These are the three things I think I learned this week.
1. Once the playoffs start, there are no easy games.
I’ll admit it. I thought that Maine and Massachusetts had the proverbial snowball’s chance in Tampa.
UMass had been getting shellacked by seemingly everyone over the second half. Boston University, by contrast, had positioned itself nicely for an NCAA tournament berth. And with the games at Agganis Area, I expected the Terriers to do little more than break a sweat in dispatching the Minutemen, in the immortal words of Mike Tyson, into Bolivian.
Instead, a stunningly feisty UMass club took BU to overtime in the first contest and was tied in the second with nine minutes remaining in regulation. The Minutemen lost both games but went out fighting.
And while Maine had been playing light years better than UMass, the Black Bears were taking on a Northeastern club that was as hot as any team in the country. Maine actually held a 2-0 lead in the first game and didn’t get tied until the third period. Both games required overtime.
So much for my expectation of “just about a zero chance” for UMass and Maine.
2. The John Micheletto era at UMass is over.
This was hardly a surprise. This past weekend aside, UMass had been getting stomped by lopsided scores for virtually the entire second half of this year. More importantly, Micheletto’s four years added up to two last-place finishes and two next-to-last seasons.
That dog won’t hunt.
It will be interesting to see whether UMass invests in an ultra-high-profile coach the way that Providence did with Nate Leaman just a few years ago, an investment that obviously produced huge dividends.
3. Momentum and home ice didn’t mean much in the 8 vs. 9 and 7 vs. 10 match-ups.
UConn earned home ice with an end-of-the-season sweep of New Hampshire but still lost to a Vermont team that was entering the playoffs with four straight losses.
Similarly, Merrimack swept the Catamounts in the regular season’s final weekend to take home ice, but lost the opener to UNH and had to survive overtime in game two before taking the rubber game, 2-1. The Wildcats, on the other hand, entered the series having gone 0-4-2 in their last six.
Ya just never know.