Todd Huxley Smith
The Boston College Eagles and Boston University Terriers carry identical records into the last three games of the season.
The Hockey East regular season title may not be the most coveted piece of hardware on the season's agenda, but it's a trophy nonetheless. And after missing out on the opportunity to win a Beanpot in a game in which they were heavily favored, the BC women's hockey team now has their sights on winning a trophy this week with the Hockey East regular season championship up for grabs.
With three games left in the regular season, BC and BU both carry identical 15-2-1 records in conference play, far and away ahead of third place Northeastern with a 10-7-1 mark. Interestingly, the Eagles and the Terriers also split their head-to-head matchups, 1-1-1, meaning that if both teams win out, they will split the regular season crown and a coin flip will determine who is the #1 seed in the Hockey East playoffs.
Odds are, neither team will slip up. Both are too good. But if either is going to, it's probably going to be midweek, in a pair of games rescheduled by Blizzard Nemo last weekend. Tonight, BC travels down to Providence for a tough game against the Friars, who are in 5th place in Hockey East and hoping to erase a 1-point gap to 4th place UNH, separating them from home ice advantage in the Hockey East quarterfinals.
Then, on Wednesday night, the Terriers host those Wildcats, in another game with big seeding implications for both teams.
The reason why I say the title is likely to be decided by midweek is that both BC and BU should win out over the weekend; BU has the slightly easier path with a pair of games against UConn, while BC has to trek up to Vermont for a 2 game set. While it's never easy to make such a long road trip, BC should ultimately win both of those games. Since UConn is the Patron Saint of split conference championships, I doubt we'll get much help from them against BU.
Beyond the race for the trophy, the other playoff races will be settled this week as well. Stupidly, just like on the men's side, Hockey East has decided to water down their postseason tournament by expanding it to include the whole conference - single elimination quarterfinals will be held on campus sites the weekend of March 2-3, then the semifinals and finals will be played March 9-10 in Hyannis, Mass.
Functionally, it shouldn't really matter for BC whether they are the 1 seed or 2 seed, as #8 UConn and #7 Maine are both teams they have handled with ease this season. From 3-6 though, there could be some tight matchups in the first round. Here's how the playoff picture looks going into the final week.
Team -- Points -- Remaining Games
Boston College -- 31 -- @ Providence, @ UVM, @ UVM
Boston Univ. ------ 31 -- UNH, UConn, @ UConn
Northeastern ----- 21 -- @ UConn, @ PC, vs. PC
New Hampshire - 20 - @ BU, Maine, Maine
Providence -------- 19 - BC, NU, @ NU
Vermont ------------ 15 - BC, BC
Maine --------------- 6 - @ UNH, @ UNH
Connecticut ------- 5 - NU, @ BU, BU
And here's how I predict the remaining games will shake out:
BC: 3-0 in their final three
BU: 3-0 in their final three
Northeastern: win at UConn, split vs. Providence (2-1)
UNH: loss to BU, sweep over Maine (2-1)
Providence: loss to BC, split with NU (1-2)
Vermont: sweep at the hands of BC (0-2)
Maine: sweep at the hands of UNH (0-2)
UConn: 0-3 in their final three
Which would leave us with:
BC 37, BU 37
and a coin flip deciding the final playoff matchups:
UConn @ (BC/BU)
Maine @ (BC/BU)
Vermont @ Northeastern
Providence @ UNH
We'll see if any upsets throw a monkey wrench into this prediction. The Eagles take on the Friars tonight at 7 PM, while NU plays at UConn.