Irish eyes are no longer smiling at Notre Dame

It looked as if the Notre Dame Fighting Irish might be headed to their first Hockey East regular season title, in just year three in the league, heading into last weekend. And for about 53 minutes on Friday, there was plenty of reason to believe that might happen. That changed quickly and leads the three things I learned this week.

1. Providence’s rally spells doom for the Irish

A 2-0 lead for Notre Dame on Friday late in the third period made it seem like Providence’s hopes for a regular-season title were over and the Irish might be in good position to win its first Hockey East championship. But two goals late in the third and an OT game-winner, followed by a more complete performance and win on Saturday gave Providence the sweep and has turned Notre Dame’s title hopes upside down. Yes, technically, Notre Dame can still finish first, but with the Friars playing a struggling Massachusetts team this weekend, it’s hard to think Notre Dame will pass Providence, let alone first-place BC.

2. Northeastern stays incredibly strong in second half

The Huskies remain so hot. And, despite the fact Northeastern will have to host a first-round series and then travel for the quarterfinal if it survives. But Northeastern is definably the one team every club should want to avoid in the second half. Within Hockey East, Northeastern last lost on December 6 against Boston College and has posted a 13-2-3 record over the last 18 games. After beginning 1-11-2, the current mark of 14-13-5 might be the biggest miracle in college hockey this season.

3. The PairWise remains strong for Hockey East

There is plenty of time for movement, but right now, Hockey East remains in a cat bird’s seat in the PairWise. As it has for weeks, Hockey East has five teams in the top 13 of the PairWise, with Boston College and Providence virtually having locked up their spots in the NCAA field almost a month before selection Sunday. Notre Dame and Boston University are each a couple of wins away from doing the same. The league, as a whole, still has the third-best interconference record behind both the NCHC and ECAC, but at this point it is Hockey East’s strength at the top that continues to control the projected NCAA field.