By Scott McLaughlin/DFP Staff
1) No. 7 Boston College (18-10-2, 13-8-2)
The Eagles might be four points out of first, but they’re clearly the best team in Hockey East. They’re second in offense (3.70 goals per game), tied for first in defense (2.53 goals-against average) and second in special teams (+12 net). BC is 6-2-0 in its last eight games and has utterly demolished some of those opponents, picking up wins of 5-2 over Providence, 6-0 over Harvard, 7-1 over UMass-Amherst and 7-1 over Northeastern during that stretch.
2) No. 11 University of New Hampshire (15-10-5, 14-5-4)
After an incredible 10-1-2 run from mid-November to mid-January, the Wildcats have cooled off a bit, going just 3-3-1 since. Still, they have a four-point cushion in the standings and would be one of just two Hockey East teams (along with BC) in the NCAA Tournament if the season ended today. With six goals in his last three games, senior forward Bobby Butler (sixth in the country with 44 points) is making a strong push in the Hobey Baker race.
3) No. 16 University of Maine (15-12-3, 12-9-2)
Speaking of Hobey candidates, sophomore forward Gustav Nyquist is tied for first nationally in both points (49) and assists (34). A week after his line was held in check by BU, it combined for 16 points and a plus-15 rating in Friday’s 8-4 win over UMass-Lowell, led by sophomore Brian Flynn’s five goals. The Black Bears have the best offense (3.77 GPG) and best special teams (+17 net) in the conference, but the worst defense (3.37 GAA).
4) No. 20 Boston University (14-13-3, 11-10-2)
The Terriers’ 10-4-0 record in 2010 is the best of any Hockey East team. Sophomore goalie Kieran Millan has led the resurgence, posting a 2.75 GAA and .909 save percentage since the break, a drastic improvement over his first-half numbers of 3.42 and .862. BU’s offense has also turned it up a notch, scoring 3.93 goals per contest in the second half after averaging just 2.75 before the break. That offense will be without sophomore Corey Trivino (fractured fibula) for the rest of the season, though.
5) Northeastern University (16-13-1, 11-11-1)
Prior to Sunday’s 7-1 beatdown at the hands of BC, the Huskies had won five in a row and seven of eight. Freshman goalie Chris Rawlings was the biggest cog in the gear during that span, allowing two goals or fewer in seven of those eight games. He’s emerged as one of the best goalies in Hockey despite getting lit up Sunday, placing third in the league in both GAA (2.70) and save percentage (.917). NU’s offense is ninth, though, with just 2.70 GPG.
6) University of Massachusetts-Lowell (16-14-2, 10-11-2)
Given the River Hawks’ preseason expectations (second in the preseason Hockey East coaches poll) and veteran leadership (11 seniors), it felt all along like they would eventually figure things out and put an end to the slide that began in late November. Instead, the slope just keeps getting steeper, as UML has lost five of its last seven. One of the few bright spots left is senior goalie Carter Hutton, who is first in the league in both GAA (2.24) and save percentage (.923).
7) Merrimack College (13-15-1, 10-11-1)
The Warriors are the hottest team in the conference right now, as they’ve gone 4-0-1 in their last five and haven’t allowed more than two goals in any of those contests. They’ve also gone 2-0-1 in their last three road games after starting the season an abominable 0-13-0 away from Lawler Arena. Merrimack’s power play ranks second in the country (behind only Maine) at 25.4 percent. Freshman forward Stephane Da Costa (38 points) should be the national rookie of the year.
8) No. 18 University of Vermont (13-11-6, 7-10-6)
A couple weeks ago, the Catamounts were in the top 10 in the PairWise Rankings, but an 0-2-3 run now leaves them on the outside looking in, and not just on the national stage. UVM is currently one point behind Merrimack for the eighth and final playoff spot in Hockey East. To make things even more complicated, the program recently dismissed senior forward Justin Milo, the team’s second-leading scorer at the time. UVM has the league’s worst special teams (-7 net).
9) University of Massachusetts-Amherst (16-15-0, 11-13-0)
In the spirit of the Olympics, the Minutemen are making like a skeleton rider and racing headlong toward the bottom of the mountain. They’ve lost five in a row and seven of their last eight, and have been outscored 31-7 in those seven defeats. UMass was first at the end of November and fourth less than a month ago, but is now in real danger of missing the playoffs altogether. It’s one point ahead of Merrimack and two ahead of UVM, but both have at least a game in hand.
10) Providence College (10-18-2, 5-16-2)
The Friars are already eliminated from playoff contention, and there’s really no way to argue for them being any higher on this list. Their offense (2.17 GPG) is more than half a goal a game worse than anyone else in the league. Their special teams (-6 net) are worsted only by UVM. This is going to sound like a broken record, but the only positive for PC is sophomore goalie Alex Beaudry, who’s fifth in GAA (2.76) and second in save percentage (.918).