By: James Duffy
Don’t look now, but there’s a team climbing out of the basement. The red-hot Northeastern Huskies kept the good times rolling last weekend with a sweep of New Hampshire, locking up four points to give them seven on the season. That’s right, they got more points in their last two games than the 11 before that. Led by Ryan Ruck and Dylan Sikura, the Huskies jumped out of last place in Hockey East, leapfrogging a Maine team that only picked up one point against UConn.
New Hampshire, the victims of the sweep, missed a golden chance to climb up the ladder for themselves. Two wins over the Huskies could have brought them to sixth in the conference, just a point back of Boston University, but instead they remain deadlocked in the bottom-half of the conference, still with a single-digit point total. UConn was one of the only teams that was able to actually make serious ground, taking three points in a series against Maine. With that, they went from eleventh to sixth.
Towards the top of Hockey East, things went about as expected. UMass Lowell lives another week at the top, staying two points ahead of Boston College, who has two games in hand. The Riverhawks easily downed UMass Amherst for an easy four points, and Kevin Boyle allowed just one goal in the two games. BC had the tougher test on the weekend, taking on BU in a home-and-home. After cruising to 5-3 win to start the weekend, the teams tied on Saturday night. Three points for the Eagles, one for the Terriers.
Lastly, Providence and Notre Dame both had easy sweeps, dispatching Vermont and Merrimack respectively. Not a bad weekend for the top four in the conference.
Friday, January 15
Boston University 3-5 Boston College
Connecticut 1-0 Maine
New Hampshire 2-4 Northeastern
UMass Lowell 4-1 Massachusetts
Providence 3-1 Vermont
Merrimack 2-7 Notre Dame
Saturday, January 16
Connecticut 1-1 Maine
Massachusetts 0-5 UMass Lowell
Northeastern 6-2 New Hampshire
Boston College 1-1 Boston University
Merrimack 1-5 Notre Dame
Providence 6-3 Vermont
Tuesday, January 19
Quinnipiac 3-3 Maine
The Week Ahead
As the playoff situation starts to take a little more shape with just over a month left in the regular season, every game gets more and more important. Whether you’re a team at the bottom of the conference trying to avoid going on the road to BC or Lowell, or a team at the top trying to lock up home ice or a first-round bye, each point counts. We’re still a while away, but this weekend starts crunch time.
Northeastern will look to continue to frantically climb up the standings, as they take on Merrimack for a home-and-home. While NU has turned on the jets of late, Merrimack has struggled mightily since a good start to the season. Losers of seven straight, the Warriors will have their hands full trying to get back in the win column. For the Huskies, four points would vault them to at least 10th, and potentially as high as 6th, whereas Merrimack could get to 5.
Vermont and Massachusetts square off in a huge game on Saturday, with both teams sitting at eight points. Its been a down season for the Catamounts, who carried a four-game winning streak into Providence before being swept, killing their momentum and dampening hopes of a late season come up. Massachusetts similarly has hit a losing streak, dropping four straight and 10 of their last 11.
Vermont will also draw UConn over the weekend while Massachusetts gets the pleasure of a game against BC. For UConn, this weekend is just as vital. Vermont is a team just two points behind them, who they’ll need to fend off. Then, taking on BC will be a good gut check game. Assuming they pick up at least a point against Vermont, they’ll head into Chestnut Hill with points in four straight, looking to stay hot for the stretch run.
Back at the top, UMass Lowell and Providence face off in an interesting home-and-home, as both teams will try to cling to one of the top four spots in the conference, guaranteeing a bye in the first round of the playoffs. The points seem to be more important for PC, who has Boston University just two points away from dropping them to 5th place.
Things are starting to heat up as we move towards the last month of the season. Every game carries a little extra weight, every goal is worth a little more, and every team is pushing a little harder. Should be a fun weekend.