Hockey East Weekend Preview: BU and Providence battle for third place; Lowell tries to stay hot and BC hosts Maine

Boston University and Providence battle for third place in the Hockey East, Boston College looks to bring home two wins from Maine, UMass Lowell will attempt to extend their win streak against Northeastern. UMass-Amherst will look to continue success against Vermont, New Hampshire plays home and home with Merrimack.

#11 Boston University vs. Providence (Friday/Saturday)

Coming off of a two-loss weekend, the Terriers will look to re-surge themselves against the Friars in a home and home mini-series this upcoming Friday and Saturday. Although Jack Parker’s squad defeated Providence earlier in the season 4-2, it will be a much different team taking the ice opposite of the scarlet and white come the weekend.

Starting the toughest stretch of their schedule, the Friars traveled to New Hampshire to take on the Wildcats last Saturday. Thanks to a strong start, Providence was able to outlast UNH and take a 6-5 victory back to Rhode Island. The win gave the Friars a 10-9-3 (8-5-2) record, tying the Terriers for third place in Hockey East with 18 points apiece.

Junior forward Derek Army has paced the Friars so far this season, posting 17 points (10+7=17) in 22 games. In net, goaltender Jon Gillies (Calgary Flames) has been excellent in his first year, posting a .930 save percentage and only allowing 2.12 goals a game. Opposite of Army and Gillies stands sophomore Cason Hohmann and senior Wade Megan (Florida Panthers) as the leaders of the Terriers this season. Hohmann, has posted 22 points (6+16=22) in 21 games while Megan has 19 (12+7=19).

#3 Boston College vs. Maine (Friday/Saturday)

Despite dropping a 5-2 decision to UMass Amherst last Friday, the Eagles bounced back on Saturday and routed the Northeastern Huskies 9-3 at Matthews Arena. This weekend, Jerry York’s squad will host two games against Hockey East bottom feeder Maine Black Bears.

The Eagles, standing at 14-5-2(11-4-1) are led by Hobey Baker nominee Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames) with 31 (12+19=31) points through 18 games played. Joining Gaudreau on the first line is teammates Pat Mullane (11+16=27 points) and Steven Whitney (14+12=26).

As for the Black Bears, they stand at 5-14-4 (1-9-4) and have sole possession of last place in Hockey East. The two sides last met early in November, with the Eagles coming out of Orono with a 4-2 victory. Back-to-back power play goals in the third period by Gaudreau and Whitney allowed for BC to take a late lead and collect two points in the standings.

Most recently for the Black Bears, they tied and lost to Merrimack in a weekend two game mini-series despite back to back 25 save nights for goaltender Martin Ouellette. Maine will look to end their five game winless streak this weekend against the defending National Champions.

#15 UMass Lowell vs. Northeastern (Friday/Saturday)

When the Riverhawks were faced with their toughest weekend yet and a seven game winning streak on the line, solid goaltending play and contributions from many players on the team allowed for UMass-Lowell to pick up their ninth straight victory last weekend. Starting on Friday night, Norm Bazin’s squad defeated the Providence Friars 2-1 following a game winning goal from junior defenseman Chad Ruhwedel. Saturday night, the Riverhawks put together an impressive effort to defeat the Boston University Terriers 4-3. Doug Carr posted 13 of his 29 saves in the third period to withstand a BU comeback and hold on for the victory.

Skating opposite the Riverhawks this weekend will be Northeastern. The Huskies, 7-11-2 (4-9-2) this season have gotten a solid contribution offensively from senior Vinny Saponari (Winnipeg Jets), junior Cody Ferriero (San Jose Sharks) and freshman Kevin Roy (Anaheim Ducks). Of these three, the first year Roy holds the top spot on the team in points with 23 (10+13=23) this season.

Last weekend, the Huskies pulled out a 6-5 victory against the Terriers in a preview of the first round of the Beanpot Tournament taking place in early February. Following the victory, Huskies stayed local and hosted the Boston College Eagles and got routed 9-3 on Saturday night.

#4 New Hampshire vs. Merrimack (Friday/Saturday)

Meeting for the first time this season, the Wildcats of New Hampshire will be playing a home and home series with the Merrimack Warriors. The Wildcats, standing at 14-5-2 (9-4-1) this season, dropped their only game last weekend, 6-5 to the Providence Friars. Prior to last weekend, UNH split a weekend series with No. 3 Boston College, with each team skating to a victory on home ice.

The Wildcats have been led offensively this season by junior forward Kevin Goumas with 30 points (10+20=30) through 21 games. Defensively, Trevor Van Riemsdyk and Connor Hardowa have held strong in front of sophomore netminder Casey DeSmith (.923 save %, 2.21 GAA) so far this season.

For head coach Mark Dennehy and the Merrimack Warriors, this season has been a roller coaster ride in North Andover, Mass. Most recently, the Warriors played their last three games against the Maine Black Bears, pulling out two wins and a tie from the trio of games. The Warriors, now standing at 9-9-5 (7-5-2), have received outstanding play from junior goaltender Sam Marotta in the past few games, making 53 saves last weekend and collecting Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Massachusetts vs. Vermont

Last weekend, the UMass Minutemen posted their most impressive victory of the season, defeating the No. 3-ranked Boston College Eagles 5-2 at Conte Forum on Friday night. Branden Gracel posted two goals and one assist in the victory, earning the junior Co-Hockey East Player of the Week honors. So far this season, the Minutemen have posted a 8-11-2 (5-8-1) record, landing them in sole possession of seventh place in the league.

Their opponent, the Vermont Catamounts, have struggle as of late, dropping their past four games, including a 4-2 loss at the hands of the first year Penn State Nittany Lions last Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, P.A. Kevin Sneddon and the Cats will look to pick up their first victory of January this weekend in Burlington.

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