While nobody is thrilled about Boston College men’s hockey’s national position heading into the final two weekends of the season -- hopes of an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament are inching closer and closer to zero -- it’s time to focus on the stretch run in Hockey East, which begins tonight at UMass (7 PM on NESN).
BC has a very real opportunity to win a trophy and, more crucially, lock down the #1 seed in the upcoming Hockey East playoffs. A trophy would be a significant accomplishment for this team that has been decimated by roster turnover, and the #1 seed would give BC much better odds of plowing their way through the Hockey East tournament and getting into the NCAAs that way.
As the playoff scenarios demonstrate, with the parity in HEA this year, anyone can beat anyone. BC has already beaten Providence and Northeastern this season, likely the two favorites for the conference tournament crown at this point, and has a combined 3-5 record against the other top-4 teams in Hockey East. So BC has at least a puncher’s chance - but it would obviously be preferable to not have to go through multiple NCAA tournament contenders.
Here’s a look at the current standings and clinching scenarios. The boxes highlighted in yellow represent outcomes fully within control of that team. There’s only one green box because BC’s clinched spot into the quarterfinals is pretty much the only meaningful thing anyone has clinched in this topsy-turvy season:
- For BC, the math is pretty simple and they’re in control of their own fate. The Eagles have four games remaining (tonight at UMass, Saturday at Maine, and two home games next weekend, also against Maine). If BC goes 2-1-1 in those four games (or 2-0-2... or 1-0-3... any combination of 5 points), they clinch both the regular season trophy and the #1 playoff seed.
- If they post a 2-2 record in the final four games, BC would need both Northeastern and Providence to drop a point to clinch position #1. BC holds the tiebreaker over NU (most wins; 1-1 head to head record - the Beanpot doesn’t count toward this), but PC possesses the tiebreaker over BC (2-1 head to head).
- In theory, the Eagles could clinch by the end of this weekend, with a pair of wins plus a dropped point by both NU (playing two games at Vermont) and PC (playing a home-and-home with Lowell).
- There are still 5 teams with a chance at a share of the Hockey East regular season title (Lowell is listed on here as having a mathematical chance, but don’t actually due to the fact that BC and Maine play one another; scenarios like that are not factored into this chart). Northeastern certainly can’t be counted out given their ability and a manageable schedule to close out the season, but they’ll have to avoid Beanpot hangover during their long trip to UVM.
- UMass, UNH and Merrimack will all definitely be playing in the Octofinals round, though they all do still have a chance to host one of those series.
- BC clinched a first-round playoff bye (top 5) by virtue of Lowell’s loss to UMass last week, but still needs two points to clinch home ice advantage (top 4) in the quarterfinal round.
Check back in after the weekend for the most up to date scenarios. Tonight’s game at UMass will go a huge way toward determining BC’s playoff path, so let’s hope for two more big points.