Hockey East picks – Dec. 5-9

For the second straight week, Dave and I had just one game picked differently. And for the second straight week, I won that game. Thus, I have trimmed Dave’s lead to the slimmest of margins as we near the halfway point.

Jim last week: 10-7-0
Jim to-date: 76-38-9
Dave last week: 9-8-0
Dave to-date: 77-37-9

Friday, December 5

Boston University at Merrimack
Jim’s pick: There are a lot of tough games to pick this weekend and this game leads that list. Home ice favors the Warriors but BU has to be hungry having lost two of its last three. I think the Terriers can prevail even on enemy ice.
BU 4, MC 2
Dave’s pick:  How do you pick against a team that’s 7-1-0 at home? When it’s playing a team as talented as BU.
BU 4, MC 2

Notre Dame at Massachusetts
Jim’s pick: Neither team has played stellar of late though both have a recent game where they played well. I am going with Notre Dame strictly on the better on-paper matchup.
ND 3, UMass 2
Dave’s pick: I’ve been picking Notre Dame a lot more than I should have this year, but UMass is only 1-4-0 at home.
ND 4, UMass 2

Boston College at New Hampshire
Jim’s pick: I am going with what I think may be a minority pick here as I think that New Hampshire has the talent to win at home.
UNH 4, BC 3
Dave’s pick: This may be the game where Jim draws even with me, but I think the Wildcats have been struggling too much. BC has also played reasonably (.500) on the road.
BC 3, UNH 2 (OT)

Saturday, December 6

New Hampshire at Boston College
Jim’s pick: Back at Kelley Rink, I think BC should be able to win.
BC 4, UNH 2
Dave’s pick: The Eagles have five players on the preliminary US Junior roster, so they’d better pile up the wins, especially at home, while they can.
BC 4, UNH 2

Merrimack at Boston University
Jim’s pick: BU heads home to complete the sweep of the Warriors.
BU 5, MC 3
Dave’s pick: Agreed.  The Terriers sweep the previously 10-4-1 Warriors.
BU 5, MC 2

Northeastern at Providence
Jim’s pick: This sweep is over a four-day period, but Providence should be able to follow up its 5-1 road win on Wednesday.
PC 4, NU 1
Dave’s pick: A win here makes it a five-game winning streak. Is this the emergence of the Friars as we expected them to be in the preseason?
PC 3, NU 1

Notre Dame at Massachusetts
Jim’s pick: This feels like a split to me, but I’ll pick the sweep in hopes of getting at least one game correct.
ND 4, UMass 2
Dave’s pick: Sorry, UMass fans. I’m not as optimistic as Jim is. I think it’s going to be a tough year for the Minutemen.
ND 4, UMass 1

Maine at UMass Lowell
Jim’s pick: Maine is awful on the road. But the Black Bears also have been trouble for Lowell in recent seasons. I should maybe give the Black Bears the benefit and pick them, but I have to go with the trend: Road + Maine = Loss.
UML 4, Maine 3
Dave’s pick: I use a simpler math than Jim. League records. 6-0-2 > 2-5-0.
UML 4, Maine 1

Tuesday, December 9

Colgate at Providence
Jim’s pick: This is another difficult game to pick. I know Colgate will be a tough opponent but I think home ice is enough to carry the Friars.
PC 3, CU 2
Dave’s pick: This was my toughest pick of the week. Colgate had impressed but the Friars were on a roll. Like Jim, I think home ice makes the difference.
PC 3, CU 2 (OT)

Difficulty wearing the target, surprising Warriors and a turning point for NU?

If you were a Hockey East team ranked in the top 10 in the nation’s polls, this wasn’t a great week. That leads off the three things I learned this week:

1. It ain’t easy wearing a target on your back

Everyone knows it’s lonely at the top, and for many of the Hockey East teams ranked in this week’s USCHO.com poll, results weren’t pleasant. Newly-minted number one Boston University shouldn’t even to pay rent on the top spot as they will be quickly evicted come Monday. The Terriers dropped an OT decision to No. 18 Harvard on Tuesday and lost to Dartmouth, 2-0, on Sunday (a come-from-behind win over No. 9 Colgate was sandwiched in between). Harvard also knocked off No. 4 Massachusetts-Lowell, while No. 12 Boston College fell twice to No. 3 Minnesota and No. 20 Providence. No. 13 Vermont swept a two-game non-conference series at Maine. Coupled with the aforementioned win for Providence those were the lone highlights for the nationally-ranked Hockey East teams on the weekend.

2. So how good is Merrimack?

This has become the most daunting question I ponder in Hockey East these days. At 10-4-1, the Warriors are among the few teams in the nation with double-digit wins. They swept Clarkson at home this weekend to improve their record at Lawler Arena to 7-1-0 and have won five of their last seven. A part of me is duly impressed by the fast start for a Merrimack team most figured would finish among the bottom three in Hockey East. And another part of me keeps going back to the question: “Who have they played?” The only nationally-ranked opponent on Merrimack’s schedule to date was Providence. That series was a split. Taking the Friars out of the equation, Merrimack has only played one other team with a record over .500 (Mercyhurst at 5-4-2) and the cumulative record of the remaining six opponents is 24-45-16. So while I want to jump on the Merrimack bandwagon, I may wait a few weeks. The Warriors will have their first true test this weekend when they face Boston University in a home-and-home before traveling out to the Mariucci Classic after the New Year to face Minnesota and either Massachusetts-Lowell or RIT.

3. Have the Huskies turned things around?

With a 3-9-1 record, no one should be talking about any sort of a turnaround for Northeastern. But considering the fact that the Huskies are 3-1-0 in their last four game and that Saturday’s victory came over a highly-potent Minnesota team that one night earlier dismantled Boston College and you can’t blame yourself for at least taking notice. Northeastern certainly hasn’t flicked the offensive switch in the last four games, scoring just 10 goals in the stretch. But defensively, Northeastern has improved. In the three wins, NU has allowed just a single goal twice and two goals once. All three of the victories also came with Clay Witt between the pipes. Witt missed six games earlier in the season with injury and Northeastern went 0-5-1 over that stretch.

Hockey East picks – Nov. 28-Dec. 3

Dave and I picked differently on just two games last week and one of those wasn’t played. So I made up the most I possibly could on the deficit.

Jim last week: 11-3-1
Jim to-date: 66-31-9
Dave last week: 10-4-1
Dave to-date: 68-29-9

Friday, November 26

Minnesota at Boston College
Jim’s pick: I would like to think that home ice is enough to sway this game, but having seen Minnesota play on tape I think they are simply the better team
UM 4, BC 2
Dave’s pick: I have to agree. BC isn’t yet the juggernaut we come to expect each year.
UM 4, BC 2

Clarkson at Merrimack
Jim’s pick: I’ll admit to not knowing much about Clarkson this season. What I do know is that Merrimack has been a beast at home.
MC 3, CU 1
Dave’s pick:  I’m giving the Warriors the opener. A 5-1-0 home record is nothing to trifle with.
MC 3, CU 2

Vermont at Maine (non-conference)
Jim’s pick: The way that the Catamounts dismantled UMass in the last two games gives me even more faith this team can win at Maine.
UVM 4, UM 2
Dave’s pick: Much has been made of Maine’s inability to win on the road, but the Black Bears are only .500 at home. That’s not good enough to topple a team playing as well as Vermont.
UVM 3, UM 2

Massachusetts at Quinnipiac
Jim’s pick: I would like to think UMass could respond to tough losses to UVM with a great non-conference opponent. Quinnipiac on the road, though, isn’t the right matchup.
QU 4, UMass 1
Dave’s pick: Since Quinnipiac comes into this one at 8-3-1, I don’t think this is the right matchup regardless of the venue.
QU 4, UMass 2

Union at Notre Dame (Shillelagh Tournament, South Bend, Ind.)
Jim’s pick: This might be the most difficult game to pick. If Notre Dame can score some goals, they can win. That is a bit of an ‘if’, though. So home ice is my deciding factor.
UND 3, Union 2 (OT)
Dave’s pick: Notre Dame is surprisingly only at .500, and Union is even more surprisingly just a game over that mark. As Jim says, home ice decides this one.
UND 3, Union 2

Saturday, November 29

Boston College at Providence
Jim’s pick: Between Nick Ellis and Jon Gillies, Providence is riding back-to-back shutouts and a streak of 161:22 without allowing a goal. Against strong opponents BC’s offense hasn’t clicked. Thus, I’m going with the Friars.
PC 3, BC 2
Dave’s pick: I never expected these two teams to be cumulatively only three games over .500. So I’m going with home ice.
PC 3, BC 2 (OT)

Connecticut at Brown
Jim’s pick: UConn has played well against the top teams and no-so-well against teams they should beat. That’s what makes me nervous here. But the Hockey East homer in me will pick the Huskies.
UC 2, BU 1
Dave’s pick: There are only two teams in the country without a single point at home. Wisconsin is one; Brown is the other. It’s a small sample size, but UConn has just been playing better.
UC 3, BU 2

Colgate at Boston University
Jim’s pick: A loss to Harvard should give BU a shot in the arm.
BU 5, CU 2
Dave’s pick: The Terriers ain’t ranked number one for nothin’.
BU 4, CU 2

Clarkson at Merrimack
Jim’s pick: The Warriors continue to love home cooking.
MC 3, CU 2
Dave’s pick:  Clarkson is better than its .500 record so I think the Raiders salvage the split despite Merrimack’s prowess at home.
CU 3, MC 2

Vermont at Maine (non-conference)
Jim’s pick: I should be picking a split given Maine’s success on home ice. But my gut says that UVM keeps on winning.
UVM 3, UM 2
Dave’s pick: As I noted before, Maine hasn’t been that successful at home. The Catamounts sweep.
UVM 4, UM 2

Minnesota at Northeastern
Jim’s pick: If I can’t pick BC to beat the Gophers, I certainly can’t pick Northeastern.
UM 6, NU 2
Dave’s pick: This one could get ugly.
UM 5, NU 1

Quinnipiac at Massachusetts
Jim’s pick: The Bobcats win the back end of the home-and-home for the two-game sweep.
QU 3, UMass 2
Dave’s pick:  Agreed. Quinnipiac sweeps.
QU 4, UMass 2

Harvard at Massachusetts-Lowell
Jim’s pick: These are two of the nation’s hottest teams right now. And home ice proves the razor thin difference.
UML 3, HU 2
Dave’s pick: Despite Harvard’s impressive win over BU, I’m sticking with the River Hawks until proven wrong.
UML 4, HU 2

Ohio State/Western Michigan at Notre Dame (at Shillelagh Tournament, South Bend, Ind.)
Jim’s pick: Regardless of the opponent, I believe that the Irish should come out on top.
ND 4, OSU 1; ND 4, WMU 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed. Neither Ohio State nor Western Michigan have impressed this year.
ND 4, OSU 2; ND 5, WMU 1

Boston University at Dartmouth
Jim’s pick: A busy week ends on a winning note for BU.
BU 5, DC 2
Dave’s pick: That loss to the Crimson was just an aberration.
BU 4, DC 1

Wednesday, December 3

Providence at Northeastern
Jim’s pick: Things just don’t get any simpler for the Huskies.
PC 3, NU 2
Dave’s pick: The Huskies have won two of their last three, but they’ve also won only two for the entire season.
PC 4, NU 2

Connecticut at Massachusetts-Lowell
Jim’s pick: UConn has played the top of Hockey East tough. But that is a reason that Lowell should be ready.
UML 4, UC 2
Dave’s pick: Yup, I’m a River Hawk believer.
UML 4, UC 2

The trio to beat, 11 goals and Eichel

We’re about a third of the way through the league slate for most of the teams in Hockey East and it appears that there is a trio of teams to beat a top the Hockey East standings. That leads my three things I learned this weekend:

1. UML, BU and UVM: The alphabet soup trio at the top

Massachusetts-Lowell and Boston University have gotten off to fast starts in the first third of their seasons enough so that they are an obvious pair that should be in the running come season’s end for the Hockey East title. Vermont also can be thrown into that mix, though with a little bit more caution. Lowell has played seven games in league play without a loss (5-0-2). BU has played one more game and sits a point ahead at 6-1-1. Tied with BU is Vermont, though the Catamounts are the only team in the league to have already played 10 league contests or nearly half of the 22 league games. But their 6-3-1 record warrants them to be placed in this trio at the top that everyone is chasing.

And speaking of Vermont… 11 goals?

It is rare that you see a team reach double digits in goals, but that’s exactly what Vermont did on Saturday night, embarrassing their western New England rival Massachusetts, 11-1. Surprisingly, no one recorded a hat trick. If fact, only two players – Brady Shaw and Malcolm McKinney – had multi-goal game. But the UVM offense simply exploded scoring four times on the power play (though three came in the third when the game was out of reach). The loss was so bad that UMass coach John Micheletto apologized to his fans in the post-game press conference. These two faceoff again on Tuesday night in their traditional pre-Thanksgiving midweek game.

Eichel being Eichel

By now, I’m sure many of you have seen Jack Eichel’s game-winning goal from Friday’s 3-2 overtime win against Maine. If not, you only have to watch the first 15 or so seconds of this Youtube video:

We all know by now that Eichel will be the most talked about rookie (and possibly player) in Hockey East this season. His 19 points in 10 games leads the nation in points per game (1.90). But where does he rank among some of the other great forwards to go through Hockey East in recent years? Some players who posted impressive rookie years include Brian Gionta (1.55 points per game), Darren Haydar (1.48 PPG), Marty Reasoner (1.32 PPG) and Stephane DaCosta (1.32 PPG). Last year’s Hobey Baker winner Johnny Gaudreau averaged only a point a game as a rookie while another Hobey winner, Jason Krog, put up just .58 points per game his freshman year. And then there is probably the best rookie comparison for Eichel right now, Paul Kariya. In his legendary rookie campaign Kariya, the last person to score 100 points in a season, averaged 2.56 points per game. Those stats came in a totally different era for offense in college hockey. More on this on Thursday.

Hockey East picks – Nov. 21-25

Last week was good, but not great. My lead stays at three games.

Dave last week: 8-4-1
Jim last week: 8-4-1
Dave’s record-to-date: 58-25-8
Jim’s record-to-date: 55-28-8

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Nov. 21

Vermont at Connecticut 
Dave’s pick: Both teams have been very pleasant surprises, but the Catamounts should emerge victorious.
UVM 2, UConn 1
Jim’s pick: Agreed. As well as UConn has played, UVM is the better team.
UVM 4, UConn 2

Boston College at Massachusetts
Dave’s pick: The Eagles win their second straight with style.
BC 4, UMass 1
Jim’s pick: Sometimes this game can be a headache for BC. But I still think BC can win
BC 3, UMass 2

Northeastern at Merrimack
Dave’s pick: Home ice makes the difference in this matchup.
MC 2, NU 1
Jim’s pick: I think this is more than just home ice. Merrimack is simply a better team right.
MC 4, NU 1

Maine at Boston University
Dave’s pick: What a rebound the Terriers have made from last year!
BU 4, UM 2
Jim’s pick: Road. Maine. Enough said.
BU 5, UM 2

Providence at New Hampshire 
Dave’s pick: I keep saying that this is the week that the Friars assert themselves. But if I keep saying it and it still doesn’t happen, pretty soon I’ve got to stop saying it. One more week.
PC 3 UNH 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: Both of these teams confuse me right now. I feel like Providence is the better team. But I like the influence of home ice.
UNH 3, PC 2

Massachusetts-Lowell at Notre Dame 
Dave’s pick: It’s hard not to pick a split the way the league has been going, but since the Thursday night win is already a done deal, I’m going with the River Hawks to sweep.
UML 4, UND 3
Jim’s pick: I said last week that this was a split series, but Lowell dominated Notre Dame over the second half if the game on Thursday, making it too tough to pick the Irish.
UML 2, UND 1

Saturday, Nov. 22

Boston University at Connecticut 
Dave’s pick: The Huskies took a point in this matchup a couple weeks ago, but it’s really hard to pick against the Terriers right now.
BU 4, UConn 2
Jim’s pick: UConn player BU tough in Boston. Which makes this game ripe for revenge.
BU 4, UConn 1

Providence at New Hampshire
Dave’s pick: I should probably go with a split, but I’m remaining all-in on the Friars. At least until next week.
PC 2, UNH 1
Jim’s pick: Friars get the split at home.
PC 4, UNH 1

Maine at Boston College
Dave’s pick: The Black Bears have to get a road win sometime, but I said that for a long time last year, too. The Eagles get their third straight.
BC 3, UM 2
Jim’s pick: I don’t know what the road anti-magic is for Maine but I don’t see it ending soon.
BC 5, UM 2

Merrimack at Northeastern
Dave’s pick: How can I write in this week’s column about all the splits and then pick so many sweeps? I either have a problem with consistency or I’m just plain dumb. But I still think the 7-3-1 team beats the 1-8-1 team.
MC 3, NU 2
Jim’s pick: Yes, Dave is simply stupid.
NU 4, MC 2

Vermont at Massachusetts 
Dave’s pick: The first-place Catamounts run their record to 9-2-1.
UVM 3, UMass 2
Jim’s pick: I continue to simply love the Cats.
UVM 4, UMass 2

Tuesday, Nov. 25

Massachusetts at Vermont
Dave’s pick: Here’s another pick to sweep. The Catamounts pick up six huge league points in five days.
UVM 4, UMass 1
Jim’s pick: If they win on the road, I am picking the Cats at home.
UVM 3, UMass 1

Harvard at Boston University
Dave’s pick: Harvard has jumped out to a great start, but BU trumps that high card.
BU 4, HU 2
Jim’s pick: If this game were at Harvard it is more difficult to pick.
BU 3, HU 2

Army at Providence
Dave’s pick: I made my picks of the Friars sweeping UNH with considerable misgivings. I’ve got none about this one.
PC 4, Army 1
Jim’s pick: Hockey East teams have had their way with Army in recent years. Shouldn’t change here.
PC 5, Army 1

Rensselaer at New Hampshire 
Dave’s pick: The Wildcats win their “sandwich” game between series against Providence and BC.
UNH 3, RPI 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: RPI is among the most inconsistent. Which team shows up?
UNH 3, RPI 1

Splits, Northeastern and UConn

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

1. Split is the word.

“Every point is a tough point,” has been a cliché within Hockey East for years, but this week provided more than ample evidence. Seven league teams played in four series and they all ended in splits.

Home ice didn’t matter. Although New Hampshire and Northeastern both held serve in their home-and-home series, the other three were all played in the same venue on Friday and Saturday. Massachusetts-Lowell, Providence, and Merrimack hosted Penn State, Vermont, and Notre Dame, respectively, and not one of them could manage any better than two points.

National rankings also didn’t make a difference. Fourth-ranked Massachusetts-Lowell predictably defeated Penn State on Friday, but even with the strength advantage on paper and the home crowd advantage the River Hawks still lost 4-1 in the rematch, avoiding the shutout only via a mid-third period power play goal.

Parity is here and it is spelled S-P-L-I-T.

2. Northeastern gets off the schneid.

It took the Huskies ten games, but they finally got their first W. They had tied Lowell a week ago, but otherwise the season had been a nonstop succession of losses. That changed on Saturday.

Tied going into the third period, they surrendered an even-strength goal two minutes in and could have been forgiven if they thought, “Here we go again.” But they rallied with the equalizer a minute later and the game-winner at 8:21.

Will that carry over to this upcoming weekend’s series with Merrimack? We’ll have to see.

3. My enthusiasm for Connecticut may have gotten out of control.

But could you blame me?

When UConn defeated Boston College and tied Boston University (ranked third and fifth, respectively, at the time), it was hard not to let the optimism boil over. If you weren’t going to let loose after those two upsets, when were you?

A Friday night loss to Sacred Heart, however, let some of air out of that party balloon. UConn now stands at 2-5-3, despite its effectiveness at slaying the Commonwealth Avenue dragons.

But while expectations have necessarily been reset, it’s worth noting how well the Huskies have played in their own end. To date, they’ve allowed more than two goals only twice all year, and one of those times was the 4-4 tie with BU.

It’s still tough figuring where they’ll finish in the standings, but clearly this team is no cream puff.

Hockey East picks – Nov. 14-20

Okay, it’s time to stop the bleeding. Over the last three week’s Dave has begun a run of domination that needs to be stopped right now. I’m only three games back, but if the bleeding doesn’t get  stopped soon it could be a disaster.

Jim last week: 7-5-2
Jim to-date: 47-24-7
Dave last week: 9-3-2
Dave to-date: 50-21-7

Friday, November 14

Notre Dame at Merrimack
Jim’s pick: The Warriors are proving that Lawler continues to be a difficult place to play. But that’s still not enough for me to pick against Notre Dame, particularly with the Irish hungry after being swept at Minnesota.
UND 4, MC 2
Dave’s pick: I, too, am going with the Irish. They win their first road game.
UND 3, MC 2

Vermont at Providence
Jim’s pick: This might be the toughest series of the weekend to pick. My gut says it is going to be a split, but knowing which team will win each night is difficult. No particularly reason, but I’ll go with the home team on night one.
PC 3, UVM 2
Dave’s pick: I’ve belatedly become a believer in the Catamounts, but I started the season believing in the Friars. It’s time for their record to better reflect their play.
PC 3, UVM 2

Boston University at Maine
Jim’s pick: Similar to Merrimack, Maine has defended home ice well. But I still think BU is a step above the Black Bears.
BU 5, Maine 3
Dave’s pick: Home ice isn’t enough to slow down the 5-1-1 Terriers.
BU 4, Maine 2

Northeastern at New Hampshire
Jim’s pick: Neither team has played to well at this point, but at least New Hampshire has found the win column a few times.
UNH 3, NU 1
Dave’s pick: In the preseason, I thought both of these teams would finish at least in the middle of the pack. Instead, they have a single league point between them. When teams struggle, go with home ice.
UNH 2, NU 1

Boston College at Michigan State
Jim’s pick: At lot of this matchup depends on the health of goaltender Thatcher Demko. With him, BC wins. Without him, I’m not so sure. I’m going to bet on him getting back to health after battling a viral infection.
BC 2, MSU 1
Dave’s pick: Could the Eagles actually lose a fifth straight game? I just can’t believe it.
BC 2, MSU 1

Sacred Heart at Connecticut (at Watertown, Conn.)
Jim’s pick: I get nervous picking against Sacred Heart sometimes when they play Hockey East teams. But I think UConn will beat this in-state rival.
UC 4, SHU 2
Dave’s pick: UConn’s win over BC and tie with BU opened my eyes. Wide. Very wide.
UC 4, SHU 1

Penn State at Massachusetts-Lowell
Jim’s pick: Penn State is hot out of the gate, but Lowell is hotter. And at home.
UML 4, PSU 1
Dave’s pick: Even if Penn State is 5-1-2, Lowell will be 7-1-2.
UML 3, PSU 1

Saturday, November 15

Notre Dame at Merrimack
Jim’s pick: May pay for picking against Merrimack at home, but I have to take that chance.
UND 3, MC 2
Dave’s pick: This is a very tough call, but I’m going with Notre Dame and a road sweep.
UND 2, MC 1

New Hampshire at Northeastern
Jim’s pick: Northeastern will get in the win column eventually. But I can’t pick that happening this weekend.
UNH 4, NU 3
Dave’s pick: I’m not sure what to make of the Huskies, but they’re going to have to win at least one game before I pick them.
UNH 3, NU 2

Vermont at Providence
Jim’s pick: Here is the split pick that I know I will regret.
UVM 3, PC 2
Dave’s pick:  This isn’t an intentional Four Corners Offense to protect my lead. I’m sooo tempted to go with a Providence sweep, but I’ve doubted Vermont too much this year.
UVM 2, PC 1

Penn State at Massachusetts-Lowell
Jim’s pick: It will be closer in the second game of this series, but I think Lowell can sweep.
UML 3, PSU 2
Dave’s pick: I don’t even think it will be close.
UML 4, PSU 1

Tuesday, November 18

Rensselaer at Connecticut
Jim’s pick: I can’t figure out RPI this season. And thus, I’m going with the Huskies at home.
UC 3, RPI 2
Dave’s pick: UConn can’t really be this good, can it?
UC 2, RPI 1

Thursday, November 20

Massachusetts-Lowell at Notre Dame
Jim’s pick: Another really tough series that I feel may be a split. I have an entire week to think about how I’m going to pick the second game of the series. But for game one, I’m going with the River Hawks.
UML 3, UND 2
Dave’s pick: I suppose the percentages say to go with Notre Dame at home, but the River Hawks have looked too good and the Irish have been too inconsistent.
UML 4, UND 3 (OT)

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?

BNY Mellon Wealth Management