Three Things I Think: Dec. 3 – Hockey East

Posted by: Joe Meloni

Boston University coach Jack Parker said it best on Saturday night. Following a 5-2 loss to Boston College, Parker said that his longtime rival Jerry York doesn’t receive the credit he deserves. It’s strange to suggest a coach rightfully considered the best in college hockey history is under-appreciated, but the task he inherited when taking over the program in 1994 was one few could’ve pulled off. Not only did York turn BC’s program around after years of malaise, he transformed them into college hockey’s premier program just as recruiting and the game itself became more competitive.

York tied Ron Mason atop the all-time wins list with the victory over BU on Saturday. His 924 wins are pretty nice complement to his five national championships — four with BC and one with Bowling Green in 1984. But taking BC’s program to its current level seemed almost impossible when he took the job 19 seasons ago. Friday night, York and his team head to Providence for a meeting with the Friars, and his first chance to become the unquestioned wins leader.

Even with his struggles, Rawlings has to be No. 1 for Northeastern

The turbulent career of Chris Rawlings continued this weekend. He made 31 saves Friday night in a 1-0 win over Massachusetts, before allowing five goals to the Minutemen at Matthews Arena Saturday night in a 6-3 loss. The enigma that is Rawlings’ consistency hasn’t become any more clear this season, but the alternatives aren’t any better for the Huskies. On the surface, Rawlings is enjoying a strong senior season. His 2.38 goals-against average and .923 save percentage are good numbers. They, however, don’t tell the whole story. He’s been pulled twice this season and mixed in a series of underwhelming performances as well.

Still, he’s clearly the best option for Northeastern. Moreover, no one can question his penchant for the occasional brilliant performance. Whether it was Greg Cronin before or Jim Madigan now, his coaches have always pointed to his confidence as the factor most likely to determine his success. He is Northeastern’s No. 1 goaltender, and the Huskies have a playoff spot to worry about. But Bryan Mountain and Clay Witt aren’t the answer for Northeastern. Rawlings is the guy, whether it looks that way or not on any given night.

Vermont’s Brody Hoffman quietly having strong freshman season

Vermont is a better team than it was a season ago. A spot in the Hockey East tournament still isn’t certain for the Catamounts, who are currently tied for fifth with Massachusetts and Merrimack at nine points. Still, UVM will enter the break in better position than it did a year ago, when it was dead last at end of the first semester.

Improvements are evident through coach Kevin Sneddon’s lineup. Goaltending is no exception, and freshman Brody Hoffman is the reason. Last year, Rob Madore’s struggles in goal prevented UVM from establishing any momentum or confidence. He was hardly the lone problem for Sneddon’s club, but not much went right for Madore. Hoffman, however, stepped in this season and is off to a very strong start. In 13 starts, Hoffman has a .915 save percentage and a 2.70 goals against average. Goaltenders rule Hockey East, which makes it difficult to appreciate Hoffman’s season when compared with his counterparts. Vermont is in games more frequently now, however, and the freshman’s steady presence in the crease is partially responsible.

The Catamounts rank ninth in Hockey East in both scoring offense (1.69 goals per game) and scoring defense (2.82 goals per game). Hoffman and improvements through the UVM lineup, though, have the Catamounts in a more favorable spot than they were a season ago. The 2012-13 season was never going to be a championship-caliber season for UVM, but they’re better than they were last year. Hoffman is a big part of that.

BU visits New Hampshire on Thursday, and the Terriers have to win

It’s the first week of December. Boston University is third in Hockey East and positioning itself nicely in the Pairwise. Losing a game to dominant New Hampshire on Thursday in Durham won’t damage a successful first half for the Terriers. But BU has to head back to Boston with a win on Thursday night.

BU has already lost to UNH twice this season, and its regular-season series with Boston College is done as well (BC took two of three). Defeating UNH on Thursday gives BU two critical points in the race for the league’s regular-season title, and a win that makes its Pairwise resume even more impressive. Following Thursday’s game with UNH and a Dec. 29 meeting in Denver, the Terriers have no games against teams currently in the top 15 of the Pairwise — advancing to the Beanpot final will likely change this.

Getting the games against Hockey East’s best opponents out of the way is a positive, but a run of bad play in the second half could damage BU’s position nationally. Wins count as much in the early parts of the season as they do in the second half, and BU is off to a very strong start. Friday’s win over BC and a victory at North Dakota in November are currently BU’s biggest wins. One more against UNH on Thursday would make an already strong first half even more impressive for the Terriers.

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