Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Nov. 26

Posted by: Joe Meloni

One of my favorite parts of each new college hockey season is the emergence of players around the country. It happens for every team in every conference. Obviously, some outshine others, and the reasons for these breakouts are very different. The first two months of college hockey season have given us all a few new names to keep an eye on as the year progresses.

Northeastern’s Dalen Hedges is just one of those players who has quickly become a player people around Hockey East want to see. Kevin Roy and Mike Szmatula figured to score a lot of points for the Huskies this season. Third on the roster, though, isn’t Braden Pimm or Cody Ferriero. The 5-foot-7 Hedges has four goals and eight assists through the first 13 games of his young career. He hasn’t been a dominant player, but he’s the most prevalent of several young forwards giving Northeastern a newfound depth up front.

Similarly, the re-emergence of players once forgotten is just as interesting. For Northeastern, that distinction belongs to Clay Witt. Husky coach Jim Madigan will still likely give Bryan Mountain and Derick Roy a look every so often to keep them sharp and Witt fresh, but Witt is clearly the guy for Madigan. In nine starts this year, Witt has a .936 save percentage and 2.22 goals-against average. As conference play heats up, especially once the second half begins, it’ll be interesting to see how sustainable this start is for Witt.

(After the jump: Notre Dame’s lesson learned, Maine’s home performance and Mark Jankowski’s status as a top six forward.)

Notre Dame learned what everyone already knew

Trailing by a goal or two isn’t a death sentence for almost any team in college hockey. Goals happen quickly, and they frequently lead to even more. Notre Dame is a team that can pile on a handful of goals without too much issue. The Irish, however, learned there’s one circumstance where that isn’t always true.

Allowing Massachusetts-Lowell to gain a lead, build on it and hold it typically means a loss for its opposition. Last weekend, UND trailed by a goal heading into the third period of each game with the River Hawks. Each night, they generated a bulk of the possession with a scoring chance or two to their credit. And it didn’t matter either time. UML simply doesn’t relinquish leads, especially in the third period.

Since Norm Bazin took over at his alma mater, the River Hawks are 46-1-1 when leading after two periods. That loss came Jan. 13, 2012, in a road game against Vermont. UML led, 2-0, heading into the third before the Catamounts tied it and won in overtime. That’s it. For the River Hawks, it’s not exactly favorable to concede possession and sit on a lead, but UML has mastered it to such an extent that these leads are almost never in doubt.

Maine looks terrifying at home

Home and road records are often misleading. A short run of results in either setting often produces interesting results that eventually fade as sample size increases. So it’s never easy to say one team is specially good or bad at home or on the road. Moreover, pointing to success, for example, at home and expecting to carry over to the road is equally dangerous.

With all of that said, Maine’s last few results at Alfond Arena have been, well, pretty interesting. On Nov. 15, the Black Bears handed BU a 7-0 defeat before dropping Boston College, 5-1, last Saturday night. On the year, Maine is 6-1-0 at home, outscoring opponents 30-12 in those games. Away from Alfond, the Black Bears are 0-3-1 in a pair of series at St. Lawrence and Massachusetts.

It’s still too early to look at either development as a pattern, but, for a team with little success a year ago, developing a winning mindset at home that comes with confidence in themselves, teammates and coaches is certainly a good thing.

Still not sure what to make of Mark Jankowski

Every time I’ve seen Mark Jankowski play, I’ve been equal parts dazzled and confused. There’s no questioning the talent of Providence’s sophomore forward and the Calgary Flames’ first-round draft pick from 2012. He’s scored some fantastic goals and oozes with offensive potential. But, he tends to fade into the game a bit too frequently.

I’ve seen Providence play three times this year. Each time, that was the conclusion I was left with. He’s certainly stronger than he was a season ago when he was among the youngest players in the country. At this point, he’s still the second youngest player on his own team, so his physical development will only continue.

Providence coach Nate Leaman was emphatic last season that he wanted Jankowski in Providence instead of the USHL after a dominant career at Stanstead College in Quebec. The forward contributed to an extent a season ago, and he’s been more productive this year. But he still disappears more than other top six forwards on the league’s best teams.

As the year goes, Providence only figures to improve. With so many of its most talented players still underclassmen, the second half is going to be awfully interesting for the Friars. Through13 games, Providence is  10-2-1. To this point in the league season, the Friars are in first place. Even their Pairwise positioning is strong with PC currently as a No. 2 seed. The first two months of the 2013-14 season have been very kind to PC. Wednesday’s trip to Quinnipiac is yet another test. It’s not Jankowski’s sole responsibility to lead PC where Leaman expects them to go, but they’ll need him to continue his development and increase his production to compete for championships.

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