College hockey’s winter break came and went pretty quickly. As teams traveled to various holiday tournaments and other series around the country, Hockey East clubs produced some results that, as they often do, offered as many questions as they answered.
Even now, after another weekend of games, it’s difficult to say with any certainty where most teams stand.
The jump into the second half also leads to year-end award discussions. These arguments reveal as much about the league as any of the results on the ice. Within Hockey East, the coach of the year conversations are as wide open as any in recent memory. In the last two seasons, it came down to either Massachusetts-Lowell’s Norm Bazin or Providence’s Nate Leaman. With more than 50 wins in that time, Bazin was the clear favorite.
However, the presence of Jerry York always means there’s another candidate to discuss. Once again, York has his Eagles in great position. BC is atop the Hockey East standings to this point and in equally great shape on the national scene. That was expected, though. The Eagles are among the nation’s most talented clubs, and nothing they do really surprises anyone anymore. York’s the best at what he does. If he won the coach of the year award every season, it really wouldn’t come as much of a shock.
Beyond York, and even Bazin, there are four candidates warranting serious consideration. Leaman’s Providence team is in position to earn a bye in the Hockey East Tournament and an NCAA bid. Again, though, most anticipated a strong year from the Friars led by goaltender Jon Gillies and junior center Ross Mauermann. Outside of Leaman, Northeastern’s Jim Madigan, Maine’s Red Gendron and Vermont’s Kevin Sneddon are all guiding teams currently outpacing their preseason expectations.
Each, of course, comes with some caveats that we’ll get a better understanding of in the next two months. At this point, I’d give Madigan the nod. Northeastern missed the last two Hockey East Tournaments thanks to horrendous regular-season campaigns. While that can’t happen again as a result of a new playoff format, the Huskies are currently tied for second in Hockey East with Providence. NU holds the tiebreaker over PC after defeating the Friars, 2-1, last Tuesday in overtime and playing to a 3-3 tie at Matthews Arena in December.
There are some concerns with Northeastern moving forward (more on that later), but the Huskies continue to prove they’re a legitimate contender within Hockey East play. NU hosts Vermont this weekend for two games (only one is a conference game) before traveling to South Bend, Ind., in two weeks for a pair with Notre Dame. Outside of league play, the Huskies are ninth in the Pairwise.
Like it will for every club, the next few weeks will reveal Northeastern’s true standing. At this point, though, it’s not fair to say they haven’t earned some respect.
(After the jump: Northeastern’s possession problems; BC’s depth; Maine’s coming road test.) (more…)