. I watched with mounting astonishment as the Notre Dame – Massachusetts contest kept going on and on.

And on and on and on.

The matchup expected to be the most lopsided — the fifth-seeded Irish, who were coming in quite hot, against the last-place Minutemen — went five overtimes. And more than halfway through that fifth OT before UMass pulled off the upset.

The game finished at 1:24 in the morning, took five hours and 49 minutes, and goaltender Cal Petersen garnered number one star for his 87 saves in a losing effort.

In the lingo of Facebook and Twitter: SMH!

(Translation for those not into social media: Shaking My Head.)

2. The season ends for Northeastern, UMass, Maine, and Connecticut.

As serious underdogs this past weekend, UMass, Maine, and UConn were expected to end their seasons. The stunner here is Northeastern.  The Huskies had overcome a brutal start to the season and become a top team playing as well as anyone.

Merrimack, by contrast, struggled mightily down the stretch.

When I saw that the Warriors won the opener, I thought the one weekend pick in which Jim and I differed — the second game of this series, in which he picked Merrimack — became a near lock. There was no way Northeastern was losing in two straight to a team that had entered the series with one win in its last 13 and none in its last nine.


It took most of a second overtime, but the Huskies fell.


3. So much for the chasm between the top seven teams in the league and the rest.

The regular season standings pointed to a significant gap after Vermont in seventh place. New Hampshire closed that with a strong stretch drive into eighth, but this first round appeared to be comprised of all mismatches. You could seemingly bet the ranch that there’d be at most one third game and there absolutely, positively wouldn’t be an underdog advancing.

Goodbye ranch.

As noted above, 11th-seeded Merrimack swept six-seed Northeastern. Number 12 seed UMass took five-seed Notre Dame to a third game, thanks to the epic opener discussed at the top of this piece. And Maine took Vermont to 16:05 of overtime of its third game.

Only UNH had the expected smooth sailing over UConn.

Again and for the hat trick, SMH.