If non-conference action is what you like this weekend will be a dream for you. Hockey East action takes a back seat this weekend to the 11 games that will be played against the WCHA and ECAC. These games do not play a role in the Hockey East standings, but this weekend will be absolutely crucial for many teams if they have hopes of making the NCAA tournament come seasons end. This may be one of the most important weeks in terms of the conference there will be, so here is my try at it.
Colgate at Merrimack (Friday)
The Warriors have been lackluster in non-conference action, with just a victory on opening night to Union in their hands. Since a four game unbeaten streak Merrimack has three straight losses. Last weekend they took a 3-0 lead against Boston College seven minutes, 39 seconds into the second only to have that lead disappear five minutes later. They would eventually lose that game to the Eagles 4-3.
Merrimack will need a bounce-back from that game but can take some positives, as they took a 3-0 lead against arguably the best team in the country. Their opponent this weekend is playing some great hockey and ranked fourth in this week’s CHN ECAC Power Rankings. Colgate defeated both Dartmouth and Harvard at home last weekend, but a silver lining that Merrimack might be able to take advantage of is the Raiders lack of prowess on the road. They are winless in five games on the road this season, going 0-4-1.
Prediction: Gate 4-3
St.Lawrence at Northeastern (Friday)
This could be an intriguing matchup, given that both teams are struggling for wins. The Huskies enter the weekend 2-6-1 in their last nine games and have struggled with all aspects of their game. The goaltending has become an issue again, as it was last year, and scoring timely goals has also become problematic again.
Last weekend, the Huskies struggled against both Vermont and Providence on the road. NU fell to 0-5-0 on the road in the losses and have struggled mightily to gain consistency on the road, thankfully for them they will return to the friendly confines of Matthews Arena on Friday night to take on the Saints.
Northeastern’s struggles are much documented, St. Lawrence enters the weekend struggling as well. After a 5-1 start the Saints have cooled off and are winless in four games, with two losses and two ties. The Saints have the leading scorer in the country with Kyle Flanagan, who has 19 points on the young season. Any success that Northeastern will have on the night must include stopping him.
Prediction: St. Lawrence 5-2
UNH at Colorado College (Friday)
UNH is up for a huge test this weekend as they travel to Colorado, but as they have proved in these cases so far this season they will be up for the challenge. The Wildcats are 8-1-1 on the young season and 2-0-0 against the WCHA, with their two wins against St. Cloud State earlier in the season. UNH has been winning on the backs of their stout defense and goaltending, as they are the nations top defense by nearly a half a goal giving up a stingy 1.20 goals per game.
Playing on a large surface should bode well for the Wildcats on Friday night because we must remember they play on an olympic size sheet themselves. So far this season, they are undefeated on their Olympic size sheet at 5-0-0 and no game has really been close. The competition will be high and if UNH can put some goals in the back of the net they should have a good weekend.
Colorado College was swept last weekend by Denver and are ranked sixth in this week’s WCHA Power Rankings. The Tigers are 7-5-0 on the season and are 4-1-0 on home ice. They are led by seniors, Rylan Schwartz and William Rapuzzi, who have 13 and 14 points respectively.
Prediction: 4-1 UNH
Minnesota at Vermont (Friday and Saturday)
The Catamounts will have their hands full this weekend as they host the Gophers for a two game series. Last season, Vermont was able to pick up a victory in Minnesota so the Gophers should come prepared with their best for revenge.
Vermont comes into the game after losing to UMass on the road, on Tuesday. UVM has impressed many so far this season but still have not broken through to win games. Brody Hoffman continues to impress in the Vermont net and has a 2.82 GAA on the season. His ability to keep UVM in games is much better than Vermont got all of last season.
Minnesota enters the weekend off a tie and a win against Wisconsin. The Gophers are 7-2-2 on the season and 3-0-0 in non-conference games.
Prediction: Gophers 4-1, Gophers 5-2
Dartmouth at Boston College (Saturday)
Number ones will meet as Dartmouth travels to Boston College on Saturday. Both the Eagles and Big Green hold the top spot in their respective, conference CHN Power Rankings. Dartmouth has surprised a lot of people but the Eagles have picked up right where they left off. This will be a huge test for Dartmouth, but may also be the biggest test of the season for the Eagles so far, save Boston University.
BC has won nine consecutive games since an opening night loss against Northeastern. In their one game last weekend, the Eagles were down 3-0 nearly seven minutes into the second but came storming back in five minutes to tie the game. They eventually won the game 4-3. The are winning games with a high powered offense led by Johnny Gaudreau’s seven goals and seven assists.
Dartmouth enters the weekend off a loss and a tie. The loss was their first of the season and they used a late goal in the last minute to escape Cornell with the tie. They are led by Eric Robinson’s eight goals and Tyler Sikura’s 12 points on offense, while Cab Morris and Charles Grant both have GAA’s under 2 goals per game. The Big Green are 5-1-2 on the season and have yet to play a game out of the ECAC.
Prediction: BC 4-3 OT
Princeton at UMass-Lowell (Saturday)
UMass-Lowell heads into this weekend off a huge 8-2 win against rival Massachusetts on Sunday night. The performance was their best of the season and was only their second win in six games.
UMass-Lowell was struggling on the offensive side of the puck before the eight goal burst on Sunday night. The River Hawks were shutout on Friday by UNH before breaking Sunday’s game wide open. If anything, the Sunday night game was a boost of confidence for struggling offense, but it will be interesting to see if the boost of momentum will change anything going forward. Doug Carr has been solid in net and with a little support the River Hawks could still compete for the fourth position in the Hockey East standings.
Princeton is ranked eighth in this weeks CHN ECAC Power Rankings and struggled last weekend in a loss and a tie. The Tigers are led offensively by Tyler Maugeri and Andrew Calof, while they are led by the steady hand of Mike Condon in their net.
Prediction: 5-1 UML
Providence at Brown (Saturday)
The 27th annual Mayors cup will be hosted by Brown this year and Providence College will be looking for a rebound after 2-0 loss to Quinnipiac on Tuesday night. The Friars enter the tilt losers of three of their last four contests.
Providence has been inconsistent in the past few weeks after three straight wins. Freshman goaltender, Jon Gillies, has been consistent in the Friar net but his team has been shutout in their past three losses, a stretch where they have just one win. His play has been a bright spot in a relatively inconsistent season so far.
Brown ranks tenth in the ECAC Power Rankings. They are 2-3-2 on the season and are coming into the game with a win against Army. The Bears are led on offense by sophomore, Matt Lorito, who has seven points on the year and by goaltender Marco De Fillippo.
Prediction: PC 3-2
Quinnipiac at Massachusetts (Saturday)
UMass got a huge rebound on Tuesday against Vermont after getting trounced by state school rival UML 8-2 on Sunday. The Minutemen have competed well against some of the best (BC, UNH, BU) and the one bad loss against a rival won’t be telling of how they will be this season. Even good teams have lost 8-2 in College Hockey, it just happens at times.
UMass has gotten consistent goaltending from Kevin Boyle. In his starts they are 4-2-1 and Boyle has allowed a meager 1.55 goals per game. UMass plays a lot better in front of him and Sunday night was a prime example of that fact, as Teglia and Masterlerz gave up eight goals between them.
Quinnipiac comes into Saturday night as one of the hottest teams in the country and their defense has been clicking on all cylinders. They have won five games in a row and have a record of 7-3-1 on the season. On Saturday night against St. Lawrence, the Bobcats held their opposition to just nine shots over a 60 minute game and on Tuesday they shutout Providence. UMass will need to get abundant and quality in their shots or they will be in for a very frustrating night against one of the best goalies in the country, Eric Hartzell.
Prediction: QU 5-1
St. Lawrence at Boston University (Saturday)
Boston University will host the Saints on Saturday night at Agganis coming off a loss to UNH on Sunday. The Terriers continue to receive solid goaltending from Matt O’Connor. In Sunday’s loss he was impressive stopping 32 of 35 shots sent his way. In two games against the Wildcats, BU has scored just one in each game with a struggling PP that has gone 0-12 in the two games. They should be able to rebound in this game, but St. Lawrence is always tough against the elite of Hockey East, often surprising the best of them.
Prediction: BU 4-1
UNH at Denver (Saturday)
I will finish on this one because this one has all the makings of a classic, as it pits the current number one and number two in the Pairwise Rankings. Both teams are red hot and both have played difficult schedules with Denver’s ranking number one in the country and UNH’s number four.
An interesting story-line to follow in this one is Joey LeLeggia, who is a sophomore defenseman for Denver. He originally committed to UNH before Denver and has been lighting up the WCHA from the blue line so far in his young career. He has 12 points this season. Denver is 9-1-0 so far this year.
Prediction: Denver 2-1
Predictions last week: 5-2-1
Predictions Season: 22-14-2