Hockey East picks: Jan. 3-9

Jim and I disagreed on only one pick last week. Of course, he got it right.

My lead is down to three games. This is feeling like I’m the 1978 Red Sox. Which pick will Bucky Dent me in the final week?

Jim last week: 6-3-2
Dave last week: 5-4-2
Jim to date: 76-45-18
Dave to date: 79-42-18

Friday, January 3

Northeastern at Connecticut

While Northeastern has been dominant at home (6-1-1), it’s a game under .500 on the road with no wins since October. (The two wins in Belfast were on neutral ice.) UConn’s record is far more balanced. As a result, this Battle of the Huskies is likely to come down to special teams where Northeastern has a gigantic advantage (+14 Special teams net compared to -5.)

Dave: NU 4, UConn 2
Jim: NU 4, UConn 2

Yale at New Hampshire
Yale enters this contest with the momentum, having won three straight while UNH has been see-sawing with alternate wins and losses for the last six games. That said, it’s hard to ignore New Hampshire’s 5-1-0 record at home.

Additionally, Yale’s special teams rank in the bottom 10 nationally at both ends of the ice while UNH’s power play has soared (20.9 percent).

Dave: UNH 4, Yale 3
Jim: UNH 3, Yale 1

Friday-Saturday, January 3-4

Omaha at Maine
Omaha has bounced back from a four-game losing streak to take two of its last three.  Maine, meanwhile, had only a single win over its last seven games until potentially righting the ship with a 5-1 win over American International.  Nonetheless, what feels like the most important factor is Maine’s 6-0-1 record at Alfond.

Dave: Omaha 4, Maine 3; Omaha 3, Maine 2
Jim: Omaha 4, Maine 3; Omaha 3, Maine 2

Massachusetts at Denver
Here’s a titanic battle between the number 7 team in the country, Denver, and number 9 UMass. You wonder if it’s a preview of NCAA tournament action to come. UMass has won four in a row, including a post-break “tuneup” win. By contrast, Denver hasn’t played since Dec. 14, when it completed a sweep of Colorado College to get back on track after a 1-4-3 patch. Home ice, however, could still decide since Denver is 6-2-1 at home.

Dave: DU 4, UMass 3 (OT); DU 4, UMass 2
Jim: DU 3, UMass 2; UMass 3, DU 2

Fortress Invitational
Providence vs Army West Point
Providence vs Ohio State/Cornell
All four teams in this tournament are in the Top 20 rankings. Number 14 Providence showed a bit of rust in its two games following the break, needing overtime to knock off a 6-17-1 Lake State team before having to settle for a tie with 5-13-1 Union. So the Friars may have a tough time with Number 20 Army West Point, fresh off a win over New Hampshire.

In the second round, the Friars will face either second-ranked Cornell (10-1-0) or number 6 Ohio State (12-4-2). Cornell hasn’t played since the break; Ohio State swept Colgate. Either way, it’s a handful.

Dave: PC 4, Army 3; Cornell 3, PC 2 or OSU 4, PC 2
Jim: PC 4, Army 3; Cornell 3, PC 2 or PC 3, OSU 2

Saturday, January 4

Vermont at Boston College
Could there be a bigger mismatch, at least on paper? Vermont has yet to win a single Hockey East game; BC sits atop the league (based on winning percentage). The Catamounts can’t score; the Eagles have the best offense in the league, more than lapping Vermont. And if that weren’t enough, it’s on BC’s home ice.

Dave: BC 5, UVM 0
Jim: BC 4, UVM 3 

UMass Lowell at Merrimack
Lowell boasts the better offense and one of the league’s top defenses, led by goaltender Tyler Wall, compared to Merrimack’s league-worst D. There’s a reason the River Hawks are among the league’s top teams while Merrimack is next-to-last.

But this is also the exact kind of trap game Lowell struggled with in the first half. Will things be different in the second?

Dave: UML 4, MC 2
Jim: UML 3, MC 1

Brown at New Hampshire
Brown has struggled to score this year, leading to a 3-10-0 record. In fact, that’s putting it kindly. Only Union has a weaker offense. Compare that to UNH’s 20.9 percent conversion on the power play. Then add in UNH’s 5-1-0 home record.

Case closed.

Dave: UNH 3, Brown 1
Jim: UNH 5, Brown 2

Monday, January 6

Bentley at Northeastern
Bentley hit the skids with a four-game losing streak leading into Thanksgiving week, but has gone 5-2-1 since. Northeastern, however, can top that. The Huskies won six of their last seven heading into the holiday break. They also boast a 6-1-1 record at home. On the down side, Northeastern may be contending with holiday rust in this, its first game back while Bentley split last weekend with Sacred Heart.

Dave: NU 4, Bentley 2
Jim: NU 5, Bentley 2

Tuesday, January 7

Merrimack at Connecticut
Merrimack has lost four straight, but does getting swept last weekend by defending national champion Minnesota Duluth really count? The Warriors recorded wins over UNH and RPI before that streak, and also split with UConn at the beginning of November. UConn’s league-worst penalty kill also leaves the Huskies vulnerable, even at home.

Dave: UConn 4, MC 2
Jim: UConn 3, MC 2

Yale at Vermont
As noted above, Yale enters this weekend with a three-game winning streak, but has shown considerable weakness on special teams. I’ve beat up the Catamounts for their weak offense, but they’re coming off two wins last week to take the Catamount Cup over Lake State and Union. So perhaps those wins are signs of a better second half to come.

Dave: Yale 2, UVM 1
Jim: UVM 2, Yale 1

Wednesday, January 8

Brown at Boston University
The holiday break came at the worst time for the Terriers. They had just recorded their first back-to-back wins of the year, and not just any wins. Wins over number 16 Harvard and number 12 Northeastern. Since the break, they’ve recorded an exhibition win over Concordia and will have also faced the USA Under-18 team. So they should be operating on all cylinders, ready to put away Brown and its (previously noted) anemic offense.

Dave: BU 4, Brown 1
Jim: BU 4, Brown 1

Thursday, January 9

Providence at American International
Will Providence be licking its wounds following what was possibly a tough time in the Fortress Invitational? Or will that tourney have forced the Friars to elevate their play back up to pre-break form? Either way, it still feels like Providence should prevail, despite the Yellow Jackets’ strong record at home.

Dave: PC 4, AIC 2
Jim: PC 4, AIC 3