So much for parity in Hockey East. Of the six series, four teams swept their league foes and two others took three of four points.
There is now a pretty clear divide in the Hockey East standings with the top four teams all boasting winning percentages of .750 or higher. BU is the only other team above .500 while the rest of the league all sits at .400 or below.
Eagles, Terriers Closer than Series Indicates
Boston College took three of four points from archrival Boston University in dramatic fashion over the weekend. Ian McCoshen's power play goal with 2:10 to go broke a 3-3 tie Friday. A night later, down the road at BU, Ryan Fitzgerald's heroics evened the score with 2:05 left to force a 1-1 draw.
McCoshen, not known for his offense, had two goals and three assists on the weekend. The Florida Panthers prospect is the most pro-ready defenseman in college hockey. The Hudson, Wis. native, who admitted to not knowing much about the Comm. Ave. rivalry prior to getting to The Heights, had as big of a role in the three points as any player in an Eagles uniform. McCoshen is now a whopping +23 on the season, tops in Hockey East and fifth nationally.
Despite the disappointing result, the weekend proved the Terriers aren't as far behind as the standings might now indicate. There were certainly some very positive signs for David Quinn's group, namely the stellar play from senior goaltender Sean Maguire. The Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick made 70 saves on 75 shots on the weekend, but several were of the jaw dropping variety. Before allowing the goal late in Saturday's contest, he was absolutely spectacular to keep the Eagles off the scoreboard.
Matt Grzelcyk has five goals and two assists in four games since returning from his second bout with an injury this season. The senior captain is absolutely a difference maker for the Terriers. His ability to penetrate the offensive zone on entries and establish possession in transition is instrumental.
Jacob Forsbacka Karlsson didn't find the score sheet Saturday, but had a goal and an assist Friday. It was his third straight game with two points. The Bruins prospect has tremendous hockey IQ. He's so smart, going to areas where the puck will be and having the vision to hit open teammates. Don't underestimate the importance of Ryan Cloonan on his line. The Boston Junior Bruins product has the elite speed to force turnovers and make things happen.
Don't Count Northeastern Out Yet
It would have been easy to count out Northeastern at the semester break. After all, the Huskies were winless in Hockey East with a mistake prone defense and injury issues that appeared to not be going away.
But for a second year in a row, it looks like Jim Madigan's team is ready for a second half charge. After back-to-back weekend sweeps of St. Lawrence and New Hampshire, the Huskies are 6-1-2 over their last nine games. The loss and tie against BC during that stretch easily could have been two wins.
What's changed? For one thing, freshman goaltender Ryan Ruck is playing much better between the pipes. The Coto de Caza, Calif. native has a 1.64 goals against average and .938 save percentage over the last six games compared to an .889 save percentage through his first 13 collegiate appearances.
The defense has made less mistakes, starting with its leader Matt Benning. The Boston Bruins prospect was -12 through the first 17 games. He's +5 over the last six.
Junior Zach Aston-Reese has stepped up his game in the absence of Kevin Roy and Dalen Hedges. He was held scoreless in six of the first nine games, but since then has found the score sheet in all but two games. His +5 plus/minus rating is tied for tops on the team.
Another player that is starting to come around is freshman Adam Gaudette. The Vancouver Canucks draft pick has a five-game point streak going in which he's scored two goals and seven assists. His emergence is vital as it gives Madigan another reliable center at both ends of the ice.
Despite each of their struggles to start the season, the return of Roy and Hedges to the lineup will only bolster the chances for the Huskies to continue improving in the second half.
Taking Care of Business
The other three teams in the top four of the standings outside of BC all swept inferior opponents over the weekend.
Notre Dame pushed its unbeaten streak to 10 games by beating Merrimack by a combined score of 12-3 on the weekend. Sophomore Anders Bjork, a Bruins prospect, has four goals and four assists in four games since returning from the World Juniors. In total he has an eight game point streak. Montreal prospect Jake Evans extended his point streak to four games with a goal and three assists in the sweep.
Sophomore defenseman Jordan Gross has elevated his play during the unbeaten streak. He's +13 over the last 10 games compared to just +5 during the first 13 games. The Maple Grove, Minn. native is one of the better and more undervalued defensemen in Division I.
The Irish used their deep lineup and overall team speed to thoroughly dominate the Warriors. Up next for the Irish is a series at UNH this weekend.
Providence went on the road to Burlington and swept Vermont, 3-1 and 6-3. Trevor Mingoia had three goals and two assists to lead the way while line mate Mark Jankowski had two goals and an assist. Sophomore Brian Pinho continued his strong play with a goal and three assists to push his point streak to five games. The Washington Capitals pick has made a major leap from his freshman campaign.
A home-and-home series against archrival UMass appeared to be exactly what the doctor ordered for UMass Lowell. After a bump in the road, the River Hawks have now won three in a row including an earlier victory over UNH. Norm Bazin's team has allowed just one goal in that stretch after 4-1 and 5-0 victories over the Minutemen.
C.J. Smith led the way with a goal and three assists while Kevin Boyle stopped 35 of the 36 shots he faced against his former team. The defense stymied UMass' attack allowing Boyle to somewhat easily pick up his sixth shutout of the season.
Jerry York failed in his first attempt to win his 1,000th game on Saturday night at BU, but will get another chance Friday when the Eagles travel to face UMass at the Mullins Center. The Minutemen, losers of four straight, appear to be ripe for a BC victory and a celebratory evening for college hockey's all-time wins leader.
A home-and-home series between Providence and UMass Lowell is certainly the highlight of the upcoming weekend's schedule in Hockey East. It will be an interesting measuring stick for both teams with aspirations of a Hockey East regular season championship.