This Week in Hockey East

"While the Eaves-Shannon-Bertram line scores at will, the lack of points from the backliners tells me that all of the Eagles' play develops from behind the opposition's net. Rarely does BC get any open ice goals, nor do they score on the breakout."

Hockey East is certainly shaping up into something different this year. Once again, it seems you can throw out the pre-season predictions and watch the melee unfold. Who would have thought that Boston College would suffer their only loss… to then and since winless Notre Dame? Or Merrimack, getting spanked by UMass-Amherst 8-2 one night, puts in their 3rd string goalie, who had never seen an official minute of play, and win 5-2 the next night? Or Maine, expected to be one of the best teams in the country, sitting at 6-5. PC not expected to do anything this year, sits at 4-3 (2-2). The division is wide open, especially before the Christmas Tournaments.

As the out of conference schedule winds down, we get into the main meat of the Hockey East schedule, and it's safe to say that so far, BC stands above the rest. But on that second tier of teams is surprisingly archrival BU, Maine, and UNH. UNH is in the best position to track down the Eagles: They sit at 4-2-1, (1-1) and are lurking in the top ten at number seven. The good news is this: so far BC is undefeated in Hockey East play, and tonight they take on the current HE points leader UMass (who have played five HE games as opposed to the Eagles' two), in Conte Forum. The Minutemen traditionally do not play well in Chestnut Hill but usually give a scare to the Eagles when the series moves back to the Mullins Center. Patrick Eaves leads the team with eleven points in five games (3G 8A), with senior captain Ryan Shannon four points back. (2G 5A) Linemate and freshman Dan Bertram leads the team in goals (5) heading into the UMass game.

So far the Eagles have overwhelmed the opposition. Quick leads against Denver and North Dakota held off late comebacks. Even the loss to Notre Dame can just be blamed on the bounce of the puck: the Eagles outshot the opposition in that game 52-14. Dan Bertram looks solid as a frosh, great goal-scoring instincts. He reminds me of Tony Voce: Even down to the stats that show he's a bit of a puck hog. Still he has the wheels and the skills to back up his play.

Goaltending is another story. So far, York is keeping quiet on who his number one is, and he may play a tandem all year. But the fact of the matter is, Cory Schneider has looked more solid in net than Matti. Yet both will receive playing time, and unless Kaltianen or Schneider become walls or complete sieves, look for York to alternate starts between the senior and the freshman.

With Andrew Alberts out, there has been a decided lack of scoring from the defensive position this year. Many of the players on the blue line haven't even recorded an assist yet on the year. Now, while the Eaves-Shannon-Bertram line scores at will, the lack of points from the backliners tells me that all of the play develops from behind the opposition's net. Rarely does BC get any open ice goals or on the breakout. Now while scoring hasn't been a problem, a truly efficient offense knows when to let the defensemen touch the puck and quarterback a play on five on five. Passing between five players as opposed to three opens up the offensive zone on in five-on-five situations, and maybe even allow one of the defensemen, or a wing to slide into the slot unseen a la Brett Hull.

Predictions!

Saturday:

BU @ Merrimack: I expect the Warriors to give the Terrier's hell in their own rink. It's hard to play in the artist formerly known as Volpe Center. MC 4-2.

Maine @ Lowell: Maine, still beat up from a late finish the other night go into a hotbed of anger as Lowell comes off a bad loss. Look for MacDonald to have his boys spitting nails. Maine loses again, testing the polls to see how a team just over .500 can remain in the top 15. UM-L 4-1.

Sunday:

NU @ PC: Some how, the Dunkin' Donuts Center is quite the nice place for a Friar game. Look for NU to again be winless in conference: PC: 5-1.

Mercyhurst @ UMass: Mercyhurst is actually one of the quality teams in Atlantic Hockey. Look for this game to be close, but the home team wins, refusing to lose to another A.H. team this year: UMass 5-3.

Tuesday:

UNH @ Merrimack: That's a lot of games in a short span for the Warriors: fatigue catches up with them as they take on a third Hockey East team in just a couple of days, UNH pulls it out in 3rd. UNH 4-2.

BC @ Harvard: The traditional yearly game. Noah Welch and Grumet-Morris give the Crimson a great stance on defense . . . they just have nobody to put the puck in the net. Eagles should win the game against their Beanpot rivals. BC 5-1.


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