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Hockey East: Six Observations from First Weekend of Exhibition Games

Freshmen lighting the lamp, coaching debuts, scoring concerns and injury questions permeated the Hockey East landscape this weekend.

For the first time since 2001, someone other than Tim Whitehead was behind the home team's bench at the Alfond Arena.
For the first time since 2001, someone other than Tim Whitehead was behind the home team's bench at the Alfond Arena.
Jeff Cox

Drawing conclusions from an exhibition game is very difficult and certainly not prudent. With that said, nine Hockey East teams took to the ice this weekend for their first game action of the season, albeit contests that won't count. Let's take a look at six observations this writer had following the weekend.

1. Northeastern freshmen accounted for four of the team's five goals in its 5-0 victory over Dalhousie. USHL sensation Michael Szmatula notched a goal and an assist while fellow Dubuque Fighting Saints alum John Stevens tallied two scores. Dalen Hedges, an Ottawa, Ontario native, also found the back of the net.

Kevin Roy, last year's freshman sensation, also scored a goal for the Huskies. The much-maligned trio of goaltenders stopped all 19 shots they faced. Seniors Clay Witt and Bryan Mountain and redshirt freshman Derick Roy all played a period each.

An exhibition victory over an undermanned Canadian university is nothing to get too excited about, but there were certainly some positive signs for third year head coach Jim Madigan. The Huskies are skilled up front, but lingering concerns remain pertaining to the defense and goaltending.

2. Northeastern's freshmen forwards weren't the only ones stating their arrival on Saturday night. Boston University freshmen Nick Roberto and Tommy Kelley scored the only goals of the night for the Terriers as they eked by St. Francis Xavier, 2-1. Roberto registered seven shots on goal, while Brendan Collier and Robbie Baillargeon also had noticeably strong performances. " The entire freshmen class received praise from first year head coach David Quinn and senior co-captain Patrick MacGregor. A lack of depth due to graduation and player defections could prove to be a problem for the Terriers, but the skilled group of rookies should alleviate some of that concern.

3. There remains uncertainty surrounding Boston College's goaltending situation. Freshman Thatcher Demko was brought in a year early to help offset the graduation of Parker Milner. Juniors Brian Billett and Brad Barone are also hoping to be in the mix for playing time. Although Jerry York wouldn't reveal his starter for Thursday's opener at Michigan, all bets here is that Demko gets the nod at Yost Arena. Meanwhile, freshmen Austin Cangelosi and Chris Calnan both got into the scoring in BC's 8-2 drubbing of St. Francis Xavier Sunday afternoon.

4. Maine got off to a good start under first year bench boss Red Gendron. The Black Bear faithful had plenty to cheer about as the home team won, 5-1, against Dalhousie on Sunday afternoon. All reports indicate Maine played a high-temp, aggressive game, much like Gendron described since he was hired in May. The second period saw a lapse in discipline, but senior goaltender Martin Ouellette bailed out his teammates who were in the sin bin.

5. Merrimack displayed good team speed and came out physical in its 1-1 draw with McGill Sunday afternoon. Both head coach Mark Dennehy and senior forward Rhett Bly said the team needed to transition from its summer league mentality. Bly described his team's emphasis on going to the net, throwing pucks on goal and not being as soft near the cage. It was easy to come away impressed with the tempo the Warriors brought to the ice, but also questioning whether last year's scoring issues haven't been addressed.

6. Vermont had a good weekend in the box scores, but some serious injury concerns have reared their ugly head in Burlington. Junior forward Jake Fallon and sophomore goaltender Brody Hoffman entered the weekend sidelined due to injury. Fallon has a left foot issue, while Hoffman's injury isn't known. Senior forward Chris McCarthy and junior forward Kyle Reynolds were banged up Saturday, causing the pair to miss Sunday's game. Reynolds had to be helped off the ice, according to those in attendance at the Gutterson Field House.

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