Maine, BC and Merrimack sweeps are early season messages

When the Hockey East coaches voted in their preseason polls, three of the top five teams were Boston College, Maine and Merrimack. All three have proved those coaches wise thus far. And this past weekend, as each sweeped their weekend series, the trio sent the message that they’re teams to be reckoned with.

As I sit here in Sunday night trying to think of the most important three takeaways I have from this weekend’s play, here is what runs through my head:

3. Let’s go obvious… Maine, BC and Merrimack are all as good as advertised: Wins may not have come easy for all three of these teams – particularly Maine and BC’s Friday wins (over Providence and Massachusetts-Lowell, respectively) and Merrimack’s Saturday win at Vermont. But the fact that each of these clubs came away with wins in these games is an early, and important, proving point that all three can win.

2. UMass-Lowell gets my vote as most improved: I haven’t seen some teams play live at this point, but of the six or so I have seen, UMass-Lowell is the most improved team thus far. Coach Norm Bazin has this team playing a high-octane game, transitioning quickly from defense to offense and shooting from the hot dog stand – every and any shot seems like a good one at this point – leading to a very changed River Hawks club. Lowell has some problems still to address. Goaltending seems to struggle, the defense makes some mistakes and there doesn’t seem to be a go-to finisher offensively. But this is a positive sign for a Lowell team that was out of the playoffs with a month to go a season ago.

3. BU and UMass, despite playing an entertaining series, have some big problems to address: For BU, it’s the slow start. Both night this weekend the Terriers fell behind the Minutemen. To their credit, they rallied for a tie and OT win. But BU fell behind early to other teams – namely Providence and Holy Cross – and those games resulted in losses. Not what coach Parker wanted. UMass, on the other hand, seems to be struggling to play with a lead and finish games. I’ll expand on both of these topics later in the week in my weekly notes column.

30 COMMENTS

  1. Let me know when UMO finally defeats a .500 team or above on the road, which hasn’t been the case since 2009-10.  Next up is top ranked BC.  You do the math ;)

    • Wow – considering UME (not UMO- that’s the University of Missouri) has only played 2 games on the road so far this season (North Dakota) – it sure seems like you have the bar set a bit high for them – especially during the first week of November.  Let’s allow them to play more than 2 games on the road before we make any assumptions about their season.  Sounds to me like somewhere in the past, Maine has beaten your team in a game that counted, and you can’t let go of the pain.

    • I guess that North Dakota team that beat BC 6-2 and were everything but outscored two nights in a row by Maine isn’t very good. 

      • Hey Bruce, it was actually Boston College that beat the North Dakota Fighting Sioux by the score of 6 to 2 at the Ice Breaker Tournament  played in Grand Forks. But, most hockey folks know to fear the Black Bears. Friday’s game should be a good test for both teams.

  2. No, I was referring to all those times they beat teams like BC, and basically everyone else on their schedule.  That is part of the reason they are ranked 7th without having beaten “anyone good yet” this season.

  3. UMO is not a good team – just look at the goals they gave up to Providence, at home:  a short-handed goal, rebound goal, a 2 on 1 breakaway.  Their goals, on the other hand, are not goals that better teams like BC, BU and UNH are going to give up.  This weekend will put Maine right where they belong –

  4. Looking at the Lowell River Hawks on Friday night, I was impressed. With a rookie coach and all those Freshmen, they played with passion and a sense of purpose. I think they will have some surprising wins this season. One of the goalies will emerge.

  5. The title of ther article should be 4 Things….. number 4 is “Wisconsin still sucks!” No further explanation needed.

  6. How can you win game when two goals, which both times goalies did not hold position, were disqualified without any hockey reasoning? Penn st is not playing a hockey that we know of, period. two players waiting for offside formation that officials overlook. shooting 60 shots per game, which I don’t have to mention as to why they do. Michigan simply did not adjust to the game that they should have to win, which is good for the players who will go to NHL. Nothing to take away from Penn st? They were unnecessarily physical which BIG usually calls foul. Some unintelligent analysts call them blue collar. I see them recklessly aggressive hockey team that does not have a future in next level, with refs who are worse then midget hockey refs. I don’t know where is penn st’s obsession with Michigan is comming from but this chant of penn st being good should be stopped. It is annoying as a hockey fan.
    As for NCAA tournament, only Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin deserves to represent BIG, with their OOC strength of schedule, Wisconsin better win tournament, which is unlikely. Only good game that Minnesota played and win were at their oversized rink. Michigan…. well… good luck with that goaltenders.

  7. Michigan is done. I doubt they have an at-large chance left other than maybe sweeping MSU and making the B1G title game. Likely going to be B1G tournament title or bust for them

  8. Well, credit where credit is due. Six, four even two weeks ago I would not have thought MSU being in first place was even remotely possible. But, when you have a tender that keeps throwing shutouts, good things can happen. Hildebrand for player of the week. I will say that the Badgers put up a good fight Saturday night. Friday not so much. Saturday was a tough game. I was just looking at old CCHA records: Last MSU regular season championship was 2001. Last CCHA tournament championship was 2006. I think to make the dance, MSU needs to win out. Including the tourney.
    So lets take it to the Weasels this week-end.
    Go Green!
    P.S. I still do not care for Anastos.

    • MSU has come a long way from their slow start this season. Your rants against them have tamed considerably, despite your feelings about Anastos. It helps that this a down year for the B1G, but being in first place with a week to go is something I’m sure you never saw coming earlier in the year. Good luck against MI as I’ll be rooting for a Gopher’s sweep and possible second straight conference championship.

      • Rants? I don’t rant. nope, never, never, never rant about how much I don’t care for Tommy (can you hear me) Anastos…… Rant, me? never………. Fiddle sticks. Me rant……..

        Here’s a question for the group: What constitutes a down year? Poor non-conference records coupled with average conference records? Could we have a season, where all B10 teams do very, very well in Non-con. play and then be just a game or two above/below .500 and call that a down season. I’m not convinced this is really a ‘Down Season’. Given the histories of MSU, Minny, Wisco and um, it is possible that we could have a champion with just above .500 conference record on a regular basis.
        Thoughts…….

        • I would tend to agree with this point Decatur. With a 6 team league and 4 traditional hockey schools with rich histories, I think we will see a lot more close conference races right around/above .500 then we would with say the old WCHA/CCHA there aren’t enough poor teams to bank points on. I like the parity in the league but wish there was more of a variety in scheduling. Basically all the SOS and Power Rankings are gonna be won in the Non Conference in the B1G until Penn can truly establish themselves, (made a good stride this year) and OSU figures out how to consistently play.

          • Good point on the SOS and Pairwise. Need to spread out the B10 season thru the entire season. Wouldn’t hurt to have some tough non-con games in January and February to help the Pairwise. The B10 though, has always done it this way. Whether it is FB, BB, Volleyball etc. Time to change up the B10.

  9. The B1G is really going to have to try to find a couple more teams to add to the league (Miami of Ohio, and North Dakota) and they should try and get a couple of the B1G schools to add hockey, The University of Illinois had a good club team this past year . They are just beating each other up every weekend. Plus there going to have to really look at there Non-Conference games, and play more of them on the road to earn extra points.

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