By Jayson Hajdu
It’s the tightest conference race in NCAA Division I men’s hockey.
Just two points separate Hockey East leader Merrimack (30 points) and second-place Northeastern (28) and those two teams happen to square off Friday and Saturday in a home-and-home series. But it’s hardly a two-team race, with only four points separating first from fifth.
Besides their own head-to-head clash, Merrimack and Northeastern must also fend off UConn (27), Boston University (26) and Providence (26). UConn draws a home-and-home series with UMass, while BU hosts a two-game set with Maine. Providence is idle following Tuesday's non-conference loss to Princeton.
There’s certainly no shortage of intrigue in Hockey East this weekend, and it figures to stay that way for the remaining six weeks of the regular season.
Elsewhere around the country, this week’s top-20 PairWise matchups include:
- #1 Minnesota vs. #8 Michigan (Friday, Saturday)
- #2 Quinnipiac at #14 Cornell (Friday)
- #3 Penn State vs. #18 Notre Dame (Friday, Saturday)
- #4 Denver at #5 St. Cloud State (Friday, Saturday)
College Hockey News: Cooley focused on title with Gophers after whirlwind few months
College Hockey News: Meier’s return puts all the pieces in place for St. Cloud State
College Hockey News: Bowling Green’s Swankler flourishing after winding road
Lansing State Journal: Michigan State hockey has Munn buzzing again, back on track for tourney bid
New England Hockey Journal: 8 players who shined this weekend in New England college hockey
NHL.com: Martin St. Louis juggles being hockey dad, Canadiens coach
The Rink Live: Record $75 million gift makes on-campus St. Thomas hockey, hoops facility a reality
The Rink Live: Matt Cullen’s SCSU No. 9 retired with former teammates, coaches paying homage
Twin Cities Business: St. Thomas receives $75 million gift for new campus arena
USCHO: Martire Family Arena has successful first game, includes ‘elevated fan experience’
USCHO: Postgame Diamond Cutter celebrations becoming more prevalent as BGSU gains more victories
USCHO: Despite losing two teeth, CC netminder Mbereko ‘has arguably been our best player all year’
Inside Atlantic Hockey: Featuring Army head coach Brian Riley
Inside ECAC Hockey: Featuring Cornell senior forward Ben Berard
The American Pipeline: USA’s World Juniors, Chicago prospects and more
The CCHA Show: Featuring Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings, St. Thomas freshman Josh Eernisse
USCHO Weekend Review: Debut of two new arenas, rebounds for Denver and Michigan State
Fox61 (Hartford): UCOnn hockey coaches discuss brand new hockey arena
NCHCHockey.com: The Rise of the NCHC: A Decade in College Hockey (Episode One)
The University of St. Thomas announced Tuesday plans for a new on-campus arena with a targeted opening of fall 2025.
Several new college hockey arenas have debuted in the past two seasons, including Sacred Heart’s Martire Family Arena (1/14/23), UConn’s Toscano Family Ice Forum (1/13/23), Arizona State’s Mullett Arena (10/14/22) and Colorado College’s Ed Robson Arena (10/2/21).
Another new venue will join the college hockey landscape next fall, when Augustana University debuts its NCAA Division I men’s hockey program at Midco Arena in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Wisconsin freshman F Cruz Lucius (Grant, Minn.), who leads the Badgers with 23 points through 22 games, is bidding to join an exclusive club in Madison. According to UW Assistant Director of Brand Communications Paul Capobianco, Lucius is on pace to become just the sixth Badger freshman this century to average at least a point per game over a full season.
He would join a list that already includes Cole Caufield, Trent Frederic, Nic Kerdiles, Joe Pavelski and Dany Heatley, each of whom went on to play in the NHL.
Hats in the Mitten:
Only two players in college hockey have recorded multiple hat tricks this season and both happen to play in – and hail from – the state of Michigan.
Michigan State senior F Jagger Joshua (Dearborn, Mich.) scored three times Saturday against Penn State, his second hat trick on the year. He joined Western Michigan senior F Jason Polin (Holt, Mich.), who has managed the feat an incredible five times this season.
Five current or committed college hockey players were listed among the top eight North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting midterm rankings released last Friday. Michigan freshman F Adam Fantilli (Nobleton, Ontario) was ranked No. 2 on the list, one of 10 future or current NCAA players ranked in the top 28. Additionally, three of the top four North American goalies are NCAA bound.
The 2023 NHL Draft will be held June 28-29 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
You Can Quote Me On That:
“It was an unbelievable feeling. I blacked out during the celebration.”
-- Sacred Heart sophomore D Conner Hutchison (Hicksville, N.Y.) on scoring the first-ever goal at Martire Family Arena (source: SacredHeartPioneers.com).
NHL Note of the Week:
Winnipeg LW Kyle Connor (Michigan, 2015-16) reached one significant NHL milestone Tuesday and is quickly approaching two others. Connor scored his 200th career goal in Tuesday’s loss in Montreal, and he’ll enter tonight’s game in Toronto with 298 career assists and 398 career points.
In 45 games this season, Connor leads the Jets with 54 points and ranks second with 22 goals.
Fries at the Bottom of the Bag:
Bowling Green sophomore F Austen Swankler (North Huntingdon, Pa.) is riding a nation’s-best 16-game point streak, with 10 goals and 19 assists in that stretch ... Swankler’s BGSU teammate, senior F Taylor Schneider (Lakeville, Minn.), notched his 100th career point Saturday … Four of Boston University freshman D Lane Hutson’s (North Barrington, Ill.) eight goals this season have been game-winners. All four of those GWG have come in the third period or overtime … Western Michigan junior F Luke Grainger (Montreal, Que.) tied the NCHC single-game record with six points (two goals, four assists) in Saturday’s 7-6 win at North Dakota … The Hockey Humanitarian Award Foundation announced the 15 nominees for this year’s honor on Wednesday.
College Hockey Inc. Resources:
- College Hockey Inc. Media Center
- College Hockey National Pronunciation Guide
- NHL Matchup Tool
- NCAA Alums in the NHL This Season
- Former Collegians in NHL Front Offices
- College Players With 1,000 NHL Games
- NHL Draft Picks Playing in the NCAA
Did you know? 93% of NCAA Division I men’s hockey players earn their degree!