Well, there’s really only one place to start this week. In what has to be the most surprising result of the season, BC got swept by Maine at Conte Forum. The Eagles are now just 1-4-0 in their last five and 2-5-1 in their last eight. Some people have been quick to point out that the Eagles always have a tough stretch at some point in the season before turning it on down the stretch and steamrolling everyone in their path. In fact, just last year the Eagles were swept by Maine right around this same time. Then they didn’t lose another game the rest of the season.
It wouldn’t totally surprise me if the Eagles right the ship, go on one of their patented runs, and win a couple trophies. Considering they still have Jerry York at the helm, it would be foolish to rule that out. But I think they have a lot more question marks this year than they did last year or in any of their other national title seasons. Their top five forwards are as good as anyone’s, but the other seven can’t be counted on for any sort of consistent scoring. Most of BC’s national title teams have had three reliable scoring lines. This team has two, or more accurately, one and two-thirds.
Then there’s the defense, which is becoming more of a concern every game. Michael Matheson and Colin Sullivan should be back soon, and they’ll certainly help, but the defense was struggling even before they got hurt. The Eagles are dressing four freshmen on defense when everyone’s healthy and converting forwards to defense when someone isn’t, and that’s opened the door for a lot of mistakes to be made. We knew they’d probably struggle for a couple games when Patch Alber first went down, but it’s been a month now, and the defense hasn’t improved nearly as much as I was expecting.
The Eagles aren’t as bad as they played this weekend. They’ll be better than that moving forward, probably much better. They might win the Beanpot in two weeks. They might hang onto first and win the regular-season title. They might win the Hockey East tournament, too. And no matter what, they absolutely should make the NCAAs. But I have some real concerns about their ability to repeat as national champions.
1. New Hampshire (15-6-2, 10-5-1 HE) — Last week: 2
The Wildcats move back into first, but their hold on the top spot is tenuous at best. They split with Merrimack over the weekend, losing 3-2 on Friday before picking up a 6-2 win on Saturday. After Jeff Wyer got the start Friday, Casey DeSmith stopped 35 of 37 shots on Saturday in a much-needed strong outing. Trevor van Riemsdyk had four assists on Saturday, while Grayson Downing had a goal and two assists. The Wildcats are two points out of first, but they have two games in hand on BC.
2. Massachusetts-Lowell (14-7-2, 8-6-2 HE) — Last week: 3
The River Hawks didn’t play their best against Northeastern, but thanks to two third-period comebacks, they took three of four points and extended their unbeaten streak to 11 games. On Friday, Derek Arnold completed a two-goal comeback with 4:42 remaining to force a 4-4 tie. On Saturday, Riley Wetmore completed a three-goal comeback with 55.3 seconds remaining and Christian Folin won it in overtime. Joseph Pendenza registered a goal and three assists on Saturday.
3. Boston College (14-7-2, 11-6-1 HE) — Last week: 1
I said pretty much everything I wanted to say about the Eagles in the intro, but I’ll add a couple quick notes here. Leading goal-scorer Steven Whitney moved back to defense on Saturday with Matheson and Sullivan both out of the lineup. During this eight-game skid, BC has scored two goals or fewer five times and allowed three goals or more six times.
4. Boston University (13-9-1, 10-6-1 HE) — Last week: 4
After losing two home games to Northeastern and Lowell two weekends ago, the Terriers rebounded nicely and took three of four points from Providence. Evan Rodrigues scored twice in Friday’s 3-2 win before leaving the game with a hand injury. BU breathed a sigh of relief on Saturday when no fracture was found and he was ruled day-to-day. Matt Nieto and Danny O’Regan each tallied a goal and an assist in Saturday’s 3-3 tie.
5. Merrimack (10-10-5, 8-6-2 HE) — Last week: 6
The Warriors extended their unbeaten streak to four games by beating UNH 3-2 on Friday, but then they lost Saturday’s series finale 6-2. Sam Marotta surrendered a season-high six goals on Saturday, ending a streak of seven straight games of allowing two goals or fewer. Mike Collins and Brian Christie each had three points in Friday’s win.
6. Providence (10-10-4, 8-6-3 HE) — Last week: 5
The Friars played BU tough both nights, but came away with just one point. They drop a spot as a result. For the first time all season, Jon Gillies allowed three goals twice in a weekend. The Friars are now just 3-5-3 since the start of December. Steven Shamanski recorded two assists in Saturday’s tie.
7. Massachusetts (9-12-2, 6-9-1 HE) — Last week: 7
The Minutemen split a pair of 3-2 games with Vermont, so they stay at seven. Steve Mastalerz started both games and has now allowed three goals or fewer in each of his last four starts. UMass went 2-for-6 on the power play in Friday’s win, but 0-for-6 in Saturday’s loss.
8. Maine (7-14-4, 3-9-4 HE) — Last week: 10
I’ve talked plenty about BC in this post, but let’s make sure we give the Black Bears their due credit. Going to Chestnut Hill and getting four points is a huge statement for this team. Suddenly the postseason is well within reach, as they’re now just two points out of the final playoff spot with a game in hand. Martin Ouellette stopped 58 of 60 shots in the series and Maine scored three or more goals in back-to-back games for the first time all season.
9. Vermont (7-13-4, 4-9-4 HE) — Last week: 9
UMass stays at seven after the split, and Vermont stays at nine. Kyle Reynolds scored three goals on the weekend, while Brody Hoffman stopped 70 of the 75 shots he faced. Saturday’s win ended a five-game losing streak.
10. Northeastern (7-12-3, 4-10-3 HE) — Last week: 8
The Huskies caught Lowell on an off weekend and led by multiple goals in the third period both nights, and yet they came away with just one point. Those two choke jobs drop them to ninth in the standings and 10th in my rankings. If they end up missing the playoffs, circle this series.