The newly-expanded 2014 Hockey East Tournament begins tonight with the first-round game between the Massachusetts Minutemen and the Vermont Catamounts. Of course, Boston College will be watching the proceedings very closely, as by Saturday night we will learn who the Eagles will host in the quarterfinals next weekend.
All three games involving the six lowest seeds in the conference will be single-elimination. Since it’s a good thing to know and discuss, who will move on to the quarterfinals, who will be one and done, and who will the Eagles face next week?
First, a refresher on the bracket for the 2014 Hockey East Tournament:
We know Boston College cannot play Maine or Vermont next week. Remember, three teams will advance out of the first round and the Eagles are going to play the worst of those three in terms of seeding. Therefore, they cannot face the potential best or second-best, being Maine and Vermont, respectively. All other teams are fair game, however.
(10) Massachusetts at (7) Vermont: Friday, 7pm on NESN
Vermont comes into this game as winners of three out of four, having split a series with UMass-Lowell while sweeping the lowly Merrimack Warriors. Even at 10-10-0 in the conference, the Catamounts roll into the tournament with 18 wins and are ranked 15th nationally. They also happen to be in a 13th-place tie in the PairWise, which puts them in relatively dangerous territory. A loss here would be potentially fatal to their NCAA Tournament chances; if they want to play into March, they have to make it to next weekend.
Fortunately for them, UMass has had a very bad season, going 8-21-4 overall. Vermont beat them twice in the regular season as well. The Minutemen also only won four road games all season. It seems perfectly reasonable to expect that Vermont will win this game and move on.
(9) Boston University at (8) Notre Dame: Saturday, 7pm
This is the one to watch right here because it’s highly likely Boston College will play the winner of this game. Notre Dame, the most recent team to defeat the Eagles, went 2-for-2 against the Terriers during the regular season, and have as many wins as Boston University does losses: 20.
Seriously, we love to beat up on the other school down Commonwealth Avenue, but this year has been singularly awful for them. Can anyone remember clearly the last time BU had a team ten games under .500 entering the Hockey East Tournament? They would have just barely made the tournament under the old format, but this year, they get to play on, if only for a day.
This should be a hard-fought game, but if things bear out the way they should, Notre Dame will move on.
(11) Merrimack at (6) Maine: Saturday, 7pm
There’s not a whole lot to say about this one, aside from the fact that Maine should win this game going away. Like the other two games, this one features a team (Maine) that went 2-for-2 in the regular season against the other team (Merrimack). The Warriors have been hideous all season, averaging under two goals per game and only winning three Hockey East games out of 20.
Maine is tied for 21st in the PairWise and as such is probably not going to make the tournament as it is, short of winning Hockey East, but even in spite of that, their pride should not allow them to lose this game. Merrimack is really quite bad.