If you were a Hockey East team ranked in the top 10 in the nation’s polls, this wasn’t a great week. That leads off the three things I learned this week:
1. It ain’t easy wearing a target on your back
Everyone knows it’s lonely at the top, and for many of the Hockey East teams ranked in this week’s USCHO.com poll, results weren’t pleasant. Newly-minted number one Boston University shouldn’t even to pay rent on the top spot as they will be quickly evicted come Monday. The Terriers dropped an OT decision to No. 18 Harvard on Tuesday and lost to Dartmouth, 2-0, on Sunday (a come-from-behind win over No. 9 Colgate was sandwiched in between). Harvard also knocked off No. 4 Massachusetts-Lowell, while No. 12 Boston College fell twice to No. 3 Minnesota and No. 20 Providence. No. 13 Vermont swept a two-game non-conference series at Maine. Coupled with the aforementioned win for Providence those were the lone highlights for the nationally-ranked Hockey East teams on the weekend.
2. So how good is Merrimack?
This has become the most daunting question I ponder in Hockey East these days. At 10-4-1, the Warriors are among the few teams in the nation with double-digit wins. They swept Clarkson at home this weekend to improve their record at Lawler Arena to 7-1-0 and have won five of their last seven. A part of me is duly impressed by the fast start for a Merrimack team most figured would finish among the bottom three in Hockey East. And another part of me keeps going back to the question: “Who have they played?” The only nationally-ranked opponent on Merrimack’s schedule to date was Providence. That series was a split. Taking the Friars out of the equation, Merrimack has only played one other team with a record over .500 (Mercyhurst at 5-4-2) and the cumulative record of the remaining six opponents is 24-45-16. So while I want to jump on the Merrimack bandwagon, I may wait a few weeks. The Warriors will have their first true test this weekend when they face Boston University in a home-and-home before traveling out to the Mariucci Classic after the New Year to face Minnesota and either Massachusetts-Lowell or RIT.
3. Have the Huskies turned things around?
With a 3-9-1 record, no one should be talking about any sort of a turnaround for Northeastern. But considering the fact that the Huskies are 3-1-0 in their last four game and that Saturday’s victory came over a highly-potent Minnesota team that one night earlier dismantled Boston College and you can’t blame yourself for at least taking notice. Northeastern certainly hasn’t flicked the offensive switch in the last four games, scoring just 10 goals in the stretch. But defensively, Northeastern has improved. In the three wins, NU has allowed just a single goal twice and two goals once. All three of the victories also came with Clay Witt between the pipes. Witt missed six games earlier in the season with injury and Northeastern went 0-5-1 over that stretch.