Providence, Notre Dame sweeps give each leg up on first-round byes

Ever since Hockey East changed to a three-weekend playoff format two years ago, the weekend between Beanpot games created a must-watch couple of days for the Hockey East standings as most of the games in hand that have been accumulated throughout the season level off just three weeks prior to the regular-season finale.

That was the case this weekend as both Providence and Notre Dame used their games in hand to gain control of their own destiny. That leads the three things I learned this week:

1. Friars and Irish control their destiny

A weekend sweep at this time of the season goes a long way when standings are tight. And for Providence and Notre Dame, sweeps of Maine and Vermont, respectively, put each in excellent position in the Hockey East standings. Notre Dame’s sweep placed the Irish into a two-way tie with Boston College for first place. While a title is on the minds of the Irish, seven points over the final three weekends will earn Notre Dame a first-round bye, something the team hasn’t earned in its first two seasons of Hockey East.

Providence, which has been in either a tie for fourth or fifth place for weeks, passed Boston University with its sweep on a week where the Terriers played just a single game due to Monday’s Beanpot. More importantly, Providence has two games in hand on UMass-Lowell that will be made up on February 19 and 20. Thus, should the Friars hold serve over the next two weekends, they’ll pass the River Hawks and jump into third, regardless of Lowell’s outcomes.

Plenty of hockey to play, but an enviable position for both of these clubs heading down the stretch.

2. Lowell’s single-point weekend might be a missed opportunity

An important weekend for UMass Lowell was as close to a lost weekend as one can imagine this time of year. With just four league games remaining after this weekend (while all other teams in the race for the first-round bye have six), Lowell took just a single point in single games versus Northeastern and New Hampshire.

Even more ominous is the fact that the River Hawks face Boston University (this weekend) and Boston College (Feb. 26-27) to close the Hockey East slate.

That said, with Boston University still three points behind in the standings and a two-game series on the horizon, a sweep of three-point weekend against the Terriers could go a long way to earning the River Hawks a first-round bye. UMass Lowell still controls its destiny for that bye.

3. Four-way tie for sixth creates a race within the race

It’s easy to get caught up in the race for first and for the four first-round byes, but the crazy logjam from sixth through 12th place makes the race to earn home ice in the first round of the Hockey East tournament a crazy one as well. Connecticut, New Hampshire, Northeastern and Vermont are all tied for sixth place, which would suggest at least one of those teams will be left out of the final first-round home ice spot. Should either Maine or Merrimack catch fire down the stretch, it could be more than one of that sixth-place quartet headed on the road when the playoffs begin.

I plan to break down all of these races in depth in the weekend column on Thursday.



  1. I like all the picks except for Hjelle and Kristo. Hjelle is 1 game over .500 and just doesn’t have the stats to make the top 10. If you are going nominate a goalie, there are several others that would be more deserving, Chubak, Williams, Wilcox, and Rumple, not to mention other CCHA goalies, Slubowski and Summerhays, who played more and have better stats. Knight is well deserving of the final 10 nomination, I just don’t see Kristo in that class. Just my opinion.

        • Considering the fact that I’ve seen most of the top players compete, and also the fact that I know a lot about hockey…. I’d say my opinion is more validated than your weak response….Oh and I’m better than you. FIGHTING SIOUX FOREVER

          • I see you must be a scientist, because your assertions are based on empirical evidence, right? I have watched more hockey then you have dreamed about and I played. Here is a fact for you. Kristo is not even the best forward in the WCHA, therefore not the best forward in college hockey. I suggest taking off the homer glasses prior to your next comment.

          • Maybe you shouldn’t be such a hypocrite. “I see you must be a scientist, because your assertions are based on empirical evidence, right?” and then you say this “I have watched more hockey then you have dreamed about”. Now I’m going to tell you straight. Kristo is a Hobey finalst, He is second in the nation in goals, and most of his goals came from purely his ability to move the puck. He plays with a high motor every time hes on the ice. He rarely takes bad penalties and is usually the guy who draws them. He single handed made Corban Knight look like a better hockey player than he really is. His shot is second to none. One of the fastest skaters in college hockey. He plays against one of the toughest schedules in college hockey. SOS that is in the top 10 I believe. These are all facts that can’t be ignored.

    • I agree with you on the goalie argument, but Kristo is one of the most electric players in all of hockey. If you wanted to question his character or effort, I would not disagree, but he most certainly has the talent.

  2. Admirable job recognizing the LeBlanc error and adding his picture to go with this story. He may not have as many goals, but he definitely has the points to go along with leading SCSU on AND off the ice. Drew truly fits every criteria described on the Hobey Baker site to a T.

    • I agree LeBlanc has been a real leader for SCSU and really made the team go. I think that he should be in the top 10 for sure, I just see inconsistencies in how LeBlanc, Knight and Haula are viewed considering that they are all leaders for their respective teams and about the same in goals and points.

    • If the finalists were named on Monday after the conference finals are done, I have to imagine they wouldn’t be able to ignore Connor. That being said we are talking about a Lowell player, they don’t generally even get honorable mentions

      • For a kid to serve as the backbone for the largest 2nd half turnaround in the nation, to go unacknowledged, just goes to show that the names were drawn before the season started. Too bad. There’s not much more the kid could have done to give his team a chance to win every time he took the ice. And that’s the true spirit of the award

  3. When talking about Drew LeBlanc at St. Cloud State… You notice he doesn’t have that many goals, but look at how many assists he has! He feeds the puck to his line mates which are the top 2 scoring freshman in the nation! (Jonny Brodzinski and Kalle Kossila) If you would get to know him and actually pay attention to players in the midwest, you would learn that Drew isn’t all about the scoring. He wants the team to succeed as a whole, and if he can help somebody else succeed over himself, you sure bet he is going to pass the puck to someone else. Scoring goals isn’t everything, and I sure hope it’s not what this Hobey Baker award is about.

    • Top 2 scoring freshman? Yeah if you don’t count Kevin Roy, Austin Farley, Riley Barber, and Alex Petan. Get your facts straight before you start your argument. Oh by the way your lucky I didn’t go into overall scoring by Freshman, because your boys are way down the list.

      • Calm down Jonathan, you are right that Kossila is not near the top at all and Brodzinksi is not near the top in points. But Brodzinski is the nation’s leading freshman in goals scored, so your facts aren’t entirely straight either.

    • He has been one of the main leaders and reason on the team for being where they are ranked No. 3 in nations. 1st place in the CCHA. Phenom puck carrier and play-maker. Strong in the corners. Also nominated as Best Defensive Forward. It shows his tenacity to be a top scorer and defensive guy which exerts a ton of energy. Most guys play only one way. Excellent penalty killer- (4 shorties). On a team with 18 underclassman. Some of your nominees only should be consider for high scorer not as a complete player.

  4. I can see the character issue affecting Kristo, but do you really think it would be held against Knight? After all, when the investigation and everything was done the charges against him involving the party were dropped, and given his personality I can’t imagine he has ever been in any other trouble.

  5. I wouldn’t comment if there was at least one defenseman on your list. Here’s a few that deserve consideration: George Hughes (leads nation in scoring by defenseman), Nick Jensen, Nate Schmidt (quarterbacks nation’s #1 powerplay), and Jacob Trouba. The Hobey isn’t just for the best forward, plus a token goaltender.

  6. Eric haula by far the most deserving. Gophers on there way to another championship!! bunch more minnesota high school stars up for hobey again. Danny Kristo eden prairie an drew leblanc hermanton, repersentin

  7. UML showed me absolutely nothing last weekend, except their continued willingness to play down to their competition, and by play down, I mean attempting to play Madigan thug hockey on Friday with NU and squandering a dozen opportunities on Saturday.

    I’m looking at a team that is still trying to find chemistry. Bazin continues to shuffle lines (granted, after Hough got hurt on Friday, it was a bit more necessary) in an attempt to find combinations that work. One would have thought that this would have been done before Christmas at the latest, but it’s still going on. I wasn’t going to throw guys under the bus on Saturday night as a knee jerk reaction to the lost weekend, but I’ve had a couple of days to think about this and I’m still as pissed and confounded as I was then. So, here goes…

    There are by my count, exactly three guys on this team with heart, well two guys and one guy with ice water in his veins (Boyle IMO, can not be criticized here, he’s exceeded all expectations). McGrath and Gambardella never take a shift off, EVER! If half this team played as hard on the puck as these two guys, we’d be in great shape, but they don’t. I still see guys with no concept of puck pursuit. I see guys who bolt through the neutral zone and then coast from the dots on a forecheck, this is absolute garbage, and if you think that got you in trouble with NU and UNH, wait until next weekend.

    Discipline is again becoming an issue with this team and guys who are wearing letters on their jerseys are part of the problem…yes Chapie, I’m talking about you. For a guy with the kind of skills he possesses, it’s mind-boggling to me that he feels the need to agitate. Every game though, it’s the same thing, Chapie doing stupid things to put his team in jeopardy.I’m not sure when this guy thought it was going to be his role to be an agitator, but here’s a clue…it ain’t working. The D-1 officials have no patience for it, you’ve obviously been watching too many NHL games. STOP!

    Confusion in the D-zone. Again, I chalk this up to more line juggling. If there is anywhere where familiarity with your linemate is essential, it’s on D. More juggling = more confusion, IMO. I still see two D men pursuing a single puck carrier. I still see two D-men confused over their responsibility during a breakout.

    Tentative play overall. Some of this can be attributed to some of the younger guys getting a bit squeamish as the level of play intensifies down the stretch, but not all. I still see these wishy-washy passes at half speed getting intercepted, when a difintive hard pass would not have. Very frustrating to watch.

    And now, I’ll do something that I have not done since he got here, which is, criticize Bazin. First off, let me say that I’m not qualified to coach this team and could not do near the job that he has, not even close. That said, something is going on internally, IMO. The team seems lack-luster since the break. Are some of them souring on Bazin’s message/system?

    OK, let’s start with the PP and the ‘fake the entry and play it back to the point man in the Neutral zone’ move, to gain entry into the O-zone…IT AIN”T WORKING, and hasn’t for many games (well, many games not played against teams not named ASU). Stop, Normie, just stop. IMO, we’re also getting too cute, trying to play for the perfect shot scenario. Friday against NU, their goalie gave up a rebound on almost every shot, but instead of just getting pucks on net and crashing for the rebound, we went the cute route. Again, tough to watch. Again, ineffective.

    Maybe, I’m making too much of a late season slump, but the Pairwise machine is always watching and I fear, just as last year, we’re letting the tournament slip away after it was firmly in our grasp a month ago.

    /rant over.

    • And their doesn’t schedule doesn’t get any easier. They’ll have to earn no less than a split vs BU and BC… Then make some noise in the HEA playoffs, probably needing to get to the Garden. Several teams are breathing down their neck, especially with 2-3 potential AQs currently outside the top 16. I, too, thought UML was a shoe-in a week or two ago.

  8. I share the pain that Vinnie is showing here.
    My take:

    Too many times UML passes up a good shot for a ‘better’ one only to never get a shot on net. I am the guy yelling for them to shoot. Also the players are going for the corners so much that it is hard to measure how many shots miss the net. Both goals on Saturday were ugly get to the net and scramble type goals. Stop being cute and get to the net. Shoot when available. Attack early in the game so you can actually play from ahead.

    I didn’t like Boyle last year ( especially the HE final vs. BU ), but it is hard to blame him this year. The PP needs to get more aggressive and show some urgency. Quick passes and shoot often. I am sick and tired of ‘cycling’. All it does is make offensive players tired and keeps the play on the perimeter.

    I am hoping for an upset at BU on Friday, but I just don’t see it.

    Please prove me wrong. Go Riverhawks….


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