The pre-Thanksgiving portion of the Hockey East schedule came to a close Tuesday night with newly anointed No. 1 Boston University falling in overtime, 3-2, to crosstown rival Harvard. Vermont downed Massachusetts, Providence shut out Army and New Hampshire came up short against Rensselaer in the other three games involving Hockey East teams Tuesday night.
Most teams still have played just over a third of their season. As usual the Hockey East season is shaping up to present close races, some surprises and some status quo. Let's take a look at what each team in Hockey East has to be thankful for this Thanksgiving week.
Vermont (9-3-1, 7-3-1 HE) - The Catamounts certainly have to be thankful for a surprisingly hot start. This writer had Vermont pegged higher than many of his colleagues, but no one saw this coming. Mario Puskarich and Michael Paliotta grab most of the headlines, but UVM has to be thankful for a balanced attack and arguably the best performing defensive pairing in Hockey East. Michael Paliotta and Alexx Privitera each have 11 points on the season and are +9 and +8, respectively, on the young season.
Boston University (8-2-1, 6-1-1 HE) - David Quinn is thankful for Jack Eichel and a freshman class that has re-energized the Terrier program after a down year. Eichel leads the NCAA in scoring and BU has already exceeded last year's league win total.
UMass Lowell (8-2-3, 5-0-2 HE) - River Hawk fans are thankful for Dana Skinner making a heck of a choice in hiring alum Norm Bazin who now owns a 86-37-10 record at his alma mater. This season, more than his first three successful years in the Mill City, prove what a good coach he really is. It's been score by committee and plugging in pieces to fit holes.
Merrimack (8-4-1, 4-3-0 HE) - The Warriors are thankful for two returnees, Brian Christie and Hampus Gustafsson, making a huge step up, but most of all for a freshman class that has reinvigorated the program. No rookie exemplifies the increase in skill more than Brett Seney, whose blazing speed and ability to be a game changer with the puck on his stick.
Providence (6-5-1, 4-3-0 HE) - Nate Leaman is thankful for a long season. The preseason favorite to win Hockey East has come out of the gate extremely slow due to injuries and some lackluster performances. The Friars have traditionally been a good second half team under the fourth year bench boss. There is no reason to panic quite yet. Providence fans can be thankful for Jon Gillies and a strong core of upperclassmen who are bound to turn it around at some point.
Boston College (7-5-0, 3-3-0 HE) - There was plenty of doom and gloom on The Heights a few weeks ago, but the Eagles have won three in a row. Like Providence, Jerry York is thankful for a long season and knowing when Steve Santini returns, there is no better defense on paper in the NCAA.
Notre Dame (6-6-2, 2-2-2 HE) - Jeff Jackson certainly isn't thankful for Hockey East referees, but he is appreciative of junior sharp shooter Mario Lucia and the return of senior puck-moving defenseman Mario Lucia.
Connecticut (3-6-4, 2-3-1 HE) - Mike Cavanaugh is thankful for a fan base that has quickly accepted and embraced his first year Hockey East program. UConn has received terrific support at the XL Center in Hartford and those fans have been rewarded with upset wins over nationally ranked Boston College and Vermont. It would be an oversight if UConn didn't thank sophomore goaltender Rob Nichols who has stood on his head for much of the season and deserved a better fate on more than occasion.
Northeastern (2-9-1, 2-5-1 HE) - Jim Madigan's team is in the same boat as PC and BC, thankful for plenty of games remaining to make up for a slow start. The Huskies are thankful for the better health of senior goaltender Clay Witt and for some forwards such as Kevin Roy and Mike Szmatula who will certainly find their stride in the near future.
Maine (3-9-1, 2-5-0 HE) - Red Gendron is thankful that he has junior All-Americans Devin Shore and Ben Hutton in his back pocket. The Black Bears have their inefficiencies that will likely keep them in the lower half of the Hockey East standings, but anytime you can trot out those two players, your chances of winning goes up incrementally.
New Hampshire (4-8-0, 1-4-0 HE) - Dick Umile is thankful for the impending addition of Danny Tirone at the semester break. The Junior Bruins goaltender, a former backstop for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders (USHL), should benefit the Wildcats program if they choose to burn his first year of eligibility. UNH was dealt a tough hand this season, forced to replace a lot of key cogs at all positions.
Massachusetts (3-8-0, 1-7-0 HE) - There isn't much to be thankful for if you're John Micheletto. The Minutemen are a disaster, having been outscored 24-5 in three Hockey East home games this fall. Who knows how much it will help, but UMass can be thankful for the addition of defenseman and reigning USHL Player of the Year Brandon Montour, the Anaheim Ducks draft pick who will join the program for the second semester.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.