Hockey East didn't ease into the conference portion of its schedule in the first weekend of regular season action for member schools. There were three conference games. The road teams won two and the underdog on paper won two.
Vermont junior forward Jonathan Turk was one player that stepped up to lead the Catamounts to a 6-2 road victory at Northeastern's Matthews Arena. The Calgary, Alberta native took advantage of an opportunity he seldom had gotten in his first two years as a Catamount. He centered UVM's top line with Mario Puskarich on the right and Brendan Bradley on the left. Turk notched his first collegiate hat trick, added an assist and finished +4 on the evening to earn Hockey East Player of the Week honors. His first of two second period goals stood up as the game-winner.
After winning just eight games a season ago, Merrimack College picked up two wins as the Warriors swept Atlantic Hockey foe Holy Cross. The Warriors, who won just two one-goal games last season, edged the Crusaders by one goal each night. As Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy likes to say, goaltenders don't have to make every save, "just the game winner." Senior goaltender Rasmus Tirronen did just that each night. He stopped 49 of 52 on the weekend for a .942 save percentage to earn the Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week. A major pitfall for the Warriors last season was inept goaltending in addition to a total lack of offense, but Tirronen started to blossom down the stretch. The Espoo, Finland native had a .918 save percentage over his last six games.
Providence College, the preseason favorite in Hockey East, split a pair of weekend games at Ohio State in the Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge. Both games were decided in the extra session with Friar freshman Brian Pinho picking up the overtime game-winner on Saturday night. The former Indiana Ice (USHL) star and St. John's Prep alum notched his first collegiate goal the night before in the team's 5-4 loss. A draft pick of the Washington Capitals in 2013, his solid first weekend as a college hockey player earned him Hockey East Rookie of the Week.
Terrier fans could make an argument that superstar freshman Jack Eichel was snubbed. The top 2015 NHL Draft target scored two goals, added two assists and was a +5 in his collegiate debut at UMass.
There's three nights worth of action this upcoming weekend in Hockey East land. Providence hosts the US NTDP U-18 Team in an exhibition on Thursday to kick things off.
New Hampshire and Massachusetts head to the midwest to face Michigan and Michigan State, respectively, in more Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge action. Northeastern heads to upstate New York for a two-game set at ECAC Hockey favorite Colgate. Maine hosts defending NCAA Champion Union in a two-game series at Alfond Arena. Vermont will have a home-and-home with former ECAC Hockey rival Clarkson. Quinnipiac and UMass Lowell do battle in a home-and-home series. Notre Dame hosts former CCHA rival Lake Superior and BC heads to RIT for a single game on Saturday as well.
Saturday night pits UConn at Merrimack in the only league game of the weekend. It will, of course, be the first Hockey East conference game for the Huskies.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.