Last weekend kept Hockey East in a rank and file Boston College, Boston University and New Hampshire world. This weekend is filled with lots of conference matchups and a weird scheduling quirk, as no teams will play on Saturday night. It will be highlighted by one matchup, on Sunday, which will pit Boston University and New Hampshire at Agganis Arena. Here’s to my weekly try of previewing the games:
Merrimack at Boston College (Friday)
Boston College is on an eight game winning streak, while Merrimack dropped a pair of decisions last week to Boston University and UConn. The matchup will feature the third ranked offense in Hockey East (Merrimack) and the first ranked offense (Boston College), but the Warriors have struggled on defense giving up 2.90 per game.
Boston College has again been the king of consistency in College Hockey as they are off to a quick start on the season. Following a season opening loss to Northeastern, the Eagles have rattled off eight straight victories and have been doing it with a consistent blast of both offense and defense. Parker Milner has picked up right where he left off last season, by allowing less than two per game so far this season, while Johnny Gaudreau has continued his scoring machine. Gaudreau is tied for the lead in Hockey East in goal scoring and is second with his 12 points.
Merrimack has been boasting the third ranked offense in the conference early in the season, but has continually struggled to keep the puck out of their own net. Mike Collins is the leading scorer in Hockey East with his 13 points on the season, but struggled last week only scoring a single assist.
Prediction: BC 4-1
New Hampshire at UMass-Lowell (Friday)
This could be an intriguing matchup. Before the season, many people believed that Lowell would be the team that would be competing in the top three and not UNH, but early in the season it has panned out to be the opposite. The Wildcats have stormed out of the gate at 6-1-1, while the River Hawks have struggled at 2-4-1.
UNH is coming off an impressive performance on Saturday night against Vermont. Casey Desmith has earned two consecutive shutouts, on the heel of two consecutive impressive performances by his defense. UNH enters the weekend with the top ranked defense in the country, allowing a meager 1.38 goals per game to opponents. Austin Block has been carrying the offense for them as he had his second two-goal game in a row.
The River Hawks split with last place Maine last weekend in a weekend series. On Friday night UML won a 2-1 game and on Saturday the River Hawks dropped a 4-3 game. Doug Carr has been the light for UML this year as he has been playing strong, just to be let down by his offense. The River Hawks boast the third worst offense in Hockey East, scoring just 1.86 goals per game.
Prediction: UNH 2-1
Boston University at Vermont (Friday)
I could see this being a trap game for Boston University, heading up to Vermont. Last Sunday the Terriers struggled against Boston College, losing 4-2 and on Sunday they play UNH. This game should go the way of the Terriers but a road game between two big games can always be a challenge.
BU has begun the season 5-3-0 but have also played one of the most difficult schedules this year in Hockey East, losing to North Dakota, UNH and BC. Those losses will make them stronger come seasons end and tourney time. BU has gotten solid goaltending from freshman, Matt O’Connor, and has also gotten balanced scoring. The Terriers have been led by sophomore Cason Hohmann’s 10 points and Wade Megan’s 8 points.
Vermont struggled against New Hampshire. They had few quality opportunities and struggled in nearly every aspect of the game. All told, the Catamounts have begun their season 1-3-1 but haven’t looked that bad in the process. Before Saturday, the Catamounts had only not been in one game, a 6-3 loss to Merrimack. Brody Hoffman has been solid in the Vermont net.
Prediction: BU 4-3
Northeastern at Providence (Friday)
Northeastern had an expected two wins against Alabama-Huntsville last weekend, while Providence struggled in a 4-0 loss to UMass. The week that was for the huskies is one im sure many fans would want to forget as freshman, Cam Darcy, left them for the USHL.
Northeastern, despite the turmoil and despite the struggles against Merrimack two weekends ago are .500 on the season and sitting mid-pack in Hockey East with their four points. Their struggles with goaltending have been much talked about, but they haven’t dug themselves a huge hole yet. One should expect Chris Rawlings to play on Friday night and win against Providence could go a long way for them.
Providence is another team that is sitting mid-pack in Hockey East coming into this weekend that could use a big boost with a win against a team that is close to them in the standings. Providence sits in sixth in scoring offense, scoring 2.56 goals per game and fourth in scoring defense giving up 2.33 per game. Freshman, Jon Gilles struggled in the game against UMass allowing four goals on 32 shots. This game was an anomaly to his season though, as he has played well for the Friars so far on the season.
Prediction: PC 3-2
Massachusetts at Maine (Friday)
Massachusetts and Maine are two teams going in opposite directions, despite both coming into the weekend off a win.
UMass has been playing good hockey, led by their goalie Kevin Boyle who has allowed just four goals in his last three games. UMass has played the toughest conference schedule of any team in Hockey East, as they have two losses against Boston College and Boston University while picking up a win against UNH. They have been the only team this season that have competed against those three and may be on the cusp of a really good stretch of games going forward in the season. They may be the fourth team behind the aforementioned three, but only time will tell.
Maine has continued its struggles but picked up a win on the road against UML on Saturday. The win was their second on the season and was their largest goal scoring output of the year, as they scored four. In their two wins the Black Bears have scored eight goals and in their nine losses they have scored seven goals. The difference has been night and day but we shall see, what this weekend brings for Maine.
Prediction: UMass 4-1
Boston University at New Hampshire (Sunday)
The marquee matchup of the weekend in Hockey East will pit the third and second place teams in the conference as UNH and BU will meet for the second time this year. In the first meeting, UNH won a 4-1 tilt at the Whittemore Center. UNH is 5-0-0 on home ice, but is 1-1-1 on road ice. BU is 2-1-0 on home ice this year, with its lone loss to BC last Sunday.
Prediction: 3-2 BU
Northeastern at Vermont (Sunday)
Another matchup of middle of the pack Hockey East teams will pit, Northeastern and Vermont on Sunday night. Vermont is 1-1-0 at Gutterson Fieldhouse so far this year, while are winless on the road at 0-3-0. This weekend could be a huge weekend for Vermont, but it should tell us a lot about the Catamounts and where they might be, come seasons end.
Prediction: Vermont 3-1
UMass-Lowell at Massachusetts (Sunday)
The Massachusetts’ state school rivaly will be continued on Sunday night as UMass-Lowell will travel to UMass. Both teams could really use a win, but a win against each other is always a big one for both schools. Last year, the River Hawks swept the Minutemen by an aggregate score of 13-4, but last year is just that and this season is anew. One should expect to see a Doug Carr, Kevin Boyle matchup.
Prediction: 4-3 UMass, OT
Last Week Predictions: 7-3-0