Hockey East teams return to conference action in a major way as a total of ten games will be played between the league teams. The biggest two game series this weekend is without question Boston University and Boston College who will take the regional and national stage by storm with two nationally televised tilts. The home and home series becomes a popular concept this weekend as four out of five series’ are of the such. This weekend could be the one that teams could make a big splash in the league standings as many of the games are between teams in all four tiers, which Hockey East has turned into. Without further ado, here is my weekly take on the games:
Boston College at Boston University (Friday), Boston University at Boston College (Saturday)
I wouldn’t be much of an expert, if I didn’t start this preview with this matchup. BU is the other team that is following both BC and UNH, but they could make strides this weekend as they play a pair against their Comm Ave rivals. The Eagles were ranked first in this week’s Hockey East Power Rankings (not much of a surprise really) and Boston University was ranked third. BC defeated BU 4-2 on the road in their lone meeting earlier this year.
BC played a lone game against Dartmouth last weekend and won 6-3. The Eagles are on a ten game win streak and no one is really giving them a scare, but anything can happen in college hockey. Johnny Gaudreau had five points in the Dartmouth game and now sits second in Hockey East with his 19 points. An interesting stat in the game on Saturday is that it was evenly played throughout as Dartmouth led the shot chart with 32 shots, while BC recorded 31. The Eagles have won 29 of 30 games dating back to last year and will be looking to continue their success this weekend.
Boston University dominated St. Lawrence in their lone game last weekend. Balance was the name of the game for the Terriers as eleven skaters recorded a point, while no one recorded more than a single point. The Terriers have lost two games against UNH, one against BC and another against North Dakota. Those four losses make up all of their blemishes on the season. BU has played some tough competition and this weekend will be no different. It isnt really a question of whether they are the third best team in the conference, right now, but the question is what will happen next semester when they have zero games against BC and UNH?
That said I am guessing we will see both goaltenders for BU this weekend, as Sean Maguire had a shutout last weekend and Matt O’Connor has been solid all season. BC will send out the always reliable Parker Milner
Prediction: BC 4-2, BC 5-4
UMass-Lowell at New Hampshire (Friday), UNH at UMass-Lowell (Saturday)
UMass-Lowell seems poised to be the fourth team in Hockey East and can prove it this weekend. UNH came up huge last weekend in Colorado coming back to Durham with a tie and win against two really good hockey teams. The Wildcats come into the matchup 9-1-2 on the season, which is tied for their best start since the 1968-1969 season when they started 10-2-0. During that season head coach Dick Umile was a freshman player. Lowell comes into the weekend 4-5-1 and lost in the only other matchup against UNH two weeks ago.
UML is on a two game unbeaten streak and have played well in both games. Last weekend, they played a lone game against Princeton and scored three goals in a minute and a half late in the second period to take control of an otherwise even game. Not sure if this would have been the performance that Norm Bazin wanted, but Connor Hellebuyck gave up just one goal in 23 shots put on him. Lowell will need a complete effort this weekend and need to take points to keep up the momentum they have going.
UNH had a Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde weekend to say the least. On Friday night, UNH blew a four goal second period lead to Colorado College and held on for the tie. On Saturday night, UNH trailed 3-0 just nine minutes, five seconds into the game but they would come storming back to score six out of the next seven goals to take home the 6-4 win against Denver. The weekend proved a lot about UNH and it centered mostly on its scoring and its ability to be explosive when needed. Casey Desmith had a rare off weekend for the Wildcats but Jeff Wyer proved he is more than capable to come in when the former struggles. Kevin Goumas had seven points on the weekend and leads hockey east in scoring.
It will be interesting to see who Dick Umile sends out in the two game series. One should assume it will be Casey Desmith at least for one, probably both games but Jeff Wyer has to at least be giving a consideration given his performance against Denver. Doug Carr should start both games for Lowell. Interesting to note, UML has outscored opponents 11-3 on bigger ice sheets so far this season.
Prediction: UNH 4-3, UNH 3-1
Vermont at Maine (Friday and Saturday)
It is gut check time for the Maine Black Bears as they have their season possibly on the line this weekend hosting Vermont for two at Alfond. The season is still young and it is obvious that Maine is going in the right direction after a dreadful start, with a win and a tie in their last two games. The Black Bears are unbelievably winless at home going 0-5-1 in six home games at unfriendly Alfond, but this weekend could be different.
Joey Diamond has just four points in 11 games and has struggled to find his stride so far on the season. Martin Ouellette has become the number one goalie in the past couple of weeks and has been afforded the start in five of the Black Bears last seven games. In those five games Ouellette has registered a 2.59 GAA and .904 save percentage, which in both categories is the best of the three goalies that Maine has used this season. This may be as important of a weekend for Maine as they may have all season.
Vermont sits in seventh place in the Hockey East standings with six points, they are three points ahead of their opponent this weekend Maine and two points ahead of ninth place. They could take a serious step in making the Hockey East playoffs this year with a sweep and could leave the weekend in the dreaded eight or ninth seeds with two losses. Both teams need these wins so this could make for a great weekend of hockey.
Prediction: Maine 3-1, Maine 4-2
Providence at Merrimack (Friday), Merrimack at Providence (Saturday)
Providence absolutely annihilated their cross-town rival, Brown on Saturday 7-0 and Merrimack took home a tie against Colgate on Friday. Providence and Merrimack sit in fourth and fifth in the Hockey East standings. Both could take a huge step forward with a sweep but a split seems likely.
Providence has scored 13 goals in their last two wins and on Saturday they received goals from seven different skaters in route to the 7-0 rout of Brown. Jon Gillies earned his second career shutout against Brown and has allowed just 1.87 goals per game in 12 starts on the season. Four skaters lead the Friars with eight points on the season and Ross Mauermann leads the team with five goals. Providence has been very balanced this season offensively.
Merrimack is winless in their last four games, with three losses and a tie. The Warriors are struggling to score goals and have scored just six during the four game winless streak. Junior forward Mike Collins continues to put up offensive numbers after a stretch that saw him get ten points. He seems to be key to any success offensively that Merrimack has and a balanced approach of offense seems to be key for them. Tirronen and Marotta have split starts for Merrimack so far this season and that should continue this weekend.
Prediction: Mack 3-2, PC 4-3
Northeastern at Massachusetts (Friday), UMass at Northeastern (Saturday)
Since beginning the Hockey East slate 2-0-0, Northeastern has struggled mightily against Hockey East foes going winless with a record of 0-6-1. UMass comes into the contest tied for the fifth spot in Hockey East with seven points, while Northeastern sits in ninth with five points.
NU has been struggling mightily and it can be blamed on inconsistent goaltending. The Huskies have given up 23 goals in their last five losses and have just two non-conference wins against Alabama-Huntsville in their last nine games. NU is in need of consistent and it needs to start soon or they will be finding themselves out of the playoff talk come March.
UMass is sitting in a good position as many of their games against the top three are for the most part done. The Minutemen have played UNH, BC and BU five times already, which means that a majority of those games are over. UMass sits in a tie for fifth place in Hockey East and can pull away from the other teams around them with a sweep. Kevin Boyle is 4-2-2 in his eight starts while Masterlerz and Teglia are a combined 0-3-0. Connor Sheary has points in nine of his eleven games this year and is on a five game point streak.
Prediction: UMass 4-3, NU 3-1
Last Week Predictions: 7-1-4
Season Predictions: 29-15-6