With Hockey East going a collective 7-9-3 this weekend in non-league play, the league’s early-season collective struggles continue. While March seems so far away, might the results this month rear their ugly head come March? That leads the three things I learned this weekend.
1. Non-league woes could translate to thin NCAA representation come March
Sure, the leaves in New England are just turning, but Hockey East teams have already painted themselves into a collective corner with struggles against non-league opponents. As a group, Hockey East teams are now 18-16-6 against the rest of the nation. While there is time to make up ground, particularly throughout the rest of this month, this ugly start has the potential to lower the overall conference RPI.
We’ve learned often in recent years that conference RPI almost directly aligns with the number of NCAA tournament participants from that conference.
I know what everyone of you might say: “Let’s worry about this in March.” But by then it may be too late.
2. River Hawks power play is clicking
Last week, my colleague Dave Hendrickson wrote extensively about the number of penalties called around college hockey. And while the number of penalties were slightly lower this past weekend, there still were plenty of power play opportunities in almost every game.
Thus, it shouldn’t be surprising that the team sporting the nation’s best power play – the UMass Lowell River Hawks – is one of just two teams in Hockey East without a loss (Connecticut is the other).
The River Hawks are now 9-for-22 with the man advantage, good for a 40.9% efficiency. This past weekend, the River Hawks potted five power play goals on 11 chances in a two-game sweep of Colorado College.
3. It “ain’t over ’til it’s over” for Maine
We are learning one very obvious things about Maine early in this season: never count them out. For three straight games, the Black Bears have rallied in the third period from deficits. Last weekend, they scored three in the third to overcome a 2-1 hole on Saturday to sweep Rensselaer.
Friday night, the Black Bears took “cardiac kids” to a new level. Trailing 3-1 to No. 3 Quinnipiac, Maine score twice in the final 6 minutes, 55 seconds to force overtime. Then rookie Mitchell Fossier netted the game-winner at 2:08 of OT.
A night later, Maine did it again, this time rallying from a 2-0 deficit in the second to score once in the middle frame and again with 4:23 to go to again force OT. But this time Quinnipiac spoiled the comeback when Craig Martin scored at 1:15 to earn the 3-2 OT victory.
Still, know that this year’s version of the Black Bears is ready to battle until the final buzzer.