Hockey East Power Rankings: November Edition
Photo by BCEagles.com
We're a month into the college hockey season and conference play is about to begin in earnest. Each team has played one or two weekend Hockey East series and a handful of non-conference games. We did a preseason ranking and there's been some shuffling since. Here's a look at the updated ranking:
- UMass - At 6-1-0, the Minutemen are No. 2 in the nation, trailing only 8-0-0 Denver. The lone blemish on the season is a 3-1 loss at Northeastern in a game where Craig Pantano turned away 34 of 35 shots he faced. But they did bounce back to sweep the Huskies this past weekend, outscoring Northeastern by a combined 10-5. Matt Murray and Filip Lindberg have split starts in net, and both are in the top 15 in the nation in goals against average. The loss of Cale Makar hasn’t slowed an offense that is averaging almost 4.50 goals per game. Forwards John Leonard and Mitchell Chaffee have seven and six goals, respectively. UMass travels to Denver just after New Year’s, and the teams could legitimately still be ranked Nos. 1 and 2 by the time that series rolls around.
- UMass Lowell - the Riverhawks are the only team left that hasn’t suffered a loss in conference play. While the 3-0-1 record comes with two wins against Vermont, UML does boast a road win over Providence. A road win over back-to-back national champions and preseason No. 1 Minnesota Duluth earlier in the season. The Bulldogs sit at 3-3-0, not quite up to par with the successful squads over the last two seasons, but they are still considered one of the top teams in the nation. Senior Tyler Wall, arguably the most experienced goalie in the conference, is off to a hot start; he’s logged the most minutes of any Hockey East goalie thus far and has posted a 1.63 goals against average, good for second in the conference. The Riverhawks have a chance to pick up more conference wins, with two games against both Maine and UConn over the next couple of weekends. They’re going to need the wins, because eight of their final 13 games come against BC, BU, Northeastern or UMass.
- Boston College - The Eagles haven’t had quite the start people were expecting after an offensive onslaught on opening night against Wisconsin. Yet, the potential is still there with BC, and that’s why, at No. 19, BC is the only sub-.500 ranked team. The non-conference demons were exorcised once and for all with that victory over the Badgers, but the troubles soon turned to conference games. Between the two Providence games, BC went almost 120 minutes without an even-strength goal. To some degree, the offense, especially the second line has been snake-bitten. They’ve generated opportunities but just haven’t been able to finish. The penalties (most in the conference) and the penalty kill (worst in the conference) are the two areas to keep an eye on as BC faces beatable conference opponents UConn and Vermont over the next couple of weekends.
- Providence - UMass has the eye-popping offensive numbers, but Providence isn’t far off. Where the Minutemen carry a balanced offensive attack, Providence is built around three star wingers: Jack Dugan, Tyce Thompson and Greg Printz. Dugan has 18 points, four more than anyone in the nation. Thompson is actually the closest player to Dugan in the point race, with 14. Thompson and Printz are tied for third in the nation with 7 goals apiece.
- Maine - The Black Bears have been arguably the biggest surprise in-conference through the first month of the season. At 5-2-1, Maine is tenth in Pairwise, behind only UMass in terms of Hockey East teams. The season got off to a tough start with a 7-0 drubbing at Providence, but Maine has rebounded well to defeat both Quinnipiac and BU. Despite the opening night blip on the radar, Bruins prospect is having his best season yet in net, posting a 2.12 GAA and .942 save percentage. Even in that 7-0 loss to the Friars, Swayman faced 59 shots, saving 52 of them. To post a save percentage near .900 in a game where you give up 7 goals is pretty impressive. An experienced forward group has produced a potent offense, with junior Eduards Tralmaks sitting near the top of the nation in goals. Tim Doherty leads the team in points with 11; the senior from Portsmouth, RI has registered over 7 shots on three separate occasions this season. If the defense can prevent Swayman from seeing so much rubber, the Black Bears could very well be a top 15 team in the nation.
- Northeastern - The Huskies have the best win of any team in the conference, that 3-1 victory over UMass that kicked off the Hockey East slate. But they sit at 4-3-1, mostly as a victim of circumstance. They’ve faced UMass three times and St. Cloud St. twice. The road eases up over the next few weeks, and the offense will look to improve upon its 2.38 goals per game average.
- New Hampshire - UNH is in a situation that appears to be the reverse of Northeastern’s. The Wildcats are 4-2-1, but haven’t played a terribly difficult schedule, really only boasting a 1-0 shutout victory over BC as a quality win. They are the least penalized team in Hockey East and spend the least amount of time in the box. A disciplined team like UNH could give some top-tier Hockey East teams fits, as they did BC, but the bottom half of the conference is likely where they’ll remain as the schedule ramps up.
- Boston University - The Terriers lost a lot of talent from last year’s team, including Bobo Carpenter, Joel Farabee, Dante Fabbro and Jake Oettinger. The losses have been felt, as they’ve scuffled out of the gate to the tune of a 2-2-3 start. They’ve gone winless in weekend series against Northern Michigan and Maine. The road doesn’t get any easier, with the next two weekends offering home-and-homes against Providence and UMass.
- UConn - As I wrote in my preseason power rankings, UConn is young and scrappy, and probably a year off from really competing in Hockey East. It just hasn’t translated to wins yet. They split with Merrimack and Rensselaer, and failed to beat both Army and Sacred Heart. Where UNH has excelled on special team, UConn has struggled; they rank tenth of 11 teams in penalty minutes, power play percentage and penalty kill percentage.
- Merrimack - Merrimack isn’t very good. If it weren’t for the Catamounts (we’ll get to them in a moment), the Warriors would be the worst team in the conference. They got swept by Lake Superior State to begin the season, then were used as a punching bag by Wisconsin. After opening the season with a loss to BC, the Badgers hung an 11-spot on Merrimack. That one game skews the stats a tad, but Merrimack is still giving up over a goal per game more than any other team in the conference.
- Vermont - For as poorly as Merrimack has played, Vermont has struggled even more through the first month of the season. They’ve faced a decent schedule, but not exactly a murderer’s row, and have only managed to go 1-5. They haven’t scored in the first period. They are averaging only 1.50 goals per game. And they’re 0-for-20 on the power play. So, yeah, they have a lot of work to do before BC travels to Gutterson Fieldhouse next weekend.