Well some shocking results certainly point to how difficult college hockey is to forecast, especially early on in the season.
Most notably, #3 Boston University Terriers were upset by unranked University of Massachusetts at Amherst Minutemen by a score of 3-2. This was the first conference match up of the season in Hockey East and highlights the parity in the league.
After seeing the score to this game, I figured it was just UMass being UMass and it really was no indication of how either side would do as BU would find their rhythm and a way to get back on top while the Minutemen would be inconsistent all year again showing flashes of brilliance, but burning out for long stretches.
However, after attending Boston University’s disappointing home opener against #9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, it seems like BU may be in trouble. I even had a really odd notion pop into my head that probably isn’t true; BU will be the hardest hit team in Hockey East by the players that graduated/left early.
That includes the Northeastern University Huskies who lost league MVP and Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalist Brad Thiessen. This team is probably better in front of goal, but the question mark left by Thiessen, who left early to sign a contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins, leaves many to doubt this team and with good reason.
Junior Mike Binnington has one start; it was two years ago in Providence, the Huskies lost that game. Other than Binner, Northeastern brings in two freshman and has only given one any game time.
It seems though that head coach Greg Cronin has made his decision in net and is going with Freshman Chris Rawlings. He has started all three regular season games for NU and beat the Bentley University Falcons 3-2 this weekend in their only game.
Despite the win, Northeastern dropped out of the National Poll after being ranked at #20 going into the weekend. A good showing next weekend would definitely move them right back in though.
In other action, the Wildcats from the University of New Hampshire were able to take a tie from #1 Miami-Ohio Redhawks on Saturday night after the 6-3 loss Friday night. The University of Maine Blackbears earned a split in a pair of 5-3 games against the Michigan State Spartans.
Merrimack College Warriors won both their games this weekend beating Holy Cross 3-1 and Army 6-3. The Providence College Friars played a pair of games against Notre Dame and surprisingly split the series winning 3-2 on Thursday, and then losing 2-0 on Friday.
Speaking of Notre Dame, after splitting with Providence, the Fighting Irish followed them back east to play a Tuesday night game at Boston University, Notre Dame pulled off the upset behind some stellar goaltending by Brad Phillips winning 3-0.
University of Vermont Catamounts earned a first place vote in the National Poll and moved up to #7 after beating the visiting #14 Boston College Eagles 4-1. BC opened up the scoring, but UVM quickly got two back and never thought about relinquishing the lead.
From the three games I watched this weekend, I would have to say Northeastern’s stock is on the rise, Vermont is in great shape to make it back to the Frozen Four and BU and BC are in trouble.
While the Huskies seemed to struggle against Bentley throughout their non-conference tilt one thing was obvious, Rawlings is continuously improving.
As far as the way they played in front of him, it looked good at times and bad for a lot of the times, but the Huskies seemed a little shocked by the intensity that Bentley brought to the arena. The Falcons are also a much better team then they were a year ago.
Northeastern will have to play better down the road to make any noise, but being off the poll and pegged to finish so low should have the Huskies motivated to get off to a hot start and figure out what they need to do to win. And if Rawlings can continue to improve, Husky fans may soon forget just how important Brad Thiessen was to this team the last two years.
Back to BU, their powerplay was awful. Period. The absence of last years captain and Hobey Baker winner Matt Gilroy and leading scorer and Hobey Hat Trick Finalist Colin Wilson have left bigger holes than most expected.
It didn’t help that Brian Strait made a late decision to leave early, the two good things that can be said about BU after that game is their freshman were their best players and they still have Nick Bonino, even though he did not look so good last night.
At times it looked like the veterans were satisfied with winning it all last year and are now just here to collect their scholarships while the freshman want to win. Kieran Millan also played well up until he gave up the first goal. After that he was kind of rattled and it didn’t help that it looked like his team all but gave up after the second one went in.
I am going to go ahead and say this now; Vermont is the best team in Hockey East. I have only seen four of the teams play, but UVM is the best. They are probably not as good as BU was least year, but they will compete on the national stage and if I had to pick a team right now, UVM would be my national champions.
Defensively they played almost perfectly against Boston College holding them to zero for eight on the powerplay. When BC broke down the Catamount Defense, Rob Madore was there to bail them out. He will probably be the best goalie at the end of the year, if not the nation, probably in Hockey East.
My Power Rankings
1. University of Vermont Catamounts
2. University of Massachusetts at Lowell Riverhawks
3. University of Massachusetts at Amherst Minutemen
4. Boston University Terriers
5. Northeastern University Huskies
6. University of New Hampshire Wildcats
7. Providence College Friars
8. Merrimack College Warriors
9. Boston College Eagles
10. University of Maine Blackbears
Check back tomorrow for my preview of this weekend when every team in Hockey East will be in action with seven teams playing in conference matchups.