Hockey East Week 14 Recap: Three Stars, Three Scars

Rewinding the craziest weekend in Hockey East thus far.

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HEA Power Rankings:Lowell, Providence Make Moves

We felt good about things after last week, but Providence, UMass and BU all gave us some things to think about this past weekend.

1. Boston College

Nothing good to say about the Eagles' lackluster effort on Friday night, but their bounce-back showing at Matthews Arena was enough to keep them atop the rankings. Besides, it's not like UNH seemed to want that top spot, anyway.

2. Lowell

After a while, refusing to lose earns you a bump.

3. UNH

Casey DeSmith's save percentage over the last two months? .876. The Wildcats' win percentage? .500. That's hardly a coincidence.

4. BU

You can make a lot of BU's 4-3 home loss to Lowell from Saturday night, but mostly, you can make it out to be not as close as the score indicated.

5. Providence

They've played one game more, but they've also got three points on Lowell, and currently hold the last home-ice spot in Hockey East.

6. Merrimack

A 1-1 tie and a 3-2 win over Maine aren't much to chirp about, but you've gotta take 3 points when you can get them.

7. UMass

We'll find out over the next few weeks if UMass is as good as the team that beat BC 5-2 on Friday night, but the future keeps getting a bit brighter for John Micheletto's squad.

8. Northeastern

Here by default.

9. Vermont

The Philadelphia Hockey Classic was billed as a big deal, and it might have been, but the Cats came out overmatched by their opposition, which just last year was still a club team, and by the moment, which had nearly 20,000 fans on-hand to witness Vermont's humiliation.

10. Maine

The Tim Whitehead watch is officially on.

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Three Stars, Three Scars

If you're a fan of offense, this was the weekend for you in Hockey East. Of course, that means it was a pretty rotten weekend for goaltending. We'll start with the scars:

First Scar: Chris Rawlings. Northeastern's senior goaltender had a .788 save percentage, on the weekend, getting pulled from the BC game in which his team would ultimately fall, 9-3. Sure, the Huskies beat BU on Friday night, but not without Rawlings letting five in in that game, too.

Second Scar: Vermont's steady play. During the holidays, we were praising Brody Hoffman and the Cats' consistency. But now, after losing to first year varsity program Penn State, Kevin Sneddon's squad is now on a four-game losing streak and looks to be completely without direction.

Third Scar: Casey DeSmith. UNH's once all-world netminder has been positively pedestrian since the calendar turned to December. Not accounting for his strong play in holding off BC last weekend, his save percentage has been less than .909 after being unworldly first few months, and he has a save percentage south of .750 in two of his last three games, and it may have been worse on Saturday had he not gotten yanked from UNH's eventual 6-5 loss to Providence.

First Star: Mike Collins. Merrimack's captain doesn't get a lot of attention these days, but he notched assists on all three of the Warriors' goals on Saturday night to lead his team to a win over Maine, which is still yet to win a home conference game this season.

Second Star: BC's new second line. Sure, they didn't do much on Friday night, but nobody not named Lowell played two good games this weekend, and their 12 combined points (including Steven Whitney's hat trick and Johnny Gaudreau's four assists) on Saturday night against an overmatched Northeastern team were exactly what you'd expect from the Eagles' former top trio.

Third Star: Jon Gillies' value. I'm not too familiar with the Flames' goaltending situation, but Gillies keeps giving them hope for the future. He stopped 48 of 50 shots on Thursday night against Lowell, and came back by keeping 37 of UNH's 42 shots out of the net en route to a very unexpected road win on Saturday night.

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Merrimack Edges Maine, 3-2

Mike Collins set up all three Merrimack goals as they hung on to edge Maine 3-2 in front of 4,067 at Alfond Arena. Joey Diamond had a goal and an assist for the Black Bears in the loss. The Warriors improved to 7-5-2 in Hockey East, keeping them in fifth place and five points ahead of the seventh spot. Maine missed out on two more points, keeping the Black Bears in the cellar. Now at 1-9-4 in conference play, Maine is getting to the point where the panic button needs to be pushed.

Observations from Saturday's game in Orono:

As Mike Collins goes, so does the Merrimack offense. The Warriors are 8-5-3 when he records a point and 1-4-2 when he does not. The junior from Boston assisted on all three Warrior goals Saturday. He's dynamic out on the ice and creates a majority of the Merrimack scoring chances. He has also quietly improved tremendously in his own end. Coach Mark Dennehy now trusts him in all situations as Collins is out on the ice killing penalties and at the end of the game in crunch situations.

Kyle Bigos had a very good game, scoring on a hard slapshot on a power play and assisting on another goal. He's a big player who is going to get penalties called on him for being big, but he needs to avoid the undisciplined and unnecessary penalties that have hurt the team and caused Dennehy to remove the "A" from his sweater. If he can play as well as he has the past few weeks, he could be a key player for the Warriors down the stretch.

Joey Diamond played one of his best games of the season. He had a nice shorthanded goal where he picked off an errant Jordan Heywood pass and assisted on Connor Leen's goal. His goal tonight marked his 50th career goal. He was buzzing around the ice and had some good chances in addition to his scoring plays. He is at his best when he is flying around, causing havoc, crashing the net and working the corners. He had a terrific season a year ago, scoring 25 goals, and being part of an NCAA Tournament team. Diamond must play like he did tonight more often than not if he wants his last season in Orono to not end on the outside looking in of the conference playoffs.

Tim Whitehead needs to be replaced as head coach of this once perennial powerhouse. Maine is still winless at home after this weekend's tie and loss. The Alfond crowds are diminishing. There are good players on this team, but not enough of them. The ones that are Hockey East caliber are not being put in the right situations to succeed. If Mark Dennehy had a line of Ryan Lomberg, Devin Shore and Will Merchant, they would have more than six goals on the season. Furthermore, players like Mark Anthoine, Joey Diamond and Kyle Beattie are better than their season statistics show. The responsibility of the coach is to get the most out of his talent. Whitehead has not done that.

On the other hand, Mark Dennehy continues to get the most out of his teams. Outside of Mike Collins, there is a serious lack of talent offensively. He gets his teams to go all out almost every shift. Two players who epitomize this are linemates Rhett Bly and Kyle Singleton. They do not have as much skill as a lot of players in this league, but they work hard every shift and provide spark and some of the necessary ingredients to winning hockey teams. Bly is very good on faceoffs and Singleton blocks more shots than anyone else in Hockey East.

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Lowell, Providence, BC win big

Providence 6, #3 New Hampshire 5

Despite two late goals from the No. 3 ranked Wildcats, the Friars held strong to a 6-5 victory Saturday night at the Whittemore Center in Durham, N.H. With the win, the Friars avenge their Thursday night loss to UMass Lowell and improve to 10-9-3 (8-5-2) on the year. Suffering their fifth loss of the season, UNH falls to 14-5-2 (9-4-1).

Shane Luke of the Friars opened the scoring early on in the contest, netting his third goal of the season just 5:23 into the game. Ross Mauermann was credited with the assist to the only goal scored in the opening frame. Just 49 seconds into the second period, Brandon Taney extended Providence’s lead to two off assists from Luke and freshman Nick Saracino. Providence kept it rolling, following a pair of goals from Saracino and Derek Army to bring Tim Leaman’s squad to a 4-0 lead on the Wildcats midway through the contest.

In an effort to spark a comeback, John Henrion netted a shot past Jon Gillies (Calgary Flames) (37 Saves) to get New Hampshire on the scoreboard at the 10:52 mark of the second, but was quickly avenged by Army’s second goal of the game 1:09 later. After two UNH goals from Maxim Gaudreault and Dalton Speelman, Providence’s Kyle Murphy capped off the scoring for the Friars with his third goal of the year to make it 6-3. Murphy’s goal proved to be the game winner as the Friars held on to win 6-5.

#18 UMass Lowell 4, #9 Boston University 3

Four unanswered goals from the Riverhawks proved to be enough to defeat the Terriers 4-3 Saturday night at Agannis Arena in Boston. With the win, Lowell improves to 13-7-1 (7-6-1) and extends their streak to nine straight victories. The Terriers, who finish the weekend winless following a Friday night loss to Northeastern, falls to 12-9-0 (9-6-0) on the year.

After BU freshman Matt Lane’s goal 5:11 into the contest, UMass Lowell scored four straight including tallies from Joseph Pendenza, Chad Ruhwedel, Derek Arnold and Adam Chapie to go up 4-1 on the No. 9 Terriers.

With a comeback in sight, Evan Rodrigues scored his sixth goal of the season to make the score 4-2 with 13:33 left in the game. Senior captain Wade Megan (Florida Panthers) brought the Terriers to within one goal when he scored past Doug Carr (29 saves) midway through the third frame. Carr and the Riverhawks held strong through the rest of regulation to pull off the upset and bring home their ninth straight win.

Penn State 4, Vermont 2

After back to back first period goals from Taylor Holmstrom and David Glen, Penn State never looked back and skated to a 4-2 victory over Vermont Saturday night at the Philadelphia College Hockey Faceoff following the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers game in the Wells Fargo Center. With the loss, the Catamounts drop to 6-12-4 (3-8-4) on the season.

Carrying a 2-0 lead into the second period, the first year Nittany Lions extended their lead to three after a score from Justin Kirchhevel. Just 1:25 later, Catamount’s Roberth Polesello scored his fourth goal to make it 3-1 midway through the middle frame. Late in the third period, Penn State was provided with some insurance courtesy of Casey Bailey, who scored his eleventh goal of the season. With just 11 seconds remaining in the contest, Kyle Mountain scored his first goal of the season to cap the scoring and the game at 4-2, Penn State.

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Three things to watch, Week 14

The common theme in this week's three things to watch is playoff positioning. This is the fun time of the year when conference playoff races heat up and teams start scoreboard watching.

1. Providence begins a key stretch, playing at red hot UMass-Lowell Thursday night. Following that game, the Friars play five of six against Boston College or New Hampshire. Sitting in fourth place currently, PC needs to ride freshman goaltender Jon Gillies to keep the team afloat during this stretch. The Friars could really use a road victory to propel them further up the standings, away from Merrimack and UMass-Lowell. A loss Thursday night could be the beginning of a significant slide that sees their grip on home ice slip away.

2. Maine hosts Merrimack for a pair this weekend in Orono, to conclude the season series in a period of just eight days. After the Warriors pummeled Maine 6-0 in North Andover last Saturday it appears these two teams are headed in opposite directions. However, this series is crucial for each team. Merrimack is in a battle for the last home ice spot and needs to gain points this weekend before entering a five game stretch playing UNH three times and Lowell and Boston University once each. For Maine, they are currently sitting well outside, looking in on the last playoff spot. Picking up points is a must unless the Black Bears want to miss the playoffs for the second time in six seasons. Tim Whitehead's squad is still winless at the Alfond Arena, which would have been unspeakable just a few years ago.

3. Northeastern squares off against cross-town rivals Boston University and Boston College this weekend. The Huskies also are entering a tough portion of their schedule. Following this weekend, NU has a home-and-home with Lowell and then faces UNH in a solo contest the weekend prior to the Beanpot. Sitting in 9th place currently, Jim Madigan's squad cannot afford to fall too far behind. Northeastern certainly doesn't want to miss the playoffs for a second year in a row.

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BU takes on Northeastern and UML, PC plays UNH

Starting Thursday night, the Hockey East weekend kicks off with a great game between the Friars and Riverhawks, who carry a seven game winning streak into the game. Friday night, Northeastern will travel to Agganis to take on No. 9 BU in a preview of the Beanpot Tournament and on Saturday, No. 18 Lowell will take on the Terriers in this weekends marquee matchup.

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