Hockey East fans will be treated to two nonconference matchups between top 10 teams this weekend. Boston College travels to Minneapolis to face top-ranked Minnesota while Providence hosts previously number one ranked Miami.
Boston College (2-1-0) at Minnesota (4-0-0)
Friday and Sunday, October 25 and 27, Mariucci Arena, Minneapolis, Minn.
Two of the behemoths of the sport battle in one of the greatest settings in all of college hockey this weekend in Minneapolis. Minnesota got the better of the Eagles last season in the Mariucci Classic championship game. BC edged Minnesota in the 2012 Frozen Four semifinals en route to the school's fifth national championship.
This series is so exciting because it represents an opportunity for both of these young teams to legitimize their position atop the college hockey world for this new season.
Minnesota junior forward Sam Warning has five goals and four assists through four games while a pair of freshmen, Hudson Fasching and Justin Kloos each have two tallies and four helpers. The team's top returning scorer, Kyle Rau, has a goal and four assists.
Boston College's Johnny Gaudreau has two goals and five assists through the first three games of the season while Kevin Hayes, Austin Cangelosi and Bill Arnold are all averaging over a point per game at this early stage of the season.
Thatcher Demko will start Friday, and Brian Billett on Sunday for Jerry York's Eagles. Adam Wilcox will get the nod between the pipes for Minnesota.
PICK: This series is certainly tough to call, but this writer is predicting a split. Boston College wins 4-2 in the series opener. Minnesota rebounds with a 5-4 win.
Miami (3-1-0) at Providence (3-0-0)
Friday-Saturday, October 25-26, Schneider Arena, Providence, RI
Providence passed its first major test by sweeping visiting Minnesota State the first weekend of the season. Now comes an even more difficult challenge with Rico Blasi's Miami RedHawks coming to town for a pair.
The RedHawks split with visiting North Dakota in last weekend's series, the first for both teams in the inaugural season of the NCHC. Sophomore Riley Barber and junior Austin Czarnik are the unquestioned leaders offensively. A pair of sophomores, Ryan McKay and Jay Williams, will most likely each see action in one game.
Providence exploded for 10 goals against American International last Saturday night, but that wasn't much of a challenge compared to the previous and future opponents of the Friars.
Any conversation on the current Friars starts and ends with sophomore goaltender Jon Gillies. Junior Ross Mauermann is coming into his own, and a solid group of young forwards will dazzle the Schneider Arena crowd for years to come.
PICK: Miami wins the first game, 4-2, and then Providence bounces back with a 3-1 victory on Saturday.
Notre Dame (4-0-0) at Minnesota-Duluth (2-1-1)
Friday-Saturday, October 25-26, Amsoil Arena, Duluth, Minn.
Notre Dame will look to stay undefeated on the young season with a trip to Minnesota-Duluth. Even at this early stage of the season, the two teams have a common opponent in Michigan Tech. UMD won one game and tied the other while the Irish swept MTU.
There are a lot of weapons for the Fighting Irish, but freshman Vince Hinostroza has been the most productive so far. Defensemen Shayne Taker and Robbie Russo have gotten into the scoring act as well. Senior goaltender Steven Summerhays has been lights out with a .946 save percentage.
Minnesota-Duluth junior Justin Crandall has three goals in four games while senior Joe Basaraba and freshman Alex Iafallo are contributing to the Bulldog charge. Sophomore Matt McNeely, a Maine de-commit, will man the crease for Scott Sandelin's team. The former USNTDP product has a .923 save percentage.
PICK: Notre Dame sees its undefeated streak come to an end with a 2-1 loss on Friday night. The Fighting Irish get back on track Saturday with a 5-2 win.
Boston University (3-1-0) and UMass-Lowell (1-3-0) at Michigan (3-0-1) and Michigan State (0-2-0)
Friday-Saturday, October 25-26, Yost Arena, Ann Arbor, Mich. (BU-UML)
Friday-Saturday, October 25-26, Munn Ice Arena, East Lansing, Mich. (UML-BU)
Boston University and UMass-Lowell head west to take on Michigan and Michigan State in games that could decide the Big 10/Hockey East Challenge. In addition to league bragging rights, these games are imperative for Pairwise Rankings and for getting teams headed in the right direction.
Speaking of the right direction, UMass-Lowell is certainly not pointed that way, but it's way too early to panic in the Mill City. The team really hasn't appeared to click yet, but last season started slow, and look what happened.
Connor Hellebuyck and Doug Carr will most likely rotate again this weekend. Hellebuyck, a Commerce native, will be playing in his home state. Joseph Pendenza, Scott Wilson, Derek Arnold and Ryan McGrath are the players to keep an eye on if you're a Michigan State or Michigan fan.
Boston University will come into the weekend on a high note after taking out Wisconsin last Saturday night. The Terriers lost to RPI in their other game of the weekend. First year bench boss David Quinn has a very young and skillful team, but it lacks depth. Quinn seems to go by the motto of starting the hot goaltender. Expect to see Matt O'Connor start Friday, and depending on how things go, Quinn might go back with him or start Sean Maguire.
After missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in over two decades last season, Michigan is looking to make noise nationally once again. The Wolverines are loaded with talent up front, currently being led by sophomore Andrew Copp, junior Phil DiGuiseppe and freshman Tyler Motte. Last year's leading scorer Alex Guptill can be an absolute difference maker, as well.
Freshman Zach Nagelvoort will most likely get the start in one or both of the games after sophomore Steve Racine appeared to tweak something in the first game against UNH.
Michigan State, a program seemingly headed in the wrong direction, was swept by UMass-Amherst last weekend. Look for sophomore Jake Hildebrand to get the start in net both nights for the Spartans. There are two Hockey East connections on the Spartans roster. Forward JT Stenglein was originally a UMass-Lowell commit before switching to MSU, and defenseman Travis Walsh is the son of legendary Maine coach Shawn Walsh.
PICK: Boston University edges past Michigan, 3-2, then downs Michigan State, 4-1. UMass-Lowell gets back on the winning track with a 3-1 victory over MSU before falling at Michigan by a score of 4-2.
UMass-Amherst (2-2-0) at Maine (1-2-0)
Friday-Saturday, October 25-26, Alfond Arena, Orono, Maine
These two conference foes will be playing nonconference games this weekend due to the reduction in conference games with the addition of Notre Dame to Hockey East.
This series is important for both teams as the Minutemen look to prove they are an improved club from last year's team that missed the league playoffs. Maine is looking to regain the support of the home crowd and progress under first year head coach Red Gendron.
Maine's top returning scorer Devin Shore has been held scoreless so far this season, and should be primed for a breakout series. Junior Stu Higgins scored both goals in the 2-1 victory over Bentley last Saturday.
UMass swept Michigan State in two games that counted towards the Big 10/Hockey East Challenge last weekend. Junior goaltender Steven Mastalerz was a rock in net last weekend, but consistency was not his strong suit a year ago. The all-senior line of Brendan Gracel, Connor Sheary and Michael Pereira is a trio that the Maine defense will have to contain.
One interesting note is that Red Gendron was an assistant at UMass for several years before moving on to Yale. He recruited some of the juniors and seniors on this year's team.
PICK: This series looks like a split in the making. Maine 2-1 and UMass 3-2.
Northeastern (4-0-0) at St. Lawrence (3-1-0)
Friday-Saturday, October 25-26, Appleton Rink, Canton, NY
The Huskies take their undefeated record to Canton to face a St. Lawrence squad with one of the most dynamic offensive players in all the land. Saints senior forward Greg Carey was a Hobey Baker Award finalist last season, and already has two goals and four assists this year. Senior goaltender Matt Weninger is a streaky goaltender, and will have his hands full against Northeastern's top end talent.
NU sophomore Kevin Roy and his cohorts will look to continue their offensive wizardry. In addition to Roy, the freshmen have gotten a lot of attention, and rightfully so. However, senior Braden Pimm is off to a good start, having potted four goals and adding two helpers.
Look for redshirt freshman Derick Roy and senior Clay Witt to split goaltending duties this weekend for Jim Madigan's team.
PICK: St. Lawrence wins the first game, 4-2, but the Huskies bounce back for the split with a 4-3 win the next night.
Vermont (0-1-1) at Penn State (1-2-0)
Saturday, October 26, Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pa.
This matchup will be the only Big 10/Hockey East Challenge game contested on neutral ice, but with it in Philadelphia Penn State will have the advantage in crowd support.
Guy Gadowsky is looking to build the Nittany Lions into a contender in the newly formed Big 10, but it will take time. PSU was swept at Air Force last weekend, and will need to play a sound game to overcome a Vermont team that appears vastly improved.
Matthew Skoff has been impressive in net so far for the Nittany Lions, and will most likely get the nod between the pipes Saturday. PSU's top offensive talent from a year ago, Casey Bailey, has been hold scoreless through three games.
Vermont went to Grand Forks the first weekend of the season, and fared very well against a tough North Dakota squad. The Catamounts have run into some serious injury problems including losing Kyle Reynolds for the season. Forwards Chris McCarthy and Jake Fallon and goaltender Brody Hoffman have also been banged up.
PICK: The Catamounts come out looking for revenge for last season's loss to Penn State. UVM wins, 3-2.
Army (0-1-0) at Merrimack (1-3-0)
Saturday, October 26, Lawler Arena, North Andover, Mass.
These two teams have met often lately, and goaltending has played a pivotal role in the outcome. Rob Tadazak almost stole one for the Black Knights last season in North Andover. Bill Riley's team lost, 4-2, last season, but not without a valiant effort from Tadazak who stopped 42 of 45.
Merrimack finally broke into the win column following three straight losses to open the season. Scoring remains a problem for Mark Dennehy's team, but last Saturday's performance could be the confidence builder it needed.
Senior Mike Collins picked up four assists while junior defenseman Dan Kolomatis potted a goal and added three assists to earn Hockey East Player of the Week honors.
It will be interesting to see how plays in net for the Warriors. Rasmus Tirronen saved 22 of 24 shots he faced in the win against Mercyhurst. Senior Sam Marotta had played in the first three games.
PICK: Merrimack prevails with a 3-1 victory over the visiting Knights.
New Hampshire (1-2-1) at RPI (3-1-0)
Saturday, October 26, Houston Field House, Troy, NY
The Wildcats head to Troy dealing with some nagging injuries, and now they'll have to face a talented, well-coached RPI squad on home ice. Kevin Goumas and Grayson Downing, UNH's top two forwards played, but were questionable last weekend.
As always, much of UNH's offense starts from the blue line with junior Trevor van Riemsdyk and senior Eric Knodel.
Dick Umile's defense will have a lot to handle with Ryan Haggerty who scored five goals this past weekend. RPI was without sophomore goaltender Jason Kasdorf last weekend. The former ECAC Rookie of the Year is battling a lower body injury.
PICK: RPI takes it on home ice, winning 3-2.
Jeff Cox covers college and junior hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.