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Hockey East Week 19 Preview: Busy weekend hopes to break heavy standings logjam

Entering this weekend, five teams are separated by four points in the Hockey East standings. Things will change as a full slate begins on Friday, highlighted by a key bout at Agganis Arena between UMass-Lowell and BU. For the second time in nine days, BC and Merrimack will return to Lawler Arena for a television audience.

Merrimack and BC will meet for the second time in nine days when CBS Sports Network visits Lawler Arena on Sunday.
Merrimack and BC will meet for the second time in nine days when CBS Sports Network visits Lawler Arena on Sunday.
Walter Rossini

UMass-Lowell vs. Boston University
Friday at 7:30 p.m., Agganis Arena; Saturday at 7 p.m., Tsongas Center

The No. 12 River Hawks and No. 13 Terriers face-off in the weekend's lone Hockey East series that does not cross out of Massachusetts state borders.

BU is 11-4-0 over its last 15 head-to-head meetings, but has lost the last two something that had not happened since a four-game skid between Nov. 2000 and Dec. 2001. UML won its league series with the Terriers last season for the first time since the 2003-04 campaign and will look to do the same again with just one win this weekend, after its 4-3 win at Agganis Arena on Jan. 19.

River Hawk junior Derek Arnold posted three goals and five points over last weekend and was named the conference's Player of the Week for his efforts in a sweep of archrival UMass. UML, which was backstopped to two wins last weekend by rookie Connor Hellebuyck (49 saves) in his return from injury, will be beginning a grueling stretch of five games in nine days that continues on Tuesday night at Boston College.

The Terriers are coming off a big three-point weekend in Maine that ended with a dramatic 5-4 overtime victory on Saturday. Junior Matt Nieto scored the winning goal with four seconds remaining as BU emerged victorious for the first time this season when allowing more than two goals.

New Hampshire at Vermont
Friday at 7 p.m. (NESN) and Saturday at 4 p.m. (CBSSN), Gutterson Fieldhouse

In the first meeting of the season and 100th of all-time between the longtime twin-state foes, UNH used 27 saves from sophomore Casey DeSmith for a 4-0 shutout on Nov. 10 at Whittemore Center. Senior defender Austin Block scored twice to lead the attack, while junior Kevin Goumas recorded a playmaker (three assists) in the contest.

With last weekend's victories at Northeastern, Brody Hoffman was named co-Rookie of the Week in Hockey East as he made 55 total saves on the Huskies. Senior Chris McCarthy was key to the success of the Catamounts in turning the trick as he posted two goals in Saturday's 3-1 win.

On Saturday, UVM junior Nick Bruneteau is scheduled to play his 100th career game as a Catamount, becoming the fourth active player to record the feat this season.

UNH enters the week at No. 5 in both national polls and is led by Goumas, who has a team-best 22 assists and 32 points. Sophomore Grayson Downing leads the squad with 12 goals and classmate Trevor van Reimsdyk paces all Hockey East defensemen with 21 points.

This weekend's set concludes an entire month during which UNH played just two home games. The 'Cats close the season with consecutive home sets with UMass and Maine.

Boston College at Merrimack
Sunday at 4 p.m., Lawler Arena (CBSSN)

The No. 4 Eagles and No. 17 Warriors are very familiar foes as they recently skated to an exciting 2-1 overtime game that the home team won at Lawler Arena when sophomore Connor Toomey scored the game-winning goal. With the victory, the Warriors clinched sole possession of first place in the conference, marking the latest into a season they held that title.

Merrimack junior Sam Marotta, a Bridgewater, Mass. native, is 4-0-1 with a 1.16 goals-against average in his last five starts. For his efforts, including a 39-save performance last Friday, he earned Defensive Player of the Week honors.

For the Eagles, who played that game without the services of suspended junior Kevin Hayes, sophomore forward Quinn Smith has all eight of his points over the last eight games, including the team's only goal in the aforementioned Merrimack contest.

With last Friday's result (in addition to a 2-2 Sunday tie with UNH), BC dropped just its fifth game after Feb. 1 over the last four years.

Northeastern vs. Providence
Friday at 7 p.m., Schneider Arena; Saturday at 7 p.m., Matthews Arena

Unbeaten in its last five games at 1-0-4, the Friars can clinch the season series with two points in the home-and-home series, thanks to a convincing 6-2 win in Providence on Nov. 16, 2012. PC, which has not won a season series from the Hounds since 2007-08, is receiving a total of 20 national poll votes this week as it comes in off a 1-0 win over UNH last Wednesday and a 1-1 tie with Merrimack on Sunday.

During PC’s current five-game unbeaten streak, Nick Saracino leads the way with two goals and four points, while freshman classmate Jon Gillies has stopped 94 percent of the shots he has faced in that span. A South Portland, Maine native, Gillies leads all Hockey East goaltenders with 583 saves over 20 starts in league play.

In the first head-to-head meeting between the teams, junior Derek Army scored his first-career hat trick for the Friars, while continuing to lead the team with 12 goals and 20 points. The Huskies have just a 1-2-1 mark when invading Friartown since 2010, including this year's only match to date.

On Tuesday, sophomore Josh Manson scored his first-career goal as the Huskies stayed in the playoff hunt with a 5-4 overtime win at UMass. Facing a 4-3 deficit after two, NU won just its second game in four years after trailing through 40 minutes. In addition to potting the winner, he assisted on junior Robbie Vrolyk's equalizer.

Maine at Massachusetts
Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., Mullins Center (CBS3)

The Black Bears and Minutemen skated to a 2-2 tie when the met at Alfond Arena on Nov. 16, 2012, so the season series is still up in the air over the weekend as the teams skate twice in Amherst. Junior defenseman Conor Allen scored the game-tying goal with an extra attacker on and 1:08 remaining in regulation to steal a point for UMass.

Maine senior Joey Diamond has turned on the offense of late as he has picked up eight goals and 12 points in his last eight games, including two goals and two assists in last week's series with BU.

For the Minutemen, the line of Michael Pereira, Branden Gracel and Conor Sheary has skated together in the last 13 games and totaled 46 points, including 53.8 percent of the team's total goal output (21) in that stretch. Pereira, a West Haven, Conn. native, has a team-high 17 points over that time and is second on the team this year with 25 total points.

Joshua Kummins covers Hockey East for SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaKummins.