Three Things I Think: Hockey East Week 2

Posted by: Joe Meloni

The most surprising development of the weekend wasn’t the sweeps delivered by and to Massachusetts and Massachusetts-Lowell. It wasn’t the hard-fought decisions between Michigan and Durham or the split Merrimack played to with Mercyhurst. No, the 16 total goals Boston College and Boston University dropped on Big Ten foe Wisconsin dominated conversation after the games were done.

BC and BU played two very different games against the Badgers with the Eagles dominating UW completely. The Terriers, meanwhile, scored seven goals on just 26 shots in their 7-3 win. Ultimately, all that matters is the score, and the Terriers did plenty of scoring after losing, 3-1, to Rensselaer on Friday.

It’s not often Wisconsin — or any team — allows 16 goals in a two-game span. However, it did reveal some potential truths in Hockey East. Both BC and BU can score goals, even if they don’t have the puck all that much. Last Sunday, BC scored seven goals against RPI despite getting just 23 shots on goal. Both BC coach Jerry York and first-year BU boss Dave Quinn will take wins however they can get them. Both conceded after those games that they can’t expect those type of results to happen often. For Wisconsin, Saturday’s loss was a bit easier to handle than Friday’s. Oushooting BU 43-26 was a good sign. Allowing seven goals on 26 shots, especially when recording 43, suggests the Badgers got a bit unlucky at Agganis Arena.

Not time to worry for Lowell

Three losses in four games wasn’t the start Norm Bazin wanted. This isn’t foreign to Bazin’s Lowell teams, though. In 2011-12, the River Hawks were 2-3-0 in October. Last season, they were 4-7-1 in their first 11 games. The 2013-14 edition is, of course, a different team. There’s no way to say this club will bounce back with any certainty, but history suggests this slow start is hardly a death sentence for the team.

UML still hasn’t played a Hockey East game, so the 1-3-0 start hasn’t hurt its chances of a strong league record. Moreover, plenty of games remain against other potential NCAA Tournament teams, so there’s still time to put together a strong resume in the regard. Additionally, the River Hawk players expected to have big seasons are no strangers to difficult starts of their own. Scott Wilson is goalless through four games thus far, just as he was a season ago.

Both Doug Carr and Connor Hellebuyck have been fine in their starts. UML is in Michigan this weekend for games with Michigan State and Michigan. A strong showing out west is exactly what UML needs to put a troubling first four games behind it just as Hockey East play gets going in early November.

Goaltending battle brewing in Durham

Like UMass-Lowell, New Hampshire hasn’t started the season as well at it hoped with just one win. Also like the River Hawks, the Wildcats are still in fine shape as the season’s third weekend approaches. Goals are the issue for UNH with two or fewer in each of their last three games. Keeping UNH in games to this point has been strong defensive play led by goaltenders Casey DeSmith and Jeff Wyer. DeSmith was the guy last year, starting 38 of 42 games. UNH coach Dick Umile opted to open the job to a competition this season, and both look ready to challenge for the spot.

Wyer’s been a bit better thus far with a .962 save percentage and a 0.96 goals-against average compared to DeSmith’s .913 and 2.98. Umile will likely keep rotating his goaltenders for the time being. Wyer’s been great, but DeSmith’s track record means he’ll get every chance to fight for minutes.

Eventually, one will become the guy. None of it will matter if the Wildcats don’t start scoring goals. This is UNH, though. The offense will come at some point. Dalton Speelman is goalless through four games as is Grayson Downing. Talented freshman Tyler Kelleher scored in his first game and more should follow. If the Wildcats’ goaltending continues to impress, their inevitable goal-scoring form will make them a force nationally.

Notre Dame’s scoring depth might be league’s best

Consecutive sweeps of Western Michigan and Michigan Tech were exactly what Notre Dame wanted from its first four games. And the club’s success has looked exactly as expected. Steven Summerhays has been strong in goal, and scoring has come from everywhere. Six different players have at least four points with freshman Vince Hinostroza (three goals and three assists) leading the way.

The Irish have room to grow even further. Senior Bryan Rust is yet to score while sophomore Thomas di Pauli has just one point. As the Fighting Irish improve, their offense is only going to generate more goals. Within Hockey East, every contender should boast similar depth eventually. Finding it already is a great sign for Notre Dame, especially with so many experienced players as part of their nucleus.

Seven players finished the season with at least 20 points for Notre Dame last year. That number should grow even further this season. Hockey East is a league dominated by goaltending. When league play begins, goals will be at a premium. Notre Dame is dealing with the same early year rust as every one else, and they’re still averaging more than four goals per game to this point. Once line combinations settle, the Irish could be a devastating offensive club.

The strength of Hockey East, paired with the Fighting Irish’s general lack of experience with the league, made it difficult to peg UND early in the season.

Hockey East play doesn’t begin for two more weeks, but Notre Dame should be able to enter that series at Vermont on a high note. They’re off to Duluth next weekend for a pair of games with the Bulldogs. A split with UMD and a 5-1-0 start is a very real possibility for the club.

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