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Hockey East: What We Learned This Weekend

Four Hockey East teams got off to a perfect start at 2-0.

T.J. Tynan and his Notre Dame teammates swept Western Michigan, and kept the Broncos off the scoreboard completely.
T.J. Tynan and his Notre Dame teammates swept Western Michigan, and kept the Broncos off the scoreboard completely.

Several Hockey East teams got off to good starts this weekend while there were some bumps in the road for others. Providence, Notre Dame, Boston University and Northeastern all are now 2-0 after the opening weekend of regular season action. UMass-Lowell was upset by hapless Sacred Heart on the night that was supposed to honor the accomplishments of last year's team. Merrimack and Maine went winless on the first weekend.

Let's take a look at some things we learned this weekend:

1. It is no surprise to anyone who follows Hockey East that Providence is a program on the rise, but this weekend showed that Nate Leaman's team could be ready for the primetime this year.

The Friars swept WCHA preseason favorite Minnesota State in rather convincing fashion. Super sophomore Jon Gillies stopped 63 of the 64 shots he faced on the weekend, including all 38 on Saturday night. Three different Friars, John Gilmour, Mark Jankowski and Ross Mauermann, scored twice on the weekend.

Nate Leaman is one of the nation's top coaches, and the Friars are beginning to stockpile enough talent to compete with the big boys of college hockey. With Gillies in net there is no telling how far this team could go. This weekend just proved that, but there will be another tough test in two weekends when Miami comes to town for two.

2. Hockey East newcomer Notre Dame had a remarkable weekend, shutting out Western Michigan on consecutive nights. Senior goaltender Steven Summerhayes wasn't tested much, but he made all the necessary saves. Jeff Jackson preaches a defense-first philosophy, but the Irish have a solid nucleus of seniors up front, as well.

This might be the first year in their new league for the Irish, but expect big things if this weekend was any indication. WMU might not have the most potent offense in the land, but the performance just solidifies my opinion that Notre Dame is for real.

3. Merrimack's goal scoring woes continue, as evidenced by coming up scoreless on the team's weekend trip to the mile high city. The Warriors lost to Denver, 1-0 and 4-0, but even more concerning was the complete lack of quality chances.

Mark Dennehy's defense and goaltending will keep them in games, but you can't win unless you score. It's early, but it's looking like last year's offensive ineptitude has stuck around North Andover.

4. The David Quinn era got off to an undefeated start at Boston University, but there were certainly some areas of concern. In the Terriers 3-1 victory over UMass-Amherst Friday night, the Minutemen forwards looked quick and speedy maneuvering around the BU blue liners. UMass outshot the Terriers by a wide margin.

The offense will not be a problem, and BU has two stellar goaltenders. However, a concern for Terriers fans should be the defensive zone.

5. Maine couldn't get new head coach Red Gendron a win in his collegiate head coaching debut as the Black Bears lost twice at St. Lawrence. A lack of discipline and mental mistakes cost Maine in its own zone, and save for a few nifty offensive moves, the forwards couldn't get much going.

It's still early, and there is some talent in Orono, but depth is definitely an issue. Turning around the program won't be an overnight fix for Gendron.

6. The league's coaches and media both pegged Vermont to finish in ninth place, but the Catamounts had a good showing in Grand Forks even while shorthanded due to injuries. Last year's starting goaltender Brody Hoffman didn't make the trip, nor did junior forward Kyle Reynolds whose knee injury will keep him out the entire season.

UVM held a 3-1 lead on Friday night at North Dakota before falling 5-3, and then erased a two-goal deficit to force a 2-2 tie Saturday night. Kevin Sneddon's team will be a pesky team to play against all season.

Jeff Cox covers college and junior hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.