Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hockey East Weekend Preview (November 9-11)

The weekend slate in Hockey East will be highlighted by Boston University, who travels to second place Merrimack before hosting cross-town rival and first place Boston College on Sunday. Another huge game in the conference will be Friday night when Boston College hosts future league member Notre Dame in a battle of top ten teams at Conte Forum. The only two game conference series will be Maine traveling to UMass-Lowell for a pair. Both squads have gotten off to less than stellar starts, but UML's outlook appears more promising.

Last Week's Record in Picks: 6-4

Maine (1-8-0, 0-4-0 HE) at UMass-Lowell (1-3-1, 0-2-1 HE)
Friday/Saturday, Tsongas Arena, Lowell, MA (7:00)

The Black Bears visit Lowell for a pair this weekend in a match up of the two teams at the bottom of the standings. UML, tabbed to finish second in the league's pre-season coaches poll, has struggled to score goals in the early going. Maine, picked fifth, has yet to win a home game or a conference game and has only managed one win in a consolation game against Army in the Ice Breaker Tournament. Maine has more talent offensively than their league worst offense would indicate, but the defense and goaltending lack the talent needed to compete in the upper echelon of Hockey East. The River Hawks need to get back on track, and this could be the weekend it happens. Derek Arnold, Scott Wilson and Riley Wetmore have gotten off to uncharacteristically slow starts.

PICK: UML gets back on track with the sweep, 4-1 and 3-2.

Boston University (4-2-0, 3-1-0 HE) at Merrimack (4-3-1, 3-1-1 HE)
Friday, Lawler Arena, North Andover, MA (7:30)

This game should be a good early season test for both squads. The Warriors lead the league in offense, but with the exception of an opening night upset of Union, the schedule has been soft. The Terriers were stymied by UNH, but competed well at North Dakota, earning a split. The Terriers are led by their youth movement, especially in net with freshman Matt O'Connor. The Warriors are led by conference scoring leader Mike Collins, but the defense has stepped up and contributed to the offense. The Terriers are clearly the more talented squad, but MC has played remarkably well at home the past four years.

PICK: Merrimack wins a close, hard fought battle, 3-2.

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

Both teams are coming off splits last weekend. The Friars traveled to Vermont, winning Friday and losing Saturday, while the Minutemen upset UNH in overtime Friday before losing at BC on Sunday. John Micheletto's squad has lost three one goal games out of their four losses. UMass has had by far the toughest schedule in the league, playing BC twice, BU twice and UNH once. They have competed well and Kevin Boyle has emerged as their number one goaltender. Providence is relying on a lot of young talent under second year coach Nate Leaman, including star freshman goaltender Jon Gillies. This game could go both ways and definitely should be a close game.

PICK: UMass wins a tight battle with a late goal, 3-2.

Notre Dame (6-2-0, 3-1-0 HE) at Boston College (6-1-0, 6-1-0 HE)
Friday, Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, MA (7:00)

The Irish and Eagles meet Friday night on the eve of the football game between these two schools. BC is definitely the favorite on the ice, unlike on the gridiron. Notre Dame brings a squad with eleven NHL draft picks, including stars Anders Lee and T.J. Tynan. Junior Steven Summerhays brings his .935 save percentage between the pipes to the match-up. Coach Jeff Jackson won two NCAA titles at Lake Superior before leaving the college game for juniors and the pro ranks, before coming back to take the job in South Bend. The Eagles counter with the best top six forwards in the country and a potent power play. Senior Parker Milner has continued his incredible play down the stretch from a year ago. In a battle of great coaches, Jerry York brings his five NCAA titles, including four at BC.

PICK: This should be a great match-up, with tons of NHL scouts. Eagles prevail 3-2.

Vermont (1-2-2, 1-2-2 HE) at New Hampshire (5-1-1, 3-1-1 HE)
Saturday, Whittemore Center, Durham, NH (7:00)

The Wildcats bounced back from a hard overtime loss at UMass to crush arch-rival Maine 4-0 on Sunday. The Catamounts picked up their first win of the year on Saturday night over PC. UVM has been close in all their contests this year, yet they have had trouble scoring, as they most likely will all year. UNH has gotten contributions from many different angles offensively and Casey DeSmith has been stellar in net. UNH is definitely the better squad and has home ice advantage.

PICK: UNH wins in a rout, 5-0.

Connecticut (0-4-1, 0-3-0 AHA) at Merrimack (4-3-1, 3-1-1 HE)
Saturday, Lawler Arena, North Andover, MA (7:00)

The Warriors certainly have the huge talent advantage in this non-conference tilt. UConn has gotten off to a rough start, but did skate to a tie with nationally ranked Union. Longtime Huskies coach Bruce Marshall took an indefinite leave of absence this week due to a medical issue. If Merrimack comes to play, this should not be close.

PICK: Merrimack dominates 5-1.

Alabama-Huntsville (0-7-1) at Northeastern (2-4-1, 2-4-1 HE)
Saturday/Sunday, Matthews Arena, Boston, MA (7:00)

The Huskies will be the big favorites in this two game series against a struggling Huntsville program. NU got off to a hot start, defeating Merrimack and BC, before going winless in their next 5, including losses to those same two teams. This weekend could be a big opportunity for a confidence boost and to get back on track for Jim Madigan's squad. There should be no excuse for anything, but two convincing wins.

PICK: Northeastern 4-1 and 5-1.

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

In the marquee match-up of the weekend in Hockey East, these two rivals square off in what always ends up being an entertaining affair. BC has the more experienced squad, both offensively and in goal and probably the more talented college team. It is a home game for BU and they have some young talent that should be up for a huge crack at their rival. BC's top line and goaltender Parker Milner should give them the advantage, but you have to throw the records out and everything else out when these two teams meet.

PICK: BC comes through with a 4-2 victory.