I think I learned these three things this week.
1. Vermont is better than I thought, and Notre Dame completed an important sweep.
These two teams both swept this weekend, but I thought Vermont’s was the more significant. I was surprised and impressed when the Catamounts opened the season by taking it to Northeastern in its own barn, 6-2. But I still thought they’d split their home-and-home series with a Clarkson team that won 21 games last year.
Instead, The Catamounts swept to bring their record to 3-0, outscoring their opponents 11-3. But with two roads wins over very good teams, Vermont has already topped trhe road win totals of three Hockey East teams last year.
Notre Dame, on the other hand, has played all four of its games at home. The Irish got off to a rocky start this year with two losses while hosting the Icebreaker Tournament, but rebounded with two wins over old rival Lake Superior State.
Considering the mileage Notre Dame logs each year, it was important to square up its home record.
2. New Hampshire and Massachusetts avoided early-season holes with “better than expected” splits.
Both of these teams lost their season opener last week, then headed out to Michigan for two-game sets from which they could have been expected to return with 0-3 records.
UMass got destroyed in its opener with Boston University, 8-1, then lost its first game at Michigan State. Although it’s hard to call mid-October games important, grabbing that first win on Saturday by rallying with two goals in the final five minutes, could at season’s end be seen as a key early turning point.
UNH opened with a loss at second-ranked Union — no shame in that — but was then facing No. 10 Michigan for two in its own barn. Last season, the Wildcats dug itself an early hole it never totally crawled out of with a 1-4-1 record against similarly tough competition, so a deja vu of going 0-3 would have been most definitely unwelcome.
Instead, the Wildcats defeated the Wolverines, 5-1, on Friday, and almost made the very good weekend a terrific one. Down 2-1 in the third, UNH outshot the hosts 16-8, but couldn’t get the equalizer.
Still, both UMass and UNH had to feel pretty good about splitting.
3. As for Northeastern and Maine… uh-oh. My early-season optimism was unfounded.
Only two Hockey East teams have yet to secure a single point: the Huskies and the Black Bears.
Northeastern allowed Vermont to come into its building a weekend ago and give it a 6-2 beating. So I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Huskies lost twice at sixth-ranked Colgate. But getting shut out both nights, 3-0, makes for an ominous start. NU has now been outscored 12-2 in its first three games.
Maine got swept at home by No. 2 Union, which by itself wouldn’t be tragic, but the Black Bears also lost two in Alaska. Opening the season 0-4 while getting outscored 16-5 ups the stakes for next week’s return engagement at home against Alaska-Anchorage.