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Hockey East Playoffs Race: What we know, what we don't know

Mike McMurtry and his Northeastern teammates have a lot to celebrate considering their climb up the Hockey East standings.
Mike McMurtry and his Northeastern teammates have a lot to celebrate considering their climb up the Hockey East standings.
Billie Weiss/Getty Images

With just two weekends left in the Hockey East regular season, there is a lot left to be cleared up before the 2016 Hockey East Playoffs get underway.

UMass Lowell and UMass Amherst each have two games left in conference while the other 10 teams have four games left. Speaking of the Minutemen, they have been mathematically eliminated from hosting a first round playoff series.

To the top of standings, Notre Dame, Boston College, Providence, UMass Lowell and Boston University have secured a top five seed. Obviously, the top four seeds earn a coveted first round bye. Notre Dame and Boston College both have a magic number of two to clinch a first round bye. The Irish have yet to play the Terriers so could still theoretically lose the tiebreaker, while the Eagles hold the tiebreaker over BU.

None of the teams in the bottom seven of the standings can jump up into the top five. Northeastern was the biggest winner in the bottom seven last weekend, earning a weekend sweep over a UMass team spiraling out of control towards another last place finish. One win over ninth place UConn this weekend will clinch a first round bye for the Huskies.

Vermont was the other team in the lower tier to have a nice weekend. Kevin Sneddon's Catamounts took three of four points from UNH in Durham to gain some separation from the Wildcats and UConn.

Team GP W-L-T Pts. Games Left SOS *
1 Notre Dame 18 14-2-2 30 @PC (2), BU (2) 1.39
2 Boston College 18 12-1-5 29 @UVM (2), UML, @UML 1.06
3 Providence 18 12-3-3 27 ND (2), @UMA, UMA 1.03
4 UMass Lowell 20 11-5-4 26 @BC, BC 1.61
5 Boston University 18 10-5-3 23 @UNH, UNH, @ND (2) 1.19
6 Northeastern 18 6-8-4 16 @UConn, UConn, Maine (2) 0.61
7 Vermont 18 6-9-3 15 BC (2), @MC (2) 1.11
8 New Hampshire 18 4-9-5 13 BU, @BU, @UConn, UConn 0.97
9 Connecticut 18 4-10-4 12 NU, @NU, UNH, @UNH 0.80
10 Merrimack 18 2-9-7 11 @BC, BC, @Maine (2), UVM (2) 0.69
11 Maine 18 4-12-2 10 @ND (2), MC (2), @NU (2) 0.75
12 Massachusetts 20 2-14-4 8 PC, @PC 1.50

* Strength of Schedule (SOS) determined by averaging points/per games of opponents for each of games left to be played.

Looking at the strength of schedule for remaining opponents, it would appear Providence has the easiest road. Their remaining opponents SOS is the easiest, but the two toughest games are at home against Notre Dame. That's followed up by a weekend home-and-home with UMass.

BC's strength of schedule the rest of way is the second easiest, but the lesser of the two opponents is Vermont in Burlington, which is always a tough place to win.

Notre Dame has by far the toughest remaining schedule of the top five teams and two of those games are on the road at Providence. The Irish finish with a home series versus Boston University.

Out of the teams in the bottom seven, Northeastern is sitting in the prettiest position. The Huskies are in sixth place and have the easiest remaining schedule of any team in Hockey East with three of the four games coming in the cozy confines of Matthews Arena. Barring the unforeseen, Jim Madigan's club should wrap up the sixth seed relatively easily.

Merrimack has the second easiest schedule of teams in the bottom seven, and potentially have the most to gain. It is no small task to go up to Orono and sweep, but if the Warriors can pull it off, they should climb considerably. Mark Dennehy's club finishes the regular season with two home games against UVM.

Boston College (4), Providence (5), Notre Dame (7) Boston University (10) and UMass Lowell (13) are inside of the all-important top 14 of the Pairwise Rankings. The Terriers dropped two spots from when this column was written last week immediately following the Beanpot results.

The 16-team NCAA Tournament field is looking at two teams certainly earning an automatic bid from outside of the top 16. Neither the WCHA nor Atlantic Hockey have a team inside the top 16 at the moment. Michigan Tech (19) and Robert Morris (25) are the top two teams in the WCHA and Atlantic Hockey, respectively.