by Jeremy Perrigo ’18
March is here at last, and with its arrival comes the beginning of the Hockey East Tournament. This year, the Hockey East Association announced it would be reverting back to a playoff structure which was last used in 2014.
In this structure, all 11 Hockey East teams are guaranteed a spot in the tournament, with the top five teams getting a bye to the second week of competition. Seeds four and five are guaranteed to play each other in the second week, while the teams seeded in first, second, and third await the results of the bottom six seeds in week one.
The first week of action will feature seeds six, seven, and eight, who will host seeds nine, ten, and eleven respectively. The teams will be reseeded for week two depending on the outcomes of each best-of-three series.
This means No. 1 Boston College, No. 2 Northeastern University, No. 3 Providence College, No. 4 Boston University, and No. 5 University of Connecticut all have a week to rest before they face competition.
While all three top-seeded teams have had impressive seasons, the Northeastern Huskies are thus far the team to beat. With a record of 15-6-3 against Hockey East opponents, the Huskies have put together a strong campaign in a year that saw them win the Beanpot Tournament for the first time since 1988, taking down Boston University by a score of 5-2.
Northeastern is backstopped by rookie goaltender Cayden Primeau, a seventh-round pick for the Montreal Canadiens in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. In 30 games this season, Primeau has a goals against average (GAA) of 1.85 and a save percentage of .933. Against conference opponents his numbers are even more impressive. His GAA drops to 1.79 and his save percentage rises to .937 over the span of 22 games.
On offense, Adam Gaudette leads the way with 56 points (29 goals, 27 assists) in 34 games. The 2015 fifth-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks leads all of Division I in points, averaging 1.65 points per game.
Second on the list of Division I top scorers is Gaudette’s teammate, Dylan Sikura. Sikura has scored 48 points (17 goals, 31 assists) in 31 games played. The Aurora, Ontario native is in his final year of collegiate hockey and is likely looking to become a full time member of the Chicago Blackhawks organization in the near future. The Blackhawks drafted Sikura in the sixth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
With impressive goal-scoring up front and a rock solid goaltender in net, Northeastern presents a challenge for any team that is forced to face off against them come March 9. On March 2-4 No. 6 University of Maine will host No. 11 University of New Hampshire, No. 7 University of Massachusetts Lowell will take on No. 10 Merrimack College, and Univserity of Massachusetts Amherst (8th) challenges University of Vermont (9th) for the rights to advance to the semifinals. Keep an eye on these matchups as each team battles it out for a chance to face off against the best Hockey East has to offer.