All treats for Halloween men's hockey
Friday Four-cast previews the weekend's top games
This weekend promises to be one of the most sports-heavy 48 hours in recorded history. The World Series continues in Philadelphia on Saturday; it's another huge weekend of college football; and the NFL, NHL and NBA have full slates of regular-season action. Still, the college hockey action this weekend takes a back seat to no other sport. Does intrigue abound? Not sure, but the trick-or-treater at the front door wearing the intrigue costume says he's up for a few jumps.
FRIDAY (at Lowell) AND SATURDAY (at BU)
Plenty of intrigue surrounding the first big clash of the season in Hockey East. As you can read in Jeff Howe's preview of the series, the River Hawks still feel the sting of the 1-0 loss to BU in last season's Hockey East championship game. Whether that defeat is legitimate motivation for this weekend's series is debatable; more important for UMass Lowell is establishing itself as a team that's in the conference championship race for the long haul, much as Northeastern did when it beat Boston College early last season.
The Terriers, meanwhile, believe they're on the upswing after Saturday's 3-2 win against Michigan at Agganis Arena. Goaltender Kieran Millan was particularly sharp with 33 saves, a good sign for a team whose offense hasn't quite found its stride. Now that junior forward Nick Bonino is on the shelf for somewhere in the neighborhood of a month with a shoulder injury, Jack Parker's task of reconstructing an offensive attack that lost Colin Wilson; Chris Higgins; Jason Lawrence; Brandon Yip; and defenseman Matt Gilroy, who had eight goals last season, becomes that much more difficult.
Before you roll your eyes, keep in mind that this game Saturday is the only one in the country this weekend that matches two teams that were in the 2009 NCAA tournament.
This season has potential to be a great one for several elite Ivy League programs, and we finally get a chance to see how they'll start their season when they formally take the ice for initial games this weekend. And what better way to start than by checking in on two of the projected powers when Yale visits Princeton on Saturday in a non-league matchup. As Ric Flair famously said, "In order to be the man, you've got to beat the man," and Yale was the undisputed man last year by winning both the regular season and ECAC Hockey championship.
Princeton returns Hobey Baker finalist Zane Kalemba in net and a veteran defense corps. Yale has some of the most talented forwards in the league with the likes of Mark Arcobello, Sean Backman, Broc Little and Brian O'Neill in the lineup.
FRIDAY AND SATURDAY
The collection of talent the Badgers have amassed on the blue line is indeed impressive, but the best defenseman on the Kohl Center ice this weekend might just be UNH sophomore Blake Kessel. A native of nearby Verona, Wis., Kessel has three goals and seven assists in five games this season after recording six goals and seven assists in 37 games as a freshman. Wildcats goaltender Brian Foster is off to a bumpy start, as evidenced by his .854 save percentage in five starts.
A 1-2-1 start certainly isn't what Bucky anticipated two weeks into the regular season, but the goaltending has been a pleasant surprise: Juniors Brett Bennett and Scott Gudmandson have combined for a 1.71 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage. Wisconsin freshman forward Craig Smith will miss the series after getting hit with a checking-from-behind major penalty and a game disqualification at Minnesota State last weekend -- coach Mike Eaves tacked on an extra game suspension in addition to the automatic DQ.
FRIDAY AND SATURDAY
Sure, this is an important conference series, and both teams are off to good starts, relatively speaking. But with the CHA's demise looming, the first of three series this season between the Beavers and Chargers give us a chance to reminisce.
In case you didn't know, BSU and UAH were fierce rivals back in the mid-1990s when both teams were NCAA Division II superpowers. Four times between 1994 and 1999, the Beavers and Chargers met for the national title, which was decided by a best-of-three series. Bemidji State won in 1994 and 1997; Alabama-Huntsville won in 1996 and 1998. In the '94 series, the Beavers earned the title by winning the rubber match in overtime.
Harvard's heralded freshman class makes its debut at Dartmouth on Friday Ohio State and Notre Dame clash in South Bend Alaska (3-0-1) opens CCHA play when it hosts Ferris State (5-1-0) Denver gets Joe Colborne (broken finger) back in the lineup for this weekend's series with Minnesota State. The Mavericks, meanwhile, will be without captain Geoff Irwin, who was on the receiving end of the aforementioned hit delivered by Wisconsin's Craig Smith last weekend in Mankato.
For more on college hockey, check out Inside College Hockey.