This week in Hockey East is for once a normal weekend in terms of games as there will be five, two game series’ going on throughout the conference. This will become the norm in the last two months of the season, but this one week early will give us an idea of who the strong teams are in the conference. This week Boston College again held the top spot in the CHN Hockey East Power Poll, but New Hampshire is nipping on their heels with a strong 3-0-0 start. This week could be the week where separation and teams begin to stand out. This week also features a new format with an added prediction after each preview.
Northeastern at New Hampshire (Friday), New Hampshire at Northeastern (Saturday)
UNH and NU clash in arguably the most intriguing matchup of the weekend. The Wildcats enter the weekend at 3-0-0 and NU enters at 2-1-0. Northeastern enters the weekend in a tie for first place in the conference with four points while UNH has played just one game in conference and comes in with two points.
UNH has won games this season with a balanced offense. The have seen eight different players score a goal, while 15 have scored a point. UNH is one of three unblemished teams around the country, not including the teams who have yet to play, the others being Denver and Holy Cross. The 3-0-0 start is their best start since the 2008-2009 season and Casey Desmith has continued to be the go-to goaltender for the Wildcats. He has sported a 2.00 GAA so far on the season.
NU enters the weekend off a loss to Boston College last Saturday night. The loss was their first of the season and the Huskies have played all of their games in conference so far. Chris Rawlings has had a spectacular season so far and has played into the two wins for the Huskies. Freshman Kevin Roy is the team’s leading scorer with three points and two goals.
Prediction: Friday 4-2 UNH, Saturday 2-2 Tie
Vermont at Merrimack (Friday and Saturday)
Merrimack had a rough weekend in Alaska, while Vermont was idle last weekend. This weekend Vermont rose in the Hockey East Power Poll, while Merrimack fell to ninth.
Two weeks ago, Vermont tied UMass-Lowell on the road and freshman Brody Hoffman was impressive. The game was the only preview of what might be to come for the Catamounts, but it was an impressive one tying a team that is supposed to be really good. Brody Hoffman stopped 38 of 39 shots sent his way in the opening night tilt against UML. His team only got better in front of him as the game went on but it would be foolish to assume that he will be the hands-down starter on Friday night. Coach Sneddon said two weeks ago that ‘both freshman goalies would have a chance to prove themselves.’ It will either be Hoffman or Faust, and Sneddon would feel comfortable with both of them in net.
Merrimack has had a lackluster start to the season. After an opening night win against ECAC favorite Union, the Warriors have struggled. They have lost three consecutive games and have received inconsistent goaltending, giving up a league worst 3.50 goals against per game. An improvement of defense and goaltending would go to great lengths on the weekend.
Prediction: Calling a split 2-1 Vermont Fri. and 3-1 Merrimack Sat.
Maine at Providence (Friday and Saturday)
Maine is struggling and Providence has played some ok hockey in the last two weeks. Maine has been the biggest surprise in Hockey East this season for all the wrong reasons and leaving the friendly (or unfriendly) confines of Alfond Arena may be exactly what the doctor ordered.
The Black Bears have struggled to score goals and last weekend they struggled to keep goals out of their own net. The weekend was a perfect storm for Maine and they were swept by St. Lawrence by an aggregate of 10-1 on the weekend. They fell to 1-4-0 on the season and have scored just two goals in their 4 losses. Lack of scoring and inconsistent goaltending could make for a rough year for Maine.
Providence had a tough weekend at Miami but competed in both games and were able to manage a tie on Friday night. The Friars have begun the season 1-2-1 and have arguably had the toughest 4 game slate in Hockey East, with 3 games against normal powers BU and Miami. 17 different Friars have scored a point this season and freshman, Jon Gillies, has been consistent in net. PC will be looking to halt a three game winless streak.
Prediction: PC sweeps, 3-1 and 4-0
Massachusetts at Boston University (Friday), Boston University at Massachusetts (Saturday)
UMass began their Hockey East season on a sour note last Friday night by giving up a 3-0 lead after two periods and losing to Boston College. Boston University last played on Saturday night against New Hampshire, a 4-1 loss on the road. Both teams enter the game at 1-1-0 overall.
BU struggled in a 4-1 loss against UNH on Saturday night and failed to get the goaltending necessary to win. The Terriers struggled to get any offense going and went the final 59 minutes of the game without scoring. One should expect to see Matt O’Connor on Friday night, based on his performance on opening night and in relief on Saturday.
Prediction: BU 5-2 (Friday), UMass 3-2 OT (Saturday)
Boston College at UMass-Lowell (Friday), UMass-Lowell at Boston College (Sunday)
The last series that I will preview this weekend is the best one on paper. Coming into this season most people would have either had BC or UML on the top of their preseason Hockey East ballots. Subsequently they were ranked first and second respectively in both the preseason coaches and media polls. Both teams feature high powered offenses that can put up goals.
BC took five periods to get warmed up this season and got outscored 6-1 in those periods. In the opener the Eagles lost 3-1 to Northeastern and last Friday BC came back from a 3-0 second period deficit to defeat UMass 4-3 in overtime. BC was able to avenge their opening night loss to northeastern with a 3-0 victory on Saturday night. They enter the weekend at 2-1-0.
UML had a split weekend in Colorado. They lost to Denver on Friday night and defeated Colorado College on Saturday night. The win was a needed one as the River Hawks had tied Vermont the week before and many were beginning to doubt whether they were as good as many predicted them to be. Doug Carr has been strong so far allowing 0.89 goals per game. He gives the River Hawks a chance to win every time he plays.
Prediction: UML 3-2 (Friday), BC 5-3 (Sunday)