This Week in Hockey East: November 21, 1997

Okay, maybe only dinosaurs from the sixties can remember that phrase while wearing day-glow bellbottoms and saying, "Groovy!" But it sure fit last week’s action in Hockey East. Until the irresistible force met the immovable object last Sunday — in the form of Providence and UMass-Lowell facing each other after both teams won on Friday — not a single team avoided a split. Not BU taking on UNH. Not Maine hosting Merrimack. And not Boston College playing Northeastern.

Even on the national scene, the same trend held. The only top-ten team that won twice was new number one Michigan State, which swept Mankato State.

Maybe it’s that El Nino thing that CCHA Correspondent Paula Weston was writing about a couple weeks ago.

The Karhu Player of the Week was New Hampshire’s Derek Bekar, who returned from a hip pointer injury to score three goals and add an assist in the Wildcats’ series with BU.

Providence College’s Boyd Ballard repeats as the league’s Rookie of the Week, after winning both games and recording 38 saves against UMass-Lowell.

Last week’s record in picks: 8-4 New season’s record in picks: 42-16

No. 8 Boston College (7-2-0, 4-2-0 HE) at No. 9 Maine (5-3-1, 3-2-0 HE)

Friday, 7 p.m., Alfond Arena, Orono, ME Saturday, 7 p.m., Alfond Arena, Orono, ME No. 8 Boston College (7-2-0, 4-2-0 HE) at Brown (1-3-0, 1-3-0 ECAC)

Tuesday, 7 p.m., Meehan Auditorium, Providence, RI

Boston College almost kicked off an eight-games-in-16-days stretch with three wins. The operative word, of course, is almost. Sandwiched by a Friday night 5-2 win over Northeastern and a 4-3 comeback overtime victory over Harvard was the one that got away. On Saturday night, in the home half of a series with the Huskies, the Eagles outshot Northeastern 14-3, 13-3, 9-7 only to lose 5-4 on the only shot in overtime.

For BC goaltender Scott Clemmensen, surrendering five goals on 14 shots amounted to any netminder’s worst nightmare.

"The most difficult game for a goaltender to play in is one where you don’t face a lot of shots," said coach Jerry York. "It was a difficult game for Scott. The puck-luck was against him. There were some tips and some funny goals, but he’ll rebound and learn from that."

Of course, goaltending wasn’t the only factor in the loss.

"When you analyze the game, we made some critical mistakes, starting at about the middle mark of the third period when we took back-to-back penalties which enabled Northeastern to go on a five-on-three. That took what looked like an insurmountable 4-2 lead for us — based on the way the game was going — and put them right back in it at 4-3. Then we just had some puck-luck go against us.

"Northeastern hung tough and [their goaltender Marc] Robitaille kept them in the hockey game. It was very disappointing that we couldn’t secure a win in front of a very boisterous crowd here. But, all in all, I thought we played well in over 115 minutes of the series. So now we move on."

BC crowds, although irrelevant for this week, given two games in Orono and another in Providence, deserve mention. In recent years, Conte Forum has felt empty, with typically 2,000 to 3,000 in attendance (except for games against BU), leaving more empty seats than full. Not so anymore, it seems. Over 5,000 passed through the turnstiles on Saturday night.

"The crowds are reflecting the improvement in our team," said York. "We’re working awfully hard as a team and we have a lot of enthusiasm. We play a fun style to watch; we’re quick and we go end-to-end. I think as the winter goes on, we’re going to see significant improvement in the crowds."

The Eagles now stand atop Hockey East with eight points on a 4-2-0 league record, but three of the four teams at six points hold a game in hand. The fourth, BU, has two games in hand. Still, after the last few rebuilding years, "the first-place Boston College Eagles" is music to the ears of their fans.

"It’s certainly nice to be in the mix of teams," said York. "It’s very early in the year, but that’s our goal, to get in the mix of those top teams nationally. I think we’re well on our way to being there. We haven’t been there the last several years."

BC now travels to Orono for what used to be the toughest road trip in the league. With the Black Bears losing two of their last three home games, however, one has to wonder about the tarnished intimidation factor of Alfond Arena.

"Maine has certainly been a difficult team for us to match up with in past years," said York. "This particular year, I think going into it we feel we have a real good chance to do some things that we’ve never done against Maine before. It’s a tough test for any team to go up there and play, but we look forward to it more this year than we have in the past."

Maine lost the opener to Merrimack 5-4, before gaining the split 6-4.

After a poor performance by top goalie Alfie Michaud against BU one week earlier, coach Shawn Walsh started backup netminder Bryan Masotta on Friday, during which Masotta got a taste of Clemmensen’s medicine.

"In the second and third periods, we held [Merrimack] to 10 shots," said Walsh. "They got five goals and I couldn’t blame the goalie. They were just opportunistic."

Michaud, on the other hand, rebounded from his subpar performance one week earlier.

"Alfie played well on Saturday, especially when the game was close," said Walsh. "They were actually ahead 2-1 midway through the game, and we got three [goals] in a minute and seven seconds to break it open. But when it was 2-1, he made about three real good saves. If we’d gotten down by two, it might have gotten real difficult."

The goaltending picture for this weekend and beyond is unclear. "We’ll go on a week-to-week basis," said Walsh. "I’m not setting up a pattern yet."

After the Friday night loss, Walsh made some lineup changes and some of the new faces played well.

"We got a real lift from our fourth line [of Aaron Boone, Jim Leger and A.J. Begg]," said Walsh. "They’ll definitely be back in the lineup and Nate Ponitz played solidly on defense, which was something we needed."

Walsh hopes to get some of the walking wounded back this week, especially Cory Larose, who missed both Merrimack games. Regardless of who is in the lineup, however, Walsh is looking for stronger play.

"We have to play well defensively and really focus on our own game," he said. "We’ve just been uncharacteristically loose in our own zone. I would think it’s because of our inexperience, especially on defense, but both on defense and up front. It’s an area that we’ve just got to keep working on."

That defensive presence becomes even more important with BC’s Marty Reasoner invading Alfond Arena. Walsh doesn’t match lines, but will be aware of when Reasoner is on the ice.

"I’ll certainly have our best defensemen on the ice against him," said Walsh. "He’s a great player. What makes him a great player is not just his overall ability. It’s that he can finish himself. A lot of real good players aren’t natural finishers, but he seems to be."

After the big tilt in Orono, BC then travels down Route 95 for a midweek game against Brown, a team that has won just one of its first four contests, all one-goal games. The Bears could be a tougher opponent than their record would indicate, though, since all four teams they’ve faced have been among the ECAC’s hottest teams out of the chute.

Up front, they are led by Damian Prescott, Brown’s first 20-goal scorer since 1977. Prescott, however, has gotten off to a lukewarm start with only a goal and two assists. John DiRenzo (eight points) and Paul Giblin (five) have picked up the slack, while Jimmy Andersson and D.J. Harding are the top guns on the blue line.

Jeff Holowaty has played all four games in goal, posting a 4.17 goals-against average and a .877 save percentage.

(For a more detailed look at Brown from an ECAC perspective, check out this week’s ECAC Preview.)

PICK: Either team could sweep, or there could be a split. How’s that for going out on a limb?

Hey, if meteorologists can predict a 50 percent chance of clear skies and a 50 percent chance of a foot of snow in your driveway, what’s wrong with a little college hockey equivocating?

In a choice that has been typed in, deleted and changed twice already, BC sweeps Maine, 5-4, 4-3. The Eagles then dominate Brown, 5-2.

Merrimack (5-4-0, 2-3-0 HE) vs. No. 5 New Hampshire (6-3-0, 2-3-0 HE) Friday, 7 p.m., Whittemore Center, Durham, NH

Saturday, 7 p.m., Volpe Complex, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire split its big series with BU, dominating at home 5-0 before Chris Drury proved the deciding factor in a 4-2 Terriers win.

"I figured they’d be ready to go after getting shut out last night," said Mark Mowers after the loss. "Playing down here is always tough. I think it’s the toughest rink in the league."

Fortunately for the Wildcats, they gave themselves the cushion of a win at the friendly confines of the Whittemore Center before entering BU’s lions’ den. A jubilant UNH crowd reveled in their team’s first shutout of the Terriers since 1934. If there’s a better advertisement in Hockey East for the exciting atmosphere of college hockey, this writer hasn’t seen it.

At BU’s Walter Brown Arena, tough rink that it is, the Wildcats played well, but simply couldn’t stop Drury, who scored on an end-to-end rush in which no one could even lay a hand him, and then added another great individual goal-scoring play.

"They’re a good team; we’re a good team," said coach Dick Umile. "We competed hard. We had an opportunity to get a jump on them of two games. Now it will come down to Dec. 12 [when the teams meet for the last time in the regular season].

"I’m just disappointed that we didn’t have a chance to win it…. but Drury won it with the big play. But I liked the way we competed."

Still, given UNH’s position going into the weekend, a split wasn’t exactly the worst thing in the world. They entered the weekend with a 1-2 league record and faced an undefeated team that had just smoked Maine 6-0 in Orono.

Now, the Wildcats take on Merrimack, a team they humiliated 11-4 one week earlier.

"We had the worst possible combination when we played them," said Merrimack coach Ron Anderson. "We played poorly and they played great. They’re a tough team to play even when you play at the top of your game. But we’ve regrouped and made a couple adjustments in game plan and strategy."

Those changes led to a Warrior split of their two-game set in Orono, winning 5-4 before dropping a 6-4 finale. Reflecting the thoughts of teams and fans throughout the region who fought through the snow and atrocious traffic to get to Friday night’s games, Anderson quipped, "It’s too early to have this much snow in the season."

Turning serious, he said, "I was happy to see us bounce back from a tough weekend. I thought we played pretty steady and I thought both games could have gone either way."

Among the changes made since the 11-4 debacle, Anderson shifted sophomore Chris Halecki from left wing on a line with Rejean Stringer and Kris Porter to center the third line with rookies Vince Clevenger and Ron Mongeau. Freshman Fred Nelson moved up to the Stringer line.

"We were trying to get a third line going," said Anderson. "Our third unit with Clevenger, Mongeau and another guy wasn’t working, so we wanted to try somebody else out there. I didn’t want to put Freddie there because I didn’t want three freshmen on a line.

"Chris played center and left wing for us last year, so the obvious move was to move Chris to center that line, moving Clevenger to right wing, which I wanted to take a look at anyways. He’s been playing center. So we put Chris in the middle and put Nelson with Porter and Stringer.

"There were three question marks. Could Clevenger play right wing? Would the line be effective with Halecki on it at center? And what would happen to our other line with Nelson on the left? So far, all three things have taken a turn for the positive."

The third line got going with a Clevenger goal while the Stringer line continued to flourish on the weekend: Nelson (one goal, two assists), Stringer (one goal, three assists) and Porter (three goals, one assist).

Stringer (12 points) and Porter (11 points) now lead Hockey East in league scoring, while their 17 points trails only Maine’s Steve Kariya (21 points) in overall scoring. Porter, perhaps the best-kept secret in Division I, leads the country in goals with 13.

Two names known to few outside the confines of the Merrimack campus — defensemen Chris Silvestro and Andrew Fox — combined to allow only one goal on the weekend.

"That’s another area that we were apprehensive about, in that we graduated two starters last year and didn’t bring anybody in," said Anderson. "But we also felt that we had ten in our program last year, which left us with eight, and we felt that of the eight there were certainly six that could play. It would just be a matter of which six would step to the plate.

"Chris and Andrew have been paired together all year and have played well for us. We’re reasonably satisfied with their performance and that held true again this weekend. They played pretty steady for us all weekend long."

Maine coach Shawn Walsh, for one, was very impressed with the Merrimack squad after the split with his ninth-ranked Black Bears. Having administered some of the worst beatings inflicted on the Warriors in past years, he offered this perspective on Merrimack’s apparent coming of age as a significant Division I program.

"I thought Merrimack was a very, very good team," said Walsh. "They are the most dangerous Merrimack team, and the best Merrimack team, I have seen in the league.

"They are extremely good up front. Oh boy, they are good. And they’re experienced. Any one of those six guys [on the top two lines] can score at any time. They showed it in the second and third periods the first night, when we held them to 10 shots and they got five goals, and I couldn’t blame the goalie. They were just opportunistic and they were good at it."

With wins over nationally-ranked Boston College and Maine, Merrimack has taken major strides toward becoming a legitimate factor in the Hockey East race.

"I thought we took a step forward last year about halfway through the year," said Anderson. "It took a lot longer than any of the coaches had thought it would take, but very seldom do you see any program take that step forward very quickly. It took us five or six years, but we think we’re getting there.

"It also is cyclical. All you have to do is look around the different leagues and see teams that have been at the top and aren’t there anymore. So you have to constantly be looking for today and tomorrow at the same time.

"But we’d like to think — we have our fingers crossed — that we’ve bridged that gap now and made ourselves a legitimate Division I program. Obviously, it’s up to us to keep it there now."

To keep the momentum rolling, the Warriors now need to pick up some points from the same UNH team that steamrollered them two weeks earlier.

"We’re hoping to have some real solid efforts this weekend," said Anderson. "It’s going to take a near-perfect performance by us to make a game of it because they are so powerful. But that’s the objective, to try to get perfect performances every night out."

PICK: This has all the looks of a split to it. Beating a team 11-4 acts as an open invitation to overconfidence. And Merrimack has proven it can take on the big boys and win.

However, some Merrimack fans have pointed out that the Warriors have performed best when this column has picked them to lose, while most of their disappointments have been in games they’ve been picked to win.

As a result, a generous donation to the Dave Hendrickson Slush Fund has prompted the following prediction: UNH sweeps, 11-4, 11-4.

I can’t be bought, but I can be rented.

P.S. Forget the money-back guarantee.

Brown (1-3-0, 1-3-0 ECAC) and Harvard (1-3-1, 1-2-1 ECAC) vs. No. 2 Boston University (5-1-0, 3-1-0 HE)

Friday, 7 p.m., Walter Brown Arena, Boston, MA

Tuesday, 7 p.m., Bright Hockey Center, Cambridge, MA

Boston University picked up its first loss of the season with a 5-0 stinker against UNH, but came back with a 4-2 win back at home, fueled by two outstanding Chris Drury goals.

"We were so out of sync [on Friday] that we didn’t change the lines and we didn’t want to blame anybody," said coach Jack Parker. "I don’t mean to take anything away from UNH. They played great. If we played real well, we would have lost 4-2 or 5-2. They played terrific, but we didn’t play, especially after our demise on the power play when they scored two shorthanded goals. We just didn’t seem to have our legs.

"We made one mistake. Unfortunately, we made it over and over again. We simply refused to hit anyone."

Parker had a simple message for his troops.

"Boys," he told them, "Put this one behind you. You had a lousy night. Don’t think it was somebody else’s fault. Look in the mirror. You didn’t play well."

The Terriers, as a whole, rebounded and Drury came to the rescue.

"When you see him game in and game out," said Parker, "you realize that this kid is really special because of skill coupled with unbelievable work ethic and competitive spirit.

"If you could watch him in practice, he pisses everybody off in practice because he works so hard…. If you woke him up at three o’clock in the morning and said, ‘We’re going over to the skating club for a pickup game,’ he’d beat you to the loose puck there. And if he didn’t, he’d bounce you and then he’d take it away. That’s just the way he is."

Drury also drew plaudits for his work in his own zone.

"Chris played fabulous defensively," said Parker. "He got two goals tonight, but his best plays were defensive plays."

Parker also singled out Drury’s left wing for strong play on Saturday.

"Tommi Degerman had an unbelievable night," he said. "He played great defensively and played great killing penalties. He was snakebitten when [UNH goaltender Sean] Matile made some great saves off him, but he made a couple fabulous passes as well."

Another Chris, Chris Heron, returns from a shoulder separation suffered in the Ice Breaker Invitational. With Heron an integral part of the up front depth, his injury worried many BU fans who wondered if the Drury line alone could carry the team, with a goal or two tossed in by the kids. Although BU’s resulting 5-1-0 record is none too shabby, his addition to the lineup is a welcome one.

"Even though he’s still the youngest guy on the team — younger than all our freshmen — he gives us a year’s experience, he gives us a lot of skating ability and he’s a lot stronger this year," said Parker. "He’s an important player and we’ll get some ice for him. He’ll kill some penalties, he’ll play some power play and we’ll play him on a regular line."

BU now takes on nonconference foes Brown and Harvard.

"This time last year," said Parker, "we really fell on our face with a tie at Yale and losses at Clarkson and St. Lawrence. We’re trying to impress upon the guys to get after it in the non-league games as well as the league games and make sure we’re ready to play. That will be the theme for this week’s practices as we get four straight against the ECAC."

Brown is profiled briefly above.

Harvard is coming off a tough 4-3 overtime loss to BC on Tuesday. The Crimson held a 3-1 lead going into the third, but gave up two power-play goals to knot the score. BC won it with 29 seconds left in overtime.

Trevor Allman, Henry Higdon and defenseman Ben Storey lead the Crimson offense, but freshman left wing Chris Bala is the hot hand with two goals against BC.

Senior captain and defenseman Jeremiah McCarthy has missed several games with an injury.

Goaltender J.R Prestifilippo’s stats are off from last year’s stellar numbers that earned him ECAC Rookie of the Year honors. He is now posting a 3.69 goals-against average and an .871 save percentage.

(For a more detailed look at Brown and Harvard from an ECAC perspective, check out this week’s ECAC Preview.)

PICKS: No letdown here. BU 5-2 over Brown and 4-2 over Harvard.

Northeastern (4-4-0, 3-2-0 HE) vs. UMass-Lowell (5-3-0, 3-2-0 HE)

Friday, 7 p.m., Tully Forum, Lowell, MA

Saturday, 7 p.m., Matthews Arena, Boston, MA

UMass-Lowell traveled to Amherst, but didn’t arrive until after game time due to the inclement weather and driving conditions. Unfazed, the River Hawks jumped out to a 4-1 lead after the delayed start. The Minutemen came back to tie it in the third, but a Mike Nicholishen goal with 33 seconds left in overtime squeaked out the win.

The win gave the school its first Alumni Cup, bestowed on the winner of the season’s series between the two sister schools. UMass-Amherst won the Cup the first two years.

Lowell continued to get big contributions from rookies Jeffrey Boulanger, who scored twice, and Brad Rooney and Nick Carso, who both assisted on two goals.

"We came into the season knowing that we were going to have a lot of freshmen and sophomores," said Nicholishen. "We wanted them to feel like part of the team right away. There were no class differences and now a lot of our freshmen are contributing."

Boulanger, in particular, is hot, having scored five goals in the last two weeks.

"He’s doing real well," said coach Tim Whitehead. "I’m really pleased with how he’s coming along. Anyone who had any questions about his skating [could see how he did on] the Olympic-sized sheet. We’re very happy with the way he’s come around."

The River Hawks then faced off against Providence in a Sunday afternoon battle. Last year, PC swept the regular season series only to fall to Lowell in the Hockey East quarterfinals.

"There’s a little bit of a rivalry between us and Providence," said Nicholishen. "Year in and year out, one team seems to dominate the other. Last year, they had our number, but we came back pretty well in the playoffs.

"I think they remembered. You don’t forget things like that.

"It’s never a pretty game between Providence and us. Both teams play the same style. We have to be defensive-minded at all times and that slows it down."

Special teams pushed this contest in the Providence win column, as the Friars jumped out to a 5-0 lead and coasted to a 5-3 win. The Friars scored on three of their five power play chances, while Lowell only scored twice in 12 chances.

"The difference in the game is that they capitalized on their power play and we didn’t," said Whitehead. "It doesn’t take much to figure that one out. We had a ton of opportunities. They took quite a few penalties…. We moved the puck reasonably well, but just couldn’t seem to get it past the goal line."

The River Hawks next play a home-and-home series with Northeastern, but will have to play the first game without reigning Rookie of the Year and top scorer Greg Koehler, who received a dubious major disqualification in the loss to Providence.

The Northeastern Huskies have mastered the fine art of winning games in which they are outshot by a large margin. They did it two weeks ago against Merrimack (outshot 48-27) and they did it again to Boston College last week (outshot 36-14). As a result, the Rope-a-Dope experts have fashioned a 4-4-0 record after being predicted to finish in the cellar.

"[That win] gave us an idea of what we’re all about," said coach Bruce Crowder. "It was a great learning experience, a great growing-up experience. It was one of those games that, to win in overtime no matter how ugly it was from the video standpoint, it was still a win. That’s great for our kids.

"For forty minutes, they totally outplayed us and it was basically [goaltender Marc] Robitaille keeping us in the game. Things were a little more even in the third period and we did make the most of our opportunities."

Chief among those made opportunities was scoring three power-play goals in six chances. Prior to the game, the Huskies had scored in only five of 39 man advantage chances, and even with the three goals, rank at only a 17.8 overall percentage, next to last in the league. Is the power-play unit coming around?

"It’s too early to tell," said Crowder, "but at the same time, it’s nice to see a little success in what we’re working on. It’s an area that still needs drastic improvement."

Northeastern’s top three freshman defensemen, John Peterman, Mike Jozefowicz and Arik Engbrecht, are making significant contributions in both ends. Peterman and Jozefowicz each scored a goal and added an assist in the win over BC.

"We knew they had some offensive skill when we brought them in here," said Crowder. "As I’ve said before, all in all, we’re not going to be successful scoring two goals a game.

"It was nice to see us explode a little in the third period against BC and we also did that against Merrimack a week ago. So three out of our four wins we were able to pull out in the third period. We didn’t do that at all over 36 games last year."

The Huskies now have an opportunity for revenge against a Lowell club that used five third-period goals to dismantle them two weeks ago, 7-2.

"The biggest thing is that we went in there and got embarrassed," said Crowder. "So the key factor is having a little pride and showing better than we did the last time we were in there."

PICKS: Both teams win at home, 5-3 at Lowell and 5-4 at Northeastern.

Providence College (5-2-0, 1-2-0 HE) vs. UMass-Amherst (2-5-0, 0-4-0 HE)

Friday, 7 p.m., Mullins Center, Amherst, MA

Saturday, 7 p.m., Schneider Arena, Providence, RI

Providence was the only Hockey East team to win two games in the Splitsville weekend. After opening the season with losses in two of the first three Friar games, they have rebounded with four straight wins. Until Sunday’s game against Lowell, however, none of the wins came in Hockey East contests.

"This was a huge game for us, because we were 0-2 in Hockey East," said Mike Omicioli, whose four assists earned him number-one star. "To pull this one off was a real confidence-builder. We’re 5-2 now, we’re looking strong, and we just have a lot of confidence. We’re a young team, and that’s what we need."

The Friars remembered that Lowell had put them out of playoffs last year, a time of the year when they had grown accustomed to success.

"You always think about that because that hurt last year," said Omicioli. "We know they’re a team just like us. Not a powerhouse, but a good team. A steady team. We knew that if we came out flat, we’d be in trouble."

Freshman Boyd Ballard, who earned his second straight Rookie of the Week billing, made 38 saves, holding Lowell off the board until the third period when PC had a 5-0 lead. For Ballard, who also tended the nets in a 5-4 win over Army, it has been a relatively smooth introduction into Division I college play.

"It’s a little faster," he said, making a comparison to his days in junior hockey, "but most of all it’s the traffic. Against UMass-Lowell, it seemed like their forwards were huge and they were always in front of the net. It seems like you’re fighting to see every point shot out there."

Pooley had originally intended to play incumbent Mark Kane in goal against Army, and hasn’t conceded the job to Ballard yet.

"I have a lot of confidence in Mark Kane and I have a lot of confidence in Ballard," he said. "We’ll take it week-to-week, but Boyd certainly has elevated himself into being a goalie that can win the games. He hasn’t lost yet this year and he seems to find a way to win hockey games."

The Friars’ next face UMass-Amherst in a home-and-home series, during which they’ll miss freshman defenseman Jay Leach for the opener because of a borderline disqualification in the game against Lowell.

The Minutemen suffered a frustrating loss at home to UMass-Lowell, falling behind 4-1 only to rally back to send the game into overtime. With 33 seconds left in the extra session, however, Lowell got the game-winner.

"We didn’t come out very strong in the first period," said coach Joe Mallen, "but we played a heckuva game after that. We came back from being down three goals and tied it up and had a great chance to win it late in the game, but it didn’t happen."

The Minutemen rebounded with a non-league 4-1 win over Union.

"I thought we did a nice job coming back the next night and being ready to play," said Mallen. "It was a good win to bounce back with."

In both weekend games, Mallen played seven rookies who gave solid contributions, as did Dean Campanale, who scored twice against Union.

"We infused some freshmen into the lineup," said Mallen. "They played with a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of energy. That helped to open up some other opportunities and Dean Campanale, who scored a fair number of goals his sophomore year and kind of was snakebitten his junior year, came out with two goals and just looked like a different player."

In facing Providence, UMass-Amherst takes on a team it beat two out of three times last year.

"They’re always a good team and a good program," said Mallen. "They’re well-coached. I’m sure it’s going to be a grudge match. They’re getting scoring from a variety of people and with the scores being the way they are in Hockey East right now, every game is a 50-50 battle, no matter who’s playing. This weekend should be about the same."

PICKS: Watching Omicioli and Tim Lovell do battle on the Olympic sheet at the Mullins Center should be a treat. Providence ekes out a 5-4 win on the road and completes the sweep at home, 4-2, for its sixth straight win.

Providence College (5-2-0, 1-2-0 HE) at

Northeastern (4-4-0, 3-2-0 HE)

Tuesday, 7 p.m., Matthews Arena, Boston, MA

(Both teams are profiled above.)

PICK: The two hard-nosed teams go toe-to-toe. Robitaille steals another one for the Huskies, 3-2.

Vermont (0-3-1, 1-6-1 ECAC) at UMass-Amherst (2-5-0, 0-4-0 HE)

Tuesday, 7 p.m., Mullins Center, Amherst, MA

Vermont took it on the chin last week, losing 7-0 to Colgate before stopping the bleeding with a surprising 1-1 tie against No. 6 Cornell.

Goaltender Andrew Allen, who had a brutal game before getting yanked against Colgate, stopped 22 of 23 Cornell shots.

Freshman defenseman Andreas Moborg, Stephane Piche and Eric Lundin lead the scoring for the rebuilding Catamounts.

(For a more detailed look at Vermont from an ECAC perspective, check out this week’s ECAC Preview.)

PICK: The Minutemen all the way, 4-1.