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Women’s Hockey East Semifinals Preview: Final Thoughts & Predictions

It’s BC vs. UConn and Northeastern vs. Maine on TROPHY WEEKEND!

Rich Gagnon, BC Athletics

Boston College Women’s Hockey rumbled its way through the Hockey East quarterfinals last week with 3-1 and 6-1 decisions over the Vermont Catamounts, sending the Eagles to Matthews Arena for the Hockey East semifinals as they look to win their third consecutive league title.

Thanks to tournament re-seeding, the Eagles are rewarded with getting #7 UConn in their semifinal matchup after the Huskies eliminated #2 Providence in three games last weekend. That’s good for BC — they definitely would rather play UConn than Northeastern, especially on NU’s home ice — but UConn’s given the Eagles some trouble this season with two ties against BC to their credit.

On the other side of the bracket is a pretty strong matchup between Hockey East teams who have flirted with the NCAA top ten at various points throughout the season. #3 Maine won their first conference tournament games in program history to advance over #6 Boston University into the semifinals, and #4 Northeastern dispatched #5 New Hampshire fairly easily to complete the semifinals bracket.

Women’s Hockey East Semifinals
March 3rd, 2018

Game One: 1:30pm EST
No. 7 Connecticut Huskies (15-13-9, 7-11-6 WHEA)
at No. 1 Boston College Eagles (30-3-3, 19-2-3 WHEA)

How to Watch:
HockeyEastOnline.TV — Live
NESNplus (TV) & NESN Go (Stream) — 10pm, Tape Delay

Hockey East very excitedly announced a couple weeks ago that NESNplus would be carrying the Hockey East semifinals this year in addition to the finals. But what they buried in the article was that the early game — the game the #1 seed would be playing in — would not be aired live and would only be shown at 10pm on tape delay. Fortunately, the league was able to negotiate after the fact with NESN so that the game could at least be streamed live. Given that for a while it looked like we weren’t going to get to see the game at all, we’ll take it.

UConn gave the Eagles fits this season, only allowing the Eagles to post a 1-0-2 season record on the Huskies. The one win was a cruise-control affair in which the Eagles won 3-0 at home, with UConn getting 2-2 and 3-3 draws on home ice. It’ll be neutral ice this weekend at Northeastern’s Matthews Arena, so hopefully that neutralizes the Huskies. The key for the Eagles will be to score some goals and open things up — BC’s defense has tightened up of late, only allowing 3 goals in the last 4 games, and with UConn’s offense as bad as it is, the Eagles should be able to put the game away if they can pot a couple early goals.

Game Two: 4:30pm EST
No. 4 Northeastern Huskies (17-16-3, 11-11-2 WHEA)
at No. 3 Maine Black Bears (19-13-5, 11-9-4 WHEA)

How to Watch:
NESNplus (TV) & NESN Go (Stream) — Live

Don’t be fooled by Northeastern’s ~.500 record. They’ve played one of the toughest schedules in the country and have taken the scalps of #1 Wisconsin, #2 Boston College, and have a tie against #3 Clarkson. They have a habit of playing down to their opponent, which has kind of been the product of a sub-par defense.

Maine has been very unremarkable for a team that has flirted with the top 10 this season. But they’ve managed to take at least one game from everyone in Hockey East except BC and Providence — including a season series win against Northeastern. Northeastern is the more talented team, but Maine comes across as more fundamentally sound. It’ll be a total coin flip as to who takes this one, although it’s hard to bet against the Huskies given that they have home ice and that elite players (of which Northeastern has more of than Maine) tend to show up in big games.

Last Time Out

#1 Boston College easily handled #8 Vermont, 3-1 and 6-1.

#3 Maine took BU in three games, 3-2, 1-4, 4-3 (OT), including a 3 goal third period comeback in game 3.
#4 Northeastern won a couple close ones against New Hampshire, 3-2 and 2-1.
#7 UConn took the upset over Providence, 0-4, 3-0, 2-1, coming back after losing the first game of the series.

Big Questions

In a league that made chaos a weekly feature, will we see a tournament upset and a league autobid at the expense of Boston College? Which Northeastern team will show up? Is Maine actually good or did they just kind of win the games they needed to win? UConn can’t possibly give the Eagles trouble again, right? How much will home ice advantage be for Northeastern? Why can’t BC ever host this tournament? Which BC superstar on a team of superstars will show up to deal the most damage? Can Katie Burt continue standing on her head like she has in the second half of the season? Will she even have to?

Random, Possibly Incorrect Fact From UConn’s Wikipedia Page

UConn’s football program is actually FBS. You learn something new every day.

Ice Cream of the Game

Apparently we’re doing “Ice Cream of the Game” this year. Ask Bailin or Laura; I don’t make the rules.

Husky Tracks — UConn Dairy Bar

I will allow UConn two things and two things only: One, that Jonathan is an exceptionally good boy. And two, their Dairy Bar is pretty great. It’s an on-campus ice cream shoppe and they have a million very good flavors of very good ice cream on hand at any given time.

One of their more popular offerings, “Husky Tracks,” is the perfect ice cream pairing for this game, because the Huskies will be making tracks back to Storrs immediately following BC’s soaring victory this afternoon.

Game Time Song of the Week

Cage The Elephant — Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked

Oh no, I can’t slow down, I can’t hold back
Though you know, I wish I could
Oh no there ain’t no rest for the wicked
Until we close our eyes for good

It’s playoff time... any losses from here on out will cost a trophy. Here’s hoping the Eagles bring it every night. There are no more mulligans!

Predictions

UConn has an atrocious offense (although they’ve definitely picked up of late) and a passable defense, which makes it all the more surprising that the Eagles gave up 5 combined goals in the two ties UConn claimed against BC. One thing going for the Eagles is that there won’t be a tie today — if the Huskies can take it to overtime, BC will have all the time in the world to find a game winner. Still, I don’t expect overtime. The Eagles defense has stepped up lately and despite UConn coming in hot (8-2-1 in their last 11), there’s a huge talent disparity here. I like BC to win 4-2.

The other semifinal screams Northeastern victory. The Huskies are on home ice, and Maine has seemingly crashed and burned in the second half of the season, posting a 3-7-2 record in their last 12. While Northeastern hasn’t exactly set the world on fire themselves with a 4-6-0 record in their last 10, they’ve still managed to leapfrog Maine in the Pairwise in that time frame.

Northeastern is just a more talented team. It’ll depend on how good their goaltending is (they’ve had some real problems in goal this year), but it would surprise me to see the Huskies lose this. Give Northeastern the 3-2 win.