Lowell, UVM legit? Favorites fall and non-league struggles

Are Massachusetts-Lowell and Vermont better than their positions in the coaches’ poll suggested? Conversely, are some of the top teams in the poll headed for tough times this year? And as far as non-league play goes, Hockey East may like to forget this weekend. This leads my three things I learned from the opening weekend of play across Hockey East.

1. Lowell and Vermont are pretty darn good.

We all have been led to believe that this year might not be as good as last for either the River Hawks and Catamounts. And though the sample size is small, both teams proved they’re ready to compete this past weekend, each notching impressive wins against higher-ranked opponents. Lowell, picked to finish seventh in the coaches’ poll, grabbed a first-period lead against No. 4 Boston College and held off a rally, earning a 5-2 victory. There are still plenty of questions marks, particularly goaltending which wasn’t overly tested by the Eagles. But one thing is clear: this team will score goals. The same can be said about Vermont, which simply dismantled No. 16 Northeastern. The Catamounts were ranked eighth in the coaches’ poll despite coming off a season that featured a trip to the NCAA tournament.

2. Tough weekend for ranked Hockey East teams.

Ranked teams in Hockey East posted a dismal 3-6-0 record this weekend with third-ranked Providence splitting at Ohio State, BC losing to No. 17 UML, No. 12 Notre Dame going winless at home in the Ice Breaker, Northeastern falling to Vermont and No. 19 New Hampshire falling to No. 5 Union. Providence’s OT victory on Saturday at OSU, Lowell’s win over BC and No. 20 Boston University’s rout of Massachusetts (that featured two goals, two assists from touted-rookie phenom Jack Eichel — more on that on Thursday) accounted for the lone wins by the ranked.

3. As poorly as ranked teams fared, Hockey East teams out of conference really struggled.

It was just days ago that in my Hockey East preview I was touting how strong Hockey East was a season ago out of conference. After weekend one, that success if far in the rear-view mirror. The league posted a 3-7-1 record in out-of-conference play, lowlighted by Notre Dame losing twice to Rensselaer and Minnesota-Duluth, Maine traveling thousands of miles to Anchorage, Alaska, only to fall twice and extend last year’s struggles away from Alfond Arena, and newest member Connecticut mustering just a tie at third-year program Penn State. The lone highlight of non-league play was likely Merrimack (yes, the Merrimack team most picked near the bottom) earning two one-goal wins against (former PC assistant-David Berard coached) Holy Cross. Yes, this is simply one weekend but with non-league games front-loading many Hockey East schedules, a marked improvement is needed if the conference RPI is to remain high late in the season when it counts and Pairwise discussions begin in earnest.

28 COMMENTS

  1. I know it’s Notre Dame, and it will be a physical, skilled series, but beyond Lee and Tynan, Notre Dame doesn’t have much in the way of offense.  Hunwick will continue to play like a brick wall, and Michigan has three lines that have been scoring. 

    The only thing that worries me as a Michigan Alum, is if it comes down to special teams.  Both our units have been dreadful, and I know how much the GONGSHOW loves to make outrageous penalty calls (for and against both teams).  (Please no Sergott.) *crosses fingers*

     I’ll be there tonight (where else would I be?)  And, I mean, c’mon…it’s YOST.  We don’t lose at home.

    • Sometimes we lose at home…

      I agree we need to take care to stay out of the box.  We don’t do so well when it’s a penalty parade…  I posted below that I’d rather not be facing ND at this stage, but as someone else pointed out in a previous article, ND can’t be too thrilled about facing us either.  5-on-5 it should be no contest. 

      This is Hunny II’s time to shine.  Save for the Friday game at Bowling Green, he’s been nearly unbeatable in the second half, and you know he wants it bad this year.  If he’s on, we’re going places…

  2. Paula, the worst choice by USCHO as a writer ever, will not be missed.  The loss of the CCHA is actually a good thing, as we can be rid of her total lack of understanding of the game.

  3. I think she was predicting an early exit by WMU, which is eerie because we won by her exact score tonight…but I don’t think LSSU has it in them to win two in a row at lawson, plus the arena will just be more packed each night

  4. Lindsey as the results show your feelings were off as Miami rocked MSU last night. They will finish them tonight.

    As a BGSU alum, I am really excited about how well they are playing. Congrats. I hope they sweep tonight at FSU. It will be a battle. Go Falcons!!!

    • No kidding! Play was fairly even in the first period both nights, but the Redhawks were able to open it up in the second period to get the sweep.

  5. Miami totally dominated MSU last night. It was over in the second period. Now on to the Joe.

    BGSU heads into a game 3 showdown with FSU. They are showing that they can score. I hope they win to make it to the Joe and go on to win the Mason cup.

    NFoP comments are way off. I think Paula does a great job covering the CCHA. 

  6. BG set two records beating Ferris in game 3. First, BG becomes the lowest seed to ever get to The Joe in CCHA history. Second,BG’s DeSalvo has scored 10 goals in the playoffs surpassing Knubles 8 goal record. Amazing.

  7. “and newest member Connecticut mustering just a tie at third-year program Penn State. ”

    UConn also lost 7-1 to Penn State.

  8. I think Lowell had the nation’s most underrated recruiting class. And given the program that’s developed there I don’t see why ‘the experts’ didn’t think Bazin would take the largest incoming class (both in numbers and physical size) and make them a contending team. We saw Friday a very talented BC that hasn’t gelled, but we also saw a Lowell team that finally had the size to clog up the neutral zone against anyone.

  9. I attended the UConn – Penn State games. UConn should have and could have won the Friday night game. They were leading 2-1 in the final minute of the game when Penn State scored off a scrum in front of the UConn net. Saturday UConn was flat and Penn State won most of the loose puck battles, hence the 7 -1 score.

    I cannot understand why Northeastern Head Coach Jim Madigan was suspended for the Saturday night game against Vermont. I heard the interview last year that allegedly got him suspended one game. He said nothing to warrant a suspension. Every league game is so important.

  10. UVM has gotten used to being the Rodney Dangerfield of HE, but the eighth-place finish predicted by the coaches really shows the lack of respect they get. Other than McCarthy’s hands and Lenz’s leadership, they really didn’t lose much in their graduating class last year. In fact, having the woefully underperforming Brickley out of the lineup is a blessing. As you mentioned, the sample size (one game) is too small to infer much from, but their performance against NU might have shown that UVM fans have good things to look forward to this season. In fact, perhaps their being picked so low was a good thing in terms of “bulletin board” motivation.

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