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BU, BC, Lowell split Hockey East regular-season title; Harvard wins share of ECAC crown

02.25.17 at 10:43 pm ET
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BU won a share of the Hockey East regular-season title Saturday night. (WEEI.com)

BU won a share of the Hockey East regular-season title Saturday night. (WEEI.com)

For the first time in Hockey East history, three teams will split the regular-season championship. Boston University beat Notre Dame 4-1 at Agganis Arena Saturday night to finish the campaign tied with Boston College and UMass Lowell at the top of the standings.

BC had the clearest path to the title entering the season’s final weekend, but the Eagles got swept by Lowell in a home-and-home series, losing 4-1 in Chestnut Hill Thursday and 3-1 in Lowell Friday. That moved the River Hawks into a tie with BC at 29 points apiece and opened the door for both BU and Notre Dame to get in on the action.

Notre Dame beat BU 3-1 Friday night to move to 28 points, putting the Fighting Irish in position to win the title outright — in their final season in the league — if they could complete the sweep Saturday. BU, sitting at 27 points entering Saturday’s finale, had other ideas.

After falling behind 1-0 in the first period, the Terriers got a pair of goals from Kieffer Bellows and John MacLeod in the second to take a 2-1 lead. Then they made it 3-1 early in the third when Clayton Keller tipped in Dante Fabbro’s shot from the point. Keller scored again with 3:30 to go on a nice snipe over Cal Petersen’s glove for his team-leading 19th goal of the season.

While BU, BC and Lowell will share the regular-season title and all get to call themselves champions, Lowell will be the top seed for the Hockey East tournament due to tiebreakers, with BU the second seed and BC third. BC also split the regular-season title last year (with Providence), while BU last won the regular-season crown in 2015 and Lowell in 2013.

Those three, along with fourth-seeded Notre Dame, will get first-round byes and host best-of-three quarterfinal series in two weeks. The conference tournament opens next weekend with best-of-three series between seeds five through 12, with the matchups as follows:

(12) UMass at (5) Providence
(11) Maine at (6) Vermont
(10) New Hampshire at (7) Merrimack
(9) UConn at (8) Northeastern

Regardless of what happens in the Hockey East tourney, Lowell and BU are both in good shape when it comes to making NCAAs, as they are currently sixth and seventh, respectively, in the Pairwise rankings used to determine the 16-team field.

Providence is also in a pretty good spot at 11, while Notre Dame is sitting right on the bubble at 15. Vermont, BC and Northeastern are on the outside looking in at 18, 20 and 23, respectively, and each of them probably needs to win the Hockey East tournament to make it. BC, sunk by a poor out-of-conference record and brutal 0-5-2 stretch to close out the regular season, could become the first team to win the Hockey East regular-season title and miss NCAAs.

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In the ECAC, Harvard beat St. Lawrence 6-3 Saturday to win a share of the ECAC regular-season championship, its first since 1994. Bruins prospect Ryan Donato scored his team-leading 17th and 18th goals of the season and also had two assists.

Harvard entered the night one point behind Union, but Union tied Cornell Saturday to give the Crimson an opening. Harvard wins the seeding tiebreaker and will be the top seed in the ECAC tournament. It will host a best-of-three quarterfinal series in two weeks.

The Crimson, who have the best winning percentage in the country, are already a lock to make NCAAs and have a great shot at getting one of the four one-seeds, as they are currently third in the Pairwise.

Union, Cornell and St. Lawrence get the other three opening-round byes in the ECAC. The best-of-three first-round matchups are as follows:

(12) Brown at (5) Quinnipiac
(11) Rensselaer at (6) Clarkson
(10) Colgate at (7) Princeton
(9) Dartmouth at (8) Yale

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