UMass made sure there would be no drama in the chase for the regular season Hockey East championship crown, wrapping it up with a 4-2 win over Merrimack last week, and following that up with a 6-0 win over Maine.
The Minutemen (26-7-0, 18-5-0) have the No. 1 seed locked up for the league playoffs with 36 points, which begin next week, but there is still plenty on the line in the rest of the conference this weekend, with each team having one game remaining on its schedule.
Just two points separates second through fifth place, with UMass and Providence the only two teams to clinch home ice for the quarterfinals. Northeastern, UMass Lowell and Boston University are vying for the final two spots to host in the postseason.
Here is a look at what’s at stake.
Boston College (11-19-3, 10-10-3) at Providence (20-9-6, 13-7-3), Thursday
This game will be the first piece of the puzzle, as it is the only contest on Thursday night. The Friars are tied with Northeastern for second place with 29 points, but they hold the tiebreaker, having swept the Huskies in the regular season. A win over BC would clinch the No. 2 seed. Providence could also clinch the No. 2 seed with a tie and a Northeastern loss or tie. Should the Friars lose, and both Northeastern and UMass Lowell win, they would drop to fourth.
BC enters the game in seventh place with 23 points but could move up to sixth with a win, and a Maine loss. Should the Eagles lose, they could drop to eighth if UNH wins.
UNH (12-12-9, 8-9-6) at Northeastern (22-10-1, 14-8-1), Friday
The Huskies could finish anywhere from second to fifth place. A win would secure home ice for the quarterfinals and at least third place.
A loss, coupled with wins by UMass Lowell and Boston University, could knock them down to fifth place.
UNH has clinched at least eighth place with 22 points, but could move up to seventh with a win and a Boston College loss or tie. They could also move up with a tie and a BC loss. Should the Wildcats lose, they’ll face UMass in the quarterfinals.
UMass Lowell (18-11-4) at Vermont (12-19-2, 5-16-2), Friday
With 28 points, the River Hawks enter the weekend in fourth place, one point behind Providence and Northeastern. They also could finish anywhere between second and fifth place. A win, combined with losses by NU and Providence, would move UMass Lowell up to second.
A loss or a tie, combined with a win by Boston University, would knock them down to fifth.
Boston University (14-15-4, 12-8-3) at Maine (14-15-4, 10-9-4), Saturday
Both teams will know exactly what they’re playing for by the time this game rolls around, with the rest of the league having concluded their regular seasons. The Terriers have gone 4-0-1 to move up to fifth place, and with 27 points, they sit just two points behind Providence and Northeastern, and one point behind UMass Lowell.
A win could move them up to third, provided Northeastern loses and UMass Lowell either ties or has a loss. A loss would result in BU staying in the fifth spot and facing a road game in the quarterfinals.
With 24 points, Maine is in sixth place, and cannot move up. But a loss to BU, coupled with a BC win, would knock the Black Bears back to seventh.
UConn, Vermont, and Merrimack have been eliminated from postseason contention.
Eyes on the PairWise
In addition to jockeying for the league playoffs, the top half of the league will also be playing with an eye toward the PairWise Rankings, which simulates the system used by the selection committee to determine who gets into the 16-team field.
UMass, at No. 2, is a lock and is essentially playing for a No. 1 seed. Providence (No. 9) and Northeastern (No. 11) are in the mix and are looking to improve their position. UMass Lowell (No. 18) is on the outside looking in and could use a win, as well as a strong performance in the league playoffs. The River Hawks may need to win the conference tournament to get in.
Harvard (17-9-3, 13-7-2) comes in on the bubble at No. 13. The Crimson secured a first-round bye in the ECAC playoffs with a fourth-place finish and will host a quarterfinal matchup beginning March 15. Two points separated first place from fourth in the ECAC, with Quinnipiac and Cornell finishing with 30 points, and Clarkson and Harvard right behind with 28.