Hockey East teams didn't fare as well in nonconference action as expected, but there were certainly some highlights. Providence swept WCHA preseason favorite Minnesota State, and Notre Dame held Western Michigan scoreless in a two-game sweep as well. The David Quinn era at Boston University got off to a positive start while the collegiate head-coaching debut for Red Gendron didn't go as planned.
This weekend's action is headlined by the beginning of the Big 10/Hockey East Challenge and the home-and-home series between Quinnipiac and UMass-Lowell, two Frozen Four teams from a season ago.
RPI (1-1-0) at Boston University (2-0-0)
Friday, October 18, Agganis Arena, Boston, Mass.
This is the second game in a row for RPI against a Commonwealth Avenue opponent. The Engineers lost 7-2 at Boston College last Sunday, but don't let that lopsided score fool you. Jerry York believes his team played an NCAA Tournament-caliber team at the Heights last weekend.
RPI will be without sensational sophomore goaltender Jason Kasdorf who is battling an injury. Junior Scott Diebold will likely get the nod in his place. RPI Junior Ryan Haggerty is a player to keep an eye on. The USNTDP product scored a pair of goals in the Engineers' win over Sacred Heart and recorded nine shots on goal against BC.
PICK: Without Kasdorf, BU proves too much for RPI and skates to a 4-2 victory.
Mercyhurst (0-3-0) at Merrimack (0-2-0)
Friday-Saturday, October 18-19, Lawler Arena, North Andover, Mass.
This series at Merrimack's Lawler Arena pits two teams struggling in the early going, but this should be an entertaining series with high intensity.
Juniors Matt Zay and Ryan Misiak are the offensive catalysts for Rick Gotkin's club, but three other Lakers scored ten or more goals a season ago. Jordan Tibbett, the expected incumbent, has struggled out of the gate between the pipes.
Merrimack was held scoreless last weekend in a two-game series at Denver, but according to a report by Mike McMahon, Mark Dennehy was pleased with the improvement his team showed from Friday to Saturday.
PICK: Atlantic Hockey teams always get up for the chance to play Hockey East squads, and this series should be no different. Both teams will come out buzzing, looking to get the first wins of the season. Merrimack sweeps 3-2 and 2-1.
Holy Cross (0-1-0) vs. Northeastern (2-0-0)
Friday, October 18, Hart Recreation Center, Worcester, Mass.
Saturday, October 19, Matthews Arena, Boston, Mass.
This series presents the Huskies with another chance to continue gaining momentum and confidence before the meat of the schedule commences. Jim Madigan's club easily dispatched Alabama-Huntsville Friday before squeaking out a win Saturday.
The freshmen got acquainted to college hockey nicely, headlined by Michael Szmatula's five assists. Sophomore Kevin Roy was tremendous, notching a hat trick Friday night to go along with three other assists on the weekend.
Senior Clay Witt and redshirt freshman Derick Roy got the starts in net so look for Bryan Mountain to get one of the starts this weekend. There could be a three-man rotation until one of the goalies separates from the rest.
Holy Cross played a tighter than expected game against the Terriers last weekend so Paul Pearl's squad certainly won't be a pushover this weekend.
PICK: Northeastern's offensive firepower proves too much for the Crusaders. NU sweeps, 4-2 and 4-1.
Michigan (2-0-0) at New Hampshire (1-1-0)
Friday-Saturday, October 18-19, Whittemore Center, Durham, NH
The Big 10/Hockey East Challenge kicks off this weekend, and these two teams will be partaking of the excitement. Michigan is fresh off a two-win weekend over Boston College and RIT. UNH downed Clarkson in the IceBreaker semifinals before falling to the host team, Minnesota, in the finals.
Each club certainly has plenty of firepower offensively. Kevin Goumas and Grayson Downing are the catalysts up front for UNH, but the scoring starts from the blue line for Dick Umile's club. Senior Eric Knodel and junior Trevor van Riemsdyk are two of the best offensive defensemen in the country.
Alex Guptill missed the Wolverines first game of the year against BC, but had two helpers in Michigan's 7-4 win at RIT two nights later. Sophomore Andrew Copp had a tremendous weekend with a pair of goals and three assists.
The edge in goal swings towards UNH with senior Jeff Dwyer and junior Casey DeSmith. Sophomore Steve Racine is the likely starter for Red Berenson's team.
PICK: This is a tough series to predict. Going to have to go with a split, with Michigan winning 4-3 Friday and UNH winning 5-4 on Saturday.
Michigan State (0-0-0) at UMass-Amherst (0-2-0)
Friday-Saturday, October 18-19, Mullins Center, Amherst, Mass.
This is a very intriguing series with two teams looking for bounce back seasons after disappointing campaigns in 2012-13.
UMass should have the edge in this series offensive, but the Spartans goaltending certainly appears to have the edge over the Minutemen. Sophomore Jake Hildebrand faced a lot of rubber in his rookie season at MSU finishing the year with a .928 save percentage. John Micheletto will counter with junior goaltender Steven Mastalerz or freshman Alex Wakaluk. Mastalerz got the nod both nights last weekend in losses to BU and UMass-Lowell.
Branden Gracel, Connor Sheary and Mike Pereira lead the scoring charge for UMass. MSU returns four double-digit scorers from a year ago including leading scorer Matt Berry and Calgary Flames prospect Matt DeBlouw.
PICK: If the Minutemen can receive good goaltending, the home team should do well, but that is far from a guarantee. Still, this writer is going with the UMass sweep: 4-3 and 3-2.
Quinnipiac (1-1-0) vs. UMass-Lowell (1-1-0)
Friday, October 18, Tsongas Arena, Lowell, Mass.
Saturday, October 19, High Point Solutions Arena, Hamden, Conn.
The battle of two Frozen Four teams from a year ago will take place this weekend when UMass-Lowell and Quinnipiac do battle in a home-and-home series. Each team picked up a win and a loss last weekend, but the River Hawks had a much more disappointing weekend.
UML lost 2-1 to Sacred Heart, a team that won just two games a year ago, on the night that Lowell raised banners and celebrated its accomplishments from last season.
Quinnipiac is breaking in many more newcomers than UMass-Lowell. Rand Pecknold is breaking in a new goaltender in Michael Garteig and playing some freshmen who will have pivotal roles in the team's success. Forward Sam Anas had a big game against Alaska-Fairbanks last Saturday. Fellow rookies Connor Clifton and Peter Quenneville were drafted in this June's NHL Draft.
Super sophomore goaltender Connor Hellebuyck will be looking for his first win of the season after picking up the hard luck loss against Sacred Heart. Doug Carr played the next night in a win over UMass-Amherst. Joe Pendenza got off to a good start with a pair of goals last weekend.
PICK: Both teams win on home ice. UML 4-2 and QU 3-2.
Wisconsin (2-0-0) at Boston College (1-1-0) and Boston University (2-0-0)
Friday, October 18, Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Saturday, October 19, Agganis Arena, Boston, Mass.
Big 10/Hockey East Challenge action will invade both ends of Commonwealth Ave. this weekend with the Wisconsin Badgers facing both BC and BU. Two very talented teams await Mike Eaves' team this weekend, but his team has some flare of its own.
Michael Mersch and Nic Kerdiles are the offensive weapons for UW while Grant Besse had a two-goal performance last weekend. Two different goaltenders will most likely see action. Landon Peterson will play between the pipes at BC and Joel Rumpel is the expected starter against BU.
Junior Brian Billett will get the start in goal for Boston College as Jerry York seems intent on continuing a rotation between Billett and freshman Thatcher Demko.
PICK: Wisconsin downs BC, 4-3 before falling to BU, 2-1.
Michigan Tech (0-1-1) at Notre Dame (2-0-0)
Friday and Sunday, October 18 and 20, Compton Family Ice Arena, South Bend, Ind.
This is a matchup heavily skewed in favor of the Fighting Irish. The Huskies from the new WCHA will invade South Bend for a pair of games Friday and Sunday. The Irish football team takes on Southern Cal Saturday, the reason for the off day.
Notre Dame is fresh off a weekend sweep of Western Michigan in which Jeff Jackson's team didn't yield a goal. Steven Summerhays stopped all 44 shots he faced and defenseman Shayne Taker picked up four assists. The usual cast of characters to look for up front for ND includes Bryan Rust, T.J. Tynan, Jeff Costello and rookie sensation Vince Hinostroza.
The Irish will be facing another weak offense in Mel Pearson's Huskies, but MTU has two sophomore goaltenders capable of keeping the games close. Jamie Phillips and Phoenix Copley combined for a .952 save percentage last weekend in a one-point weekend against Minnesoa-Duluth.
PICK: Notre Dame is just too much for the Huskies, sweeping the series 3-1 and 3-0.
American International (0-0-0) at Providence (2-0-0)
Saturday, October 19, Schneider Arena, Providence, RI
American International begins its season at Providence on Saturday night. The Yellow Jackets are playing a very strong nonconference schedule that includes five games against Hockey East opponents.
Providence, fresh off a sweep of Minnesota State, looks to build momentum heading into a very difficult home series with Miami next weekend.
AIC is replacing several key components up front and breaking in a new goaltender to replace the departed Ben Meisner.
PICK: This game most likely won't have much suspense. PC wins 5-0.
Bentley (1-2-0) at Maine (0-2-0)
Saturday, October 19, Alfond Arena, Orono, Maine
Bentley invades Alfond Arena for a single game on Saturday night. The Falcons got off to a terrific start with a 6-4 upset victory at Nebraska-Omaha, but have lost two since then.
The offense is certainly the strength of Ryan Soderquist's squad. Senior Brett Gensler is a former Walter Brown Award winner as the best American-born college hockey player in New England. Alex Grieve, Andrew Gladiuk and Max French are other players to keep an eye on up front for Bentley. Steve Weinstein is one of the better offensive defenseman in college hockey. Goaltender Branden Komm faces a lot of rubber due to a lackluster defense, but has the capability to alter the outcome.
Maine is looking to give first-year head coach Red Gendron his first victory as a collegiate head coach. St. Lawrence swept the Black Bears in the North Country last weekend. Senior goaltender Martin Ouellette will have to be on top of his game facing an offense as explosive as Bentley's.
Maine's rookies showed some sign of promise last weekend with Blaine Byron scoring a nice goal on an odd-man rush with fellow freshman Brian Morgan. Dan Renouf might be one of the better offensive defensemen in Hockey East by the time his career in Orono is over.
PICK: Homecoming weekend and the Black Bears looking to start the Red Gendron era at Alfond off on the right note spells trouble for Bentley. Maine wins, 4-3.
Jeff Cox covers college and junior hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.