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The top four in the latest USCHO.com Division I Men’s Hockey poll remained unchanged with Denver on top. The Pioneers now have 48 of 50 first place votes and Miami, in second, claims the other two. Wisconsin and St. Cloud State held onto their spots in third and fourth, respectively, but Hockey East finally cracks the top five again as the Eagles have ascended to the spot, up two from last week. New Hampshire also rose one spot to get back into the top 10, barely. Vermont is number 16 and Maine is number 17 as the league is down to just four members in the Top 20.
As has been the norm lately in Hockey East, last weekend did very little to sort out the playoff picture. This weekend saw BC beat Merrimack and UMass, as the Minutemen continue to slide, possibly right out of the tournament. Merrimack, in a busy week, also split a pair with Maine to gain the eighth spot in the standings, putting them in possession of playoff spot at the moment. New Hampshire took three of four points from Northeastern and UMass-Lowell did likewise to Providence. Vermont swept BU in a rare misstep for the Terriers of late.
With just this weekend to go, there is a lot on the line. Each team is paired with a dance partner and six teams are alive for five spots, leaving one unlucky squad going home when the music stops. UNH leads with 35 points and BC is second with 32, guaranteeing them the 1-2 spots in the league’s playoff tournament. Maine, with 28 points, is in third and has clinched a playoff spot, but could lose the first round home ice advantage. The other five spots are opened and the six teams vying for the berths are only separated by a mere three points. UMass-Lowell has 25 points while BU, Northeastern, and Vermont are in a three way tie at 24 points. Merrimack currently sits in eighth with 23 points and the UMass slide has put them on the bubble with 22 points. Providence has only 13 points and will finish in the basement.
The schedule-makers set up a final series for UNH and BC with the league’s regular season title on the line. The Eagles need to sweep the series while the Wildcats need only to earn a single point. New Hampshire is looking for its third league title in four seasons, while BC has not won the regular season crown since 2005. UMass draws the toughest remaining opponent (based on league points) in Maine with two games in Orono. Meanwhile, Merrimack, the team that UMass would most like to pass, has the one point lead and the tiebreaker edge on the Minutemen, and will play a home-and-home with the last place Friars. Vermont hits the road for two games at UMass-Lowell and BU and NU will play games on Commonwealth and Huntington Avenues.