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Notre Dame vs. BC could be a Hockey East playoff preview

Posted by Andrew Mahoney, Boston.com Staff  February 28, 2014 08:17 AM

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It's the final weekend of the regular season for Hockey East, and there is much at stake. The top five teams will secure first round byes, with the top four getting home ice for the quarterfinal round. Only five points separate spots two through eight.

One of the more intriguing matchups will be on Saturday afternoon when Notre Dame travels to Chestnut Hill to take on first place Boston College. The Fighting Irish have 19 wins, but their dismal showing in league play (8-9-2) has them tied for eighth and on the bubble with regard to the NCAA tournament.

In order to reach 20 wins this weekend, they will have to hand the Eagles their first loss since Thanksgiving weekend. BC has gone 17-0-2 in that stretch and is ranked No. 1 in the country. There is a very real possibility that this will be a preview of a quarterfinal series two weeks from now.

With 23 points, No. 7 UMass-Lowell is clinging to second place in league play as it travels to Vermont for a pair of games. The River Hawks were on the verge of being swept by BC last weekend, but scored twice in the third period of the second game to salvage a 2-2 tie and retain sole possession of second place. The Catamounts are tied with Notre Dame with 18 points and are hoping to better position themselves for the league tournament.

No. 9 Northeastern is in third place with 22 points and faces a Boston University team that would love to play spoiler. It's been a tough season for the Terriers, who have just three conference wins.

BU may get an extra surge of inspiration as it will be retiring former coach Jack Parker's No. 6 jersey during the first intermission of Friday night's game at Agganis Arena. The two teams cap the home-and-home series Saturday night at Matthews Arena. The Huskies are hoping to cement their position for an NCAA bid.

Maine is in fourth place with 21 points, and will host No. 12 Providence for a pair of games. The Friars are just one point back. Both teams are on the bubble for the NCAA tournament. A strong showing this weekend by one of these teams would certainly boost their playoff hopes.

New Hampshire, which also has 20 points, is another team on the bubble and is on the outside looking in. The Wildcats appear to have a chance to really make up some ground with a pair of games at last place Merrimack.

The bottom six teams will play in the first round next weekend. It will be single elimination, with the winners advancing to the quarterfinals, and the losers done for the season.

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