Notre Dame, Boston College, and … Northeastern as the teams to beat

These are the three things I think I learned this week.

1. Notre Dame is now the team to beat. But…

The Irish have their destiny in their own hands with a one-point lead with two weeks to go. That’s thanks primarily to their own strong play, sweeping Maine last weekend to make them 11-1-0 in their last dozen league games.

Now that is an impressive achievement.

However, they’d still be tied with Boston College if not for Merrimack’s extra-skater goal on Saturday to steal a point from the Eagles. That point could be decisive and puts Notre Dame in the driver’s seat.

For now.

That’s because the Irish have what is clearly the toughest remaining schedule. They’re the only one of the Top Five teams with all four games against other top fivers. Each of the other top teams plays one of the other elite teams, but only twice.

So the Irish may be in the driver’s seat, but four huge potholes remain.

2. So perhaps Boston College is the team to beat.

BC is only one point behind Notre Dame and plays two-game sets against Vermont and Lowell compared to the Irish’s gauntlet of Providence and BU.

Easier but certainly not easy.

So another regular season title is still a strong possibility.

3. Northeastern is the team to beat outside of the Top Five.

The Huskies were the only non-top-five team to sweep last weekend, giving them a 6-0-1 record in their last seven league games. They now sit atop the second tier and mathematically could even catch BU should the Terriers lose all their remaining games and the Huskies keep sweeping.

That’s a major, major long shot, but it sure looks likely Northeastern will hold onto sixth place, given their current position in the standings, their strong play, and their remaining schedule of two against UConn then hosting Maine for the final two.

The Huskies are almost certain to finish behind the Top Five, but there’s not a team in the league that wants to play them right now.

Hockey East picks – Feb. 12-16

Thanks to Northastern’s win over Harvard in the Beanpot consolation game and a late Merrimack goal last Saturday night to earn a tie with Connecticut, I picked up a key game late in the season on Dave. It’s almost getting to the point that he’s going to have to begin to get desperate, pinching the defense allowing me to take advantage of that 2-on-0 the other way.

Jim last week: 9-1-2
Jim to date: 148-55-33 (.697)
Dave last week: 8-2-2
Dave to date: 144-59-33 (.680)

Friday and Saturday, February 12-13

Because every team is playing a two-game series against the same opponent, we will list picks for that series together, the first pick being Friday’s game and the second being Saturday.

Merrimack vs. Boston College (Fri. at BC; Sat. at MC)
Jim’s picks: Even though BC has historically had some tough games at Lawler Rink, I think this should be one of the easier sweeps to pick this weekend.
BC 5, MC 2; BC 3; MC 1
Dave’s picks: I have to agree. I’d be picking the Eagles against almost anyone right now. They are, after all, undefeated in 2016.
BC 4, MC 1; BC 3; MC 2

UMass-Lowell vs. Boston University (Fri. at BU; Sat. at UML)
Jim’s pick: I am tempted to pick a Boston University sweep here, but every time I think that UMass-Lowell is slipping, they prove me wrong.
BU 4, UML 2; UML 3, BU 1
Dave’s picks: I might be naturally inclined to agree with Jim on this one, but BU has beaten every team they’ve played not named Boston College dating all the way back to Dec. 12, when the Terriers gave top-ranked Quinnipiac its only loss of the season.
BU 3, UML 1; BU 3, UML 2

Maine at Notre Dame
Jim’s pick: With the Irish going on the road and sweeping Vermont, a team that is slightly better than Maine, it’s hard to pick against the Irish at home.
ND 4, Maine 2; ND 3, Maine 1
Dave’s picks: Other than a loss to BC (everyone’s kryptonite) , the Irish have been undefeated since the day after Thanksgiving. I can’t see that changing.
ND 4, Maine 1; ND 3, Maine 1

Connecticut vs. Providence (Fri. at PC; Sat. at UC)
Jim’s pick: This is one where I am tempted to pick a split, but I really think Providence is playing good enough hockey right now to win both at home and on the road.
PC 5, UC 2; PC 3, UC 2
Dave’s picks: I’m running out of games to differ with Jim on, but I can’t go against Providence, not even on the road. The Friars are 9-3-2 away from home, and UConn is 4-7-1 when hosting. So, I, too, have to pick a Friars sweep.
PC 4, UC 2; PC 3, UC 1

Northeastern vs. Massachusetts (Fri. at UMass; Sat at NU
Jim’s pick: Is it possible I pick yet another sweep? I think so. Northeastern has turned a corner here and are consistently proving it. UMass on the other hand has not.
NU 3, UM 1; NU 4, UM 1
Dave’s picks: Needing overtime to defeat AIC confirms for me that UMass won’t win another game the rest of the year. Northeastern, on the other hand, has lost only once (against BU in the Beanpot semifinals) since Dec. 6, a night the Huskies faced Team Kryptonite. I don’t think this will even be close.
NU 4, UM 1; NU 5, UM 1

Vermont at New Hampshire
Jim’s pick: This is the one series I just can’t see either team splitting. New Hampshire is a good team and Vermont has enough to earn at least on victory. Now the key is to not screw up the order of the split.
UNH 3, UVM 2; UVM 3, UNH 2
Dave’s picks: If I weren’t four games behind Jim, I’d go for a UNH sweep. But even if I’m right, that would only pick up one game. So I’ll roll the dice here and go for split the opposite way.
UVM 3, UNH 2; UNH 3, UVM 2

Tuesday, February 16

UMass-Lowell at AIC
Jim’s pick: Being that this game is on the road, it probably won’t be an easy one for the River Hawks. But they should still win.
UML 4, AIC 2
Dave’s picks: A tough time against a team that is 5-21-2? If the River Hawks struggle in this one, I’ll have to knock down their title chances at least a notch.
UML 5, AIC 1

Providence, Notre Dame sweeps give each leg up on first-round byes

Ever since Hockey East changed to a three-weekend playoff format two years ago, the weekend between Beanpot games created a must-watch couple of days for the Hockey East standings as most of the games in hand that have been accumulated throughout the season level off just three weeks prior to the regular-season finale.

That was the case this weekend as both Providence and Notre Dame used their games in hand to gain control of their own destiny. That leads the three things I learned this week:

1. Friars and Irish control their destiny

A weekend sweep at this time of the season goes a long way when standings are tight. And for Providence and Notre Dame, sweeps of Maine and Vermont, respectively, put each in excellent position in the Hockey East standings. Notre Dame’s sweep placed the Irish into a two-way tie with Boston College for first place. While a title is on the minds of the Irish, seven points over the final three weekends will earn Notre Dame a first-round bye, something the team hasn’t earned in its first two seasons of Hockey East.

Providence, which has been in either a tie for fourth or fifth place for weeks, passed Boston University with its sweep on a week where the Terriers played just a single game due to Monday’s Beanpot. More importantly, Providence has two games in hand on UMass-Lowell that will be made up on February 19 and 20. Thus, should the Friars hold serve over the next two weekends, they’ll pass the River Hawks and jump into third, regardless of Lowell’s outcomes.

Plenty of hockey to play, but an enviable position for both of these clubs heading down the stretch.

2. Lowell’s single-point weekend might be a missed opportunity

An important weekend for UMass Lowell was as close to a lost weekend as one can imagine this time of year. With just four league games remaining after this weekend (while all other teams in the race for the first-round bye have six), Lowell took just a single point in single games versus Northeastern and New Hampshire.

Even more ominous is the fact that the River Hawks face Boston University (this weekend) and Boston College (Feb. 26-27) to close the Hockey East slate.

That said, with Boston University still three points behind in the standings and a two-game series on the horizon, a sweep of three-point weekend against the Terriers could go a long way to earning the River Hawks a first-round bye. UMass Lowell still controls its destiny for that bye.

3. Four-way tie for sixth creates a race within the race

It’s easy to get caught up in the race for first and for the four first-round byes, but the crazy logjam from sixth through 12th place makes the race to earn home ice in the first round of the Hockey East tournament a crazy one as well. Connecticut, New Hampshire, Northeastern and Vermont are all tied for sixth place, which would suggest at least one of those teams will be left out of the final first-round home ice spot. Should either Maine or Merrimack catch fire down the stretch, it could be more than one of that sixth-place quartet headed on the road when the playoffs begin.

I plan to break down all of these races in depth in the weekend column on Thursday.


Hockey East picks – Feb. 5 – 9

No ties last week.  It’s been a while since we could say that. And hey, I picked up a game on Jim, so life is good.

Dave last week: 9-3-0
Jim last week: 8-4-0
Dave’s record-to-date: 136-57-31
Jim’s record-to-date: 139-54-31

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Feb. 5

New Hampshire at Boston College 
Dave’s pick: The Wildcats’ split with Providence last weekend was a very encouraging sign, but not encouraging enough for me to pick against the Eagles.
BC 4, UNH 2
Jim’s pick: I think UNH is a better team than its recent record reflects. But the Wildcats are also entering a very tough stretch of schedule.
BC 3, UNH 1

Boston University at Massachusetts
Dave’s pick: Sorry to say, but I’ll be surprised if UMass picks up a single point in league games the rest of the way. BU will have to be dreaming of nothing but Monday night to lose one.
BU 5, UMass 1
Jim’s pick: The only thing going for UMass here is the game is at home. I don’t think David Quinn’s BU squad will be looking ahead towards Monday. They’ll have the focus.
BU 4, UMass 2

Notre Dame at Vermont
Dave’s pick: Despite the Irish’s blanking at the hands of BC last weekend, I remain very bullish on this team.
ND 4, UVM 2
Jim’s pick: I am with Dave here. The fact Notre Dame didn’t score against the Eagles is a concern. But the Irish was facing Thatcher Demko.
ND 4, UVM 2

Northeastern at Massachusetts-Lowell
Dave’s pick: Can the Huskies get back on track after their Beanpot loss? They’ll be positioned to do some damage in the playoffs, but I like the River Hawks better, especially at home.
UML 3, NU 2
Jim’s pick: This one concerns me after having watched the Huskies manhandle the River Hawks in Belfast earlier in the season. But I like the way Lowell is playing of late and feel they can win this at home.
UML 4, NU 2

Providence at Maine 
Dave’s pick: The Friars had a hiccup last weekend against UNH while Maine swept at UMass, but I’m not ready to use that scant evidence to justify an upset pick of the Black Bears.
PC 3, Maine 1
Jim’s pick: Even though Maine is coming off a sweep and is at home, I see this series as all Friars.
PC 4, Maine 1

Saturday, Feb. 6

Providence at Maine 
Dave’s pick: Perhaps the Black Bears can pick up a point or even two in this series, but I don’t think so.
PC 4, Maine 2
Jim’s pick: This might be closer but Providence wins.
PC 3, Maine 2

New Hampshire at Massachusetts-Lowell
Dave’s pick: What a tough weekend for the Wildcats, first BC then Lowell. It looks like nine losses in the last 10 games for UNH.
UML 3, UNH 2
Jim’s pick: Just like the last time these two met, it won’t be high scoring. But I also think Lowell can pull this out.
UML 2, UNH 1

Connecticut at Merrimack
Dave’s pick: This might be the toughest pick of the weekend. UConn has been playing better than the Warriors, but it’s at Lawler Arena. I’m going with the team that’s playing better.
UConn 3, MC 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: Dave is going with the hotter team. I’m going with home ice.
MC 3, UConn 2

Notre Dame at Vermont
Dave’s pick: Notre Dame keeps pace with BC, albeit while Lowell moves ahead of them into first place.
ND 3, UVM 2
Jim’s pick: This is the one game I am least sure about because Vermont tends to play well on the second night. Still not ready to bet against the Irish.
ND 3, UVM 1

Monday, Feb 8.


Harvard vs Northeastern (Third Place) 
Dave’s pick: This is always a tough game to pick because the Garden feels like a tomb with all those empty seats that early. But I’ll go with the percentages and pick everyone’s favorite safety school.
HU 3, NU 2
Jim’s pick: For some reason, I feel like Northeastern can be motivate enough to win this game.
NU 4, HU 2

Boston College vs Boston University (Championship)
Dave’s pick: Does anyone think this game will be a blowout for either side?  Not me.
BC 4, BU 3 (2OT)
Jim’s pick: This one is razor thin and, as much as I’d like to pick up another game on Dave picking BU, I still think that BC is the better team.
BC 3, BU 2 (OT)

Tuesday, Feb. 9

Massachusetts at American International
Dave’s pick: AIC is 5-20-2, so if UMass can’t take this one…
UMass 4, AIC 2
Jim’s pick: This should be a game UMass can win.
UMass 2, AIC 1

Beanpot looking strong; UMass and Merrimack, not so much; Maine in middle

These are the three things I think I learned this week.

1. All four Beanpot schools are going into Monday night’s games on high notes.

Boston College and Boston University polished off Notre Dame and Merrimack, respectively, by identical 4-0 scores.  The Eagles get the extra tip of the fedora considering that Notre Dame was at home and in the midst of a 12-game unbeaten streak. BC now has a seven-game unbeaten streak itself.

Northeastern was inactive on the weekend, but it goes into Monday night with six straight wins.

And for the record, that other Beanpot school, Harvard, also won on Friday night, 4-1, over Princeton, giving it three straight wins.

2. UMass and Merrimack are having a really tough time.

Let’s forget about Merrimack’s 10-0 feel-good demolition of Arizona State on Sunday. ASU came out here, a new Division-I hockey program, and got outscored by a total of 22-2 in two games against Massachusetts-Lowell and the one against Merrimack.

It’s the games against established teams that count.

And Merrimack lost 4-0 to BU on Friday to make it only a single win (against Canisius) since Nov. 13. And that win on Nov. 13th was against…

UMass, which got swept at home by Maine, a team that hadn’t won a single road game all year. I’m not sure it gets any worse than that.  Other than, of course, having lost every game since Thanksgiving (not even any ties) except a 2-1 win over Army West Point.

But you know, we really shouldn’t be surprised by these two teams’ struggles. Merrimack and UMass were picked to finish together at the bottom of the league before the season started.  Some surprising early season success for both of them heightened expectations, but we’re back to where we started.

Rebuilding years for both teams.

3. Maine gets four huge points.

Getting four points on the road vaulted the Black Bears into a tie for ninth place, just two points out of sixth. It wasn’t more than a few weeks ago that the Black Bears were in the cellar.

Granted, those two wins came against a UMass team that is really struggling, and the Black Bears’ next four games come against Providence and Notre Dame. But four points is four points.

Hockey East picks – Jan. 29-Feb. 2

Darn it, UConn. A tie against Boston College and a loss to Sacred Heart was the only thing that kept me from perfection last week. Still at 11-1-1, I picked up a game on Dave, which is a better-than-average consolation prize.

Jim last week: 11-1-1
Jim to date: 131-50-31
Dave last week: 10-2-1
Dave to date: 127-54-31

Friday, January 29

Merrimack at Boston University
Jim’s pick: Merrimack’s struggles recently give me no confidence to pick and upset on the road.
BU 4, MC 2
Dave’s pick: With only one win (over Canisius) since Nov. 13, Merrimack is making itself a very tough pick. And on the road against the Terriers, who are 9-2-2 at Agganis? Not a chance.
BU 5, MC 1

Boston College at Notre Dame
Jim’s pick: I don’t know if there is a hotter team in the country than Notre Dame. So even against Boston College, the fact that Notre Dame is at home influences this pick.
ND 3, BC 2
Dave’s pick: I was really, really hoping Jim would take the Eagles since the Irish blew me away with their domination of UNH last Friday. But as usual, he failed to cooperate. I suppose I should go against Jim’s pick either way to make up some ground, but Notre Dame just looks too good right now.
ND 3, BC 2 (OT)

New Hampshire at Providence
Jim’s pick: This is one of just two two-game league series this weekend and this one is the easier for me to pick.
PC 5, UNH 2
Dave’s pick: The disappointing season for the Wildcats continues.
PC 5, UNH 3

Maine at Massachusetts
Jim’s pick: Neither team is playing well but Maine also has been an awful team away from home this season. So, at least on night one, I’m picking the Minutemen.
UMass 3, Maine 2
Dave’s pick: I don’t like to kick teams when they’re down, but it’s tough to like either club. Maine is 0-8-1 on the road and UMass has only a single win (over Army) since Nov 7 and not even a tie since Nov. 21. At Alfond, I’d pick a Maine sweep. At the Mullins Center, I’ll go with the Black Bears in game one.
Maine 3, UMass 2

Arizona State at UMass-Lowell
Jim’s pick: The River Hawks won’t pick up any league points this weekend but should be able to grab a couple of wins.
UML 5, ASU 2
Dave’s pick: It’s great to see new D-I programs like Arizona State, but it’ll be take-your-lumps time against the River Hawks.
UML 7, ASU 1

Saturday, January 30

New Hampshire at Providence
Jim’s pick: It will be a tighter game than Friday, but expect Providence to sweep at home.
PC 3, UNH 2
Dave’s pick: Uh-oh, looks like an eighth straight loss for the Wildcats.
PC 5, UNH 2

Maine at Massachusetts
Jim’s pick: I really want to pick a UMass sweep because they are at home, but the reality is UMass hasn’t swept a league series since the first week of November.
Maine 4, UMass 3
Dave’s pick: I don’t like either team’s chances, so I’m picking the split the opposite way Jim is doing, so I could either pick up two games on him or fall over the precipice. And the way this season has gone, I know which of those two possibilities is more likely.
UMass 4, Maine 2

Arizona State at UMass-Lowell
Jim’s pick: It might be a bit closer, but I expect Lowell to win these two games.
UML 3, ASU 1
Dave’s pick: Not to be unkind, but if Lowell only beats a new D-I team like ASU by two goals — a team that is 2-16-0 on the road — then the River Hawks are in trouble.
UML 8, ASU 1

Sunday, January 31

Arizona State at Merrimack
Jim’s pick: Merrimack has struggled of late. But they also are now playing a first-year Division I school that is finishing a three-in-three.
MC 5, ASU 2
Dave’s pick: The Warriors could really use a win right now, and they’ll get it.
MC 6, ASU 2

Monday, February 1

64th Beanpot Tournament (Boston)

Boston College vs. Harvard
Jim’s pick: This may be the Hockey East homer in me, but I have to go with the Eagles in this one. It’s been a long time since Harvard has won a first-round game, which factors in.
BC 3, HU 2
Dave’s pick: Harvard has played in exactly two, count ‘em, two Beanpot title games in the last 21 years (1998 and 2008). And lost both. So until 2018, it feel like a bet-the-ranch pick to go against the Crimson. (If you think I’m being overly harsh, keep in mind this is Hahvahd  we’re talking about.
BC 4, HU 2

Northeastern vs. Boston University
Jim’s pick: It would be a wonderful rogue pick to go with Northeastern, though its play of late would justify it. That said, I’m not rogue like Sarah Palin. I’m going for the conventional.
BU 4, NU 3
Dave’s pick: And I’m supposed to be like Sarah Palin?  Sorry, I don’t want Tina Fey imitating me on Saturday Night Live. But boy oh boy, the Huskies sure have a chance. A chance for a title dance. Don’t look at me askance. It’s a wickid good chance.
(This pick is based on BU scoring an extra attacker goal in the final 30 seconds and winning in double overtime.)
BU 4, NU 3 (2OT)

Tuesday, February 2

Brown at Connecticut
Jim’s pick: I have seen both teams play and really think that they are similar. While home ice should influence my pick, UConn’s midweek loss this past week is on my mind.
Brown 5, UConn 4
Dave’s pick: UConn’s loss last week dropped me another game behind Jim, but I’m going to believe that the Huskies make that up this week. I just think they’re the better team with the latest evidence being their tie with BC.
UConn 4, Brown 3

York’s 1,000th may have been easy, but also quite special

It was an 8-0 decision for Boston College over Massachusetts that gave BC head coach Jerry York his 1,000th career win. That doesn’t make the value of the victory any less.

1) 1-0 or 8-0, York’s victory on Friday was special

I honestly don’t care about the final score. But Boston College head coach Jerry York won his 1,000th game on Friday night, the first – and possibly the only – college coach who will ever accomplish that feat. Think about what it takes – if a 25-year-old becomes head coach, he needs an average of 20 wins each season over a 50-year career to reach 1,000. In this day and age where head coaches reach that position in their 30s of 40s, we’ll never see this again. The fact the win was a foregone conclusion in the first period, when BC led 5-0, didn’t matter. Jerry York will take this memory along with his hundreds of other great milestones, and enjoy them.

2) The best continue to shine

We have talked about Hockey East having an elite five teams at this point – the quintet fighting for four first-round byes and a regular-season title. Those teams went a combined 7-2-1 this weekend with UMass-Lowell and Providence splitting a weekend series. Boston University and Notre Dame swept Maine and New Hampshire, respectfully, while BC beat UMass and tied Connecticut. In other words, the rich get richer in Hockey East.

3) If you didn’t hear me the last time, keep an eye on Northeastern

The Huskies might be the hottest team in Hockey East, having swept three straight weekend series. The Huskies are 8-1-2 in their last 11, outscoring their opponents, 43-21. All of which was done, until this past weekend, without the efforts of Kevin Roy. Might this be the most dangerous team heading down the stretch? And might Northeastern make this one of the most interesting Beanpots in recent years – which, ironically, is Northeastern’s next game? Time will tell.

Hockey East picks – Jan. 22-26

Jim and I had pretty good weeks, but both games we differed on ended as ties so I made up no ground. So that’s a good week for him and a bad one for me.

Dave last week: 8-2-3
Jim last week: 8-2-3
Dave’s record-to-date: 117-52-30
Jim’s record-to-date: 120-49-30

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Jan. 22

Massachusetts-Lowell at Providence 
Dave’s pick:  The marquee matchup of the weekend goes to the Friars on their home ice, but they need overtime to do it.
PC 3, UML 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: This is a tough game and series to call, so I as well will let home ice dominate my picks this weekend.
PC3, UML 2

Boston College at Massachusetts
Dave’s pick: With only a single win for UMass since Nov. 7 — and that one over Army West Point — it’s hard to see anything but a lopsided win for the Eagles, home ice or no.
BC 5, UMass 1
Jim’s pick: I feel like UMass might be motivated against Boston College, a team they often play tough. But I also believe they are missing too many pieces to win.
BC 4, UMass 2

Notre Dame at New Hampshire
Dave’s pick: This series is likely a split since it’s at the Whitt. (There’s your poetry for today.) In fact, it wouldn’t be a stunner to see the Wildcats do even better than that. But with four straight losses, it’s tough to pick them over a Notre Dame squad on a 10-game undefeated streak.
ND 4, UNH 3 (OT)
Jim’s pick: This will be a tight game but I like Notre Dame right now. A lot.
ND 3, UNH 2

Northeastern at Merrimack
Dave’s pick: The Warriors got off to a great start, but have only won one game (against Canisius) since Nov. 13. This is a classic example of two teams going in different directions.
NU 4, MC 2
Jim’s pick: This is as much about the way Northeastern is playing as much as how much the Warriors are struggling.
NU 4, MC 1

Boston University at Maine 
Dave’s pick: That was a pretty impressive tie for the Black Bears against top-ranked Quinnipiac, but it’ll take more than that and home ice for me to pick them over BU.
BU 4, Maine 2
Jim’s pick: I am with Dave here. The fact Maine couldn’t hold onto a two-goal, third period lead at home is disappointing.
BU 3, Maine 1

Vermont at Connecticut 
Dave’s pick: On neutral ice I might lean ever so slightly toward Vermont, but I’m going with home ice on this one. And yes, I know UConn’s road record has been better than its one at home, but that, I think, is a statistical fluke.
UConn 1, UVM 0 (OT)
Jim’s pick: I don’t know how much of a fluke that UConn’s home record is. The building simply hasn’t been as dominating this season. And I feel like Vermont is ready for a road win.
UVM 2, UConn 1

Saturday, Jan. 23

Notre Dame at New Hampshire 
Dave’s pick: I’m going with an Irish sweep knowing full well that could be a double dip.
ND 4, UNH 3
Jim’s pick: I’m not as confident that Notre Dame could lose twice to New Hampshire. At least not the way the Wildcats are playing.
ND 3, UNH 1

Connecticut at Boston College
Dave’s pick: UConn has fashioned some pretty big upsets in the last couple years, but I don’t see it happening here. UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh experiences an unpleasant return to Conte Forum.
BC 4, UConn 1
Jim’s pick: I think the Cavanaugh/York matchup will be closer than Dave does, but I also see BC winning.
BC 3, UConn 2

Merrimack at Northeastern
Dave’s pick: As noted above, this is an easy pick, especially at Matthews Arena, between two teams going in different directions.
NU 4, MC 1
Jim’s pick: If Northeastern does, in fact, carry out a weekend sweep, you need to begin taking this team seriously as one of the scariest clubs to face down the stretch.
NU 3, MC 1

Vermont at Massachusetts
Dave’s pick: Despite home ice for the Minutemen, I can’t pick them in this one. The Catamounts look like the clearly stronger team.
UVM 2, UMass 1
Jim’s pick: Twice in the same weekend an assistant faces the former head coach he works under. And twice the mentor prevails.
UVM 4, UMass 2

Providence at Massachusetts-Lowell 
Dave’s pick: I’m going with a split, favoring the home teams each night, in this battle of Hockey East titans.
UML 3, PC 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: Though Providence has been slightly dominant of UMass-Lowell in the last few years (2-4-0 in last six), I still think the River Hawks earn the split.
UML 4, PC 2

Maine at Boston University 
Dave’s pick: In this long-distance (for Hockey East, at least) home-and-home series, I see only scarlet and white. The Black Bears become even more ensconced in the cellar.
BU 5, Maine 2
Jim’s pick: Rack up another one for the Terriers, making the top 5 in Hockey East tight as can be.
BU 3, Maine 2

Tuesday,  Jan. 26

Sacred Heart at Connecticut
Dave’s pick: Two out of three ain’t bad (as Meatloaf once sang) for the Huskies on their extended weekend.
UConn 4, SH 2
Jim’s pick: This could be the dangerous letdown game for UConn if it has any success. But I’ve already predicted a not-so-great weekend for UConn, so I believe it will be motivated for this in-state battle.
UConn 5, SH 2

No splits from a full weekend of Hockey East play

These are the three things I think I learned this week.

1. It was great to see the first full weekend of Hockey East play.

Hey, I like the prime nonconference games as much as the next guy. But it was great to see the first full slate of six league games on Friday and another six on Saturday.

We’ll have another full slate this upcoming weekend before the Beanpot interrupts that for a couple weeks. The next six-for-six on back-to-back nights will be the weekend of Feb. 12-13.

And the results of this past weekend’s six series all meant a lot. There wasn’t a single split in the bunch.

2. Four teams swept.

Three of them — Massachusetts-Lowell, Notre Dame and Providence — are jostling for position at the top of the standings; one team, Northeastern, used its sweep to escape the cellar.

With the sweep, Lowell maintained its position at the top of the standings in terms of total points, albeit while still conceding games in hand to every other league team.

Notre Dame and Providence kept pace, remaining in striking range. Both will leapfrog the River Hawks if they cash in their extra games.

And while it might be tempting to consider Northeastern’s sweep of minimal importance since those two wins were the Huskies’ first two in league play, they arguably swept the top opponent of the four. Combined with last weekend’s road sweep of nationally ranked St. Lawrence, the Huskies are now playing like many of us thought they’d play all year.

3. At the other end of the spectrum, four teams got swept and one of the other two suffered almost as bad a fate.

We’re giving Boston University a partial pass since its single point against BC isn’t the end of the world. When Top 10 opponents are involved, that’ll happen.

But Maine’s singleton came against Connecticut with both games at home, and also dropped the Black Bears into last place. A point is a point, but still….

As for the teams that got swept — New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Merrimack and Vermont — one can argue that UNH fell the hardest. The Wildcats had the best opportunity of them all to move into the top of the middle tier of teams and were facing the Huskies, admittedly hot but still 0-8-3 in Hockey East games.

So a particularly tough weekend for UNH, but try telling that to the other three sweep-ees.

Hockey East picks – Jan. 15-19

Dave and I had equally decent weeks last week, meaning I maintain my slim three-game lead.

Jim last week: 9-4-2
Jim to date: 112-47-27
Dave last week: 9-4-2
Dave to date: 109-50-27

Friday, January 15

Boston University at Boston College
Jim’s pick: Both teams are playing equally as well right now. Which means I will be using home ice to dictate my picks this weekend.
BC 3, BU 2
Dave’s pick: I think BC’s edge is larger than that, despite BU’s three straight wins (including 4-1 at second-ranked Quinnipiac, that team’s only loss of the year). Maybe I’m putting too much faith in the Eagles’ three-of-four-point weekend against Providence, but I’m more bullish on the Eagles.
BC 4, BU 2

Connecticut at Maine
Jim’s pick: Maine only managed a split last weekend against Colgate but proved they are playing well at home.
Maine 4, UC 2
Dave’s pick: I, too, am going with Maine in this one, but I don’t feel particularly confident about it.
Maine 3, UC 2

Merrimack at Notre Dame
Jim’s pick: These are two teams that are moving in exact opposite directions, which probably means Merrimack is ripe for an upset. I’m not picking that, though.
ND 5, MC 2
Dave’s pick: The Irish haven’t lost since the day after Thanksgiving. It’s hard to see that streak ending this weekend at home.
ND 4, MC 2

New Hampshire at Northeastern
Jim’s pick: This game is almost entirely dependent on Northeastern shutting down the Wildcats top line. At home, it is possible.
NU 3, UNH 2
Dave’s pick: If the Huskies can sweep St. Lawrence on the road, they can squeak by in this one at home.
NU 3, UNH 2 (OT)

UMass-Lowell at Massachusetts
Jim’s pick: The battle for the Alumni Cup between these Massachusetts schools looks one-sided but never seems to play out that way. Still, I’ll go with the logical picks.
UML 3, UMass 2
Dave’s pick: I’ll be stunned if this is a one-goal game even on the road.
UML 4, UMass 1

Providence at Vermont
Jim’s pick: I like the way Vermont is playing. Providence struggled last weekend. Vermont is at home. Easy pick, right? Not so fast.
PC 4, UVM 3
Dave’s pick: I’m not jumping off the Friars’ bandwagon yet, but Vermont’s four straight wins (giving up a total of three goals) and PC’s 1-3-1 record since the break have me concerned.
PC 2, UVM 1

Saturday, January 16

Boston College at Boston University
Jim’s pick: If BC wins on Friday, this is Jerry York’s chance for 1,000 wins. But there is no way that BU allows that to happen on their home ice.
BU 3, BC 2
Dave’s pick: BU has been really tough at home (8-2-1), but BC has been even better (6-1-1) on the road. So even though it’s really tempting to go with each team holding serve in its barn, I’m going with the better team. Jerry York gets number 1,000.
BC 3, BU 2 (OT)

Connecticut at Maine
Jim’s pick: Again with Maine, I don’t feel comfortable picking a sweep, even on home ice.
UC 4, Maine 2
Dave’s pick: I went with a Maine sweep last weekend and it cost me, but I’m doubling down on that one. That said, I can easily see UConn doing the sweeping instead.
Maine 3, UC 2

Merrimack at Notre Dame
Jim’s pick: The Irish complete the two-game sweep.
ND 3, MC 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed. The Irish make it a 10-game unbeaten streak.
ND 4, MC 2

Massachusetts at UMass-Lowell
Jim’s pick: Another pick of a sweep gives Dave the opportunity to pick differently and maybe pick up (or lose) some ground.
UML 4, UMass 2
Dave’s pick: That’s the kind of “opportunity” managers at the day job offer when they’ve got a sucker in their sights.
UML 5, UMass 2

Northeastern at New Hampshire
Jim’s pick: The Wildcats offense gets going and get the win.
UNH 6, NU 3
Dave’s pick: Agreed. The two hot teams end up with a split, winning on their home ice.
UNH 4, NU 2

Providence at Vermont
Jim’s pick: This sweep makes me the most uneasy. But I have to go by records and odds.
PC 2, UVM 1
Dave’s pick: Once again, I agree.  But if PC falters this weekend, I may be jumping off the bandwagon.
PC 2, UVM 1

Tuesday, January 19

Quinnipiac at Maine
Jim’s pick: The Black Bears will be lucky to keep this one close given Quinnipiac’s consistent fire power.
QU 5, Maine 3
Dave’s pick: Regardless of the venue, Quinnipiac (19-1-3) is the superior team and by a wide margin.
QU 5, Maine 2

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