Hockey East Power Rankings: 2/25/13

Posted by: Scott McLaughlin

We’re down to two weekends left in the regular season (plus two Tuesday night makeup games this week), meaning it’s do-or-die time. There are a handful of teams fighting not just for home ice, but also for the regular-season title. Three teams are in pretty good shape in the Pairwise, while three others have some work to do if they hope to get an at-large bid. Then at the bottom of the league, four teams continue to battle for the final two playoff spots. In this week’s power rankings, I take a look at each team’s postseason situation.

1. Boston College (18-8-3, 13-7-2 HE) — Last week: 1
Quinn Smith scored 2:23 into overtime to give BC a huge 2-1 win at Merrimack on Sunday. The Eagles are now in a three-way tie for first, but they have a game in hand on both UNH and Providence. That game in hand comes Tuesday against Lowell, and a weekend series against Providence follows that. Sunday’s win also jumped the Eagles ahead of UNH for the final one-seed in the Pairwise. Parker Milner stopped 43 of 44 shots and now has a .940 save percentage since the start of February.

2. New Hampshire (17-8-5, 12-7-4 HE) — Last week: 2
The Wildcats stay at two after taking three of four points from Vermont. Austin Block scored twice in Friday’s 4-3 win and Casey DeSmith made 30 saves in Saturday’s 1-1 tie. Trevor van Riemsdyk had a goal and three assists in the series, and he now has six more points than any other Hockey East defenseman. The Wildcats are fifth in the Pairwise and tied for first in the league. Of the regular-season title contenders, they have the easiest road — they finish with series against UMass and Maine.

3. Massachusetts-Lowell (18-9-2, 12-8-2 HE) — Last week: 4
The River Hawks move up to three after dominating BU in a weekend sweep. They blanked the Terriers 3-0 on Friday, then outshot them 39-16 in Saturday’s 3-1 win. Joseph Pendenza registered two goals and two assists in the series, while Scott Wilson scored a pair of goals. The River Hawks are two points out of first and they’re up to 11th in the Pairwise, but they have arguably the toughest road of any of the contenders, as they finish with BC, Merrimack (2x) and Providence (2x).

4. Merrimack (14-11-6, 12-7-3 HE) — Last week: 3
In a perfect illustration of how tight the top of Hockey East is, the Warriors went from first entering the weekend to fourth coming out. They’re still just one point back, though, and they have a game in hand on two of the teams in front of them. Where the Warriors took a much bigger hit was the Pairwise — Sunday’s loss to BC dropped them to 23rd. Their next three games are against BU and Lowell (2x), and they’ll likely need to win at least two of them to keep their at-large hopes alive.

5. Providence (13-10-7, 11-6-6 HE) — Last week: 5
The Friars moved into a tie for first by sweeping Northeastern over the weekend, as they won 6-2 on Friday and 3-2 on Saturday. Stefan Demopoulos and Tim Schaller each had five points on Friday, while Jon Gillies stopped 67 of 71 shots in the series. Unfortunately they still have a long way to go to be in contention for an at-large bid, as they’re currently 27th in the Pairwise. They end the regular season with series against BC and Lowell, and they probably need at least six points to really move up.

6. Boston University (14-14-2, 11-9-2 HE) — Last week: 6
The Terriers dropped to 1-5-1 in February after getting swept by Lowell. They’re now three points out of home ice, and they’ve dropped to 22nd in the Pairwise. Throughout much of this second-half slide, the Terriers were still at the point where all they had to do was recover enough to go .500 down the stretch in order to preserve their postseason chances. Now they’re at the point where even that won’t be enough. They basically need to catch fire, and that doesn’t seem likely.

7. Vermont (10-15-5, 7-11-5 HE) — Last week: 7
Now we get to the non-TUC portion of Hockey East. The Catamounts played UNH tough, but came away with just one point. UMass and Maine both gained a little ground on them, but they’re still three points above the playoff cut line. With a series against BC on the final weekend of the season, the Catamounts might have to grab a couple points against the struggling Terriers this weekend to shore up their position.

8. Massachusetts (11-17-2, 8-14-1 HE) — Last week: 8
The Minutemen lost their fourth and fifth straight games on Tuesday and Friday, but then they bounced back with a 5-2 win over Maine on Saturday. They still have a one-point lead over Maine for the final playoff spot, but they’ll need to grab some points against some of the league’s top teams if they’re going to stay there. UMass’ final two series are against UNH and Merrimack, and its next three games are all on the road.

9. Maine (9-17-6, 5-12-6 HE) — Last week: 9
Martin Ouellette stopped all 30 shots he faced in Friday’s 2-0 win over UMass, but the Black Bears couldn’t duplicate that effort on Saturday. They’re still one point out of a playoff spot, but as I mentioned above, UMass might have trouble finding points the rest of the way. The Black Bears get Northeastern at home this weekend, and they need to take advantage.

10. Northeastern (9-18-3, 5-15-3 HE) — Last week: 10
The Huskies kept their playoff hopes alive with a big come-from-behind overtime win at UMass last Tuesday, but failed to carry that momentum into the weekend as they got swept by Providence. They’re now four points out of the final playoff spot. The Huskies head up to Maine this weekend, and they’ll probably need at least three points if they’re going to have a realistic shot heading into the final weekend.

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