Weekend sweeps create three different classes in Hockey East

There were four weekend sweeps in Hockey East – Massachusetts-Lowell over Massachusetts, Maine over Boston University, Boston College over New Hampshire and Northeastern over Vermont – that taught me just one thing (that can be divided into three different groups). So here are the three classes that will make up the Hockey East race as we head down the home stretch:

1. Teams with the highest of hopes

There is a distinct five-team pack in Hockey East that all have the highest hopes: a Hockey East title (this same five team pack is likely to determine the four home-ice spots). Boston University appeared to be in the driver’s seat entering last weekend but after losing two at home to Maine, suddenly have lost the handle on first place. BU and BC each have 25 points in first place. Right on their heels is Maine with 24, Merrimack with 23 and Lowell with 22. The most important factor here, though, are games in hand. BC and Maine have each played 20 games. BU has played 19. But Lowell and Merrimack have each played just 17 games, putting them in the cat bird’s seat. One thing to note, as well, Lowell and Merrimack still have to play three games against one another, something that is certain to have a major impact on the regular season title as well as home ice.

2. Battling for their playoff lives

While five teams may be in a race for the league title and home ice, four other clubs seem to be battling it out for the final three playoff spots. Providence, Northeastern, Massachusetts and New Hampshire will play the final weeks looking for which team will be odd man out. The Friars have a three point lead over NU and UMass and it’s likely only the Friars have a chance of the four to get home ice in the playoffs (this of course is not mathematical, rather based on recent trends). New Hampshire is in the worst position after losing twice to BC this weekend. The fact that Northeastern leapfrogged the Wildcats means that UNH is the team on the outside looking in.

3. For Vermont, it’s better luck next year

In no way am I saying Vermont should mail it in for the rest of the season, but being nine points out of the playoffs with just nine games left is a tall order for the Catamounts. Still, the team could play the role of spoiler with weekend series against Lowell, BU and New Hampshire, as well as three games against Boston College remaining.

There is plenty of hockey still to be played, but this past weekend did a lot to divide the remaining battles in Hockey East.

78 COMMENTS

    • I agree.  NMU just swept a very tough St. Cloud team, and their only loss was to Big 10 Wisconsin.  They could have swept that series too.  Their freshmen
      looked great last weekend.  It seems that NMU gets no mention unless they reach the frozen four and are too obvious, even for Paula, to ignore.

    • Any team that makes the NCAA tournament 7 out of the last 14 years with league  competition the likes of N. Dakota, CC, Denver, Minnesota, Wisconsin
      etc. then you have to consider them tough.  They have a solid program, good coaching, and they can beat any team in the country.  So, yes – really!

  1. Thankfully, NMU will be in the new WCHA in a couple years, and will no longer have to deal with large school bias!  Being with Bemidji, Mankato, Tech, LSSU and our other CCHA brothers will be a real treat.  AND one of us every season will be in the NCAA Big Dance, maybe two.  

  2. Maine is still in trouble.  Beating a team with goal-tending issues at home and beating an injured team isn’t going to cut it. Despite having great talent, Maine has continued to under achieve. Maine had the best player in the nation in Nyquist and they couldn’t get to the NCAAs.  Their top line may be the best in the nation, but they still have 8 losses.  It all comes back to coaching.  Despite top notch talent, Maine has missed the NCAAs the past 2 years (I’ll give 2 years to rebuild) but those two losses to UMass at home in 2010 killed their chances and all those bad ties last year did the same.  This year will be no different. They will end up in 5th place, play either Merrimack or UMass Lowell or BC on the road and lose in the first round and not make the NCAAs.  This should be a wake-up call to the administration at UMO to fire Mr. Whitehead. These past three years were the time to do it, and they failed two times already and going to once again. Next year looks bleak as no one is scoring as a junior, except for Diamond. The junior class, except for Diamond have a lot of play makers in Beatie and Mangene, but they aren’t pure scorers like Flynn or Diamond are.  I do like this freshman class as they have a lot of energy and work the boards well, but Maine hasn’t had freshmen scorers in a while.  They will need that for next year. Like I said, Maine has had the talent for 3 years and they continue to fail – that has to be pinned on the coach.

    Maine is in the driver’s seat with a soft schedule, but those losses at the beginning will hurt, especially when Providence, UMass and Northeastern all leave the pairwise with under .500 RPI by the end of the year.  Thus all those wins will go away under the TUC.  Getting swept at home to a team that won a grand total of 6 games last year is unacceptable. If Maine were to lose to Alabama at home either game, they should just fire Mr. Whitehead for losing to a team that has a grand total of 2 wins and save percentage of .860.

    • First thought I had while reading your post was, its all fine and dandy that they swept BU and BC the last 2 weekends, but if they lose just one game to Alabama this weekend, the sweeps will be for not as far as the NCAA’s go. I predict a letdown this weekend. Lets hope it doesn’t turn into a loss. 

      I have been on the fence about Whitehead. He has shown times when his teams really come to play and then times when they really stink up the show. I guess that is the nature of college hockey though. Nobody has really showed consistency all year. The worst thing that happened to Maine several years ago was losing Grant Stanbrook as a recruiter, though. He was a master, but as soon as he left the prime recruits stopped coming to Maine. It wasn’t a coincidence. Maine teams have struggled to get to the NCAA’s since.

    • So…..they sweep BC and BU consecutive weekends……and now they should fire the coach. I don’t even know how you can enjoy watching the hockey with all that pent up anger and resentment for the coaching staff. Do you go to the games and give the coaches the evil eye and heckle them as they come off the ice after a 7-4 win vs. BC? Why even bother going or watching if you’re not even mildly happy about a 4 game win streak against top 5 teams?

    • You really need to look at all of the problems that Maine has had over the past few years that has nothing to do with Tim Whitehead.  Did Tim and the other coaches plan on the problems they had with Scott Darling?  They had no control over that.  Who was expecting Teddy Purcell to stay only one year and then turn pro. Though I live in Maine , it is difficult to get  to get players in to coming to Maine away from big city life.

      • Nothing to do with Whitehead?  Are you seriously blaming Maine’s issues on Darling and Purcell?  Maine lost plenty of underclassmen under Walsh (Kariya, P Ferraro, C Ferraro, and many others) and still the team rolled on winning.

        Players avoid Maine because of the coaching staff, not due to the location.

        Tim Whitehead has been an epic disaster over the past 5 seasons. Good grief.

    • Now that everybody is complaining, I’ll put my two cents in.  I think Whitehead is as capable as anybody, he has just lacked inspiration the last 4 years and needs to find a coaching position that is more fitting for him.  That being said, I believe Maine’s success as of late is due the talk of firing Whitehead (which I think is the wrong motivation). 

      I still say send him on his way, but I’ll try to be optimistic for the rest of this season.

      • All you Maine fans are so right. Replace Whitehead. Replace him with someone like Blaise MacDonald like Maine did. Then you can really watch a coach drill a program into the ground.

        You all have no idea how good you have it with Whitehead. He led the team to four Frozen Fours and brought the team to one of the top academic teams in the league. The guy understands what he’s doing and, as much as you want to say everything good is happening despite him, he’s the number one reason this team is playing well right now.

        But go ahead. Call for his head and enjoy yet another coach who won’t replace Shawn Walsh in your minds. No one will ever be good enough until you get your national title. You and the other 59 schools. Best of luck, Orono.

        • I say replace him with Jim Montgomery, Grant Standbrook and Bobby Corkum.

          And there are 58 DI hockey programs, so there would be 57 other schools.  Just sayin…..

  3. At the end of the day ask yourself if it really matters.  Maine swept the then number 3 team in the nation and now they’ve swept the number two team.  Now those two Boston based teams are rank 5th and 3rd respectively after being swept by Maine, but where does Maine rank?  15th.  Yes.  15th. Pairwise puts Maine at 10th – and that’s with the early season let downs that you can make the case could be taken into consideration when ranking the team, but really shouldn’t rankings be based on both pairwise rankings and team performance today?  Ohio State has completely collapsed and they still outrank Maine. Cornell wouldn’t be mid-pack in Hockey East and they’re ranked above Maine.  This Maine team is the hottest in the country right now – it should be top 5 ranked.  Whitehead haters should be less concerned with him and more concerned at who’s phallus needs attention in order to get a decent ranking in College hockey.

    • Regular season “rankings” do not matter, especially the swings caused by four games played.

      Maine at 10th in the Pairwise is a good place to be. If the Black Bears maintain that, they make the NCAA tournament, where the only rankings are determined at the end of the game. Maine beat BU twice at Agganis, with a couple of well-played low-score results. BU has FIVE first place votes in last week’s polls, which was five too many in this BU fan’s opinion. Then, with all the “dominant” talk from the writers, you just knew it would not be the case. There is no “dominant” Hockey East team this year. There are five really good teams.

    • I was surprised as you were that Maine did not garner more respect in the online poll. BU, BC, and MC in the 3,4,5 slots… Really?? BC has been skidding horribly and barely beat the 8 seed HE team this weekend. Cornell is a joke, which the pairwise reflects, but to put them ahead of Maine anywhere is ludicrous!
      We should have won 2 of the 3 games against Merrimack which would have made a big difference in the pairwise. But the 10 slot is a good spot I think as more than one of the teams ahead of them are overrated and our boys will still be hungry to prove that they belong in the top 5…..

      • Belong in the top 5?  I hope you’re talking about being top 5 Hockey East and not the country.  Maine top 5 in the country?  LOLLOLOLOLOLOLOL.

  4. Thank you, Tim Low and Jack Millea!  The BC hockey program was heading South quickly, then you two helped out.  Right after UNH scored to take a 3-2 lead on Friday night and we were staring another loss in the face, stripes to the rescue.  With 3+ minutes left, a penalty, allowing us to tie the game and eventually win.  Then Mr. Millea went one step further, on Saturday.  Putting the whistle away from the half way mark of the third period until 2:17 gone in OVERTIME, then you again saved us with the PP.  Luckily we didn’t let you down and scored on it.
    Both were tripping calls (not something like boarding, hit from behind, contact to the head, etc…) and could have easily been let go, as many had been until then.  Though, they were legit penalties.  But, after a couple of well played games and the calls stopping as the time wound down, they were made at just the right time!
    Thank you again.
    Yours Truly,
    Jerry York

    Sorry for the rant, the FRUSTRATION is setting in and even when this team comes to play and does what it takes to get a win, it just doesn’t happen.  I am not a sore loser, nor am I one to blame the refs, it’s just getting old this year.  I am also not trying to take anything away from BC as they did play well both nights too.

    Congrats to Maine and keep up the good work.

    • Oh no, the refs called a penalty on the UNH Skating Mother Theresas!  Give me a break.  Both late calls on UNH were the right call.  Do the rules not matter after 50 minutes?  55 minutes?  10 minutes?

      UNH scored their 2nd goal after a terrible missed tripping call as a BC player was about to skate out of the zone.

      And UNH had a golden opportunity on a terribly BLOWN call on Alber with 10 mins left in regulation.  UNH blew it with a bad PP. 

      So sorry.  Better luck next year.

      • Just looking for consistency and, unless it’s brutal or changes a scoring possibility (which it didn’t), they are not called in overtime.  That is the one that really bothers me, not so much Friday night.
        I never said the rules change after 50+ minutes, but there were a number of potential calls both ways in the last 10 minutes on Saturday, not called, that to call one in OT is ridiculous.
        It works both ways, but that call was awful.
        And I apologized for the rant, so thanks for your input, Blinky.

        • And, not to get into the Boston vs. the rest of HE war, but I am certainly not the only person that sees Mr. York and Mr. Parker get some calls at opportune times.

        • Let me put it this way.  The 2nd UNH goal was called because a BC player was tripped coming out of his zone with the puck

          The two late calls on Fri and Sat vs. UNH were… you guess it… BC players coming out of the zone with the puck and both got tripped.

          So it’s not a stretch to suggest it could lead to a scoring chance for UNH and needed to be called.

          • As I said, I am OK with Friday’s, but on Saturday, I believe the puck was already gone.  Still a penalty and in my first post you will see, I said they were legit penalties, but after letting so much go, to call that at such a crucial time was tough.
            I also gave credit to BC and I hold nothing against them, I am fine as long as a HE team wins the NCAA’s and keeps the WCHA quiet.
            It was merely a rant of frustration at the way the entire season has unfolded.  I know UNH doesn’t have the National Championships to show as others do, but we are also not used to being in 9th place in HE at this time of the season.

          • Anyways, it is what it is and it’s over.  We will never agree, so good luck with the season.  On the even brighter side, Milner played pretty well after the first goal on Friday… maybe they will finally stick with one guy.

  5. BU was over-ranked at number 2 in the country with 5 first place votes last week. They got there because so many other teams had a bad weekend. Then they had a bad weekend, getting outplayed by Maine. Maybe my Terriers were too busy getting ready for the Beanpot, but give full credit to the Black Bears. As much as I love BU, they were not the dominant team being written about the past two weeks. They are a very good team with flaws, just like BC, Maine, Merrimack and Lowell, in no particular order. 

    The top of Hockey East this year truly is an old-fashioned cage match, with Maine returning to the group and Lowell/Merrimack filling the void left by UNH. Any of the five top teams could run away with the regular season title, or get bounced in the first round of the Hockey East tournament. The regular season could also end with a bunch of teams separated by 2-4 points, with tournament winner possibly being the 4/5 seed.

  6. Even if Maine wins out, which this team is definitely capable of, they have just one game remaining against a TUC; combined with their early-season losses to TUCs, they are not likely to stay in the top-16 PWR.

    They are probably going to need to advance to the HEA championship game to make the PWR math work.  That’s gonna be very difficult if they don’t snag home ice for the playoffs….

    • Remember Merrimack still has 3 games with Lowell and two with BC left to play. I think there will be some shaking up of hockey east before the end of the regular season…..

  7. Umile might get a call in his favor (outside the Whit) now and then if he wasn’t such a loudmouth jerk.  I thought he was going to have another coronary 5 minutes into the game friday night over a no call.  Jerry York is and has always been the epitome of class behind the bench.
    Looks like there will be no Univ. of No hardware chants this March as the wildcats will be golfing (or farming) early

    • Original… never heard that no hardware thing before, must have thought it up yourself.
      You can chant it all you want, they won’t be playing for any of us to hear it!

      • However, I can’t argue with you at the way Umile acts… this year is worse than most too, I think the team doesn’t show up half the time, so he is becoming extremely frustrated too.  York is definitely a class act.

  8. Is that time of the year again. Excitement all around!

    I have to agree with Candace on SLU sweeping. Key points: they are playing
    home, they know the feeling of winning a championship (confidence and
    momentum), and their GK is no longer a freshman.

    Last season PC was less dependent of their GK as the Beavers were. They are
    also playing home. They made it to the Championship final which they almost
    won. Both PC and BSU had low starts. I say a split just because PC has had a
    hard time with back to back wins in the past couple of seasons and BSU tends to
    really push on the 2nd for a win.

    If Mercyhurst decides to put their full gears on motion away from home then I
    see a Lakers sweep. Quinnipiac can make it difficult but not enough to beat
    them. They key resides on the Lakers mental state.

    I keep on waiting for UNH to come back and be solid again but no signs of it.
    What prey would be good enough to get those Wildcats hunting again? I see UNH
    taking this one because it’s the home opener.

    • Well, we can’t pick every game, so typically I choose the games based on which ones I think might be competitive and have some impact on national rankings and/or playoffs. For instance, I doubt Wisconsin-Lindenwood or Minnesota-St. Cloud will be particularly interesting; they are almost foregone conclusions.

  9. I’d like to say that the Gophers will be motivated by the opportunity to place a great deal of distance (12 pts) between them and Penn St., which would put them in prime position for at least a 1st round bye in the Big Ten tourney. However, after last weekend it’s hard to have any confidence in this team. The Gophers had a huge opportunity to boost their PWR last weekend and looked completely uninterested on the ice. Yes, they won 5 in a row previous to last weekend (with two OT losses prior to that), but they looked downright awful against Bemidji and not much better against Mankato. I’d love to see them sweep Penn St, but my head says a split is likely the best result I can hope for this weekend…

  10. Paula, Last week you picked Minnesota to sweep to the North
    Star Cup showing your allegiance to the Big Ten even though Minnesota has been
    horrific in non-conference play. The Gophers now have the rest of their games
    in the Big Ten where they should cruise until they meet Michigan. I am very surprised you picked them to split
    with Penn State at home. On Olympic Size
    ice they should win easily. If Minnesota doesn’t win these types of games the Big Ten may only get Michigan into the NCAA Playoffs.

  11. The Gophers played about 10 games of really exceptional hockey and frankly were due for a letdown, we saw it last weekend at the NorthStar College Cup. While they were not blown out nor were they beaten badly, they looked much more like the team from the beginning of the year and less like the team that emerged since December. This will be a big weekend for the Gophers, will they rebound and play like they have since the Michigan series or will they slide back to how they were playing at the beginning of the year. The Gophers pretty much dominated Penn State at Pegula, losing a tough game in OT on Friday night and then demolishing Penn State 7-1 on Saturday highlighted by 3 shorthanded goals. Being back at Mariucci normally is an advantage for Minnesota, but they actually played better on the road this year. I am expecting that Minnesota will rebound and sweep Penn State at home. I am hoping I am right.

    • I hope you’re right too Sat. I think one reason why the Gophers have played better on the road this year is that they aren’t a particularly quick team, so being on the bigger sheet at Mariucci isn’t the advantage it typically has been in the past. What concerns me is the teams we really need to beat (i.e. PSU and Michigan) seem to have the speed advantage over the Gophers, which could be problematic on the bigger ice.

    • Not get tied by Arizona State. In all seriousness though, this is a three things blog, and there are eight teams, so regardless some teams will be left out.

          • I don’t expect, nor would I want, Denver to be mentioned every week. I hardly think DU “earned” a tie with Lake Superior, though. LSSU goalie, Nick Kossoff, “earned” the tie. Since Candace was at Magness, I’m sure she can verify my statement. SCSU looks like the real deal, good for them and our league. I am sure BC is not happy and will be ready when we play them, and BU, this weekend. I will save my powder to see how St. Cloud reacts to a “hot” goalie, one I am sure they will face in the NCHC. That will be a good measuring stick on what kind of team they are.

          • Chris Terreri with Providence (then went on to the Devils)came into the old DU Arena and beat us 1-0, I believe, in @ 1986. That came close.

          • As a twins fan…..I can say I was thoroughly enjoyed by the outcome……as we always get crushed by them no matter if it is regular season or playoffs.

          • Kind of unfortunate they had to play the Yankees in the WC game. Would have been much better for the Twins if Yanks beat Boston for title, Twins match up better playing Red Sox.

          • You a Yankee fan, DU? Yes sir, still hurting from that. Saturday’s win over the Gophers was helpful haha.

          • Sure am. Wife and I grew up 3 miles north of West Point, attended a lot of Yankees and Ranger games. Went back to visit and saw a couple at the new stadium. I didn’t have to go through the agony of watching Friday and Saturday, luckily had DU home games. :-)

          • I chose to watch Friday and Saturday and then kept my phone off and stayed off the computer and DVRed the Sioux/Gophers. Friday was an awful, awful night.

          • I feel your pain. Future looks bright, though. Waiting for Cashman to resign Girardi. His calm demeanor helps with young players.

  12. Candace: Consider coming to St. Cloud for the Nov. 3-4 series with Minnesota Duluth. It won’t disappoint! Seeing is believing.

    • Candace should probably head to Madison that weekend to watch the Sioux play Bucky…….her biggest fan, #1Wisco will probably be in attendance. That is, if they can escape the madhouse known as the East Madison Home Depot….

  13. Candace, is Colorado College still a member of the NCHC? Or is it policy to ignore the Tigers? A big OT win on the road vs. #17 (now #14) UNH should be worthy of making the top 3 things of the weekend. Add to the nature of the victory the fact that CC didn’t win its 4th game last season until late December, CC should have easily earned a spot in your top 3 things.

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