I probably learned more than three things about Hockey East this weekend. At least I think so. But that’s our Monday morning format, which also leaves me something for the mid-week column. So here are the three most significant things I think I learned.
Three: Boston College dodged a celebration bullet.
Imagine the scene on Saturday night if the Eagles celebrated last year’s national championship with a banner raising while doing so as an 0-2 club.
They came mighty close.
After Northeastern beat them at Matthews Arena, 3-1, they traveled to Massachusetts on Friday night, still a near prohibitive favorite. But jaws around Hockey East began dropping as the out-of-town scoreboard showed the Eagles in trouble. Heading into the third period, they trailed, 3-0. A banner raising with a sour-taste-in-their-mouths 0-2 record seemed almost certain.
Bill Arnold and Destry Straight scored in the opening eight and a half minutes to get within one, but then UMass’s Darren Rowe countered to reestablish a two-goal lead that still held with little more than three minutes remaining.
BC, however, showed that superior talent can sometimes crawl out of holes it finds itself in and two Pat Mullane strikes sent the game into overtime where some kid named Johnny Gaudreau scored the game-winner.
One night later, the Eagles followed the banner raising with a more championship-like performance, scoring twice in the first period en route to a 3-0 win over Northeastern.
In dodging the bullet, they may well have learned lessons that will suit them well in their title defense.
Two: Maine’s offense is in big trouble.
Hey, we knew that last year’s firepower wasn’t returning, and the Black Bears would need to win games in a more defensive fashion. But after getting shellacked at home by St. Lawrence, 5-0 and 5-1, Maine has to be hearing alarms blaring.
About the offense in particular. Other than the lone win — 4-3 over Army — the Black Bears have scored a grand total of two goals in the other four games, all losses. (And for point of reference, Army last year posted a 4-23-7 record.)
Yes, it’s supposed to be a great Maine freshman class and yes, this is a team that should be better in the second half than the first as those youngsters adapt to collegiate hockey. But at this rate, the Black Bears stand a distinct chance of digging themselves too big a hole to crawl out of.
The one fortunate thing is that they’ve yet to play their first Hockey East game. They’ve still got a clean slate there.
One: The league has gotten off to a very rough start.
Heading into the final game to finish on Saturday night, Hockey East teams were still looking for their first nonconference win of the weekend.
Granted, all the games except Maine’s series against St. Lawrence were on the road and mostly against formidable opponents, but still…
Maine got swept by unranked St. Lawrence. Merrimack lost to the two Alaska teams, both unranked. Providence returned from fourth-ranked Miami with only a tie in two games, albeit with the loss coming in overtime. And Lowell had lost on Friday night to Denver, 5-1.
Fortunately, the River Hawks rebounded with a 3-1 win over Colorado College to maintain some sense of league pride. And thankfully New Hampshire swept St. Cloud at home last weekend.
Because right now, Hockey East teams are 7-8-1 out of conference and 4-8-1 against the other three traditional conferences.
Hey, it isn’t even Halloween yet so there’s tons of hockey left to be played. But if the league doesn’t start doing a better collective job outside its borders, Hockey East teams will be looking at the PairWise Rankings in March with sour looks on their faces.