Sunday, October 3, 2010

My Hockey East and BU Lines Breakdown

Apparently now we officially have found out the length of Corey Trivino's suspension, which will extend for the Toronto exhibition game and the two games of the opening season IceBreaker Tournament. This was expected. What we didn't already know was that sophomore Alex Chiasson will also be suspended for the same period for another, unrelated violation of team rules. I'm annoyed that they'll miss those games but in the grand scheme of things, it'd be much worse to miss HEA games and hopefully this'll be motivation to perform in a much stronger manner this year.

Speaking of HEA-here's my take on how things will shake down...

1)BC--It's hard to argue against these guys with the return of a likely improved and almost entirely intact core from last year's championship team. I don't like 'em, you don't like 'em, but lets face it, they are the team this year returning the most proven talent in the conference. Much as I hate to say it, I'd be surprised to see John Muse fail to carry them to another HEA regular season if not tournament title this year. There's just too much talent returning to have anything be the expected result.

2) BU--Flash back 2 years. A talented BU team suffers through a bad season of lackluster goaltending and overall messy play and winds up with an early loss at the garden in the HEA semis to end their season. What happened next year? A team with an enormous chip on its shoulder roars back to have one of the best seasons in college hockey history on their way to winning a national championship. I think last year could serve to motivate this year's team in a similar fashion. Kieran Millan cannot possibly be as bad as last year (and if he struggles Rollheiser is a great 2nd option), star freshmen like Clendening, Nieto and Colin Wil--sorry, I mean Charlie Coyle should fill holes nicely and players like Chiasson, Nicastro, Escobedo and Trivino should take big steps forward. I think this team has a huge amount of potential if they don't lose focus like last year's team did so dramatically.

3) Maine--Gustav Nyquist may be the best player in the country this year. That notwithstanding, I don't think Maine's high octane offense can compensate for what was a very lackluster defense last year. Sure, they're almost all back, but when they weren't that great to begin with, it still is a sign that the unit may hamper the Black Bears all year. Unless incoming goalie Martin Ouellette comes up huge as a backstop, the offense's efforts may be hampered by shoddy defense.

4) UNH--I put them here before this weekend but with the benefit of hindsight following their tie against SFX, I'm feeling a lot more comfortable about it. Losing Butler and Foster is a huge cut out for the team, especially one that stumbled so notably down the stretch last year. Especially if BU's freshman class steps up (and I strongly suspect they will), UNH simply cannot compete with the Terriers, Nyquist-led Maine and everyone-led BC.

5) Merrimack--I almost considered picking these guys over UNH. Stephane Da Costa is the real deal and the Warriors almost certainly could challenge for playoff home ice if any of the big four stumble. In fact, Da Costa could challenge Nyquist for HE POY and could be a Hobey dark horse. They have almost no major losses and should be prepared for a historic year as far as their program goes. Then again, everyone said that about Lowell last year, and we know how that turned out for them.

6) Vermont--Somehow this team seems to year in and year out stay around the middle of the pack in the conference and steal an NCAA bid. I expect them to finish around where they did last year or thereabouts, but if HEA gets a fifth bid this year, I think it'll be the 'mack. Too much depends on their freshmen to step up and for G Rob Madore to just be perfect in goal.

7) UMass-Lowell--No one's gonna be over-estimating these guys this year. That gives their better players, including Maury Edwards to step up and return to form without the glare of spotlights that the team was thrust into last season. They have a few solid players and I think they could steal a playoff spot in what probably will be a tight race for 7-9 in the league this year.

8) Providence--After a few very poor years, the team should at least take enough of a step forward to grab a playoff spot, led by star G Alex Beaudry and a potentially dazzling freshman F Damian Cross. The backstop quality and a relatively solid defensive corps pushes this team slightly ahead of 9th place, and possibly could challenge Lowell for 7th.

9)Northeastern--despite Chris Rawling's best efforts, this will not be the year that the Huskies return to the upper echelon of HEA. Other than at goalie, the team is entirely unproven, and the return of injured F Steve Quailer will not be enough to push the team up the standings. Another year of missing the conference tournament may be all the Mathews faithful can expect this year.

10) UMass--I will be stunned if this team finishes above 10th place. After losing Wellman, Marcou and Irwin, the cupboard is utterly bare. Buckle up Amherst, this is gonna be a rough year.

All-HEA Team
F Cam Atkinson, BC
F Gustav Nyquist, Maine
F Stephane Da Costa, 'Mack
D David Warsofsky, BU
D Maury Edwards, UML
G Alex Beaudry, PC

Second Team
F Brian Gibbons, BC
F Charlie Coyle, BU
F Paul Thompson, UNH
D Blake Kessel, UNH
D Brian Dumoulin, BC
G Kieran Millan, BU


My projected lines for YOUR BOSTON TERRIERS:

Connolly - Coyle - Chiasson
--I think Coyle will be the go to playmaker on the team unless proven otherwise
Nieto - Trivino - Pereira
--Should be solid. Leadership, grit and playmaking ability combined on this line
Gaudet - Megan - Cisse
--Gaudet and Megan played C against Toronto, but I think both are too talented to play on the fourth line. Cisse could be phenomenal if not hampered by his severe tendon injury from last year.
Glass - Gill - Santana
--I think this is a wide open line where Courtnall, Ronan, Gilroy could all make a run at spots on the rotation, especially Courtnall. Santana's grit, speed and hustle give him the edge and Glass showed signs of potential last year. Gill has a shot to move up as well if anyone falters up the chart.

Warsofsky - Nicastro
--Purely the two biggest defensive talents on the team. Both have all-conference potential (with Warsofsky a likely lock in my mind).
Escobedo - Clendening
--Will be a gritty and tough defensive pairing; like having two Grybas together
Noonan - MacGregor
--Just a hunch. I think we'll want MacGregor's grittiness and Noonan is a highly touted recruit who could make a huge difference for the team

Starting Goalie--Kieran Millan
--John Muse had a bad sophomore year after winning the NC as a freshman and look how his junior year turned out?

Bench--Ronan, Ruikka, Rosen, Courtnall, Gilroy, Rollheiser, Kraus

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