The top of the Hockey East standings got a whole lot tighter because of some results on Sunday. That leads the three things I learned this week:
1. A BU comeback and solid weekend for the Irish make top of standings tight
When Boston University trailing UMass Lowell, 3-1, on Sunday, one could take a look at the standings and feel that the River Hawks were beginning to get some breathing room in Hockey East. But a BU comeback that culminated in an overtime win and a solid, three-point weekend for Notre Dame against Connecticut leaves just five points separating the top five teams in the standings. It’s important to talk about five teams because one of those teams (or more if a team in sixth or below can move up in the final five weeks) won’t earn a first-round bye. That makes finishing in the top four of the league standings simply paramount.
2. An interesting travel weekend for Hockey East teams
Most teams in Hockey East have grown accustomed to playing two-game series against the same opponent now that the league has 12 members and each team plays every opponent twice. Many of those two-game series can be played as home-and-homes, but for teams like Maine, Vermont and, most notably, Notre Dame, playing two games in different cities isn’t a very viable option. This weekend, though, was an aberration for a few teams. Boston College and UMass Lowell logged some unlikely bus miles, with BC playing in Boston on Friday against BU and Lowell traveling for a game at Orono. On Saturday, those two teams traded opponents and venues with Lowell heading to Boston to Agganis Arena and BC heading north to Alfond Arena. Notre Dame and Connecticut, the league’s two newest members had an even stranger weekend. After playing Friday night in South Bend, the two teams traveled by plane to Bridgeport, Conn., for a noon start on Sunday. The teams that bused after Friday, BC and Lowell, lost on Sunday. While the one road team that one hoped on a plane (Notre Dame). Don’t think there is a lot to read there but certainly an interesting travel weekend for what for years was a very compact regional league.
3. Did Vermont peak already?
It is certainly a small sample size, but it seems like the Vermont team that has returned since the exam break isn’t playing like the team was prior. The Catamounts ran off six straight wins and won nine of 11 before the break. But since winning the first game back over Air Force, Vermont is 1-3-1 and this weekend salvaged just a single tie in a two-game home series against Northeastern. That prompts the question of whether or not Catamounts have already hit their pinnacle for the season. My gut and knowing the talent on this team, I would think not. But we’ll learn a lot more when Vermont hosts Boston University for two games this weekend.