With the single-elimination Hockey East tournament set to begin Wednesday, there’s only one absolute certainty — one team will win it, hoist the Lamoriello Trophy at TD Garden on March 19, and earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

And while it’s unthinkable that Hockey East will wind up with the tournament winner as its sole representative in the NCAA tournament, it’s safe to say that all 11 teams will be playing with the urgency befitting a team on the bubble. Of the seven schools in the top 20 of the PairWise rankings, none is ranked higher than No. 12 UMass.

The Minutemen (19-12-2, 14-8-2 Hockey East), the tournament’s second seed, earned a bye into the quarterfinals along with regular-season champion Northeastern (24-11-1, 15-8-1), and No. 3 UMass Lowell (20-9-3, 15-8-1).

One quarterfinal matchup is set — No. 4 UConn (18-15-0, 14-10-0) will host No. 5 Boston University (19-12-3, 13-8-3) on Saturday.

UMass-Amherst senior forward Bobby Trivigno said a mix of holdovers from last year’s NCAA championship team and a group of talented and seasoned younger players should bode well for the Minutemen going into the postseason.

“Our freshmen have done a good job and younger guys have done a good job of acclimating to the league,” Trivigno said. “You can see as the season has gone on, they’ve gotten better. I hope they continue to do that throughout (the) playoffs. The older guys, the senior guys, they’ve had those deep playoff runs, those championship games. I’m sure they’re going to lead by example.”

UMass had the regular-season crown all but wrapped up heading into the final weekend of the regular season, needing just one point in a home-and-home series vs. Boston College (14-17-5, 9-12-3), but lost twice to the Eagles.

Despite the sweep, senior forward Anthony Del Gaizo said he’s not too worried the Minutemen will get back on their feet for tournament time.

“We’re a resilient group,” Del Gaizo said. “When things don’t go our way we always seem to respond. (We) have a lot of games left to play. This team’s capable of going on a deep playoff run like we do every year. I’m excited for the next couple of weeks.”

For the first time ever, Northeastern is the tourney’s top seed after clinching the regular-season title with a win over Merrimack, a 1-0 thriller that was scoreless for 59 minutes and 50.5 seconds. Aiden McDonough’s 23rd goal of the season clinched the title for the Huskies.

McDonough said Northeastern’s turnaround since a 1-0 loss to Boston University in the Beanpot final on Feb. 14 (5-2-0 since then) puts his team in a good place heading into the conference tourney.

“Moving past the Beanpot and being done with it, (we’ve) been holding each other more accountable. The coaches have held us more accountable. We’re expecting more of each other, and it’s paid off.”

This is the second straight year the tournament will be a one-and-done format, a break from past tournaments where the first round (or two) was a best-of-three format. Wednesday’s winners will advance to Saturday’s quarterfinal round, and the four winners that night will advance to the March 18 semifinals at TD Garden in Boston.

Other first-round games include No. 6 Merrimack (18-14-1, 13-11-0) hosting No. 11 Maine (7-21-4, 5-17-2); No. 7 seed Providence (21-13-2, 12-11-1) hosting No. 10 Vermont (8-24-2, 6-16-2) in the first postseason meeting between the two schools, and (No. 8 Boston College (14-17-5, 9-12-3) hosting No. 9 New Hampshire (14-18-1, 8-15-1). All games are set for 7 p.m. EDT.

UNH-BC will air on NESN Wednesday, while Vermont-Providence is on NESN-plus. The field will be re-seeded for the quarterfinals. UMass Lowell’s home game will air Saturday at 4:30 p.m. EDT on NESN-plus.

NHL Hockey Playoffs
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