By Scott McLaughlin/DFP Staff
1) No. 4/5 Boston College (11-5-0, 9-4-0 HE)
The Eagles might not have the best record in Hockey East, but the defending national champions are still the team to beat. They have the best offense (3.75 goals per game), best defense (2.12 goals-against average) and best special teams (+12 net) in the league. BC finished the first semester on a 5-1-0 run, with all five wins coming by three goals or more. Included in there were weekend sweeps of Maine by a combined score of 8-1 and BU by a combined score of 14-7. Junior forward Cam Atkinson leads the conference in goals (14), while senior goalie John Muse is tops in both GAA (1.87) and save percentage (.939).
2) No. 2 University of New Hampshire (10-2-4, 8-1-2 HE)
The Wildcats, who own the league’s best record, finished the first half with four straight wins, including a semester-ending 4-3 overtime triumph at Maine. Their defense has been remarkable in conference play, as it ranks first with a 1.64 GAA against Hockey East opponents. Anchoring that unit is junior goalie Matt DiGirolamo, who has emerged as one of the most reliable netminders in the league. The offense hasn’t been too shabby either, as UNH is tied for second with 3.56 GPG. Senior forwards Paul Thompson and Mike Sislo rank first and second in the conference with 25 and 24 points, respectively.
3) No. 9 University of Maine (8-4-4, 6-3-2 HE)
The Black Bears ended the semester with an unimpressive 2-3-1 stretch, but those three losses came to BC (2x) and UNH. They haven’t lost to anyone behind them in these power rankings, and their +1.00 goal differential per game is third behind BC and UNH. Everyone knows about the offense, which is tied with UNH for second in the league, but Maine’s team defense deserves a shout-out, too. Despite the fact that their goaltending has been shaky (freshman Dan Sullivan, who has started the majority of their games, ranks ninth in save percentage at .892), the Black Bears are tied for fourth with a 2.56 GAA.
4) No. 17 Merrimack College (7-4-4, 5-4-3 HE)
The Warriors finished the semester on a 5-2-0 run and they’re the only team that has beaten BC since mid-November (in fact, they’ve already won the season series against BC). Coach Mark Dennehy has been calling junior Joe Cannata one of the best goalies in the country for two years, and Cannata’s making it easier and easier to see why. He’s second in GAA (2.07) and tied for second in save percentage (.925), and he hasn’t given up more than three goals in a game since opening night. Merrimack’s offense has been surprisingly mediocre, though, as it ranks just sixth with 2.80 GPG despite returning nearly 90 percent of its scoring from last season.
5) No. 10/12 Boston University (8-4-5, 6-3-4 HE)
On Nov. 8, the Terriers were 6-0-2 and ranked No. 1 in the country. Since then, they’ve gone just 2-4-3, including a 1-3-0 stretch to close out the semester. Those final three losses were all blowouts- 9-5 and 5-2 to BC and 4-1 to Rensselaer. The win in the middle was a narrow escape against Northeastern in which they were more than doubled up in shots. The offense has been pretty consistent all season, as it ranks fourth in the league with 3.12 GPG, but the defense has fallen to pieces. BU has given up four or more goals in six of its last seven games after having allowed that many just once in its first 10.
6) Providence College (7-6-5, 3-4-4 HE)
Statistically, the Friars aren’t much better than the next two teams in these rankings- they’re seventh in offense (2.61 GPG), sixth in defense (3.06 GAA) and ninth in special teams (-7 net). But record-wise, they’ve certainly separated themselves from the bottom four. After a slow start, Providence has gone 5-2-4 since the start of November, although only one of those wins came against a good team (Merrimack). Senior forward Kyle MacKinnon is the leader up front, as his 10 goals are good for fourth in the conference. But even he hasn’t been able to save the power play, which is operating at a conference-worst 9.8 percent.
7) Northeastern University (3-9-4, 3-6-3 HE)
After losing five straight from Oct. 29 to Nov. 13, the Huskies finished the semester with a modest 2-2-2 stretch that included a win at Merrimack, the Warriors’ only home loss of the season so far. Sophomore goalie Chris Rawlings has given his team a chance in almost every game, as he’s tied for fourth in GAA (2.44) and tied for second in save percentage (.925). Northeastern’s offense is still inconsistent, though- its 2.19 GPG place it ninth in Hockey East. Steve Quailer, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, has just three points after tallying 25 as a freshman two years ago.
8) University of Massachusetts (3-7-3, 2-4-3 HE)
After a miserable 0-6-3 start to the season, the Minutemen won three of their last four to end the semester. It’s worth noting, however, that two of those wins were against the two teams behind them in these rankings and the other was against a mediocre-at-best Quinnipiac team. UMass’ offense, projected to be a weakness this season because of its inexperience, has turned out to be a strength. Led by freshman Michael Pereira, who paces all rookies with seven goals, the Minutemen rank fifth in the conference with 2.85 GPG. Special teams have been terrible, though, as they rank dead last with a -9 net.
9) University of Vermont (2-9-4, 1-6-3 HE)
Missing: Vermont’s defense. Last seen: March 2010. Seriously, what’s going on? The Catamounts returned five starting defensemen and goalie Rob Madore from last year’s squad that ranked third in team defense, but this year’s group is giving up an abysmal 3.60 GPG, putting them ninth in the league. Madore, who ranked fifth in save percentage last season, is dead last among qualifying netminders this year at .889. Vermont’s offense hasn’t been much better, as it ranks eighth with 2.20 GPG. Senior forward Jack Downing has just six points after recording 21 last year.
10) University of Massachusetts-Lowell (2-14-2, 2-10-0 HE)
Where to start? The River Hawks lost nine in a row to end the first half. Five of those losses came by three goals or more, including each of the last four. They rank last in the conference and second-to-last in the country in offense (2.11 GPG). They rank last in the conference and fourth-to-last in the country in defense (4.11 GAA). They have the second-worst record in the nation. They have been outscored by an average of two goals per game. And they have five players with a -12 rating or worse, while the rest of the league has none. On the plus side, they have the third-best power play in Hockey East at 17.4 percent. That’s pretty much it, though.