These are the three things I learned this week.
1. Hockey East wins the inaugural Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge.
And it wasn’t even close.
Hockey East took a 9-4 lead in the first week and finished it off with a 9-7 performance this past weekend to win the challenge, 18-11.
The scoring system awarded two points for a win, one for a tie, and a bonus point for a road win. This weekend, Massachusetts-Lowell made the most of that system, picking up six points with road wins at Michigan State and Michigan.
What does it mean?
It certainly will help come NCAA tournament selection time.
But until then, clench your fists, pound your chest, and let out a mighty roar.
2. Lowell and Maine enjoyed important turnarounds.
The River Hawks had opened in disappointing fashion, starting the season as the nation’s number one team before losing to Sacred Heart, a team that had won only two games last year. Following a win over Massachusetts, they then got swept in a home-and-home with Quinnipiac.
With the NCAA’s extra importance on road wins and home losses, two of the latter so early in the season were causes for concern.
Well, Lowell took two huge road steps in the right direction. The River Hawks began by beating then-winless Michigan State, 4-1. A tough test followed, however, fourth-ranked Michigan in its own barn.
They aced that one, too, toppling the Wolverines, 2-1.
So those two home losses have now been compensated by two road wins.
Maine had also opened its season in underwhelming fashion, having only a home win over Bentley to offset two losses at St. Lawrence.
Hosting a UMass team that had been playing well, the Black Bears squeaked out a 3-2 overtime victory on Friday night and then followed that on Saturday with a six-goal explosion in the second period to take a clear-cut 8-4 win.
3.On the other hand, there’s Boston University.
The Terriers season has been a mirror image of Lowell’s. BU opened with a 3-1 record before heading West, acting as the River Hawks’ travel partner. It was no embarrassment to lose on Friday to fourth-ranked Michigan, but their strong start would be frittered away if the Terriers didn’t come away with two points against winless Michigan State.
They took a 1-0 lead into the final five minutes of regulation, but surrendered two goals in the span of 52 seconds, and the Spartans added a late empty-netter.
Hey, the season is barely underway and both losses came on the road, but the jury remains out on the 3-3 Terriers.