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A comeback becomes a sweep, belief in Storrs and struggles at the Heights

Vermont showed a lot of meddle this weekend earning a sweep over Maine. And that leads the three things I learned about Hockey East this weekend:

1. Friday rally turns into a weekend sweep for the Catamounts

It appeared Maine was about to win just its second road game in the Red Gendron era on Friday night when the Black Bears held a 2-0 lead early on Vermont and a 3-2 advantage in the closing minute. But a Mario Puskarich goal with the goalie pulled for the extra attacked with just 59 seconds remaining knotted the game at three. Then with 1:47 left in overtime Mike Stenerson buried the game winner, demoralizing Maine. The momentum from Friday carried into Saturday as Vermont scored twice in less than a minute early and never looked back, posting a 4-1 victory for the sweep. UVM is now 4-1-1 in league play and tied for first place with Massachusetts-Lowell. Part of that is a perfect 4-0 record at home.

2. Three huge points spark a lot of belief in Connecticut

UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh knew Wednesday night was going to be a special night. Not only was his team playing its first Hockey East game in the XL Center in front of a sold out crowd, on the opposite bench was Cavanaugh’s former mentor Boston College coach Jerry York. Little did he know that at the end of the night, Cavanaugh would be congratulated by York for winning, 1-0, pulling off the upset of the then-No. 3 Eagles. Four night later, this time at Agganis Arena, Cavanaugh’s squad huge blow for blow with a Boston University team some think may be among the nation’s elite, battling to a 4-4 tie against the 5th-ranked Terriers. It is early, but having played just a single home game thus far, UConn looks pretty impressive and hardly the near-consensus late place team most of us though they would be.

3. Panic at the Heights?

Speaking of Boston College, the 1-0 loss to UConn was the middle loss of three straight losses for the Eagles. It is the first three-game losing streak for BC since the 2009-10 season. That team went on to win the national championship, but title thoughts right now seem pretty far away from BC. The Eagles struggled to score in the first two of the three losses, falling 2-1 in OT to Denver before the 1-0 shutout by the Huskies. On Friday, the offense returned and BC took a 3-2 lead in the third period only to allow rival Boston University to score the final three goals of the game for a 5-3 Terriers victory. The good news was that BC coach Jerry York felt his team played a good game on Friday against BU but were just victimized by some unlucky puck luck. BC won’t have to wait too long in hopes of returning to the win column as the Eagles face Harvard on Tuesday.

Hockey East picks – Nov. 7-11

Although I had a mediocre week, it still smells like roses because I pulled a game ahead of Jimmy. Time for the Four Corners offense.

Dave last week: 9-5-2
Jim last week: 8-6-2
Dave’s record-to-date: 41-18-5
Jim’s record-to-date: 40-19-5

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Nov. 7

Merrimack at Providence 
Dave’s pick: I’m going with the 2-3-1 team over the one with a 5-1-1 record and not just because the Friars are at home. As I wrote about in this week’s column, Providence is not a 2-3-1 team.
PC 4, MC 1
Jim’s pick: I agree here. Merrimack has played well but hasn’t been overly tested. Plus Providence playing at home and with confidence coming off a win, I’m going Friars.
PC 3, MC 1

Maine at Vermont
Dave’s pick: – Although I like what the Black Bears have done recently, I can’t pick them on the road until they actually start winning there. I’m finicky like that..
UVM 4, UM 2
Jim’s pick: I agree with Dave about the road. But I also think Vermont is the better team.
UVM 5, UM 2

Northeastern at Massachusetts-Lowell
Dave’s pick: – The Huskies have about as much of a chance on the road against Lowell as a turkey drumstick has against me at Thanksgiving dinner.
UML 4, NU 1
Jim’s pick: I worry about this one as Northeastern has given Lowell fits in recent years. Still, just matching records against one another, it’s impossible to pick against Lowell here.
UML 3, NU 2

Boston University at Boston College
Dave’s pick: – Home ice proves decisive. I had been thinking that home ice would prevail in this battle of titans. Then I saw that BC lost to UConn. No offense to Hockey East’s newest member, but I’m flipping back to BU, a team that was undefeated until a 2-1 loss to Providence last Saturday..
BU 3, BC 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: I love BU in this game. But I also love BC’s ability to come back after a loss (in this case two losses). And I will say that home ice is the difference maker here.
BC 4, BU 3

American International at Massachusetts 
Dave’s pick:  The Minutemen are coming off two one-goal losses at Maine (one in overtime), but this one won’t be that close.
UMass 4, AIC 1
Jim’s pick: I think AIC is a better team than Dave realizes. But I’m still not in a position to pick them.
UMass 3, AIC 2

Michigan State at New Hampshire 
Dave’s pick: – The Wildcats have been struggling, but Michigan State has yet to win on the road. Home cookin’ wins out.
UNH 4, MSU 2
Jim’s pick: The UNH offense needs to get going against a Michigan State team that, at times, has been stingy. I think they will
UNH 2, MSU 1

Notre Dame at Minnesota
Dave’s pick: The Gophers ain’t number one for nothing and they’re at home, a notoriously tough place to play.
UM 4, UND 2
Jim’s pick: Notre Dame is playing well enough to pick an upset here. So let’s do it.
UND 3, UM 2

Saturday, Nov. 8

Connecticut at Boston University 
Dave’s pick: I need to eat some crow regarding the UConn Huskies. In last week’s picks, I said that while UConn Coach Mike Cavanaugh beating longtime mentor BC coach Jerry York would make a great storyline, it wasn’t a believable plot. Well, the Huskies beat BC, 1-0 on Wednesday night. So much for what I know about plot.

Can they knock off a second straight titan? I’m still picking BU, but I won’t be shocked if UConn pulls off another upset.
BU 3, UConn 2
Jim’s pick: If BU loses on Friday, as I am picking, there is no way they lose at home on Saturday. But I agree with Dave, UConn is a lot better than many of us believed.
BU 4, UConn 2

Providence at Merrimack
Dave’s pick: The Friars need a sweep to start making their move, and I believe they’ll do it.
PC 2, MC 1
Jim’s pick: I think this series is well timed for the Friars.
PC 4, MC 2

Massachusetts-Lowell at Northeastern
Dave’s pick: Not even home ice can get the Huskies off the schneid against the River Hawks.
UML 3, NU 2
Jim’s pick: It’s hard for me to believe the Huskies could end this weekend still o-for. But they’re playing a Lowell team that is playing excellent hockey right now.
UML 4, NU 2

Maine at Vermont
Dave’s pick: The result would be different at Alfond, but the Catamounts sweep.
UVM 3, UM 2
Jim’s pick: Can’t disagree there. This UVM team is talented and plays well at home.
UVM 4, UM 2

Michigan State at New Hampshire 
Dave’s pick: – The Wildcats pull off an important sweep to get to .500.
UNH 4, MSU 3
Jim’s pick: This easily could be a split, depending on which UNH team shows up. But I’ll still go with the sweep.
UNH 3, MSU 2

Sunday, Nov. 9

Notre Dame at Minnesota 
Dave’s pick: – Maybe the Irish can push this to overtime, but the Gophers will still be too tough.
UM 4, UND 3 (OT)
Jim’s pick: I picked the Notre Dame upset on night one. But can’t pick it again.
UM 3, UND 2

Tuesday, Nov. 11

Harvard at Boston College
Dave’s pick: If BC loses to BU on Friday, then this game could pose the unthinkable threat – a possible four-game losing streak for the Eagles. Whether it comes to that point or not, I see this as a get-back-on-track impressive win..
BC 4, HU 1
Jim’s pick: No reason the Eagles can’t handle the Crimson at home.
BC 5, HU 2

Lowell’s mirage and panics at Maine and Northeastern

I think I learned these three things this week.`

1. Massachusetts-Lowell’s ugly loss to Michigan a week ago was only a mirage.

When I watched the River Hawks lose 8-4 to Michigan, I thought it indicated they weren’t as good as their 2-0-1 record to that point had indicated. The early departures to the pros in the offseason had knocked Lowell down a peg after all, as so many of us had expected.

Instead, that game is looking more and more like the anomaly, and the River Hawks are looking more and more like the real deal.

They followed that loss with a win over Michigan State, then this weekend swept New Hampshire in their home-and-home series. They shut out the Wildcats, 2-0, in their own barn, and then spanked them 8-2 at the Tsongas.

They now stand at 5-1-1 overall and a perfect 3-0-0 within Hockey East.

So much for a regression at Lowell.

2. The early panic in Orono appears to have been unfounded.

It didn’t look good when Maine opened the season by traveling to Alaska and coming back with a doughnut. Then when the Black Bears were swept at home by Union, albeit second-ranked Union, the oh-for-the-season began to look ominous.

Since then, however, the Black Bears have gone 3-0-1, including a sweep this weekend over Massachusetts, so the concern has abated. In league play, they’re now one of only three teams with perfect records.

We’ll see if that remains true this next week when Maine travels to Vermont for two in the Catamounts’ barn, but for now, all is well in Orono.

3. Maybe it is time to panic at Northeastern.

We’ve been asking for a few weeks now whether it’s time to panic at Northeastern. In last week’s column, NU coach Jim Madigan explained to Jim Connelly why it wasn’t.

But after getting swept at Quinnipiac this weekend, the Huskies are now 0-6. Yes, Quinnipiac was a nationally ranked team a week ago, and Colgate, which swept the Huskies two weeks ago, is now ranked fourth in the country. And all four of those games were on the road.

Fair enough.

But the other two losses were at home. Vermont smoked the Huskies, 6-2, in the opener, and a team thought to be destined for the lower reaches of the standings, Massachusetts, beat them a week ago.

Next week, Northeastern plays a home-and-home series against Lowell, one of the top teams in the league, if not the country.

If now isn’t the time to panic, when is?

Hockey East picks – Oct. 31-Nov. 5

Dave rallied last weekend to post an impressive 13-3-1 mark and make up the two-game deficit. Three weeks in, all tied.

Jim last week: 11-5-1
Jim to-date: 32-13-3
Dave last week: 13-3-1
Dave to-date: 32-13-3

Friday, October 31

Massachusetts at Maine
Jim’s pick: Though I like the way UMass is playing of late, Maine showed last weekend that home cooking helps.
Maine 3, UMass 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed.  This would be a tough call at the Mullins Center.
Maine 4, UMass 2

Vermont at Notre Dame
Jim’s pick: One of the marquis series of the season, I feel this one will be a split and I’ll give it to the hosts out of the gate.
UND 3, UVM 1
Dave’s pick: The Catamounts have been proving me wrong so far this season even when on the road, but I’m still going with the Irish.
UND 3, UVM 2

Boston University at Providence
Jim’s pick: Another top notch series, this one a home-and-home. And while Providence may have been the preseason favorite, BU is playing more like the crème de la crème.
BU 4, PC 3
Dave’s pick: The Friars have disappointed so far while the Terriers have impressed, but I think these two potential powerhouses will hold serve in this home-and-home.
PC 3, BU 2

Massachusetts-Lowell at New Hampshire
Jim’s pick: Lowell’s Murderer’s Row of opponents to begin the season continues. And while the River Hawks have been impressive handling this tough schedule to begin, I’m going with the Wildcats, equally as impressive to start, at home.
UNH 3, UML 2
Dave’s pick: If the River Hawks had looked better against Michigan last week, I’d be more tempted to give them a sweep. Instead, this looks like a home team split.
UNH 3, UML 2

Boston College at Denver
Jim’s pick: Another intriguing weekend series in Hockey East. The Eagles seem to be playing well but I am concerned about depth on defense for BC and playing at altitude. Thus, I’m going with Denver in the opener.
DU 4, BC 2
Dave’s pick: Last year, Denver wasn’t much better at home than on the road, so I’m thinking altitude won’t be as big a factor as one would instinctively think.
BC 3, DU 2 (OT)

Connecticut vs. Merrimack (Liberty Invitational Tournament, at Newark, N.J.)
Jim’s pick: This non-conference game between two Hockey East opponents will be played at the Prudential Center in New Jersey as part of the Liberty Invitational Tournament. These teams squared off in a tight tilt already with Merrimack squeaking out a win. Thus, I’m going to go with the Huskies on neutral ice.
UConn 2, MC 1 (OT)
Dave’s pick: The Warriors outplayed UConn by a good margin in that first game even though they needed an extra skater goal to force overtime where they won it, so I’m picking them in this one even away from Lawler Arena.
MC 2, UConn 1

Saturday, November 1

Providence at Boston University
Jim’s pick: Though the BU winning streak has to end at some point and a top-notch opponent like Providence is the sensible favorite to end it, I’m sticking with the Terriers on home ice.
BU 3, PC 2
Dave’s pick: The Terriers will salvage the split of the home-and-home series after dropping Friday night’s contest at Schneider Arena.
BU 4, PC 2

Massachusetts at Maine
Jim’s pick: Maybe I’m showing too much confidence in Maine one week after I showed zero. But I like the Black Bears to sweep.
Maine 4, UMass 2
Dave’s pick: I’m going with a Black Bears sweep as well. I think they’re the better team with the venue being icing on the cake.
Maine 4, UMass 2

Vermont at Notre Dame
Jim’s pick: Look for the Catamounts to bounce back and earn the split.
UVM 3, UND 2
Dave’s pick: Put me in the category of guys who just don’t learn, but I’m going against Vermont again. Notre Dame sweeps.
UND 3, UVM 2

New Hampshire at Massachusetts-Lowell
Jim’s pick: Home ice is nice for the River Hawks
UML 4, UNH 1
Dave’s pick: Agreed. The River Hawks get the split.
UML 4, UNH 3

Boston College at Denver
Jim’s pick: Acclimated to the environment, BC salvages the weekend split.
BC 4, DU 1
Dave’s pick: The Eagles complete an impressive road sweep.
BC 4, DU 2

Northeastern at Quinnipiac
Jim’s pick: A battle of two teams not living up to expectations thus far goes to the home team. And the start of the year gets longer for Huskies fans.
QU 3, NU 2
Dave’s pick: It’s hard to believe the Huskies have been outscored 15-4 while losing their first four games.
QU 4, NU 2

Sunday, November 2

Northeastern at Quinnipiac
Jim’s pick: Is it finally time for Northeastern to get into the win column? I think so.
NU 4, QU 2
Dave’s pick: Based on the evidence to date, there’s no reason to pick the Huskies.
QU 4, NU 2

Merrimack/UConn vs. Princeton/Yale (Liberty Invitational Tournament, Newark, N.J.)
Jim’s pick: I don’t know what to expect out of Princeton with a first-year coach. But I’m pretty confident in Yale. Picking all outcomes.
MC 3, PU 1; UConn 3, PU 2; Yale 4, MC 2; Yale 4, UConn 1
Dave’s pick: Princeton was 6-26-0 last year, so, like Jim, I’m picking against the Tigers. Yale is the class of this tourney.
MC 2, PU 1; UConn 3, PU 2; Yale 3, MC 1; Yale 4, UConn 2

Wednesday, November 5

Jim’s pick: The teacher vs. the student. No more classic clash in athletics. Can the student (UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh) beat his former boss of two decades (BC head coach Jerry York)? It would make a great storyline, but I can’t pick it.
BC 5, UConn 2
Dave’s pick: It’s a great storyline but not a believable plot.
BC 4, UConn 1

Cats (Vermont, UNH) and Dogs (BU) surging, Irish back to normal and a panic on Huntington Ave.

It was a good week to a be a “family” pet in Hockey East as two Cats (Vermont Catamounts and New Hampshire Wildcats) and one dog (Boston University Terriers) earned a total of four wins in two nights. That headlines the three things I learned in Hockey East this week:

1) Vermont, UNH and BU all solid

After an poor showing in the opening weekend of nonleague play for Hockey East, the league’s members have responded with two solid weekends top to bottom. Highlighting those victories was Boston University, which garnered one-goal victories over Michigan State (1-0) and Michigan (3-2 third-period comeback) to help the league in the Big Ten-Hockey East Challenge. New Hampshire dominated a struggling Colorado College squad with a 6-2 win, while Vermont won a league battle against newcomer Connecticut. Hockey East’s out-of-conference winning percentage now improves to .561 (21-16-4), second only to the NCHC, which is .583 (17-12-1).

2) After a tough Icebreaker, Notre Dame back to form

I can admit that I, personally, had some concern when Notre Dame lost to Rensselaer and Minnesota-Duluth during the season-opening Icebreaker tournament. Since that, the Irish have won four straight, albeit against competition that some may consider inferior. Regardless, Notre Dame, after scoring just two goals in the two-game opening weekend, potted 23 goals in back-to-back two-game series against Lake Superior and Niagara. Personally, I don’t care who your opponent is. When you need to score goals, offense explosions are welcome and I am sure Jeff Jackson and his club are welcoming the offensive awakening from the last two weekends.

3) Is it time to panic at Northeastern?

The Northeastern Huskies entered the season with high expectations. And through three weekends, those expectations seem to be burying this club which, after a 3-2 loss to Massachusetts on Friday, fell to 0-4. Goaltender Clay Witt, a standout a season ago, didn’t dress on Friday and according to a team source is day-to-day with an upper body injury. But goaltending is hardly this team’s problem through four games. Northeastern has scored just four goals thus far for a skimpy average of a single goal per game. The team’s two gunners from a season ago, Kevin Roy and Mike Szmatula, each have just one point. So while there is plenty of question of what is happening between the pipes for the Huskies, there should be a search for where to the Huskies offense has disappeared.

Hockey East picks: Oct. 24-25

Jim beat me by a game in week one and then by another in week two.  Apparently by the start of the playoffs, he’ll be ahead of me by 21 games.

Dave last week: 12-4-1
Jim last week: 13-3-1
Dave’s record-to-date: 19-10-2
Jim’s record-to-date: 21-8-2

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Oct. 24

Colorado College at Boston College 
Dave’s pick: Not all .500 clubs are created equal. Give me the Eagles.
BC 4, CC2
Jim’s pick: Colorado College is in a true rebuilding year. And the Eagles are licking their collective chops.
BC 5, CC 1

Alaska-Anchorage at Maine
Dave’s pick: It’s revenge time for the Maine-iacs. At home they’ll fare much better than on their trip to the frozen tundra.
UM 4 UAA 2
Jim’s pick: The Alaska teams enter this weekend a combined 7-0-1. I know the road can cause havoc, but after picking Maine to open last weekend, I think I’ll go with the Seawolves here.
UAA 3, UM 2

Merrimack at Mercyhurst
Dave’s pick: I may be a Hockey East snob and Merrimack is undefeated, but I think the Warriors are in for a tough time on Mercyhurst ice.
MU 3 MC 2
Jim’s pick: I may be as big of a Mercyhurst and Rick Gotkin fan as there is outside of Atlantic Hockey, but I think Merrimack has enough fire power to win these road games.
MC 3, MU 2

Michigan at Massachusetts-Lowell
Dave’s pick: When it comes to the River Hawks, cue up The Monkees and “I’m A Believer.”  (Young ‘uns can Google that reference.)
UML 3 UM 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: I am a believer, too. And though I think Friday is a tough matchup, if Lowell gets good goaltending, they win on home ice.
UML 4, UM 2

Michigan State at Boston University 
Dave’s pick: In his only league game, phenom freshman Jack Eichel scored twice and assisted on two others. In two exhibitions, he’s averaged four points. I’m picking Eichel himself to outscore Michigan State.
BU 4 (and Eichel 2), MSU 1
Jim’s pick: I like BU here but think this game may be a lot closer than Dave believes.
BU 4, MSU 3

Niagara at Notre Dame 
Dave’s pick: This is game five in Notre Dame’s opening slate of eight, count ‘em, eight home games. But regardless of the venue, I’d take the Irish over winless Niagara, which has been outscored 22-6.
UND 6, NU 2
Jim’s pick: Agree with Dave. On paper this is an easy weekend for Notre Dame. Let’s hope it translates to the ice.
UND 5, NU 2

Providence at North Dakota
Dave’s pick: This battle of heavyweights — the fifth-ranked Friars against third-ranked North Dakota — comes down to home cooking.
UND 3, PC 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: What a tough game to pick early in the season. I, too, go with home ice in this one.
UND 4, PC 3

Massachusetts at Northeastern 
Dave’s pick: The Huskies get off the schneid and prove they’re a better team than what they’ve shown so far.
NU 3, UMass 2
Jim’s pick: I’m with Dave on this one.
NU 3, UMass 2 

Saturday, Oct. 25

Connecticut at Vermont 
Dave’s pick: Considering UConn’s upset of Quinnipiac, this will be a closer game than expected, but the Catamounts will maintain their unsullied record.
UVM 4, UConn 2
Jim’s pick: Vermont is a better team than most still give them credit for being.
UVM 5, UConn 2

Massachusetts at Boston College
Dave’s pick: This one ain’t gonna be pretty.
BC 5, UMass 1
Jim’s pick: I actually bet on this one being close. But BC will still win.
BC 3, UMass 1

Michigan at Boston University
Dave’s pick: On neutral ice, I’d definitely go with the Wolverines. And I’m this close to picking them at Agganis as well. But I’m going with the home ice advantage.
BU 4, UM 3 (OT)
Jim’s pick: Sorry, Dave. It’s hard to believe that Michigan will leave this trip without a win.
UM 3, BU 2

Alaska-Anchorage at Maine
Dave’s pick: The Black Bears avoid early-season panic in the streets with an Alfond sweep.
UM 3 UAA 2
Jim’s pick: This weekend should be a split. But Maine needs to prove something to me before I pick them again, even at home.
UAA 3, UM 2

Merrimack at Mercyhurst 
Dave’s pick: The percentage play is to pick a split, and I suspect Jim will and, just like last week, he’ll call it the right way. But I think the venue proves decisive.
MU 3 MC 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: Dave is incorrect. I’m going with a Merrimack sweep. 5-0 for the Warriors, even if the opposition isn’t PairWise boosting.
MC 4, MU 2

Niagara at Notre Dame 
Dave’s pick: Niagara won’t get off the schneid this weekend.
UND 4, NU 1
Jim’s pick: Again, this should be the easiest series of the weekend to pick. Let’s hope I’m right.
UND 5, NU 2

Michigan State at Massachusetts-Lowell
Dave’s pick: The River Hawks remain undefeated.
UML 5, MSU 2
Jim’s pick: Lowell’s offense keeps chugging along and the record at the end of the weekend will warrant significant attention.
UML 4, MSU 2

Colorado College at New Hampshire
Dave’s pick: In their first home game, the Wildcats get back to .500.
UNH 4, CC2
Jim’s pick: Tough weekend out east for the Tigers. UNH cruises at home.
UNH 6, CC 2

Providence at North Dakota
Dave’s pick: Call me a Hockey East traitor, but I just think home ice prevails. On neutral ice, it would be a different story.
UND 3, PC 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: I don’t like picking against Hockey East this much, but I just have some concerns about facing North Dakota this early in the year.
UND 2, PC 1

 

Teams sweeping, splitting, and… uh-oh, getting swept

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.

Hockey East picks: Oct. 17-21

Just like Hockey East teams out-of-conference, neither Dave nor I posted a very good record in week one. Still, I have a one-game lead on the old man.

Jim last week: 8-5-1
Jim to-date: 8-5-1
Dave last week: 7-6-1
Dave to-date: 7-6-1

Friday, October 17

Northeastern at Colgate
Jim’s pick: The Huskies haven’t looked too great in either their exhibition or against Vermont and Colgate is supposed to be among the better ECAC teams this season. Makes this pick easier than you’d think.
Colgate 4, NU 2
Dave’s pick: Northeastern didn’t inspire confidence getting shellacked at home by Vermont, 6-2. Now the Huskies are on the road against an even stronger opponent.
Colgate 4, NU 1

Union at Maine
Jim’s pick: With Maine back home, I believe they will get a split out of this weekend. Question is, which game will the Black Bears win? I’ll go with the home opener.
Maine 3, Union 2
Dave’s pick: I suppose a split is the smart pick, but Union has impressed me too much the past few years.
Union 4, Maine 2

Lake Superior at Notre Dame
Jim’s pick: The Irish have what should be an easy opponent for a bounce back from last weekend.
UND 3, LSSU 1
Dave’s pick: Agreed. Notre Dame rebounds in impressive fashion.
UND 4, LSSU 1

Quinnipiac at Massachusetts-Lowell
Jim’s pick: The way Lowell looked last weekend, I’d love to pick a sweep in this series. But I’ll begin by picking a home win.
UML 4, QU 2
Dave’s pick: I’m going with a home ice split even though the last few years Lowell has started slowly.
UML 3, QU 2

New Hampshire at Michigan
Jim’s pick: A very difficult opening schedule for UNH continues in Ann Arbor. I think this team will get at least one win here, so I’ll go with the opener.
UNH 2, UM 1
Dave’s pick: I see a lost weekend on the road for the Wildcats.
UM 3, UNH 2

Clarkson at Vermont
Jim’s pick: Vermont’s offense seems to be awake from the get-go, and that’s a very good thing.
UVM 5, CU 2
Dave’s pick: In their own barn, the Catamounts continue their strong start.
UVM 4, CU 2

Massachusetts at Michigan State
Jim’s pick: Without knowing much about Michigan State, I will tend to side towards home ice.
MSU 5, UMass 3
Dave’s pick: The Spartans didn’t exactly light the Big Ten on fire last year, but I see them as stronger than UMass. Home ice is icing on the cake.
MSU 4, UMass 1

Saturday, October 18

Connecticut at Merrimack
Jim’s pick: This may be a tough season for UConn and the opener in Hockey East won’t prove a good one.
MC 4, UConn 2
Dave’s pick: Cynics may call this the opening salvo in the battle for last place. Maybe so, but while I expect growing pains for UConn, I think Merrimack could surprise.
MC 4, UConn 2

Vermont at Clarkson
Jim’s pick: Even on the road, I like the Catamounts here.
UVM 3, CU 2
Dave’s pick: The Catamounts have gotten off to a great start, but I’m going with Clarkson in the home end of the home-and-home.
CU 3, UVM 2

Northeastern at Colgate
Jim’s pick: Not to be completely negative towards a good Huskies team, but I don’t have the confidence in them just yet.
CU 3, NU 2
Dave’s pick: The Huskies go to oh-for-three on the season.
CU 4, NU 2

Union at Maine
Jim’s pick: The defending national champs bounce back with a road win on the second night.
UC 3, Maine 1
Dave’s pick: I also see a Union win, but it’s to complete a sweep.
UC 4, Maine 2

Massachusetts at Michigan State
Jim’s pick: Similar to Northeastern, I just don’t have confidence enough yet to pick the Minutemen, especially on the road.
MSU 3, UMass 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed, although I’m not sure I’ll pick up confidence in UMass anytime soon.
MSU 3, UMass 1

Lake Superior at Notre Dame
Jim’s pick: The Irish complete a much needed sweep.
UND 5, LSSU 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed. It’s a nice switch from getting swept to doing the sweeping.
UND 4, LSSU 2

Boston College at RIT (Blue Cross Arena, Rochester, N.Y.)
Jim’s pick: Though RIT is known to pull off some upsets in its annual homecoming game, I’m not ready to pick against the Eagles here.
BC 4, RIT 3
Dave’s pick: I was surprised to see the Eagles lose to Lowell last weekend; I don’t expect to be surprised again this week.
BC 4, RIT 3

New Hampshire at Michigan
Jim’s pick: I just can’t see Michigan getting swept on home ice.
UM 4, UNH 2
Dave’s pick: I think it’s an impressive sweep for the Wolverines.
UM 3, UNH 2

Massachusetts-Lowell at Quinnipiac
Jim’s pick: I like the River Hawks but just think this is a difficult series to sweep, particularly with a two-plus hour drive for this game.
QU 3, UML 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed. The home teams prevail in this home-and-home.
QU 3, UML 2

Tuesday, October 21

Quinnipiac at Connecticut
Jim’s pick: Quinnipiac’s tour through Hockey East earns them another win.
QU 4, UConn 2
Dave’s pick: It may be quite a while before I pick a UConn win.
QU 5, UConn 2

Lowell, UVM legit? Favorites fall and non-league struggles

Are Massachusetts-Lowell and Vermont better than their positions in the coaches’ poll suggested? Conversely, are some of the top teams in the poll headed for tough times this year? And as far as non-league play goes, Hockey East may like to forget this weekend. This leads my three things I learned from the opening weekend of play across Hockey East.

1. Lowell and Vermont are pretty darn good.

We all have been led to believe that this year might not be as good as last for either the River Hawks and Catamounts. And though the sample size is small, both teams proved they’re ready to compete this past weekend, each notching impressive wins against higher-ranked opponents. Lowell, picked to finish seventh in the coaches’ poll, grabbed a first-period lead against No. 4 Boston College and held off a rally, earning a 5-2 victory. There are still plenty of questions marks, particularly goaltending which wasn’t overly tested by the Eagles. But one thing is clear: this team will score goals. The same can be said about Vermont, which simply dismantled No. 16 Northeastern. The Catamounts were ranked eighth in the coaches’ poll despite coming off a season that featured a trip to the NCAA tournament.

2. Tough weekend for ranked Hockey East teams.

Ranked teams in Hockey East posted a dismal 3-6-0 record this weekend with third-ranked Providence splitting at Ohio State, BC losing to No. 17 UML, No. 12 Notre Dame going winless at home in the Ice Breaker, Northeastern falling to Vermont and No. 19 New Hampshire falling to No. 5 Union. Providence’s OT victory on Saturday at OSU, Lowell’s win over BC and No. 20 Boston University’s rout of Massachusetts (that featured two goals, two assists from touted-rookie phenom Jack Eichel — more on that on Thursday) accounted for the lone wins by the ranked.

3. As poorly as ranked teams fared, Hockey East teams out of conference really struggled.

It was just days ago that in my Hockey East preview I was touting how strong Hockey East was a season ago out of conference. After weekend one, that success if far in the rear-view mirror. The league posted a 3-7-1 record in out-of-conference play, lowlighted by Notre Dame losing twice to Rensselaer and Minnesota-Duluth, Maine traveling thousands of miles to Anchorage, Alaska, only to fall twice and extend last year’s struggles away from Alfond Arena, and newest member Connecticut mustering just a tie at third-year program Penn State. The lone highlight of non-league play was likely Merrimack (yes, the Merrimack team most picked near the bottom) earning two one-goal wins against (former PC assistant-David Berard coached) Holy Cross. Yes, this is simply one weekend but with non-league games front-loading many Hockey East schedules, a marked improvement is needed if the conference RPI is to remain high late in the season when it counts and Pairwise discussions begin in earnest.

Hockey East picks – Oct. 10-12

Another year beckons and hope springs eternal.

Let’s get right to the games.

Dave’s record-to-date: 0-0-0
Jim’s record-to-date: 0-0-0

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Oct. 10

Boston University at Massachusetts  
Dave’s pick: In one game, the Terriers equal their total number of road wins from all of last year.
BU 4, UMass 1
Jim’s pick: A lot of people are anxious to see just how good this BU team can be. Well, a lot of people not wearing UMass sweaters.
BU 4, UMass 2

Boston College at Massachusetts-Lowell
Dave’s pick: BC’s questions up front will best Lowell’s questions in goal.
BC 4, UML 2
Jim’s pick: Difficult game to pick because the game is being played at Lowell and the place will be rocking.
BC 3, UML 2

Merrimack at Holy Cross
Dave’s pick: The Warriors should be better this year, and this becomes the first evidence.
MC 3, HC 2
Jim’s pick: With this game being played at Holy Cross, I’m going to pick the moderate upset here.
HC 3, MC 2

Providence at Ohio State
Dave’s pick: The Friars show why they’re expected to be the class of Hockey East.
PC 4, OSU 2
Jim’s pick: A tough road test for a highly-touted Providence team. They should still pass, though.
PC 3, OSU 1

Connecticut at Penn State  
Dave’s pick: How big of a step forward has Penn State taken? And what about UConn? This outlook remains murky.
UConn 3, PSU 2
Jim’s pick: Like Dave eludes to, it’s hard to know what either team will bring to the table. Thus, I’m going with home ice.
PSU 4, UConn 3

Icebreaker

Rensselaer at Notre Dame 
Dave’s pick: The Irish suffered key losses at every position but still should be one of Hockey East’s and the country’s top teams.
UND 4, RPI 2
Jim’s pick:  Agree. Notre Dame should have enough to win against RPI.
UND 4, RPI 2

Kendall Hockey Classic

Maine at Alaska Anchorage
Dave’s pick: I’m going with the home team here. I like the Black Bears, but last year they won only once on the road.
UAA 3, Maine 2
Jim’s pick: And it certainly doesn’t help that the Black Bears are making what is likely the longest road trip in college hockey (okay, maybe Fairbanks is longer).
UAA 4, Maine 2

Saturday, Oct. 11

Vermont at Northeastern
Dave’s pick: The Huskies weren’t much better at home last year than on the road, and the Catamounts were similarly balanced, so it isn’t home ice that I’m picking. It’s the Huskies.
NU 3, UVM 2
Jim’s pick: This game is a coin flip to me. Both teams have the talent. Comes down to which one shows up.
UVM 3, NU 2

Connecticut at Penn State
Dave’s pick: Penn State salvages the split.
PSU 3, UConn 2
Jim’s pick: It’s a sweep for the Nittany Lions at home.
PSU 4, UConn 2

Holy Cross at Merrimack
Dave’s pick: The Warriors claim the back end of the home-and-home to earn a sweep.
MC 4, HC 2
Jim’s pick: Home ice will turn the tables for Merrimack.
MC 5, HC 3

Providence at Ohio State
Dave’s pick: The Friars pull off a difficult road sweep.
PC 3, OSU 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: A good start to an exciting season for the Friars.
PC 2, OSU 1

New Hampshire at Union
Dave’s pick: This could be a tough year for the Wildcats, but there will be no shame in losing to the defending national champions.
Union 4, UNH 1
Jim’s pick: If this game were in Durham, I’d go with UNH. But it will be a tough road game in a very excited Messa Rink.
Union 3, UNH 2 

Kendall Hockey Classic

Maine vs Alaska
Dave’s pick: Will Maine’s struggles on the road extend to this year and a long trip to Alaska with no points to show for it? I’m going with a breakthrough and a split.
Maine 3, Alaska 2
Jim’s pick: Sorry Black Bear fans. Maine is going to have to win a few road games before I am confident to pick them away from Alfond.
Alaska 3, Maine 1

Sunday, Oct. 12

Icebreaker

Minnesota/Minnesota Duluth at Notre Dame
Dave’s pick: The Irish will beat Duluth, but if the opponent is the Gophers, that’s a different story.
UND 3, UMD  2/ UM 3, UND 2
Jim’s pick: Agree. This is Minnesota’s tournament to win, even though it’s being played in South Bend.
UND 4, UMD 2/UM 3, UND 1

 

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