Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Three Hot topics in Hockey East

1. Will Maine's offense find itself and turn things around?

The pressure has been on Tim Whitehead for sometime now, and rightfully so. The Maine hockey program and it's fans expect consistent success. Frozen Four appearances became the norm, and Whitehead was the head coach for some of the successful runs in the first half of the last decade. Maine does not have the talent offensively that BC and BU have, but the Black Bears have as much talent up front as any other team in the league. That talent needs to be put to good use and once healthy, Maine should start scoring more. The questions remain on defense and in goal, but the offense should at least partially come around. These next three games present an opportunity for Maine to get back on track with three home games against the two lowest teams in the preseason coaches and media poll.

2. Can UMass-Lowell turn it's season around or was last year just a flash in the pan?

Like many others, I was very high on UMass-Lowell entering the season. Scott Wilson, Riley Wetmore and Derek Arnold would be as solid a top line as any in Hockey East, with the exception of BC's remarkable first line. UML had some good depth, led by guys like Joseph Pendenza and Josh Holmstrom. Terrance Walin was another player that could progress after a solid rookie campaign. The defense has been acceptable, limiting shots on goal, but there have been some costly breakdowns, turnovers and untimely penalties by some of the blueliners. Doug Carr's numbers have been down from a year ago, but the blame does not lie with him. The offense is what needs to get back on track, currently averaging less than two goals a game. Was the loss of David Vallorani and Matt Ferreira that much of a blow or has UML just not been able to play well as the favorites? Last year, Norm Bazin took over a club who finished last in Hockey East and led it to a second place finish and an NCAA Regional Final. Luckily for Lowell, they've only played seven games, but the offense needs to get on track in a hurry.

5. What would the All-Rookie team look like if picked after just a month of play? 

The easy choices are on defense, where Boston University's Matt Grzelcyk and Boston College's Michael Matheson are the sure bets. Grzelcyk, a Boston Bruins draft pick, has shown remarkable poise and an ability to really move the puck up ice.  Matheson, the highly touted Florida Panthers draft pick has been exceptional at both ends of the ice with a +8 plus/minus to go along with his one goal and five assists. Providence's Jon Gilmour and Maine's Ben Hutton would be honorable mentions.

The forwards are more difficult to determine this early in the season. Northeastern's Kevin Roy is the only sure bet, averaging a point per game, with three goals and six assists. Boston University's Danny O'Regan would get the second nod, with four goals and three assists in eight games. There are several Providence freshman forwards who have played well and could definitely be in the discussion come March, but for now, the third forward goes to Maine's Devin Shore. The Dallas draft pick sees the ice really well, has good vision and good awareness for the puck. With one goal and four assists, he is tied for the team lead in scoring.

Three Hockey East teams are playing freshman goaltenders. UVM's Brody Hoffman has been solid in net, with a 2.44 GAA and a .918 save percentage. BU's Matt O'Connor has a 1.88 GAA and a .938 save percentage, which is exceptional. Providence's Jon Gillies takes home the hardware at this early point of the season, with his 2.05 GAA and .924 save percentage. How come Gillies wins over O'Connor, readers might ask? Numbers aren't everything. Gillies looks more controlled and poised in net, and plays on a team with less help in front. Come March, Gillies will be much more important to his team's success than O'Connor.