A two-team race becomes a six-team battle

A week ago, I wrote about the race for the Hockey East title becoming a two-team race. Not anymore.

1. Losses by BC, BU make race to finish interesting

Boston College and Boston University each looked ready for a battle to the finish for the Hockey East regular season title. But after losses for each last weekend, coming away without points in a weekend this late in the season has brought a number of teams back into the mix. Notre Dame and UMass Lowell each took four points to each climb within four points of BC and a single point of BU. Providence continues its roll and is a single point in back of the Irish and River Hawks. Vermont, after a split with New Hampshire, lost pace and, though still mathematically alive for the title, really will focus on trying to climb to fourth place for a first-round bye.

2. The Friars are the hottest team (and scariest opponent to face) in the league right now

After a 4-3 loss to Vermont on January 13, Providence’s season looked dire. The Friars sat at 1-6-2 in Hockey East. Sure there were a lot of games left, but the Friars were needing to find wins fast. They’ve found them. Nine straight victories – all in league play – raised the Friars to 10-6-2 and they are locked into a battle for a league title and a first-round bye. This weekend’s series at Notre Dame could go a long way to sorting out the top of the standings. But this turnaround, quite frankly, is remarkable.

3. Merrimack end of an ugly streak

Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy made a lot of good memories as a player at Boston College’s Conte Forum. He was a member of BC teams that won three Hockey East regular season title, a postseason championship and that reached a Frozen Four in 1990. All of the biggest games in that time (Hockey East finals, NCAA regionals) were all played in Conte Forum.

Since becoming coach at Merrimack, though, you wouldn’t blame Dennehy for not wanting to visit his alma mater. Before Friday, his Warriors hadn’t won a game in his coaching tenure at the Heights – nor in the eight years prior – running Merrimack’s futile streak at BC to 20 seasons.

That ended on Friday thanks to a 6-3 victory paced by Hampus Gustafsson’s five-point (three goals, two assists) game. The win makes Merrimack 3-0-1 against BC and Boston University this season and has to give this team confidence heading to the postseason.