Hockey East Random Thoughts (11/5/16)

Posted by: Mike McMahon

— Boston College is quietly on a six-game unbeaten streak after starting the year 1-2, including a loss to Air Force. The Eagles have scored four goals or more in four of those six games and have scored six or more three times. Despite the offensive output — the Eagles have 35 goals in nine games — they have not a single player scoring more than one point per game. Matthew Gaudreau and Chris Brown lead the team with eight points in nine games and Colin White and Casey Fitzgerald have seven points in eight games. The scoring has been spread out, with 15 different players scoring at least one goal and nine players scoring two or more; BC has six players with at least three goals. It’s all about depth at BC right now, with Joseph Woll (.931) playing more than well between the pipes.

— Providence is the second-best possession team in the country right now, in large part due to incredible shot suppression. The Friars are allowing only a tick more than 22 shots per game, which has made Hayden Hawkey’s numbers look quite odd (he’s sporting a 2.47 goals-against average but an .898 save percentage). The Friars have a 60.9 Corsi in all situations, which is behind only Penn State’s 61.1. At the other end of the spectrum, UMass has just a 39.6 Corsi. Providence hosts Merrimack on Saturday and then they’ll have 13 days off, as it’s Providence’s only game in a 19-day stretch until the Friars travel to Northeastern on Nov. 18.

— Speaking of the Warriors, they’re 3-1-1 after starting the year 0-3 with just two goals scored in those games (which included a loss to Sacred Heart). 6-foot-3 senior forward Hampus Gustafsson is doing his best to impress NHL scouts, with four goals in eight games, although his 23.5 shooting percentage isn’t likely to sustain. Brett Seney, who many pegged as the Warriors’ leading scorer, is shooting just 8.3 percent (a rate which should increase). Merrimack’s most impressive player, though, has been rookie defenseman Johnathan Kovacevic. He had scouts drooling over him after Merrimack’s 2-2 tie with BC last week. The draft-eligible defenseman is 6-foot-4 and skates very well for his size, while also possessing very good poise. Mark Dennehy has used Kovacevic in all situations, including on the PK late in games.

— It has only been three games, but it seems like only a matter of time before Adam Huska takes the reigns as UConn’s starting goalie. Rob Nichols has been terrific for the Huskies during their transition to Hockey East, but Huska’s save percentage (.938) in his three starts is 32 points higher than Nichols’ (.906) in his five starts. Huska was the best goaltender in the USHL last season and it certainly appears as if he has translated his game to college hockey quite well. Another player to watch at UConn is Evan Richardson. His career high point total is 10 (sophomore year) and the senior already has seven points in eight games. He’s just one goal shy of his previous career high.

— The biggest series in Hockey East this weekend is Boston University against Northeastern. The Terriers are coming off a bye week while the Huskies fell to Vermont on Sunday after beating Arizona State the week before. For all the talk of BU’s offense entering the season — and it’s very good (4.0 goals per game) — the Terriers defense and goaltending has allowed just 1.6 goals against with freshman and draft-eligible goalie Jake Oettinger posting a .947 save percentage. Ryan Ruck backstopped the Huskies to a Hockey East title last year despite just a .909 save percentage and he’s right around where he was last year (.904). Northeastern, like Providence, has been very good at shot suppression and are allowing only 23.9 against per game. As for this series, BU is on a four-game winning streak with Northeastern’s last win coming on Feb. 27, 2015. The Terriers have also taken nine of the last 10 meetings going back to 2013.

— Vermont was without its most experienced players while they sat out suspensions due to hazing allegations, but the Catamounts have still started the season 4-1-1. Vermont hasn’t had a cakewalk of a schedule, either. They split a home-and-home with Clarkson, a tough team to play against the way they play defense. The Catamounts then went on the road and took three of four points against Omaha (3-2-1), beat Michigan (3-3-1) and then beat Northeastern (3-2-2), although the suspended players were back for the final game. Craig Puffer had nine points last season as a freshman (3 goals) and he’s almost topped that already with seven points this season (4 goals). But Vermont’s most important piece has been Stefanos Lekkas, who is 3-0-1 in four starts with a .942 save percentage. Like Huska, he had a terrific save percentage in the USHL last season (.924), so this production, while not sustainable for a whole season most likely, might be close to where he is as a goaltender.

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