While you can make arguments within each group about where the teams should lie, Hockey East has pretty clearly divided itself into 2, maybe 3 camps at this point in the season.
There's the group of 5 very good teams that all have an excellent chance of making the NCAA tournament, and would all be in if the season ended today—PC, BC, BU, Lowell and Notre Dame—and then there's everyone else, a pack of teams that are all pretty bad. You could maybe argue that Northeastern is in its own subgroup as a team that's red hot (6-1-2 in their last 9) but will almost certainly come crashing down around Beanpot time, as is custom.
But that's it, really. There's parity within each subgroup but there's a very, very stark divide between them. How do we stack them up so far?
A reminder that your five panelists are Joe Gravellese, Grant Salzano, Arthur Bailin, Laura Berestecki, and Bloggin on Babcock's Shep Hayes, so basically 4/5 of us are biased in favor of BC and we all hate Notre Dame. The standard disclaimers apply.
#1 Boston College, 15-4-3, 8-1-3 HEA...59 points, 3.5 first place votes
Obviously there's some bias involved here but really, you could stack up this group of 5 in any way and it would be hard to argue the choice. BC just went 2-0-2 against two of the other top teams in the league, though honestly the balance of play in each series probably/possibly warranted a split? But their win two Friday nights ago against Providence stands out as particularly decisive. As such, they have a tiny, tiny edge in most of our minds.
#2 Providence College, 15-3-4, 6-1-3 HEA...57 points, 1.5 first place votes
Arthur Bailin split his first place vote and we figured that was fair since it really is hard to separate these two teams. If you stretch the season series back to Florida it went 1-1-1. It wouldn't be surprising to see them clash again in the postseason. Providence showed some cracks in the armor against Brown and BC but bounced back nicely to sweep UVM in Burlington.
#3 UMass Lowell, 14-4-4, 9-2-3 HEA...48 points
Quick, who's in first place in the Hockey East standings? It's still UMass Lowell, though BC and ND have the requisite games in hand to leap past them should they win those games. Lowell hit a bit of a rough patch and picked up some odd losses (#Icebus x2, Robert Morris...) but bounced back with a strong weekend against rival UMass Amherst. Now they have their biggest weekend of the season so far coming up when they play a home and home with Providence. Should be good.
#4 Boston University, 11-7-4, 5-4-3 HEA...47 points
We just saw with our own eyes that BC and BU have basically no daylight between them and yet there's this gap in the rankings here attributable to just how tight these top teams are. They're a tick behind the others in the HEA standings and will have to crank it up down the stretch to avoid the #octofinals round but they're playing very well in recent games and easily could have taken 2 or 3 points from BC.
#5 Notre Dame, 12-4-7, 8-1-2 HEA...40 points
Notre Dame would be weird and have 7 ties. That's a very Notre Dame thing to do. They just pretty easily disposed of Merrimack without much fanfare and continue to cruise along very much in contention for the league's regular season crown. They travel to UNH nextt for what could be a pair of potentially tricky games at the Whitt.
#6 Northeastern, 7-12-4, 2-8-3 HEA... 34 points
It doesn't take much to rise above the rest of this sad pack, and in NU's case it's their hot streak stretching back to the Belfast tournament. You could make the argument that they've feasted on some bad teams (Michigan State, Colgate) but they also tied #1 Quinnipiac and just smacked down in back to back games one of their "peer" mid-level Hockey East programs for their first two Hockey East wins of the season. The gap from 6th down to #11 NU in the standings is 3 points so they could easily get there, but all hopes about NU are tempered by the fact that this is the time of year they always seem to put hope into their fans. Like clockwork.
#7 New Hampshire, 8-10-4, 2-4-4 HEA...30 points
Realistically, UNH has the best chance of any team to win the demolition derby for 6th place, having enough games in hand to leap past UConn and Merrimack into 6th if they win those games. They also have the league's 6th best goal differential, as the only team outside the top 5 with a positive GD on the season (79-77). Though they have one of the league's top offenses, they give up a LOT of goals.
#8 Vermont, 9-14-2, 3-7-2 HEA...25 points
Vermont remains to most of us the most disappointing team this season. We really expected them to be the likeliest to challenge the top group of 5 or 6 teams but they've been painfully mediocre to poor for most of the season and there doesn't appear to be much hope of them getting better. With 53 goals, they have the league's 3rd most futile offense. They've had to deal with a long term injury to goalie Mike Santaguida, which hasn't helped. They have UConn and UMass this weekend so they'll be looking to rack up some points.
#9 UConn, 8-13-2, 4-7-2 HEA...22 points
It's like last year all over again as all of a sudden, after looking down and out, #icebus is back, lingering, being a pest, and BOOM they now sit 6th in the league standings (albeit having played a couple more games than the teams right behind them). They even went peak #icebus last weekend, scoring in the first period against Maine then bunkering like crazy, getting outshot 44-19 by the Black Bears en route to a 1-0 win. They followed it up with a 1-1 tie, also being badly outshot. Long live #icebus.
#10 Merrimack, 7-11-5, 2-5-5 HEA...15 points
That's a lot of league ties. There's not too much to say about Merrimack. They're just kind of "there." They're not bottom-falling-out awful like the bottom two but they won't do much damage the rest of the season. The only team in the league with a worse offense than Merrimack is Maine, but MC does a decent job preventing opponents from scoring (tied for 5th in terms of fewest goals allowed).
#11 UMass Amherst, 7-12-4, 2-7-4 HEA...8 points
After a bit of a surprising early run it's back to reality, oh there goes gravity for the Minutemen. They'll hope to play the spoilers on Friday night when Jerry York makes his next bid for 1000.
#12 Maine, 5-13-5, 2-6-2 HEA...7 points
They got #icebus'd at home over the weekend twice, and continue to have by far the weakest offense in HEA (14 goals in 10 league games, 40 goals in 23 games overall).