Practices officially open on Saturday, which means college hockey is back this weekend. In Hockey East, 10 teams will host exhibitions with CIS programs Saturday and Sunday. Let’s take a look at them:
Queen’s at Connecticut (Saturday, 3 p.m.) — According to The Hartford Courant, Rob Nichols will get one period in this game along with UConn’s other two goalies. That’s great news for the Huskies, who were looking at the possibility of not seeing Nichols in the early part of the year after undergoing hip surgery in the offseason. All indications are he’s ready to roll.
Acadia at Boston University (Saturday, 4 p.m.) — It will be our first look at life after Eichel for the Terriers, who also need to find a way to plug the holes left behind by Evan Rodrigues and Matt O’Connor. That’s the glass-half-empty viewpoint. The glass-half-full point of view is that this will be the first game for another stellar BU recruiting class, including Jordan Greenway and Charlie McAvoy, who were both ranked top-10 recruits by CHN.
St. Francis Xavier at Merrimack (Saturday, 7 p.m.) — Can last season’s freshman class — now sophomores — continue to develop into cornerstones for the Warriors? Time will tell, but Saturday is the start. Brett Seney led the team in scoring last season as a rookie and Jace Hennig led the Warriors in goals. Merrimack also returns Collin Delia between the pipes, who sported a .937 save percentage in nine games filling in for the injured Rasmus Tirronen last season. It will be the debut for Ethan Spaxman and Mathieu Foget, two recruits the Merrimack staff are excited about.
Simon Fraser at Providence (Saturday, 7 p.m.) — The champions come home for their first game since winning the national championship last April at TD Garden in Boston. All eyes will be on Nick Ellis, who is one of the candidates to replace Jon Gillies as the goaltender. It’s also possible that the MVP of the all-name team, Hayden Hawkey, sees his first collegiate action.
Dalhousie at Massachusetts (Saturday, 7 p.m.) — Ross Gienieczko of The Daily Collegian reported that sophomore forward Dennis Kravchenko missed UMass practice on Thursday. That’s not good news for a UMass team that was picked to finish last in Hockey East by both the media and coaches. But Gienieczko also said the ailment doesn’t appear to be serious. UMass allowed the third-most goals in the nation last season and sported the country’s worst save percentage (.878), two facts that will definitely need to be correct if UMass is to move upward.
New Brunswick at Boston College (Saturday, 7 p.m.) — Colin White and Jeremy Bracco make their long-awaited debuts in maroon and gold. They’re young, but the eyes of the Eagles turns to them in hopes climbing back to the top of Hockey East. Thatcher Demko is unlikely to play if Jerry York’s comments to WEEI‘s Scott McLaughlin are any indication. Demko had similar surgery to Nichols this summer on his hips.
Simon Fraser at Northeastern (Sunday, 4 p.m.) — It’s almost hard to believe that Kevin Roy will be starting his senior season on Sunday for the Huskies. No, it’s not that the time has flown, but it’s amazing that the Ducks weren’t able to convince Roy to ink an entry-level contract. It’s refreshing, though, seeing a star player actually complete his four years of eligibility.
New Brunswick at UMass Lowell (Sunday, 4 p.m.) — It could be a long weekend for New Brunswick, which has to face two of the top teams in Hockey East. Oh, and they played the Portland Pirates (AHL) on Thursday). In 2012 and 2013, Lowell got off to sluggish starts before turning it on midseason to finish as one of the best in the country. With so much talent returning this season, the River Hawks are surely looking to get off on the right foot. It won’t count in the standings, but a 60-minute effort and a convincing win in the exhibition is a nice way to start.
St. Francis Xavier vs. New Hampshire (Sunday, 4 p.m.) — St. F.X. head coach Brad Peddle said on Thursday that his team worked on recruiting faster players for this season, and he believe this team speed is much improved. He’s looking forward to testing it out on UNH’s bigger sheet.
Acadia at Vermont — Acadia is traveling from Northeastern up to Burlington on back-to-back nights, which you wouldn’t see happen on the Hockey East regular-season schedule. Vermont will get its first look at Mario Puskarich since February, when he missed most of UVM’s final few games with an injury. When healthy — and he appears to be — he’s an elite player, and a difference-maker in Hockey East.