Although some separation is starting to take place after the first-place to seventh-place logjam of recent weeks, the race is still a wide-open affair. Boston College is in first, but New Hampshire and Boston University hold the advantage of two games in hand.
Next Tuesday, BC travels to UNH for the week’s top matchup, and BU hosts traditional rival Maine for a two-game set in the weekend’s top action. All three games will be televised.
Additionally, UMass-Lowell opens the very impressive Paul E. Tsongas Arena on Tuesday amidst well-deserved fanfare.
This week’s Hockey East honorees are KOHO Player of the Week Mark Mowers and Rookie of the Week Scott Clemmensen.
Last week’s record in picks: 9-1 Season’s record in picks: 88-45
No. 6 Boston College (14-6-3, 8-4-2 HEA) at No. 3 New Hampshire (16-4-1, 8-3-1 HEA)
Tuesday, 7 p.m., Whittemore Center, Durham, NH TV-SCNE
Although both teams take on other foes over the weekend before this Tuesday night clash, this promises to be the "must-see" game of the week. Both teams swept strong opponents last weekend and feature some of the most dynamic offensive talent in the league.
New Hampshire went to Orono last weekend carrying a 13-year Alfond Arena winless streak on its back. The previous week’s cancellation of games in the North Country also left it with a 15-day layoff, hardly the optimal way for any team to approach its House of Horrors.
The Wildcats, however, gave further notice that past barriers don’t necessary mean diddly to this year’s team. Tom Nolan scored on the power play with just 41 seconds remaining to key a 2-1 win in the opener and UNH pulled away to a 5-0 win the next night.
"It’s always a difficult place to go and play," said coach Dick Umile. "They were coming off a pretty good weekend, having won down at Merrimack and played BC tight. Alfie Michaud is playing really well for them.
"Friday’s game came down to the final minute, but overall our team played very well for the weekend. Coming out of there with two wins was a great accomplishment. Winning two games any weekend, let alone up at Maine, is a good weekend."
By slaying the Alfond Arena boogeyman and the BU Terriers one before that (finishing with a 1-1-1 record against a team that had previously had UNH’s number), the Wildcats could be showing that they have the right stuff to take a Hockey East crown this year and similarly slay their NCAA tournament demons.
"I thought we had a team that could compete at the national level last year," said Umile, "but for whatever reason we didn’t get it done against Colorado College [in the NCAAs] and we didn’t get it done in the Hockey East championship game against BU. But a lot of the guys are back and even though we lost a couple key people over the summer, the guys are determined and they’ve worked very hard off-ice and defensively to improve themselves. It’s showing with weekend sweeps of teams like Maine."
One of the biggest factors in UNH’s success has been the astounding success of its penalty-killing units. They have allowed only eight shorthanded goals all year with a success rate of 91.9 percent. In fact, they’ve actually scored more goals while down than the team on the power play.
"Those are reasons why you win hockey games," said Umile. "It’s a combination of good goaltending, effort and getting some pretty good people out there. We’re just on a roll. We’re very confident with it and we’re getting good goaltending."
Against the Black Bears, UNH killed 13 of 14 penalties and applied a crushing shorthanded goal by Mark Mowers while down five-on-three.
For Mowers, the back-breaker combined with his four assists to earn him KOHO Player of the Week honors, despite some tough competition from teammate Jason Krog, who had a hat trick and an assist.
"Krog had three goals on Saturday night," said Umile. "That’s why he’s a Hobey Baker candidate. He’s leading the country in scoring.
"But Mark Mowers is really just coming back from a serious injury and he had a terrific weekend of hockey. He not only did it with passing the puck and scoring his shorthanded goal, he also did it with leadership, extra effort and backchecking. He’s a complete hockey player.
"I’m not taking anything away from what Jason Krog has accomplished this season, but Mark Mowers has been, and still is, a terrific hockey player. He had a great weekend. I’m happy to see that he won [Player of the Week.]"
Goaltender Sean Matile also earned a place in the spotlight with his fifth career shutout, tying the Hockey East record in just a season and a half of play.
"Sean has consistently played well this year," said Umile. "He had things going well for him last year until he got sick, but he never totally recovered until he had the complete summer. This year, he’s proving that a healthy Sean Matile is a solid goaltender.
"In the second period, we were ahead of Maine, but we had to kill off some penalties. They were taking chances and really coming at us. Sean really shut them down. Those are the types of things that have to be done to be very successful."
Following a Saturday night game against Brown, the Wildcats will then entertain Boston College. BC inflicted two of UNH’s four losses back in early November, a series the Wildcats have not forgotten.
"Not taking anything away from them beating us early in the season," said Umile, "but we hope that we’ll give a better effort this time.
"There’s going to be an awful lot of skilled hockey players on the ice. Whoever can play solid team defense and try to limit the advantage plays should win. It should be a terrific college hockey game."
(UNH fans should be sure to see Maine coach Shawn Walsh’s comments about the Wildcats below.)
Boston College turned in the most dominating performance of the weekend, shutting out Providence 6-0 and 8-0. The Friars — not exactly college hockey’s version of chopped liver — had entered the series with a 12-6-1 record.
In the process, goaltender Scott Clemmensen fashioned his third straight shutout and has now gone 241 minutes and 34 seconds (a BC and Hockey East record) since allowing his last goal. Even though teammate Brian Gionta scored six points, Clemmensen was a no-brainer to take his second consecutive league Rookie of the Week award.
Wasn’t goaltending supposed to be BC’s potential Achilles’ heel this year? Four games doesn’t make a career — ask Jim Carey and Blaine Lacher how short a goaltender’s trip can be from the penthouse to the outhouse — but Clemmensen has opened eyes and shut yapping mouths with his recent play.
"I think Scott summed it up very well when he said that it was a team shutout not an individual shutout," said coach Jerry York. "We have played well in front of Scott, especially our six defensemen who have kept us out of a lot of trouble, but he’s also playing exceptionally well himself. He made some tremendous saves over the weekend and is growing in confidence. He’s an integral part of our team and has responded to the challenge of his position."
In the offensive end, the line of Gionta, Jeff Farkas and Andy Powers contributed six goals, led by Gionta’s three goals and three assists.
"Brian had an outstanding weekend," said York. "He was a real catalyst for our club."
Gionta played the first semester on Marty Reasoner’s line, but when Gionta and Farkas returned from the World Junior Tournament, where the two had played together, York left the combination intact. Powers has been a prime beneficiary of the move, his five points last weekend nearly doubling his previous total of seven.
Coming on the heels of BC’s 4-2 breakthrough win over BU and 42-shot effort in a scoreless tie with Maine, this weekend’s action could indicate a runaway freight train picking up speed. The Eagles wouldn’t be the first young team that took its game to the next level in the second semester.
"Certainly our team is playing very well," said York. "We’re pleased with the effort and the execution of our entire club."
PICK: The scheduling gods have teed this one up for SportsChannel. UNH and BC will act like Tiger Woods and spank this one 360 yards down the fairway. Sean Grande and Cap Raeder get to call their third overtime in three broadcasts, one which ends when Derek Bekar scores at 2:12 of overtime for a 5-4 UNH win.
Maine (9-9-3, 6-7-2 HEA) at No. 5 Boston University (14-4-2, 7-3-2 HEA)
Friday, 7 p.m., Walter Brown Arena, Boston, MA TV-SCNE
Saturday, 7 p.m., Walter Brown Arena, Boston, MA WABU-TV68
Boston University split its series with Northeastern, losing 2-1 in overtime before coming back with a 3-2 win at home. The Terriers, after opening with an 11-1-0 record, have drooped to 3-3-2 in their last eight games. A power outage is at the root of the problems. In those eight games, they’ve scored only 2.75 goals a game.
In particular, Chris Drury has become the most snakebitten of all the Terriers. After tying the BU career record for goals scored, held by John Cullen and Bob Marquis, he has gone four straight games without finding the back of the net. To put this in context, since early in his freshman year when he was a fourth-liner on the championship team, Drury had previously gone no longer than two games without a goal.
A set play off the faceoff, however, almost broke the drought on Friday night. Drury lined up on the outside of the right faceoff circle and then broke across to the opposite circle at the drop of the puck. Teammates found both Drury and Bobby Hanson on separate occasions as part of the play, but both were stopped by Northeastern’s Marc Robitaille and the Huskies subsequently adjusted.
Coach Jack Parker also shook up his power-play formation, moving Drury to one point. Then as the man advantage unfolded, Drury dropped down and the Terriers played with just one man at the point. The adjustment, however, wasn’t designed to get Drury himself on track, but rather the anemic power play.
"We just haven’t been scoring on our power play," said Parker. "We wanted to change it around completely. The way to do it was start Chris on the point and then really play four forwards and one defenseman. I was really pleased with the opportunities we got. We just couldn’t get a goal."
Of course, Drury continues to win faceoffs, play great defense and set up his linemates, but a Drury who isn’t scoring goals is like Dolly Parton without the big…um…hair.
Meanwhile, Maine dropped 2-1 and 5-0 contests with New Hampshire last weekend to open a five-game gauntlet of three games against UNH and two against BU.
"To beat New Hampshire right now, we have to play an almost mistake-free game," said coach Shawn Walsh. "We basically did that on Friday night. We had a tough call late in the game that [put them on the power play and] they converted, but that’s what makes them great.
"The second night, whenever we made a mistake, they put it right in the net. I’m so impressed with their team, because I thought we played very, very well. We outshot them 21-6 in the second period on Saturday and lost the period 1-0.
"Sean [Matile] was great in the net, their team was awesome up front and I think their defense is just getting better. Dick [Umile] just has a great club."
The Black Bear power play, which earlier in the season led the nation, has cooled down to a 26.9 percent clip and could muster only one goal in 14 chances on the weekend.
"We created nine scoring chances the second night, but just couldn’t get one past Sean," said Walsh. "But also, they were terrific. They lead the nation [in penalty killing] and they just won that battle."
The power outage has also extended to five-on-five play. After beating Merrimack 7-6 on the 9th, the Black Bears have scored only one goal in their last three games. Most prominently, Steve Kariya has been held without a point in seven of the last nine games.
"We’ve gotten a little predictable," said Walsh. "Teams have focused a little on his own individual moves."
Walsh isn’t concerned, though, about his dynamic star’s ability to break out.
"I think you go through those spells," said Walsh. "He’s playing well and he’s creating chances."
Perhaps last year’s dominating second-half play after Walsh’s return created unrealistic expectations that this year’s team simply can’t live up to. Last year, the Black Bears won 12 of their last 13, outscoring opponents 77-31, including a three-game 13-3 sweep of Boston University.
That dominance camouflaged the severity of Maine’s scholarship reductions, creating the illusion that the Black Bears could resume their national powerhouse status without skipping a beat. This year’s results may be proof that expectations must be reined in a bit.
"We had such a veteran-laden team last year," said Walsh. "What we lost was moxie. We lost the guys you have on the ice when you’re up by a goal, the checkers, the workers. [Dan] Shermerhorn won every faceoff last year, as an example. If he didn’t, [Trevor] Roenick did. [Reg] Cardinal was tremendous in the corners. And we had two of the best defensemen in the league.
"Because of the reduced scholarships, we weren’t able to replace them so when they graduated, we had to bite the bullet this year. So we’re kind of in a rebuilding mentality, but I think we’re still a dangerous team. We’ll be one of those teams that I’m not sure people will want to play in the playoffs."
Maine could get Shawn Mansoff back soon. Mansoff was suspended for one-year from the university for his alleged role in the Bryan Masotta racial threatening episode. Charges were dropped against Mansoff and Matt Oliver, but the university, operating under a different burden of proof than innocent-until-proven-guilty, has not yet lifted the suspensions.
Mansoff, who maintained his innocence, appealed the suspension and is attending classes, pending a hearing later this week. His status will be determined then.
"He’ll either be out for a year, in which case he might turn pro and play on a minor league pro team, or he’ll be back in school and playing," said Walsh.
And so eyes turn to this week and the resumption of one of the league’s top rivalries. The Black Bears owned the Terriers last year, but BU extracted a measure of revenge in November with a 6-0 win in Orono. In recent weeks, both squads have been struggling offensively.
"They’re such a good defensive club," said Walsh. "What scares me is that we’re not scoring. They’re not exactly a team you want to run into when you’re not scoring.
"We’ve scored one goal in our last 82 shots. It’s amazing that we tied one of those games and we lost another one on a goal with 41 seconds to go, so to be in those games while we’re going through a drought speaks highly of our defense. But BU’s goaltending is not what you want to go against when you’re in a slump."
PICKS: Maine takes opening night 4-3, but BU gains the split 5-3 on Saturday. In a side note, Drury gets the bung-puller in the second period on Friday and finishes with four goals on the weekend.
No. 6 Boston College (14-6-3, 8-4-2 HEA) vs. UMass-Amherst (3-15-2, 0-10-1 HEA)
Friday, 7 p.m., Mullins Center, Amherst, MA
Saturday, 7 p.m., Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, MA
UMass-Amherst takes on Boston College (previewed above) one week after dropping a pair of 6-4 games to Merrimack. Minutemen hopes of a playoff berth began to slip through their fingers following the two losses. They now trail eighth-place Merrimack by seven points and are at least 11 points behind all other league competition.
"I take things one game at a time," said coach Joe Mallen. "I don’t look at it from a fan’s point of view. I look at it from a coach’s point of view. We obviously had chances to win both games. We went into the third period tied both nights.
"The first night, we outshot them 41-27. We had 20 shots on goal in the second period and came out with only one goal…. The second night, we had a 4-2 lead, but we coughed one up in our own end, making a major blunder which made it 4-3, and then they scored two goals on a five-on-three power play and a regulation power play. The last goal was really scored when one of our guys banked the puck off Porter’s backside and into the net.
"That’s typical of how the whole season has gone. A bounce here and a bounce there have made a big difference.
"I thought [goaltender Cris] Classen made some of the saves he needed to make at the right time. That really helped them. We know what the numbers are in terms of how many goals they’ve been giving up, but they certainly have great offensive power. They’re another really good Hockey East team."
To make matters worse, the Minutemen are now facing the Eagles at the worst possible time. BC is cranking on all cylinders, beating Providence 6-0 and 8-0.
Although the short-term looks bleak, Mallen is giving freshman goaltender Markus Helanen (3.30 GAA, .880 SV%) more time. He split the action with Brian Regan last weekend.
"At this point, Regan is still our go-to guy," said Mallen. "But one thing that I think has hurt Merrimack this year is that they had those two good goaltenders last year and Classen didn’t get a lot of experience and came in cold. I want to make sure that our freshman goaltender gets enough time so he feels comfortable when our senior graduates."
Freshman Kris Wallis, who Mallen had high hopes for at the start of the season, scored twice on the power play against Merrimack for his fourth and fifth goals on the season.
"On the power play, he has really been able to find the back of the net," said Mallen. "He’s stepping up right now with some good production."
PICKS: It’s the wrong place at the wrong time for the Minutemen. BC has entered a taking-no-prisoners zone, 5-1, 5-1.
Northeastern (14-7-2, 7-5-2 HEA) vs. Merrimack (9-12-1, 4-8-0 HEA)
Friday, 7 p.m., Matthews Arena, Boston, MA
Sunday, 2 p.m., Volpe Complex, North Andover, MA AudioNet
Expectations that Northeastern’s Cinderella season would hit midnight when third-ranked BU showed up proved false. The Huskies toppled the Terriers 2-1 in overtime and then, at Walter Brown Arena, took the same score into the third period only to see that one slip away from them, 3-2. Still, the split says only good things about the Huskies. More and more, it’s looking like the glass slipper might just fit the hardest-working feet in the league.
"People in the press have said, ‘Geez, you’re here but you haven’t played Moe, Larry and Curley yet,’" said coach Bruce Crowder after the Friday night win. "Well, we played Moe tonight and get to play him again tomorrow night. Hopefully, the guys will come back hard. That’s going to be the real test for such a young team. To come back mentally to play two games in a row of that caliber is a real learning process."
Although the Huskies fell short in the return match, they still showed surprising poise in perhaps the toughest building in the league.
"It showed a lot of character for our kids," said Crowder. "I told them before the game, ‘We’ve got to learn to win games back-to-back if we’re going to win championships. We’ve got a great opportunity to do that tonight.’ I thought they responded pretty well.
"It was a weekend we can definitely continue to build on."
In one of the keys to the series, the Huskies blanked BU on all 13 Terrier power plays.
"We pressured well when they got in the zone," said Crowder. "We made some mistakes not clearing the puck when we should have cleared it, but at the same time, with only two seniors and one junior in the lineup, to play that kind of hockey is very exciting for this coaching staff."
The Huskies also avoided a letdown three nights later, defeating Brown 4-2.
Although shot totals can be deceiving, Marc Robitaille stopped 39 of 40 shots on Friday, 34 of 37 on Saturday and 32 of 34 against Brown. Without a doubt, Robitaille is establishing himself as one of the top netminders in the league.
"Hey, that’s why he’s making 100 million dollars, right?" quipped Crowder.
Robitaille could see more of the same this weekend against Merrimack, second only to UNH as Hockey East’s top offensive squad.
This match-up poses some of the same difficulties as the Brown contest. A young team basking in the glow of its press clippings looks at the standings and mentally puts the game in the W column before even lacing up the skates.
"We’ll handle that," said Crowder. "Four of their kids are in the top nine in the country. They’ve definitely got some explosive players there and their power play is working at a nice clip.
"So, it’s going to be offense against defense. We’re going to have to play disciplined and not take penalties that will put us at a disadvantage. We’ll just have to play smart."
Merrimack endured a Murderers’ Row in first-semester league action — three games against UNH, two against Maine, and one each against BU, BC and Northeastern — but with those games under its belt held hopes of a strong second-semester finish like last year. Those hopes faltered, however, after early January losses to Lowell and Maine, but last weekend the Warriors got back on track with two 6-4 wins over UMass-Amherst.
"Obviously, we’re very happy that we’re starting to win some hockey games," said coach Ron Anderson. "I thought we played pretty well offensively. We’re still working hard on our team defense and hoping to improve that area.
"But we went through a weekend where [in terms of plus-minus] everyone was plus and nobody was minus. If we sustain that posture both individually and collectively, I think we’ll score enough goals to give ourselves a good chance to win hockey games."
Before the UMass-Amherst series, seventh place looked pretty distant. The sweep, however, combined with Lowell playing only a nonconference game and Providence getting swept, puts the Warriors in striking distance — just four points — of those sixth- and seventh-place teams.
"We know that points can be made up in a hurry," said Anderson. "We still have five games remaining with those teams so we’ll have a chance to go after them head-to-head. We’re happy that we’re starting to make a move. We just hope it’s a sustained move." If you asked most casual fans which team had the number two, three and four scorers in the nation, they’d probably guess UNH. While they wouldn’t be too far off with that try, it’s Merrimack’s Martin Laroche, Kris Porter and Rejean Stringer that are now in that position. Just nine years removed from its Division II days, the school can now boast three legitimate Hobey Baker candidates.
"Obviously, they are our three most productive players points-wise, but they are also three players who are maturing and leading this club right now," said Anderson. "We expect that our juniors and seniors at this stage in their careers will step forward and become legitimate everyday leaders, both on the scoresheet and in character and integrity. All three of those guys are."
The three combine with Darrel Scoville, one of the top defensemen in the league, and Casey Kesselring to form the most potent power play (29.7 percent) in the league. Last year at this time, the Warriors had the worst.
"We lived for years on upperclass defense and goaltending while our forwards were maturing," said Anderson. "Now the forwards are there and we’ve started to go the other way. We’re young from the blue line all the way back.
"But basically we throw out two seniors and three juniors on the power play. That doesn’t mean it’s automatic just because they’re older players, but they’re all pretty good players and they’re experienced and poised. They all have the ability to put the puck in the net.
"We’re getting scoring not only from the three guys around the net, but also from the points too. We don’t do anything special. We’re not tricky or try gimmicks; it’s just five guys that are pretty good players that try hard every night."
On the flip side, however, is the league’s worst penalty kill (71.4 percent overall and a woeful 64.9 percent in Hockey East). Putting two and two together gives the Warriors 14 power-play goals in league action, while they surrender 20 on the PK. That kind of addition doesn’t lead to a lot of wins.
"There’s no secret that our youth on defense and in the goal is a factor," said Anderson. "But we’ve obviously got to get better."
In taking on Northeastern, Merrimack faces a team that doesn’t give up many goals, so staying away from the penalty kill and capitalizing on the power play should prove decisive.
"When we played them earlier this year, we had 48 shots, but lost 6-4," said Anderson. "They are so strong on defense and in goal and really capitalize on your mistakes. We know their forwards work hard in all three zones and their defense and Robitaille back that all up. With our next three games against them and BU, we’ll have make sure we play our best."
PICKS: Northeastern wins 4-3 at home on Friday. Back at the frozen tundra of the Volpe Complex on Super Bowl afternoon, the two teams give the fans their best excitement of the day with Northeastern winning 5-4 in overtime. By comparison, the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos game is a yawner. The Pack back-to-back, 47-24.
Providence College (12-8-1, 6-6-0 HEA) vs. UMass-Lowell (8-9-2, 5-5-2 HEA)
Friday, 7 p.m., Tully Forum, Lowell, MA
Saturday, 7 p.m., Schneider Arena, Providence, RI
Providence took it on the chin twice to the surging Boston College Eagles last weekend, 6-0, 8-0.
"BC played very well," said coach Paul Pooley. "Everything went wrong for us. Just simple things that we didn’t execute. We’ve got to tighten up, but BC is peaking right now. They’re playing very, very well. Gionta’s line with Powers and Farkas was the big difference."
Starting with a 1-0 loss to BU, the Friars have now been shut out in three straight games.
Contributing to the problem is a power play that has suddenly been misfiring, scoring only once in its last 25 chances. Despite the tough stretch, PC still ranks fifth within the league in overall clip with a 18.5 percent success rate, but that’s quite a drop from the 24 percent efficiency it showed prior to the drought.
The pieces to the power-play puzzle are still there, though, especially Mike Omicioli and Fernando Pisani.
Of greater concern is the penalty kill. BC went 7-for-13 on the power play to lower the Friars to only a 76 percent kill rate, next to last in the league.
You can’t win many games with specialty teams like that.
So now the Friars will look to recover against UMass-Lowell, a team they downed 5-3 in mid-November.
"We’ve just got to get back on track and play the kind of hockey we’re capable of playing," said Pooley. "It seems that we’ve gone through a little funk every year since I’ve been here. We did the same thing [when I was an assistant] at Lake Superior and went through a bit of a setback. But we’ll certainly get it going and work at it."
UMass-Lowell lost to ninth-ranked Yale, 6-3, in its only game of the week.
"We just let our guard down on several shifts," said coach Tim Whitehead. "We knew they weren’t a team that gets a ton of shots on net, but they are a team that capitalizes on your mistakes. We turned it over a couple times in our defensive zone and it cost us."
After dominating the first period and grabbing a 2-1 lead, Lowell gave up power-play goals in the first and last minutes of the second period to fall behind for good, 3-2. "Any time you get scored on in the beginning or end of a period, those are momentum-swingers," said Whitehead. "One of our objectives is the plus and minus in the first and last minute of each period, but they burned us on it.
"That second period was actually a pretty good period for us. We just got burned on a couple of shifts. The guys are just going to have to learn that you have to be sharp in the first and last minutes, especially when you’re on the penalty kill.
"On the positive side, we’re playing good hockey. Three out of four shifts are real good, hard-nosed, drive-the-net, take-the-body and pick-up-men-defensively kind of shifts. One out of four, we turn the puck over. We have to sharpen it up."
The cancellation of games in the North Country a week earlier left the River Hawks with 13 days between games and, including the Christmas break, just three in the last five weeks.
"I wish we had a back-to-backer with [Yale,]" said Whitehead. "One game is kind of a shame. That hurts us going into next weekend when we still won’t be game-sharp. [Against Yale,] we looked a little sluggish. We didn’t seem to be up to game speed. We’ve been practicing pretty hard; we’ll just have to keep doing what we can to get in game shape."
Two of the River Hawks hadn’t expected to be in anything close to game shape, but played anyway.
All-Hockey East defenseman Mike Nicholishen returned from a bout with mono and knee woes to play a surprising number of minutes, especially considering his lack of cardiovascular conditioning.
Freshman Mark Fontas, who had been unable to even practice with the team until the NCAA Clearinghouse finally passed him, got his first taste of Division I action.
"I thought he did great," said Whitehead. "He worked hard and kept it simple. He skates well. I thought for a first game after not playing hockey all semester, he played pretty good. He’s going to be fine. It’s good to see a local boy get in the lineup."
The return of "Nicco" and Fontas’s baptism couldn’t have come at a better time. Chris Libbet remains out with an elbow ligament injury and forward-grudgingly-turned-defenseman Doug Nolan became defenseman-grudgingly-turned-spectator for Friday night because of a fighting disqualification against Yale.
Lowell now returns to Hockey East to face a Providence team that took a whupping, 6-0 and 8-0, to BC last weekend. There’s one school of thought that says that it’s good timing to catch a team when it’s down. There’s another that says it’s lousy timing to take on any foe with a wounded pride. Count Whitehead among the latter.
"I’d rather not play them after that," said Whitehead. "But who knows how it’ll pan out. I’m sure they’re going to come out much better than that. They’re a real good hockey team."
PICKS: The River Hawks close out Tully on a winning note, 5-3, but the Friars come back 4-3 for the split.
Paul E. Tsongas Arena Opening Game Dartmouth (6-7-3, 3-7-1 ECAC) at UMass-Lowell (8-9-2, 5-5-2 HEA)
Tuesday, 7 p.m., Paul E. Tsongas Arena, Lowell, MA
UMass-Lowell (previewed above) opens the eagerly-anticipated Tsongas Arena with this mid-week contest. Although weekends have typically been the better draw at Tully Forum, organizers are hoping for a large student turnout on the night before second-semester classes begin. Students, after all, are the major target for the on-campus arena.
All fans should be pleased with this facility, patterned after UNH’s Whittemore Center. The last t’s are not expected to be crossed, nor the i’s dotted, but this should be a major stride forward for the River Hawk program.
Dartmouth could prove to be party poopers, however. So far this year, the Big Green have tied UMass-Amherst and Merrimack and have beaten Providence, among Hockey East opponents. More recently, they have taken two of their last three, sandwiching a 4-3 loss to Clarkson with a 4-3 upset of Yale and a 4-1 win over St. Lawrence.
(For a more detailed look at Dartmouth from an ECAC perspective, check out this week’s ECAC Preview.)
PICK: The Big Green can’t spoil the celebration. River Hawks 4-3.
Brown (4-12-1, 4-7-1 ECAC) at No. 3 New Hampshire (16-4-1, 8-3-1 HEA)
Saturday, 7 p.m., Whittemore Center, Durham, NH
Brown had taken five of six possible points recently, tying Rensselaer and defeating Dartmouth and Union. The Bears fell to Northeastern 4-2 on Tuesday night, however.
They have not fared well outside of the ECAC, losing all five nonconference games this season, including three against Hockey East.
The odds are strongly in favor of New Hampshire (previewed above) keeping that backwards momentum going.
(For a more detailed look at Brown from an ECAC perspective, check out this week’s ECAC Preview.)
PICK: It’s all UNH from the drop of the puck, 6-2.