By Arielle Aronson/DFP Staff
1. Maine (14-8-3, 11-7-2)
The Black Bears are one of the hottest teams in the nation right now. They are 12-2-1 in their last 15 games and are coming off back-to-back sweeps against Boston College and Boston University. Maine’s offense is tough to beat as their top line is made up of Hockey East’s three leading scorers, and goaltender Dan Sullivan proved against BU that he can be one of the league’s top netminders.
2. Boston University (15-8-1, 12-6-1)
The Terriers suffered two losses on the ice and two losses off the ice this past weekend. Freshman defenseman Alexx Privitera will miss significant time with a broken wrist while junior defenseman Max Nicastro has a less serious but still significant shoulder injury. Despite the losses, BU remains at the top of the rankings by virtue of its position in the league standings and its showing in the losses to Maine. BU played the Black Bears close in both games despite being undermanned defensively.
3. Boston College (16-10-1, 12-7-1)
The Eagles look better in the standings by virtue of a weekend sweep over UNH. Parker Milner earned the start in net in both wins, but it remains to be seen if he will be BC’s starting goaltender down the stretch. Both of its wins against UNH were also by the tightest of margins. On Friday night, they came from behind and scored the game-winner with 51 seconds remaining in regulation. On Saturday, the Eagles allowed the Wildcats to tie it up late before BC won it in overtime.
4. Merrimack (14-5-5, 10-4-3)
The Warriors have been up and down in their last six games. They posted a strong showing against Maine with a tie and a win, and then struggled against UNH (overtime win and a 2-1 loss) before beating Providence on Sunday. Merrimack’s defense, however, has been terrific as Joe Cannata and the Warrior defense has not allowed more than two goals against in any game since losing to BU, 4-2, on Jan. 6.
5. University of Massachusetts Lowell (16-7-0, 11-6-0)
The Riverhawks swept the University of Massachusetts last weekend but struggled in the two games beforehand, losing 1-0 to Providence last Tuesday and requiring overtime to beat Northeastern following a 4-0 win the night before. It seems, based on the Northeastern overtime game and the loss to Providence, that the Riverhawks have an issue with matching its compete level to its capability. They rank in the top four in every major statistical category in Hockey East, but they need to play like the team they can be for a full 60 minutes.
6. University of New Hampshire (9-14-2, 6-11-1)
New Hampshire’s record does not look good, but the Wildcats are playing better than the results show. They played in four consecutive one-goal games against two of the top teams in Hockey East (Merrimack and BC) but came out of those games with a 1-3 record. It seems as if a bounce here or there could turn the tide for the Wildcats, but with nine games remaining, they need to figure things out quickly.
7. University of Massachusetts (9-10-5, 5-8-4)
The Minutemen were riding a 5-1-1 streak until last weekend, when they dropped two games to state school rival UML. Their 4-0 blanking of Boston College was a highlight for them, but they have yet to put a win streak together against quality opposition. They also need to improve their play on special teams. Massachusetts is second-to-last in the league in penalty killing (74.2 percent) and seventh in the league on the power play (17.2 percent).
8. Providence (10-12-2, 8-8-1)
The Friars enjoyed a hot start, but after posting a 6-3-1 record in their first 10 games, they have gone just 4-9-1. Since the start of December, their only win against an above-.500 team came in a 1-0 blanking over UML, which was hardly a strong showing but nevertheless an important win following their embarrassing weekend against BU. Providence also lost one of its top scorers, junior Tim Schaller, indefinitely due to mono.
9. Northeastern (10-11-3, 6-11-2)
The Huskies looked like a good team out of conference, but out of conference games will not help them make or win the Hockey East tournament. Northeastern was mired in a five-game losing streak before sweeping Vermont over the weekend, but wins against Vermont have not been hard to get for Hockey East teams this season. The Northeastern power play could use some drastic improvement. They have scored just 12 power-play goals all season and are running at an 11.5 percent success rate.
10. Vermont (5-19-1, 2-15-1)
The season continues to look bleak for the Catamounts who, despite two overtime thrillers (a loss to UMass at Fenway and a win over UML in the following game), could not seem to gain any momentum and has lost its last four. The schedule does not get any easier for Vermont. In its final nine games, Vermont will play BC three times and BU twice.