2006-07 Hockey East Mid-Season Report
It looked like there was a team in the
Hockey East crowd that could run away with the regular-season
crown this year. First, it was Boston College. Then,
it was Maine. Now, it's New Hampshire?
Not trying to make the Wildcats sound like a bottom
feeder here, but no one expected them to build an
eight-point lead by the December break, either. UNH
has the second highest scoring offense in the nation
at 4.38 goals per game and has two extremely explosive
lines. But the Wildcats don't play defense, right?
Actually, New Hampshire has the country's fourth-best
scoring defense, giving up just 1.94 goals per game.
The team is doing just about everything right through
the first three months of the season, but a scary
second-half schedule awaits.
With 10 goals and 10 assists, Trevor
Smith had a good freshman year. With 11 goals
and 13 assists through 16 games this season, he's
in the midst of an amazing sophomore campaign and
has himself in the mix for Player of the Year. Smith
centers one of the best lines in all of hockey. He,
Jerry Pollastrone (7-11—18) and Matt Fornataro
(7-15—22) have combined for 25 goals and 39
WHAT HAPPENED TO…
Boston University's offense
just can't get things right. The Terriers scored four
goals in each of their first three games of the season
on their way to a 2-0-1 start. Since then, they've
scored more than two goals in just two of their 11
games and are 4-3-4 (2-3-4 in Hockey East) in that
stretch. To make matters worse, they scored on themselves
in a 1-0 home loss to Boston College on Dec. 2.
BEST NEW FACE
Maine's Teddy Purcell
has five goals and 12 assists and is the top-scoring
freshman in Hockey East. He has been a great compliment
to Michel Léveillé on the top line,
which has advanced his game this season and also will
help in the future.
|Northeastern coach Greg
Cronin and the Huskies' difficult first-half schedule
included a 3-2 win at Michigan on Oct. 28.
After dropping a 4-3 overtime decision
at Yost Arena the night before, Northeastern
rallied to earn a split with Michigan by knocking
off the No, 6 Wolverines, 3-2,
on Oct. 28. Freshman goalie Brad Thiessen made 45
saves – including 20 in the second period –
while the penalty kill was perfect on 12 occasions.
After falling behind 1-0 in the first period, Northeastern
rallied for three straight goals to build a 3-1 advantage
before staving off a wild Wolverine comeback attempt
in the waning minutes of the third period.
TOUGHEST ROAD OUT
its season on the road at BC, Vermont and BU –
all losses. After returning home for a win over Union,
the Huskies hit the trail again for two at Michigan
before a home-and-home with UNH. Throw in a game at
UMass, plus three home affairs with BC, UNH and Maine,
and Northeastern's 4-9-2 record isn't as bad as it
TOUGHEST ROAD IN
Teams chasing UNH should
love this. The Wildcats open up the new year with
a January two-game tilt at Vermont before their historically
crazy Manchester matchup with Dartmouth then shift
towards a home-and-home with UMass, which has handed
UNH its lone league loss. Add home-and-homes with
Maine, BU and BC, and the Wildcats are in for an intense
Of course there's a BC-BU two-game,
three-day event, a UNH-Maine home-and-home and the
Beanpot, but the home-and-home between UNH
and Boston College gets bonus points for
being on the last weekend of the year. The Wildcats
took three of four points in the same exact setting
last year to help Boston University leapfrog the Eagles
to win the Hockey East regular season championship
by a point. BC will obviously have that in the back
of its mind, and since UNH has built a sizeable lead
at the halfway point — much like the Eagles
last year — could Boston College deliver the
Wildcats a similarly cruel fate?
BIGGEST QUESTIONS ANSWERED
Can Maine overcome the loss
of Greg Moore on the offensive end? Absolutely.
Teddy Purcell has done a magnificent job filling that
void, and Michel Léveillé has emerged
as a true star on the first line. Maine has averaged
four goals per game through 14 contests this season
after averaging 3.4 goals per game last year.
Can Lowell win with its youth?
As of right now, no. But it's not like anyone expected
the River Hawks to wear Cinderella's slipper this
season. There are 15 freshmen, including one in net.
Carter Hutton has had some bright moments but has
shown his age at times, too. There is plenty of promise
for the future in the locker room, but the future
doesn't look like spring of 2007.
BIGGEST QUESTIONS REMAINING
Will Boston University wake
up? It would make for a remarkable story
if Kevin Schaeffer and Sean Sullivan could both return
to the BU lineup and spark the Terriers a la David
Van der Gulik of a year ago. But as much of an emotional
lift that those two could bring, they'd really need
a statistical boost from Brandon Yip if he can return
from the shelf with a dislocated shoulder. Of course,
when the Terriers matched their season-high with four
goals in a win over Providence on Dec. 8, it was done
just in time to lose all that momentum to a three-week
holiday layoff. BU is playing great defense in front
of John Curry. It just needs its big guns like Pete
MacArthur to start finding the back of the net.
Can Vermont or UMass break up
the Big Four? The "Big Four" isn't
exactly the mythological juggernaut it is made out
to be. In Hockey East's 22 seasons, Boston College,
Boston University, New Hampshire and Maine have finished
in the top-four just three times, including each of
the last two seasons. Perhaps that means the conference
is as top-heavy as it's ever been.
Even so, Vermont is in second place
and continues to play defense as well as any team
in the country. The offense is suspect, though, scoring
just 2.6 goals per game, which places the Catamounts
at No. 44 in the nation in that regard. Those numbers
don't translate well in this league. UMass is a vastly
improved squad from a season ago. The Minutemen have
competed with the best by beating UNH and Boston College
this season, but they have laid some duds with losses
to Merrimack and Union.
The Wildcats, Eagles and Black Bears
appear to be a lock to finish in the top-three, while
the Terriers still have some issues to sort out. Right
now, it looks as though BU, Vermont and UMass are
on the second tier of Hockey East's landscape.
First Half All-Hockey East Team
|His .929 save
percentage tops Hockey East, which is important
since he has faced more shots than any netminder
in the league.
|He's a great leader,
and 11 points from the blue line for a team struggling
to score helps, too.
on league's best defensive team.
forward in Hockey East might be getting some love
on Frozen Four Friday.
24 points are more than the 20 he scored last
year. The sophomore is a pure scorer with a scary
shot, and he's on the Wildcats' "second"
|Who needs Daniel Winnik? Radja
stepped into UNH's top line this season and has
lit the lamp a conference-best 13 times.