This is a weekly feature appearing on Thursdays that discusses the four teams in the chase for the last two playoff spots in Hockey East.
7th place, 15 points, 9 conference games remaining
On Sunday, the Minutemen ran into the buzzsaw that is Merrimack right now, dropping a contest at Lawler Arena 4-2. Kevin Boyle, having reclaimed the starting role, was solid, surrendering three goals on 40 shots. The offense had trouble getting the puck past Sam Marotta, though, as the Minutemen fell for the second time in three games. Massachusetts, despite this speed bump, remains in the driver’s seat. It has a game in hand over both Maine and Vermont, who sit one and two points behind UMass respectively.
8th place, 14 points, 8 conference games remaining
Maine Black Bears
9th, 13 points, 8 conference games remaining
Coming into this weekend, the Black Bears were surging, unbeaten in four straight, while the Catamounts were falling, with one win in their past seven. Naturally, Vermont came away with a 3-0 victory and two points against Maine on Saturday, proving yet again that there are no certainties in this league. Brody Hoffman, the goaltender for Vermont, posted a shutout with 19 saves. Sophomore Catamount Kyle Reynolds put up two goals (and now has four in his past three games), while Chris McCarthy put up three points. It was just the second win for Vermont in 2013 and brought the team back into the last Hockey East playoff spot.
10th place, 11 points, 9 conference games remaining
Northeastern dropped the 61st annual Beanpot Championship to Boston College 6-3 on Monday night. Kevin Roy, who became the first player since 2004 to win the Beanpot MVP for a losing team, scored five of the Huskies’ six goals in the tournament. A myriad of problems cost NU the game – a lack of offensive production from skaters not named Roy, defensive lapses, and inconsistent goaltending among them. Regardless, the fact is that Northeastern does not have much depth on the bench right now. With Josh Manson and possibly Garrett Vermeersch now injured, the Huskies may not be able to dress eighteen skaters on Friday night. They may only be three points out of a playoff spot, with a game in hand over their two closest competitors, but the light for the Huskies is clearly fading.
Elsewhere around Hockey East –
Providence and New Hampshire matched up in Durham on Sunday and fought to a thrilling 3-3 tie. UNH scored to draw even with the Friars with three minutes to go in the third. That tie, combined with Merrimack’s sixth win in eight games, propelled the Warriors into a tie for second with UNH, one point back of first place Boston College. In that eight game stretch, the Warriors have taken four of six points from UNH and three of four from Maine. Suddenly, Hockey East finds itself with a three way battle for first. Meanwhile, bu’s struggles continue, as it dropped the Beanpot consolation game to Harvard 7-4, and fell to 1-5-1 in its last seven games. Harvard pulled out its second win in its last seventeen games – and its second win against the Terriers in that stretch. The Terriers now find themselves one point behind the Friars in the race for the last home ice spot, thanks to Providence’s Wednesday night win over UNH, 1-0. Lowell lurks just three points behind bu as well.
Next Up –
A full slate of games for the first time in several weeks is on tap for this weekend. The Minutemen and the River Hawks will play a home-and-home series in an all UMass battle. Northeastern will host Vermont for two in a crucial set as both teams fight for the playoffs. Maine will host bu for two in Orono. All three teams fighting for first will have their hands full; BC visits North Andover to take on surging Merrimack and then comes home to play UNH. Merrimack will take on Providence in Rhode Island for its second game of the weekend. The week will wrap up with the Huskies and the Minutemen facing off in a make-up contest on Tuesday, thanks to the recent blizzard.