The influence of Notre Dame on Hockey East remains to be seen. It likely won’t be realized fully for a few years. In the early going, though, the Fighting Irish’s impact is clearly in level of competition. Notre Dame’s first four games cemented what most already new — its a very real contender for championships.
A handful of teams are in the race for regional and national success, and Notre Dame is as much a factor as anyone.
On the other side of Hockey East, the league’s bottom-dwellers have looked fairly promising in some regards as well. They’re as imperfect as any team in the country, but it’s still going to make Hockey East play as grueling as any league in the nation.
1. Notre Dame (4-0-0; 0-0-0 Hockey East)
Notre Dame rolled through Michigan Tech last weekend. The Huskies put up a fight on Friday night before UND dropped them, 7-3, on Sunday. The Fighting Irish have as deep a group of forwards as anyone in the country. Moreover, their defensive game and goaltending have been predictably strong thus far. Tougher opponents await UND, but it’s clear it can compete with anyone.
This Weekend: (Friday and Saturday at Minnesota-Duluth)
2. Boston College (2-1-0; 0-0-0 Hockey East)
The Wisconsin team BC saw last Friday night isn’t the real Wisconsin team. The Badgers were, objectively, awful at Conte Forum. BC capitalized on every opportunity, dropping UW, 9-2. BC’s top six and other established players have been great as expected. The talented freshmen on the roster have been better than expected early on. Freshman forward Austin Cangelosi scored twice in the win over Wisconsin. More importantly, Ian McCoshen, Scott Savage and Steve Santini have been very good on the blue line. Their have been some rough moments, of course, but the group is coming together well.
This Weekend: (Friday and Sunday at Minnesota)
3. Providence (3-0-0; 0-0-0 Hockey East)
With lowly American International in town last weekend, the Friars rolled with an easy 10-4 win. Sophomore goaltender Jon Gillies was on the bench against the Yellow Jackets, and it really didn’t matter. The biggest question with the Friars entering the season was scoring. Dropping 10 on AIC doesn’t answer all of those questions, but it’s a good start. After sweeping Minnesota State to open the season and rolling AIC, Providence is hot. Miami comes to Schneider Arena on Friday and Saturday, and the results should give us a better idea who the real Providence is.
This Weekend: (Friday and Saturday vs. Miami)
4. Northeastern (4-0-0; 0-0-0 Hockey East)
Northeastern swept Holy Cross a week after doing the same to Alabama-Huntsville. Four wins in a row makes for a strong start to the year for the Huskies. Northeastern’s offense has been strong, as expected, against the weaker competition. The surprise has been goaltending. Both Clay Witt and Derick Roy have started two games each. Their numbers are identical and especially strong. Goals-against averages of 1.50 and .946 save percentages are making it awfully hard for NU coach Jim Madigan to choose a No. 1 — a problem he’s quite happy to have.
This Weekend: (Friday and Saturday at St. Lawrence)
5. Boston University (3-1-0; 1-0-0 Hockey East)
BU wasn’t as good as the 7-3 scoreline against Wisconsin, but it was important for the Terriers to recover from Friday’s tough loss to Rensselaer. Goaltender Matt O’Connor played well in the win. Much like Northeastern, the Terriers’ season began with a goaltending battle. O’Connor and fellow sophomore Sean Maguire have performed well. Maguire’s numbers are a bit better right now, but BU coach Dave Quinn is especially happy with both at this time. A trip out west with dates against Michigan and Michigan State should give Quinn a better idea of where his goaltending situation really stands.
This Weekend: (Friday at Michigan, Saturday at Michigan State)
6. New Hampshire (1-2-1; 0-0-0 Hockey East)
Offense is the problem for the Wildcats at this point. Defense and goaltending have kept them in games without much offensive support. In four games, UNH managed just nine goals. Since scoring four against Clarkson in their season opener, the Wildcats have score only five and are winless. It’s early, but two losses and a tie against Minnesota and Michigan were wasted opportunities to build a strong non-conference resume early in the year. Some key players haven’t quite played their best just yet, so there’s time for the Wildcats to find their stride.
This Weekend: (Saturday at Rensselaer)
7. UMass-Lowell (1-3-0; 0-0-0 Hockey East)
Another weekend led to more questions for the River Hawks. Losing to Quinnipiac isn’t exactly devastating, but UML needs to get going soon. The schedule only gets harder from here on out with trips to East Lansing and Ann Arbor up net before league play gets going. Scott Wilson is without a goal early among other veteran forwards UML needs to produce. Slow starts are the norm for UML under Norm Bazin. They can recover, but a 1-3-0 start isn’t what they wanted.
This Weekend: (Friday at Michigan State, Saturday at Michigan)
8. Massachusetts (2-2-0; 0-1-0 Hockey East)
The losses to BU and UML to open the season were tough, but a pair of wins over Michigan State in Amherst last weekend showed the Minutemen they can compete. Freshmen Steven Iacobellis and Ray Pigozzi have contributed early with top line of Branden Gracel, Mike Pereira and Conor Sheary generating chances like they always do. However, the most important piece of the puzzle for UMass coach John Micheletto is goaltender Steve Mastalerz. Through four games, Mastalerz has been very good, and UMass needs more of the same for that to continue. An 8-for-25 start on the power play is helping matters as well. Through four games, UMass is plus-5 special teams net. However, being outscored 8-3 at even strength won’t be enough, especially once league play starts.
This Weekend: (Friday and Saturday at Maine)
9. Vermont (0-1-1; 0-0-0 Hockey East)
The idle Catamounts couldn’t hurt themselves last week. They used the time, as teams usually do, to get healthy. Sophomore goaltender Brody Hoffman should be ready for a start this weekend after missing the season-opening trip to Grand Forks. With junior forward Kyle Reynolds out for the year following an injury in an exhibition game, UVM will need to find even more offense from their newcomers. This weekend’s matchup with Penn State is an important one for a club looking to get moving.
This Weekend: (Saturday at Penn State)
10. Merrimack (1-3-0; 0-0-0 Hockey East)
Last weekend’s split with Mercyhurst wasn’t what Merrimack wanted, but the Warriors seemed to find some offense. Mike Collins is without a goal through four games. He’s still leading the offense, though. He picked up four assists — three primary — in last Saturday’s win over Mercyhurst. Teams will key on Collins all year, and it’s important his linemates support the gifted winger. All four assists were to different players. It’s just one game, and Merrimack will need more than assists from its top players. Still, there were some brightspots after starting the year with three straight losses.
This Weekend: (Saturday vs. Army)
11. Maine (1-2-0; 0-0-0 Hockey East)
A pair of goals from Stu Higgins and 24 saves from Martin Ouellete led the Black Bears over Bentley on Saturday. The first win of the year and of the Red Gendron era was an important get for the Black Bears. They weren’t perfect in the win, but that first one is critical. Things pick up for the Black Bears moving forward starting this week. UMass heads to Orono for a non-conference pair before the teams meet next weekend for two more in Amherst that will count toward the league standings.
This Weekend: (Friday and Saturday vs. Massachusetts)