Taking a look at how the Hockey East standings may shake out over the next couple weeks

The Boston College Eagles defeated the visiting Providence College Friars 4-2 (EN) on Friday, January 11, 2019, at Kelley Rink in Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. (Melissa Wade)
Boston College and Providence battle in a Hockey East conference game on Jan. 11, 2019, at Kelley Rink in Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Mass. (photo: Melissa Wade).

No team in Hockey East has more than five regular-season games left. Thus, it seems like the perfect time to examine where your favorite team can (and most likely will) finish in the standings.

One caveat, this is based on mostly my math (with the help of Brian Smith in the league office).

Nothing is perfect, so if I state anything here that seems incorrect, feel free to message me at [email protected].

Here, team by team, is the possibilities and likelihoods for each of the 11 clubs as they head down the stretch in Hockey East:

Massachusetts

Currently: First
Games remaining: vs. UConn, at PC, at MC, vs. ME, at UConn
Clinched: Home ice in quarterfinals
Possible seed: 1-4

What to know: At this point, the Minutemen are sitting in the driver’s seat and should win the Hockey East regular season title. Last weekend’s sweep of Boston College combined with UMass Lowell losing twice gives UMass a comfortable six-point lead in the standings.

A trophy would be a fitting ending (at least to the regular season) for the UMass team which has more than met expectations. Now, with the pressure on during the postseason, we’ll see if UMass can capture its first tournament title.

UMass Lowell

Currently: Second (tied)
Games remaining: vs. MC, at MC, at UNH, vs. UNH, at UVM
Clinched: Playoffs
Possible seed: 1-8

What to know: Things were going swimmingly for the River Hawks, having not lost in 2019, until last weekend when UMass Lowell faced their kryptonite (at least in the regular season) Providence, which swept the two games series.

Lowell still remains in the cat bird’s seat to take the second seed, ahead of Northeastern and with a game in hand on Providence. The challenge is 1) taking care of business against teams they should beat and 2) playing two remaining games against a New Hampshire team when the Wildcats are playing their best hockey.

Providence

Currently: Second (tied)
Games remaining: vs. UMass, at UConn, vs. BU, vs. BC
Clinched: Playoffs
Possible seed: 1-8

What to know: The Friars seem back on the right track after a sweep of UMass Lowell last weekend. The only troubling part might be the 1-0 win over the River Hawks on Saturday. Taking out the 6-1 victory on Friday, Providence has scored just one goals in the other five of its last six games.

With Hayden Hawkey in net, shutouts are certainly possible, but scoring a single goal is no way to win. Add in the fact that the Friars give up a game to Lowell and, don’t play the easiest schedule down the stretch, Providence will be pushed to play its best down the stretch to remain in the top four.

Northeastern

Currently: Fourth
Games remaining: at UNH, at UNH, at BC, vs. BC, vs. UNH
Clinched: Playoffs
Possible seed: 1-8

What to know: After losing four of five, Northeastern seems a bit more steady after capturing the Beanpot and finding a way to take care of Vermont despite strong play from Catamounts goaltender Stefanos Lekkas. That will need to continue as the Huskies arguably have the most difficult schedule of the current top four down the stretch playing just two solid mid-pack teams over the last five games.

Neither UNH nor BC are stealing the show this season but both have proven on a given night they can be difficult opponents. The Huskies probably need to take 6-7 of the possible 10 league points to sew up home ice.

Boston College

Currently: Fifth
Games remaining: at ME, at ME, vs. NU, at NU, at PC
Clinched: Playoffs
Possible seed: 1-8

What to know: Boston College’s explosive league start has waned in recent weeks, with three straight losses in Hockey East taking BC from battling for a title to battling for home ice. Certainly nothing is out of the question for this Eagles team, but heading to Maine this weekend where taking four points has become a major challenge for any team, BC has its work cut out for itself.

The Eagles also know what the road ahead presents. There will be no at-large NCAA tournament bid this year, so unless the Eagles are carrying the Lamoriello Trophy on March 23, BC’s season will again end earlier than expected.

Boston University

Currently: Sixth (tied)
Games remaining: at UVM, at UVM, at PC, vs. MC, at ME
Clinched: Nothing
Possible seed: 2-9

What to know: How, with just five games remaining, BU can finish anywhere from champions to the playoff-absent abyss is almost mind-boggling. But that’s what this Hockey East season has delivered. BU’s inconsistency has translated to an ending that will deliver almost anything, depending on which BU team shows up over its final five games.

BU has a ton of upside should it produce. This is a team with more World Junior experience than any other in the nation and thus should understand what it’s like to play knowing there may be no tomorrow. But that desperation hasn’t showed up yet. There’s still time, though.

Maine

Currently: Sixth (tied)
Games remaining: vs. BC, vs. BC, at UMass, vs. BU
Clinched: Nothing:
Possible seed: 2-9

What to know: Despite being tied with the Terriers for sixth, the fact that Maine has played 20 games already keeps the Black Bears from being in contention for the league title. But this year’s Maine team has performed admirably and will be a tough out if they make the Hockey East playoffs.

At this point, it will take a single tie down the stretch to do that (or a tie from either UConn or Vermont), so let’s operate on the assumption that Maine is playing in the quarterfinals. The road is the likely place for those games to be played, but should Maine rally late and jump into the top four of the standings, no one should want to head to Orono for a best-of-three series.

New Hampshire

Currently: Eighth
Games remaining: vs. NU, vs. NU, vs. UML, at UML, at NU
Clinched: Nothing
Possible seed: 2-10

What to know: New Hampshire has no doubt the most difficult remaining schedule of all 11 Hockey East teams. That said, they’ve put themselves into a solid enough position that the teams below (UConn, Vermont) would have to be near-perfect to pass UNH for a playoff spot.

Though not game-changing, this has been more than a solid first season for Michael Souza behind the UNH bench. And the way UNH is playing in the second half, no one should want to face UNH in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs. They feel like a team that could pull off a major upset.

Connecticut

Currently: Ninth (tied)
Games remaining: at UMass, vs. PC, vs. UVM, vs. UMass
Clinched: Nothing
Possible seed: 6-11

What to know: UConn has been a giant slayer at times this season but has also struggled in too many games to be in a playoff position. The Huskies need a near-perfect finish to qualify for the league playoffs, something that just doesn’t seem likely.

If anything, UConn could play the role of spoiler facing UMass twice and Providence once. The way this Huskies team has played at times, none of that can be ruled out.

Vermont

Currently: Ninth (tied)
Games remaining: vs. BU, vs. BU, at UConn, vs. UML
Clinched: Nothing
Possible seed: 6-11

What to know: Vermont’s offense (or lack thereof) has hurt this Catamounts team. Honestly, they can be a very tough team to play, particularly given Stefanos Lekkas on the back end. But it does seem that barring a miracle, this is a team destined to miss the playoffs.

The remaining schedule is a tiny bit easier than UConn’s, but still isn’t likely to produce the near-perfect results needed to make the postseason.

Merrimack

Currently: 11th
Games remaining: at UML, vs. UML, vs. UMass, at BU
Clinched: Will miss playoffs
Possible seed: 9-11

What to know: This hasn’t been the season that the administration hoped for when they replaced coach Mark Dennehy with Scott Borek after last year’s quarterfinal exit. That said, given the new playoff format, last year’s team wouldn’t have qualified for the playoffs either.

Merrimack, despite some highlights on the schedule, just never seemed to have any momentum this season. Maybe that will change as this new staff actively recruits players. You’d certainly hope so given the expectations that the administration communicated when they terminated longtime coach Dennehy.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Very nice article, Jim. Looks like you got your mojo back. One thing is certain, Denver will be in Manchester or Providence, playing either UMass, UML or Providence.

  2. Has Merrimack ever been a good team in recent years? The last time they had a record above .500 was in 2012-13. Maybe it’s time to close up the Lawler “Arena” which isn’t much bigger than a high school gymnasium and focus on their sports that actually win like their Men’s Lacrosse team who won a National Title last year.

    I don’t know too many people who would be sad to see them go.

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