Boston College could win the Hockey East Association men's regular-season title this weekend. Despite that potential accolade, the Eagles could also be on the outside looking in when the 16 berths to the 2017 NCAA Tournament are announced late next month.
BC, following a pair of ties with Vermont last weekend and a loss to UMass Lowell tonight, is currently tied for 17th in the Pairwise Rankings, which mimic the selection process for the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles (18-12-4 overall, 13-4-3 HEA) would realistically have to move up to at least 14th place in the Pairwise to get into the nationals for the seventh straight season, as the winners of the six NCAA Division I conference tournaments will again earn six of the 16 NCAA bids. For example, WCHA front-runner Bemidji State is the highest-ranked team in that conference, standing at 24th in the Pairwise.
Upset wins by lower-ranked schools in the various tournaments could also snatch up the remaining auto-bids and keep BC out of the national picture, along with defending NCAA champion North Dakota (14th). BC’s 5-8-1 mark in non-conference games this season includes losses to Air Force (15 th -tie), Notre Dame (15th-tie) Wisconsin (20th), Quinnipiac (21st-tie), and Merrimack (29th). BC went 12-3-1 overall from mid-October into early December, but is just 5-5-2 over its last dozen outings.
The Eagles play a home-and-home series with Hockey East rival and eighth-rated UMass Lowell on this weekend, with the River Hawks having won the first game, 4-1, tonight in Chestnut Hill, Mass. A win on Friday in Lowell could play a sizable part in determining not only the Hockey East regular-season champion, but just how deep BC’s campaign may extend into March, a journey which may require a win in the Hockey East championship game.