Okay, here is what the Hockey East playoff picture looks like as the citizens of Terrier Nation gear up for the umpteenth consecutive make-or-break weekend of Boston University hockey.
Boston College stands atop the standings with a narrow, three-point lead over Providence College. Tonight, Eagle-haters everywhere will root for Northeastern University, as the Huskies battle the Eagles at the Conte Forum. If the Eagles win or tie, they clinch the regular season Hockey East crown for the first time since the 1990-91 season.
But, if the Eagles fall to the Huskies tonight, and Providence knocks off the University of Maine twice this weekend, then the Terriers can ruin the Eagles’ dreams of taking home a regular season conference trophy when the Terriers face the Eagles in the last regular season game of the year on Sunday at Walter Brown Arena.
“I think that’s definitely a motivating factor,” said sophomore defenseman Freddy Meyer. “You never want to see someone down the road win the regular season title because you want it yourself. The idea of being a possible spoiler team is a great motivator.”
So between now and the end of the weekend, if Providence wins two and Boston College loses two, the crown goes to the Friars. The Eagles, meanwhile, are just one win or tie shy of clinching the title themselves.
Currently, the Terriers sit in a tie for fifth place with the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. Both have 21 points and both have nine wins in the conference. But if the season were to end today, the River Hawks would finish ahead of the Terriers because Lowell holds a 3-0 regular season series advantage over BU.
That means the Terriers would take on the No. 3 seed, which is locked in a tie between the University of New Hampshire and the University of Maine.
This is where it gets confusing and complicated, folks.
According to Hockey East tiebreaker rules, if two teams are tied, whichever squad holds the advantage in the head-to-head regular season series finishes higher. But in this case, the Wildcats and Black Bears are 1-1-1 against each other. No clear-cut advantage there.
On to tiebreaker rule No. 2: whichever team has more wins in conference play finishes higher. But currently, both teams have the same number of wins, 10, with two games remaining. No winner there, either.
Tiebreaker rule No. 3 states that whichever team holds the best record against the top-seeded team — currently Boston College — finishes higher. The Wildcats are 2-1 against the Eagles, while the Black Bears are winless against them. So, if the regular season ended today, the Terriers would face the Wildcats at the Whittemore Center in Durham, N.H.
The good news?
The Terriers are the only Hockey East team that has beaten the Wildcats on their home ice this season.
“It’s tough playing at both [Maine and New Hampshire] of their homes,” Meyer said. “We’ve had some pretty good success at UNH.”
And for Meyer, who knows some of the guys on the Wildcats, the game has a bit of an extra incentive. Meyer is a Sanbornville, N.H., native.
Depending on the Terriers’ performances this weekend against Merrimack College and Boston College as well as the rest of the league’s results, BU could finish as high as No. 3 or as low as No. 7.
Right now, only Boston College and Providence have clinched home ice advantage, leaving two slots for the Terriers to pick up a home ice position and play the quarterfinals at Walter Brown Arena.
But to do that, the Terriers must leap over the Wildcats, Black Bears and River Hawks in the standings — something BU realizes is an unlikely scenario.
“I’d say we obviously haven’t ruled it out, but we know it’s going to be pretty tough to get it,” Meyer said. “Right now, we’re concerned with getting a winning streak going, heading into the playoffs.”
Incidentally the Terriers can also help knock Merrimack out of the Hockey East playoffs altogether on Friday night. Merrimack is currently one point ahead of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, which is in last place. If the Terriers beat the Warriors, then the Minutemen just have to tie one of their two remaining games with New Hampshire to get a Hockey East playoff berth.
“I think we just want,” Meyer said, “to try to stay upbeat and hopefully get two wins this weekend.”