Hockey East week 13 preview: Conference play resumes as BC and UNH square off; BU travels to Merrimack

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

No. 3 Boston College and No. 4 New Hampshire will play a home and home series for the top spot in the Hockey East. Boston University looks to avenge their loss to Harvard on Friday against Merrimack. UMass-Amherst plays two with Providence, UMass-Lowell travels to Vermont.

#3 Boston College vs. #4 New Hampshire (Friday/Saturday)

In this weekend’s marquee match-up, the Eagles and Wildcats will play a home and home series, battling for the top spot in Hockey East. Friday night will take place at BC’s Conte Forum, and Saturday, UNH will host the defending National Champions at the Whittemore Center.

Coming into the weekend Jerry York’s team stands at 12-3-2 (9-2-1) despite only winning one contest in the past four games. The 5-2 win over Alabama-Huntsville was York’s 925th win, giving him the most victories as a D1 hockey coach all-time.

Most recently, the Eagles hosted Yale last Friday and escaped with a 3-3 tie, due to late game heroics from senior Steven Whitney. Before that, BC was embarrassed by Minnesota at the Marriucci Classic on Dec. 30, losing 8-1.

Part of the Eagles’ struggles has been because they have been without their top scorer Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames). Gaudreau missed the Alabama-Huntsville, Minnesota, and Yale game due to playing in the U20 World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia. and leading Team USA to a gold medal. With Gaudreau back in the maroon and gold, BC immediately becomes a better team, and quite timely, for this weekend is the biggest weekend for Boston College so far.

The Eagles opponent, UNH, has been no slouch this year. Posting a record of 13-3-2 (8-2-1), the Wildcats sit in second place in the Hockey East standings with 17 points, two behind BC (19). Leading UNH, and the league in points with 26 (8+18=26), junior forward Kevin Goumas has been stellar this season. Defensively, sophomore goaltender Casey DeSmith has been the top goalie in the league with his .934 save percentage and 1.90 goals against average.

DeSmith will need to hold strong against the potent Boston College offense that averages 3.47 goals a game. Goumas and the Wildcat offense will need to strike early, for the Eagles are 1-2 when trailing after the first period.

#8 Boston University at Merrimack (Friday)

Following a loss to un-ranked Harvard, the Terriers will travel to North Andover, Mass. on Friday to take on the Warriors. So far this season, Merrimack has been mediocre at best, posting a record of 7-8-4 (5-4-1). Most recently, the Warriors traveled up to Burlington, V.T. to take on the Catamounts and came away with a 4-1 victory. Mike Collins posted two assists against Vermont, giving him 21 on the season and placing him tied for third in Hockey East. Sam Marotta, the leagues reigning Defensive Player of the Week posted 23 saves in the victory.

Boston University struggled against Harvard on Wednesday night. After racing out to a 3-0 lead, and carrying a 4-2 lead into the third period, the Terriers fell apart and lost to the Crimson 6-5 in overtime. Shaky play from freshman goaltender Matt O’Connor along with the rest of the BU defense raises a red flag for head coach Jack Parker, who watched his team drop a game they should have won. The Terriers now sit at 11-7 (8-4) on the season. Earlier this season, BU defeated Merrimack 3-1 in North Andover.

Maine at Northeastern (Friday)

The Black Bears will travel south down to Massachusetts this weekend to take on a pair of Boston-area Hockey East teams. Their first test, Northeastern. The Huskies have been riding the roller coaster this season, posting a record of 6-10-1 (3-8-1). Most recently, Northeastern was defeated by the AHA’s Bentley Falcons by a score of 6-3. Although previous to this hiccup, the Huskies defeated Harvard 5-1, including a four-goal performance from Cody Ferreiro, and a five-point performance from freshman forward Kevin Roy (Anaheim Ducks).

Although the Black Bear’s record of 5-12-2 (1-7-2) is less than ideal, they have won their past three games, including a tournament championship of the Florida College Hockey Classic. Throughout the tournament, Maine defeated Minnesota-Duluth 1-0 in the semi-finals, and followed up with a strong performance against Cornell University, beating them 6-4.

Maine at Merrimack (Saturday)

The second half of the Black Bears trip to Eastern Massachusetts will be to Lawler Arena to take on the Warriors. Merrimack and Maine will play three games in a row, including one this weekend, followed by two in Orono, Maine. next weekend.

Providence vs. Massachusetts (Friday/Saturday)

Friday night, the Friars will head north to Amherst, Mass., followed by a return trip back to Providence to host the Minutemen in one of this weekend’s three home-and-home series. Tim Leaman’s squad currently sits in fourth place in Hockey East, holding a record of 7-8-3 (5-4-2). Winless in their past five games, the Friars most recently dropped a pair of decisions to Minnesota State. After winning gold at the U20 World Junior Championship with Team USA, freshman goaltender Jon Gillies returns to the team in attempt to get them back to their winning ways.

The Minutemen have been on fire recently. After coming home from the Ledyard Bank Classic with the first-place trophy in hand, the Minutemen now have a record of 7-9-2 (4-6-1). En route to the tournament championship, UMass defeated Bemidji State 4-3 in the semi-finals, then carried on to defeat No. 12 Dartmouth 3-2. Scoring the game winning goal against the Big Green, junior forward Branden Gracel was honored with Hockey East Player of the Month honors. Earlier this season, the Minutemen defeated Providence 4-0 on home ice.

#20 UMass Lowell at Vermont (Friday/ Saturday)

The Riverhawks have been on a tear as of late. Winning their last five games, Lowell has come back from the dead and now holds a record of 9-7-1 (3-6-1). Most recently, Norm Bazin’s team swept Clarkson with a pair of victories last weekend in Potsdam, N.Y. After picking up Hockey East Goalie of the Month honors, freshman goaltender Connor Hellebuyck picked up Hockey East Rookie of the Week last week. So far this season, the first year netminder has posted a save percentage of .943 while only allowing 1.55 goals a game.

Vermont, recently winning their self-hosted Catamount Cup, hold a record of 6-9-4 (3-6-4). In the tournament, the Catamounts defeated Princeton 6-3 to take home the championship on home ice. Following the victory, the second half was looking bright in Burlington. However, in their first Hockey East game of the second semester, Kevin Sneddon’s team dropped a 4-1 decision at the hands of the Merrimack Warriors. In the first game of the season for each team, the two sides tied 1-1.

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