For the first time since 2013 – and just the second time in the last decade – the top four seeds in the Hockey East tournament advanced out of the quarterfinal round. Top-seeded UMass Lowell needed three games against New Hampshire and will face Notre Dame in Friday’s opening semifinal. Boston College and Boston University will renew their latest edition of their rivalry in the last game on Friday.
But before we look ahead, let’s look back at three takeaways from this weekend’s quarterfinal action.
1. Blowaways continue to be the story of the tournament
There have been very few nail biters in this Hockey East tournament and this weekend’s quarterfinals, for the most part, followed that script. Boston College erupted for 14 goals against what had been a hard-to-score-on Vermont team. Notre Dame posted back-to-back five spots on Providence (though the second included a couple of empty-netters). UMass Lowell scored eight on New Hampshire in a winner-take-all game three on Sunday, including the team’s first six-goal period since 1994, which spotted the River Hawks a 6-1 lead after 20 minutes of play.
This time of year we think about tight games and overtimes. Those may come next weekend, but to date, there has been just two one-goal games in the 18 games of the tournament.
2. About those one-goal games
If you were looking for drama, you found it at Boston University’s Agganis Arena. Facing cross-town rival Northeastern, BU fell behind, 2-0, in the first period of each game. But both nights BU struck once in the second and then early in the third to even the score. Friday required a power play goal in overtime. Saturday it was another power play goal but this came in the final minute of regulation. If blowouts were the trend of the tournament, no one told the Terriers and Huskies who played a series with a razor-thin margin for error.
3. Providence must now wait it out
The Providence Friars lost their series at Notre Dame but that likely won’t end the season for the Friars. A strong non-conference record for Providence has the Friars in the top 12 of the PairWise Rankings. Because the Friars can’t lose another game before selection Sunday, their RPI won’t drop much, if at all. So they are nearly a lock for the NCAA tournament but will have to dodge the doomsday scenario that many will figure out as this week goes on the the PairWise Predictor is rolled out on USCHO.
For the record, Boston University, Lowell and Notre Dame have all punched their NCAA tickets. Boston College, which will have a slight chance at an at-large bid if they can get past BU on Friday, is more likely to need to raise the Lamoniello Trophy if they hope to be in the NCAA tournament field.