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Hockey East picks – Dec. 27-31

I had the best week of my year right before break giving me some breathing room over Dave.

Jim last week: 8-1-0
Jim to-date: 81-39-12
Dave last week: 5-4-0
Dave to-date: 77-43-12

Friday, December 27

Three Rivers Classic (Pittsburgh)
Boston College vs. Bowling Green
Jim’s pick: Jerry York may be facing his old squad, but don’t expect BC to have any mercy.
BC 5, BSGU 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed. Even coming out of the holiday break with the rust that involves as well as the players away at the World Juniors, BC should have an easy time of it.
BC 4, BGSU 1

Saturday, December 27

Three Rivers Classic (Pittsburgh)
Boston College vs. Robert Morris/Penn State
Jim’s pick: I see the Eagles taking home the title regardless of opponent, even missing a few players to World Juniors.
BC 3, RMU 2; BC 4, PSU 2
Dave’s pick: I’m with Jimmy. The Eagles are the class of this tournament.
BC 4, RMU 2; BC 4, PSU 2

Florida College Classic (Estero, Fla.)
New Hampshire vs. Cornell
Jim’s pick: This will be quite a test to begin the second half for the Wildcats. I think they will pass.
UNH 4, Cornell 2
Dave’s pick:  Even though Cornell comes in at 7-4-2 and UNH at only 9-9-1, I’m also going with the Wildcats.
UNH 3, Cornell 2

Maine vs. Princeton
Jim’s pick: Maine hasn’t played well away from Alfond, but as co-host, this should be Maine’s home-away-from-home
Maine 3, Princeton 2
Dave’s pick: Home or away, Maine is simply the superior team to the 3-12-0 Tigers.
Maine 4, Princeton 1

Catamount Cup (Burlington, Vt.)
Massachusetts-Lowell vs. Canisius
Jim’s pick: Lowell entered break a red-hot team. Will it continue into the second half? I think so.
UML 3, Canisius 1
Dave’s pick: I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Lowell reprise its role last year as the nation’s top team down the stretch.
UML 4, Canisius 1

Clarkson at Vermont
Jim’s pick: This is a tough game to pick given Clarkson’s first-half success and Vermont’s success at home. I’m going with home ice.
UVM 4, Clarkson 2
Dave’s pick: Catamount fans aren’t going to be happy with this pick, but I just can’t ignore Clarkson’s 12-3-1 record.
Clarkson 4, UVM 2

Sunday, December 29

Florida College Classic (Estero, Fla.)
Consolation/Championship
Jim’s pick: I think this is Maine’s tournament to win and UNH will beat any team except Maine on the second night.
Maine 3, UNH 2 (OT); UNH 4, Princeton 2; Maine 4, Cornell 2

Dave’s pick: I think it’s UNH’s tournament to win and Maine will beat any team except UNH on the second night.
UNH 3, Maine 2; UNH 4, Princeton 2; Maine 3, Cornell 2

Catamount Cup (Burlington, Vt.)
Massachusetts-Lowell vs. Clarkson
Jim’s pick: The River Hawks can’t play host Vermont as this is a set-field tournament. Thus, they might head back to Lowell champions without even knowing it. That’s what I think will happen.
UML 4, Clarkson 2
Dave’s pick: I need to disagree more with Jim to make up ground, but I can’t disagree.
UML 4, Clarkson 2

Vermont vs. Canisius
Jim’s pick: Cats continue to roll at home.
UVM 3, Canisius 1
Dave’s pick: Once again, Jim and I agree.
UVM 4, Canisius 1

UConn Holiday Classic (Storrs, Conn.)
Massachusetts vs. Quinnipiac
Jim’s pick: This is the first time I’m picking against at Hockey East team, but Quinnipiac is simply too good for UMass.
QU 4, UMass 2
Dave’s pick: UMass may have finished the first half strong with three wins in its last four, but Quinnipiac comes in at 13-3-3 with a 7-1-2 record at home.
QU 4, UMass 1

Ledyard Bank Classic (Hanover, N.H.)
Northeastern vs. Air Force
Jim’s pick: Air Force always plays well out of conference, but I think NU can handle the Falcons.
NU 4, AFA 1
Dave’s pick: I was slow to believe of the Huskies this season, but they’ve opened my eyes.
NU 4, AFA 2

Providence at Dartmouth
Jim’s pick: I’m very interested to see how Providence plays without Jon Gillies, who is at World Juniors. It was a downfall last year. I think the team in front is better this season.
PC 3, DC 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed. The Friars aren’t as dependent on Gillies this year and are facing a 2-10-0 team. Even on Dartmouth’s home ice, Providence should prevail.
PC 4, DC 1

Monday, December 30

UConn Holiday Classic
Consolation/Championship
Jim’s pick: I think UMass wins on the second night regardless of opponent.
UMass 4, SHU 1; UMass 3, UConn 2
Dave’s pick: Once again, I have to agree. UConn has been tough on its home ice (5-1-1), but I’m with UMass.
UMass 3, SHU 1; UMass 3, UConn 2

Ledyard Bank Classic
Consolation/Championship
Jim’s pick: Could this be an all-Hockey East final? If so, I think the Friars come out on top. Actually, I think the Friars come out on top no matter what.
PC 4, NU 2; PC 3 DC 2; NU 5, AFA 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed. Providence and Northeastern are head-and-shoulders over Dartmouth and Air Force.
PC 3, NU 2; PC 4 DC 2; NU 4, AFA 2

Maine, UMass strong heading towards break; BU not so much

It was a pretty brief week for Hockey East teams, and thus my three things that I learned this week will be equally as brief. Here  we go:

1) Maine is climbing toward “legit”

I know this will draw the ire of some Black Bears fans, but I’ve had a difficult time calling this Maine team legit to this point. That said, reaching the break with a 9-6-1 mark and a 9-1-0 record inside the friendly confines of Alfond Arena is impressive. Now I know that the Black Bears beat a somewhat weak AIC squad this weekend, but wins at home against Massachusetts-Lowell, Boston College and Boston University tell me that this team is poised to be a potential sleeper (or should I say contender?) in the second half. The one issue that must be solved: winning on the road. A 0-5-1 mark away from home is cause for serious concern given that six of the next seven games for Maine will be away from home.

2) What should we make of UMass?

Massachusetts finished off a weekend road sweep of Colgate on Sunday giving the Minutemen three straight wins. But this streak follows an eight-game winless skid leaving me shaking my head as to what to make of this UMass team. The Minutemen still have one game left on Tuesday night when they host Denver, a team coming off a win and tie at Rensselaer. That game could be a statement game for UMass if there is to be any belief this team can finish in the top half of Hockey East.

3) And the Terriers remain inconsistent

Raise your hand if after BU’s win over Cornell at Madison Square Garden on Thanksgiving weekend that you began to have high hopes for the Terriers. I, for one, have my hand in the air. But a loss and tie to Merrimack followed by an ugly 4-1 loss against Bentley at home pushes BU to the break at 7-8-2 and in 10th place (albeit with games in hand) in Hockey East. BU, like Maine, is winless (0-5-0) on the road but has proved that there is little game-to-game consistency for this team.

Check back on Wednesday as I will be handing out mid-term grades for all 11 Hockey East teams.

Hockey East picks – Dec. 13-17

Unfortunately, Jim and I only disagreed on one game last week, the tie between Providence and Northeastern. So we both suffered identically disastrous results. Too much early dipping into the holiday eggnog.

Dave last week: 2-4-2
Jim last week: 2-4-2
Dave’s record-to-date: 72-39-12
Jim’s record-to-date: 73-38-12

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Dec. 13

American International at Maine
Dave’s pick: On Friday the 13th, the Alfond crowd gives AIC its best Freddy Krueger impersonation.
Maine 5, AIC 1
Jim’s pick: AIC will have to bring a lot more game than it did against Massachusetts-Lowell recently. They may keep one game vs. Maine close, but I see the Black Bears handling this weekend series with ease.
Maine 4, AIC 1

Saturday, Dec. 14

Massachusetts at Colgate
Dave’s pick: UMass may have gotten off the schneid in terms of road games last weekend at Notre Dame, but that 1-8-1 record away from the Mullins Center still leaves me with doubts.
Colgate 3, UMass 2
Jim’s pick: I agree with Dave that this is a tight game, but I like the Minutemen after getting some confidence at Notre Dame.
UMass 3, Colgate, 2

Bentley at Boston University
Dave’s pick: Bentley has lost by only a single goal to seventh-ranked Quinnipiac, Maine and (not counting empty-netters) Merrimack, so if the Terriers plan on just showing up, their disappointing first half is going to get even worse. But falling to 10th place has got to be an impossible-to-ignore wake-up call. Right?
BU 3, Bentley 2
Jim’s pick: This is one I don’t see staying close.
BU 5, Bentley 2

American International at Maine
Dave’s pick: Maine sweeps to drive its record at Alfond to 9-1-0.
Maine 4, AIC 1
Jim’s pick: A sweep it is.
Maine 3, AIC 2

St. Lawrence at Vermont
Dave’s pick: The Catamounts have won three straight at home.  Make it four.
UVM 3, SLU 2
Jim’s pick: Vermont is playing excellent hockey right now. It continues.
UVM 4, SLU 1

Sunday, Dec. 15

Massachusetts at Colgate
Dave’s pick: This weekend series has split written all over it, but I don’t want to “pull a Jimmy” and get two wrong picks for choosing the split the wrong way. So I’m going against every Hockey East bone in my body and opting for the Colgate split.
Colgate 3 UMass 2
Jim’s pick: And I will pick a sweep as well, just the other way.
UMass 4, Colgate 2

Tuesday, Dec. 17

Northeastern at Vermont
Dave’s pick: Home cooking proves decisive in this tight match-up, although the Catamounts need overtime to pull out the win.
UVM 4, NU 3 (OT)
Jim’s pick: Both teams are playing well but I am done picking against NU only to end up with egg on my face.
NU 3, UVM 2

Denver at Massachusetts
Dave’s pick: UMass fans may be saying, “He isn’t going to pick us to lose all three this week, is he?”  Sorry about that. The Pioneers have gotten off to only a modest start so far, but I still see them as too tough to top.
DU 3, UMass 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: Even at home, I think Denver is one step above the Minutemen.
DU 4, UMass 2

A sleeping giant, parity, and Alfond dominance

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

1. Holy Cross woke a sleeping giant.

Okay, maybe Boston College hadn’t been totally asleep. But the Eagles were already coming off a 5-1 loss to Maine when they hosted Holy Cross two weeks ago, so a drubbing seemed in order.

Instead, the Crusaders pulled off the road upset, 5-4, giving BC only a single win in its last four games.

New Hampshire paid the price this past weekend. Although the Wildcats played well, the Eagles swept the homne-and-home series to move atop the Hockey East standings.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them stay there all year.

2. Parity rules.

I knew that, but not to the extent it played out this weekend.

Massachusetts and Merrimack found themselves at the bottom of the standings going into this past weekend, but you couldn’t have told that from the results.

UMass traveled to Notre Dame for a two-game set and though the Irish were 6-2-1 at home and the Minutemen were 1-6-2 in league play, that didn’t stop them from splitting the series.

Merrimack began the weekend with only a single league point off a record of 0-5-1. But in a home-and-home series with Boston University, the Warriors emerged with three of four points, winning at home and splitting on the road.

Notre Dame had been the 13th ranked team in the country. While BU had been just outside the Top 20, it had been one of the leaders in the “also receiving votes” category.

3. Alfond Arena dominance is back.

In the old days, a road trip to Maine felt like stepping into a den of lions. The Black Bears dominated opponents with one of the top home ice advantages in the sport.

In recent years, though, they’d lost a lot of that home mojo.

Well, it’s back. Baby, it’s back! Although Maine still has yet to win a game on the road (it’s 0-5-1 away from Alfond), it’s now 7-1-0 at home. Included in those wins are lopsided victories over Boston University (7-0) and Boston College (5-1).

This past weekend, the Black Bears added Massachusetts-Lowell — a team that had won six straight and 10-of-11 – to their trophy case. They knocked off the seventh-ranked River Hawks, 4-2.

Whatever lingering doubts existed as to Maine’s home ice dominance (such as Jim and I both picking Lowell) have to be gone now.

Hockey East picks – Dec. 6-8

Jim picked up a game on me last week. It’s time to fix that and head into the holidays on top.

Dave last week: 7-5-1
Jim last week: 8-4-1
Dave’s record-to-date: 70-35-10
Jim’s record-to-date: 71-34-10

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Dec. 6

New Hampshire at Boston College
Dave’s pick: In recent years, this home-and-home series has helped decide the regular season champion on the final weekend of play. This year, the games could prove every bit as decisive even while coming this early. I’m going with home ice to decide.
BC 3, UNH 2
Jim’s pick: After losing at home to Holy Cross, I don’t see this BC team falling back to back at Kelley Rink.
BC 4, UNH 3

Boston University at Merrimack
Dave’s pick: A couple weeks ago, the Terriers appeared to be in trouble. Now, they’re 3-0-1 in their last four. I’m not sure what to make of them, but I’ll take them this series.
BU 2, MC 1 
Jim’s pick: Until Merrimack begins scoring goals, I can’t pick them.
BU 2, MC 0

Massachusetts at Notre Dame
Dave’s pick: The Minutemen won’t be getting their first road win at the expense of the Irish.
ND 4, UMass 1
Jim’s pick: Notre Dame hasn’t been playing great hockey due to injuries, but I think it can handle UMass.
ND 3, UMass 1

Providence at Northeastern
Dave’s pick: If you read this week’s column, you know I’ve been impressed by the Huskies. The thing is, though, that the Friars have been even better. Home ice could decide this one, but I’m tilting for the Providence.
PC 3, NU 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: I am going to pick a minor upset here just because Northeastern is at home.
NU 3, PC 2

Saturday, Jan. 12

Massachusetts at Notre Dame
Dave’s pick: A tough trip out West for the Minutemen; the first back-to-back wins for the Irish since Nov. 8. .
ND 4, UMass 1
Jim’s pick: Get out your brooms, Irish fans.
ND 5, UMass 3

Merrimack at Boston University
Dave’s pick: BU stays hot; Merrimack remains winless in Hockey East.
BU 4, MC 2
Jim’s pick: You’ve got to score to win. That is why Merrimack continues to struggle.
BU 3, MC 1

Boston College at New Hampshire
Dave’s pick:  The Wildcats salvage the split back at the Whitt.
UNH 3, BC 2
Jim’s pick: I’m going to pick a split again, something that is always dangerous and has rarely worked out for me.
UNH 4, BC 2

Sunday, Dec. 8

Massachusetts-Lowell at Maine
Dave’s pick: Maine’s 6-1 home record collides with Lowell’s 6-1 road mark. I’d usually opt for the home team, all things considered, but not when the River Hawks are involved.
UML 3, Maine 2
Jim’s pick: I will admit I’m very nervous picking Lowell here as Maine has been lights out at home. That said, in its last 11, Lowell has been lights out anywhere it plays.
UML 2, Maine 1

Betting the ranch, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Northeastern

This past week I learned that I could always eat one more drumstick. But that’s not material for this blog (nor, sadly, is it very surprising).

Onward, then, to the three Hockey East things I think I learned.

1. If I were a betting man, I’d have lost the ranch.

I’d have wagered every shekel I had on Boston College beating Holy Cross last Friday. Especially at home. Admittedly, the Eagles had lost to Maine at Alfond but that seems to be happening to everyone this year and was clearly the outlier in a 6-1-1 recent record. BC couldn’t possibly lose at home to a 3-9-0 Atlantic Hockey team.

Wrong!

And I’d have put almost every shekel on New Hampshire beating a struggling Harvard squad last Tuesday as well. Again, at home.  The Crimson had lost five of their last six while the Wildcats had turned around a rough start with six wins in their last seven. A cakewalk to be sure.

Wrong, again!

2. New Hampshire is back!

Clearly, the aforementioned loss to Harvard is the outlier. While it dropped UNH’s nonconference record to an ugly 2-4-1 at the time — a mark that will do the Wildcats no favors come NCAA tournament selection time — it sure looks like a fluke now.

The Wildcats traveled to Colorado College this past weekend and not only swept their struggling hosts, but did so in impressive fashion, 6-2 and 3-0. UNH is now 8-2 over its last ten and appears to have recovered from a brutal 1-5-1 start.

A challenging home-and-home series with BC remains before the holiday break and poor performances there could wipe out a lot of the momentum generated in this recent stretch, but for now at least, the Wildcats have reassumed their accustomed place near the top of the Hockey East pecking order.

3. Vermont and Northeastern are a lot better than I’ve been giving them credit for.

Yes, I know I’ve said this before, but based on their recent performances, I still have to ratchet up my impressions of these two teams.

In the preseason, I picked the Huskies to finish dead last in the league and Vermont barely above them in ninth place. (The two sandwiched Massachusetts.)

Well, Northeastern ain’t finishing in last place. No way, no how.

The Huskies’ win over Notre Dame to take the Shillelagh Tournament won’t count in the standings, but it shows how far they’ve come. They rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat the 11th-ranked team on its own ice.

As for the Catamounts, their sweep of Maine gives them four straight wins. While both of this weekend’s victories go in the nonconference ledger (their earlier split at Maine counted for the Hockey East standings), they toppled a team coming off a 7-0 demolition of Boston University and a 5-1 spanking of BC.

If you’re going to discount Vermont’s wins over Maine by saying that the Black Bears are almighty at home (where they’re 6-1-0) while less than tame on the road (where they’re 0-5-1), I will concede you that point. But then I’d ask, who gave Maine that one loss at Alfond?

Hockey East Picks – Nov. 29-Dec. 3

After Dave and I had equally impressive weeks two weeks ago, this past week was a near disaster for both. Laughably, we were equally bad and thus remain tied.

Jim last week: 5-6-2
Jim to date: 63-30-9
Dave last week: 5-6-2
Dave to date: 63-30-9

Friday, November 29

Holy Cross at Boston College
Jim’s pick: I bet Holy Cross can be competitive but don’t think they can beat this BC team.
BC 4, HC 2
Dave’s pick: I think it’ll be more one-sided than Jim expects. BC is coming off a disappointing loss to Maine, and the 3-9-0 Crusaders just aren’t up to the challenge.
BC 5, HC 1

New Hampshire at Colorado College
Jim’s pick: After UNH looked pretty bad against Harvard, expect the Wildcats to rebound.
UNH 3, CC 2
Dave’s pick: I’d have bet the ranch on that Harvard contest, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so certain about this one. But the Wildcats have been playing far too well to drop a third straight game when matched against a 1-8-2 opponent.
UNH 4, CC 1

Maine at Vermont (Non-conf.)
Jim’s pick: Vermont has played some solid hockey at home and Maine has struggled on the road. Might as well play the trend.
UVM 3, Maine 2
Dave’s pick: I’m not picking against a team that has beaten BU, 7-0, and BC, 5-1, in the last two games. While Maine is 0-3-1 on the road, two of those losses came in the opening weekend. The Black Bears are a much better team now.
Maine 4, UVM 2

Shillelagh Tournament
Northeastern vs. Western Michigan
Jim’s pick: As well as NU has played, I’m going Broncos here.
WMU 4, NU 2
Dave’s pick: I feel as though I’ve gotten almost every Northeastern pick wrong this year. So to help Hockey East boost its nonconference record, I’m going with the Broncos.
WMU 3, NU 2

Alabama-Huntsville at Notre Dame
Jim’s pick: Notre Dame has the perfect opponent for a much-needed win.
ND 5, UAH 1
Dave’s pick: Agreed.  Despite their injuries, the Irish didn’t play badly even while getting swept last week at Lowell. I’m giving more credit to the River Hawks on that front than blame to the Irish.
ND 5, UAH 0

Saturday, November 30

New Hampshire at Colorado College
Jim’s pick: I’ve been picking splits in the past couple of weeks and been killed by calling it backwards. Hoping that’s not the case here.
CC 3, UNH 2
Dave’s pick: I actually think that the errors in Jim’s split calls and my sweep picks have cancelled each other out. But whether that’s the case or not, I’m going with a sweep again. If the Wildcats are as good as I think they are, and the Tigers are as weak, then UNH will take all four points.
UNH 3, CC 2

Boston University vs. Cornell (at Madison Square Garden)
Jim’s pick: Always a close game when these two schools play. I have to pick the team that I think is simply better on paper.
Cornell 3, BU 2
Dave’s pick: I’m not sure what to make of the Terriers. They’ve had some awful losses, but last week took three-of-four points from North Dakota. Since one of those points came while getting outplayed by a wide margin, I’m remaining skeptical.
Cornell 3, BU 2

Brown at Providence
Jim’s pick: Brown has pulled off some upsets at the Mayor’s Cup before. I just don’t think this is one of those years.
PC 4, Brown 2
Dave’s pick: Providence is 7-1-1 at home; Brown is 1-4-0 on the road. The Friars all the way.
PC 4, Brown 1

Maine at Vermont (non-conf.)
Jim’s pick: I like the way Vermont is playing right now. I’m going Catamounts for the sweep.
UVM 4, Maine 2
Dave’s pick: The Catamounts have been playing far better than I expected, but I can’t get away from Maine’s even more impressive recent performances. I’m going with a sweep the other way, even on the road.
Maine 3, UVM 2

Merrimack at Yale
Jim’s pick: The scoring woes for Merrimack continue.
Yale 3, MC 1
Dave’s pick: I’ve been bullish on the Warriors, but they’re now 0-5-1 in their last six games, and their only wins this year have come over Atlantic Hockey teams. My optimism is fading.
Yale 4, MC 1

Shillelagh Tournament
Championship/consolation
Jim’s pick: Picking all the scenarios for Hockey East teams.
NU 4, UAH 1; ND 3, NU 2; ND 4, WMU 3
Dave’s pick: Agreed all around. Notre Dame wins the tournament, and Northeastern beats Alabama-Huntsville if given that match-up.
NU 5, UAH 1; ND 3, NU 1; ND 3, WMU 2

Massachusetts at Quinnipiac
Jim’s pick: UMass is going to have to play much better hockey to beat one of the nation’s best team’s in Quinnipiac.
QU 4, UMass 2
Dave’s pick: With the Minutemen going 0-5-1 in their last six games, they need an easier match-up than Quinnipiac on the road.
QU 4, UMass 1

Tuesday, December 3

American International at Massachusetts-Lowell

Jim’s pick: AIC is playing well but I don’t know if this will be another Sacred Heart for the River Hawks.
UML 4, AIC 2
Dave’s pick: I’m convinced the Sacred Heart debacle came only because it was so early in the season. The River Hawks are moving into top form.
UML 4, AIC 1

Boston University gets much needed bounceback weekend vs. NoDak

Things were a bit hairy for Boston University after lopsided losses to Boston College and Maine. But after a win against Connecticut last Sunday, BU welcomed North Dakota for what turned out to be a pretty successful weekend. That leads the three things I learned this week:

1. Goaltending rotation broken, BU gets win, tie vs. North Dakota

All season, first-year coach David Quinn had rotated his goaltenders. This past weekend, Quinn broke the rotation going with Matt O’Connor both nights versus North Dakota. After an impressive win on Friday that included 37 saves in a 3-1 win, O’Connor got the call again on Saturday. He didn’t simply one-up his Friday performance, instead he posted a career-high 55 saves, including 24 in a wild third period, to earn a 3-3 tie against North Dakota. It’s difficult to tell if BU is suddenly back on path, but the team has great momentum heading into the marquis Red Hot Hockey matchup next Saturday at Madison Square Garden vs. Cornell.

2. River Hawks continue to roll in near-perfect weekend vs. Notre Dame

Massachusetts-Lowell provided a less-than-welcoming reception to Notre Dame this weekend, facing off against the Irish for the first time in the two programs’ long hockey history. The River Hawks were near perfect, allowing just one goal in the two-game series (1-0, 3-1 wins) while scoring all four of their goals on the power play. The Irish entered the weekend the top penalty killing team in the nation. For just the second time this season, Connor Hellebuyck played back-to-back nights, stopping 74 of the 75 shots he faced. Lowell’s five straight wins is tied with Ohio State for the nation’s longest winning streak and the River Hawks power play is now 15 for 51 (29%) after starting the season 1 for 25.

3. Black Bears returning to home ice dominance

Plenty of college hockey fans remember the days when Maine’s Alfond Arena was packed to the rafters every single night and the Maine Black Bears were nearly unbeatable on home ice. Well this year’s edition of the Black Bears seems to be returning their home ice to a place of dominance. After a 5-1 win over Boston College, Maine is now 6-1-0 at home this season. And the fans seem to be noticing. A capacity crowd of 5,125 watched Saturday’s contest at Alfond, an impressive increase from the 3,737 that watch Maine’s Hockey East home opener against just three weeks ago.

Hockey East picks – Nov. 22-27

Both Dave and I had banner weeks and posted identically impressive results.

Jim last week: 8-1-2
Jim year-to-date: 58-24-7
Dave last week: 8-1-2
Dave year-to-date: 58-24-7

Friday, November 22

Northeastern at Merrimack
Jim’s pick: Last weekend was hardly ideal for the Huskies and Merrimack continued to struggle to score goals. I think NU will come with a little more hunger.
NU 3, MC 1
Dave’s pick: I’m going to disagree here.  The Warriors have gone through tough times on the road, but I like them to hold serve at home.
MC 2, NU 1

New Hampshire at Providence
Jim’s pick: Battle of two of Hockey East’s hottest teams. I’m giving this one to home ice, at least on Friday.
PC 3, UNH 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed.  I like both teams, but I can’t pick against the Friars at home.
PC 3, UNH 2

Vermont at Massachusetts
Jim’s pick: I like the way both of these teams are playing, but think UMass at home gets the edge.
UMass 4, UVM 2
Dave’s pick: UMass looked too good against BC to pick against them at home in this matchup.
UMass 3, UVM 2

Notre Dame at Massachusetts-Lowell
Jim’s pick: With Notre Dame hit by the injury bug, I need to go with the River Hawks at least in the opener.
UML 3, UND 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed.  I’d feel differently about this one in Notre Dame’s barn.
UML 3, UND 2 (OT)

North Dakota at Boston University
Jim’s pick: Neither team has been stellar out of the gate, but I think North Dakota is still the better team on paper.
NoDak 4, BU 2
Dave’s pick: I don’t like the way the Terriers have been playing at all lately.
NoDak 4, BU 2

Saturday, November 23

Boston College at Maine
Jim’s pick: I was impressed by the seven goals Maine scored last Friday, but I’m more impressed by the 25 games BC has scored in its last five games.
BC 5, Maine 2
Dave’s pick: I’m not sure if Maine’s seven goals against BU were a tribute to the Black Bears or a condemnation of the Terriers. I’m opting primarily for the latter and BC certainly didn’t dominate UMass last weekend, but I’m still going with the Eagles.
BC 4, Maine 2

Merrimack at Northeastern
Jim’s pick: If my picks are correct in this series, Northeastern is looking good heading to Thanksgiving while Merrimack is in a lot of trouble.
NU 4, MC 1
Dave’s pick: The Huskies salvage the split at home.
NU 3, MC 2

New Hampshire at Providence
Jim’s pick: The Wildcats salvage a split in a two-game road series vs. the Friars.
UNH 3, PC 1
Dave’s pick: I could certainly see a split, but I’m going with home ice to give the Friars a sweep.
PC 3, UNH 2

Notre Dame at Massachusetts-Lowell
Jim’s pick: If Notre Dame isn’t banged up, I’m probably picking this a sweep for the Irish. But instead I’m picking a sweep for the River Hawks.
UML 4, UND 3
Dave’s pick: Though I hate to agree with Jim again, I’m opting for a Lowell sweep that needs overtime in both games.
UML 3, UND 2 (OT)

North Dakota at Boston University
Jim’s pick: North Dakota gets the much-needed non-league sweep on the road.
NoDak 3, BU 2
Dave’s pick: I don’t like at all where the Terriers are headed. Losing 7-0 to Maine and getting hammered by an archrival don’t fill me with much confidence.
NoDak 4, BU 2

Sunday, November 24

Massachusetts at Vermont
Jim’s pick: Catamounts earn split on home ice.
UVM 4, UMass 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed. The Minutemen impressed at BC last weekend, but they’re still 0-5-1 on the road.
UVM 3, UMass 2

Tuesday, November 26

Harvard at New Hampshire
Jim’s pick: Harvard is going to have to play a lot better than it did against BC, and even that likely won’t be enough.
UNH 5, HU 2
Dave’s pick: The Wildcats will recover from a frustrating weekend at Providence.
UNH 4, HU 2

Wednesday, November 27

Providence at Quinnipiac
Jim’s pick: This has the makings of being one heckuva game between top 10 (maybe top 5?) squads. I know Quinnipiac is great at home but I feel like Providence can end the Bobcats streak.
PC 2, QU 1
Dave’s pick: I’ve really gone back and forth on this one, but I’m a Friars believer and a Hockey East homer to boot. Friars by the slimmest of margins.
PC 3, QU 2 (OT)

River Hawks play away from home proves they’re road warriors

The Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks scheduled some difficult road trips to begin the season. That proved to be a good thing this past week as the team extended its road winning streak to six games. That leads the three things I learned this week.

1. Road tested, road approved

UMass-Lowell finished what was a pretty grueling road trip – the longest any team in Hockey East will spend away from campus this season – with a perfect 3-0-0 record. Lowell left campus early last Monday morning. Played Tuesday night at Princeton. Traveled Wednesday to State College, Penn. Played Thursday and Friday at Penn State returning home around 5 a.m. on Saturday. And at the end of it all, Lowell came away with three hard-fourth victories to extend the team’s road winning streak to six game. The River Hawks are now 6-1-0 on the road this season. That trend could be important late in the year as seven of Lowell’s final nine game – all league contests – will be played on the road.

2. Friars stay hot

Providence remained one of the nation’s hottest teams this weekend winning twice at Vermont to improve to 9-1-1. The Friars .864 winning percentage is second in the nation to Quinnipiac (11-1-1). While many expected Jon Gillies, who became Providence’s all-time shutout leader on Saturday with eight, to play well, it’s difficult to overlook the contributions of Ross Mauermann, who after a three-goal weekend at Vermont, now has 10 goals in 11 games.

3. Blowouts continue

It’s been rare in recent years to see any Hockey East team blowout an opponent. But after New Hampshire crushed Massachusetts, 9-0, and Boston College routed Army, 11-0, last weekend, Maine followed suit on Friday, shutting out Boston University, 7-0, at home. Six different players scored goals for the Black Bears, the back breaker coming early in the second when Maine’s Ben Hutton scored an unassisted goal while his team was killing a 5-on-3 man advantage.

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