Hockey East set to kick off 31st season

If you’re in New England, the sub-40 degree temperatures this morning in many cities and towns should signify one thing: it’s hockey season.

Personally, I say it’s about time. As short as the offseason in college hockey is (the shortest of any college sport), it doesn’t matter. It’s nice to see ice down in every rink across the league, players shaking off the summer cobwebs and, this weekend, many teams ready to hit players with whom they don’t share the same locker room.

There is a ton of optimism heading into the season, and Dave Hendrickson and I will continue to document that from now through April, beginning Tuesday with the Hockey East season preview. With Providence beginning its defense of the national championship and Boston University looking for a return trip to the national title game, you also have Boston College and UMass Lowell in the USCHO top 20. Additionally, four other teams – Notre Dame, New Hampshire, Northeastern and Vermont – all received votes, which means two-thirds of the league are on the minds of media, coaches and administrators as this season kicks off.

There is a lot of exhibition action this weekend before the season fully begins a week from now. Highlighting those practice tilts will be games at Boston College (Sat.) and UMass Lowell (Sun.) against last year’s Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) silver medalist, New Brunswick. The five-time CIS national champion defeated the AHL’s Portland Pirates, 5-3, on Thursday night to move to a perfect 4-0 in preseason play.

Ten Hockey East teams will play exhibition games this weekend, a perfect chance for fans to see what returning players have improved and what freshmen might have an impact.

On a side note, I want to offer best wishes to the women’s program at Merrimack College, which will play its first official game tonight hosting St. Cloud State. It’s always a pleasure to see college hockey grow on both the men’s and women’s side.

Enjoy the hockey this weekend, folks!