The Hockey East men's and women's standings have a lot in common.
The Eagles are on top of both of them, for one, but more interestingly, they are both incredibly stratified. There are a handful at the top who are the only real contenders, but the rest of the teams at the bottom are little more than sacrificial lambs.
There are very clear single-team tiers in the top half of Women's Hockey East this season, and each of those top half teams have the privilege of hosting one of the very similar, very bad teams in the bottom half of the conference standings.
Let's take a look at each best-of-3 matchup.
Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, MA
No. 8 Maine Black Bears (10-21-2, 6-17-1 WHEA)
at No. 1 Boston College Eagles (34-0-0, 24-0-0 WHEA)
Season Series: BC swept UMO 3-0-0 (BC wins 16-2 on aggregate)
At the top of the mountain there's Boston College, all alone with the first perfect regular season in the history of the conference. At the bottom, there's... well, Merrimack, but as the last place team in a 9 team conference, they're out of the tournament. Maine managed to be the worst of the teams that played D1 hockey last season, and as such, get to be the team that the Eagles paste in the first round.
That's really all there is to say about this series. These games are glorified scrimmages for BC. Sorry, Maine.
Prediction: BC sweeps 5-0, 8-0.
Matthews Arena, Boston, MA
No. 7 Providence College Friars (10-22-2, 6-16-2 WHEA)
at No. 2 Northeastern Huskies (26-7-1, 20-4-0 WHEA)
Season Series: NU swept PC 3-0-0 (NU wins 12-2 on aggregate)
Solidly below BC in the top half of Hockey East is Northeastern, not quite on BC's level but a team that has solidified its position in the NCAA tournament barring multiple surprise upset autobids.
Northeastern, as has been the case for the last couple years, goes as far as Kendall Coyne takes them. Coyne leads the nation in goals with 44 in 33 games, as well as points per game with 2.27. She's arguably the front-runner for the Patty Kaz, although she's neck and neck with Alex Carpenter and their respective performances in the postseason will likely determine who gets the award.
Below Coyne's top line is not a lot of depth and an inexperienced, but talented, freshman goaltender. But NU's first line matches up with any in the country, and frankly Coyne alone is probably enough for NU to sweep this series.
Providence is just as bad as Maine, if not worse -- they give up a ton of goals; even more than Merrimack.
Prediction: NU sweeps 4-0, 5-1
Walter Brown Arena, Boston, MA
No. 6 Vermont Catamounts (8-23-3, 6-15-3 WHEA)
at No. 3 Boston University Terriers (20-12-2, 17-5-2 WHEA)
Season Series: BU defeated UVM 2-0-1 (BU wins 14-7 on aggregate)
Next is Boston University, the only team to take BC to overtime this year, but a team that isn't even close to an NCAA tournament berth at 12th in the Pairwise. The Terriers lost one of the best players in the world to graduation, Marie-Philip Poulin, and dropped a bit because of it. But BU has won the last 4 Hockey East titles, and 5 out of the last 6. The Eagles would almost prefer to see the more talented Huskies in the finals rather than the Terriers.
Vermont has been a thorn in BU's side for the last few years, taking at least one point from the Terriers in the last three seasons despite being several rungs below on the ladder. The Catamounts managed to take just a tie from BU this year, and while it wouldn't be a shocker to see BU drop one of these games, they shouldn't have much trouble with UVM at home.
Prediction: BU sweeps 3-1, 3-2
Freitas Ice Forum, Storrs, CT
No. 5 New Hampshire Wildcats (11-22-1, 8-16-0 WHEA)
at No. 4 Connecticut Huskies (15-14-5, 11-10-3 WHEA)
Season Series: UNH defeated UC 2-1-0 (UNH wins 5-4 on aggregate)
And finally, below those Terriers is UConn, the only other team in Hockey East to compile anything even close to a winning record, solidly above everyone below them, but not in the same league as the teams above. Interestingly, despite UNH being just as terrible as the teams below them, the Wildcats managed to win the season series with UConn and won their only game at Freitas.
The trick to beating UConn is to find a way to beat their goalie. Elaine Chuli is a world class goaltender who might get a serious look from Hockey Canada for a spot on the next Olympic team, and BC will be very glad to see her gone.
Despite the fact that UNH won the season series against UConn, the dogs should handle the cats in a best of three at Freitas. UConn is 6-2-0 in their last 8, with one of those losses a stunningly close 5-4 defeat at the hands of BC. UNH is 1-6-0 in their last 7, granted with three games against NU and BU in there, but it's clear the Huskies are playing better.
Prediction: UConn wins series, 3-0, 1-2, 3-1
That sets up an all-chalk semifinal with BC matching up with the Huskies in the semifinal. Any upsets, however, and the Eagles would face the lowest remaining team thanks to Hockey East's reseeding.
The puck drops on the postseason today at 2pm with the Eagles' first game against the Black Bears. We'll have full coverage throughout the postseason as BC tries to claim its first league title since their only championship in 2011.