Once again, the Hockey East playoff race comes down to the final night of the regular season. While the four teams (UMass Lowell, Boston College, Notre Dame and Boston University) hosting quarterfinal series two weekends from now have been decided, there is still a lot at stake entering Saturday's slate of five games.
Here's how things are shaping up:
T-1. UMass Lowell, 29
T-1. Boston College, 29
The River Hawks swept a home-and-home weekend from the Eagles with wins on Thursday and Friday, but their fate is now out of control and pending the result of tonight’s Boston University-Notre Dame game.
Lowell would earn the No. 1 seed and its first regular-season title since 2013 if BU earns any points tonight. If the Fighting Irish win, the River Hawks would be the No. 2 seed, thanks to its head-to-head sweep of BC.
Putting Hockey East’s tiebreaking procedure into place (first, head-to-head record; then, number of wins in conference play; then, the best record against the first-place, second-place and third-place team(s), and so on), Lowell would win two potential three-way tiebreakers still in play.
For first place, if BU wins tonight:
1. UMass Lowell, 2. Boston University, 3. Boston College
Lowell and BU had 3-1 records against the other two teams in this scenario, while BC was 0-4. Thus, the Eagles would be the No. 3 seed. Lowell and BU split their season series, but the River Hawks would win the tiebreaker with a 14-win league record.
For first place, if tonight’s BU-Notre Dame game ends in a tie:
1. UMass Lowell, 2. Boston College, 3. Notre Dame
UMass Lowell is the No. 1 seed in this scenario, because of its 3-1-0 combined record against BC and Notre Dame. Since those two teams tied their season series, BC is seeded second as it won 13 Hockey East games during the regular season.
3. Notre Dame, 28
This one is simple. The Irish already have a bye into the quarterfinal round, but their seeding is very much up in the air. Win, and they're the top seed for the first (and last) time in their Hockey East history. A loss drops them to fourth.
4. Boston University, 27
BU would be seeded second with a win tonight, and remain fourth if it loses or ties. (See above for further detail on the victorious scenario.) The Terriers won the season series over Providence, a tiebreaker for fourth place that would come into effect if they lose and the Friars beat UMass.
5. Providence, 25
6. Vermont, 24
7. Northeastern, 21
These three teams will all host playoff series next weekend.
The Friars and Catamounts can only switch places or tie, but Providence would win the tiebreaker with a better league win total. Northeastern could drop into eighth if it loses in Maine and Merrimack wins to split its series at Vermont.
8. Merrimack, 20
The Warriors control their own destiny for earning a home series next weekend, and would lock that up with a win. If Northeastern also loses, Merrimack would jump a spot to the No. 7 seed.
Merrimack would lose potential tiebreakers with Northeastern (for seventh place) and Connecticut (for eighth). It lost two games to Northeastern, while UConn would win via the second tiebreaking step as it earned more league wins.
T-9. New Hampshire, 18
T-9. Connecticut, 18
These two teams play each other, so the winner obviously gets the upper hand in terms of seeding. The Huskies won last night, and would finish eighth with a win and a Merrimack loss tonight; ninth with a win and a Merrimack win or tie OR a tie of its own; and tenth with a loss.
The scenarios are similar for UNH as it would be seeded eighth if it wins and Merrimack loses; ninth if it wins and Merrimack earns at least a tie; or tenth if it fails to gain more than a tie.
11. Maine, 10
12. Massachusetts, 5
These two teams are locked into the bottom slots.