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Hockey East: Analyzing the remaining schedule, playoff hopes

With four weekends remaining in the Hockey East regular season, UMass-Lowell has the toughest remaining schedule.

Walter Rossini

The push for positioning in the Hockey East playoffs is once again upon us as there are only four weekends left in the regular season. Some teams will be seeking the regular season crown while others will be battling for home ice or that final playoff spot. After the second weekend of March, two teams' season will be over.

Here is the Hockey East standings as of Thursday, February 14th. Take a look at each team's remaining opponents and the difficulty or ease of the final four weekends for each.

Team Points Remaining Opponents Schedule Rank Average Points of Opponents *
Boston College 25 MC (2), UNH, UML, PC (2), UVM (2) 2 20.5
Merrimack 24 BC (2), PC, BU, UML (2), UMA (2) 4 20.0
New Hampshire 24 BC, UVM (2), UMA (2), ME (2) 9 15.6
Providence 23 MC, NU (2), BC (2), UML (2) 5 18.9
Boston University 21 ME (2), UML (2), MC, UVM (2), NU (2) 10 15.1
UMass-Lowell 18 UMA (2), BU (2), BC, MC (2), PC (2) 1 21.2
UMass-Amherst 15 UML (2), NU, ME (2), UNH (2), MC (2) 6 18.7
Vermont 14 NU (2), UNH (2), BU (2), BC (2) 3 20.25
Maine 13 BU (2), UMA (2), NU (2), UNH (2) 7 17.75
Northeastern 11 UVM (2), UMA, PC (2), ME (2), BU (2) 8 17.4

* Schedule Rank is determined by the average points of the remaining opponents. For example, Vermont plays NU, UNH, BU and BC twice each. Multiply each team's current point total by 2 then add those four numbers. Divide by the amount of games (8) and that equals 20.25.

Let's take a look at the chart and make some observations:

  • It would appear UMass-Amherst, Northeastern and Maine hold a much better chance of picking up points in the remaining games than Vermont. With these four teams separated by just four points, each game will be critical. UVM has by far the toughest schedule. There will be three two-game series involving these teams: NU-UVM, Maine-UMass and Maine-NU. Points in these series are especially critical as there could be such a significant swing one way or the other.
  • UMass-Lowell was really charging up the standings for a while, but two losses in their last weekend of action really hurt. Furthermore, the River Hawks have the toughest remaining schedule and now find themselves five points shy of a home ice spot.
  • UNH and BU have the two easiest remaining schedules. The Wildcats play UVM, UMass and Maine the final three weekends. Despite some tough breaks and a poor record of late, UNH still has a solid chance to capitalize on the weak schedule. The Terriers have the easiest schedule, but have been playing inconsistent lately. Jack Parker even questioned if he had lost his locker room following the Beanpot. BU certainly has the talent to take advantage of this schedule, but whether they do or not is another story.

Finally, let's take at the magic number to clinch a playoff spot.

Boston College 5
Merrimack 5 *
New Hampshire 6
Providence 6 *
Boston University 9
UMass-Lowell 12
UMass-Amherst 15
Vermont 15 *

* Indicates team that has won the head-to-head tiebreaker against 9th place Maine.

After this weekend, the home ice picture will begin to be a little clearer and we'll break down that race and the magic numbers for it.

Editor's Note: This column will run each Monday or Tuesday until the regular season is over. SBNation and Western College Hockey will keep readers up-to-date on magic numbers and other pertinent playoff information.

Jeff Cox covers college hockey for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.