The playoff hunt is in full effect. Boston College, Merrimack College and New Hampshire are battling for first. Boston University, UMass-Lowell and Providence are jockeying for the final home ice spot. And Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts fight for the final playoff spot. With roughly three weeks remaining in the regular season, every game counts for most teams in Hockey East.
1. Boston College (17-8-3, 12-7-2 HEA) – Last Week: 1
Boston College skated into Lawler Arena Friday night to battle Merrimack College for first place in Hockey East. Merrimack College came out on top in overtime, 2-1. The Eagles had Saturday night off, however on Sunday they faced off against New Hampshire. After 65 minutes of play, a winner was unable to push through and the teams skated to a 4-4 tie. The loss against Merrimack ended a three-game winning streak for Boston College and pushed them out of first place in the Hockey East standings. The Eagles face Merrimack once again this coming weekend for another battle for first place.
2. Merrimack College (14-10-6, 12-6-3 HEA) – Last Week: 3
The Warriors have gone from a middle of the pack team to a true contender for the Hockey East title this season. Merrimack has taken points in nine of the teams last 10 games, including the victory over Boston College on Friday night that put them into first place. The Warriors have not allowed a goal while killing a penalty in 2013, going 27-for-27. This week’s defensive player of the week, Sam Marotta, saved 63-of-66 shots this weekend, including a 39-save effort on Friday night. Marotta is 4-0-1 in his last five games with a 1.16 GAA and .963 save %. Merrimack may take over the top in the power rankings next week if they can pull off another win over Boston College on Sunday.
3. University of New Hampshire (16-8-4, 11-7-3 HEA) – Last Week: 2
New Hampshire extended their winless streak to four games this weekend with a 1-0 loss to Providence on Friday and a 4-4 tie with Boston College on Sunday. Friday’s loss was the first time the Wildcats had been shutout this season since a scoreless tie against Northeastern back on October 27th and only the second time this season. One bright spot for New Hampshire this weekend was, Eirc Knodel. The junior defenseman had a goal and three assists for four points on the weekend. UNH’s points leader, Kevin Goumas (7-14-21), was held pointless this weekend. New Hampshire faces Vermont this weekend up in northern Vermont.
4. University of Massachusetts-Lowell (16-9-2, 10-8-2 HEA) – Last Week: 4
UMass-Lowell rebounded well off of the two loss weekend two weeks ago. The River Hawks swept the UMass Minutemen this weekend in a home-and-home series. This marks the sixth straight win for UMass-Lowell over their in-state rivals. Connor Hellebuyck, UML’s backup goaltender, got the start in both games after being out with an undisclosed injury for the last month. Friday night, Hellebuyck and the River Hawks skated to a 6-3 victory. While Saturday night was the closest game between the two teams, UMass-Lowell still came out on top. Connor Hellebuyck has won his last eight games. Derek Arnold tallied five points (3g, 2a), earning himself player of the week honors. UMass-Lowell is now 12-2-1 in the teams last 15 games. UMass-Lowell will play a home-and-home series against Boston University this weekend. Both teams are jockeying for home ice in the playoffs.
5. Providence College (11-10-7, 9-6-6 HEA) – Last Week: 5
Jon Gillies set a Providence College record with his fourth shutout victory of the season in Friday nights win over New Hampshire, 1-0. Providence had the lead heading into the third period on Sunday, but failed to hold it when Merrimack tallied a short-handed goal. A 1-0-1 weekend for Friars has been par for the course this season. Providence has managed to take points in the teams last five games, the downside is that four of the five games have ended in ties. The Friars lead Hockey East with six ties this season.
6. Boston University (14-12-2, 11-7-2 HEA) – Last Week: 6
The Terriers have had a rough go of it since coming back from winter break. After starting the season off 11-6-0, BU has gone 4-6-2 in the past 12 games. After ending in a tie Friday night, Boston University managed to grab their first win since January 25th at Providence. The Terriers managed to take three points from Maine this weekend, a Maine team that has only won four Hockey East contests this season. Boston University will face a real challenge this weekend in the home-and-home series against the UMass-Lowell River Hawks. In game one of the season series, Boston University fell to the River Hawks, 3-4.
7. University of Vermont (10-14-4, 7-10-4 HEA) – Last Week: 8
Vermont has already surpassed expectations for the 2012-13 season. In 2011-12, the Catamounts only managed to tally seven points on three wins and a tie. This season Vermont has 18 points and is fighting for a playoff spot with Maine and Massachusetts. Vermont pretty much took Northeastern out of contention this weekend with a weekend sweep over the Huskies. Vermont tallied five goals in the 2-1 and 3-1 victories. Vermont has now won three in a row and four out of the teams last five games. Freshman goaltender, Brody Hoffman, stopped 55-of-57 shots this weekend and has started all 27 games for the Catamounts this year.
8. University of Massachusetts (10-15-2, 7-12-1 HEA) – Last Week: 7
Massachusetts lost its fifth and sixth straight games against in-state rival, UMass-Lowell this past weekend. The two losses sees the Minutemen slip to 7-12-1 with 15 points on the season and sit on the bubble, only one point above Maine for the eighth and final playoff spot in Hockey East. Branden Gracel extended his point streak to five games with eight points total. Massachusetts went with two different goaltenders this weekend and both let up three plus goals in the two losses. Massachusetts faces, tenth place, Northeastern Tuesday night in a makeup game due to Winter Storm Nemo and then welcomes Maine into Amherst for two important games with playoff implications on Friday and Saturday.
9. University of Maine (8-16-6, 4-11-6 HEA) – Last Week: 9
Maine went from dumpster diving to fighting for a playoff spot in no time. Maine looked to be down and out at the mid point in the season. Unable to score goals and unable to capitalize and win. The Black Bears have gone on a run that could put them in the playoffs if they can keep it up. Over the past seven games, Maine has gone 3-2-2 and climbed out of tenth place. Taking a point from Boston University on Sunday kept them in the right direction, however they were unable to claw back all the way to get a point on Saturday. Maine faces off against Massachusetts this weekend in a couple of must win games.
10. Northeastern University (8-16-3, 4-13-3 HEA) – Last Week: 10
Northeastern had a real chance to pull themselves out of a whole if they could grab a couple points from Vermont this past weekend, but were unable to. The Huskies have put themselves in a real tough spot to make the Hockey East playoffs. Kevin Roy was held without a point for the first time in six games when he couldn’t manage to get anything started on Saturday night. Northeastern faces Massachusetts Tuesday night and two against Providence this weekend. A couple of wins are needed to stay afloat this season.