After a weekend filled with overtimes, Hockey East teams will look to gain space between themselves and their nearest competitors in the standings. As is usually the case at this time of year the standings are tightly packed in the middle. With only three points separating positions three to six and five points separating positions three to seven, teams will be looking to gain as many points as they can heading into the stretch run.
Crucial games will become more numerous down the stretch. This weekend is dominated by Boston matchups, as Northeastern plays both BC and BU and Boston University takes on Harvard. All of these games should be great games but up and down the schedule should provide excitement for many fans. As the eyes of New England turns to the Patriots game on Saturday night, the standings should appear a little different than what they did before the weekend. Non-conference games and conference games alike this weekend should make for great hockey and jostling, enjoy.
Boston College at UMass
Boston College will head to Amherst for a second time this season as the top team in Hockey East. In the last meeting the Minutemen shocked the Eagles 4-2, at the Mullins Center. Boston College is one of many surprise opponents to leave Amherst with a loss as the Minutemen are currently undefeated at home with a record of 5-0-3.
Boston College will look to break the tie at the top of the hockey east standings with Boston University, as they have two conference games this weekend to BU’s one. BC has received consistent goaltending so far this season as Brian Billet and Parker Milner have split the work, but the offense has gone silent in the past few weeks. In the last four games, the Eagles have scored just two goals in each of those games going just 1-2-1 in those games.
The Minutemen will look to build on their Frozen Fenway overtime victory when they host the Eagles. It should be a game time decision on goalies for both teams, as both have battles on going.
UMass-Lowell at Vermont
UMass-Lowell enters the weekend in fifth place in the standings, with games in hand against everybody in the standings. Vermont will look to earn some conference points to salvage some of their season that has gone south very fast. Coming off a tough overtime defeat to UMass at Frozen Fenway, the Catamounts need a rebound game against one of the surprises in Hockey East this season.
Vermont will start the ever inconsistent Rob Madre in net who has been off and on so far this season. In their first non-exhibition game in nearly two weeks the River Hawks will start the impressive Doug Carr, who was arguably the goalie of the first half. His 1.89 goals against average and .930 save percentage are good for tops in the league and his play has been phenomenal so far this season.
Boston University at Northeastern
Boston University and Northeastern will commence their season rivalry on Friday night as the Terriers will head to Matthews to take on the Huskies. Both teams come into the weekend looking to move up in the standings or solidify their position for a playoff spot. BU is tied with BC at the top of the standings and Northeastern is tied with UMass for the eighth spot. Every game down the stretch will be important for the Huskies as they look to make the Hockey East playoffs.
Both teams have received solid goaltending as Kieran Millan will get the nod for the Terriers and Chris Rawlings will get the call for the huskies. So far on the season Millan is 9-6-1 with a 2.79 goals against average and a .916 save percentage. Chris Rawlings has been even more impressive with an 8-6-3 record where he has given up 2.31 goals per game and saves 93 percent of shots.
Maine at Merrimack (Friday and Saturday)
In the only two game series of the weekend Maine will make another trip south to take on the Merrimack College Warriors. Maine will look to build on its 5-4 overtime win over New Hampshire and Merrimack will look to gain some momentum going forward as they have been struggling since the end of the first half.
The first meeting between these teams was the first game of the season for both teams and the Warriors won that meeting 2-1 in Orono. The Warriors have been in a funk as of late and Maine comes in red hot. Maine comes into this game winners of eight out of their last nine games while Merrimack comes into Friday 1-2-2 in their last five contests.
Joe Canatta should receive both starts in net for the Warriors. So far on the season he is 10-4-4 with a 2.03 GAA and .926 save percentage. Dan Sullivan has become the starter for the Black Bears and has backboned the recent success for Maine. Although his numbers aren’t impressive he is winning games and that is all that matters for a Maine team that has struggled in the past few years to do so.
Frozen Fenway: Northeastern vs. Boston College
Northeastern and Boston College will play the third Hockey East game at Fenway Park in two weeks as they will rekindle their budding cross-town rivalry. So far the teams have played twice with the Eagles coming out victorious in close games both times. The first meeting was a 4-3 overtime victory at Matthews and the second a 2-1 victory at Conte Forum.
Goaltending will play a huge role in the outcome of this game. If the two games at Fenway last weekend are any indication there should be some weird bounces that goalies will need to handle. Rawlings can take over a game and with every point being huge for the Huskies he should come out with a big performance. The only question is whether he will be able to outduel the Eagle defense and either Parker Milner or Brian Billet.
Dartmouth vs. UNH (Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester NH)
UNH and Dartmouth will make their annual trip to the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester to battle for the Riverstone Cup and state supremacy. UNH will be looking to even up their season record against the ECAC at 2-2.
Every win, conference or non-conference, will be important for UNH down the stretch. At 7-11-2, UNH is still in the midst of their worst season since 1995-1996. In their 7 wins this season the Wildcats have given up just 9 goals and in their 13 losses and ties they have given up 59 goals. To win they need to play defense as they did Wednesday night in a 1-0 win over Providence.
Casey Desmith has seemingly become the everyday starter for UNH. In his last start he shutout out the Friars in a 1-0 victory for UNH. No one at the beginning of the season expected to see anyone but Matt Di Girolamo in net for the Wildcats, but the freshman has outperformed the senior in recent weeks and has earned his starts. In his five appearances, he has a .924 save percentage. One should expect to see him again on Saturday.
Boston University at Harvard
In the weekend of Boston matchups, Boston University will make the short cross-town trip to the Bright Hockey Center to take on Harvard. This will be the first of two matchups this season, as the two will also meet in the Beanpot in early February. The Terriers will look to get back in good territory in non-conference action, as they currently have a 2-2-0 record in non-conference action.
Harvard and Boston University have played two common opponents this year in New Hampshire and Cornell. Harvard has split two games against those teams and BU has 4 wins combined over those teams. Kieran Millan should be in net for terriers for the Saturday tilt.
Providence at Vermont
Providence will head up to Burlington to take on the struggling Catamounts. So far this season Vermont has only one conference win and will need wins to have any chance at making the Hockey East playoffs; but those chances may have already passed. Providence is coming off a loss to New Hampshire on Wednesday in which they were shutout and really didn’t have many quality chances.
The Friars enter the weekend in fifth place in the standings with games in hand to most Hockey East teams and they are only three points out of third place and two out of the all important fourth place.
Their strong performance this season is being led by their goaltender, Alex Beaudry. So far on the season he has a 2.87 goals against per game with a .900 save percentage. Providence will look to him to continue their success this season.