Much has been made in the past many hours about how Hockey East is a three-team race and everyone else is fighting for fourth place (or a playoff spot). While it may be that BC, UNH and BU are a league unto themselves, that won't stop us from trying to sort out the rest of the heap here.
1. Boston College
There isn't anyone in this conference who's going to stop BC; they're too deep, too sound, too strong, too fast and play too well together. The most interesting match on the calendar the rest of the year isn't the renewal of the Battle of Comm Ave later this month or the Beanpot, it's BC's trip to Minnesota to see if there's any reason for the rest of the country to play out the rest of the season.
Sorry if you root for the other team that plays on Comm Ave, but if Hockey East is a three team league, there's only two teams with a shot at the crown. It matters little what UNH can or can't do offensively on a given night (spoiler: they can usually do an awful lot) as long as Casey DeSmith continues to be Casey DeSmith. The sophomore netminder has recorded shutouts in each of the last three weekends, and the weekend before that allowed just one goal in a convincing victory against BU. DeSmith has allowed 2 goals in the team's last four games, both of them in an OT loss at UMass. Their kryptonite is playing away from home (6 points in three home games, 3 points in three road games), but right now, that's hardly a reason for concern.
A very, very distant third. Sure, BU's losses this year have been at UNH, at North Dakota and against Boston college, but they've looked positively outmatched and unmotivated against top-tier competition and will need to turn that around fast to hold down this slot.
There's no reason for this other than that their last four games are, in order: a 3-2 loss against BU, a 2-1 OT win over UNH, a 3-2 loss at BC and a 4-0 win against the once-hot Providence Friars. This is the spot that nobody seems to want, and until someone acts like they do, it's UMass' to lose.
Yes, it's remarkable that a team that hasn't scored a goal in its last 120 minutes of hockey, a span in which they've been outscored 6-0, is sitting in the fifth slot, but Jon Gillies (Calgary Flames) is good and Nate Leaman has his team poised to make noise when it counts. Not to mention the fact that they didn't lose to Maine at home.
Only because they haven't lost to an Atlantic Hockey team and did what they had to do against Alambama-Huntsville this weekend.
They should be higher than Northeastern because they won the season series, but they lost to UConn on home ice. That's a no-no for a team that should have an NCAA Tournament pedigree.
It's anyone's guess how good Norm Bazin's squad can be, but losing at home to Maine isn't a good way to get there.
I'm as surprised as the next guy that the Black Bears were able to get two points from their weekend on the banks of the Merrimac, but the fact that they were able to do it in one game is even more impressive. Still, until we know what Joey Diamond's status is, it's going to be tough for Tim Whitehead's squad to break into the playoff structure.
Kevin Sneddon must be really excited for UConn to join the conference in two years.