As we get set to turn the calendar to February, the Pairwise becomes the gospel word for college hockey fans from Orono to Anchorage. “Is my team in or out?”
Locally here in North Andover, it is about taking care of what lies in front in order to see some playoff hockey. That task is not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, things really couldn’t be tougher for a young Warrior team that currently sits just three points out of the final playoff spot in Hockey East.
Here is a look at the road remaining for this Merrimack team who finds themselves engaged in an annual rite of passage, the road to the Hockey East playoffs and TD Garden for Championship weekend.
If we take a look at the top of the Standing on 1/29/19, we see some of the usual suspects fighting for one of the top four spots and a chance to host in the opening round.
Keep in mind this is just a look at the play through Hockey East schedule.
- University of Massachusetts-Amherst; 16 GP 9-5-2 in H.E.A with 20 points.
Then comes the log jam Hockey East fans have become accustomed to through the years.
2. Boston College 14 GP 9-5-0
3. UMass-Lowell 15 GP 7-4-4
3. Providence 15 GP 8-5-2
5. Boston University 15 GP 6-4-5 17 points
6. New Hampshire 14 GP 7-6-1 15 points
6. Northeastern 14 GP 7-6-1 15 points
8. UConn 15 GP 6-7-2 14 points
8. Maine 15 GP 6-7-2 14 points
10. Merrimack 15 GP 4-8-3 11 points
11. Vermont 14 GP 0-12-2 2 points
It is safe to say that at this point all Vermont has left to play for is getting rid of that goose egg in the win column. They certainly had their chances at Lawler Rink this past weekend, leading by multiple goals both nights before a pair of late Warrior surges.
Now, when we sit here and look at the nine games remaining for the regular season aside from this weekend in Orono against a Black Bear team playing some impressive hockey. This stretch includes coming off a sweep of the then number four Boston College, on the road at Conte Forum to hand the Eagles as many home losses in one weekend as they had all season coming into the weekend. This isn’t a Black Bear team to overlook, and that shouldn’t be hard to do, because in order to qualify for postseason play they sit right in front of the Warriors in the standings.
Now, once this weekend has come and gone, it would be ideal to return to Lawler Rink on Super Bowl Sunday with 4 points. Jumping Maine, and potentially what happens with UConn — who have a home and home with UNH — another team that is still catchable for sure, would be a dream spot for Coach Borek and his staff. There has to be a mindset going forward, especially in a league as tough each and every night as Hockey East is, the perfect four-point weekend isn’t a guarantee by any means.
That means the final seven games come with higher stakes each time this team takes to the ice. Those games include a trip to Agganis, in what is a redemption game after the 3-2 loss at Lawler just under two weeks ago. The season finale against the Riverhawks, who took the first two games 3-1 and 6-4 respectively. There were also some signs of life down in Lowell as the power play got clicking late in that game to turn a 6-1 thumping into a respectful 6-4 with a couple of late chances to make it closer.
Then comes a fight to the finish line, a pair of back-to-back home and home series with Boston College and Providence, and a Thursday night trip back to Conte to see the Eagles for a third time in 13 days. To make the task even tougher, there is no way to forecast the future. If things hold to par, it is likely these two squads will still be locked in the home ice hunt. Those final 10 points are going to be huge.
Buckle up Warrior fans, this ride to the finish is going to be a grueling one. And while your attention is still here, hopefully, get out to Lawler when you get the chance. Lawler Arena is and has always been a tough barn to come into and walk out with a W in your pocket. Points are at a premium, playoffs are around the corner, this is where the fun comes.