To underscore just how little has been determined so far in this Hockey East race, not even last place 1-10 UMass has been eliminated yet. About half the conference season still has yet to be played.
A Boston College win would get them to 14 points and move them two behind BU, who still have a game in hand. Depending on what UMass-Lowell does against Maine — probably win — they will still be no more than four points out of first. UML has a game in hand as well. On Sunday, BU and UML will play each other, and if they do not tie, the game in hand is gone but Lowell could go as many as six points up by then, or BU could pull four points ahead of the Eagles again.
That seems nothing more than okay, but it’s a lot better than if the Eagles lose. If Boston College drops tonight’s game, they are six points behind BU with the Terriers holding a game in hand, and probably six behind UML as well. One of those teams then pushes the Eagles seven or eight points out of first by Sunday evening.
Assuming Maine does not have the chops to beat UML tonight, Boston College’s best bet is to beat the Terriers and hope the Terriers beat Lowell. That way, the Eagles are only four points out, but because the Eagles play Maine themselves this weekend, they would still collectively have a game in hand. Boston College can do themselves a lot of favors by beating the Black Bears as well.
But what about Vermont? They play two against Northeastern and could pass everybody. Now is the time we need to hope the Huskies start getting hot again — with an abrupt halt on February 2 at the TD Garden. The problem is that Vermont gets NU in Burlington, where they are 7-1 so far this season. If the Eagles win, they could be five points behind Vermont worst-case (but with a game in hand). Lose to BU and catching up to UVM looks like it might be a problem.
As for Providence, they would be the 4th seed in the Hockey East Tournament right now by virtue of their earlier win over Boston College. That is a big tiebreaker, as the difference between fourth and fifth seed is the difference between a bye and an opening-round game. Beating them the second time around will be crucial.
As for those games left for the Eagles, we broke this down the other day:
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There are a number of good teams the Eagles will have to pick off in order to get back to the top of Hockey East. The games against Boston University, UMass-Lowell, Vermont, and Providence are all must-wins or close to it. How can a team expect to pass these teams if they cannot beat them?
Either way, Boston College will also need some help, as beating the opposition head-to-head will not be enough. They can do themselves some favors by beating the teams below them in the standings, but to get a bye at worst and win Hockey East at best, someone in front of them will have to slip up. Preferably all of them.