By Scott McLaughlin/DFP Staff
1) No. 9 University of Massachusetts-Amherst (9-3-0, 5-2-0)
The Minutemen are simply the best team in the conference. In addition to having the best overall winning percentage and best in-conference winning percentage, UMass is the only team to rank in the top three in Hockey East in scoring offense (T-1st), scoring defense (3rd), power-play percentage (1st) and penalty-kill percentage (3rd). That potent offense is led by junior winger James Marcou and sophomore center Casey Wellman, who currently rank first and second in the nation with 1.92 and 1.67 points per game, respectively.
2) No. 14/15 Boston College (6-3-2, 4-3-2)
After starting the season with a .500 record through their first five games, the Eagles have gone 4-1-1 in their last six and have climbed into a second-place tie in the Hockey East standings. Highlighting that stretch were back-to-back blowouts of Northeastern (5-1) and Vermont (7-1). The Eagles boast the conference’s third-best offense and fifth-best defense. Arguably their biggest strength, though, is their 86.4-percent penalty kill, which is three points better than any other Hockey East team.
3) No. 8 University of Massachusetts-Lowell (8-4-1, 4-3-1)
The River Hawks stormed out of the gates, winning eight of their first 11 games. But after losing their last two contests against Providence and Maine, they now find themselves among a clutter of teams in the two-through-six spots in the standings, where five teams are within one point of each other. Led by junior forward Scott Campbell (5 goals-8 assists-13 points), Lowell is one of just two teams in Hockey East to tout seven 10-point scorers. The Hawks also own the league’s best defense, allowing just 2.46 goals per game.
4) Merrimack College (6-6-0, 3-4-0)
No, this isn’t a joke. The average fan may think the Warriors aren’t as good as their record indicates, especially given the fact that they’ve lost three in a row. A closer look at the statistics, however, reveals that Merrimack might actually be better than its record implies. The Warriors are tied for first in the conference in scoring (3.92 goals per game) and place second on both the power play (27.0 percent) and penalty kill (83.3 percent). Their only notable weakness has been defense, which is surprising since it’s a veteran group that was strong defensively last season.
5) University of Maine (6-7-1, 4-4-1)
After losing five of their first six games, the Black Bears have gone 5-2-1 in their last eight, culminating in wins over UMass-Lowell and St. Lawrence University this weekend in which they outscored the pair, 13-2. Maine is paced by its fourth-ranked offense and third-ranked power play, both of which owe their success in large part to sophomore forward Gustav Nyquist. The Swedish sensation is tied for second in the country with 21 points (8 G, 13 A). The team’s turnaround has coincided with sophomore goalie Scott Darling’s rise to prominence.
6) Providence College (7-5-1, 2-3-1)
The Friars started the season 4-2-0, but have been the definition of mediocre since. They’ve gone 3-4-1 since that torrid start and have neither won two games in a row nor lost two in a row in that stretch. Providence has struggled to put the puck in the net this season –– they rank ninth in Hockey East in scoring –– but their defense has been superb, aided greatly by the play of sophomore netminder Alex Beaudry, who is first in the conference in save percentage (.927) and is tied for first in goals-against average (2.29).
7) No. 19 University of Vermont (6-5-1, 4-4-1)
Don’t let the national ranking fool you. The Catamounts are no better than anyone else in the jumble known as the middle of the Hockey East standings. They’re eighth in the conference in offense, sixth in defense and seventh on the penalty kill, but that’s not the worst of it. UVM’s last-ranked power play is operating at an absolutely atrocious 9.6-percent success rate. That’s a full seven points worse than anyone else. It should come as no surprise, then, that the Catamounts have a minus-10 special teams net, which is also seven worse than anyone else.
8) University of New Hampshire (5-6-3, 5-2-2)
Ever seen the first-place team in the standings ranked eighth in the power rankings? You have now. The Wildcats have clawed their way to the top by winning three of their last four games, but that doesn’t erase the fact that they started the season 2-6-2, including a hideous 0-4-1 out-of-conference record. It also doesn’t erase the fact that UNH has the worst defense (3.79 goals per game) in the conference and arguably the worst goaltending. Senior Brian Foster is last among qualifying goaltenders in goals-against average and 11th in save percentage.
9) Northeastern University (5-6-1, 3-5-1)
The Huskies may be turning a corner, as they’ve gone 2-1-1 in their last four games. However, they still have the worst offense (2.50 goals per game) and penalty kill (75.4 percent) in Hockey East. Northeastern is the only team in Hockey East without a 10-point scorer yet. The team’s defense and goaltending, both expected to be weaknesses entering the season, have actually been pretty good so far. The Huskies are fourth in scoring defense, and freshman Chris Rawlings ranks sixth with a .913 save percentage.
10) Boston University (4-7-2, 2-6-1)
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The Terriers have the worst overall record and worst in-conference record in Hockey East. They place seventh in offense and eighth in defense. Sophomore goalie Kieran Millan is 10th in goals-against average (3.42), last in save percentage (.866) and last in winning percentage (.300) –– fellow sophomore Grant Rollheiser hasn’t played enough games to qualify yet. The good news is that BU hasn’t lost in its last three games and is finally starting to get healthy. The bad news is that it’s only won two of its last nine games.