Mark Anderson, a UMass alum and former mascot for our university has sent me an interesting post:
22 games played, 11-11-0, 22 points.
With the preseason projections, not many of you would be disappointed if I told you that on Valentines Day, UM would be tied for 4th place, and just 4 points out of second. After the blistering start to this season, however, it’s time to get serious. This team had a phenomenal opportunity when the calendar turned to 2010, sitting at 6-4, towards the top of the HE rankings. Since then, the team has gone 5-7-0, falling into a tie for fourth. Realistically, it feels worse than that, and mathematically this team is in 5th, as not only do 3 of the 4 teams ahead of them hold the tiebreaker (including BU who is currently tied with UM, and with ME to be determined), everyone in HE also has a game in hand to UM. Having one more game played then every team in HE is not advantageous towards getting a home playoff series, especially when you are on the bubble. Crucial can’t really describe every single game left on this schedule, be it Merrimack, Maine, or BC.
Looking at the playoffs mathematically, the only sure thing is that any eight of the 10 teams can make the playoffs. Yes, even Providence is still alive, and statistically, UNH could end up outside of the playoffs. If the playoffs started today however, UM would get to travel down the pike, and play at Agganis. I think everyone would agree with me when I say that I do not want to see UM play at BU, ever again.
NU, UNH, BU, and BC all hold the tiebreaker over UM. Um does hold the tiebreaker on Lowell, PC, and UVM. UM is set to own the tiebreaker with ME and MC by winning 1 of their next two vs. Maine, and 1 of their next two vs. Merrimack. Weekend splits however are not acceptable. Merrimack weekend is a must sweep, especially given BU’s home and home with Providence, the team that UM could not sweep losing at home on Halloween.
MC’s numbers are not that bad with a GF-GA at 62-68, eerily similar to those of UM (61-72). I don’t care about the “typical second half slump”, or the fact that MC has scored more, and allowed less in HE play than UM. UM SHOULD sweep MC, and they need to in order to have any hope of playing at home in the first round. I’ll say it later, but all of the points are moot if UM does not sweep Merrimack weekend.
After this weekend, there are a number of different possibilities, including one where BC, ME, BU, and UM are all tied for second with 26 points. With the game in hand that everyone else holds, and the tiebreaker scenario, UM would STILL be on the outside looking in for a home playoff game.
So what should you be looking at on the out of town scoreboard this weekend? A lot of scenarios here, but before we even look out of town, you have to look no farther then the home and home with Merrimack. Without a sweep, the points I bring up below are moot. If UM comes away with anything less than 4 points from this weekend, the quest to play at The Bill in the playoffs is going to be in the hands of other teams collapsing. With that thought, let’s leave Amherst for a bit, and see what we have. The biggest games are going to be BU and PC. BU lost 3-1 at PC earlier this year, so PC has to have at least SOME mojo heading into this weekend. I still expect BU to sweep this weekend, as PC has won two games since Thanksgiving. It would be a huge victory for UM even if PC can manage a single point with a tie in one of two games. A PC win would be amazing. A PC sweep, and there would be cause to riot in Southwest. Next up, UVM will be traveling to play two at UNH. In reality, UNH has all but secured home ice, and I would much rather see UNH sweep, all but ending UVMs chances to overtake UM. Also up north, Lowell travels for two games AT ME. Lowell does have a game in hand to UM, but UM holds the tiebreaker. ME has a knack for collapsing in the last few weekends (WILLLLLLLLSONNNNNN) of HE play recently, and although it would bring them into the home ice discussion, especially with a weekend PC series up next (Looks like PC may become my favorite team for the next three weeks), a Lowell sweep would be great. A trip to eastern Mass brings up the BC/NU series. I may be in the minority here, but once again, with the sweep of MC being the parameters for this entire discussion, I would prefer to see BC sweep NU. Like I discussed with UNH above, I would prefer if BC could win out (of course minus one game later this month). Obviously nothing can be this easy, as BC and UNH play each other in the last weekend of HE play. If and when we get to that part of the season, we can deal with rooting allegiances then.
My gut instinct right now, is that UNH, BC, and BU will be the 1-3 seeds in the HE playoffs, with BC holding a slight edge over BU for the #2 seed. Looking ahead is never a good thing, but in the blog world, I will do a bit of that. Similar to the 06-07 season, where a last weekend series with Maine determined home ice and the fourth seed, history could repeat itself again. There will be a dogfight for the fourth seed, between UM, UML, NU, and ME. I wouldn’t be surprised to see UVM step into the discussion, but they have arguably the toughest remaining schedule with two games AT UNH, two games AT UML, and two games vs. BU. I hope to have a reason to add some playoff scenarios in the upcoming weeks. For now, will the real UMass hockey team please stand up? If you are going to lay down, I’d just prefer you do it this weekend, so our hopes and expectations for a home playoff game can be crushed quickly.
The quest for the 4 seed is on, and it begins this weekend with a home and home vs. Merrimack. Show some love to your seniors, for what could be their last home game Saturday night (Senior Night Even Page Here), and if you happen to be in eastern Mass, take a trip up to the dump at MC on Friday night (Game At Lawler event page here) to support this team.
Words by Mark Anderson
Posted By Ben