If you asked many people after the first few weeks of the college hockey season, they might use the word “crazy” to describe some of the results in Hockey East. But as we reach Thanksgiving and most teams have played at least one-third or more of their season, the teams atop the Hockey East standings are beginning to look like those many expected in the preseason.
1. Top 5 less of a surprise
Boston College, Northeastern, UMass Lowell, Boston University and Providence. Those are the current top five teams in terms of points in the Hockey East standings. If you’ve lived under a rock for six weeks, you’d look at that and not be surprised. But BC started the year 1-5-1 overall and are now 9-1-0 in Hockey East. UMass Lowell has been inconsistent, but swept Connecticut to extend its league winning streak to four. Northeastern and Providence have been about the most consistent teams in the league. And preseason favorite BU has been consistently inconsistent, highlighted this weekend with a 5-2 loss to Maine followed by a 7-0 win.
Don’t get me wrong. Nothing feels normal still, at least to this writer. But things feel like they are becoming more predictable right now.
2. Maine surprises, then falls flat
At 4-6-0 overall and 3-3-0 in Hockey East, Maine which was picked by many to finish last has been better than many expected. But this weekend was another that showed this team’s lack of consistency. A wonderful 5-2 win at Alfond Arena on Friday over Boston University set the tone for the Black Bears to possibly get their season going. It followed a somewhat dominating victory over UMass Lowell, 6-2, two weeks ago before the Black Bears had a week off.
But Saturday, as the series versus the Terriers moved to neutral ice in Portland, all of the good habits from a night earlier disappeared in a 7-0 loss.
I think Maine has the tools be be one of the surprise teams in Hockey East this year. But consistency will prove whether that is right or wrong.
3. A big non-league weekend lies ahead for Hockey East
I’ll talk more about it on Thursday, but a big weekend, where Hockey East will play eight total non-league games on Friday and Saturday nights. Wins are a must. Though Hockey East didn’t play a single non-league game this weekend, they lost ground as the Big Ten dominated non-league opponents to pull past the NCHC and seemingly lightyears ahead of Hockey East when it comes to non-league winning percentage.
Remember, this isn’t just some point of pride conference vs. conference. These non-league records will directly impact how many teams from Hockey East and other leagues make the NCAA field of 16.