Three Things I Think: Hockey East

Posted by: Joe Meloni

As many expected, we saw Vermont lose a pair this weekend, and Boston University sweep its weekend at home. We saw UMass-Lowell embarrass Massachusetts, 4-0, at the Tsongas Center, and Northeastern pick up four points in two days, after collecting just two in the previous 43.

The league’s two leaders, Boston College and Merrimack, received a brief hiatus from league play. BC fell, 3-2, in overtime to Notre Dame. The result will bear no impact on the league standings, but the potential PairWise boost the league would’ve received from that victory could’ve been the difference between an NCAA at-large bid and an early summer a few months from now.

It’s time for Tim Whitehead to get rough with his Diamond

Earlier this season, Maine coach Tim Whitehead called out winger Joey Diamond for his selfish play in a loss to North Dakota in Grand Forks. The coach benched his player for the following night’s game with the Fighting Sioux in a play he hoped would eliminate Diamond’s irresponsible play.

This, ultimately, proved a failed attempt from Whitehead. In that game with UND, Diamond picked up four minors, three of which came on penalties of aggression in boarding and roughing. Despite missing the next game, Diamond returned against Providence the next weekend and took a minor for grabbing an opponent’s facemask. Another unnecessary two minutes without one its best goal scorers. And that’s the biggest problem, Diamond is one of the Black Bears most gifted players, and Maine needs all the offense it can muster right now.

In Maine’s lone game this weekend, it drew UMass, 2-2, in Amherst. Diamond assisted on Maine’s second goal of the evening. Later in the game, he took a cross-checking minor at the end of the first period that could’ve cut into his team’s lead. The Minutemen eventually tied the game, and Diamond’s lack of discipline came out further in the overtime. With 2 minutes, 21 seconds left in the extra seassion, Diamond characteristically leveled a UMass player from behind. The hit earned him a five-minute major and game misconduct. Now, with only 2:39 remaining on the clock, his penalty didn’t hamstring the Black Bears for the remainder of the game, but it did illustrate further issues.

In 10 games played this season, Diamond has taken 18 penalties for 47 minutes. The Black Bears have only allowed one goal on his penalties, but the greater effect is obvious. Stupid penalties force good players to spend more time killing penalties. Maine can’t afford to put itself after greater disadvantages. It’s time for Whitehead to sit Diamond down for more than a game, and that doesn’t mean this next stretch with a pair of all-important games against the U.S. Under-18 National Team and Clarkson. Those two and the following two, a pair in Burlington, Vt., should send the message

The scoring touch may be the one tool Coyle doesn’t have

At 6-foot-2, 207 pounds, BU sophomore Charlie Coyle is one of the strongest ¬†players in the conference. Paired with the skill and hockey sense he brings to the game, it’s no wonder the San Jose Sharks made him a first round pick and the Minnesota Wild were so excited to acquire his rights over the summer.

There’s little Coyle doesn’t do for the Terriers. Aside from serving on one of BU’s top two penalty-killing units, Coyle centers its second line, flanked by equally gifted wingers Matt Nieto and Alex Chiasson. Through 11 games this season, Coyle is averaging a point a game, improving on his 26 points in 37 games as a freshman. It’s been an impressive career to this point, but there’s one question some may have.

Where are the goals?

As a freshman, Coyle scored seven goals in 37 games, and, this season, he’s scored twice in 11 games. While his ability as a setup man and an effective three-zone player is clear, BU needs offense from all of its top six scorers to make 2011-12 memorable. Beyond Coyle, senior captain Chris Connolly is without a goal to this point in the season.

UNH needs more from its defense

The Wildcats are currently eighth in Hockey East in scoring defense with 3.33 goals allowed per game, and goaltender Matt Di Girolamo has a .893 save percentage and a 3.13 goals-against average. Neither of these numbers are good enough to win on a team averaging three goals per game through its 12 games.

Entering the season, UNH’s defense ranked as major question, despite being overshadowed by the loss of its entire top line. Senior Damon Kipp and junior Brett Kostolansky were said to be leading the young class. However, the six-man group has been unimpressive in 12 games.

In UNH’s five losses, it has allowed at least four goals. These defeats came to the hands of Boston College, Northeastern, St. Cloud State and twice to Boston University. All of these teams but Northeastern are in the top 20 in the country in scoring. However, the Wildcats think they belong among the best teams in the country. Allowing four goals to anyone is unacceptable if UNH really thinks it belongs in this group.

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