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BC-BU takes top billing

12/3/2010

Who needs Heat-Cavs? Not college hockey fans, who'll be treated to a weekend of notable conference matchups. Even better: our sport doesn't need 45 minutes to play the last 120 seconds of the final period.

Boston College vs. Boston University (Friday at Boston, Saturday at Chestnut Hill)
These teams have combined to win the last three NCAA championships, but neither the Eagles nor the Terriers have played like title contenders as of late. Boston College is a pedestrian 6-5-0 since opening the season with three straight wins, while Boston University has followed a 6-0-1 start with one win, one loss, and four ties in its last half-dozen matches. While we don't expect BC or BU to remain in their current ruts, a three-point weekend or sweep for either side would certainly provide a spark. Looking for a potential tipping point in this series? Boston College's penalty kill has been outstanding (a 90.6 percent success rate), while Boston University's power play (an 11.1 percent success rate) has not.

Denver at Minnesota Duluth (Fri.-Sat.)
It's a weekend for comings and goings in Duluth. Coming is Denver, which has won six games in a row. Going (after this weekend) is the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, the WCHA's oldest rink and one that looks like it was designed by "Brady Bunch" patriarch Mike Brady. While the nostalgia will be as thick as the mysterious, sticky substance that's adhered to the DECC's cement floors after decades of carbonated beverage spills, the present-day element to this series is pretty intriguing, too. UMD and DU are 1-2 in the WCHA standings; it's also the high-scoring Bulldogs' first look at Sam Brittain, the Pioneers' outstanding freshman goalie.

Notre Dame at Miami (Fri.-Sat.)
On the subject of 1-2 battles, the RedHawks and Fighting Irish just happen to hold those spots in the CCHA standings. What's more, Miami and Notre Dame are also first and second in the conference in scoring offense and penalty killing, and the teams combine to boast the circuit's top six scorers (Carter Camper, Andy Miele, and Reilly Smith for Miami and T.J. Tynan, Ryan Guentzel, and Ben Ryan for Notre Dame). The RedHawks were a ho-hum 4-3-1 in November, but all but two of those games were on the road, which could play into Miami's hands -- the Irish are 3-4-2 away from the Joyce Center this season.

Rensselaer at Yale, Union at Brown (Friday)
Rensselaer at Brown, Union at Yale (Saturday)
Rensselaer, Union, and Yale -- all of which appear in this week's INCH Power Rankings -- expect to be in the mix for a top-four finish at the end of the regular season. Throw in Brown, which has shown vast improvement under second-year head coach Brendan Whittet and last week skated to draws with Hockey East powers Boston University and New Hampshire, and the ingredients for an important weekend of conference play are in place. It could be a busy one for the goalies; Yale, Brown, and Union are all among the top eight nationally in scoring offense. Of course, RPI and Union are among the top five in the country in scoring defense. Feel free to create your own immovable-unstoppable storylines.

Also: No team is happier to see November go than Michigan State. The Spartans were 2-7-0 last month. They start December with a home-and-home against Ferris State, a team that shut them out in East Lansing last week. … Maine and Providence are currently tied in the middle of the pack in Hockey East. They play at Schneider Arena this weekend. … North Dakota and St. Cloud State is usually one of the better series of the year in the WCHA, namely because they don't like one another very much. SCSU hasn't played all that well so far this season, but did we mention that the Huskies and Fighting Sioux don't like another?


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