Are two of Hockey East’s premier teams not what they have been dished up to be?
That is the question everyone is asking after both Boston University and Boston College suffered losses in the first weekend of the 2015-16 season.
BC looked good out of the gate when it routed Army, 5-1, on Friday, but finished the weekend on a disappointing note with a 2-1 loss to a hapless Rensselaer team that was fresh off a 3-0 loss to UMass-Lowell.
BU similarly put up a less-than-impressive performance against Union in its season opener on Saturday. The Terrier defense looked rusty, especially in the third period when, after BU tied the game at 3-3 with about five minutes left, it allowed two goals in the final three minutes to suffer the 5-3 loss.
Both BU and BC clearly have some work to do to prove they deserve to be considered among the top teams in the nation. But it is difficult to form a comprehensive judgment about any team based on just one or two games.
Although neither team will suffer the consequences of these losses in the league standings, both will take a hit in the PairWise rankings for the national tournament. It will be interesting to see if these early-season losses come back to hurt either team come March.
Weekly power ranking
The Friars get some bonus points for entering the season as the defending national champions, and they looked dominant in a season-opening 7-3 win over Miami. The victory included a four-point effort from senior forward Trevor Mingoia, who scored on a penalty shot in the first period and added an even-strength goal in the second period while also tallying two assists.
The Friars’ top line of Mingoia, Mark Jankowski and Brandon Tanev combined for 10 points overall, and all three players had at least one goal.
The second half of the weekend didn’t go as well for the Friars, who settled for a 2-2 tie with the RedHawks on Saturday. Mingoia recorded assists on both Providence goals.
The River Hawks will start the season with some great power-play numbers, as all three of their goals in a 3-0 shutout over RPI came on the man advantage. Junior Evan Campbell stood out with two points in the winning effort.
The victory was also Norm Bazin’s 100th as the UML bench boss, giving him a 100-47-13 record overall. He is the fastest head coach in program history to reach that milestone.
3. Boston College
As mentioned above, the Eagles’ loss to RPI was a disappointment for a BC team billed by some to be the best in the country. But it is hard to put the Eagles out of a top-four spot due to just one early-season loss.
Freshman forward Miles Wood has looked good early for BC, and he recorded three points (one goal, two assists) in the 5-1 win over Army. Sophomore Zach Sanford is off to a nice start on special teams, as he had a power-play goal in each of the two games.
The Catamounts started the season on a big stage by playing in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game at Mariuccia Arena in Minnesota. Vermont thrived under the pressure, dropping the Golden Gophers, 3-0, to prove it will continue to be a tough team to play against this season.
Goaltender Mike Santaguida picked up where he left off last season, stopping 24 Minnesota shots to earn the shutout.
Junior Mario Puskarich recorded two goals – one in the first period and one in the third. The defense looked good as well, as Santaguida only had to make four saves in the third period.
The Black Bears did not technically record a win, but they won shootouts in each of their two IceBreaker tournament games to avoid any losses.
The shootouts do not count in the standings, so Maine goes down as an 0-0-2 team, but strong performances against North Dakota and Michigan State bode well.
Junior forward Blaine Byron had a great weekend on special teams, recording a shorthanded goal in the 3-3 tie with the Spartans, as well as a power-play assist in each game.
6. Boston University
Goaltender Sean Maguire looked rusty in his first game back after taking a year off, allowing four goals on 30 shots.
The freshmen did look good for the Terriers, who had goals from first-years Charlie McAvoy and Ryan Cloonan. BU showed a lack of discipline, however, by handing the Dutchmen six power plays.
The Huskies benefited greatly from the Stevens brothers, who scored both goals in a 2-1 win over Colgate. Older brother John struck first in the second period, and younger brother Nolan recorded the game-winner at 11:48 of the third.
The Huskies were not tested much defensively, as the Raiders only put nine shots on goal through the first two periods. While Colgate nearly matched that total with eight shots in the third, it does not seem as if Northeastern will face fewer than 20 shots in many more games this season.
The offense was there for the Minutemen in the first weekend. They outscored Colorado College, 10-6, over two games for a road sweep.
But while the Minutemen were impressive against Colorado College, it remains to be seen what they can do against tougher competition later in the season. That benchmark likely won’t come until the Capital City Classic at the end of this month.
9. New Hampshire
The Wildcats faced relatively weak competition against American International in their season opener, but took care of business with a 7-3 win. Six different players scored a goal, and 12 recorded at least one point.
Junior forward Tyler Kelleher had an especially good game with two goals and two assists. Andrew Poturalski also had four points (one goal, three assists) on the night.
Goaltender Daniel Tirone could do better. Three goals on 29 shots isn’t terrible, but isn’t quite up to par in Hockey East, either. UNH will also want to show better discipline after awarding AIC five power plays.
The Huskies split the weekend against one of the worst teams in college hockey in Alabama-Huntsville. UConn started off well on Friday with a 5-2 win, but finished on a disappointing note by dropping an identical score on Saturday.
Goaltender Rob Nichols was responsible for Friday’s win, but he only had to stop 15 shots in the effort and did not see any in the third period.
Sophomore Steve Thulin’s first career start on Saturday had to be frustrating considering the Huskies had to kill off seven penalties. Thulin made 24 saves on 29 shots, which shows some room for improvement considering he backs up a formidable netminder in Nichols.
T-11. Merrimack, Notre Dame
Merrimack was inactive over the weekend, and Notre Dame did not play an official contest, skating to a 2-2 tie in an exhibition game against the U.S. 18-and-under team. With the impressions Maine, UMass and even UNH left, the Warriors and Irish take the bottom of these rankings for now.