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BU’s sweep of Maine this weekend has the Terriers as the league’s hottest team and they have elevated to fourth place, which would mean home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, in Hockey East. The pollsters have taken notice of BU’s recent tear, putting them back in the poll for the first time since November, though a long way from their preseason number two ranking. Miami continues its stranglehold on number one in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Hockey Poll with 45 of 50 first place votes. Denver got the rest of the support for the top spot and remains in second. Wisconsin is solidly number three and St. Cloud State and Yale complete the top five. Hockey East schools are led by Boston College in eighth and they are followed by UNH (13), Maine (15), Vermont (17), Massachusetts (18), and BU (19).
BC, Maine, and UMass each had a chance to separate themselves from the pack and solidify their chances at a top four finish, which earns home ice in the playoffs and each failed. BC split with UMass-Lowell, though the Eagles hang onto second in the conference. BU swept Maine, foiling the Black Bears’ attempt to move up, and Northeastern swept UMass. UNH took care of business, beating Providence, and Merrimack stunned Vermont by taking three of four points to get in the playoff mix.
With three weekends remaining, no team has even clinched a spot in the league’s playoffs yet. UNH leads the way with 29 points, BC is second with 26, and Maine is third with 24. After that, fourth (home ice) through ninth (no playoffs) is separated by a mere five points. BU and UMass have 22 points apiece, Northeastern has 21, UMass-Lowell has 20, and Vermont has 19 to complete the playoff picture if the season ended today. However, Merrimack, at 17, is lurking just behind the Catamounts and Providence sits in last with 10 points.
This weekend, the teams pair off again for two game sets, except for BC and Northeastern who will play only once, at Matthews Arena. UNH hosts Vermont, Maine hosts UMass-Lowell, BU and Providence will play home-and-home, and Merrimack and UMass will do the same. Again this weekend, there will be ample opportunity for the lower seeded teams to solidify their playoff hopes and the higher seeded teams will attempt once again to hold their positions.