Boston, Mass. -- The 31st annual Hockey East Tournament concludes this weekend at the TD Garden with the semifinals and final. Boston University, the prohibitive favorite, looks to use this weekend to propel itself to an NCAA Tournament run while UMass Lowell, Vermont and New Hampshire are still eyeing a bid into the national tournament.
Everyone knows about Jack Eichel and the other top players on each team that could play a significant role in their team's success this weekend. However, inevitably there will be a player or two that will step up and be an unsung hero this weekend. Let's take a look at one such player on each team that could be that player.
Matt Lane, Jr., Forward, Boston University
The Rochester, NY native is a product of the NTDP and has been a real spark plug for the Terriers' third line. He has just seven goals and nine assists on the season, but he's fast and does a really good job along the boards. His quick feet make him elusive along the side wall and he does a good job bringing the puck into the zone and cycling the puck down low. He's the type of player whose feet never stop moving and he's fun to watch.
Casey Thrush, Sr., Forward, New Hampshire
The Easton, Md. native plays the left wing on the team's top line with Grayson Downing at center and Matt Willows on the right wing. He doesn't get as much attention as he deserves. His offensive numbers certainly don't compare, but he's quick and tenacious on the forecheck. He does a lot of the line's grinding and digging pucks out of the corner. Don't be surprised if he scored a key goal Friday night.
Ryan McGrath, Jr., Forward, UMass Lowell
The O'Fallon, Mo. native is a pesky little forward who does a good job flying around the ice and getting under the skin of opponents. He knows his role and does it well. He's an agitator who can make things happen. In a game against Vermont where every play will matter, he could force a turnover or jump on a loose puck.
Yvan Pattyn, Jr., Defenseman, Vermont
The St. Anne, Manitoba native is overshadowed, and rightfully so, by the team's top defensive pairing of Michael Paliotta and Alexx Privitera, but he's been solid. He moves the puck and skates well on the left point with defensive partner Nick Luukko. With UMass Lowell's balanced attack, Kevin Sneddon won't be able to just rely on his top pairing to shut down one line. He'll need all his defensive pairings to be on top of their game against the River Hawks.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior, high school and prep hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.