Is it possible that Hockey East will only send two teams to the NCAA tournament this year? It’s something that has only happened once in the last 14 years. BC and UNH still look like safe bets, but no one else is any better than a bubble team right now. Lowell dropped out of the top 16 in the Pairwise over the weekend. Merrimack and Providence are being held back by poor non-conference records. BU is still in the top 16, but given the way the Terriers have been playing, you have to wonder how much longer that will last.
My gut feeling is that at least one of those bubble teams will make it. If the Terriers can get back to playing at least close to the level they played at during the first semester, they have a pretty easy schedule that should help them save face. The River Hawks play all Teams Under Consideration the rest of the way, so they can definitely move up if they get hot. The Warriors and Friars have the steepest climb, both because they need the most wins and because they have pretty tough schedules.
1. Boston College (16-7-2, 12-6-1 HE) — Last week: 3
The Eagles bounced back nicely after getting swept by Maine, beating Vermont 4-1 on Friday and Harvard by the same score on Monday in the opening round of the Beanpot. Granted, Vermont and Harvard aren’t the toughest challenges, but this was still a complete 180 from the Maine series. And with other teams losing, it was enough to move BC back to the top of my rankings. Johnny Gaudreau and Pat Mullane each had a goal and an assist on Friday, while Quinn Smith was the surprise star on Monday with a pair of goals.
2. New Hampshire (16-7-2, 11-6-1 HE) — Last week: 1
The Wildcats beat Northeastern 3-1 on Friday, but then lost to Merrimack 4-1 on Saturday. They’re now two points behind BC in the standings, but they do have a game in hand. Casey DeSmith played an incredible game on Friday, stopping 47 of 48 shots, but then he allowed three goals on 23 shots on Saturday. Kevin Goumas registered two assists on Friday, bringing him to 32 points on the season. That’s good for a second-place tie with Mike Collins among Hockey East players.
3. Merrimack (12-10-5, 10-6-2 HE) — Last week: 5
The Warriors made the biggest splash this weekend, as they beat Lowell 1-0 on Friday and UNH 4-1 on Saturday. They’re 6-2-1 since the start of January, and they’ve claimed sole possession of third place in the standings. Unfortunately for them, their 2-4-3 non-conference record isn’t going to do them any favors in the Pairwise, where they’re currently 24th. Sam Marotta had an outstanding weekend — he stopped all 25 shots he faced on Friday, then turned aside 51 of 52 shots on Saturday.
4. Massachusetts-Lowell (14-9-2, 8-8-2 HE) — Last week: 2
The River Hawks’ 11-game unbeaten streak came to an end with Friday’s loss to Merrimack. Then they followed that with a 4-3 overtime loss to Maine on Sunday. Making the weekend even worse was the fact that their record vs. TUCs (which is just 3-7-0) kicked in, dropping them to 18th in the Pairwise. Doug Carr stopped 26 of 27 shots on Friday to raise his save percentage above .900, but then it dropped back below that mark after he gave up four goals on Saturday.
5. Boston University (13-11-1, 10-7-1 HE) — Last week: 4
BU’s Jekyll-and-Hyde second half continued, with Hyde showing up this week. The Terriers lost 5-1 to UMass on Friday, then 3-2 to Northeastern on Monday in the first round of the Beanpot. They’re now 3-6-1 in the second half, and they’ve dropped to fourth in the league and 13th in the Pairwise. All things considered, they’re actually still in decent shape in both. They won’t be if they continue to play like this, though.
6. Providence (10-10-5, 8-6-4 HE) — Last week: 6
The Friars tied 2-2 with Maine in their only game of the weekend, so they stay at six. Had they won I might’ve moved them ahead of BU, but a tie isn’t enough. The Friars are just one point behind BU for the fourth and final home ice spot, but like Merrimack, their poor non-conference record (2-4-1) is holding them back in the Pairwise, where they’re currently 26th.
7. Massachusetts (10-12-2, 7-9-1 HE) — Last week: 7
The Minutemen picked up an impressive 5-1 win over BU on Friday in their only game of the weekend. Michael Pereira tallied two goals and two assists, while Branden Gracel had a goal and two assists. Gracel now has 12 points in eight second-half games. The Minutemen are 3-1-0 in their last four and 5-3-0 since winter break, but they’re still six points out of a home ice spot.
8. Maine (8-14-5, 4-9-5 HE) — Last week: 8
Just like that, the Black Bears find themselves on a four-game unbeaten streak. They tied Providence 2-2 on Friday, then beat Lowell 4-3 in overtime on Sunday to finally earn their first win at Alfond Arena this season. Joey Diamond scored both goals on Friday, then notched two more on Sunday, including the game-winner. He now has six goals in the last five games.
9. Northeastern (8-13-3, 4-11-3 HE) — Last week: 10
The Huskies lost 3-1 to UNH on Friday, but then they beat BU 3-2 on Monday in the opening round of the Beanpot. Kevin Roy scored all three goals on Monday, giving him eight goals and 17 points in nine second-half games. His 1.25 points per game put him first nationally among freshmen and third among all Hockey East players. He ranks fourth nationally in goals per game with 0.62.
10. Vermont (7-14-4, 4-10-4 HE) — Last week: 9
The Catamounts lost 4-1 to BC in their only game of the weekend, dropping them to 1-6-0 since the start of January. They’re now one point behind Maine for the eighth and final playoff spot. These next two weekends will be huge for their playoff hopes, as they play one against Maine and two against Northeastern — the two teams they’re battling for a playoff spot.