Hockey East returns to the TD Garden for the 31st time to determine a champion. While there was no clear favorite this season, the top four seeds all made it to the Garden to win another championship. Let’s take a look at the games.
#1 Boston College Eagles (20-13-3) vs #4 Boston University Terriers (19-13-4)
College Hockey’s grandest rivalry takes to the TD Garden ice once again. Boston College and Boston University have ridden rocky seasons and both need to win to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament. BC had the best conference record and won the top spot in the tournament again. However, they did not win a single out of conference game this year. Still, Coach of the Year Jerry York has the Eagles in the Semi-Finals again. Rookie of the year Logan Hutsko has shown incredible offensive skill and can win a game by himself on the offensive end. David Cotton and Julius Mattila can provide timely offense as well, and the Eagles will not beat themselves on offense. Kevin Lohan, Casey Fitzgerald, and Michael Kim play smart defense and Joseph Woll has been stellar late in the year, particularly against Merrimack in their playoff series. The Eagles are desperate and talented enough to win.
The Terriers had a rocky first half, sitting under .500 and disappointing many at the turn of the new year. Since January, the Terriers are 10-3-3 and finally maximizing their talent. Jordan Greenway and Brady Tkachuk give the Terries two bruising forwards on the top line that few teams can matchup with. Bobo Carpenter is the team’s leading scorer and has developed in skill and offensive explosion. Dante Fabbro and Brandon Hickey lead the blue line with both quality offense and smart defense. Sophomore Jake Oettinger has regressed this season from a stellar freshman year, but the sophomore netminder can still make the plays to win. The talent is there in every facet for the Terriers.
Regular rules of hockey don’t apply to bitter rivalry games. This will be no different. The teams will fight, skate hard, and entertain the crowd. I think BU has more complete talent on their team and will reach the Hockey East Title game.
#2 Northeastern University Huskies (23-8-5) vs #3 Providence College Friars (22-10-4)
Whatever happens this weekend, both these teams will play in the NCAA Tournament. Both have ridden excellent offenses and quality goaltending to secure spots in the National Tournament after play concludes in Boston. That said, both teams have plenty to play for on Friday and Saturday. Northeastern is trying to continue a dream season with their second Hockey East crown in three years while Providence is looking for their first Conference Tournament title since 1996.
Northeastern boasts the strongest offensive unit in college hockey, with Nolan Stevens, Adam Gaudette, and Dylan Sikura ranking in the top 23 for scoring, and all three leading Hockey East. Jeremy Davies leads the blue line in scoring and aids on Northeastern’s second-leading power play in the country. The second and third lines can provide some scoring, but the top line is supremely dominant. They are the focus for Northeastern offensively. But the Huskies also boast the conference’s leading defense, allowing 2.049 goals a game. Since becoming the starting goaltender in November, freshman Cayden Primeau has been stellar in net, leading Hockey East in save percentage (.933) and winning percentage (.717). He won the Eberley Award as the Beanpot’s best goalie and won the Hockey East’s Goaltender of the year award. Those five players are the keys to Northeastern winning. Anyone else contributing in a big way is a bonus, but not the core of what the Huskies do.
The Friars are similar to the Huskies. They lean on their top line and their goaltender. Hayden Hawkey has the best name in college hockey and has been great in net. He’s third in both GAA and save percentage. His offense leans on the top line performance of Erik Foley and Brian Pinho. Foley was a nominee for Hockey East player of the year and Captain Pinho is the only senior forward remaining from the National Championship team in 2015. Josh Wilkins also gives some strong offensive potential and Brandon Duhaime can make the Friars deadly. The blue line in front of Hawkey features Ben Mirageas and Spenser Young as high potential young blueliners. Nate Leaman’s squad has the talent to make some noise in this tournament. However, I don’t think they have the talent necessary to match the Huskies.
I see Northeastern as the favorite to win the whole tournament. They have the offense, the explosive talent, the goaltending, and the physicality to win. I think they’ll beat Providence and BU en route to their second Hockey East crown in three years.