#3 BOSTON COLLEGE vs. #11 Vermont, 7:00 PM Friday, ESPNU
Disclaimer, before I go any further: I'm wrong almost all the time.
With that said - I really think Vermont is vastly overrated at #11. I highly doubt they even have a chance to get home ice in the Hockey East playoffs.
I attribute their 3rd place finish in the regular season standings last year to 101 factors:
1-99. Goaltender Joe Fallon
100. BC and BU having awful stretches during the regular season
101. General mediocrity in Hockey East
They are a disciplined team, and they employ the kind of trap-grab-dump system that often frustrates the bejesus out of BC. So I'm not predicting an easy victory tonight for BC, not by any stretch of the imagination. I just don't think this is that marquee of a matchup, really. Vermont returned most of their team from last year, but they did not return Fallon.
Let's crunch the numbers, briefly:
Vermont scored 67 goals last year in conference play - 7th in the league, with one more goal scored than Providence.
Vermont's goal differential last year was -11 - 67 scored, 78 allowed. That was good for 8th in the league, besting only Maine and Merrimack.
Vermont was an abysmal 4-6-2 out of conference.
The Catamounts scraped by a pretty mediocre BU team last year, then got completely steamrolled by BC for the Hockey East title. Keep in mind, BC was coming off a triple-overtime game against one of the best teams in the country, and Vermont needed that game far more than BC did, in order to make it to the NCAA Tournament.
All of this leads to my conclusion that Vermont is just not that good of a team, despite what the pollsters seem to think.
With all that said: it's a regular season BC hockey game, so there's no way to really predict what's going to happen. But BC will be there at the end of the year, and Vermont won't. I think you can take that to the bank.
Prediction: BC 3, UVM 1
Elsewhere in Hockey East: Providence takes on UMass-Lowell at the Tsongas on Friday night in the 'battle of the teams that it's impossible to get a good read of right now.' I think UML is the better team and should win the game handily. The Friars should bounce back the next night when they play Holy Cross.
The Northeastern Huskies come off their national championship last week... oops, I mean their win in one regular season game... with a two game set at Alfond Arena; Maine sucks right now, but that place is difficult on opposing teams; I'll say Northeastern takes 3 of 4 points.
UMass visits UNH in a game that I predict ends in vicious pain for the Minutemen, something like 5-0 to the 'Cats. UNH then has a quick turnaround, traveling up to the Canadian border for a matchup with St. Lawrence on Sunday afternoon; it'll be tough, but UNH should pull that one out.
And of course, our friends at BU have a huge non-conference matchup with Michigan on Saturday night at Agganis Arena that promises to be a real barometer game for the Terriers; I think Michigan is the better team, but the joint will be jumping and BU will give them a great game, and it will end in something like a 2-2 tie.
Out west, the big series this weekend is Minnesota vs. Wisconsin; as an honorary Gopher fan, I predict a Minnesota sweep. Wisco's vaunted defense hasn't impressed thus far, yielding 23 goals in 4 games. OUCH!
#7 BOSTON COLLEGE @ Providence, Saturday, 2 PM
#7 BOSTON COLLEGE vs. Quinnipiac, Sunday, 3 PM
It's really hard to judge where the women's team stands so far this season. Hockey East has incredible parity right now amongst its top six teams. BC's shootout loss at UNH looked mighty impressive, until the 'Cats lost league games to both UConn and BU. UConn was flying high until they were derailed by Northeastern, 3-0. And Providence is expected to contend for the league crown, but they have started the season 2-4-0.
I want to be excited about this team. A 2-0-2 start is certainly something to be proud of, especially against four quality teams. And the Eagles have risen through the polls, sort of by default, as the parity bug has ravaged teams above them in the rankings; taking care of business this weekend could well vault BC into the top 5 for the first time ever, as UNH is poised to fall a few rungs in next week's poll.
However, I have yet to see BC play a complete, inspiring 60-minute game, the kind of game that would convince me that they are a team in the hunt for a national championship. They have occasionally fallen victim to the disorganization and lack of discipline that doomed them last season.
This is a very talented BC team, but so was last year's; I've yet to be completely convinced that they've turned the corner from last season, but I want to be convinced very badly. Beating Providence tomorrow would be a good start.
Right now, BC is certainly a contender for the Hockey East crown. But I have faith that the Eagles can achieve loftier goals this year - i.e., reaching Agganis Arena and playing for the big trophy. Perhaps I am letting my faith get the better of me. We shall see.
BC 2, Providence 2; BC wins shootout
BC 5, Quinnipiac 1
Out of town: Minnesota plays two games at Wisconsin in the battle for the national #1 ranking. Wisco's women's team is much more formidable than their men's team; I foresee them taking three points at home.
It's a quiet weekend in Hockey East; outside of BC-PC, the biggest matchups are probably UConn @ Princeton and Maine @ BU.
When this weekend ends, we could see the following poll, if all goes as I hope/expect: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Harvard, Mercyhurst, BC, Dartmouth, UMD, BU, UNH, St. Lawrence - with NU and UConn knocking on the door. Hockey East is rising.