Hockey Notebook

With hockey season starting, the question facing both young Eagle teams is how they will stack up against their conference opponents. Much can change over the course of a season, but a preliminary look says both teams will have challenging seasons. Getting deep into the post season will be a big challenge. Eagle Insider's Joe Gravellese takes a look at both squads chances this season.

This is an early look at the Hockey East field as what's sure to be a wide-open season gets underway. The Men and the Women have unusually young and inexperienced teams this year. That means some rebuilding and some rough patches as many of the kids get their first action at the college level.

Men

1-Vermont (2-1-0, 1-0-0 HE)
Last week: W vs. BC, 4-1
This week: Friday @ Merrimack

With a split at then-#1 Denver, and a 4-1 drubbing of BC on Sunday in their home opener, the Catamounts have the most impressive early-season resume of any Hockey East team. Goalie Rob Madore has been outstanding from the start, but what makes this year's Vermont team scary is their improved goal scoring – they have 14 goals in 3 games so far.

2-UMass Lowell (1-1-0, 0-0-0 HE)
Last week: Off
This week: Friday vs. Colgate, Saturday vs. Northeastern
With so many people picking Lowell as their ‘dark horse' this season, it's safe to say they're no longer underdogs and now face the pressure of expectations. It remains to be seen if they can live up to the hype. Their loss to Nebraska-Omaha was disappointing, but their season-opening 3-0 shutout of St. Lawrence was impressive.

3-Boston University (0-2-0, 0-1-0 HE)
Last week: L @ UMass, 3-2. L vs. Notre Dame. 3-0
This week: Saturday vs. Michigan
Ladies and gentlemen, your 2008-09 Boston College Eagles? The Terriers are off to a slow start following the losses of Colin Wilson and Matt Gilroy. Half of Keiran Millan's career losses have come in the last two games. They bombarded Notre Dame with 34 shots on Tuesday night but were unable to score.

4-Boston College (0-1-0, 0-1-0 HE)
Last week: L @ Vermont, 4-1.
This week: Friday @ Notre Dame
While the Eagles were certainly outplayed in their season opening 4-1 loss to Vermont, the disparity was not as wide as the score would indicate. A few outstanding stops by Rob Madore, and a hit crossbar by Chris Krieder in the second period, changed the course of the game. While BC needs to improve on their physical game and on their power play, they look to have a fast and skilled team offensively.

5-New Hampshire (0-2-1, 0-0-0 HE)
Last week: L vs. Miami, 6-3; T vs. Miami, 5-5
This week: Friday vs. Northeastern, Saturday vs. Maine
This year's UNH team will score lots of goals – 12 so far in three games, including eight last weekend – but it looks like they'll give up even more. This weekend gives the Wildcats two cracks at home to earn their first win of the season, but neither will be easy. The jury is still out on whether or not this group can contend for an NCAA berth.

6-UMass-Amherst (2-0-0, 1-0-0 HE)
Last week: W vs. BU, 3-2
This week: Friday vs. Maine
While few expect UMass to contend in Hockey East this year, they deserve credit for a strong start, knocking off defending champion Boston University and a decent Rensselaer team. Junior goaltender Paul Dainton has already made 67 saves in two games this year.

7-Northeastern (2-1-0, 0-0-0 HE)
Last week: W vs. Bentley, 3-2
This week: Friday @ UNH, Saturday @ UMass-Lowell
The Huskies' split at Colorado College was about equal to expectations; their narrow, white-knuckle win over Bentley – aided by two very marginal, overturned goals for the Falcons – was not. Netminder Chris Rawlings will be put to the test this weekend against UNH and Lowell.

8-Providence (2-1-0, 0-0-0 HE)
Last week: W @ Notre Dame, 3-2, L @ Notre Dame, 2-0
This week: Fri & Sat @ Bowling Green
Their shocking win over Notre Dame was not a fluke – The Friars were only outshot 33-29 by ND, and they battled the Irish hard in their loss in game two of the series. But there are still more questions than answers about where the goals will come from on this team.

9-Merrimack (2-2-0, 0-0-0 HE)
Last week: W vs. Holy Cross, 3-1, W vs. Army, 6-3
This week: Friday vs. Vermont, Sunday vs.
The bottom half of Hockey East is wide open this season, and while Merrimack still has a way to go before they can legitimately be called playoff contenders, freshman Stephane Da Costa's 5-goal performance against Army gives Merrimack fans reason to be excited for the first time since… well…
10-Maine (1-3-0, 0-0-0 HE)
Last week: L vs. Michigan State, 5-3; W vs. Michigan State, 5-3
This week: Friday @ UMass, Saturday @ UNH
Their win over a quality Michigan State team last week was impressive, but their two losses to lowly Union – in which senior goaltender Dave Wilson gave up a total of ten goals – were very embarrassing. After beating Sparty on Saturday, expect sophomore Scott Darling to get the start in net for at least one if not both of Maine's Hockey East clashes this weekend.

-- WOMEN

1-New Hampshire (5-0-1, 1-0-0 HE)
The more things change, the more they stay the same? In what's shaping up to be the most wide-open, topsy-turvy season in women's Hockey East history, UNH actually seems even more dominant than usual, with seemingly no real clear cut challenger for the top spot. They've outscored their opponents 22-6 so far.

2-Providence (3-2-1, 2-0-0 HE)
This is where it starts to get messy, as every team has some surprising wins and losses so far. The Friars lost to upstart Syracuse last week, but on paper, they have one of the strongest rosters in the league – and unlike BC and UNH, they haven't lost their best players to the Olympic team duty.

3-Boston University (2-0-3, 0-0-0 HE)
The Terriers can't stay out of overtime this year. In addition to their three ties, one of their wins, at home against Robert Morris, came on a late overtime winner. BU lost the shootout in each game against Ohio State, which didn't technically mean anything in terms of the rankings, but is a concerning sign in a year when every Hockey East point will be hotly contested.

4-Northeastern (3-1-1, 2-0-0 HE)
A dramatic win at BC and a shootout victory over UConn have Northeastern tied for first in the early-season standings. Their standout goalie, Florence Schelling, will be a member of the Swiss Olympic team, but unlike the U.S. and Canada, Switzerland does not take away players for the entire season, so Schelling will be around for most of the season.

5-Boston College (1-2-4, 1-1-0 HE)
They're too good to be playing as badly as they are, but the Eagles are learning the hard way that they will need to dramatically adjust to life without Kelli Stack, who was very much the focal point of the offense. If BC's talented freshmen and sophomores can learn to score without help from Stack, they'll be alright. If not, it could be a long season.

6-Connecticut (2-3-1, 0-1-1 HE)
Like the rest of the league, UConn has been up and down this year, with a big win over St. Lawrence and a head-scratching home loss to Colgate. With their top scorer from last year, Dominique Thibault, transferring to Clarkson this season, it could be a rough one for the Huskies.

7-Vermont (3-1-0, 0-0-0 HE)
Vermont picked up a huge win last weekend against Clarkson – a team this observer thinks will contend for a spot in the Frozen Four. They look to be far better than the outfit that won just one Hockey East game all year two seasons ago.

8-Maine (2-4-1, 0-2-1 HE)
Losing to BC in a shootout last week was a tough blow for Maine, who nearly pulled off their first win over real competition this year (Sacred Heart, who Maine beat twice to open up the season, plays primarily against Division III teams as they develop into a D-I program).


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