The upset of the year, the comeback of the year and a rash of injuries. Those comprise three takeaways from this weekend in Hockey East:
1. Maine’s sweep of Boston College is far-and-away the upset of the year
Yes, some people may have had high hopes for Maine entering this season. I was among that group. The season to this point may have been disappointing, but this past weekend certainly made some amends for the Black Bears struggles to this point. A two-game sweep at Boston College was certainly an upset but the way Maine swept the Eagles in Chestnut Hill was the real story. Maine dominated BC on the scoreboard, jumping out to insurmountable leads in both games and allowing simply a single goal. It will be interesting to see how the Black Bears, returning to home where they are winless, handles this upcoming weekend against Providence and Massachusetts-Lowell.
2. Upset of the year meet comeback of the year
On Friday night, the UMass-Lowell River Hawks scored twice late in the third to overcome a two-goal deficit and earn a road tie at Northeastern. The tie ended the River Hawks nine-game winning streak, one short of the program’s record at the Division I level. And about 24 hours later, it appeared may have derailed Lowell.
Then, the comeback of the year took place. Down 3-1 entering the third against the same Huskies team at home on Saturday (with the largest crowd in Tsongas Center history watching), Northeastern scored early in the third to take an insurmountable 4-1 lead. Insurmountable, at least, to most teams. Having come back the night before, though, seemingly gave the River Hawks comfort, confidence or a cross between the two. Lowell scored three times in the third, including a game-tying goal with an extra-attacker in the final minute, and then won the game in overtime.
Improbable? Yes. Dangerous? Certainly. If Lowell thinks it can fall behind and win games on a consistent basis, you can plan on watching a lot of frsutrating losses.
3. A decimated BC defense among a rash on injuries in the league
Boston College entered the weekend knowing Patch Alber may be out for the year. Late in the week, it was learned Mike Matheson would follow suit. So on Saturday, when the Eagles took the ice without that pair of blueliners AND fellow defenseman Colin Sullivan, one knew that this Eagles team was quickly becoming far too thin.
Steven Whitney jumped back to fill the void on Saturday night, further messing with the successful offensive line combos that had, until this weekend, been clicking on all (okay most) cylinders. Not an excuse but all had to be part of what contributed to a less-than-stellar performance against Maine.
BC was hardly alone in suffering the injury bug. Lowell is now without freshman goaltender Connor Hellebucyk, his injury not yet disclosed. Providence lost talented forward Nick Saracino. Boston University lost possibly its hottest player, Evan Rodrigues (though the original fear of a broken hand was found to be negative after x-rays on Saturday morning).
Those are just some of the many injuries plaguing league teams this time of year. The ability to overcome these bumps, breaks and bruises is generally what makes a championship team.