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Hockey East Weekend Preview: BU takes on BC, Merrimack goes head to head with Providence

The Battle of Comm Ave highlights this weekend's Hockey East slate, while Lowell looks for a marquee win against UNH and Providence and Merrimack battle for fourth place.

#1 Boston College vs. #9 Boston University (at BU Friday, at BC Saturday)

This weekend, Boston's top two teams will again go head to head, battling out their rivalry on back to back nights. Earlier this season, the Eagles took the edge in this season’s series, picking up a 4-2 victory at Agganis Arena on Nov. 11. Holding strong at 10-1 (8-1), BC sits at first place in both Hockey East and nationally. Led by sophomore forward Johnny Gaudreau with 19 points, Jerry York’s highly talented team will look to take points away from the Terriers, and extend their winning streak to 11 games. Jerry York is one win away from tying Ron Mason for most Division 1 wins all time. If the Eagles were to sweep BU this weekend, York would pass Mason for the record.

Boston University has exceeded expectations this season, starting the season off 7-4 (5-3). The young and talented Terriers have been led by senior Wade Megan (Florida Panthers) and followed along by sophomore Cason Hohmann and freshman Matt Grzelcyk (Boston Bruins) and Danny O’Regan (San Jose Sharks). Most recently, the Terriers have won two of their last three games, with a loss to #2 UNH being the only blemish. Last weekend, the Terriers upended St. Lawrence 4-0 on home ice, with freshman goaltender Sean Maguire (Pittsburgh Penguins) picking up his first collegiate shutout. Expect to see the other freshman netminder Matt O’Connor in net this weekend, for the 6’5 product from Toronto, Ontario has proved as a worthy starter for Jack Parker this season.

UMass Lowell vs. #2 New Hampshire (at UNH Friday, at Lowell Saturday)

UNH returns to New England after a successful weekend in Colorado, looking to continue their success in Hockey East play. Friday night, Dick Umile’s squad took on #14 Colorado College and skated to a 4-4 tie. Saturday night, UNH walked into #2 Denver and came back from being down 4-2 to win 6-4 following a natural hat trick from junior Kevin Goumas. All-world goaltender Casey DeSmith had a shaky weekend between the pipes in The Centennial State, and he'll put his 0.86 GAA and .972 save percentage in conference play on the line against a Lowell team that's been warming up after a slow start.

The Riverhawks have been playing well as of late. Riding a two game winning streak, Lowell smacked UMass Amherst 8-2 , followed by defeating Princeton 3-1 the following week. Led by Josh Pendenza and Josh Holmstrom with eight points apiece, the Riverhawks will look to knock off the Wildcats this weekend, putting an end to their early success.

Providence vs. Merrimack (at Merrimack Friday, at Providence Saturday)

The weekend's two premier series will get most of the eyes, but it's likely that this series will tell us the most about the state of the Hockey East's heretofore absent middle of the pack, which has been MIA for much of the season. The Friars come into the weekend with a one point advantage on the Warriors in Hockey East standings. Posting a 6-5-1 (4-3) record, Providence has been led offensively by Ross Mauermann and Derek Army with eight points apiece and defensively by freshman goaltender Jon Gillies (Calgary Flames). Gillies has a .932 save percentage while only allowing an average of 1.87 goals a game.

The Warriors sit tied for fifth place in Hockey East with UMass Amherst. At 4-6-2 (3-3-1), Merrimack will look to snap a four game winless streak that has seen them falling to top teams BC and BU and a loss to UConn. Most recently, Kevin Dennehy’s team skated to a 1-1 tie with Colgate.

Northeastern vs. Massachusetts (at UMass Friday, at Northeastern Saturday)

This season, both teams have been mediocre at best. UMass has the advantage in the standings, hosting a record of 4-5-2 overall (3-5-1 in Hockey East) placing them tied for fifth place, three spots above Northeastern. The Huskies have skated to a 4-7-1 overall record (2-6-1 in Hockey East) which has landed them tied for eighth place in Hockey East. Jim Madigan’s squad has been struggling as of late, riding a three-game losing streak heading into this weekend, and having earned only one conference point since October 11th, there's nowhere to go but up for the Huskies.

The Minutemen have been picking up their play as of late. A comeback 2-2 tie with #18 Quinnipiac was one of the best performances put together by John Micheletto’s squad. Prior to the showdown with the Bobcats, Micheletto picked up a victory in his first game coaching against his prior team, Vermont. The Minutemen beat the Catamounts 3-1 on home ice.

Vermont at Maine

Coming off a weekend sweep at the hands of #4 Minnesota, the Catamounts have dropped to 2-7-2 overall (2-5-2 in Hockey East). With the losses, Vermont has now lost five out of their past six games, dropping them to seventh place in Hockey East. This season Kevin Sneddon’s squad has been led by senior forward Chris McCarthy with eight points on the season. Luckily for the Cats, they have a great opportunity to pick up some points in the standings with their lackluster opponent this weekend.

The Black Bears have been nothing but frustrated so far this season, sitting in last place in Hockey East with a 2-9-2 (1-5-1) record. Although a bottom feeder, Maine has been rather successful recently. In their past two games, they defeated UMass Lowell 4-3 and tied UMass Amherst 2-2. With two weeks off following their contest with the Minutemen, the Black Bears will look to come out rejuvenated against Vermont this weekend.