So, with college hockey season now officially underway, conference play is starting to get into full swing. Seven out of the 10 schools in Hockey East are playing at least one conference matchup while all 10 are playing at least one game.
Four schools are currently ranked in the National Top 20 Poll with two of those in the top ten. Four other schools received votes in the poll.
Currently tied in first place, each won their Hockey East openers, are #7 University of Vermont Catamounts and the Minutemen from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. They are both in action this weekend, each playing just one game
On Friday night, the Catamounts hit the road to try and remain perfect against the Merrimack College Warriors who are coming off a two win weekend. However those two wins were against week out of conference schools.
UVM is off to a roaring start, and I have serious doubts that the Warriors will be able to derail them, or even slow them down a little bit. UVM is going to come out flying and Merrimack won’t be able to keep up, this game will get ugly fast unless Warrior goaltender Joe Cannata or Andrew Braithwaite, whichever plays, can stand on his head.
Both goalies for Merrimack have taken turns this season and each have put up almost identical numbers. Both are 1-1, both have given up 6 goals with Cannata making a few more saves and playing a little over a minute longer. I don’t think either is going to be good enough to win or tie this game for Merrimack though. UVM wins 4-1.
Amherst gets to play at home against the University of Maine Blackbears. These two teams were picked to finish seventh and eighth respectively in the preseason HE coaches poll.
Either way, this will be an important match up down the stretch as these teams should finish close in the standings, or the Minutemen can prove that their win last week was no fluke. Maine isn’t playing very well right now, and I think they will come in a little overwhelmed, however, I believe goalie Scott Darling will be able to cool down the atmosphere and allow Maine some time to settle the game. Maine wins 3-2.
Friday’s last Hockey East matchup has the Northeastern University Huskies travelling up to Durham to take on the University of New Hampshire Wildcats. Both sides are on the outside looking in on the national poll, NU was #20 in the previous poll but an unconvincing win saw them loss some votes.
Both sides are picked to be right in the heat of battling for home ice advantage down the road and last year, this series was about as even as it gets with each side winning, then the other game ending in a tie.
Both sides have said goodbye to some key players, but the Huskies lost a lot more and will be the underdog in this matchup, however, it doesn’t seem to far fetched for them to be able to make some noise as they have likely the best skating team they have ever had and a freshman goaltender (the last two National Championships and Beanpots were won by freshman goalies).
This rivalry has gained some heat over the last two years, with the departure of James vanRiemsdyk and Denis McCauley, it will likely cool down, but if this game is tight, like it should be, tempers will likely flair pretty quickly. NU wins 4-3.Moving to Saturday night, Northeastern heads to #13 University of Massachusetts at Lowell Riverhawks for the second conference game of the weekend and season, while Lowell will play their first.
The Riverhawks will be coming off a Friday night non-Conference tilt with Colgate which they should be able to win fairly easily. These teams faced off last year in the Semi Finals of the Conference Tournament at the TD Banknorth Garden and Lowell won 3-2 come from behind overtime victory.
Just like Lowell losing to BU in the final, that loss hurt Northeastern and the fans and they should come out looking for some revenge. Also, if Goaltender Chris Rawlings can continue to improve, he may be able to stifle Lowell’s scoring threats very effectively.
The highlight of this game though will be special teams, primarily NU’s Power Play vs. UML’s Penalty Kill. The Riverhawks were one of the best at killing penalties last year while the Huskies were one of the worst at scoring with a man advantage. However, the Huskies dominated the Lowell Penalty Kill.
Now, Northeastern’s Power Play is better than last year and should reap the benefits of drawing penalties more often against everyone this year. NU wins 3-2.
Saturday’s other conference matchup is Maine @ UNH. If Maine can get a good result at Amherst, they could ride some momentum into Saturday and maybe pull off an upset against the Wildcats.
However, I think UNH will be too high powered for the young Blackbears and the atmosphere will probably be a little more hostile than on Friday night. UNH wins 3-1.
Of the non-Conference matchups this weekend, two stick out as being very important. #3 Boston University is hosting #5 Michigan Wolverines and #14 Boston College Eagles are travelling to take on #9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
BU will need to get a result to keep their fans interested, or at least play with more intensity than they did in their home opener against Notre Dame on Tuesday. The Terriers have started the season 0-2 (0-1 HE) with a loss at unranked Amherst and hosting Notre Dame.
I was at the game against Notre Dame, the student section was really disappointed. BU needs a good result or this could be a long season for the National Champions. It is also important to note that while the Terriers didn’t win every game last year, they didn’t lose to any team that wasn’t in the Hockey East. Michigan wins 4-2.
Boston College has only played one game this season, a loss at UVM, and it was convincing. At this point I don’t think it can be expected that the Eagles will beat Notre Dame, but sticking with them will be important otherwise they will take a huge hit to their confidence and likely start rolling downhill. Notre Dame wins 3-1.
Other Matchups (HE team in bold)
Providence College Friars at Bowling Green
Providence College Friars at Bowling Green
University of Connecticut @ Merrimack College Warriors
For Hockey East standings visit: http://hockeyeastonline.com/men/standings.php
For Scores and Schedule visit: http://hockeyeastonline.com/men/schedule/index.php
For the National Top 20 Poll visit: http://www.uscho.com/rankings/
For all other Hockey East news visit: http://www.hockeyeastonline.com
For all other College Hockey news visit: http://www.uscho.com
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