Hobey Baker & Hayden Hawkey Highlight Hockey East

Another conference tournament is on the way as the regular season wrapped up in Hockey East over the weekend, queuing up another round of NCAA hockey. 

UMass claimed the top seed two weeks ago as part of its historic season, using its final two games to fine-tune ahead of the postseason. Seven other teams remained in a fight for their final seeding.

The puck will drop on the field of eight teams this weekend, where a best-of-three series will begin Friday. Don’t miss a second of the action with a live stream of each game right here on FloHockey. All games will take place at the highest seeded team’s home arena.

(1) UMass vs. (8) New Hampshire

Season matchup: UMass, 2-0

The No. 3-ranked Minutemen have been nearly unstoppable this season as a Hobey Baker frontrunner mans the blue line in Amherst. It’s none other than Cale Makar, whose two-way game has been undeniable as one of the top defensemen in college hockey.

The must-watch defender elevates the play of those around him, inspiring a new wave of hockey at UMass built on a forcefully offensive team with scorers form top to bottom and a goaltending tandem nixing rare mistakes along the way. 

New Hampshire took an encouraging turn in December with just two losses through January and February, going 7-2-3 in that span. The Wildcats have persevered all season long, skating to overtime in a ridiculous 13 games. But they enter the tournament having lost four of their past six contests.

Prediction: The Wildcats’ season-long perseverance will wear thin against the marching Minutemen, who will come away with the series after two games.

(2) Providence vs. (7) Boston College

Season matchup: Boston College, 2-1

Ranked at No. 7, the Friars have been the epitome of team sports: score and defend. Goals have been plentiful, but one-sided, thanks to the play of netminder Hayden Hawkey.

A 21-9-5 record backed with a .923 save percentage, 1.77 goals-against average and whopping seven shutouts has seen Hawkey stave off opponents consistently. Meanwhile, his teammates have gone to work by averaging 3.14 goals per game. 

Yet, two of Hawkey’s nine losses came against the Eagles, who fell to the Friars in their final game over the weekend. A lack of consistent scoring has seen the Eagles struggle this season and head into the postseason having lost eight of their past nine.

Prediction: The Friars will lay the season series to rest and hand the Eagles another pair of losses to end their season.

(3) Northeastern vs. (4) Maine

Season matchup: Northeastern, 2-0

There’s good reason for the Huskies to sit at No. 9, nationally. After hitting a rough patch in January, where they went 1-4 in five straight games against ranked opponents, they’ve hit a stride.

The Huskies have just one loss in their last eight games and head into the tournament firing on all cylinders. Cayden Primeau has been a huge part of their recent success, as the netminder has held opponents to two or fewer goals in six of his last eight starts. 

While the odds may favor the Huskies, the Black Bears of Maine have been playing their best hockey of the season with a single loss in their last seven outings. But the Bears lean heavily on juniors Mitchell Fossier and Chase Pearson, should the Huskies stop them, they’ll stop the team.

Prediction: The Bears have been too good not to steal at least a game this weekend, but besting Primeau twice in three games will be too tall of a task.

(5) UMass Lowell vs. (6) Boston University

Season matchup: 1-1 split

The No. 18 River Hawks have come a bit unraveled in recent weeks with just one win over their past seven games at 1-3-3 overall. They’ve struggled to outscore opponents, averaging just 2.00 goals per game in that span.

As a score-by-committee team, a lull throughout the lineup is a troubling sign. Moreover, a goaltending tandem without a frontrunner at the moment makes for a difficult decision for the coaching staff this weekend.

The Terriers boast a pair of high-end NHL prospects in Dante Fabbro and Joel Farabee. Fabbro controls the blue line in Boston as a dangerous two-way defender sitting at the 30-point plateau. Farabee has been lights-out since the turn of the calendar.

Prediction: The River Hawks have hit a dry spell at the wrong time and will fall to the Terriers in three games as the lone upset of the opening round. 

Don’t miss any Hockey East action; stream the tournament live, right here on FloHockey this weekend as the fight for Round Two gets underway.

Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.

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