|Notes and Observations Week 15: Patriots Blow Out Dolphins 41-13; Clinch AFC East||Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Defense, Special Teams Carry Home Team||Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Week 15||Right Idea? Red Sox Bring in Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson|
With two weeks left in Hockey East play, nothing much is settled. This weekend did not help to provide much clarity either as three of the five pairings were splits and the lone sweep was an “upset”, further jamming the schools in the standings. New Hampshire and Boston College have separated themselves from the pack a bit of late and that is also reflected in the latest USCHO.com Division I Men’s Hockey poll as the Wildcats moved up two spots to 11 and the Eagles bumped up one spot to seventh. The other Hockey East schools all fell. Maine dropped one spot to 16, Vermont also slipped one to 18, and BU likewise fell one spot to 20. UMass, the victim of the sweep at the hands of Merrimack, fell out of the poll.
At the top of the poll, Miami lost a game and fell out of first, but only down one spot to second, and Denver moved up from second to reclaim Number One. Denver took 39 of 50 first place votes with Miami garnering the rest of the support as the two schools are still the only ones to hold the top spot this season. Wisconsin, St. Cloud State, and Yale hold their spots to round out the top five.
The schedule had the 10 member instituions paired off in five series this weekend resulting in three splits, one three to one split, and one sweep. Merrimack, the ninth place team heading into the weekend, swept UMass to put themselves in playoff position and put the Minutemen in their sights. New Hampshire took three of four points from Vermont in the other matchup not featuring a 50-50 point split. The other action featured a BC-Northeastern split, a Maine-UMass-Lowell split, and the same for BU and Providence.
Where does that leave Hockey East heading into the penultimate week of the regular season? UNH leads with 32 points and they have clinched home-ice in the first round, including at least a third place finish. They have a commanding four point lead with four games to play as they attempt to win their third regular season title in four years. The Eagles currently reside in second with 28 points and have clinched a playoff spot. Maine is third with 26 points and BU fourth with 24 points, which would give them home ice advantage in the first round series. Northeastern has 23 points, UMass-Lowell and UMass are tied with 22 points (UML has a game in hand), and Merrimack has 21 points to round out what would be the playoff field. Vermont sits in ninth, one point out of the playoff picture, with 20 points and Providence has 12 points and has locked up last place.
This week, BC will play host to UMass and Merrimack, giving them a big hand in determining who’s in and who’s out. UNH will play a home-and-home with Northeastern, and Providence and UMass-Lowell will do the same. Maine visits Merrimack for a pair of games in a busy week for the Warriors. BU heads north to Vermont for a critical pair of games for the Catamounts.