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Weekend Preview; Two For Hobey


#15 Boston College Eagles 6-3-2, (Hockey East 4-3-2 T-2nd)
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#9 Massachusetts Minutemen 9-3-0, (Hockey East 5-2-0 T-2nd)

Boston College Eagles Official Site

Tonight the Mullins Center will host the battle of the two teams currently tied for second place in Hockey East.  After finishing up their key non-conference games UMass has the opportunity to focus in on three important Hockey East matchups against some tough opponents; BC, Lowell, and Merrimack.  Boston College on the other hand will be kicking off a four game road trip before they go on holiday break with a couple of Beanpot opponents, BU and Harvard, following the Minutemen in the next seven days.

The Eagles have played well of late and it’s helped move them back up the polls a bit to #15.  In their last seven games they’ve only lost once (to UVM at home) while picking up four wins and a couple of ties in that time.  Most recently they’re coming off at 6-5 win over Clarkson at Conte Forum where they were able to be victorious despite goaltender John Muse giving up 5 goals on just 18 shots.

Offensively the Eagles are paced by senior forward Ben Smith who has scored 9 goals in 11 games while junior Brian Gibbons is leading BC in points with 13.  Also contributing on offense are the sophomore trio of Cam Atkinson, Paul Carey, and Jimmy Hayes.  The wildcard for the team this year will be their freshman class, arguably the best incoming class in the league.  Steve Whitney, Pat Mullane, and Chris Kreider have stood out in the games played thus far.  As these and the other freshman get used to the college game and are more comfortable and productive on the ice it’ll mean the Eagles are going to be a bear of a team to play in the second half of the season.

BC has struggled on defense so far due mostly to their youth and inexperience.  While Carl Sneep seems like he’s been around forever he’s the only upperclassman on the entire defensive corps.  Brian Dumoulin seems to have played the best out of the defensive group of freshmen.  It should be interesting to see how the Mullins crowd reacts to the appearance of defenseman Phillip “My dad Ulf ended Cam Neely’s career” Samuelsson.  John Muse surprised many when he healed from off season surgery sooner than predicted and played opening night, but so far the results have been far from those of his freshman year when he led BC to the national championship.  It’s difficult to tell how much of this is due to his play and how much to the play of the young defensemen in front of him.  Either way I’m sure he’s looking to improve upon his goals against of 3.07 and save percentage of .884.  With the Eagles playing rival BU tomorrow is it possible that freshman Patrick Milner could get the start tonight?  Perhaps.  But even so his numbers aren’t much different than Muse’s.

For UMass to win I think they’ll have to attack and push those young, but talented defenseman into having to make plays.  Quinnipiac also had an inexperienced defensive unit and UMass was able to dictate the play as time wore in the game and the Bobcats got tired.  With the overall inexperience on the Eagle squad I think an aggressive forecheck with the UMass speedy fowards might pay some dividends as well.

 


#9 Massachusetts Minutemen 9-3-0, (Hockey East 5-2-0 T-2nd)
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#8 Lowell River Hawks 8-4-1, (Hockey East 4-3-1 T-4th)

Lowell River Hawks Official Site
Lowell River Hawks Fan Site

Wait, so you’re telling the me the two top ranked teams in Hockey East, both in the top ten, are meeting this weekend and they happen to be the two Massachusetts state universities in the league?  Who would’ve guessed it?!  But that’s exactly what we have on tap for Saturday night.  There is no better example of the wide open race we’ve seen so far in the league and college hockey in general than the fact that UMass and Lowell will be meeting in top ten matchup and I personally think this is great for Hockey East.

The River Hawks would probably be more excited for this matchup however if they weren’t struggling  as of late.  Picked by some (including this blog) to win Hockey East, Lowell came out of the game pretty much as expected and found themselves with a 8-2-1 record and a ranking as the #3 team in the country.  Then something happened last week and the Hawks dropped a game a Providence followed up by a loss at home to Maine.  Lowell would like nothing better than to get back on track to the TD Bank Garden (and beyond?) with a win at Durham tonight and another at home tomorrow against UMass.

Lowell certainly has stars that stand out, like Chris Auger and Maury Edwards, but I think what makes them dangerous is their depth.  They can roll out three highly productive lines and even the fourth line is improving as freshman Riley Wetmore continues to develop.  There is no one dominant scorer on their team as seven different players have scored at least 4 goals while no one has scored more than 6.  Scott Campbell has the most points thus far while Kory Falite seems to have shaken off whatever landed him in coach Blaise McDonald’s doghouse last year and is back to being a major contributor.

On defense the Minutemen will have to be wary of Edwards, one of the better two way defensemen in the country.  As a defenseman the hard-hitting Nick Schaus has the second most points on the team with 4 goals and 8 assists.  Jeremy Dehner is another standout on the solid group of Lowell defenseman.  Lowell probably boasts the best goaltender tandem in hockey with Nevin Hamilton and Carter Hutton.  Both have sub-2.50 goals against average and nearly identical save percentages around .920.  Hutton has shut out opponents twice this season.  Blaise seems to be keeping to a strict rotation in recent weeks which means that Hutton would face UNH tonight while Hamilton gets the start against the Minutemen.

It seems natural that these two programs would form some kind of a rivalry over the years.  There were a few times when it seemed like one would develop; the whole forfeiting of games fiasco for Lowell in 03-04 followed by UMass sweeping them in the playoffs, when the idea was formed for the teams to play for a trophy, when Jeremy Domish cheap-shotted Greg Mauldin.  But for whatever reason, no rivalry has really developed.  It could be for a lot of reasons (like the fact that they decided to play for a trophy, but then never present it on-ice after it’s won).  But mostly I think it’s because there’s been few meaningful games between the teams.  It’s tough to develop a rivalry when you’re battling for 7th place and the few times when one program has been successful the other usually hasn’t.  Until now.  Maybe tomorrow night’s game will be exactly what’s needed to get a good rivalry started.

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The Daily Collegian starts off the preview roundup with a preview of the matchups as well as their weekly notebook which talks about the recent success at even strength.

Matt Vautour says UMass wants to end their habit of having to come back.

The Republican twrites about Casey Wellman’s beginnings as a hockey player in California with a father who played professional baseball.

I love when Dave Hendrickson or Scott Weighart take a break from doing the weekly Hockey East previews on USCHO.  It means that something good can actually be written about UMass.

INCH says UMass is trying to exceed the 8,389 who came out for last year’s Operation 8K, which probably could be tough to do since that’s the listed capacity of the Mullins Center.

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Inside Hockey’s latest Hobey Watch has James Marcou in the #1 slot while Casey Wellman moves up to 8th.

The Boston Herald has an article about Marcou as well with really random facts like that he has a cousin who’s a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers.  Who knew?

Inside Hockey also has a lengthy feature on Jon Quick.

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4 Comments

  1. Todd

     /  December 4, 2009

    Love your comment about Hendrickson… for years I’ve read that USCHO column and for years I’ve watch him ramble on over and over about other teams.. Leaving UMA and a few others out of the limelight.. If its not the big 4 he doesn’t want to write about it..

    Like

  2. Alan

     /  December 4, 2009

    I also was confounded about the “lets break the attendance record” promotion. Are they going to be selling SRO tickets?

    Like

  3. Ryan

     /  December 5, 2009

    Dear Minutemen,

    Please please please win this game for me. I don’t ask much, but after being trash-talked for the last month, and so far for acing Lowell’s academic schedule I hope a win is coming.

    Thank You,
    Ryan Ward UMass Lowell 13’….

    Like

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