1. Boston College (11-2-1, 9-2-1) — The Eagles are 7-0-0 at home and continue to show the form that makes them a championship contender pretty much every year. Coach Jerry York is one win away from the Division 1 career record; he and Ron Mason share the mark at 924. Johnny Gaudreau has shown no signs of a sophomore slump, leading the team with 23 points in 14 games. Defenseman Isaac MacLeod should be back from a shoulder injury when the season resumes Dec. 29 at the Mariucci Classic in Minneapolis. Senior goaltender Parker Milner has picked up right where he left off when he led the Eagles to 19 straight victories en route to the NCAA championship. Grade: A-minus.
2. New Hampshire (11-2-2, 8-2-1) — Coach Dick Umile saw signs in the second half of last season that 2012-13 could be special. So far, he is right on the money. Goaltender Casey DeSmith has been a revelation and the defense has been consistently reliable with a league-best 1.80 goals allowed per game. That has translated into the best offense in the league (3.60 goals per game). Junior forward Kevin Goumas is the league point leader with 24. The Wildcats are the least penalized team in the league and also Hockey East’s best in penalty killing. They have the most balanced scoring with 17 goals in the first period, 19 in the second, and 18 in the third. Their biggest challenge? Peaking at the right time. Grade: A-minus.
3. Boston University (10-5-0, 8-4-0) — One of the question marks heading into the season was whether freshman goaltenders Matt O’Connor and Sean Maguire would be able to elevate their games to give the young Terriers a chance to compete. Their performances have answered with a resounding yes. Boston Bruins prospect Matt Grzelcyk, a freshman defenseman, has shown terrific development in the first half. Freshman center Danny O’Regan has also been a standout. Of the returnees, sophomore forward Cason Hohmann leads all scorers with 16 points in 15 games and senior captain Wade Megan is having a fine year. Grade: B-plus.
4. Providence (7-6-2, 5-4-1) — When Nate Leaman was hired as coach before last season, there was instant celebration on the Friars’ campus. Leaman was a wizard at Union, which reached the NCAA Frozen Four last spring. In their last game before the semester recess, the Friars rallied from two goals down against Boston College, which regained its No. 1 ranking this week. The team has stuck with the game plan and the players are buying into what Leaman is preaching. The play of freshman goaltender Jon Gillies has certainly aided the cause. Grade: B.
T-5. Merrimack (6-7-3, 4-4-1) — One thing we have learned during coach Mark Dennehy’s tenure is that the Warriors enjoy making noise. They have been close to making a lot of it in recent years but have come up short. Dennehy has them believing they can beat anyone and that is a giant stride toward making it happen. More consistency in the second half will help. Grade: C.
T-5. Massachusetts (5-9-2, 4-6-1) — First-year coach John Micheletto has his work cut out but so far the season has gone OK. The Minutemen have had a tough schedule but it’s going to be just as tough, if not tougher, in the second half when teams are really jockeying for position. It’s going to take some time for it to be Micheletto’s team, but UMass is in good hands. Grade: C.
T-5. Vermont (3-8-3, 3-5-3) — The Catamounts are coming off a gruesome season so any progress by coach Kevin Sneddon and his team would be appreciated. Being tied for fifth place has to be comforting, but the challenges only grow bigger in the second semester. Grade: C-minus.
T-8. UMass-Lowell (6-7-1, 3-6-1) — Last year, Norm Bazin dazzled the fans and alumni in his first season as coach of the River Hawks with a stellar second half and engineered the second-best turnaround in Division 1 history. But the River Hawks’ first semester this season has been frustrating to watch. It can’t be blamed on the talent they lost, because they didn’t lose that much. But the last two games have provided something on which to build. Rookie netminder Connor Hellebuyck staked the River Hawks to back-to-back shutouts over Northeastern (2-0) and Harvard (5-0), with the latter score not adequately registering how much the River Hawks dominated. That could well be the beginning of a turnaround. Grade: C-minus.
T-8. Northeastern (5-9-1, 3-8-1) — The transition goes on for the Huskies. Coach Jim Madigan continues to put his stamp on his team and that can be difficult when you don’t yet have an entire roster of players you recruited. Although the Huskies started really well, they have tailed off, losing five of six heading into the break. They have a tough schedule in the second half so it is shaping up as a difficult season. Any small steps forward will be positive. Grade: D.Continued...