Thanks to winning the season series with both Boston College and New Hampshire, first place in Hockey East is well within reach with just four games remaining.
Running a quick projection, here is the simplest way for the Warriors to earn the No. 1 seed in the Hockey East tournament (there are a few scenarios):
Merrimack earns AT LEAST 6 of a possible 8 points (3-1-0, 2-0-2) in the final two weekends at Maine and in a home-and-home series with Providence.
Boston College earns NO MORE THAN 6 of a possible 8 points in the final two weekends in home-and-home series with UMass and UNH
UNH earns NO MORE THAN 4 of a possible 8 points in home-and-home series against Northeastern and BC.
Really, it’s not that complex.
The Warriors need to makeup two points on UNH while not losing any points to BC over the final 8 points of the regular season. If that happens, then Merrimack is the No. 1 seed in the tournament and would share the HEA regular season championship with both BC and UNH.
The top-2 finishers in the league will have a much easier road to the semifinals – assuming the standings stay as they are now – at the TD Garden than the third and fourth-place finishers.
I don’t think anyone wants to play Northeastern right now, and the Huskies look primed for that fifth or sixth-place spot. And Maine … while the Black Bears have had their struggles, they are still a top-20 team in the country.
If Maine and NU finish fifth and sixth, as I expect them to, then seventh and eighth are one of Vermont, UMass or Providence (likely Vermont and UMass, based on current records).
Merrimack’s record against those two teams this season is 5-0-1 (outscoring opponents 28-10), including a 4-0-0 record at Lawler Arena.
Merrimack’s record against the fifth and sixth-place teams is still an admirable 3-1-0 (outscoring opponents 14-7) and that’s with two games left against Maine this weekend. But finishing in the top-2 certainly paves a smoother road, with less of an opportunity for speed bumps.
In a per-game average, Merrimack is outscoring the seventh and eighth-place teams 4.67-1.67 (+3.00 GPG) this season and outscoring the fifth and sixth-place teams 3.50-1.75 (+1.75 GPG).
The gap seems to close a lot between sixth and seventh-place, which makes first or second a lot more favorable than third or fourth.