Looking ahead: The Hockey East playoffs and the NCAA Tournament

By James Garrison

It would be unfair to criticize a team who just lost their first regulation game in three months, especially given the nature of the loss. BU-BC games are always close, no matter the records. The Terriers had a very good effort and came up on the wrong end –– it happens. 

Eric Dop played excellent and Conte Forum is always a hard environment to play in, not to mention that this BC team is much better than their record is, especially when Dop plays like he did on Sunday. 

The fact that only the second regulation loss since Nov. 6 has jeopardized BU’s chances at making the NCAA Tournament just goes to show where the team was at after the Northern Michigan series. 

With just one weekend left in the regular season, BU could still finish as high up as second, but that is unlikely due to the weekend’s matchups. UMass, Northeastern, UMass Lowell, and UConn will all most likely hold their position above BU, as they are all playing teams that they should beat. 

With BU playing Maine this weekend and Merrimack having to play Northeastern, a very possible scenario could be that BU jumps over Merrimack, finishing 5th in Hockey East and avoiding a mid-week game, but having to play a road game in the quarterfinals. 

Finishing in 5th would most likely match BU up with UMass Lowell or UConn, two teams that are going to be very tough outs in the playoffs. With the parody this year in Hockey East and the fact that it is very unlikely that BU will be getting a top-2 seed, they will have a tough matchup in the quarterfinals. 

Obviously the Hockey East Tournament is it’s own challenge itself and something BU should expect to be one of the favorites in, there is also the question of NCAA Tournament qualification, which the Hockey East Tournament will play a larger than usual role in. 

Barring any major tournament upsets in the other conferences, there will be three Hockey East teams that will qualify for the national tournament, one of them will most likely be UMass. 

UMass is currently 10th in PairWise, and will most likely qualify for the NCAA Tournament regardless of how they do in the Hockey East Tournament. The next teams up though, are very close to each other. 

Northeastern is 14th, UMass Lowell is 15th, BU is 16th, Providence is 18th, and Merrimack is tied for 19th with UConn. All of these teams are on the Tournament bubble and how far they make it in Hockey East will be the main determining factor in who will make the NCAAs.

Because of how close these six teams are, the Hockey East teams that qualify will be the two teams that make it the farthest in the playoffs, along with UMass. 

For example, if UMass does not make it to the Hockey East finals, the champion and runner-up of Hockey East will be the other teams that qualify. If UMass does make it to the Hockey East finals, it will be the other team that makes it to the finals and one of the teams that loses in the semi-finals, provided that it is one of the six teams on the PairWise bubble. 

There are currently two CCHA teams, five NCHC teams, four Big 10 teams, four Hockey East Teams, one ECAC team, and no Atlantic Hockey teams in the top 16 of PairWise. If any team who is not in the top 16 wins a conference tournament, that will most likely take away the spot of a Hockey East team in the NCAA Tournament. 

For the scenario of the three teams qualifying from Hockey East to happen, there will have to be no tournament upsets in any of the other conferences. Essentially, BU will have to make it to the Hockey East semifinals at the least, and more likely make it to the championship game. 

Sweeping Maine next weekend in regulation is also a requirement, but that probably goes without saying. 

Sunday’s loss saw BU drop from 14th to 16th in the Pairwise but will end up playing a much smaller role in Tournament qualification than the Hockey East playoffs will. BU has proven to be capable of beating any team in Hockey East. 

Sunday’s loss may have served as a reality check for a BU team that was flying high and may just bring them back down to earth enough so that overconfidence heading into the playoffs will not be an issue. 

The Terriers have come a long way digging themselves out of the hole they were in on Nov. 7, but have not made it all the way. A team that was ranked 10th nationally in preseason absolutely had expectations of making the NCAA tournament. 

As far as they have come, it would be very disappointing for the team and fans to see it not amount to a spot in the national tournament. As important as the Hockey East playoffs have been, they will prove to be doubly important this year.


  1. James nicely written I agree and the math agrees with your assessments. Bu can beat anyone and I’m sure every other club believes that for themselves as well so the next few weeks will be fun. Thanks for all your superb coverage this year .

  2. Excellent article, James. Can’t really afford any more losses. It would be a damn shame if this team doesn’t make the NCAAs after the improbable run they put together And if they don’t, it will be down to injuries, a terrible start, a poor out of conference schedule, and Hockey East’s poor performance as a conference out of conference.

    But we’re at where we’re at. Hope McCarthy and Phillips can get healthy enough to play. Regardless… Just win, baby! That’s the only choice left.