Hockey East Predictions: UMass-Lowell, BC Tied On Top
By Adam Jakubiak
BU News Service
Boston—The start of another college hockey season is less than a week away, and with it, a highly anticipated year for Hockey East.
The league’s preseason coaches poll was released this past week during Hockey East Media Day at TD Garden in Boston, and the familiar faces are at the top of the list. UMass-Lowell, the defending Hockey East champions, were chosen to win the conference, along with Boston College. However, UMass-Lowell scored more first-place votes in the poll, giving them the top spot. It is the sixth consecutive season Boston College is projected to either win or tie for first place in the league. A majority of last year’s team returns for UMass-Lowell, while Boston College will return star forward John Gaudreau and others.
UMass-Lowell is also ranked No. 1 in the country to start the year in the USA Today poll. Boston College is ranked fourth.
The league won’t get any easier for teams battling for the top spot in Hockey East. As a result of a massive realignment throughout college hockey over the summer, perennial power Notre Dame joins the conference this season. The Fighting Irish are ranked seventh in the nation and were chosen to finish tied for third in Hockey East with New Hampshire. Notre Dame was the fourth overall seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament, but were upset in the first round by St. Cloud State.
Rounding out the top five is Providence College. The Friars return arguably the best goaltender on the conference this year, Jon Gillies, a Calgary Flames draft pick who will be heavily depended on once again this year. Providence fell to eventual champ UMass-Lowell in the Hockey East semifinals last season.
Boston University is projected to finish in sixth place in Hockey East this year. The Terriers are led this season by first-year head coach David Quinn, who takes over for the legendary Jack Parker. Parker coached the Terriers for the past 40 seasons, and led the team to a surprising run to the Hockey East Championship Game last season. BU was defeated by UMass-Lowell, 1-0.
This year’s Terrier squad is younger than last, as captain Wade Megan and defenseman Ryan Ruikka both graduated, and junior center Matt Nieto chose to forgo his senior season to sign an entry level contract with the San Jose Sharks. Sahir Gill, who was entering his senior season, announced last month that he would not return. Defenseman Alexx Privitera has also left the team.
Nine freshman and one transfer student join BU this season. Kevin Duane, Robbie Baillargeon, Tommy Kelleyand, Brendan Collier, Nick Roberto and Dillon Lawrence join as incoming forwards. J.D. Carrabino, a transfer from Clarkson, joins Dalton MacAfee, T.J. Ryan and Doyle Somerby on defense. Carrabino will have to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Wrapping up the bottom portion of the poll were Merrimack, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and Northeastern.
In addition to the poll being released, Hockey East announced a partnership with the new Big Ten Hockey Conference to host the inaugural Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge. Eleven different institutions will participate in 13 designated games to be played between October 18-27, with six games in Hockey East arenas on the first weekend, followed by six games in Big Ten arenas and a single game on neutral ice on the second weekend. Boston University will host Wisconsin on October 19, while traveling to Michigan and Michigan State on October 25 and 26, respectively.
The Terriers will have an exhibition game on Saturday, October 5 against St. Francis-Xavier before opening the regular season the following Friday against Massachusetts.
2013-14 Hockey East Pre-Season Rankings
- UMass-Lowell (7 first place votes) (104 total points)
- Boston College (4) (104)
- New Hampshire (84)
- Notre Dame (84)
- Providence (79)
- Boston University (67)
- Merrimack (54)
- Maine (45)
- Vermont (34)
- Massachusetts (32)
- Northeastern (28)