Friday, November 16, 2012

Hockey East Weekend Preview (November 16-18)

There are no traditional two game series in Hockey East this weekend. It's still early, but it appears that Boston College, Boston University and New Hampshire are the clear cut top three this season. Those three teams have passed the eye test. It would be a shock if all three didn't end up with at least home ice. Trendy preseason pick UMass-Lowell has struggled to score, but have played fewer games than any other team in the league. UMass-Amherst has played the strongest schedule so far, competing in almost every game, but only have two league wins to show for it. The Minutemen have a great chance the next three games, playing one game each against the three teams lowest in the league standings. Maine has an interesting opportunity to climb out of the cellar, playing the next three against two teams picked to miss the playoffs by the league's coaches.

Last Week's Record in Picks: 7-3
Overall Record: 13-7

Merrimack (4-5-1, 3-2-1 HE) at Boston College (8-1-0, 7-1-0 HE)
Friday, 7:00, Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, MA

This is a huge mismatch on paper. The Eagles have had Merrimack's number at Conte Forum. Merrimack has improved their overall team speed, but BC's skill will prove to be too much. After going four games without a loss, Merrimack suffered back to back set backs last weekend. The Warriors lost a lot of puck battles on the wall and it cost them. BC had two good wins over Notre Dame and BU. The only chance Merrimack has a BC letdown.

PICK: BC 4-1

Northeastern (4-4-1, 2-4-1 HE) at Providence (4-4-1, 3-3-0 HE)
Friday, 7:00, Schneider Arena, Providence, RI

The Friars have been better at home than on the road, but are coming off two disappointing losses to two teams picked towards the bottom of the league standings. Goaltender Jon Gillies leads a talented freshman class that will look to be the backbone of Nate Leaman's squad all year. Northeastern swept lowly Alabama-Huntsville last weekend, possibly getting back on track, but the talent gap was so huge, it's tough to tell. This game should come down to goaltending, with the advantage on paper to PC.

PICK: Home ice, better goaltending, better coaching, Friars win 3-2.

UMass-Amherst (3-4-0, 2-4-0 HE) at Maine (2-9-0, 1-5-0 HE)
Friday, 7:00, Alfond Arena, Orono, ME

UMass has played a lot better than what most people would have expected with a new coach and a tough early season schedule. The Minutemen have strung together two of three, with Michael Pereira getting on track in the win over PC. Kevin Boyle has emerged as a legitimate number one goaltender. Maine won their first conference game of the season last weekend at Lowell, playing without star Joey Diamond. Martin Ouellette has taken over the starting job in net for Tim Whitehead.

PICK: Maine takes this one, their first home win of the year, 3-2.

New Hampshire (6-1-1, 4-1-1 HE) at UMass-Lowell (2-4-1, 1-3-1 HE)
Friday, 7:00, Tsongas Arena, Lowell, MA

This should be a good game, as Lowell really needs to get back on track. The Wildcats have played terrificly the first month of the season led by unsuspecting senior Austin Block and sophomore sensation Casey DeSmith in net. For UML, Riley Wetmore and Scott Wilson need to get on track quickly or the season is going to start slipping away for the River Hawks.

PICK: UML starts their climb up the ladder of the standings, 2-1.

Boston University (5-3-0, 4-2-0 HE) at Vermont (1-3-2, 1-3-2 HE)
Friday, 7:05, Gutterson Field House, Burlington, VT

The Terriers will look to bounce back tonight on the road, following a loss to archrival BC on Sunday. BU certainly has the skill advantage in this game. UVM was shutout 4-0 by UNH in their last time out. In this game, it all comes down to whether Kevin Sneddon's defense first style can grind out a victory for the home team. UVM just doesn't have the offensive talent required to beat BU toe to toe.

PICK: Terriers win on the road, 3-1.

New Hampshire (6-1-1, 4-1-1 HE) at Boston University (5-3-0, 4-2-0 HE)
Sunday, 1:00, Agganis Arena, Boston, MA

This should be the best game of the weekend on paper, with these top teams doing battle on Commonwealth Ave. BU has more depth, but UNH has two very good puck moving defensemen in Conor Hardowa and Trevor van Riemsdyk. The advantage in goal goes to UNH, but this could be a winless weekend for Dick Umile's squad.

PICK: BU takes four points on the weekend, winning this one 2-1.

UMass-Lowell (2-4-1, 1-3-1 HE) at UMass-Amherst (3-4-0, 2-4-0 HE)
Sunday, 7:00, Mullins Center, Amherst, MA

The battle of the two Massachusetts state schools has led to some close, hard fought battles over the year. UML would have been the heavy favorites in this game going into the season, but has failed to live up to expectations so far. This game will be decided by which team's top three forwards play better. A good goaltending battle between Doug Carr and Kevin Boyle should also be on display.

PICK: Tough game to call here, but River Hawks get things rolling in right direction, winning 4-3.

Northeastern (4-4-1, 2-4-1 HE) at Vermont (1-3-2, 1-3-2 HE)
Sunday, 7:05, Gutterson Field House, Burlington, VT

This game could help determine which of these two teams make the playoffs later in the year. It might sound silly saying that in November, but every game counts in Hockey East. These two teams should be fighting for a playoff spot come March. NU has the advantage in skill up front. This could be the worst goaltending match up of the weekend with inexperience Brody Hoffman going for UVM and Northeastern's always up in the air goaltending situation.

PICK: NU wins it 4-2.