Monday, January 7, 2013

Hockey East Power Rankings, January 7, 2013

Each of the top three teams have lost games since Christmas, but the trio are still in a class of their own. BC and UNH are both 500 or below in their last four games. UMass-Lowell is all the way up to fourth with their recent success and with an easier second half schedule, I see more wins in the River Hawks' future.

1. Boston College: The Eagles' only win in the last four games is against lowly Alabama-Huntsville. The Eagles were pasted 8-1 by Minnesota in the Mariucci Classic Final. With Johnny Gaudreau set to return from the World Junior Championships, the Eagles will settle back down. Jerry York, now the all-time winningest coach in Division I, always seems to get his teams peaking at the right time.

2. New Hampshire: The Wildcats had a two-game losing streak with losses coming from BU and Dartmouth before bouncing back with wins over Bemidji State and RPI. This will be a big weekend, with a home-and-home against the Eagles.

3. Boston University: Jack Parker's squad laid an egg in the Hall of Fame Game at Denver, losing 6-0 to the Pioneers. The Terriers didn't fare much better at home against RPI, needing overtime to beat the Engineers 3-2. Inconsistent play from this young team is what will keep BU in third place.

4. UMass-Lowell: The River Hawks have a five-game winning streak where they have allowed a total of five goals. Riley Wetmore and Scott Wilson have still not provided the offense needed for UML to make a deep run, but the goaltending and defense have stepped up. There could be a goaltending controversy with the emergence of freshman Connor Hellebuyck. He has given UML a better chance to win lately than incumbent goaltender Doug Carr. 

5. Providence: This weekend proved that the Friars need their freshman class in order to win games against stiffer competition. PC was swept at the hands of nationally ranked Minnesota State-Mankato. Noel Acciari and Mark Jankowski both missed the weekend with injuries while Jon Gillies was absent due to the World Juniors. Gillies is a difference maker in net, and as long as he stays healthy, Nate Leaman's team has a strong chance at home ice.

6. UMass-Amherst: The Minutemen won the Leyard Bank Classic Championship hosted by Dartmouth. Tournament MVP Branden Gracel notched four points, continuing to lead the UMass offense. I keep thinking Conor Sheary and Michael Pereira will return to their form of a year ago. If they do and Kevin Boyle plays well in net more consistently, John Micheletto's squad should be in the home ice race coming down the stretch.

7. Merrimack: Mark Dennehy's club is finally getting fully healthy, but continues to struggle to score. The goaltending has been sharp and the defense has tightened up. This is a solid team with few holes, but scoring needs to come from sources other than Mike Collins on a more consistent basis in order for me to become a believer in the Warriors. With games in hand, MC has a huge opportunity coming up with three games in a row against Maine following a home tilt with BU Friday.

8. Vermont: UVM was 4-1-2 in their last six games before losing on home ice to Merrimack. The Catamounts are now 0-9-3 against Merrimack dating back to the 2009 season. With Connor Brickley and Colin Markison still out, generating offense has been hard to come by except for the top line of Kyle Reynolds, Chris McCarthy and Jacob Fallon. Five of the next six are home contests, against UML (2), UMass (2) and Maine (1).

9. Northeastern: Chris Rawlings has been at fault often for giving up soft goals, but the defense was responsible for most of the goals in a 6-3 loss to Bentley. Turnovers, mental lapses and physical breakdowns by the blueliners were to blame. What will ultimately cost the Huskies a playoff spot is the lack of depth upfront, a totally inept Division I defense and lack of experience in game management by the coaching staff.

10. Maine: Just when I thought the Black Bears had turned the corner, they go out and lose on home ice to Mercyhurst. Maine has still yet to win at the Alfond this season. Martin Ouellette, minus the first period against Cornell, has been stellar since taking over the number one goaltending duties. The next four games are crucial in order to move out of the basement, with one against Northeastern and three against Merrimack.