There were four weekend sweeps in Hockey East – Massachusetts-Lowell over Massachusetts, Maine over Boston University, Boston College over New Hampshire and Northeastern over Vermont – that taught me just one thing (that can be divided into three different groups). So here are the three classes that will make up the Hockey East race as we head down the home stretch:
1. Teams with the highest of hopes
There is a distinct five-team pack in Hockey East that all have the highest hopes: a Hockey East title (this same five team pack is likely to determine the four home-ice spots). Boston University appeared to be in the driver’s seat entering last weekend but after losing two at home to Maine, suddenly have lost the handle on first place. BU and BC each have 25 points in first place. Right on their heels is Maine with 24, Merrimack with 23 and Lowell with 22. The most important factor here, though, are games in hand. BC and Maine have each played 20 games. BU has played 19. But Lowell and Merrimack have each played just 17 games, putting them in the cat bird’s seat. One thing to note, as well, Lowell and Merrimack still have to play three games against one another, something that is certain to have a major impact on the regular season title as well as home ice.
2. Battling for their playoff lives
While five teams may be in a race for the league title and home ice, four other clubs seem to be battling it out for the final three playoff spots. Providence, Northeastern, Massachusetts and New Hampshire will play the final weeks looking for which team will be odd man out. The Friars have a three point lead over NU and UMass and it’s likely only the Friars have a chance of the four to get home ice in the playoffs (this of course is not mathematical, rather based on recent trends). New Hampshire is in the worst position after losing twice to BC this weekend. The fact that Northeastern leapfrogged the Wildcats means that UNH is the team on the outside looking in.
3. For Vermont, it’s better luck next year
In no way am I saying Vermont should mail it in for the rest of the season, but being nine points out of the playoffs with just nine games left is a tall order for the Catamounts. Still, the team could play the role of spoiler with weekend series against Lowell, BU and New Hampshire, as well as three games against Boston College remaining.
There is plenty of hockey still to be played, but this past weekend did a lot to divide the remaining battles in Hockey East.