A new segment we're running this year on SBN College Hockey is a look into statistical oddities or important number trends for each team in Hockey East. Look for this column each Monday or Tuesday during the college hockey season.
Boston College lost on opening night for the third consecutive season. The Eagles were upset at UMass Lowell on Friday night. BC lost at Michigan last season and at Northeastern the year before. It was a tough night for BC defenders, who had quite a few defensive lapses. In another statistical anomaly and bit of irony, Jerry York's team took 21 shots on Friday night, the same number it fired on net a year ago in its opening loss at Michigan.
Boston University's 8-1 rout of UMass on opening night Friday was certainly worth of some number crunching. Three Terrier rookies scored their first collegiate goals including Jack Eichel who lit the lamp twice and dished out two assists. Per BU SID Brian Kelley, the North Chelmsford, Mass. native's four points was the most in a Terrier debut since Tommi Degerman, who also had two goals and two assists in his first game against UNH on January 3, 1997. Nikolas Olsson and A.J. Greer were the other two freshmen to score in their debuts on Friday.
After a dismal season in 2013-14, BU's eight goals against UMass represented 18.1 percent of the total goals the Terriers scored in conference games last season.
UConn played its first two regular season games as a member of Hockey East over the weekend in State College, Pa. against Penn State. The Huskies came away with a tie and a lopsided loss, but two freshmen from the same Minnesota high school had stellar NCAA debuts. Freshman forward Spencer Naas had a goal and an assist while rookie defenseman Johnny Austin lit the lamp for his first collegiate tally as well. The duo, both graduates of Benilde St. Margaret combined for 15 shots on goal, which was 26.3 percent of the total shots on goal by the Huskies all weekend.
Having seen limited highlights from Maine's two games up in Alaska over the weekend, it's hard to jump to any major conclusions, but from that was on video and from comments made by Red Gendron, it appears there were some serious breakdowns by the defense and a lack of backchecking from the forwards. That being said, a troublesome trend for Gendron and the Black Bears is the team save percentage dating back to the last seven games of last season.
Redshirt sophomore Matt Morris stopped 26 of 29 shots Friday night, certainly not a poor showing considering the lack of support in front of him. Freshman Sean Romeo made 17 saves on 21 shots faced Saturday. Maine's combined team save percentage over the past nine games is .893. There is always more to it than just statistics, but generally in modern college hockey, a team must have a save percentage above .910 to be successful.
John Micheletto probably didn't envision such a lopsided loss when planning out how his team's season would go. Massachusetts was within striking distance of BU after two periods, but allowed six unanswered goals to fall to the Terriers by a score of 8-1. According to UMass blog Fear the Triangle, it was the largest margin of defeat in a season opener in the modern era of Minutemen hockey. Before Friday night, the worst opening night loss was in 2002 when UMass fell to BC, 6-0.
Another troubling statistic was UMass went 0-for-3 on the power play and all eight goals the team gave up were at even strength. The Minutemen were not whistled for a single penalty, a positive that can be taken away from the game.
UMass Lowell was hit hard by graduation and early defections to the professional ranks, but that didn't stop the River Hawks from an opening night upset win over Boston College in front of 7,326 partisans at the Tsongas Center. 10 different UML players registered at least one point, led by sophomore center Joe Gambardella who had a goal and an assist. Junior Kevin Boyle, a transfer from UMass, started in goal and stopped 19 of 21 shots. It was the first time a goaltender not named Connor Hellebuyck or Doug Carr had started in goal for the River Hawks since Brian Robbins was the starter in a November 18, 2011 loss at UNH.
Merrimack swept its home-and-home series against Atlantic Hockey foe Holy Cross. It was a welcome change for Mark Dennehy's Warriors that won just eight games last season. Both wins were one-goal games, matching the Warriors' one-goal win total of a season ago. Rasmus Tirronen stopped 49 of 52 shots on goal over the course of the weekend, another pleasant difference from a season ago. Merrimack goaltenders, including Tirronen and the graduated Sam Marotta, combined for a .890 save percentage last season.
It hasn't been a good start to the school year for the New Hampshire hockey program. It found out in September that three-year starting goalie Casey DeSmith had been charged with domestic assault and would likely be out for the foreseeable future. Now with the season underway, it appears that a lack of offense could be more of a concern than the situation between the pipes.
Freshman Adam Clark was not the problem against Union as the Wildcats allowed two shorthanded goals. The real problem is the Wildcats have scored just one goal in two games, including a 2-0 exhibition loss to St. Francis Xavier.
Northeastern, predicted to finish fourth by both the coaches and media, got off to a rough start on home ice Saturday. The Huskies fell to UVM, 6-2, but trailed 5-0 after two periods. Playing without suspended head coach Jim Madigan, who was serving his suspension from disputes with game officials last season, the Huskies were outshot 37-24. Senior goaltender Clay Witt was chased after 40 minutes. A season ago, Witt stood on his head and kept NU in some games it had no business being in. If the Huskies continue to get outshot by such wide margins, it's hard to imagine NU finishing as high as fourth.
Notre Dame, the host of the IceBreaker Tournament, lost both games over the weekend to Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth. It was the first 0-2 start for the Fighting Irish since the 2005-06 season when they lost on the road at Denver and Colorado College. The tough start is a troubling trend for Jeff Jackson's club after also losing the exhibition game a week earlier against Waterloo.
Providence started off the season with a split on the road at Ohio State, losing Friday night in overtime before winning in the extra session on Saturday. Friday night's 5-4 loss was a rocky one for star goaltender Jon Gillies who gave up 5 goals on just 25 shots. The Calgary Flames prospect bounced back a night later, kicking aside 26 of 27 shots. Freshman Brian Pinho scored a goal each night, including the game-winning goal Saturday.
Vermont got off to a strong start with an impressive win at the aforementioned Matthews Arena. Senior defenseman Michael Paliotta had a goal and added three assists while posting a +3. The Chicago Blackhawks defender is poised to be one of the best blue liners in college hockey this season.
After scoring just three goals in each of his first two seasons, junior Jonathan Turk notched a hat trick and added an assist against UVM. The Calgary, Alberta native was centering the top line with last season's Hockey East Rookie of the Year Mario Puskarich on the right side and Brendan Bradley on the left.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.