Boston University clinched a share of the regular-season title more than a week ago but the league was waiting until the Terriers clinch outright to present the trophy. The fact that took a while leads the three things I learned this week:
1. The Terriers are champs … finally
BU has known for a while they could call themselves regular season champions in Hockey East, but it wasn’t until the final night of the regular season that the Terriers knew they would have hold that championship all to themselves and earn then top seed in the playoffs. It was a bit of a difficult ending for BU – a loss and tie to Notre Dame and a loss on Friday to Northeastern (sandwiched around, of course, a Beanpot title). But BU dominated the Huskies on Saturday night to not only clinch to solo championship but head into a bye week with some confidence.
2. The creme has risen to the top
When you look at the final Hockey East standings, it is certainly the hottest teams come season’s end that rose to the top. The four teams that earned first-round byes – BU, Providence, Boston College and UMass Lowell – all played solid hockey over the final couple of weeks of the regular season (BU might be the one exception, but a Beanpot win believe it or not helps make a tough ending look better). The four teams that will host first-round series also seem to be clicking. It’s hard to tell which of the teams playing next weekend are most dangerous, but a quick look at the matchups shows that all four of the teams hosting – Notre Dame, Northeastern, Vermont and New Hampshire – played pretty good hockey down the stretch (Vermont might be considered the exception, but the Cats did earn a road win at Boston College and a road tie at UMass Lowell within the final three weekends).
3. It could be a thin year for Hockey East in the NCAA tournament
Ugly. That’s the only way to describe the PairWise outlook for Hockey East right now. While Boston University, Providence and Boston College all seem to have pretty solid NCAA footing, there isn’t currently a ton of home for more than three teams to make the NCAA tournament. UMass Lowell sits right below the bubble in the PairWise, while Vermont (19th) and Northeastern (t-20th) are the only other teams that can seemingly reach the NCAA field without winning the Hockey East tournament. All three of those teams will likely have to reach the Hockey East semifinals to even have a chance.