First impressions across Hockey East

It’s only one weekend so I reserve the right to unlearn what I think I’ve learned. But here are three things I think I learned from this weekend’s games.

Three, Massachusetts may have found at least one solution to the graduation of goaltender Paul Dainton.

I know it’s just one game and the road to Goaltender Stardom is littered with the empty husks of goalies who looked good in their first game. 

Got it.

But let’s put it this way. Freshman Kevin Boyle made a strong first impression in UMass’s 3-3 tie with Northeastern. The Huskies finally got the equalizer via an extra-attacker goal with two seconds remaining, but Boyle looked strong protecting a 3-2 lead from early in the second period until that point.

UMass coach Don “Toot” Cahoon won’t be making any lasting decisions based on the one game, but going into the season he needed either returning sophomore Jeff Teglia or one of two freshmen, Boyle or Steve Mastalerz, to emerge between the pipes. Teglia might well have gotten the start against Northeastern if not felled by illness.

But let’s just say that the early evidence on one of the three candidates is quite positive.

Two, this is not last year’s BU Terriers; the 2011-2012 edition can protect a third-period lead.

Last year, the Terriers were infamous for robbing goaltender Kieran Millan of shutouts by taking chances to “get their goal” and in the process turn a 2-0 or 3-0 lead into a close game. Against New Hampshire on Saturday, however, BU maintained a defense-first approach, limiting the Wildcats to only six third-period shots (with the result of getting goals off defense instead of bad choices).

One, this may be last year’s Merrimack Warriors.

Those who expected the Warriors to wither up and die following the loss of Stephane Da Costa (and others), got a surprise this past weekend. Merrimack traveled up to Orono and defeated Maine, 2-1.

In many ways, the Warriors followed the same recipe that gave them so much success last year. Other than the low score (which admittedly could be evidence of a more defensive style of play), the ingredients all match.

Last year, especially in the playoffs, Merrimack blocked shot after shot. Against Maine, the Warriors blocked 19 of them.

Beyond that, they killed all nine penalties and scored a shorthanded goal. Least year, their PK ranked third in Hockey East, behind only BU and BC, and their nine shorthanders trailed only BC.

Based on the one game, the recipe matches.