One wants in the postseason, the other wants the No. 1 seed in Hockey East.
No. 4 New Hampshire Wildcats (18-8-6) vs. Maine Black Bears (10-17-7)
It’s the final weekend of the conference schedule in Hockey East, and both New Hampshire and Maine have things to figure out heading into their rivalry battle. UNH is seeking to finish No. 1 overall in the conference and needs to score a pair of wins while hoping UMass-Lowell slips up against Providence to make it happen. If the Wildcats needed extra motivation, being able to keep Maine out of the Hockey East tournament should do it.
The Black Bears are hanging on to the eighth spot in the conference by just one point over UMass and while they can’t hope for the Minutemen to just lose to Merrimack, it’s on them to find a way to slow down a New Hampshire attack that’s done well this season.
UNH rolls with five players who fill the net regularly (Kevin Goumas leads the way with 37 points) and it’ll be up to Maine’s junior goalie, Martin Ouellette, to hold down the fort. He’s done well since taking over for Dan Sullivan and after the disastrous start to their season, Maine just making the Hockey East tournament would be a great accomplishment. Maine’s not-so potent offense will have to deal with one of the better goalies in the country in sophomore Casey DeSmith who made headlines earlier this season for UNH.
NHL prospects to watch
This game is light on draftees with just six players in all who’ve had their name called. New Hampshire has just two with Eric Knodel (D – JR – Toronto) and Greg Burke (F – SR – Washington). Knodel is a solid blue liner and he and Trevor van Riemsdyk (James’ younger brother) are their two most productive defensemen. Goumas, an undrafted junior forward, has been the set-up man for fellow undrafted guys like John Henrion, Austin Block, and Grayson Downing (38 combined goals).
Maine, meanwhile, rolls with four draftees led by Ouellette, a Blue Jackets prospect. Joining him are a pair of solid freshmen forwards in Devin Shore (Dallas) and Ben Hutton (Vancouver). Shore is second on the team in points to undrafted senior Joey Diamond. Senior defenseman Nick Pryor (Anaheim) has played in 17 games this year earning just two assists.
A slumping Terriers squad looks to get back on track against the Black Bears.
Maine Black Bears (8-15-5) vs. No. 13 Boston University Terriers (13-12-1) — 7:30 p.m. ET
The second half of the season hasn’t gone well for BU. They’ve lost five of their last seven games and have just one win in that span. They were upended by both Northeastern and Harvard at the annual Beanpot Tournament and their defense and goaltending have been more than suspect. Over their last 11 games, BU has allowed 45 goals. Giving up over four goals a game is a good way to lose a pile of games.
As tough as things are for BU, they’ve been even worse for Maine. The Black Bears came into the season with high hopes but starting off 1-9-0 put a large damper on things. Things have turned around a bit, however, and before losing to Vermont last Saturday they rattled off a four-game unbeaten streak. Tonight they’ll hope to extend BU’s misery.
NHL prospects to watch
BU isn’t lacking in NHL-recognized talent. Senior forward Wade Megan (Florida) leads the way in goals while a pair of San Jose prospects, forward Danny O’Regan and junior Matt Nieto, are prime attackers. Undrafted sophomore Cason Hohmann is their top point man. You’ve read plenty here about super freshman defenseman Matt Grzelcyk (Boston) but junior blue liner Garrett Noonan (Nashville) is having a solid offensive year as well. He’s got to tone down the penalties though.
Others: Sam Kurker (FR – F – St. Louis), Sean Maguire (FR – G – Pittsburgh)
Maine doesn’t offer much in the way of offense but freshman Devin Shore (Dallas) joins undrafted senior Joey Diamond as two of three guys on the team in double figures in points (sophomore Connor Leen is the other). Freshman defenseman Ben Hutton (Vancouver) has had a steady first year for the Black Bears. Junior goaltender Martin Ouellette (Columbus) has taken the starting job from last season’s wunderkind Dan Sullivan by putting up strong numbers of his own.
A pair of thrilling performances in yesterday’s Hockey East semifinals sets up the tournament’s championship game with a lot at stake for one team (Maine), while the other has their spot already virtually assured (Boston College).
According to the Pairwise Rankings, the method the NCAA uses to choose the tournament field, No. 1 Boston College already has their ticket to the big dance punched and they even know who their first-round opponent will be; they’ll get the winner of the Atlantic Hockey championship game either R.I.T. or Air Force.
If you think having their fate set for them will deter BC from trying to beat Maine, you don’t know Jerry York’s teams very well. After seeing the game Johnny Gaudreau (pictured below) put up against Providence in the semifinals, the Eagles are primed for victory. Considering that BC is in the midst of a 14-game winning streak, things are cruising along nicely and that’s not even accounting for guys like Chris Kreider and Barry Almeida doing much yesterday.
Making things a bit easier for BC was seeing how goalie Parker Milner settled in after a rocky start to their game against Providence. That’s a game that could’ve gotten out of hand had Milner not found his rhythm. Little things like that help keep the Eagles rolling along and they’ll need more of that against Maine.
The Black Bears’ big win over BU help them to virtually in the NCAAs as a team can be. They’ll be at a serious disadvantage in this one as their Hobey Baker Award finalist, Spencer Abbott, left yesterday’s game after taking an elbow to the head. Without Abbott, Maine will be missing their leading scorer although that wasn’t enough to hold them back late in yesterday’s game.
Stepping up in Abbott’s place were forwards Joey Diamond (pictured above) and Greg Shemansky as the Black Bears held off BU. Goalie Dan Sullivan’s late game heroics helped prevent BU from tying the game up late and they’ll need him and the defense to step up big to keep BC off the board. With so many talented scorers on Boston College to hold down, Maine is going to have their hands full to try and steal the Hockey East crown.
No. 1 Boston College faces No. 11 Maine at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN