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College Hockey: IceBreaker, Upsets Galore, Youth Served in First Full Weekend

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Cam Johnson reaches to make a save in North Dakota's 5-2 win over Lake Superior on Friday night at the IceBreaker in Portland, Maine.
Cam Johnson reaches to make a save in North Dakota's 5-2 win over Lake Superior on Friday night at the IceBreaker in Portland, Maine.
Matt Dewkett

With the first full weekend of regular season action in the books, it's safe to say college hockey is back. The weekend provided plenty of excitement in terms of close games, upsets, rookies having an impact and a successful IceBreaker Tournament at a potential regional site.

No. 1 Falls

Boston College traveled to Troy, NY for a matinee game Sunday against Rensselaer, a team the Eagles were expected to beat handily. But, that's why they play the games. Riley Bourbonnais scored twice for the host Engineers as they pulled off the upset, 2-1, at Houston Field House. Buffalo Sabres prospect Jason Kasdorf stopped 36 of 37 shots he faced for the win.

Jerry York's team wasn't the only highly ranked team to fall over the weekend. Minnesota-Duluth, Boston University, Denver, Minnesota State and Minnesota were all top 10 teams that fell over the weekend.

UMD fell on the road at Bemidji State, BU lost at Union and DU came up short at Air Force. Minnesota State was swept on home ice by Nebraska-Omaha and the Gophers were blanked by Vermont at Mariucci in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game.

Youthful Exuberence

Each start of a new season brings renewed hope for some college hockey programs looking for a fresh start or a better season than the prior one.

No place is that more the case than at the University of Massachusetts where the Minutemen have struggled the past few years. The opening weekend was a successful one for John Micheletto's squad that swept Colorado College on the road in Colorado Springs.

Highlighting the weekend for UMass was a four-goal performance from freshman Austin Plevy. The former Merrimack commit, who starred in both the BCHL and AJHL, had a hat trick in his team's 6-3 win Friday. A night later he scored the game-winning goal with 3:07 to play in regulation for a 4-3 triumph. Classmate Nic Renyard picked up his first collegiate win Saturday, notching 45 saves.

Plevy wasn't the only Hockey East rookie to get in on the hat trick parade. UConn freshman Max Letunov, an Arizona Coyotes prospect, scored three times in the Huskies' 5-2 win at Alabama Huntsville on Friday. In total, 15 of the 54 goals scored by Hockey East teams over the weekend were tallied by freshmen.

Air Force freshman Kyle Haak scored two goals in the Falcons' 5-4 overtime upset victory over Denver on Friday night.

It wasn't just the forwards getting in on the action. Maine freshman goaltender made 44 saves in his first collegiate start, one that he didn't even know was going to happen until the morning of the game. The Weymouth, Mass. native stopped six shots in overtime and three in the shootout to help the Black Bears post a shootout victory in the final game of the 2015 IceBreaker Tournament.

Michigan State freshman defenseman Zach Osburn had two power play goals, including one with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker. His second marker came with 1:09 left in regulation to help the Spartans tie up Maine, 3-3.

Potential Regional Site

The Cross Arena in Portland, Maine served as a terrific host for the 2015 IceBreaker Tournament. Lake Superior State, Michigan State, North Dakota and Maine all had nothing but good things to say about the job local organizers did in putting on the event.

First year North Dakota head coach Brad Berry spoke about the history the city has with its AHL franchise and what the state of Maine has meant to college hockey with the success of the Black Bears. Maine coach Red Gendron went out of his way to praise the job his athletic department did in organizing a successful tournament.

There are some kinks to be worked out. For example, more ample space for media and post-game press conference need to be accommodated before a regional could be held in Portland. However, the two crowds that both surpassed 5,000 showed how passionate hockey fans are in the state of Maine.

It's a great city right on the water with plenty of dining, nightlife and hotel options all within walking distance of the Cross Arena. The airport is a viable option and it's only slightly further to get to from Boston than Worcester and Manchester.

If the University of Maine puts in a bid to host a regional in Portland, it should be met with open arms by the NCAA that needs to get out of the constant funk of having regionals in the same eastern cities. UNH always puts on a great show in Manchester and Providence is a great city for a regional, but Portland would surely beat Bridgeport and Worcester by a mile.

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Jeff Cox covers college, junior, prep and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.