Monday 10: Playoffs start in four conferences as teams start grind to Frozen Four in Detroit

Carson Meyer (OSU - 72)  The Ohio State Buckeyes lose 4-3 to the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers Saturday, February 16, 2019 at Value City Arena in Columbus, OH.  (Rachel Lewis - USCHO) (Rachel Lewis/©Rachel Lewis)
Carson Meyer scored four goals in Ohio State’s 9-1 win over Wisconsin last Friday night (photo: Rachel Lewis).

With college hockey’s second season beginning over the weekend, there were plenty of great storylines across college hockey.

So we might as well begin the Monday 10 right there:

1. Princeton proves records don’t matter in playoffs

The Tigers may have won just two ECAC games in the regular season, but that didn’t matter much in the Tigers opening-round series at Dartmouth. Princeton upset the Big Green on back-to-back nights, winning each game in overtime, to double that conference win total and advance. They’ll now have the task of taking on No. 1 Cornell in the quarterfinals.

2. Fans kept away from Harvard-Rensselaer series due to coronavirus

It was announced on Sunday that due to concerns related to the spread of coronavirus, next weekend’s ECAC quarterfinal series between Harvard and RPI being played on Rensselaer’s campus will be played without fans in the stands. The school took the precaution after two patients in New York’s Capital District tested positive for the illness.

It brings back memories of Hockeyfest in 1990.

After an outbreak of measles on the Maine campus, the conference championships for Hockey East and the ECAC, which were scheduled to take place in concert at the Boston Garden, had to the canceled. While the ECAC tournament was still played at the Garden, the entire Hockey East tournament was played on campus sites. Games featuring Maine required fans to be of a certain age and able to provide proof of vaccination in order to attend.

This health threat takes things one step further.

3. Ohio State earns revenge, advances in Big Ten playoffs

A week ago, Wisconsin played the role of spoiler in the Big Ten. The Badgers earned a win and tie on the road at Ohio State to prevent the Buckeyes from capturing the Big Ten regular-season title.

This past weekend, the two clubs faced off again, this time in the Big Ten quarterfinals. But the results were much different.

Friday was an absolute rout, with Ohio State’s Carson Meyer netting four goals in a 9-1 victory. Saturday’s game two was at lot closer, but the Buckeyes prevailed in overtime on Jaedon Leslie’s game-winner early in the extra session.

The Buckeyes will be rewarded with a home game next Michigan, which dispatched rival Michigan State in two games.

4. Michigan Tech advances over rival Northern Michigan in dramatic fashion

It took three overtimes and the 17th-longest men’s Division I hockey game, but Michigan Tech completed a sweep of rival Northern Michigan with a 4-3 victory on Saturday.

The game was the fifth-longest in the WCHA’s long history and only got to overtime when Logan Ganie scored early in the third period to even the score at three.

The Huskies will travel to Minnesota State next weekend for the WCHA semifinals.

5. Hockey East wraps regular season, will open playoffs with top two seeds facing ranked teams

A very close finish in Hockey East led to UMass Lowell and Maine locking up the final two home-ice positions, while Northeastern and Providence earned the final two playoff spots in a race that wasn’t decided until the final day.

In the end, six of the eight teams that made the Hockey East tournament are currently ranked in the poll. None are likely to drop out in today’s poll.

What is ironic is that the top two seeds will be the teams that face other nationally-ranked opponents in the quarterfinals.

Top-seed No. 4 Boston College will face Providence, which was ranked as high as sixth this season but finished ranked 18th. Second-seed No. 9 UMass will take on No. 16 Northeastern, which was once ranked No. 3 in the poll.

The third and fourth seeds, Lowell and Maine, will face teams currently unranked in Boston University and Connecticut, respectively.

6. NCHC playoffs will open with top four teams taking on role of heavy favorites

All four NCHC ranked in the poll earned the four home-ice spots in the postseason. North Dakota will host Colorado College, Minnesota Duluth hosts Miami, Denver hosts Omaha and, the seeds that were up in the air until this weekend, Western Michigan will host St. Cloud State.

Each of the hosts finished the regular season with winning records at home, from North Dakota, which went 18-1-0, to Western Michigan, which was 12-6-1. Conversely, the four road teams all were well below .500 away from home.

Of note, though, of those four the team with the best road record is eighth-seed Colorado College, which went 7-10-0 on the road this season.

7. Yale’s double OT heroics in Game 3 set up cross-town rivalry in ECAC quarters

It didn’t take five overtimes as it did when Yale and Union squared off in the third-longest Division 1 men’s game in 2006. But a double-overtime goal by Graham Lillibridge 3:10 into the second overtime game the Bulldogs the win in Game 3 of their opening-round series versus Union.

Yale advances to face New Haven-area rival Quinnipiac in the quarterfinal round next weekend, a rematch of the two teams’ season finale last Saturday, a game won 5-0 by the host Bobcats. It is also the second time in three years these teams will meet in the playoffs. Quinnipiac went on the road in March 2018 to sweep Yale in the ECAC first round.

8. Difficult second half ends in frustration for Notre Dame

Despite being ranked third in the country in late November, Notre Dame’s season came to an end on Sunday when Minnesota rallied after losing on Friday to win the final two games of their quarterfinal series and advance on a 3-2 win in Game 3.

The Irish began the season 7-0-1. But since rising to third in the poll on Nov. 19, Notre Dame went 7-14-6 the rest of the way and are in a position that an at-large bid is not possible.

Conversely, the Golden Gophers kept their postseason hopes alive. But they likely need to get past top-seeded Penn State, a team Minnesota hasn’t beat this season and, in fact, has been outscored 20-10 in four games against the Nittany Lions, to hope to move further up the PairWise Rankings.

9. Atlantic Hockey playoffs business as usual

All three home teams advanced in the Atlantic Hockey playoffs with Bentley sweeping Canisius and Air Force winning back-to-back over Mercyhurst.

Only Robert Morris needed three games, after losing 2-0 on Friday to Holy Cross. The Colonials kept their season alive on an OT game-winner by Santeri Hartikainen on Saturday and then rolled past the Crusaders 5-1 on Sunday.

10. Bemidji State learns PairWise’s volatility

Bemidji State entered this weekend likely feeling pretty good about their PairWise position.

At 10th, the Beavers were in a position to possibly avoid any sort of conference tournament upsets if they, themselves, don’t win the WCHA tournament.

But after winning on Friday, a loss to Lake Superior State in Saturday’s Game 2, dropped Bemidji from 10th to 13th in the PairWise. Another loss in Sunday’s Game 3 could have possibly meant the end of the road for the Beavers.

Fortunately for them, they survived their quarterfinal series and moved up a spot to 12th. There is still plenty of chance for further volatility, but at least for Sunday, Bemidji can know they have survived the first hurdle.

The Beavers host Bowling Green next weekend in the WCHA semifinals.