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Huskies Hockey Playoff-ology: January 25

January 25th, 2012

We’re entering the home stretch of the Hockey East season, and things do not look good for the Northeastern Huskies. The team currently sits 9th in the standings, 3 points behind 8th-place New Hampshire (who also owns a game in hand over the Huskies) and 4 points behind 7th-place UMass (who owns two games in hand). While making the Hockey East playoffs looks like a bleak possibility at the moment (due to the run of play), Northeastern is far from mathematically out of contention.

Here’s where we stand after the weekend’s games:

Boston University 17 12 4 1 25
Merrimack 16 9 4 3 21
Boston College 18 10 7 1 21
Maine 18 9 7 2 20
UMass Lowell 15 9 6 0 18
Providence 16 8 7 1 17
Massachusetts 15 5 6 4 14
New Hampshire 16 6 9 1 13
Northeastern 17 4 11 2 10
Vermont 16 2 13 1 5

This weekend’s games

  • Maine at Boston University (2 games)
  • Northeastern at Vermont (2 games)
  • UMass vs. UMass-Lowell (home-and-home)
  • Boston College vs. New Hampshire (home-and-home)
  • Providence at Merrimack

What matters

  • Maximum points for the Huskies: Northeastern needs to sweep Vermont to hang on to the thread remaining for playoff contention. Anything else would not only be an embarrassment, but would cement missing the postseason, which is a shame given how much talent there is on this roster as well as how well the team was playing in out-of-conference play earlier this year.
  • Opponents with games in hand must lose: As the Beanpot lurks in the distance, Northeastern needs to gain on teams who have games in hand. On off-days, the Huskies will be powerless to control their own destiny. For now, the Huskies still control their own destiny for the final playoff spot.
  • Top teams need to win: Since Northeastern is not contending for the top spots in the league, any wins by Boston University, Boston College, and Merrimack against other league opponents would do well to help the Huskies’ cause. Consider these to be the teams NU is fighting with for playoff spots: UMass and UNH (and if they’re not careful, Providence). Anytime those teams lose, it’s good for Northeastern.

Who to root for this weekend (besides Northeastern):

  • UMass-Lowell to sweep UMass: The Minutemen have been good at home, but it would help the Huskies if UMass-Lowell could claim maximum points. Assuming/hoping/praying that the Huskies get four points against Vermont, it would put the Huskies level with UMass on points after the weekend. That said, the Minutemen would still have two games in hand, which here at Playoff-ology we always assume will be maximum points.
  • Boston College to sweep UNH: Very similar situation to UMass, though UNH is only up by 3 points and only has 1 game in hand. After breaking Northeastern’s heart so many times, the least BC could do is take care of business against the Wildcats.
  • Merrimack to beat Providence: The Friars are experiencing their classic second-half tumble, but this time around they had a much better first half to lean on. The faster the Friars fall, the more it benefits Northeastern, not only because they could become another team within striking distance, but because the Huskies have a two-game series at home against PC later this year.

What a sweep at Vermont would do:

Mathematically, not much: still there are too many hurdles to overcome (and not all of them are within Northeastern’s control). But it does keep the Huskies alive for the final playoff spot. Anything other than a sweep would not. Psychologically, this team is so fragile that it needs everything to go right otherwise they look to be in shambles. We’ll have to see if the Catamounts present a welcome punching bag or serve as the final gut punch on what’s been a relatively dismal season on Huntington Avenue.

Alex Faust Hockey

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