Friday night, Northeastern’s loss to Boston University cemented the eight-team field for the 2012 Hockey East Tournament. NU’s 5-2 loss to BU, paired with Massachusetts’ win over Merrimack and Boston College defeating Vermont, left the Huskies locked into the wrong side of the tiebreakers that ultimately decided who qualified and who missed out.
The Huskies and UMass finished tied in eighth place with identical records of 9-14-4 in Hockey East play. The tiebreakers for this exact scenario are as follows.
- Head to head record
- Wins in league play
- Record against first-place team, if that’s tied it goes to second-place team and so on
In head-to-head play, UMass and Northeastern played to 1-1-1 record, so that first tiebreaker doesn’t help. Second tiebreaker, being league wins, is equally useless, since they finished with the same record. The third tiebreaker, finally, gave us some answers. Boston College picked up its 12th Hockey East regular season championship with its sweep of Vermont. As a result, records of UMass and Northeastern against BC determined the final team.
UMass defeated BC twice this season, good for a 2-1-0 record against the Eagles. Meanwhile, Northeastern was swept by the Eagles in league play. Those two wins against BC kept UMass in the race and ultimately are the reason they’re in the playoffs.
Also on the tiebreaker front, UMass Lowell and BU shared the No. 2 spot in the final league standings. As a result of its two wins against BU this season, UML earns the No. 2 seed in the Hockey East playoffs.
Hockey East Quarterfinal matchups
No. 1 Boston College vs. No. 8 Massachusetts — Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, Mass.
No. 2 UMass Lowell vs. No. 7 Providence — Tsongas Center, Lowell, Mass.
No. 3 Boston University vs. No. 6 New Hampshire — Agganis Arena, Boston, Massachusetts
No. 4 Maine vs. No. 5 Merrimack — Alfond Arena, Orono, Maine
Ultimately, things could’ve looked much different with a few different bounces on Friday or Saturday night. Vinny Saponari’s game-winning goal against BU gave Northeastern a victory in its season finale. While it was not enough to clinch a playoff spot for the Huskies, it did force BU into the No. 3 seed. A matchup against UNH is a much more difficult task for the Terriers at this point.
Similarly, we entered Saturday knowing Maine and Merrimack would play in the first round for the second consecutive season. The location of the series was undetermined, though. The Black Bears held a one-point advantage over the Warriors. Maine knocked off UNH, 1-0, to clinch a first-round series at Alfond Arena.
Earning home ice is an accomplishment for teams, but it doesn’t guarantee anything. These are not easy matchups for any of the four teams staying home for the first round of the playoffs. Of course, BC and UML are heavy favorites, but they did lose to their first-round opponents at once this season — twice in BC’s case.