The Week Ahead Hockey East 11/1/2012

Posted by: Josh Seguin

The first full conference game weekend is in the books and little is decided on the fate of certain teams. It is too early to see if UNH’s strong, undefeated October will lead to anything in terms of success. If one thing is for certain we should have known that Boston College would emerge as the early favorite and this has been the case. This week’s power rankings saw a lot of movement but those two teams continue to hold the top two spots.

While most teams are engaging in conference action this weekend, Boston University will head west for the matchup of the week nationally when they tangle with national power North Dakota. I think most fans in Hockey East would love to be in North Dakota, but in any case there are many games locally that might catch your attention. Here’s to previewing all the action from Hockey East:

Boston University at North Dakota (Friday and Saturday)

When I highlight a matchup in the opening paragraph it is a huge one and this one is no different. Two national powers, North Dakota and Boston University, will go toe to toe on Friday and Saturday in Grand Forks.  This game is huge for Hockey East in terms of Pairwise, as Hockey East has struggled in non-conference play so far this season.

Boston University has found their starter in goal, Matt O’ Connor. He has been a rock whenever he has been in the Terrier net and last weekend he led BU to a max, four point weekend in a sweep of Massachusetts. The freshman allowed two goals in both games and had a .939 save percentage on the weekend.

While their freshman goaltender was shining in net, the Terriers were also scoring goals to the tune of eight in two games. Cason Hohmann had three points (2 goals, 1 assist) and Danny O’ Regan had two goals on Friday night. O’ Regan backed up the performance with a two point night on Saturday and three different Terriers scored in the game.

North Dakota enters the weekend at 2-1-1 on the season and this will be a crucial early season WCHA/Hockey East tilt.

Prediction: Split, BU takes Friday 5-3 and UND 3-2 Saturday

Providence at Vermont (Friday and Saturday)

The Friars and the Catamounts will play an intriguing two game set this weekend at Gutterson Fieldhouse, in Burlington.  Providence comes off of a home sweep of Maine and Vermont comes in off a 0-1-1 weekend against Merrimack. The games will feature matchups of freshmen goaltenders with PC’s Jon Gillies and UVM’s Brody Hoffmann.

Vermont enters the weekend 0-1-2 and will be looking for consistency.  Leaving October winless is never a good start, but Vermont has only played three games. In two games against Merrimack last weekend, the Catamounts lost 6-3 and tied 2-2. Freshman, Brody Hoffmann has started all three games for Vermont in goal. He has looked solid in two starts and not so much in his second start, a 6-3 loss. Gaining consistency in net will be key for Vermont over the weekend.

Last weekend, the Friars had a home sweep of Maine winning a 3-2 decision on Friday night and a 3-0 decision on Saturday. Freshman goaltender, Jon Gillies, leads Hockey East in GAA at 1.72 and will look for another big weekend, while the offense will look to continue its prowess in the young season.  PC is 3-2-1 (2-1-0 in Hockey East) on the young season and will look to gain crucial road points this weekend.

Prediction: UVM 3-1, PC 3-2

Merrimack at Northeastern (Friday), Northeastern at Merrimack (Saturday)

One of the intriguing questions of this series is how many goaltenders we will see, as both teams have questions in net. Last weekend, Northeastern got a solid performance by Bryan Mountain on Saturday night and a shaky one, at best, by Chris Rawlings on Friday. Merrimack on the other hand has a two man tandem going as Sam Marrotta and Rasmus Tirronen have split starts.

Northeastern could have gained at least two points out of their series with New Hampshire last weekend but only managed a scoreless tie on Saturday night. Senior Bryan Mountain made 44 saves on Saturday night in earning the shutout and has possibly created a goalie controversy for NU coming into this weekend. Of more concern for Coach Madigan might be his offensive charges though. The Huskies scored three goals in the first ten minutes of Friday’s game against UNH, but were unable to score in the final 110 minutes of the series. It’s early but could this be a preview of what we will see this weekend?

Since an opening night win at Union, Merrimack has gone 1-3-1 and have gotten inconsistent goaltending, giving up nearly three and a half goals per game. Rasmus Tirronen and Sam Marrotta have been sharing starts in net and neither has taken grasp to it as both have been consistently giving up three or more goals per game. If Merrimack could receive consistency in net, they have been scoring goals to the tune of 3.17 a game.

Prediction: Going with the home teams.  3-2 NU Friday, 4-3 MC Saturday

Boston College at Maine (Friday)

Last season, Maine accounted for BC’s last two losses of the year before the Eagles went on an 18 game tear to end the season winning the national title, but a lot has changed for both teams. Maine has earned the tenth position in the Hockey East Power Rankings and rightfully so as they have gone 1-6-0 on the season. Boston College is in the first position of these rankings and this has the makings of a mismatch on paper but don’t let that fool you as BC-Maine games are always fantastic.

Parker Milner has picked up right where he left off in the BC net, as he has sported a 1.98 GAA early in the season. The biggest question on the season has again turned into a strength for the Eagles as the defense has been playing well. Balance has again been the key in the early season success.

Maine has downright struggled in all aspects of the game so far this year. Maine has scored just four goals in their six losses so far this year and has struggled mightily to find the back of net. This problem began on opening night and has been an ongoing issue. Goaltending has also been a downfall as Maine’s three goaltenders have a .882 save percentage on the season, which is downright awful. If neither of these weaknesses improve this weekend; it will be a long one.

Prediction: BC 5-1

New Hampshire at Massachusetts (Friday)

New Hampshire enters the weekend as the only Hockey East team undefeated and Massachusetts enters the matchup winless in Hockey East. UNH will embark on two of their longest Hockey East road trips in the same weekend this weekend.

UMass is in need of Hockey East points this weekend, but this weekend will be a true test as they take on two of the top teams so far this season. Kevin Boyle and Steve Masterlerz have split time in net so far and Boyle has been the clear front-runner so far on the year. Boyle has a 2.02 GAA and Masterlerz has giving up 4.40 in his two starts. I would expect to see Boyle on Friday against UNH.

UNH enters the weekend off a three point weekend against Northeastern. Casey Desmith was named Hockey East goaltender of the month on Thursday and has a streak of 110 minutes of shutout hockey that began last Friday. On Saturday night, Desmith earned the shutout and sent away all 32 shots that he saw.

Prediction: UNH 4-2

Massachusetts at Boston College (Saturday)

UMass and BC met two weeks ago in Amherst, where the Minutemen raced out to a 3-0 lead after two periods. They were unable to hold on and eventually lost to the Eagles 5-4 in overtime. I will let you read what I wrote earlier on these teams. Massachusetts really needs a split on the weekend.

Prediction: BC 3-2

UNH at Maine (Sunday)

One of the biggest rivalries in Hockey East, Maine and New Hampshire, would normally take center stage in this preview but this game will feature two teams going in completely different directions.  UNH is going forward at 4-0-1 on the season and Maine 1-6-0. As with all UNH and Maine games it is a must see but consistency for Maine will be the key at all positions.

Prediction: UNH 5-1

Last week predictions: 6-3-1

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