November 20, 2009

Not a sweeping success yet

It’s a safe bet that every team in Hockey East has the same item on its Christmas list – a new broom, since none of them seem to be able to sweep.

Admittedly, it’s a bad line, but we’re trying to make a point here – there have been seven two-game weekend series between Hockey East teams this year, and each and every one of them has ended with a split. By this time most years, there have been at least a couple of sweeps as the pack has organized itself from first to last place. But this doesn’t look like a very ordinary year in Hockey East.

To wit, in those 14 weekend series games, the visitors have picked up just as many wins as the home teams – a rarity when one considers some of Hockey East’s more hostile environs, such as Matthews Arena and Gutterson Fieldhouse.

And, four of the visitors’ victories have come on a Saturday or Sunday, which with the exception of two games last weekend means that those road teams picked up wins a night after losing at home.

Last weekend was a particularly good example of this season’s most curious phenomenon. Boston University gave up six goals at Merrimack Friday night, posting just three in the troubled Terriers’ sixth loss of the year, but the next night BU scored a half-dozen of its own the next night in a victory at Agganis Arena.

A few miles down Commonwealth Ave., Vermont took a stiff 7-1 beating from Boston College Saturday, only to come back the next afternoon and edge the Eagles 3-2.

Even for a league that so prides itself on parity, this is a little ridiculous. Only one team, eighth-place Northeastern, has a goal differential of more than five in either direction – the Huskies have hit twine just 12 times and surrendered 20 goals – so it’s obvious that we’re not talking about a series of fluky victories.

No one has taken control of the league yet, and while that’s not entirely unexpected a week before Thanksgiving, just two points separate the top seven teams in the league, and the two eighth-place teams are only two more points back from the lead.

There is a pair of two-game series this weekend: Providence and Northeastern will do a traditional home-and-home two-step, and BC plays two games against the Black Bears in Maine. If one of them figures out how to win two games in two nights, we might have a slightly clearer picture of how the league shakes out.

But if the recent trend holds, it’ll be another broom-free weekend in Hockey East.

NEHJ Player of the Week

Mike Spillane, sr., Vermont


The Bow, N.H., native may have taken a supporting role after Rob Madore’s stellar freshman season, but Spillane was the main attraction in Sunday’s win over BC, making 30 stops to salvage the split for the Catamounts.

Looking Ahead

Merrimack at UMass-Lowell, Saturday


It’s always fun to watch the two Merrimack Valley teams match up, but this year, it’s also meaningful, since the surprising Warriors sit just a point behind the River Hawks.

Around Hockey East

Boston College


First-round draft pick and Boxford, Mass., native Chris Kreider finally found the net for his first collegiate goal Saturday, scoring the Eagles’ fifth in a seven-goal bonanza.

Boston University

Burlington, Mass., native Ross Gaudet scored his first goal as a Terrier in Saturday’s victory at Agganis. One night earlier, freshman Kevin Gilroy, the little brother of Hobey Baker Award winner and current New York Ranger Matt Gilroy, picked up his first point with an assist in a BU loss.

Maine

The Black Bears’ power play continued to click over the weekend, and now has at least one goal in all 10 of Maine’s games this year, with a 26.6 percent success rate.

UMass

The Minutemen trailed by more than one goal for just the second time all season in Saturday’s loss to UNH. The only other time they’ve been down by more than one was during their Halloween game against Providence, which is also their only other loss of the season. .

UMass-Lowell

The River Hawks, who are the only league team without a game to play this week, were bolstered again by their goaltending tandem of Carter Hutton, who picked up his school-record-tying seventh career shutout Friday at Alabama-Huntsville, and Nevin Hamilton (Ashland, Mass.), who slammed the door on the Chargers the next night to maintain a 3-0-1 record this year. Saturday’s win also included the first collegiate goal for Fitchburg, Mass., native Joe Caveney.

Merrimack

The Warriors sold out Lawler Arena for the first time since Feb. 9, 2002, Friday night, and they didn’t disappoint the 2,990 in attendance, racing to a 6-3 win that kept them a perfect 6-0 at home.

UNH

Senior Bobby Butler (Marlborough, Mass.), who was named the league’s co-player of the week this week, has five goals in his last four games, leads the league in goal scoring, and already has hit twine as many times (nine) as he did in all of the 2008-09 season.

Northeastern

The Huskies got some solid effort from their youngsters Saturday, with rookie goaltender Chris Rawlings making 34 stops in the 5-2 win and Robbie Vrolyk scoring his first collegiate power play goal.

Providence

The Friars won the Mayor’s Cup Tuesday with a 4-3 victory highlighted by two goals, including the game winner, from Rockland, Mass., native Matt Germain, as well as a marker from Londonderry, N.H., native Ian O’Connor. The victory also gave Providence a 44-43-2 all-time edge over their in-state rivals.

Vermont

Sunday’s victory was the Catamounts’ first over Boston College at Kelley Rink in 11 meetings, a stretch dating to Nov. 11, 1994.

Andrew Merritt can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.