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Hockey East Trends: Northeastern's improved possession, Providence's suffocating D, Maine Falling

Providence junior goaltender Jon Gillies
Providence junior goaltender Jon Gillies
Matt Dewkett

The Hockey East season is moving into its third month this week with games Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. There are some interesting trends starting to develop inside the league that is uncharacteristically absent from the top 10 of the Pairwise Rankings with the exception of the University of Vermont in the 10th spot.

Providence is trending in the positive direction with a defense that has been absolutely suffocating the past few weeks. In the first five games the Friars gave up four or more goals in three of them, all losses. In the eight games since, PC hasn't allowed more than two goals. Nate Leaman's squad has posted four shutouts in the last five games including three in a row. Providence has allowed just three goals over the last six games. Stud junior goaltender Jon Gillies has posted a 0.86 goals against average and a .973 save percentage over his last seven starts after 3.34 GAA and .888 save percentage through his first five starts of the season.

After Saturday's 3-2 upset win over No. 3 Minnesota, Northeastern is 3-1-0 over its last four games after starting the season 0-8-1. Despite a successful 2013-14 campaign the Huskies struggled in the possession game and that continued over to this season for the first 10 games. NU was outshot in eight of its first 10 games, but has posted more shots on goal than its opponent in three consecutive games. Jim Madigan has constantly downplayed the significance of the possession numbers, but the Huskies marked improvement seems like more than a coincidence. The faceoff numbers are also drastically better, led by freshman Nolan Stevens' dominance on the draws.

Trending downwards is the University of Maine Black Bears. Red Gendron's team has lost seven games in a row, four of which were against the University of Vermont. Maine, now at 3-11-1, is struggling in all facets of the game. Goaltending has been hit or miss from game to game. There have been numerous defensive lapses and breakdowns that have led to goaltenders Sean Romeo or Matt Morris being hung out to dry. Returning All-Americans Devin Shore and Ben Hutton haven't lived up to their lofty expectations. Expectations aside, the offensive weapons aren't inferior to some of the other league teams that are above Maine. The real issue is the lack of depth, defensive lapses and inconsistent goaltending.