Feb. 17, 2016
By: Teagan Dillon
As the Hockey East tournament quickly approaches, teams are vying for the coveted top four spots and a first round bye into the quarterfinals as well as the 2016 regular season championship.
In 2015, the Irish just missed the promise of a bye, entering the tournament ranked fifth in Hockey East. After defeating UMass at home in the first round, the Irish fell to UMass Lowell 6-4 in a winner-takes-all game three on the road, ending their postseason hopes.
But this year things are different. After a weekend sweep of Maine (Feb. 12-13), the seventh-ranked Irish are currently in first place in the Hockey East standings (14-2-2/30 points) with only two more weekends of regular-season play.
While all 12 teams in Hockey East will make the playoffs, only the top four seeds will have the first-round bye and the luxury of hosting a second round best-of-three series.
“The higher we finish, the better,” said head coach Jeff Jackson. “But we have four games ahead of us. Friday night is the only thing that matters at this point.”
Directly behind Notre Dame is second-ranked Boston College (12-1-5/29 points), who has series against Vermont and UMass Lowell still to go. On Jan. 29, Boston College shutout the Irish 4-0, snapping Notre Dame’s 12-game unbeaten streak. The Irish have come back to win their last four games, proving that they are able to use that loss to fuel victories.
“That’s what resilient teams do,” said senior alternate captain Thomas DiPauli. “We learned from it. It was good to get us grounded again.”
This weekend, the Irish will be travelling to fifth-ranked Providence College (21-5-4) for a decisive series. The Friars are third in Hockey East (12-3-3/27 points) and will put the Irish to the test. With one point in the series, Notre Dame could clinch a top-four seed.
Behind Providence is UMass Lowell (11-5-4/26 points) and Boston University (10-5-3/23 points), who the Irish will host Feb. 26-27.
Sophomore goaltender Cal Petersen currently boasts a .949 save percentage over the last 17 games, of which the Irish are 13-1-3. But there’s undoubtedly pressure that comes with being a top team.
“Right now our destiny is in our hands,” said Petersen after the weekend sweep of Maine. “From the beginning, we wanted a championship. We have the opportunity to do it with these next four games.”
— ND —