These are the three things I think I learned in this final pre-NCAA tournament week.
1. Boston University finally put together a strong first period at the TD Garden.
The Terriers’ first three games at the Garden this year — the Beanpot and Hockey East semifinals — hardly showcased a team on the way to a top seeding in the NCAA tournament. In each case, BU emerged from the opening 20 minutes with a tie, but played some shaky hockey while being outshot a cumulative 38-26.
In the Hockey East title game, however, the fourth time proved to be a charm. BU scored the first two goals en route to a 2-1 first period lead and a 5-3 win.
Opening its Northeast Regional contests with a bang like they did on Saturday night will go a long way to getting the Terriers back to the Garden and a Frozen Four semifinal appearance.
2. New Hampshire finished the season at the level of an NCAA tournament team.
Yes, the Wildcats dug themselves a deep hole in the first half of the season, but over the second half they proved themselves to be on par with teams getting the invite to the big dance.
In that time, UNH counted five wins against NCAA tournament-bound teams, including a quarterfinal series win over Providence.
And although the Wildcats fell to eventual champion BU on Friday, they acquited themselves very well indeed.
3. Hockey East needs a better non-conference record next year.
The league had to sweat out a third entrant, Providence, into the national tournament. It could easily have been stuck with only two.
The search for the reason goes no further than its nonconference record.
Yes, Hockey East dominated Atlantic Hockey, 15-1-0, but that didn’t count for much in the PairWise because no Atlantic teams were close to at-large berths.
Hockey East did acceptably against the ECAC, 24-19-5, but that league was in danger of getting only a single invite itself until well into its tournament games. Additionally, Merrimack and Vermont, two teams that didn’t make the NCAAs, did the bulk of the damage there, going 10-1-0 combined.
And most conclusively, Hockey East’s record against the other three leagues was only a single game over .500.
One game over .500 doesn’t qualify as “a rising tide lifts all ships.”