These are the three things I think I learned this week.
1. Split is the word.
“Every point is a tough point,” has been a cliché within Hockey East for years, but this week provided more than ample evidence. Seven league teams played in four series and they all ended in splits.
Home ice didn’t matter. Although New Hampshire and Northeastern both held serve in their home-and-home series, the other three were all played in the same venue on Friday and Saturday. Massachusetts-Lowell, Providence, and Merrimack hosted Penn State, Vermont, and Notre Dame, respectively, and not one of them could manage any better than two points.
National rankings also didn’t make a difference. Fourth-ranked Massachusetts-Lowell predictably defeated Penn State on Friday, but even with the strength advantage on paper and the home crowd advantage the River Hawks still lost 4-1 in the rematch, avoiding the shutout only via a mid-third period power play goal.
Parity is here and it is spelled S-P-L-I-T.
2. Northeastern gets off the schneid.
It took the Huskies ten games, but they finally got their first W. They had tied Lowell a week ago, but otherwise the season had been a nonstop succession of losses. That changed on Saturday.
Tied going into the third period, they surrendered an even-strength goal two minutes in and could have been forgiven if they thought, “Here we go again.” But they rallied with the equalizer a minute later and the game-winner at 8:21.
Will that carry over to this upcoming weekend’s series with Merrimack? We’ll have to see.
3. My enthusiasm for Connecticut may have gotten out of control.
But could you blame me?
When UConn defeated Boston College and tied Boston University (ranked third and fifth, respectively, at the time), it was hard not to let the optimism boil over. If you weren’t going to let loose after those two upsets, when were you?
A Friday night loss to Sacred Heart, however, let some of air out of that party balloon. UConn now stands at 2-5-3, despite its effectiveness at slaying the Commonwealth Avenue dragons.
But while expectations have necessarily been reset, it’s worth noting how well the Huskies have played in their own end. To date, they’ve allowed more than two goals only twice all year, and one of those times was the 4-4 tie with BU.
It’s still tough figuring where they’ll finish in the standings, but clearly this team is no cream puff.