Hockey East schedule: League games at UML, NU highlight weekend action

With the completion of preseason exhibition play last weekend, the Hockey East regular season hits high gear this weekend with two full slates of games on Friday and Saturday night, although only two of those contests will involve two league teams facing off.

UMass-Lowell hosts the lone league game this evening from Tsongas Center, while defending NCAA champion Boston College kicks off its season at Northeastern on Saturday.

With high expectations and a No. 5 national ranking on their shoulders, the River Hawks, who were picked second according to the Hockey East coaches poll, welcome Vermont to town for a 7 p.m. Friday start. Last Saturday, junior Joseph Pendenza paced the River Hawks with a pair of goals in a 5-2 win over Toronto in their first test of the season.

UML took two of the three games against the Catamounts last season, including 3-1 and 6-4 scores last February at Tsongas Center. However, the River Hawks lost just one game when leading after two periods last season as Vermont came back for a 3-2 win in overtime, thanks to a goal from senior Brett Bruneteau. The teams will be meeting for just the second time in a season-opening contest but for the first time under that circumstance since 1979.

UVM, which finished deep in last place a season ago, opened up with a 7-1 drubbing of Concordia at Gutterson Fieldhouse in their exhibition contest. The Catamout line of H.T. Lenz, Kyle Mountain, and Tobias Nilsson-Roos combined for four goals and ten points in the contest.

The Northeastern Huskies won their league opener on Wednesday night as they defeated No. 18 Merrimack by a 4-2 count at Matthews Arena, but things will get a whole lot tougher with the top-ranked Maroon and Gold invading Matthews Arena on Saturday night as part of Homecoming Weekend.

Freshman Kevin Roy and senior captain Vinny Saponari each posted a goal and an assist to tackle the Warriors, while senior assistant captain Robbie Vrolyk became the first player in the nation to score a shorthanded goal when he iced the victory in the final minute. BC's lone action to date was a 6-0 shutout of the visiting New Brunswick Varsity Reds on Saturday at Kelley Rink.

NU and BC have engaged in some fierce battles in the past several years with seven of the last eight games being decided by a goal or less. However, the Eagles won all four meetings last season, including a 7-1 drubbing in the Beanpot Tournament semifinals at TD Garden.

Maine looks to continue Hockey East's dominance in the annual IceBreaker Tournament, which takes place at the Sprint Center in Kansas City this year. A Hockey East team has has won the title in nine of the first 15 years of the four-team, tournament-style competition. Despite conference Rookie of the Week Steven Swavely's first-collegiate goal, the Black Bears fell to Quinnipiac in the team's season opener last Saturday night, 2-1.

New Hampshire head coach Dick Umile is one win away from a milestone as his Wildcats open the regular season by hosting a pair of games against St. Cloud State at the Whittemore Center, returning a trip that his team made to the Huskies last season. Umile would become one of just six active (and 15 all-time) coaches to reach the elusive milestone of 500 wins at the Division I level.

UNH will be bolstered by the return of junior Dalton Speelman, whose season was cut short due to surgery last year. The San Jose, Calif. native returned to form with a goal in the Wildcats' 5-2 win over St. Francis Xavier on Saturday. Sophomore Casey DeSmith and junior Jeff Wyer will likely each see some time in the early going.

Providence opens its home schedule against Atlantic Hockey foe Sacred Heart on Friday at Schneider Arena as the Friars look for their fourth victory in as many years to begin the season. The Friars, which return seven of their top eight scorers from a season ago, including sophomore Ross Mauermann, are back on the ice on Saturday at Boston University's Agganis Arena for their first league contest of the young campaign.

Terrier freshman goaltenders Sean Maguire and Matt O'Connor combined to shut down Toronto 5-0 in an exhibition contest - the first action each saw in a collegiate uniform.

UMass hosts Connecticut at Mullins Center in the first meeting since 2008 between the two border rivals. Led by first-year head coach John Micheletto, the Minutemen will look to extend their success against the Huskies as they currently own a 27-7-2 mark in the all-time series.

SCHEDULE

Friday, October 12
Vermont at UMass-Lowell, 7 p.m.
Connecticut at Massachusetts, 7 p.m. (CBS3)
St. Cloud State at New Hampshire, 7:30 p.m. (WBIN)
Sacred Heart at Providence, 7 p.m.
IceBreaker Tournament in Kansas City: Maine vs. Notre Dame, 7 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)

Saturday, October 13
Providence at Boston University, 7 p.m.
Boston College at Northeastern, 7 p.m.
St. Cloud State at New Hampshire, 7 p.m.
IceBreaker Tournament in Kansas City: Maine vs. Army/Nebraska-Omaha, 4:30/7:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)

Follow @JoshuaKummins on Twitter for Hockey East news and updates all season long.

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