Hockey East is divided into three pretty clear tiers right now. There’s the top five, the next four, and then Vermont all by itself at the bottom. Within those top two tiers, there continues to be plenty of movement on a week-to-week basis, and the difference from first to fifth and sixth to ninth continues to be negligible. The most notable move this week came from Lowell, which becomes the fourth different team to lay claim to the top spot this season.
1. Massachusetts-Lowell (16-7-0, 11-6-0 HE) — Last week: 3
The River Hawks have been in the top half of these rankings for a couple months, and now they ascend to the top spot after beating UMass 4-2 on Friday and 5-2 on Saturday. They have some of the best scoring depth in the league, as they have eight players with at least 18 points and 10 with at least 12. At the other end of the ice, Doug Carr leads Hockey East with a .935 save percentage. Lowell’s 14-4-0 record since the start of November is the best in the league.
2. Merrimack (14-5-5, 10-4-3 HE) — Last week: 2
The Warriors stay in second after beating Providence 4-2 on Sunday in their only game of the weekend. They took 42 penalty minutes and got outshot 39-23 in that game, but Joe Cannata stopped 37 shots as he continues to make his case for the Hobey Baker. After struggling through December and early January, Merrimack is now 3-1-1 in its last five. Karl Stollery has two goals and five assists during that span, and he’s now tied for fourth in the league in defenseman scoring.
3. Maine (14-8-3, 11-7-2 HE) — Last week: 4
Well, the Black Bears have certainly made quite the statement the last two weeks. After sweeping BC in Orono last weekend, they came down to Boston and beat BU 4-2 on Friday and 3-1 on Saturday. Spencer Abbott notched two points in the series and now has 40 on the season, putting him first in Hockey East and tied for second nationally. Maine has also been getting more secondary scoring as of late. In net, Dan Sullivan stopped 66 of the 69 shots he faced against BU and now has a 13-5-3 record on the season.
4. Boston University (15-8-1, 12-6-1 HE) — Last week: 1
The Terriers’ five-game winning streak and two-week run atop these rankings both came to an end this weekend when they got swept at home by Maine. They didn’t play all that poorly, but they did take too many penalties, especially on Saturday when they gave the Black Bears eight power plays. Discipline has been a problem all year for the Terriers, who lead the country with 20.8 penalty minutes per game. Defenseman Alexx Privitera is expected to miss four weeks after suffering a broken wrist Friday night.
5. Boston College (16-10-1, 12-7-1 HE) — Last week: 5
The Eagles responded to a sweep at the hands of Maine by sweeping UNH this weekend, winning 4-3 on Friday on a last-minute goal by Steven Whitney and then 3-2 on Saturday on an overtime goal by Barry Almeida. Parker Milner got his first two starts since Dec. 30 and picked up a pair of wins, thanks in part to an improved defense that will be crucial moving forward. BC leads the league with an 86.7-percent penalty kill and is tied for the conference lead with eight shorthanded goals.
6. Northeastern (10-11-3, 6-11-2 HE) — Last week: 9
Normally a sweep of Vermont wouldn’t be enough to move up three spots, but given that the three teams ahead of Northeastern last week went a combined 0-5-0 this weekend, it is in this case. Cody Ferriero recorded a hat trick in Friday’s 8-3 win and Mike McLaughlin tallied three assists in Saturday’s 4-2 triumph. Perhaps the most encouraging sign from the weekend was that the Huskies went 3-for-7 on the power play after entering the series with just nine power-play goals all season.
7. Massachusetts (9-10-5, 5-8-4 HE) — Last week: 6
The Minutemen’s four-game unbeaten streak ended with a thud this weekend, as they got swept by Lowell. Steve Mastalerz, who had looked very good in his previous two starts (both wins), came back to earth a bit on Friday when he surrendered four goals on 34 shots. Jeff Teglia fared worse Saturday, though, as he gave up five goals on 29 shots and fell to 1-5-1 on the season.
8. Providence (10-12-2, 8-8-1 HE) — Last week: 8
Providence lost 4-2 at Merrimack on Sunday and is now 2-6-1 in its last nine. There is some good news for the Friars, though. For starters, they’ve played much better in their last two games (they beat Lowell 1-0 last Tuesday) than they did two weekends ago when BU outscored them 14-1 in a sweep. Also, leading goal-scorer Tim Schaller is expected to return this weekend after missing six games with mono.
9. New Hampshire (9-14-2, 6-11-1 HE) — Last week: 7
After getting swept by BC this weekend, the Wildcats have now lost three in a row, and all three losses have come in either overtime or the last minute of regulation. While being competitive against good teams is nice, it doesn’t mean much without getting points, which are at a premium for UNH. The Wildcats are one point behind UMass and Northeastern in the race for the final playoff spot.
10. Vermont (5-19-1, 2-15-1 HE) — Last week: 10
This season has been full of low points for the Catamounts, but this weekend might’ve been the lowest. They got swept at home by Northeastern, one of the few teams they had even a remote chance of catching if they could’ve strung together a couple wins. Now they’re nine points out of a playoff spot and basically need a minor miracle if they hope to get anywhere close to the postseason.