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Men’s Hockey East Tournament Matchups Set

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The road to the TD Garden — and an NCAA tournament autobid — begins for 8 teams next week; BC has a first round bye

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Boston College finished their regular season strong, rattling off four straight wins to lock down the #1 seed in the Hockey East tournament. Now, they rest up for a week before the Hockey East quarterfinals on March 9-11.

Next week, the tournament opens with the Octofinals round - six teams playing for the final three spots in the quarterfinals. The matchups are:

#6 Maine vs. #11 New Hampshire (Friday 7 PM, Saturday 7 PM, Sunday 4 PM)

These two old rivals will do battle after both stumbled down the stretch. Maine was in the home ice/top 4 race going into their three game set against BC, but taking 0 points dropped them all the way to 6th. UNH has struggled mightily pretty much all season long, but especially lately, and was passed by Merrimack to end up in the cellar. A sad installation of a once-legendary battle.

#7 UMass-Lowell vs. #10 Merrimack (Friday 7:15, Saturday 7, Sunday 4)

UMass-Lowell had a poor season by the standard they have set since Norm Bazin took over as coach, but it’s a clean slate now and a chance to go on a run in the playoffs. They had been jekyll and hyde for a while, and looked good for stretches through the middle of the season; they’ll have to regain that form against Merrimack.

#8 UMass vs #9 Vermont (Thursday 7, Friday 7, Sunday 3)

This series is probably the most interesting from a BC perspective as if Maine and Lowell win their series, BC will face the UMass-UVM winner. Both teams have showed some promise down the stretch, with UMass riding a decent run (loss to BC aside) to earn a home ice playoff spot.

Looking ahead to the quarterfinals...

#1 Boston College will host the lowest-remaining seed (UMass, Vermont, Merrimack or UNH)

#2 Northeastern will host the second-lowest; they come in as the highest-ranked team nationally
#3 Providence hosts the third lowest

#4 BU will host #5 UConn next weekend in an intriguing matchup. BU will be favored, but UConn already surpassed expectations just to get to this pointi.

The BC outlook...

The Eagles have faced either UMass or Vermont in 7 of the last 8 seasons during the Hockey East quarterfinals, and it looks like they’ll have one or the other again next week. Regardless of who BC plays, they swept the season series against all four potential opponents. There are no easy games but BC will certainly be favored to get back to the Garden and keep their season alive.

Should BC advance to the Garden their likeliest opponents would be BU or UConn, unless there are other quarterfinal upsets. Thanks to locking up the #1 seed, BC would only have to face one of NU or Providence during the HEA tournament — the two Hockey East teams currently in an NCAA tournament position.

After last night’s games, BC sits at #16 in the Pairwise rankings, which would not be enough to make the NCAA tournament as an at large as there is guaranteed to be at least one autobid from outside the top 16 (the Atlantic Hockey champ).

When BC sits idle next weekend, they could move up or down a few slots, as the teams right above and right behind them are playing, and the gap is extremely narrow from about 13-21.

BC’s odds of getting an at-large bid improved from 5% to 10% this weekend according to College Hockey News. There is a lot of uncertainly, but one thing seems pretty certain - BC will likely have to sweep whoever they play in the HEA quarterfinals. Then they can go to the Garden with a chance at an at large, while also remaining focused on the only sure path to the tournament - winning the conference title.

We’ll check back in after next weekend to see where BC sits, and what the quarterfinal matchups will look like.