1. Boston College vs. 8. Massachusetts
UMass won the season series with the Eagles, 2-1. Ok. But this is March, and Jerry York teams always seem to go on a roll this time of year. Boston College hasn’t lost a game since Jan. 21, which is typical of an Eagle team that wins a national title. BC is the team to beat.
Pick: Boston College sweeps
2. Massachusetts Lowell vs. 7. Providence
Providence has struggled down the stretch, finishing the season 0-4-2 including being swept by the River Hawks just last weekend. Lowell looks poised to make a trip to the Garden under first-year head coach Norm Bazin.
Pick: Lowell sweeps
3. Boston University vs. 6. New Hampshire
There might not be a scarier road team in the tournament than New Hampshire, which has gotten great goaltending from Casey DeSmith after the position was an issue in the early part of the year. The Wildcats are having trouble scoring and BU has rolled down the stretch (4-2 in its last 6) but three of those wins came against teams who had their seasons end last weekend, and so did one of the losses.
Pick: New Hampshire in three
4. Maine vs. 5. Merrimack
Easily the most intriguing matchup in the league, and one of the more intriguing matchups across the country this weekend. Last year I picked Merrimack to sweep, and they did. This year, I’m still picking the Warriors to win the series, but in nail-biting fashion. Merrimack went 2-0-1 against Maine this season, but more importantly, held one of the best offenses in college hockey to just 1.67 goals per game in those three. The Warriors have had their share of troubles putting the puck in the net themselves, but that could be remedied facing a defense that was just sixth-best in Hockey East and is 29th in the nation. The key to this series will be goaltending. If Joe Cannata plays the way he has all season, the Warriors should find enough ways to put the puck in the net and win the series. If Maine’s Dan Sullivan plays the way he has played down the stretch, the Black Bears should do the same. I’m picking the former. It’s going to be about getting one more than the your goalie allowed. Easier said than done.
Pick: Merrimack in three
If I’m right again, I have the semifinals looking like this:
1. Boston College vs. 6. New Hampshire
2. Lowell vs. 5 Merrimack