Hockey East Quarterfinals Preview

Reading, MA – The Elite Eight of Hockey East are to face-off on Saturday, March 12, 2022, in Quarterfinal action. The four survivors will move on to next weekend’s Championship at TD Garden. The first two games of the day get underway at 4:30 pm. UMass-Lowell River Hawks will host their 495 rival Merrimack College Warriors at Tsongas Center Arena in Lowell, MA. The Boston University Terriers will travel to Hartford, CT. to take on the Connecticut Huskies at the XL Center.

At 7:00 pm, the Massachusetts Minutemen will square off against the Providence Friars at the Mullins Center on the Massachusetts campus in Amherst, MA. The nightcap will be the Boston College Eagles visiting the Northeastern Huskies at Matthews Arena at 7:30 pm.

The Hockey East Championship weekend returns to the Garden for the first time since 2019 as COVID canceled the 2020 season and the 2021 version took place on campuses. Massachusetts bested UMass-Lowell 1-0 in Amherst to capture the 2020-21 Lamoriello Trophy.

Boston University Terriers vs. Connecticut Huskies

The Terriers took the season series 2-1. The two met in early October when teams were still getting their acts together. They split that weekend, each winning on the other’s sheet. BU 2-1 at the XL Center and UConn getting a 5-1 win at Agganis Arena. BU pulled out a 2-1 OT win in Hartford in late January.

You can expect a big game from Wilmer Skoog for the Terriers, while Drew Commesso will be his outstanding self in the BU goal.

But the Huskies are playing with house money this year. They have a quality lineup, not unlike the Terriers, but none of the expectations placed on Boston U. every year. 6′-5″ senior Jachym Konelik has played well against the Terriers in all three meetings. It’s been an excellent season for Mike Cavanaugh and UConn; it continues onto TD Garden.

Prediction: UConn wins in OT. The Terriers are too streaky and peaked in the Beanpot. (At least, I hope so).

Merrimack Warriors vs. UMass-Lowell River Hawks

Merrimack made a lot of noise this year, especially at Lawler Rink. A boisterous student section, pep band, and rock show get the building rocking. But the game is in Lowell, and the noise from Merrimack ends Saturday. I’m sure the Max Newton, Steven Jandric, and Alex Jefferies line will show up, but I like how Owen Savory played for the River Hawks.

Savory has taken control of the UML net and has quietly strung together a 19 win season with a 1.84 GAA and .928 SV%. The senior from Cambridge, Ontario, transferred to Lowell for a reason. It’s Goalie U. and Saturday; he steals one for Norm Bazin’s squad.

Prediction: The River Hawks are too good to get bounced at home. My heart says Merrimack, but my head says UML.

Providence Friars vs. Massachusetts Minutemen

The Friars and Minutemen have played some very tight games over the last few seasons. This year the Minutemen took the season series 2-1.

Saturday won’t be any different. The Minutemen are the defending National Champs, and while they don’t necessarily need a win to make the NCAA tournament, they need a win to get back their swagger back after dropping two to BC last weekend. And they are also the defending HEA tourney champs as well, so there’s that.

The Friars need the win to better their chances to qualify as they are a bubble team. I expect Parker Ford and Brett Berard to continue their hot streaks but not as much as I think Matt Murray rebounds in the Massachusetts net.

Prediction: The Minutemen have to be sore about blowing the regular-season title. Massachusetts takes it out on PC.

Boston College Eagles vs. Northeastern Huskies

BC is trending upwards at the right time. Four straight wins, including the sweep of UMass, have the Eagles playing their best hockey. Jack McBain and Marc McLaughlin have been monsters. That’s not going to stop today, even against Devon Levi.

These two split all four games they faced each other, including three regular-season games and the Beanpot opening round. It’s been every other game won by BC; the Eagles are up this time if the trend continues.

Devon Levi makes 29 saves against the Merrimack Warriors during the Huskies 1-0 win on March 5, 2022.

The Huskies find ways to pull out wins. They have more of a killer edge under Jerry Keefe than they didn’t have under Jim Madigan. I won’t be surprised by who wins this one. It could go either way. I think the Huskies have to like being at home at Matthews, especially if the women’s team pulls off the win in their NCAA tourney game against the Wisconsin Badgers at 1:00 pm. (Incidentally, the Badgers beat the Huskies 2-1 in OT in the Women’s NCAA Championship game last year.)

Prediction: I keep doubting both of these schools this year, and they both prove me wrong. Only one can do so today. I’m going with the Eagles in the upset.

 

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