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Hockey East Mid-Season; U! S! A!

With the second half of the season about to begin in earnest I figured I’d take a quick look around the rest of Hockey East and see how teams are doing against expectations.  So here we go with the teams listed as they were ranked in the coaches’ preseason poll with their record, current Hockey East standing, and a few thoughts.

1.  Boston University – 5-9-3, 8th
Personally I thought picking them first was a little aggressive since they were losing the bulk of their scoring and some of the conference’s best defensemen and figured it would take the team a little while to get things going.  Well, everyone’s still waiting.  Amazing that this team which was picked 2nd in the first USCHO poll currently sits near the bottom of Hockey East.  Was this past Saturday a sign that the Terriers might make some noise in the next two months?  Perhaps.

2. Lowell – 11-7-1, 5th
In a normal year I think Lowell fans would be happy with such a record to start the new year.  But this wasn’t supposed to be a normal year for Lowell, this was a team returning nearly everyone from a squad that just missed a Hockey East championship last year.  Lowell came into the season ranked just outside the top ten and while at times they’ve been dominating overall they’ve been very inconsistent.  The hopes going into the season was that the River Hawks would make their first NCAA appearance since 1996, but right now they find themselves on the wrong side of the pairwise for that to happen.

3.  Boston College 10-5-2, 2nd
With the amount of quality freshman on Jerry York’s team I believed they would struggle a bit in the beginning of the season but come on as one of the strongest teams in the second half as the young players got more comfortable.  Instead they’ve played excellent from the gate and currently find themselves in the top ten.  It’ll be interesting to see how they respond to losing both games in the Denver tournament, but overall BC has certainly far surpassed early expectations at this point.

T-4.  New Hampshire 8-7-3, 1st
I’m not sure how to judge UNH’s season so far.  They played absolutely horrible out of conference where they’re winless but have had no problems in Hockey East where they currently sit in first place.  It must be maddening for the UNH fans but at the same time if the team can continue its conference success, does it really matter?  If they keep beating Hockey East teams like they have they won’t have to worry about things like pairwise.

T-4.  Vermont 10-6-2, 6th
Vermont would’ve had a tough time repeating what they accomplished last year, especially minus Viktor Stalberg.  But overall they haven’t played too badly, maybe just a bit worse than expectations which had them opening as #14 in the country.  Still, they’ve set themselves up in a good position entering the second half of the season finding themselves as a top ten team in the all important pairwise.

6.  Northeastern 8-8-1, 7th
It’s a rebuilding year on St Botolph Street and Northeastern has been able to do so while still enjoying some success.  Joe Cronin is probably pretty happy to see some of his younger players getting on the scoreboard while enjoying some decent numbers from his two freshmen goaltenders.  Will the Huskies’ surprise win of their holiday tournament help them succeed in that OTHER in-season tournament they play in?  We’ll see.

7.  Massachusetts 11-7-0 4th
The UMass fandom appears to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown but this team is still performing much better than expectations.  Yes, the team is on the downswing losing 5 of 7 and suffering an embarrassing loss in the UConn tourney, but if they can get back on track they’re well positioned for the second half.  They currently hold the last home ice position and are in a three way tie for 12th in the pairwise.  They probably won’t be able to win at the rate they did to start the season, but if they can just be competitive from here on out and maybe surprise a team here or there they will certainly have exceeded how people thought they would fare this year.

8.  Maine 10-7-2, 3rd
Wait, shouldn’t Tim Whitehead have been fired by now?  It sure looked that way when the Black Bears started the season 1-5-0 but now they find themselves in 3rd place in Hockey East and back in the USCHO rankings.  Can they keep up their good play of late?  Their defeat of Colorado College to win the tourney in Estero makes it look like they can.

9.  Merrimack 7-10-0, 8th
The Warriors looked like they might make a run for the middle of the Hockey East standings after winning four in a row earlier in the year.  But they’ve now lost 7 of their last 8 and hopes are beginning to fade that this will be Merrimack’s breakout year.  They’re still probably a dangerous team though as many of their losses have been by a single goal, including one to Wisconsin last weekend.

10.  Providence 7-9-1 10th
Well, maybe the coaches got this one right.  Providence has had success out of conference going 5-2-0 but they’re still suffering from the same Hockey East woes of past years.  I’d have to think if the Friars don’t make some kind of run in the second half that we’ll see a coaching change, either by the school or Tim Army will jump back into the pros as was rumored last off-season.

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Congratulations to the USA Junior team which beat Canada in thrilling fashion last night.  Who else but John Carlson scored the game winner in overtime to give America its first gold medal in the tournament since 2004 when former Minuteman Stephen Werner was part of the US squad.

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BC Interruption did a good job of summing up each Hockey East team’s success in the past decade, declaring Boston College as the HEA team of the decade (hey, even I can’t argue with that one).  It says a lot about Hockey East that 8 out of the 10 teams made the NCAA tournament at some point over the past ten years.

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