Passing marks for BC, BU
It has been an interesting first half of the season in Hockey East. The three first-year coaches are putting their stamps on their teams, one perennial power (New Hampshire) is struggling, a former doormat (Merrimack) has picked up where it left off last season, and another strong program (Boston University) is dealing with an off-ice incident. There is plenty of jockeying to come in the second half, but here is the report card for the first semester (in order of the standings):
1. Boston College (12-6-0 overall, 9-4-0 Hockey East) - The Eagles looked flat-out weary in their 3-2 loss at UMass-Lowell last Friday night, their fourth game in eight days. Although coach Jerry York said there were no excuses, the break comes at a good time. When the season resumes - at the Great Lakes Invitational against Michigan on Dec. 29 - the team should have injured defenseman Patrick Wey back. BC is 4-5 in its last nine after an 8-1 start so some adjustments need to be made. But there is plenty of talent, and if the goaltending holds up, expect to see the Eagles there at the end. Grade: B.
2. Boston University (10-5-1, 8-4-1) - The Terriers were dealt an emotional blow when leading scorer Corey Trivino was arrested for sexual assault this week and kicked off the team. Coach Jack Parker said he didn’t know if his team will be able to recover. Trivino was a goal scorer, penalty killer, power-play force, and logged a lot of minutes. Maybe the team will rally together in the second semester, but it won’t be easy. Grade: B.
3. Merrimack (10-2-2, 7-2-1) - Most people expected the Warriors to be good this season, but few predicted they would be this good given the talent they lost. However, thanks to stellar goaltending by Joe Cannata and a top-notch coaching staff led by Mark Dennehy, there is plenty of excitement in North Andover, and more ahead if the Warriors can stay healthy. They play Union tomorrow to close out the first semester. Grade: B-plus.
4. UMass-Lowell (10-5-0, 7-4-0) - Last season was rough for the River Hawks but they have rebounded under first-year coach Norm Bazin. They have already won twice as many games as they did last season. Sophomore goaltender Doug Carr has been remarkably stingy, carrying a 1.82 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. Eight players have at least 10 points and 20 players have at least one. Sophomore defenseman Chad Ruhwedel (14 points) has really emerged. Look for the River Hawks, who enjoy enormous support at the Tsongas Center, to build on what they’ve accomplished in the first semester. Grade: A-minus.
5. Providence (8-7-1, 6-4-0) - When it was announced that Nate Leaman had been hired as coach, expectations immediately soared. Leaman brought an impressive résumé from Union and he hasn’t disappointed. The Friars have already won as many games as they did in 2010-11. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, but the highlight was back-to-back victories over Merrimack, ending the Warriors’ undefeated start. Grade: B.
6. Maine (6-7-2, 5-6-1) - It has been an unpredictable season for the Black Bears. In some outings, such as a 6-3 win over Northeastern Oct. 9, they showed promise. But they’ve also scored one goal in four of their seven losses. They will look to get on a roll when they return to face Clarkson in the Florida College Classic Dec. 29. Grade: C.
7. Northeastern (7-7-2, 4-7-2) - First-year coach Jim Madigan has his team on a tear. After a 1-7-2 start, the Huskies have caught fire with six straight victories. Junior goaltender Chris Rawlings has been excellent (2.25 GAA, .933) and is one of the keys behind the turnaround. Junior Steve Quailer is the leading scorer with 16 points and forward Ludwig Karlsson (14 points) has been an impact freshman. Grade: B.
8. New Hampshire (6-9-2, 4-7-1) - The Wildcats have been maddeningly inconsistent. They started 0-4-1, then put together a 5-0-1 stretch, then went 1-5-0 to enter the break. In their last three games, they have mustered only six goals. Spotty offense won’t get you anywhere in this league. Grade: D.
9. Massachusetts (5-7-4, 2-6-3) - It’s been a difficult season for the Minutemen but there are signs of improvement. After a three-game losing streak, they earned a 4-4 tie with Harvard and beat Yale, 3-1, just before the break. Senior forward T.J. Syner is the leading scorer, and sophomores Michael Pereira and Conor Sheary and freshman Steven Guzzo are starting to emerge. Grade: C.
10. Vermont (3-11-1, 1-9-1) - It’s been a frustrating year for the Catamounts, with their only league win coming at home against UMass Nov. 22. They have a chance to close out the semester on a good note when they host St. Lawrence tomorrow. Grade: D.
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.