Vermont, UMass Slip Into Hockey East Playoffs
Seeds Finally Set After Wild Finish
CHN Staff Report
After a wild final weekend, and the tightest top-to-bottom race in Hockey East history, the pairings for the league tournament quarterfinals are finally set.
The only game that didn't matter was the one involving the top two teams, and the only two league teams that seem assured of NCAA bids. In that one, Boston College defeated New Hampshire, and finished one point behind the Wildcats for first place. As far as the NCAAs are concerned, however, BC is more of a lock, and currently holds a No. 1 seed spot, thanks to a tie by Bemidji State on Saturday. UNH seems like a solid three seed at the moment, but things could change.
New Hampshire will be hosting Vermont in next week's quarterfinals. The Catamounts allowed a late goal and wound up with a 1-1 tie against Mass.-Lowell on Saturday; but thanks to Northeastern's loss, Vermont — a Frozen Four team a year ago — snuck into the final spot, while Northeastern had its season come to an end. Though Vermont has been teetering on the Pairwise bubble, as it stands at this second, the Catamounts are on the outside of the NCAA picture.
Merrimack could not finish a weekend sweep of last-place Providence, getting a 1-1 tie, but did secure its first playoff berth under Mark Dennehy, and the most points in its history in Hockey East. That was good enough for sixth place, as the Warriors won the tiebreaker with Massachusetts. The reward is a trip to Agganis Arena to face the defending national champions, Boston University, which swept Northeastern while Maine lost twice, giving BU the three seed.
Maine's two losses didn't cost it home ice, since Lowell only got the tie. That meant a three-way tie for third, which BU won. Maine then won the tiebreaker with Lowell, and will host the RiverHawks next weekend in Orono.
As for Massachusetts, it concluded the most roller coaster regular season of any team in the league. At one point, the Minutemen were looking great for home ice, then a second-half tailspin put them in danger of not making the postseason. But heading into the final weekend on thin ice, UMass pulled out a weekend sweep at Maine to come away with seventh place and a trip to Boston College for the quarterfinals. At the moment, UMass also holds the final at-large spot for the NCAAs, though they will change in a hurry with losses next weekend.
CHN has all the scoop on the Hockey East tournament.