As the college hockey regular season entered its final weekend many things remained up in the air. Seeding for conference tournaments, first round byes, and even regular season titles were still up for grabs.
No conference entered the weekend with more question marks than Hockey East. Considered by some to be the nation’s premier conference, Hockey East’s final regular season weekend was one of the most enjoyable in recent memory. Four teams entered the weekend with a chance to capture at least a share of the regular season crown.
Boston College (29 points), Boston University (27), Notre Dame (26), and UMass-Lowell (25) all had a shot at the title and, here’s where it gets fun, they all played each other to close out the season.
Boston College was in a unique position heading into the weekend. A five game skid (3-0-2) had the Eagles on the outside looking into the NCAA tournament in the PairWise rankings, which have been successful in predicting the 16 team bracket. It was a prime opportunity for BC to make up ground in the rankings and enter the Hockey East tournament with some momentum.
“We put ourselves in a situation where we can win a trophy the last week of the season,” Boston College coach Jerry York told the Boston Globe.
But BC’s woes continued with a pair of losses against UMass-Lowell in a home-and-home series that ended Friday. The wins moved the No.5 River Hawks into a tie for first place.
“Lowell plays for trophies too,” UMass-Lowell coach Norm Bazin told the Boston Globe. “Not just BC. We’re very open about that.”
A few miles down Commonwealth Avenue Notre Dame was at Agganis Arena Friday to play the first of two games against Boston University. With BC dropping both games and not gaining any ground in the standings a door opened for either Notre Dame or BU to win the title outright with a sweep. A 1-1 split would move the Terriers into a three-way tie for first, but not the Irish.
Notre Dame won the first game 3-1 setting up a dramatic Saturday finally. If Notre Dame won the Irish would win the regular season championship outright in their final season in the conference as the Irish are headed for the Big Ten starting next year.
Notre Dame came out hot and took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission but the Terriers battled back and got the win, 4-1.
“I’m really proud of the way we finished this season . . . that team forces you to bring your game to another level,” BU coach David Quinn said of Notre Dame to the Boston Globe. “You’ve got to play hard, compete, there can’t be any BS in our your (sic) game if you’re going to compete with that team. And I thought we made a jump over the last two days, how hard we played, how hard we competed — not playing pond hockey, playing playoff hockey.”
“We’re all disappointed that we couldn’t come away with another win tonight,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said after the game. “Frankly, sometimes you have to lose to learn how to win. For us it’s not a bad thing to start over again and get our juices going for the next round.”
With so much parity in the conference and with so many good teams (6 Hockey East teams are ranked in the top 20) the conference tournament should be one of the best in years.