College hockey games to watch: Regular-season conference championships on the line
Regular-season champions will be crowned in Hockey East, ECAC and Atlantic Hockey this weekend, with NCHC and Big Ten titles to be decided in coming weeks. As it turns out, this week’s schedule offers a lot of interesting matchups that will play a big role in conference seeding and which teams will ultimately skate away with regular-season hardware.
There is a lot to play for in each of the five conference yet to have a regular-season champion decided. Hockey East, ECAC and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference each have one point separating first and second place. The Big Ten, with three weekends of regular-season hockey left, has three points separating the top two teams. Meanwhile, Atlantic Hockey’s Canisius College has left a dangling carrot for Air Force to chase in the regular season’s final weekend (more on that below).
The way the schedule worked out with the standings, this weekend has plenty of potential for drama across the country.
Friday, Feb. 24
Notre Dame at Boston University, 6:05 p.m. ET (ASN, NESN): Boston College’s four-game winless streak in Hockey East play has opened the door a little wider for the Terriers to claim the conference’s regular-season title. BU’s opponent, however, also mathematically has a shot should they sweep the Terriers, though they’d need some more help from UMass-Lowell (more on that in a bit). This will be the first of a two-game set between these two clubs. On top of Notre Dame trying to improve their seeding for the Hockey East playoffs, they also could use some key wins to improve their national tournament stock as well. This series is turning out to be absolutely huge.
Wisconsin at Minnesota, 8 p.m. ET (FSN+, FS-Wisconsin): The two closest competitors at the top of the Big Ten standings will square off for the final time this regular season. The Gophers have a three-point lead on the Badgers in the standings with six games left to play in the regular season. Meanwhile, Wisconsin is on the bubble to make the NCAA tournament. There is a lot riding on this road series for the Badgers, while the Gophers can make themselves a little more comfortable in their status as a likely No. 1 seed and Big Ten regular-season champion. After splitting their first series of the season, this should be a great weekend for these old rivals.
Boston College at UMass Lowell, 8:30 p.m. ET (ASN, NESN): The Eagles have been in a bit of a freefall since the Beanpot. Winless in their last six, including four conference games, Boston College will be looking to stop the bleeding a little bit. A win here also gives them a better shot at the top seed heading into the Hockey East tournament. UMass Lowell handed BC a 4-1 loss Thursday night, which locked the River Hawks into a tie with Boston University for second place (BU still has a game in hand) in Hockey East. A win in their season finale, at home no less, would at least tie them with Boston College atop the standings.
St. Cloud State at Denver, 9:05 p.m. ET (CBSSN): The Pioneers head into the weekend trailing Minnesota Duluth by one point in the standings. DU has a game in hand, however. With two weeks left in the regular season, the margin for error is pretty thin when it comes to securing the top spot. Meanwhile, St. Cloud State is trying to keep itself away from the national tournament bubble. A win or two over the top team in the land would certainly help. With how good the top teams in the NCHC have been this year, any chance to catch them on national TV is worthwhile.
Saturday, Feb. 25
Union at Cornell, 7 p.m. ET: Union heads into the weekend with a one-point advantage on Harvard for the ECAC title. Cornell sits just three points back of the top spot. We’ll know more after Friday just how much this game will mean for the standings, but it’s a pretty big game no matter what. Both teams are in national tournament position as of right now and will be looking to further solidify their status.
Sacred Heart at Air Force, 7:05 p.m. ET: After Canisius finished the season with another win, they’re three points ahead of Air Force. The Falcons, however, have two games yet to play and both will be at home against Sacred Heart. Four points gives the Falcons the title outright. They’re currently 2-0 against Sacred Heart and 8-3-2 at home this year. Air Force is in complete control of its fate here.
This weekend we host Sacred Heart on Friday at 7:05PM and Saturday at 5:05PM.— Air Force Hockey (@AF_HKY) February 22, 2017
Please note: The Gazette misprinted Friday's game time. pic.twitter.com/vrFB8DkQba
Omaha at North Dakota, 8:07 p.m. ET (FCS): The amount of time teams have to pad their records ahead of the postseason is running out. North Dakota has just three wins in their last 10 games and are getting dangerously close to tumbling out of the national tournament picture. There won’t be any guarantees in the NCHC tournament, so getting wins now still matters a fair amount. Omaha is ranked 18th in the Pairwise heading into the weekend, giving them a chance to sneak into the tournament. However, the last time these two clubs met, Omaha got outscored 16-4 in a lopsided two-game sweep at home.
Alaska at Alaska Anchorage, 11:07 p.m. ET: It has been a bit of turbulent year for hockey in Alaska, but the regular-season finale between the two in-state rivals will be worth tracking. After splitting their last series, the Governor’s Cup won’t be decided until Saturday night. The Nanooks need a little help, too, but if they win both of these games on the road, they’d have a shot at securing home ice in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. Meanwhile, the last-place Seawolves still have a chance to secure some in-state hardware to close out the regular-season.