Hockey East Power Rankings: 2/8/12

Posted by: Scott McLaughlin

This weekend further separated the top half from the bottom half, as every matchup between a top-five team and bottom-five team went to the favorite. Within those two groups, though, there was once again plenty of movement. The top five should give us one of the best races for the regular-season title in league history.

1. Massachusetts-Lowell (18-7-0, 13-6-0 HE) — Last week: 1

The River Hawks stay in the top spot after taking care of business against Vermont, as they beat the Catamounts 3-1 on Friday and 6-4 on Saturday. Lowell has now won four in a row and 13 of its last 16. Scott Wilson had two goals and three assists on the weekend and leads all Hockey East rookies with 13 goals and 26 points. The River Haws now enter their toughest stretch of the season, as their next six games read Merrimack, Maine, BU, BU, Merrimack, Merrimack.

2. Boston University (17-8-1, 13-6-1 HE) — Last week: 4

BU picked up a big 4-1 win at Merrimack on Friday before beating Harvard 3-1 in the first round of the Beanpot. Chris Connolly led the way with two goals and an assist Friday, while Wade Megan tallied a pair of goals Monday. It might not seem fair to move the Terriers ahead of a Maine team that swept them just two weekends ago, but their win on Friday put a little bit of distance between them and the Black Bears in the standings.

3. Maine (16-8-3, 11-7-2 HE) — Last week: 3

Trailing 3-0 after two periods against lowly Alabama-Huntsville on Friday, it looked like the Black Bears were surely going to drop in these rankings. Instead they came back and won that game 4-3 in overtime, then pounded the Chargers 5-0 the next night. Those first two periods on Friday are one reason the Black Bears don’t move up this week. The other is that by not playing a conference game and having others around them win, they dropped to fifth in the standings.

4. Boston College (17-10-1, 12-7-1 HE) — Last week: 5

The Eagles had the weekend off, but showed no rust whatsoever Monday night when they smoked Northeastern 7-1 in the opening round of the Beanpot. Steven Whitney and Johnny Gaudreau each had two goals and an assist, while Paul Carey, Barry Almeida, Pat Mullane and Patch Alber all contributed multi-point efforts as well. BC has now won three in a row after suffering through a 2-5-1 stretch from Dec. 9 to Jan. 21.

5. Merrimack (15-6-5, 11-5-3 HE) — Last week: 2

The Warriors lost to BU 4-1 on Friday and then beat UMass 4-3 on Saturday when Jeff Velleca scored with two seconds left in the game. It feels a bit harsh to drop them three spots after a weekend split, but these top five teams are packed together so tightly that when the other four teams all win, this sort of drop can happen. Joe Cannata had a rare off weekend, as he posted an .854 save percentage in the two games.

6. New Hampshire (11-14-2, 8-11-1 HE) — Last week: 9

The Wildcats swept Providence this weekend, winning 3-1 on Friday before Kevin McCarey gave them a 3-2 overtime win Saturday. UNH is now 5-4-0 in the new year, with all four losses coming against teams in the top five of these rankings, and all four coming in either overtime or the last minute of regulation. Freshman goalie Casey DeSmith has a .939 save percentage over his last eight games.

7. Northeastern (11-12-3, 7-11-2 HE) — Last week: 6

The Huskies extended their winning streak to three when Vinny Saponari’s overtime goal gave them a 4-3 victory over UMass on Friday. Then Northeastern fell on its face against BC in the first round of the Beanpot. The positive here is that the Huskies need conference wins more than non-conference wins at this point, and Friday’s triumph put them two points ahead of UMass for the eighth and final playoff spot.

8. Massachusetts (9-12-5, 5-10-4 HE) — Last week: 7

The Minutemen suffered a pair of heartbreaking losses this weekend, losing in overtime to Northeastern and then in the final seconds to Merrimack. They’ve lost four in a row and are now two points out of eighth place. Neither Kevin Boyle nor Steve Mastalerz played particularly well in net, meaning UMass’ season-long search for consistent goaltending continues.

9. Providence (10-14-2, 8-10-1 HE) — Last week: 8

Despite the return of leading goal-scorer Tim Schaller, the Friars got swept by UNH and are now 2-8-1 in their last 11. They’re still in decent shape when it comes to making the Hockey East playoffs, as they’re tied for sixth with 17 points — three more than UMass. That said, you’d have a hard time arguing that they’re playing better than anyone ahead of them in these rankings. PC has gone from a home-ice contender to being in a race for its playoff life in the span of a month.

10. Vermont (5-21-1, 2-17-1 HE) — Last week: 10

Vermont got swept by Lowell this weekend. Alex Vazzano played well in net Friday, but got pulled Saturday after allowing two early goals. The Catamounts at least made things interesting Saturday when they scored twice in the final two minutes to pull within one before the River Hawks sealed it with an empty-netter.

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