Hockey East’s version of the Frozen Four is set with BU beating Maine in three, BC sweeping New Hampshire, Northeastern surviving UMass, and UMass-Lowell beating Vermont in two. I, for one, am not sure if the bigger surprise was BU needing three games or that the BC-UNH series was a sweep. The semis and finals are single elimination games Friday and Saturday at the TD Banknorth Garden. The teams are reseeded after the quarterfinals, resulting in the matchups (#1 vs #6, #2 vs #5).
Looking ahead, BU and Northeastern are locks for the NCAA tournament field. Despite getting swept, Vermont and UNH look to be safely in the tournament field. BC and UMass-Lowell were on the outside looking in coming into the Hockey East playoffs. BC will probably need to make the conference final, and perhaps win it, and UMass-Lowell would appear to need to win the auto-bid via the conference victory. UMass and Maine, likewise, needed the auto-bid to make the field of 16, and with their losses, their seasons are over.
#1 Boston University Terriers vs. #6 Boston College Eagles
- Season Series: 1-1 (tie), BU 3-1, BU 5-2
- How they got here: BU 2-1 over #8 Maine (2-1, 3-6, 6-2); BC 2-0 over #6 UNH (5-3, 1-0)
- BU: 3.81 goals per game (#1 HEA), 2.00 goals allowed per game (#1 HEA), 23.4% power play (#1 HEA), 88.5% penalty kill (#2 HEA)
- Boston College: 3.00 gpg (#3 HEA), 2.85 gapg (#6 HEA), 18.2% pp (#3 HEA), 85.1% pk (#4 HEA)
- BU had plenty of offense in the series with Maine, but inexplicably dropped a game in the series. However, Coach Jack Parker should be able to use this as motivation now that there is no tomorrow.
- BC and UNH were two very closely matched teams with UNH hot and BC cold. With the series also happening in Durham, the Wildcats seemed the favorite to advance in a gritty three game series. However, in recent years, March and April is the Eagles’ time of year and they will get their chance to defend their title.
- Outlook: The Eagles probably need this game to have any hopes alive for the NCAA tournament and seem to have new life in the postseason. However, goalie John Muse has not been the same goalie as last season and BU has looked really strong all season. Look for BU to make the final and win the Hockey East tournament.
#2 Northeastern University Huskies vs. #5 Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks
- Season Series: NU 4-3, NU 3-0, NU 3-1
- How they got here: NU 2-1 over #7 UMass (1-2, 4-1, 3-2 (ot)); UML 2-0 over #4 Vermont (4-3 (ot), 4-2)
- Northeastern: 2.89 gpg (#5 HEA), 2.19 gapg (#2 HEA), 15.4% pp (#7 HEA), 85.2% pk (#3 HEA)
- Massachusetts-Lowell: 3.11 gpg (#2 HEA), 2.44 gapg (#3 HEA), 19.7% pp (#2 HEA), 89.1% pk (#1 HEA)
- Northeastern dropped the first game to UMass and was taken to overtime in the finale before ultimately prevailing. The Huskies will continue to ride goalie Brad Thiessen as far as he can take them.
- UMass-Lowell will not beat themselves and are playing a very complete game of hockey right now. However, the Huskies habe been a problem for the River Hawks all season.
- Outlook: Despite the three regular season losses, I think UMass-Lowell likes its chances in a fourth shot at the Huskies. Look for the River Hawks to figure out how to solve Thiessen and escape with a win before falling to BU in the final.
Tags: Boston College, Boston University, Maine, Northeastern University, UMass, UMass-Lowell, University of New Hampshire, Vermont