The college hockey season got underway last weekend with a few non-conference games. However, Hockey East teams are not in action until Thursday, Oct. 10, when Boston College makes the trip to battle Michigan.
This year’s Hockey East Association is one of the most competitive and top conferences in the country. With the addition of Notre Dame, it went from being a great conference to an even greater conference.
As expected, most preseason hockey polls have selected UMass Lowell as the No. 1 team in the country. After winning their first ever Hockey East regular season title, Hockey East Tournament Championship and making their first trip to the Frozen Four, it isn’t surprising to see them picked so high.
A few other schools have been selected as top contenders in the national polls from Hockey East, here is the Inside Hockey preseason Hockey East Power Rankings:
1. Massachusetts Lowell
The River Hawks are returning the core of their conference champion team, minus Riley Wetmore and Chad Ruhwedel. Wetmore graduated and Ruhwedel signed professionally. The River Hawks will hold the top spot in the power rankings until someone can prove they don’t deserve it.
2. Boston College
The Eagles have Johnny Gaudreau and if that isn’t enough to say they are a top contender in Hockey East, then add one of the top recruiting classes in the country to the list and there you have it. Although the team lost Parker Milner to graduation, the addition of incoming freshmen Thatcher Demko will fill the void left by Milner.
3. Notre Dame
Last season’s CCHA conference champion will join the Hockey East Association this season and will jump right into the fray for the top spot in the conference. Notre Dame is one of the top hockey schools in the country and will bring a ton of respectable seniors to the table for a run at the Hockey East title.
4. Boston University
The Terriers could finish the 2013-14 season as high as four and as low as eight with the tough competition in Hockey East this season. Last season, the Terriers had stretches of horrendous play and a surge towards the end of the season. After ending their season with a loss to UMass Lowell in the Hockey East tournament, the Terriers will look to return strong. However, which Terriers team will we see this coming season?
5. Providence College
The Friars and the UMass Lowell River Hawks can battle this season to see which team has the better goaltender, Jon Gillies of Providence or Connor Hellebuyck of UMass Lowell. Gillies will be the reason PC will succeed this season. Additionally, the Friars have Mark Jankowski who had a rough freshmen season, but will come out with a great sophomore campaign. The Friars could finish as high as four this season, but as low as eight.
6. New Hampshire
The Wildcats have the best offensive defender in the country in Trevor van Riemsdyk. Also returning for another season are D Eric Knodel, Kevin Goumas and Grayson Downing making the Wildcats a dangerous team to play. Look for UNH to have an outstanding penalty kill again this season (90.1% in 2012-13).
7. Merrimack College
Merrimack College will struggle to score goals once again this coming season. The Warriors will have Sam Marotta back in net for the 2013-14 season and top scoring threat Mike Collins is also back. Their defensive core will be lead once again by team captain Jordan Heywood. If the team can find scoring outside Collins this coming season, they may have a shot to finish higher in the rankings.
The Black Bears aren’t returning a single player who score double-digital goals for the upcoming season. They will have Martin Ouellette back in net, but will he be enough for them to compete this season? A positive sign is they have a great sophomore class returning from last season that will help lead the team forward under new head coach Red Gendron.
The Catamounts had a great rookie season from goaltender Brody Hoffman, an unexpected delight. Returning for his sophomore season, Hoffman should be a bolster to the school’s season expectations. Connor Brickley should be back in better form for the 2013-14 season as well.
The Terriers will struggle to get wins once again during the upcoming season. NU’s top offensive threat will be back in Kevin Roy. The Terriers will have a struggle in net, same as last season, but will have a great talented incoming class of freshmen headlined by Zach Aston-Reese.
The Minutemen are on the right path to success, but shed a few talented players following last season including goaltender Kevin Boyle, who will join the UMass Lowell River Hawks for the 2014-15 season. Massachusetts will struggle in most facets of the game this coming season and will likely finish in last place, although could reach 10th if Northeastern struggles.
Justin Soderberg is a Northeast Hockey Reporter for Inside Hockey, he also covers the UMass Lowell River Hawks for View from 123. Follow him on Twitter, connect with him on Facebook or add him to your circle on Google+.