No. 4 Boston College played host to No. 12 UMass-Lowell, with the RiverHawks leaving Kelley Rink with a 4-2 victory while outshooting the Eagles 10-5 in the final period. Lowell’s victory moves the Hawks into a tie for first place, while Boston College missed a golden opportunity to gain a two-point cushion on the rest of the conference.
Meanwhile, just a few miles east, No. 19 Boston University hosted No. 17 Merrimack. The Terriers jumped out to a 5-0 lead through two periods, thanks to two goals by junior forward Matt Nieto. BU’s victory thwarted the Warriors’ (14-12-6) chance to take sole possession of first place as well.
Those results have forced a four-way tie across the top of one of college hockey’s most competitive conferences. Idle New Hampshire and Providence join BC and UMass-Lowell with 28 points apiece. Merrimack sits a point back with 27, and the Terriers’ victory brought them to within two points, as they sit with 26.
All teams in the conference have played an even 23 league games, and each has four left to play.
New Hampshire has the luxury of closing out its season with four games at home against Massachusetts and Maine. However, with Maine and UMass fighting for the eighth and final seed in the postseason tournament, the Wildcats have a tough test in front of them.
Providence controls its destiny, as the Friars will play a home-and-home series with Boston College this weekend, then do the same against UMass-Lowell the following weekend.
BC still has to be considered the conference favorite. They will play a home-and-home with the Friars and then close the season out with two games up in Burlington against Vermont.
UMass-Lowell and PC will both face the toughest schedules on paper to close out the season. The RiverHawks have a home-and-home with Merrimack, who is just one point behind them. A weekend later, they will close with another home-and-home against the Friars.
The Hockey East regular season title has been a coveted crown over the past few seasons. The No. 1 seed in the tournament has won three of the last four conference championships — the exception being UNH in 2010.
Regardless of the result, the final two weekends of Hockey East play and the ensuing tournament should make for some entertaining hockey among the many local rivalries throughout New England.
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