With just three weekends left in the regular season, teams are looking to solidify their place in the Hockey East standings. This weekend's big question is whether Notre Dame, Boston College and Providence can capitalize on weekend opponents that are far inferior on paper while UMass Lowell and Boston University clash with each other.
Boston University vs. UMass Lowell
The Terriers and River Hawks face off in a weekend series, starting Friday night at Agganis and concluding at the Tsongas Center a night later. It's the only series involving two teams in the top five of the Hockey East standings, and it could go a long way in determining which club gets the coveted final first round bye.
UML has just four games left, so these games take on added significance for Norm Bazin and company. Last weekend was a struggle, taking just one point from weekend games against Northeastern and New Hampshire. The River Hawks dominated UNH, holding a 45-16 edge in shots on goal, but lost 3-2.
The Terriers look to bounce back from a gut-wrenching 1-0 overtime loss to archrival BC in the Beanpot final. BU has the mobile defensive corps to break through the Lowell defense and impact zone entry against a team that typically makes it very difficult.
Jordan Greenway received attention for his 14 penalty minutes in the Beanpot final, but when he was on the ice, he was relentless on the forecheck. He's going to be a heck of a bottom six forward in the NHL someday. He's strong, wins a lot of battles and forces turnovers.
Coming off his Eberle and MVP performance at the Beanpot, Sean Maguire gives BU the edge in the goaltending category in this series. He has a 1.28 goals against average and a .960 save percentage over the past seven games.
Boston College vs. Merrimack
The Eagles haven't lost since the calendar turned to 2016, and have a good chance to keep that going this weekend. While Jerry York's teams have had some nights to forget in North Andover, BC hasn't lost to Merrimack at Conte Forum since Oct. 31, 1997.
There are no indications that will change this weekend as Merrimack has not won inside the league since a 4-2 win over UMass on Nov. 13. The Warriors' only win in 2016 was a 10-0 shellacking of Arizona State. Merrimack's struggled have mainly coincided with its struggles on special teams. Merrimack will certainly need to stay out of the penalty box this weekend.
Notre Dame vs. Maine
The Fighting Irish swept Vermont last weekend in a very difficult place to play, gaining a valuable four road points. This weekend, Jeff Jackson's team will entertain the Maine squad that has struggled on the road the past few years, sans a road sweep at UMass two weekends ago.
Notre Dame sophomore defenseman Jordan Gross had a goal and three assists in the sweep of the Catamounts. He's quietly having a terrific season and is not getting the attention he deserves outside of South Bend.
Maine senior goaltender Matt Morris made 84 saves on 89 shots last weekend, including Friday's 1-0 overtime loss where he made 50 saves in a hard luck situation.
Providence vs. Connecticut
This is a big chance for Providence to pick up four points before a crucial weekend series against Notre Dame next weekend. Nick Saracino broke his four-game scoreless drought with an overtime game-winner Friday night in Orono.
When Nick Ellis has a save percentage of .913 or higher, Providence has been tough to beat. When he's struggled statistically, that's when PC has been on the losing end of the stick. Speaking of goaltenders, UConn hopes for the return of its goaltender, Rob Nichols, this weekend.
Northeastern vs. Massachusetts
The Huskies had a nice win over Harvard in the Beanpot consolation, and look to continue positive momentum with a two-game series against the Minutemen, who were barely able to eek past AIC in overtime this week to snap a nine-game skid.
Vermont at New Hampshire
This is a big series in the battle for home ice in the first round of the playoffs. Vermont played well last weekend, despite two losses to Notre Dame. UNH has been a hit or miss team for much of the year, but has pulled off two impressive wins -- at Providence and at Lowell -- the past two weekends. Can the Wildcats take advantage of home cooking and pick up more points than not this weekend?