Hockey East: Observations from the Weekend

UMass-Lowell forward Adam Chapie - Justin K. Aller

Hockey East captured the inaugural Big 10/Hockey East Challenge with three wins on the weekend.

Hockey East teams went 7-5-2 in nonconference games against other leagues over the weekend. Providence and UMass-Lowell came away as the big victors for the conference while Boston University took two on the chin at Michigan and Michigan State.

Boston University has lost three of four following a 2-0 start. The Terriers lost at Michigan and Michigan State in contests that counted for the Big 10/Hockey East Challenge.

These early season nonconference games are so important for the always volatile Pairwise Rankings, something Boston University knows all-too-well after being just outside the bubble for making the NCAA Tournament last March.

There is no denying the notion that BU has some high-end talent on its first two lines, but depth and inexperience will result in some ups-and-downs in David Quinn's first season as the bench boss.

Many pundits figured Providence was still a year away from being a serious contender, but the Friars play in the first month of the season has shown that this might be the year. Nate Leaman's club has now gone 3-0-1 against Minnesota State and Miami, both preseason favorites in their respective conferences.

There are still some concerns for the Friars. Nate Leaman described his team's play as "immature" following the 3-2 victory in overtime over Miami on Friday. PC was burnt by some untimely and undisciplined penalties as well as a questionable penalty kill.

Jon Gillies made some terrific saves on the weekend, but the Friars have proven they can hang in there without the sophomore on top of his game. Calgary Flames prospect Mark Jankowski had a highlight reel move in Friday's win, and junior Ross Mauermann continues to progress.

All those UMass-Lowell fans that jumped off the bandwagon following the team's 1-3 start are now probably scrambling to get back on. The River Hawks went west and defeated both Michigan State and Michigan. For the first time all season Connor Hellebuyck started consecutive games, and the Commerce, Mich. native shined in his home state. The Winnipeg Jets draft pick stopped 62 of 64 shots on the weekend, allowing only one goal each night.

Junior Scott Wilson, property of the Pittsburgh Penguins, has gone four games without a point, but it is not the first time the Oakville, Ont. native has started a season slowly. Senior Joe Pendenza had a goal and an assist on the weekend to lead UML in scoring through six games.

Maine has now won three in a row after losing twice the opening weekend at St. Lawrence. The Red Gendron era has started out well on home ice as the Black Bears have now won more games at Alfond Arena than the team did the entire season a year ago.

Senior Mark Anthoine who had a monster season as a sophomore had a huge weekend. The Lewiston, Maine native had three goals and two assists, and is now one point shy of equaling his point total from his disappoint junior season.

Anthoine is a talented scorer who has a knack for being in the right place at the right time and finding the back of the net especially on the power play.

Devin Shore had two assists in Friday's game, including a helper on Connor Leen's overtime tally. He is scoreless in the other four games played, a trend that must be discontinued for the Black Bears to have continued success.

The weekend against Maine showed that Massachusetts has serious depth issues. It appears the only viable option between the pipes is junior Steven Mastalerz. The top two forward lines are certainly capable of being productive, but beyond that there are question marks.

Merrimack scored a victory over Army thanks to three third period goals, but the game was a perfect example of Merrimack's inability to finish. Mark Dennehy has a team that can skate with anyone in Hockey East, but there is a lack of finishers in North Andover.

The defense and goaltending will remain the strength of the Warriors team, but unless the scoring can come around, Dennehy's team will likely be traveling come playoff time.

Merrimack senior Mike Collins had two goals and an assist in the game to hit the century mark for career points as a Warrior.

Vermont fell behind 2-0 against Penn State, but rallied for five consecutive goals to down the Nittany Lions, 5-2. Five different Catamounts scored, and freshman goaltender Michael Santaguida made 31 saves on 33 shots.

Penn State might not be the most challenging opponent, but it was a solid win over a team playing in front of a raucous crowd. UVM will welcome Notre Dame for a pair of games this weekend in what will be the first league contests for the Fighting Irish in their new conference.

Speaking of Notre Dame, Jeff Jackson's club lost their first game of the season on Saturday night at Minnesota-Duluth. There is no shame in losing to a solid UMD team in their barn. The Fighting Irish certainly have the talent advantage over Vermont, but it is no easy task to play at Gutterson Field House.

Northeastern also saw its undefeated start come to an end Saturday night when St. Lawrence topped Jim Madigan's club, 6-4. However, a weekend split in the North Country is a positive development for the young Huskies squad. Northeastern fought back from a 2-0 deficit to win 6-3 on Friday night.

The Huskies freshmen continue to impress, and everyone knows about sophomore Kevin Roy. But it's senior Braden Pimm who has been a pleasant surprise through the first three weekends. The Fort St. John, BC native has always had potential, but he's finally putting it together to the tune of six goals and three assists. Four of the six goals he's scored have been on the man advantage.

New Hampshire is having some early season woes, particularly after a 4-2 loss at RPI on Saturday night. The Wildcats fell behind 4-0 before scoring two goals to cut the lead in half, but couldn't get any closer.

UNH started off on fire last season before trailing off down the stretch. Dick Umile's team should be a team to be reckoned with, but there needs to be some household changes in order to be successful going forward.

Boston College forced a tie with top ranked Minnesota on Friday night before being rocked, 6-1, on Sunday. The Eagles have plenty of talent, but it is young and inexperienced for the most part. There will be growing pains, but any offense led by Johnny Gaudreau, Kevin Hayes and Bill Arnold won't stay down for long.

The sooner Jerry York realizes Thatcher Demko presents the best chance for the Eagles to win, the better off they will be.

This upcoming weekend represents the start of league play, with all Hockey East teams except Merrimack playing games that count towards the standings

Jeff Cox covers college and junior hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.

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