It’s down to four teams for the Hockey East title. [scg_html_hea2013]The way the matchups line up, it’s a pairing of similar teams in each bracket. It’s also a championship that is as much up for grabs as any in recent memory, which is befitting of a league that went into the final weekend of the regular season with the four top teams all within two points of each other (and another two just three points [...]
Question: How do you write a “three things I learned” Monday wrapup when Hockey East teams only played a single game over the weekend?
Answer: Stretch the boundaries a bit.
So here goes. These are the three things I think I learned.
Three. Hockey East sits pretty atop the national rankings.
You’ve probably already noticed that the league boasts the top two teams in the country and three in the top six: Boston College at number one, New Hampshire at number two, and Boston University at number six.
But it’s even better than that.
Notre Dame, which will be joining Hockey East next year, sits at number three.
So factoring in the near future, it’s first, second, third, and sixth in the country. Let the chest thumping begin.
Two. It’s no disgrace to lose to the US Under-18 team.
While it’s true that Merrimack’s 3-1 loss to the U-18 squad was the first among Division I teams affiliated with any of the conferences (the national team also beat Alabama-Huntsville), that’s no reason for Warrior fans to hang their heads.
To begin with, Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy used the exhibition game to experiment, including starting Nick Drew in goal and giving him the first period. A senior, Drew had only previously played two minutes as a sophomore. (On this night, Sam Marotta played the second and Rasmus Tirronen the third.)
This is what exhibitions are made for. Reward a kid who has toiled long and hard in practices to make his teammates better without a shot at the limelight himself. Good for Dennehy even though Drew did allow two goals, the eventual losing margin.
Besides, the U-18 team has played many of the top teams in the country dead even. Witness these scores: 2-2 against #2 UNH; 1-1 against #3 Notre Dame; and 2-2 against #4 Minnesota.
One: I may have been selling Vermont short this year.
But maybe not.
Regular readers may have noticed that I’ve picked Vermont to lose most of their games, including Saturday’s contest at St. Lawrence that the Catamounts won, 5-2.
Time for more respect?
Well, they’re still 4-8-3 with their only other wins over Providence, Northeastern, and Maine. The latter two have also struggled. The Catamounts still rank ninth in league overall offense (ahead of Maine) and ninth in overall defense (ahead of Massachusetts).
Their schedule is also going to get tougher since they’ve only played one game against the league’s top three teams (BC, UNH, and BU). They’d better have locked up a playoff berth going into the final three weekends of the season because those matchups will include six contests against the Big Three.
All that said, they have played well on the penalty kill and have gotten better on the power play. The win over the Saints came to a great extent because of special teams. The Catamounts scored on two of their three man advantages and killed all six of St. Lawrence’s. And freshman Brody Hoffman turned in another strong performance, recording 39 saves.
Goaltending and special teams will take you a long way so continued improvement there could result in a playoff berth for the Catamounts.
Kermit the Frog sang years ago that it’s not easy being green. Well, it’s also not easy being the number one team in the USCHO.com poll. New Hampshire became another Hockey East team to learn that this weekend, and that leads the three things I learned this week.
1. The King is dead, long live the King
While New Hampshire leapfrogged past Boston College last weekend to become the No. 1 team in the nation, it’s conceivable that the Eagles may reassume that position when the USCHO.com poll is released on Monday. UNH lost to Boston University (more on them shortly) at home on Thursday. BC tied Providence on the road on Friday. With Miami losing to Lake Superior, that could allow BC to return to the top spot.
2. Here come the Terriers
There are a significant number of storylines in Hockey East heading to the break, many of which will be discussed in our midseason wrap, due out in the coming days. My favorite right now is the performance of Boston University. The Terriers have surprised me. Sure, we knew they had a good recruiting class coming in, but this club faced offseason scrutiny and even lost a talented forward in Yasin Cisse about a week ago. Twice in a matter of seven days, BU won games over the number one team in the nation and that, by itself, says plenty about this team.
3. Best way to combat a struggling offense: shutouts.
Yes, I’m talking about Massachusetts-Lowell, which has struggled to score goals this first half. Saturday night, the River Hawks made it easier of their anemic offense when Connor Hellebucyk shutout Northeastern (yes, I know, the Huskies don’t exactly score lights out). That said, the River Hawks have won four of their last five games against teams not named New Hampshire. Tonight’s game against Harvard is a very important litmus test, though a win could really send Lowell to the break on a high note.
Jimmy and I only disagreed on a single game last week. Which means we both got shellacked on Friday and had to make do with modest Saturday comebacks.
Even though he picked up a game on me, I’m still ahead by five so I’ll be heading into the holidays with a nice cushion barring a cataclysmic collapse.
Knock on wood.
Dave last week: 5-6-1
Jim last week: 6-5-1
Dave’s record-to-date: 54-24-6
Jim’s record-to-date: 49-29-6
Here are this week’s picks:
Friday, Dec. 7
Boston College at Providence
Dave’s pick: Jerry York gets win number 925. No question.
BC 4, PC 1
Jim’s pick: Agree. I think BC will have a focus to get this record behind them now.
BC 4, PC 2
Colgate at Massachusetts
Dave’s pick: Colgate comes into the game 6-3-0 at home, but 0-4-2 on the road. Look for the ohfer streak to continue.
UMass 3, Colgate 2
Jim’s pick: Coin flip on this one. But as Dave points out, the road hasn’t been kind to the ‘Gate.
UMass 4, Colgate 2
Harvard at Merrimack
Dave’s pick: Even though both clubs have produced quite even home-road splits, I’m still figuring that home ice proves decisive. (Translation: don’t confuse me with the facts; my mind is made up.)
MC 3, HU 2
Jim’s pick: I actually am going to go with the upset here. Home ice is important, but so is Harvard’s skill.
HU 3, MC 2
Northeastern at Massachusetts-Lowell
Dave’s pick: I thought (correctly) that New Hampshire would stall the River Hawks’ brief momentum surge, but there are no Wildcats or Eagles on the horizon. Lowell doesn’t lose a game for the rest of 2012.
UML 3, NU 1
Jim’s pick: I think NU may give Lowell a game, but the River Hawks should win this one.
UML 5, NU 3
Maine at Boston University
Dave’s pick: I’m not sure whether this entire season will be a long one for the Black Bears, but I’m pretty sure this game will be one.
BU 5, Maine 1
Jim’s pick: Can’t go with Maine here the way they are playing (and more importantly, the way BU is playing.
BU 4, Maine 2
Colgate at Massachusetts
Dave’s pick: The Minutemen sweep to go a game over .500.
UMass 4, Colgate 3
Jim’s pick: Feel like a split, but I’ll be a Hockey East homer.
UMass 2, Colgate 1
Monday, Dec. 10
Massachusetts-Lowell at Harvard
Dave’s pick: The percentages might opt for the Crimson at home, but I see the River Hawks going on a roll.
UML 3, HU 2
Jim’s pick: I’m putting my homerism behind and going for a Crimson sweep over Hockey East.
HU 4, UML 2
Tuesday, Dec. 11
Army at Merrimack
Dave’s pick: The Black Knights always provide spirited opposition, but the Warriors will be too much for them.
MC 4, Army 2
Jim’s pick: Agreed. Merrimack all the way here.
MC 5, Army 1
Massachusetts at Yale
Dave’s pick: The Bulldogs prevent UMass from heading into the break with a four-game winning streak.
Yale 4, UMass 3
Jim’s pick: Yale is the better team, no doubt.
Yale 3, UMass 1
Saturday, Dec. 15
Vermont at St. Lawrence
Dave’s pick: Taking three-of-four points at Maine was an encouraging sign for the Catamounts, but their old North Country rivals will put a stop to that.
SLU 4, UVM 2
Jim’s pick: Tough trip, particularly when the Cats aren’t yet on top of their game.
SLU 4, UVM 2
Thursday, Dec. 20
Vermont at Providence
Dave’s pick: The Catamounts join Maine in the club no team wants to join before the holidays: The 10 Losses Club.
PC 3, UVM 1
Jim’s pick: Hadn’t thought about win total, but still think Providence can pull out a win before the break, particularly at home.
PC 3, UVM 2
These are the three things I think I learned this week.
Three: Home ice isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.
I’d commented earlier this season that home ice appeared to be more dominant than usual this year. Well, this weekend may have singlehandedly changed all that.
One might have thought that the Boston University – Boston College home-and-home series would have been home ice’s undoing since going into the weekend the road team had won eight of the last nine battles between the archrivals. However, both teams held serve in their own barn.
It’s what happened everywhere else except for New Hampshire’s sweep of Massachusetts-Lowell.
Providence and Merrimack, two teams that appeared to be evenly matched, played a home-and-home series. The road team won each night.
Massachusetts and Northeastern also played a home-and-home. The Huskies had been struggling greatly, so it looked probable that either the Minutemen would sweep or home ice would prevail. Nope. Once again, the road team won each night.
Finally, Vermont travelled to Maine for a two-game set. Although the Black Bears had struggled mightily coming out of the gate, taking three-of-four points in their last two games seemed to indicate a team emerging from those rough times. And with the Catamounts struggling themselves, the Alfond Arena crowd loomed as a decisive seventh man.
Make that a no. The Catamounts took three-of-four points.
Two: BU might be ready to make it a three-team race for the Hockey East title… except that New Hampshire isn’t cooperating.
When the Terriers defeated BC on Friday night, they made an important statement. BC and UNH might be numbers one and two in the country, but BU was ready to join them.
Prior to the win, BU had lost all three games against the two frontrunners. Getting swept would have put the Terriers 10 points behind the Eagles and seven behind the Wildcats. Perhaps just as importantly, it might have implanted an also-ran mentality onto the Terrier psyches.
The win changed all that.
BC’s convincing rebound victory back at Conte Forum re-established that the Eagles remained at the top of the pecking order. And UNH’s sweep of Lowell added two more points of separation in the standings between the Wildcats and Terriers.
That makes Thursday’s trip to Durham a huge one for BU. A loss will create even more distance in the standings and also further solidify the pecking order. Even a win for BU will mean that it has lost two-of-three to BC and UNH; a loss will mean a UNH season sweep.
One: BU proved a worthy test of Jerry York becoming the winningest all-time coach.
Friday night’s Terrier win proved that. Saturday night’s contest also was no cake-walk.
I don’t root in games between two Hockey East teams, but I’m prepared to make an exception on Friday night when the Eagles travel to Providence. I have a lot of respect for what Nate Leaman is doing with the Friar program. Heck, my niece Cherie played for the women’s team.
But I’d like to see Jerry York break Ron Mason’s record of 924 wins against the Friars. I’d like that 925th win to come in New England so BC fans have a fighting chance to see it. Also, the Friars will be a worthy test. The win will be no foregone conclusion.
The alternative isn’t pretty. If the Eagles tie or lose to PC, they’ll then be off for the holidays and the record-breaking game will come out in Minnesota at the Mariucci Classic. Few BC fans will be there to see it.
Additionally, BC’s opening-round contest will be against Alabama-Huntsville. No offense to the Chargers, but they’re 1-12-1 this season and went 2-28-1 last year. If that matchup is even close, I’ll eat the game puck.
Record-breaking wins don’t come with style points, but it says here Jerry York’s win will be best savored if it comes next Friday. I hope that happens.
When Boston College coach Jerry York recorded his 500th win back in 1996, USCHO was in its first year of existence. There was no room for us in many press boxes and some coaches were befuddled by exactly what USCHO was all about.
“What’s this Internet website thing?” one coach asked me, his face clouded with confusion. “Kind of like email or something?”
So when I decided to contact NHL legend Dave Taylor for a feature on York’s milestone — Taylor starred for York at Clarkson — I doubted I’d get through. Taylor was, after all, the Los Angeles Kings General Manager, a very busy man during a very busy part of his season. And I was a nobody writing for an organization nobody had heard of — a kind of email sort of thing.
Taylor’s secretary took my phone number and the message that I was calling regarding a feature on Jerry York, all the while sounding as mystified about USCHO as so many people were back then. I assumed I’d never hear from the GM.
Five minutes later, Taylor called.
He called back a nobody who wrote for an “email or something” publication because the topic was Jerry York. Such is the loyalty that York engenders. Taylor spoke at length with great admiration for his former coach.
* * *
York has earned the admiration of more than his former players. Rival coaches refer to him as the consummate gentleman and “the nicest guy in the business.”
Perhaps at no time did he earn those words more than in one gut-wrenching post-game press conference. BC had just suffered an agonizing loss, the kind that often turns its participants into a maelstrom of emotions.
As was the custom, the losing coach, York, spoke to the media first. That didn’t sit well with one self-important windbag for The New York Times. (The New York Times may be a great newspaper, but nobody reads it for its mind-blowing college hockey content.)
After York answered several questions, the windbag uttered unquestionably the most insulting words I’ve ever witnessed in such a venue.
“Do you think we could get the winning coach out here?” said Mr. The-World-Revolves-Around-Me.
Jerry York flushed but remained polite and in short order excused himself.
Grace under fire. Consummate class.
* * *
Four years after recording his 500th victory, win number 600 came. Although the Eagles would go on to win the national championship that spring, York’s BC teams had only come tantalizingly close to that point.
Bridesmaids but not brides.
They’d been in three straight Four Fours and two national championship games in the three years. But no titles. Some wondered if BC’s drought that dated back to 1949 would ever end.
“You’ve just got to keep knocking on the door,” York would say, sometimes ashen-faced after a tough loss. “Eventually, it will open.”
York was right. The door opened later that year.
It’s opened again three of the last five years with NCAA titles in 2008, 2010, and 2012. Boston College has become the standard against which all other hockey programs are measured.
And Jerry York has now tied Ron Mason for winningest all-time coach with 924 wins. Not too bad for a guy who wasn’t sure how long he’d last in the business.
“I told my wife we’d try it for five years,” York said, “and if nothing came of it I’d get a real job.”
After blowing a 4-0 lead on Friday night, finishing in a 4-4 tie with Colorado College, it looked like New Hampshire’s trip to Colorado could be a disaster when the Wildcats fell behind, 3-0, to Denver on Saturday. Then something changed. That leads my three takeaways from this weekend.
1. Comeback makes long flight more tolerable
According to United Airlines, a flight from Denver to Boston is 1,754 miles and takes 3 hours, 49 minutes from gate to gate. Add another 90-minute bus ride from Logan Airport to UNH’s campus in Durham, N.H. That would be one long, ugly trip had the Wildcats not posted a memorable comeback at Denver on Saturday night when Grayson Downing and Kevin Goumas each potted hat tricks in a 6-4 victory. UNH was on both sides of big-time comebacks on the weekend but I think everyone in the Wildcats travel party would say they prefer to make the comeback prior to such a long trip home.
2. Northeastern is in dire straits
Things have turned ugly for the Northeastern Huskies. Since posting upsets of Merrimack and Boston College to begin the season, Northeastern has posted but two wins against Alabama-Huntsville, a team that isn’t exactly lighting it up in college hockey. Last Friday night, after jumping out to a 1-0 lead, Northeastern allowed a late goal in the first to send its game against St. Lawrence to intermission tied at 1. From there, the Huskies sleep walked through the game, losing 5-2. According to head coach Jim Madigan, it may be time to blow things up and start fresh, with each player looking deep inside themself. I couldn’t agree more (more on this in Thursday’s column).
3. A challenge to our readers
OK, I’ll admit it. I need your help, particularly those with great memories of college hockey. With Boston College’s win last Saturday, it has won 29 of its last 30 games, dating to last season. Long-time radio announcer at Providence Mike Logan mentioned to me that this run is the best in college hockey since a Maine team that went 42-1-2 in 1992-93. But after I looked into it, even that Black Bears team didn’t post 29 wins in a 30-game period. I’ve racked my brain all weekend trying to figure out if any other team has posted 29 wins in 30 games and the only club I could think that would qualify for that is Cornell. In 1969-70, the Big Red went 29-0-0, thus regardless of the result of Cornell’s final game in 1968-69 or the first game of the 1970-71 seasons, Cornell at least matches BC’s 29 wins in 30 games.
So thus, I challenge you, my readers, to find another team since 1970 that has posted 29 wins in 30 games at the Division I level. Yes, it will take a very good memory and a little bit of research. But send me your thoughts to email@example.com and I will verify any answer. Anyone who provides me with a correct answer by Wednesday, Nov. 28 at noon will get a mention in this week’s Hockey East column. So start pulling out those old media guides!
I’m thankful I enjoyed such a good picks record last week. I’m unhappy, though, that Jim did, too.
With this week’s slate of nonconference games, I’ll be surprised if we once again emerge with the same results. Just too many unfamiliar teams to disagree on.
Dave last week: 8-1-1
Jim last week: 8-1-1
Dave’s record-to-date: 41-17-3
Jim’s record-to-date: 37-21-3
Here are this week’s picks:
Friday, Nov. 23
New Hampshire at Colorado College
Dave’s pick: I’m convinced the Wildcats will win. The only question is whether they’ll allow a goal.
UNH 2, CC 0
Jim’s pick: I like UNH in this one as well. Can’t say I’ll give them another shutout, but they should get past a reeling CC team.
UNH 3, CC 1
Colgate at Merrimack
Dave’s pick: Colgate has won two in a row and Merrimack has lost three straight, but I’m going to fly in the face of Big Mo.
MC 3, Colgate 2
Jim’s pick: Coin flip time. Came up tails, thus Colgate gets my pick.
Colgate 3, MC 2
St. Lawrence at Northeastern
Dave’s pick: Since upseting Boston College in the opening weekend of the season, the Huskies have beaten only Alabama-Huntsville. The Larries have a four-game winless streak themselves and are on the road, but I’m giving them the nod, albeit without a great deal of conviction.
SLU 3, NU 2
Jim’s pick: Going to go against Dave here as well. I think St. Lawrence is a good team, but Northeastern is a better team than many think.
NU 4, SLU 2
Minnesota at Vermont
Dave’s pick: Yes, this game will be played in the Catamounts’ barn, but I’d be going with the Gophers even if it were played on Pluto.
UM 4, UVM 1
Jim’s pick: UVM had a nice home win last Sunday, but this is Minnesota we’re talking about here.
UM 5, UVM 2
Saturday, Nov. 24
Dartmouth at Boston College
Dave’s pick: This is another you-could-play-it-on-Pluto contest.
BC 4, Dartmouth 1
Jim’s pick: I think this will be a lot closer than Dave, particularly the fast start the Big Green has had.
BC 3, Dartmouth 2
Providence at Brown
Dave’s pick: The Friars have three losses in their last four games, but I’m going with them even on the road.
PC 3, Brown 2
Jim’s pick: The annual Mayor’s Cup game is always a big one. While I should go with the home team, I think PC is a little bit better.
PC 4, Brown 2
St. Lawrence at Boston University
Dave’s pick: The Terriers win this one going away.
BU 4, SLU 1
Jim’s pick: Agreed. Unless BU sleepwalks, they should take this game.
BU 3, SLU 1
New Hampshire at Denver
Dave’s pick: The percentage play in this marquee matchup of the weekend is to go with home ice. After all, both teams are playing terrific hockey. The number two team in the country hosts number three. But I’ve been too impressed by the Wildcats to let little things like 2,000 miles and high altitude sway me.
UNH 2, UD 1
Jim’s pick: Don’t like picking against UNH right now, but I think home ice will play enough of a factor that the Pioneers can come out on top (barely).
DU 3, UNH 2
Quinnipiac at Massachusetts
Dave’s pick: UMass has played a number of frustrating close-but-no-cigar games against strong teams. Put away the lighter, because this looks like another.
QU 3, UMass 2
Jim’s pick: Quinnipiac ruined my perfect week last week. Not making that mistake again.
QU 3, UMass 2
Princeton at Massachusetts-Lowell
Dave’s pick: The River Hawks put together back-to-back offensive outbursts.
UML 6, Princeton 2
Jim’s pick: Lowell will win but the score will likely be closer.
UML 4, Princeton 2
Minnesota at Vermont
Dave’s pick: See previous note regarding Pluto.
UM 5, UVM 2
Jim’s pick: Cats fight hard, but still get swept.
UM 3, UVM 2
These are the three things I think I learned this week.
Three: Boston College can get away with occasionally playing like pyromaniacs.
The Eagles have earned their unanimous number one ranking, but they’ve played with fire a couple times this season and gotten away with it. They kicked off their current nine-game winning streak with a victory over Massachusetts that serves as Exhibit A.
UMass led 3-0 heading into the third period, but BC used its superior firepower to roar back and send the game into overtime, 4-4, where it completed the comeback with an OT goal.
A handful of games later, the Eagles again found themselves down in the third period to the Minutemen, this time trailing 2-1 with 11 minutes left before coming away with a 3-2 win in regulation.
The latest exhibit for the prosecution charging the Eagles with pryomania came on Friday night against Merrimack. Once again, they dug a three-goal hole for themselves, trailing 3-0 midway into the second period. Little more than four minutes later, however, they’d again used their formidable firepower to tie the score and in the third got the game-winner.
Hey, even consensus number one teams fall behind and those likely to stay number one have the ability to crawl out of those holes. But the Eagles had better get the pyromania out of their system early in the year when they’ve got a shot at getting away with it. Come March and April, those kind of habits send you heading for the golf course.
Two: New Hampshire’s shutout streak was a team effort, not just Casey DeSmith.
Don’t get me wrong. DeSmith is playing terrific hockey right now, but the new UNH scoreless record of 204 minutes and 40 seconds he set is thanks to a lot of terrific defensive play by his teammates. The Wildcats’ 3-0 win over Massachusetts-Lowell on Friday provided ample evidence of that. Over the first two periods, they held the River Hawks to a total of only 12 shots. Of the 23 taken by the final buzzer, few were of the grade A variety.
DeSmith made the tough saves that he needed to and that was especially important early because UNH didn’t get its second goal until midway through the third period. But the entire Wildcat squad should take pride in DeSmith’s new school record.
One: Lowell may have experienced its “bung-puller” game on Sunday against UMass.
The River Hawks must have felt terribly frustrated after Friday night’s 3-0 loss to UNH. That shutout left them with only 13 goals in eight games, a 1.63 goals per game average better only than Maine’s 1.42.
On Sunday against UMass, however, they scored eight goals, led by Riley Wetmore’s hat trick. It was the kind of offensive outburst that can sometimes act as a “bung-puller” for teams, making it so talented but frustrated players stop gripping their sticks too hard.
The only cautionary caveat is this: Lowell’s next two league games come against UNH. For those with short memories, the Wildcats are the number one defensive team in the country.
That which I receive, I giveth back. Very useless week for me.
Jim last week: 6-4-0
Dave last week: 8-2-0
Jim’s record-to-date: 29-20-2
Dave’s record-to-date: 33-16-2
Here are this week’s picks:
Friday, Nov. 16
Merrimack at Boston College
Jim’s pick: Let’s keep this simple… I’m not betting against BC right now.
BC 4, MC 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed 100 percent. I won’t even think about picking against BC for another couple of weeks. (Hint: a home-and-home with BU.)
BC 4, MC 2
Massachusetts at Maine
Jim’s pick: As good as I feel about UMass, I also think Maine gained some confidence, so I’ll go with the Black Bears.
Maine 3, UMass 2
Dave’s pick: I’m not overjoyed about going with UMass on the road, but Maine needs to win more than just one game to convince me.
UMass 2, Maine 1
Northeastern at Providence
Jim’s pick: Two wins for the Huskies are a good sign, but I’m taking the home team.
PC 3, NU 1
Dave’s pick: If Northeastern’s two wins last weekend had been over a more formidable foe than Alabama-Huntville, I might be picking differently.
PC 3, NU 2
New Hampshire at Massachusetts-Lowell
Jim’s pick: Lowell has been a good home team in the last couple of years, but UNH seems like the read deal.
UNH 5, UML 2
Dave’s pick: I don’t think it’ll be that easy for the Wildcats, but they will win.
UNH 4, UML 2
Boston University at Vermont
Jim’s pick: I love the way Vermont is playing but also not picking against BU right now. Solid team.
BU 3, UVM 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed. For now, I see BU as the third of the league’s top three teams, but that’s enough to defeat the Catamounts even on the road.
BU 4, UVM 2
Sunday, Nov. 18
Northeastern at Vermont
Jim’s pick: I think Northeastern will be hungry, but the Cats will be as well at home.
UVM 4, NU 2
Dave’s pick: I agonized over this pick and fear I’m going with way too many road teams this week, but I’m still going with the Huskies.
NU 3, UVM 2
New Hampshire at Boston University
Jim’s pick: There are a lot of difficult picks this weekend, but I think this is the toughest by far. I’m actually going with UNH by a single goal (could be OT).
UNH 4, BU 3
Dave’s pick: Until proven otherwise, I see UNH as the league’s second best team. (Ummm, if you have to ask who I’m pegging as number one, you ain’t been paying attention.)
UNH 3, BU 2
Massachusetts-Lowell at Massachusetts
Jim’s pick: I really want to pick UMass at home but also think Lowell can get up for this game.
UML 4, UMass 2
Dave’s pick: Do the River Hawks start playing like the team we thought they’d be way back in the preseason? If so, when? Right now, there are more questions than answers.
UML 2, UMass 1
Tues., Nov. 20
Vermont at Massachusetts
Jim’s pick: Think home ice could be the deciding factor in this game.
UMass 3, UVM 2
Dave’s pick: Catamount fans may be wondering when I’m ever going to pick for their team. Call it a hangover from last season.
UMass 3, UVM 1
Quinnipiac at Providence
Jim’s pick: Good measuring stick for the ECAC here. I’d like to think Hockey East is better.
PC 5, QU 2
Dave’s pick: Believe it or not, Hockey East currently stands 1-3 against the ECAC. Granted, all three losses can be laid on Maine’s doorstep (much like a cat leaving a dead mouse), but I wouldn’t be surprised if the good guys fall to 1-4.
QU 3, PC 2
After an election week where every major news network wanted to be the first to call each of the 50 states, I want to make a very early call about Hockey East. Three teams seem definitively head and shoulders above the rest, and that leads my three things that I learned this weekend:
1. Hockey East seems to be breaking into two tiers
Call them whatever you want: the top and middle-bottoms; the good and the not-so-good; haves and have nots. However you slice it, it seems that this year’s Hockey East standings will be made up of a three team top tier and a seven-team undefinable (at this point) middle/bottom. Boston College, New Hampshire and Boston University (in that order) are clearly the three best teams in the league. After that, though, is anyone’s guess. Many might say Maine belongs at the bottom at 2-9-0 but having seen the Black Bears live for the first time on Saturday, I feel this is a decent team that hasn’t, yet, outgrown some costly mistakes. Massachusetts-Lowell had high expectations and haven’t come close to living up to them yet, but it’s too early to write off that club. So while BC, BU and UNH seem clear that they will be battling for a league title come March, the remaining septet could be fighting for everything from home ice to a playoff spot.
2. Merrimack’s weekend: lost at home
Prior to this weekend, I was pretty high on Merrimack. High enough to at least pick them at home against BU, a team I clearly consider a top team in the league (see above). But a loss against the Terriers and another against UConn on Saturday night at home not only have tempered my expectations, it also puts up an antenna when (yes, I know it’s early) I think about the NCAA tournament field. I think Merrimack could have the makings of an NCAA tournament team, but Saturday’s loss against UConn has dug the Warriors a major hole. Understand, I’m not trying to imply anything negative about UConn, a very good Atlantic Hockey team. But Atlantic Hockey’s RPI as a conference is perrenially low, thus lowering Merrimack’s RPI as well, a major criteria for an NCAA bid. This isn’t a death sentence for Merrimack but rather a moment of concern in my mind.
3. Rivalries suit Eagles well
Think the BC Eagles like playing big games in front of big crowds? This weekend (well, and three national title in the last five years) would answer in the affirmative. BC defeated rival Notre Dame in the “Holy War on Ice” on Friday night before taking the 10 minute bus ride on Sunday to knock off the “real” BC rival BU, 4-2, at Agganis Arena. “Notre Dame is a big rival of ours but [BU] rachets it up even more,” said BC head coach Jerry York after Sunday’s win. “A lot of good players we saw against us this weekend. Certainly this was a really big weekend from our perspective.”