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Hockey East: Three things to watch this weekend

Boston University will look to bounce back this weekend after a disappointing stretch lately.

Walter Rossini

Following another exciting Beanpot, Hockey East fans can turn their attention solely to the Hockey East race. With only four weekends left in the regular season, it is now or never for teams to start peaking.

Here are three things to keep an eye on this weekend:

1. Boston University is 1-5-1 in their last seven games, including the two most recent losses in the Beanpot, a tournament Jack Parker's program used to own. The longtime bench boss questioned if he had lost the locker room following a 7-4 loss in the Beanpot consolation game. BU has fallen into 5th place in the league standings, but has two games in hand on UNH and PC, their two nearest competitors. With the easiest schedule remaining of any team in the conference, the Terriers' quest for redemption begins this weekend in Orono, playing 9th place Maine. This weekend will be imperative in determining if BU can turn the tide or if this is another lost season on the Kenmore end of Commonwealth Ave.

BU takes on a Maine team that had struggled on home ice all season until two weekends ago. Minus a disastrous final two periods in Burlington Saturday night, Tim Whitehead's club has been playing much better of late. Maine has struggled to score goals much of the season, but will face a BU team whose defense has been less than stellar of late.

2. The two Massachusetts state schools renew their rivalry this weekend when UMass-Lowell and UMass-Amherst get together for a home-and-home series. The River Hawks will look to curb a two-game losing streak while UMass will try to distance themselves from the pack at the bottom of the standings. Goaltending continues to be shaky for UMass-Amherst. If freshman goalie Connor Hellebuyck returns to the lineup for UML, he could provide a boost. This weekend could very well be decided by which team's top three forwards can find the back of the net. Scott Wilson, Derek Arnold and Riley Wetmore for UML will look to out-duel UMass' Michael Pereira, Brendan Gracel and Connor Sheary.

3. Boston College, fresh off the school's fourth consecutive Beanpot title, is one point ahead of Merrimack and UNH for the top spot in the league. The Eagles will play both teams this weekend, first at Merrimack Friday before hosting UNH Sunday. Jerry York's program is about winning post-season titles. The Eagles have racked up many such titles over the past decade and a half, but the regular season crown is still always an accomplishment. With a solid weekend the Eagles could distance themselves from the rest of the pack. Merrimack comes into the weekend hot, and it is always a tough game at Lawler Arena, but BC has the firepower to cause Merrimack goalie Sam Marotta fits. On Sunday BC will look to keep a beleaguered UNH squad down. The Wildcats have fallen on tough times lately. Even when Dick Umile's team has played well, they have lately found a way to lose.