Non-conference woes should raise eyebrows

It was hardly even an average week for Hockey East out of conference this weekend. That needs to raise some eyebrows. That leads the three things I learned this week.1.) An ugly non-conference weekend places Hockey East in vulnerable positionHockey East teams went a collective 5-12-1 out of conference this weekend. Let that sink in for a moment. This was the most active non-conference weekend of the year for the league and it fell on its collective face. We’ll excuse UMass Lowell which, despite early struggles, went to the North Country and swept Clarkson and St. Lawrence. But their were a total of three wins outside of the River Hawks victories. Maine split with Miami, New Hampshire split with Colorado College and Providence beat St. Lawrence in overtime before being shutout by Clarkson. Other than that, it was an ugly weekend.I get it, that many of you think I obsess over non-conference play. But the reality is this is the single differentiator against other leagues when determining how many Hockey East teams will earn NCAA bids. Sure, that’s five months away, but with a reduced number of non-conference games this season, a lost weekend such as this could result in limited NCAA representatives come March.2) New Hampshire has a special rookie in Max GildonWhen we think about rookie defensemen in college hockey, typically you’re hoping that they’re responsible in their own end. For UNH’s Max Gildon, not only does he play a nice brand of defense, he’s also an offensive machine. This weekend, he posted four goals against Colorado College, including a hat trick on Friday night. He now has six goals on the season. There were a lot of freshman names we heard coming into this year. Make sure you not only add Gildon to that list, you begin following him closely. He’s a true talent.3) Sikura, Gaudette and Co. have flash; what Northeastern might need it defenseThere is no doubt that Northeastern has the best offensive (or very close to the best) firepower in Hockey East. But the concern for Northeastern fans still needs to be on the backend. The Huskies have had no trouble scoring goals thus far in this young season. But this weekend, playing a Quinnipiac team that averaged just 2.0 goals per game entering, the Huskies surrendered nine goals.Possibly more concerning is the fact that Northeastern led both nights heading to the third period. Friday, Northeastern allowed three third period goals. Saturday, Quinnipiac tied the game early in the third, forced overtime and found a way to win. This year’s Huskies team needs to figure out how to close opponents out, something very evident this weekend.