Tonight on NBCSN: Hockey East semifinals — UMass-Lowell vs. Providence; BC vs. BU

No. 1 UMass-Lowell Riverhawks vs. No. 4 Providence Friars – 5:00 p.m. ET

UML won season series 2-1-0

It’s been a special year so far for UMass-Lowell, but if they want to avenge losing the Hockey East title last year, they’ll have to get through a hot Providence team first. This match-up is all about freshman goaltending. For UML, it’s Connor Hellebuyck who took the job from junior incumbent Doug Carr. Hellebuyck earned honors as the conference’s top goalie and a spot on the conference rookie team.  When you put up a 1.44 GAA and stop shots at a .944 pace, you’re going to win some awards.

The same can be said of Calgary Flames prospect and Team USA WJC gold medalist netminder Jon Gillies. He also earned a spot on the conference rookie team and put up some flashy numbers of his own (2.08 GAA, .931 SV%). Where he’s hurt is he doesn’t have the same kind of offensive support Hellebuyck does. PC’s has three players with over 20 points this season while UML has two 30+ point guys and five others with 20 or more. If the Friars are going to make the finals, they’re going to need Gillies to stand on his head and hope they can sneak a few past Hellebuyck themselves.

No. 2 Boston College Eagles vs. No. 3 Boston University Terriers – 8:00 p.m. ET

BC won season series 2-1-0

These two rivals have seen enough of each other in the past, but both have a lot to play for here. BC would love nothing more than to send Jack Parker into retirement without a berth in the NCAA tournament. Should BU lose tonight, they’re likely out of the NCAAs.

The Eagles will have to do it without their own legendary coach, Jerry York, behind the bench as he’s still recovering from surgery. Luckily for them they’ve got Hockey East player of the year and Calgary Flames prospect Johnny Gaudreau as well as defensive defenseman of the year Patrick Wey to take charge. When you add in Walter Brown Award winner Steven Whitney and fellow big scorer Pat Mullane, a beaten down BU defense will have their hands full.

All that said, BU still comes in with a solid squad and one motivated by trying to take Coach Parker out on top. Freshman Danny O’Regan (San Jose) leads the way in points while senior Wade Megan (Florida) and junior Matt Nieto (San Jose) can fill the net with goals. BU is going to need their defense to stand up huge if they’re going to take home a conference title, however, and that’s one aspect of their game that’s had trouble. If they let BC get their chances, it could be a long, tough night for BU.

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.