Boston College, Northeastern, UMass Lowell, UNH and Maine are all competing for the spotlight this weekend as Hockey East's ten teams are in action for the first time since March. Each of the conference's five ranked teams (and its soon-to-be sixth ranked team in Notre Dame) are in action this weekend, three of them in conference play.
#1 Boston College at Northeastern (Saturday)
The Eagles open up their title defense at historic Matthews Arena, where the Huskies were the winners of the first points of the Hockey East season, courtesy a 4-2 victory over #19 Merrimack on Wednesday night. Northeastern was paced by senior captain Vinny Saponari (1-1=2) and freshman Kevin Roy (Anaheim Ducks) (1-1=2) in a game which they led 3-0 after barely 8 minutes had passed.
The sold out Matthews Arena crowd will get the season's first look at Boston College, backstopped by senior goaltender Parker Milner and led by junior forward Kevin Hayes (Chicago Blackhawks) and sophomore Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames) and senior defenseman Patch Alber and Patrick Wey (Washington Capitals). The Eagles come into the game having shut out New Brunswick 6-0 in an exhibition game last weekend. Bill Arnold, Patrick Brown and Brooks Dyroff each totaled a goal and an assist in the victory, and Milner stopped 8 shots in the first period.
Vermont at #6 UMass Lowell (Friday)
The Riverhawks came out of nowhere in 2011-12 to earn an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament after spending the better part of the prior decade in the Hockey East basement, but a preseason top-ten ranking means they're not likely to sneak up on anyone this season. Lowell fended off the University of Toronto in a 5-2 exhibition victory last weekend, getting two goals from junior forward Joseph Pendenza and a goal and an assist from sophomore Scott Wilson (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Vermont, meanwhile, comes off a 7-1 exhibition blowout of Concordia University of Quebec which saw their fourth line of junior H.T. Lenz (2-2=4), sophomore Kyle Mountain (1-2=3) and senior Tobias Nilson-Roos (1-2=3) combine for four goals, six assists and ten points. The Catamounts come into the season with more depth than they've had in recent years, but with the traditional stigma of being at the bottom looking up at bigger programs.
Providence at #12 Boston University (Saturday)
Terriers head coach Jack Parker was on-hand to watch Northeastern upend Merrimack on Wednesday night, but that doesn't mean that he hasn't been busy preparing his troops for a redemption tour after struggling to find consistency both on and off the ice since winning the NCAA Championship in 2009. BU rode big nights from sophomores forward Cason Hohmann (1-1=2) and defenseman Alexx Privitera (0-3=3) to blank Toronto 5-0 on Sunday night in a game that featured 156 penalty minutes.
Providence plays its first game of the year Friday night against Sacred Heart.
#20 Maine at Ice Breaker Tournament vs. #14 Notre Dame (Friday)
In a matchup of future Hockey East foes, Maine takes the toughest test of any ranked Hockey East team on the weekend, playing Notre Dame on Friday night and either Army or Nebraska-Omaha on Saturday night. The Black Bears will be playing with a thirst for blood after losing to Quinnipiac in their opener at home by a 2-1 tally and tying New Brunswick the next night in an exhibition.
St. Cloud State at UNH (Friday, Saturday)
UNH bench boss Dick Umile is sitting on 499 career wins as coach of the Wildcats, and figures to get to 500 on Homecoming weekend. UNH did away with St. Francis Xavier last weekend in an exhibition; Casey DeSmith allowed one goal on 13 shots in just over 31 minutes while sophomore blue-liner Trevor van Riemsdyk netted two goals and junior forward Dalton Speelman had 1-1=2 totals in the game.
Connecticut at UMass (Friday)
Future Hockey East rivals face off in the Minutemen's first game since the Toot Cahoon era ended. UMass is 27-7-2 against the Huskies all-time, with their last win coming in a 5-1 victory in December, 2008.