Monday, December 10, 2012

Hockey East Weekend Analysis

The big winner in Hockey East over the weekend was the Boston University Terriers. Jack Parker's club upset top ranked New Hampshire Thursday night in Durham before shutting out Maine 1-0. Freshman Sean Maguire picked up his second straight shutout Saturday night, giving Jack Parker two reliable goaltenders.

UMass-Lowell shutout Northeastern 2-0 Saturday night, with freshman goaltender Connor Hellebuyck getting the nod in net. Scott Wilson picked up an assist, moving his point streak to five games. The Pittsburgh draft pick needs to lead this offense if the River Hawks will move up the standings in the second half. UML is 3-1-1 in league games against teams not named Boston College or UNH, compared to 0-5-0 against those two.

What does this mean? To me, the top three teams in the league this year is set in stone. BC, UNH and BU will finish in the top three. There are plenty of games left, and Providence, Merrimack, UMass-Amherst and UMass-Lowell all have the ability to grab that final home ice spot. UML, picked second in the preseason coaches poll, is clearly a step below the upper echelon of the league, but certainly capable of finishing at the top of the second tier.

Merrimack skated to a 2-2 tie with a talented Harvard team Friday night. Merrimack has an abundance of forwards who can skate well with any team, a top four defensive corp that is solid and two improving goaltenders. The Warriors open up the second half with four out of five league games against UVM and Maine. Coach Dennehy's squad needs to capitalize on those opportunities to gain points as the schedule will get much tougher from there. Looking way ahead to the future, if Mike Collins, Brendan Ellis and Jordan Heywood all return for their senior seasons, the Warriors could have a big year next winter.

Northeastern lost sophomore forward Joseph Manno last week, as he opted to move his game to the USHL for the time being. This comes on the heels of losing heralded freshman Cam Darcy last month. There have also been several recruiting de-commitments since Jim Madigan took over on Huntingdown Ave. It is clear, with the results on the ice, as well as some of the off ice issues that NU Athletic Director Peter Roby completely whiffed on this hire.

UMass-Amherst was the big loser on the weekend, dropping two non-conference home games to Colgate. Fortunately for John Micheletto's club, the games won't count in league standings. There are some serious concerns for the Minutemen following the weekend. Kevin Boyle had a rough weekend, after playing so well for his first ten games. The sophomore let in 11 goals on 48 shots. Another issue is the lack of production from Michael Pereira, who only has eight points in 15 games. The Avon Old Farms product had 29 goals in his first two seasons.

Maine continues to be completely unable to score. Tim Whitehead's team has only 20 goals in 15 games played. After a rough first three minutes against Boston University Saturday night where they could not get the puck out of their own end, the Black Bears skated fairly well against BU, but could not put the puck in the net. There were numerous turnovers and chances negated due to not being able to get a shot off in time. Tim Whitehead just seems utterly confused on the bench, with no real ability to manage a game. The five minute power play at the end of the game, with some of the personnel used, was a perfect example of this.

Teams meet for a face-off Saturday night at Agganis Arena. BU won 1-0 over Maine.