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Hockey East Weekend Preview: UNH, BU Highlight Weekend Slate; A Shot at Redemption for Lowell

Eight conference games dot the Hockey East schedule this weekend, with the marquee matchup taking place Sunday afternoon when UNH visits Agganis Arena and BU.

Hockey East teams will be all over New England this weekend, with eight different matchups occurring on Friday and Sunday. Friday night, Merrimack will travel into Conte Forum to take on top-ranked Boston College, UNH will travel to Lowell to take on the Riverhawks and Boston University will head north to Vermont. As for Sunday, UNH and BU will square off at Agganis Arena for second place in Hockey East and UMass Lowell will take on their state school opponent UMass Amherst.

Merrimack at #1 Boston College (Friday)

The Warriors will travel to Conte Forum to take on the unanimously voted top-ranked Eagles in an effort to knock off a BC team that has only dropped one game this season. The Warriors, coming off a weekend where they dropped two decisions to BU and UConn, are led by Hockey East leader in points Mike Collins. Collins, a junior from Boston, Mass., has tallied 13 points (5 goals, 8 assists) so far this season.

BC has won their past eight games after dropping their season opener 3-1 to Northeastern. Reigning Hockey East Player of the Week Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames) leads the Eagles with 12 points (7 goals, 5 assists). Last season, Jerry York’s squad had the Warriors’ number, beating them twice and tying them once.

Northeastern at Providence (Friday)

The Huskies, coming off a weekend sweep of Alabama-Huntsville, will attempt to get back to winning ways within Hockey East Friday night at Providence. Jim Madigan’s team has accumulated an overall record of 4-4-1 (2-4-1 in Hockey East) this season. The Huskies are led by freshman Kevin Roy (Anaheim Ducks) with nine points (3 goals, 6 assists), who will be playing with a new centerman after fellow freshman Cam Darcy left the team for personal reasons earlier this week.

The Friars have lost two straight games, most recently losing a 4-0 decision to UMass Amherst last weekend. Ross Mauermann and Shane Luke will look to lead PC past the Huskies, while Jon Gillies (Calgary Flames) will look to get back to his winning form in net for the Friars.

UMass Amherst at Maine (Friday)

First year coach John Micheletto and the Minutemen had a rough start to the 2012-2013 season. With strong wins in two of their last three games, UMass improved to an overall record of 3-4 (2-4 in Hockey East). Led by juniors Branden Gracel and Troy Power (5 points apiece), the Minutemen will travel to Orono to take on the sluggish Black Bears.

Maine (2-9 overall, 1-5 in Hockey East) picked up their first Hockey East victory last weekend against UMass Lowell. Black Bear freshmen Devin Shore (Dallas Stars) and Ben Hutton (Vancouver Canucks) will look to keep the winning streak alive at Alfond Arena Friday night.

#5 New Hampshire at UMass Lowell (Friday)

Dick Umile’s team has been impressive so far this season. Following a 2011-12 season in which UNH went 15-19-3 overall, the Wildcats have turned things around in Durham. Their play so far has allowed the blue and white to climb the ladder to a fifth ranking in the nation. They owe much of that success to consistent play between the pipes from sophomore netminder Casey DeSmith, whose 3 shutouts lead the nation and .952 save percentage is just second nationally. Of course, the upperclassmen leadership of junior Kevin Goumas (10 points) and senior Austin Block (nine points) has helped.

UMass Lowell has been questionable this season. After splitting last weekend’s series with the Black Bears, the Riverhawks slipped out of the Top 20 rankings. Lowell is led in points by junior Josh Holmstrom ( 3 goals, 2 assists). Riverhawk netminder Doug Carr has been shaky this season, posting a 2.25 GAA and sporting a rather pedestrian save percentage of .911.

#11 Boston University at Vermont

The Terriers have won two of their past three games, with the loss coming to top ranked BC last Sunday in the first edition of this season’s "Battle of Commonwealth Ave". The 5-3 overall BU squad has held strong in the early goings of the season, holding on to the 11th spot in the nation for the past two weeks. Freshman defenseman Matt Grzlecyk (Boston Bruins) has proved strong this season, holding things down on the blue line, while sophomore Cason Hohmann continues to lead Jack Parker’s squad with 10 points.

The Catamounts have continued to struggle early on this season. Posting a 1-3-2 record thus far, Vermont has yet to get their engines started against the opposition. Last season, Kevin Sneddon’s team dropped all three decisions to the Terriers.

UMass Lowell at UMass Amherst (Sunday)

Saturday night, the Mullins Center in Amherst will host the first battle between Massachusetts state schools this season. Last season, the Riverhawks bested the Minutemen in all three matchups between the two squads. However, with Lowell slumping in the early goings of the 2012-2013 season, the Minutemen could avenge some of these losses in front of the "Mullins Maniacs."

#5 New Hampshire at #11 Boston University (Sunday)

Boston College is the best team in the Hockey East and they are starting to pull away from the pack. But who is the second best? Sunday afternoon in Boston will hope to give the Hockey East faithful the answer to this burning question. After the first month of the 2012-2013 season, UNH sits in second place in Hockey East, thanks to a very convincing home win over BU in early October, in which Casey DeSmith stopped all but one of the shots that he saw and Sean Maguire let in 4 goals in about 35 minutes of play. UNH hasn’t been as strong away from the Whitt and its Olympic-sized rink, but Casey DeSmith has been great everywhere he’s played this season. A win Sunday for BU could leap frog them over the Wildcats into second place, but if UNH pulls out a victory, they will be the clear cut second place team.

Northeastern at Vermont (Sunday)

Sunday night, the Huskies will hit the road north to take on the Catamounts. Last season, the Huskies bested the Catamounts three times during the regular season, winning by a combined score of 16-6.