Hockey East at the Break

December 16, 2011

Hockey East

With the first half of the season in the books, we can see how the Hockey East picture is developing.  As usual, the top of the conference is well represented on the national scale.  And they are already breaking away from the bottom half.  Some teams look ready for a big second half, while a few others could be in for a long year.  Here is a recap of the first half and an outlook on the second half for the entire conference.  We will have more on Northeastern specifically next week.

Boston College: 9-4-0, 18 Points, 14 games left

BC sits in 1st after a typical BC first half. Losses to Lowell and UMass Amherst raised some eyebrows, but the biggest surprise of the season so far for them was dropping 2 out of 3 to BU.  Defenseman Patrick Wey’s return form injury should help the Eagles, as will freshman Brian Billet’s play in net.  They have some big games left: 3 with Merrimack, Frozen Fenway and the Beanpot, but for the most part there schedule is pretty easy: 3 with Vermont, 2 with PC, UNH, and Maine.

Prediction: The Eagles do what they always do and go on a tear in the second half that takes them deep into the NCAA’s.

Boston University Terriers: 8-4-1, 17 points, 14 games left

The Terriers had to feel good about themselves going into the break.  They had overcome some early season inconsistency to turn things around and be in really good position.  1 day into that break things began to unravel and the drama hasn’t stopped all week.  Corey Trivino, Hockey East’s leading scorer is gone.  Charlie Coyle is gone.  And now their are reports some of the players are unhappy with Parker’s handling of things.  Their USCHO thread is both hilarious and just downright sad.  It is a rough time to be a Fanboy.  The players could rally around this and put together a good second half, but an outright collapse is much more likely.

Prediction: We haven’t seen the last midseason exit on Comm Ave this season.

Merrimack College Warriors: 7-2-1, 15 points, 17 games remaining

Merrimack took advantage of an easy schedule in the 1st half and earned the #1 ranking in the country for the first time in school history.  They have struggled a bit heading into the break, but with 3 games in hand on the teams ahead of them, they have to like their chances at a league title.  The Warriors have allowed the fewest goals in the conference, but they have also scored the second fewest.  Joe Canatta is the only reason they are where they are and he has been amazing this season.  Merrimack has yet to play BC, UNH, Lowell, and UMass Amherst so far.  And they still have 2 games against BU and Maine.

Prediction: The Warriors cool down a bit in the second half and get upset in the 1st round of the Hockey East playoffs.

UMass Lowell River Hawks: 7-4-0, 14 points, 16 games remaining

First year coach Norm Bazin has really turned this team around.  After missing the playoff last year, the River Hawks have already surpassed last season’s point toal thanks to some talented freshman and great play in net from sophomore Doug Carr.  Lowell seems like a good bet for home ice, which no one would have said preseason.  They have wins against BC and BU already, but they still have all 3 games to play against Merrimack.  This team culd very easily be making its first appearance at the Garden since 08/09.

Prediction:  Lowell continues to play well, but ends up on the wrong side of the bubble come tournament time.

Providence Friars: 6-4-0, 12 points, 17 games remaining

Another first year coach who has found success.  The Friars got off to a great start, but looked to be slowing down a bit.   They then proceeded to sweep Merrimack and put themselves firmly in the race for home ice.  They haven’t made the playoffs since 07/08.  They haven’t had a winning record since 05/06.  So whether they get home ice or not, this will probably be a good season for them.

Prediction: PC makes the playoffs for the first time since 07/08, and then gets sewpt just like they did in 07/08.

Maine Black Bears: 5-6-1, 11 points, 15 games remaining

The days of Maine being a national power are long gone.  But this season has them headed for a new low.  They don’t have much on defense or in net and they don’t score enough to make up for that. Its no longer impossible to win away at Alfond.  There has been a demonstration and a petition in an effort to get Tim Whitehead to step down from the head coaching position.  If it werent for a sweep of Vermont, things might look even worse up in Orono.  Either way its going to be a very long second half for them.

Prediction: Maine misses the playoffs, the state of Maine goes beserk and Whitehead is fired.

Northeastern Huskies: 4-7-2, 10 points, 14 games remaining

Jim Madigan’s return to coaching couldn’t have got off to  a worst start.  But since starting 1-7-2, the Huskies have ripped off 6 straight wins.  Unfortunately 3 of those were nonconference, so the Huskies have some work to do in conference.   3 games against BU, and 2 against Maine, Vermont and PC should help with that though.  They have been playing really well lately, but their poor start has given them almost no margin for error going forward.

Prediction: Northeastern wins the Beanpot.  The Huskies manage to grab home ice…barely.

New Hampshire Wildcats: 4-7-1, 9 points, 15 games remaining

The Wildcats have been awful this season.  And they just lost one of their big recruits for next season.  The last time UNH didn’t get home ice was 1996.  That streak is a good as gone.  Their main concern is just making the playoffs at this point.  With 2 games against Maine, Vermont, UMass Amherst, plus 3 with PC, they will get every chance to save themselves.

Prediction: UNH turns it on late and surprise everybody be making it to the Garden.

UMass Amherst Minuteman: 2-6-3, 7 points, 16 games remaining

The Minuteman picked up right where they left off last year: sucking.  But as they head into break, there is a bit more hope for them.  There have been some positive signs as of late and their schedule gives them the chance to pick up some spots in the standings: 2 with Maine, UNH, PC, Vermont.  Goalie and defense have been issues at times, but they do have some talent.  They made it into the playoffs last year and they will be hoping to again this year.

Prediction: Just like last year, UMass Amherst sneaks into the playoffs and then gets booted real quick.

Vermont Catamounts: 1-9-2, 3 points, 15 games remaining

The Catamounts are running away with last place.  They can’t do much of anything and there isn’t any chance of a turnaround up there.

Prediction: UVM finishes in the single digit in terms of points and Kevin Sneddon is fired.

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