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Playoff positioning up for grabs in Hockey East

Posted by Andrew Mahoney, Boston.com Staff  February 21, 2014 08:58 AM

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With just two weeks left in the college hockey regular season, the action is really starting to heat up as teams try to position themselves for the Hockey East tournament. The weekend series that may have the biggest playoff implications appears to No. 15 Maine heading to No. 9 Northeastern for a pair of games at Matthews Arena.

The Black Bears are tied for third place in Hockey East with UNH with 20 points. Northeastern is just one point behind with 19 points, but both the Huskies and Maine have two games in hand on UNH.

Maine is coming off a sweep of Merrimack last weekend, which helped the Black Bears climb in the standings. Northeastern bounced back from losing to No. 1 Boston College in the Beanpot championship by jumping out to a 5-1 lead over UMass, then holding off a furious rally by the Minutemen to get a 5-4 win and two points.

Speaking of the top-ranked Eagles, they have a home-and-home series with No. 7 UMass-Lowell. Usually a matchup between the first and second place teams in Hockey East would be the top story, but with 31 points, BC is running away with the league title. The Eagles clinched the top spot by traveling to Vermont and sweeping the Catamounts last weekend.

Senior captain Patrick Brown continued his solid play, following up his two goal performance against Northeastern in the Beanpot championship with two more goals at Vermont, and was named the league's player of the week.

The Eagles have not lost since Thanksgiving weekend, and will face a UMass-Lowell team that, with 22 points, is trying to hold on to second place. The River Hawks have played well in recent weeks and hope to regain the form that led them to being crowned Hockey East champions for last year's regular season and tournament.

Other matchups this weekend include Boston University traveling to Notre Dame. With 14 points, the Fighting Irish could use a sweep at home to try climb out of eighth place, while BU wants to avoid the league cellar. Also tied for the eighth spot is Vermont, which heads to last place Merrimack for a pair of games. Rounding out the schedule is sixth-place Providence (16 points), which has a home-and-home series with UMass.

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