A five-team race late in the season became a three-team race in Hockey East’s final weekend. And in the end, though Boston College captured the top seed in the playoffs, the Eagles and the Providence Friars ended up atop of the league. That leads the three things I learned this weekend.
1. Eagles and Friars reign supreme
The odds of a co-championship heading into the final weekend seemed somewhat likely. Still it took many things aligning which at the end did. Boston College wrapped up their share of the title on Friday with a 3-1 win over UMass-Lowell. And the Eagles also clinched the top seed after winning the season series with the Friars. But Providence, which beat Massachusetts on Friday, knew a win on Saturday combined with a BC loss would earn the Friars a share. Once UMass-Lowell won the back end of the series, 3-1, and PC routed UMass, 6-0, co-champs were created, meaning each can claim to be the best after the Hockey East regular season.
2. Lots of crazy endings settled Hockey East’s positioning
Lowell’s win gave Providence a share of the regular season title. Notre Dame’s 1-0 win (and a 39-save performance by goaltender Cal Peterson) over Boston University gave Lowell the final first-round bye and forces the Terriers to host UMass next weekend. Merrimack’s 1-0 win over Vermont earned the Warriors home ice in next weekend’s first-round. And, most surprisingly, given New Hampshire’s 4-1 lead through two periods over Connecticut, the Huskies unlikely come-from-behind 5-4 overtime victory gave UConn its first home playoff series in Hockey East in the team’s second year in the league. If you missed Saturday night in Hockey East, particularly between the hours of 8:00 and 9:30 P.M. ET, you missed a lot.
3. There is a lot of concern over the bottom of Hockey East
Maine and UMass finished 11th and 12th, respectively, in Hockey East and each team ended the year in forgettable fashion. The Black Bears lost seven of its last eight league games, including falling 5-3 and 7-1 to the same Northeastern team they will face in the first round. UMass was winless in its last 18 league contests, its last Hockey East win coming in a weekend sweep of UConn on November 6 and 7. Now the Minutemen have to travel to BU in the opening round of the playoffs, trying to find a way to contain the Terriers offense. Though it is always popular to talk about the strength of Hockey East, top to bottom, Maine and UMass simply have not supported that theory much of this season.