The Week Ahead Hockey East 2/2Posted by: Josh Seguin
Over the last two weekends, Maine has made a huge statement. With four straight wins against the likes of Boston University and Boston College, we can officially say that Maine is a contender for the Hockey East regular season championship and a team that could be poised for a run in the tournaments. With the four wins Maine has catapulted itself into third place in the conference, one point behind both Boston University and Boston College.
Boston College entered the weekend four points behind Boston University, but with their sweep of New Hampshire they pulled even with the Terriers at the top of the standings. Boston College and Maine do not play within the conference this weekend and Boston University plays only one game in conference. With three games in hand each on those two teams, Merrimack and UMass-Lowell have a chance to get themselves to the top of the standings in the next two weeks with wins as they are two and three points behind first place respectively.
The bottom half of the standings is getting interesting as well as four teams will battle for positions 6-9. Providence currently holds the sixth spot in the standings but UMass and Northeastern are nipping at their heels, three points behind. New Hampshire is also in the mix and this weekend will go a long way in deciding where they will end up as they play a home and home against Providence who currently sits four points ahead of them. With a sweep New Hampshire can put themselves in a battle for sixth and with two losses it could make for a long month in Durham.
Boston University at Merrimack
This matchup is very intriguing because we could end up with a three way tie at the top of the standings with a Merrimack win. Either team could tip the tie breaker in their favor as the game is also a rubber match of their season series. Merrimack won the first meeting of the teams in overtime 3-2 and Boston University won the second matchup 4-2.
Boston University enters the single game weekend off of two losses to Maine last weekend. After a two game sweep of Providence two weeks ago where they scored 14 goals, BU had its offense slowed to a grinding halt by Maine who allowed them only three in the two game series. To regain the momentum they held built in the past few weeks they will need to regain their scoring touch.
Merrimack won their only game last weekend by defeating Providence College 4-2, on Saturday. The Warriors continue to receive phenomenal goaltending from Joe Cannata who made 37 saves in the game. The game will have huge implications on the Pairwise for both teams as Boston University currently sits in second and Merrimack in a tie for fifth.
Massachusetts at Northeastern
The two teams that sit tied for seventh and eighth place in the standings will battle for an important two points on Friday night. With points at a premium for both teams this game should have a playoff feel to it.
Massachusetts, after winning three straight before last weekend, comes into this weekend off a struggle against UMass-Lowell last weekend where they were swept by the River Hawks. This weekend as a whole should signify the team that we will see down the stretch. With two losses this weekend UMass could find themselves on the outside looking in.
Northeastern comes into this weekend off a weekend sweep of Vermont, where they outscored the Catamounts 12-5. Northeastern looks poised to get into the Hockey East playoffs in the coming weeks but this game will be mightily important in continuing momentum that was built last weekend. With only one game this weekend Northeastern with a loss could also find themselves on the outside looking in.
The trio of goalies battling for the top spot will lead to another game time decision this weekend for coach Cahoon and the Minutemen. Steve Masterlerz and Jeff Teglia both struggled in losses over the weekend so Kevin Boyle may be the guy for one game this weekend. Northeastern has been getting solid goaltending from Chris Rawlings and he should start on Friday.
Friday and Saturday
Vermont at UMass-Lowell
Two teams going in different directions will face off for a two-game series this weekend in Lowell. The River Hawks are a surprise to many but in some regards Vermont has surprised many as well, just not in a way that they would like. Lowell could easily find itself in first place after this weekend and Vermont will hold steady in tenth as they have attained only five points in conference play so far this season.
UMass-Lowell swept sister school UMass last weekend and have cemented themselves near the top of Hockey East. Balanced scoring, strong defense, and strong goaltending by Doug Carr have led to their surprise climb up the Hockey East ladder. Anything less than a four point weekend would be a disappointment this weekend for them.
Rob Madore will most likely start for the Catamounts this weekend after sitting on Saturday night. Last Friday, Madore gave up three goals on 13 shots and was pulled in lieu of John Vazzano. Alex Vazzano got the call on Saturday night and gave up four goals on 24 shots. UMass-Lowell should start Doug Carr for at least one this weekend. He has been phenomenal and has led them to the position they currently hold.
Providence at New Hampshire (Fri.), New Hampshire at Providence
This series is a do or die series for New Hampshire. If New Hampshire can pull off a sweep they can catapult themselves into a battle for sixth, seventh and eighth but if they get swept they put themselves into serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs come seasons end. A minimum of two points is a must for them this weekend as they sit one point behind both UMass and Northeastern and four points behind Providence College.
Providence played a single game last weekend when they were defeated by Merrimack College, 4-2. Alex Beaudry gave up three goals against Merrimack but only made 19 saves. He is the catalyst of the team. When he struggles so do the Friars and when he is strong in net the Friars usually win. Beaudry should get both starts this weekend.
New Hampshire was swept by Boston College in two one goal games but there was no lack of effort. In both games UNH had chances to win the game but they could not finish the deal. With four straight good performances against top teams New Hampshire should find a rebound and this weekend will be crucial. Freshman goaltender, Casey Desmith, had another good weekend in the New Hampshire and he should receive both starts for the Wildcats this weekend.
Merrimack at Massachusetts
Massachusetts could make a huge statement this weekend with a sweep of both Northeastern and Merrimack. This game could be a struggle for the Minutemen despite the home advantage, which has been huge for them all season. This will be the first game between the two teams this season, as the two teams will play on the last weekend of the season.
Merrimack could use four points this weekend to make a statement at the top of the Hockey East standings and in the Pairwise, as any win within Hockey East is huge in regards to that. With four weekends to go in the season after this weekend, Merrimack could be entering into new territory as a program in the coming weeks with a pair of wins.
Friday and Saturday (non-conference)
Alabama-Huntsville at Maine
Alabama-Huntsville is a much different team today than the one that Hockey East fans remember of them in November. Despite being 2-24-1, Maine cannot take the Chargers lightly at all or they could suffer the same fate as Denver three weeks ago and that is lose a game to the once struggling Chargers. Last weekend Huntsville gave Pairwise number one, Minnesota Duluth all they could handle.
In terms of Pairwise two wins against anybody is huge and Maine will look to continue to stay hot against UAH this weekend. Being an independent, Hunstville has played a national schedule; because of this wins against them are huge because of the common opponents’ criteria of the Pairwise. Dan Sullivan should get the start this weekend.