The Week Ahead Hockey East 1/26Posted by: Josh Seguin
After nine league games last weekend the standings are starting to take shape. Boston University, despite the midseason losses of players, have come to the top of the standings seemingly to stay. Their impressive weekend against Providence, outscoring the Friars 14-1, prove to many that this team has finally gotten over the hump and become the great team that many people thought they would be at the beginning of the year. With the University of Maine coming in this weekend hot off a weekend sweep of Boston College, the Terriers will be facing off with another hot team.
This weekend features a weekend that could go a long way in shaping the standings going forward. With a five point lead over fourth place Maine, Boston University could put a huge cushion between themselves and the Black Bears in the standings. On the other side, Maine could make a race of it. UMass-Lowell and UMass will renew their rivalry in a home and home series that will deeply impact the standings. UMass is battling UNH for the seventh spot in the conference while also keeping track of Northeastern, who is in ninth on the outside looking in 4 points back of them and three points behind eighth. Northeastern heads up to Vermont to hopefully gain four points as they are three points out of a playoff spot. Every game is crucial going down the stretch here is my weekly attempt of previewing the games this weekend.
Friday and Saturday
Maine at Boston University (Both at Boston University)
The Terriers and the Black Bears are seemingly on a course for another monster series this weekend. Both teams enter the weekend hot as Maine has won six of their last eight contests and BU has won their last five contests. The games should be an offensive showcase as the Terriers and the Black Bears are ranked one and two respectively in the conference in scoring offense.
After outscoring Providence 14-1 last weekend including a 6-1 victory on Friday, Boston University will look to continue the efficiency of their offense and special teams this weekend. Last weekend the Terriers went 8-15 on the powerplay, while holding Providence to 0-10 on their powerplay. Special teams, efficient offensive production, Kieran Millan and consistent defense will make BU a formidable opponent for Maine.
Maine enters this weekend off an impressive two game sweep of Boston College, up at Alfond. Although the road has not been kind to the Black Bears this season, with a 2-4-3 record away from Alfond, one can think this weekend will bring out the best of Maine. This is one of their biggest series’ in recent memory and a couple wins could go a long way in solidifying a future NCAA, conference run that we all know this Maine team is capable of if they can get a little goaltending.
There should be no surprises in net for either team, as Dan Sullivan should get the nod for Maine and Kieran Millan will get the nod for Boston University.
UMass-Lowell at UMass(Fri.), UMass at UMass-Lowell(Sat.)
The River Hawks and the Minutemen will renew their rivalry this weekend for a two game set that will have huge implications on the league standings. Umass enters the weekend in seventh, four points ahead of ninth place Northeastern and UMass-Lowell enters the weekend in fifth place right in the thick of the push for home ice. Both teams own games in hand to nearly every team in the conference so the importance of this series will be paramount as the season goes on.
UMass-Lowell will enter this weekend off a tough 1-0 loss to Providence on Tuesday night. The loss was a major setback considering that both teams were moving in opposite directions and UMass-Lowell wanted to build momentum off of a two game weekend sweep of Northeastern. UMass-Lowell will continue to lean on Doug Carr this weekend.
UMass has not a played a two game weekend series since December and they will be looking to build on a three game winning streak, which they started on January 7 at Frozen Fenway. Last weekend, UMass defeated Vermont in its lone game. Any win in is important for UMass in putting distance between themselves and the ninth spot in the conference. It should be another game time decision for Toot Cahoon on his starting goaltender, although Steve Masterlerz has been impressive in the last two wins.
New Hampshire at Boston College (Friday), Boston College at New Hampshire (Saturday)
Not often does a two game series that pits New Hampshire and Boston College end up on the back burner but seemingly this one will. The Wildcats have seemingly found a fix for whatever defensive ailments plagued them earlier in the season and the Eagles are seemingly creating new ailments on both sides of the puck.
New Hampshire has won three of their last four games and has ridden their hot defense in the process. After a successful weekend against Merrimack, a win and an overtime loss, the Wildcats will look to build upon the results as they attempt to resurrect their season and make the Hockey East playoffs. In their last four games UNH has allowed just four goals and freshman goaltender, Casey Desmith, has been in net for all of them. One should expect to see him in both games this weekend as well.
Boston College had an all out struggle in Orono last weekend losing both matchups against Maine. Boston College is currently struggling to get consistent goaltending and putting the puck in the net, which is downright strange for a Boston College Eagle team. Despite scoring seven this weekend they gave up 11 and questions in net are lingering. For the Eagles to come out with two wins this weekend they need consistent goaltending but who will get the nod this weekend will seemingly be a question mark heading towards Friday.
Northeastern at Vermont (Friday and Saturday)
This weekend should be one that Northeastern comes out with four points out of. Much has been made of Northeastern’s struggle within the conference and this weekend needs to propel them to some sort of success or it could be a long month for the Huskies. Sitting three points out of the eighth and final spot means that every game is very important and gaining points in the conference needs to start this weekend against last place Vermont.
Vermont has only two conference wins in 16 games and to say the season has been anything less than a struggle is something that is clearly an understatement. Last weekend, Vermont lost its lone game of the week to UMass. Eight points out of a playoff spot will loom large in the coming weeks and this weekend could bring them closer to this weekend’s opponent who sits in ninth four points ahead of them.
Northeastern will start Chris Rawlings this weekend. His numbers have been impressive despite the win/loss record. Rob Madore will get the nod on the other end of the ice.
Providence at Merrimack
Last weekend was an all out struggle for Providence as they lost twice to Boston University and in blowout fashion both nights but they redeemed themselves a bit on Tuesday when they defeated UMass-Lowell 1-0.Merrimack is in search of the greatness that they showed earlier in the year when they started 9-0-1. Merrimack sits in second place in the conference, four points out of first, and Providence sits in sixth.
Merrimack struggled just to get shots on net last weekend as they were held to just 51 shots in two games. Although they split the weekend with a win in overtime on Saturday, Merrimack’s defense was as always impressive but the offense continued to struggle generating chances. The weekend could have easily have been a sweep at the hands of the eight place team in the conference, which has to be troubling for a team that was once 9-0-1 on the season. Joe Cannata has been impressive and should start on Sunday.
Providence has struggled to gain consistency since a sweep of Merrimack in early December. Since that sweep the Friars are 2-5-1 with one of those wins Tuesday against UMass-Lowell. The Friars have scored just two goals in their last three games and this weekend may be no different as they face the number one defensive team in the league. Alex Beaudry has been largely inconsistent on the season but will be the starter Sunday.