Monday, February 25, 2013

Hockey East Power Rankings (February 25, 2013)

With just two weekends left in the season, Hockey East is as close as it has ever been. Playoff hockey is upon us. Enjoy the ride. Here is this week's College Hockey Rink Report Hockey East Power Rankings.

1. Boston College: The Eagles got revenge for their overtime loss a week ago at Merrimack by returning the favor Sunday. BC picked up a 2-1 win in the extra session when Quinn Smith banged home a rebound. The lack of depth is hurting BC. York is trying to mix and match to generate more offense, but clearly needs to reunite Johnny Gaudreau with Steven Whitney. However, the third line of Smith, Patrick Brown and Brooks Dryoff have been on fire since the start of February.

2. New Hampshire: The Wildcats took three of four points at UVM and now will welcome the eighth and ninth place teams in the league to the Whittemore Center for the last four games of the season. Goaltender Casey DeSmith needs to find his first half form if UNH is going to make a deep run in the playoffs. With the schedule the way it is the rest of the way, a finish lower than second is inexcusable.

3. UMass-Lowell: The River Hawks looked like a vastly superior team to BU over the weekend, nearly shutting out BU in back-to-back games. If not for BU’s fluky shorthanded goal in the third period, it would have done so. The River Hawks remaining games all come against teams in the top four of the standings. It looks like Coach Norm Bazin will ride the freshman Connor Hellebuyck between the pipes the rest of the way.

4. Providence: The Friars are 6-2-4 since freshman goalie Jon Gillies returned from the World Juniors. Nate Leaman's team hasn't lost a game in a month. The next two weekends will be tough tests with home-and-home series against BC and UML. The first line of Mark Jankowski, Stefan Demopoulos and Tim Schaller have jelled nicely. 

5. Merrimack: The Warriors have generated a lot of shots on goal in the two recent games against BC. The problem for Merrimack fans is that most of those shots have been from the outside. This might be Mark Dennehy's best skating team, but the squad lacks finishers. Tomorrow, a tough test awaits at BU. The struggling Terriers will be desperate to pick up points on home ice.

6. Boston University: The Terriers were swept over the weekend and find themselves in sixth place. Costly mental lapses and turnovers have resulted in poor results lately. Luckily for BU, they have enough skill and talent that the upcoming games after Tuesday should lend points. UVM comes to town for a pair at Agganis this weekend before a home-and-home against NU to finish the season. Four of the last five games are at home so if Jack Parker and company can't get home ice, they have nobody to blame but themselves.

7. Vermont: The Catamounts were badly out shot Friday night in a home loss to UNH. UVM came back the next night and played well against the more skilled Wildcats, but could only come away with a 1-1 tie. UVM will have to do some scoreboard watching the rest of the way. Up two points on UMass and three on Maine, UVM travels to BU for a pair before hosting BC for two. Points will be hard to come by against the two Boston schools.

8. Maine: The Black Bears could only muster a split at UMass-Amherst this weekend, but that was enough to stay within striking distance of a playoff spot. Maine must capitalize on this weekend's series against last place Northeastern. Joey Diamond will be back in the lineup after missing this past weekend due to a back injury. Martin Ouellette will bounce back from a tough outing Saturday night. He was terrific in net Friday in picking up his second shutout of the season.

9. UMass-Amherst: The Minutemen bounced back from a shutout loss Friday night by exploding for three goals in the final period Saturday for a 5-2 win. Like UVM, points will be hard to come by for John Micheletto's squad the rest of the way. UMass plays the next three games on the road before coming home for the final game of the year. Those games are against UNH and Merrimack.

10. Northeastern: The goaltending issues continue to plague the Huskies. NU plays two games at Maine this weekend before finishing the season with a home-and-home against BU. The Huskies almost definitely need to pick up three points or more this weekend to have a legitimate shot at a playoff spot come the final weekend.