Hockey East picks – Jan. 31-Feb. 3

 (Tim Brule)

Now that Dave has an eight-game lead in the standings, he decides to make the same picks as I. Well, last week that meant he was equally as craptastic!

Jim last week: 1-6-3
Jim to date: 94-63-23
Dave last week: 1-6-3
Dave to date: 102-55-23

Friday, January 31

Providence at Northeastern
While it might be easy for the Beanpot teams to overlook the opponent ahead, Northeastern is one team that can’t afford that. While idle last weekend, the Huskies dipped into a tie fr sixth place in Hockey East, and well they are just five points out of first, they’re also just one point away from missing the playoffs. Last weekend was the opposite for Providence as, while idle, everyone around the Friars at the top of the standings struggled.

Jim’s pick: NU 3, PC 2
Dave’s pick: PC 3, NU 2 (OT)

Boston College at Massachusetts
BC is in the same position as Northeastern, with the Beanpot on Friday but a major Hockey East battle first. A win for BC guarantees them a share for first at the end of the weekend. Lose it and the battle to win the regular-season will be uphill. For UMass, they have just three losses at home this season, but one is to Boston College. They’d like to reverse that result this weekend.

Jim’s pick: UMass 4, BC 2
Dave’s pick: BC 4, UMass 3

Boston University at Vermont
The Terriers have the easiest pre-Beanpot test facing a struggling Vermont team, still looking for their first Hockey East win, that twice last weekend surrendered third-period leads. BU is seemingly playing its best hockey right now, a factor that might have some impact far beyond this weekend ahead of them.

Jim’s pick: BU 4, UVM 1
Dave’s pick: BU 3, UVM 1

Friday and Saturday, Jan. 31-Feb. 1

Merrimack at Maine
Maine coach Red Gendron tries to downplay how important home ice is. His Black Bears, though, join Cornell as they only college hockey teams to not lose at home this season. This series begins a seven-game homestand for the Black Bears and could decide a lot about their postseason fate. They will face a Merrimack team that is probably feeling pretty good about themselves after a tie and win against Vermont. As you look for a difference maker in this series, look no further than goaltending. Jeremy Swayman has been pretty consistent for the Black Bears and should be able to take four points this weekend.

Jim’s picks: Maine 4, MC 2; Maine 3, MC 1
Dave’s picks: Maine 4, MC 2; MAine 4, MC 2

Connecticut vs. New Hampshire (Fri. at UNH, Sat. at UConn)
The longest home-and-home road trip in Hockey East – Durham, N.H. to Hartford, Conn. – will feature the extra challenge of a 4 p.m. start on Saturday, which means a quick turnaround will test the strength and conditioning of both teams. UNH has just put itself into an NCAA tournament position, so one will have to watch to see if the added attention and headlines have a positive or negative effect. UConn has to feel frustrated and maybe hungry after two one-goal losses at the inaugural Connecticut Ice Festival.

Jim’s picks: UNH 3, UConn 2; UConn 3, UNH 2
Dave’s picks: UNH 4, UConn 2; UNH 3, UConn 2

Saturday, February 1

Vermont at Rensselaer
While Vermont season has been a disappointment, RPI’s has been a pleasant surprise for Dave Smith and his staff. Besides capturing last weekend’s Mayor’s Cup against Union, RPI is also in position for a first-round home ice bid in the ECAC playoffs. The downside: RPI is only 4-7-1 at home.

Jim’s pick: RPI 4, UVM 1
Dave’s pick: RPI 3, UVM 1

Monday, February 3

68th Beanpot Championship (TD Garden, Boston)
This will be one of the most difficult Beanpots to handicap in recent years. Sure, a couple of weeks ago, most would have said Boston College was a heavy favorite, but two losses against Maine last weekend should give all three other participants hope. BU is playing its best hockey and Northeastern has been relatively consistent all year. Three of the teams (BC, 5th; NU, 13th; Harvard, 20th) are top 20 in the PairWise while BU isn’t far behind at 28th. It’s also an interesting tournament for the senior classes of BC and BU, teams that will face off in Monday’s second semifinal, as no member of the senior class has won a Beanpot.

Jim’s picks: NU 3, HU 2; BU 4, BC 3
Dave’s picks: NU 3, HU 2; BC 4, BU 3