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Hockey East schedule: Rare pre-holiday weekend features league contests

With Thanksgiving now under a week away, Hockey East takes a slight break with a lighter weekend schedule before next week's holiday. All ten teams will be in league action on Friday, preceding an idle Saturday and contests on Sunday and Tuesday.

Top-ranked Boston College plays just one game this weekend, hosting Merrimack on Friday at Kelley Rink in the first meeting of the season between the two Catholic league rivals. Following a 3-1 loss at Northeastern on Oct. 13, the Eagles have rattled off eight consecutive games, including a pair last week against fellow ranked opponents and archrivals Notre Dame and Boston University.

Eagle sophomore Johnny Gaudreau was named Hockey East Player of the Week after three goals, including two in Friday's 3-1 victory over the No. 8 Irish and both game-winners. Senior Parker Milner was named the league's Defensive Player of the Week following a 44-save weekend to post his eighth and ninth victories, including 25 in a 4-2 win on Sunday evening at Agganis Arena.

Merrimack saw its four-game unbeaten streak snapped with a pair of 3-1 losses to BU and future conference foe Connecticut at Lawler Arena last weekend. The defeat to UConn on Sunday was the Warriors' first to an Atlantic Hockey foe since 2006.

Things will not get easier as junior Mike Collins leads Merrimack into Kelley Rink, where it is 0-23-2 in its last 25 games and the team's senior class has yet to earn more than a point. Collins, a Catholic Memorial product and Boston native, saw an impressive seven-game point streak snapped on Saturday. Junior captain Jordan Heywood is tied for the national lead for goals by a defender with four and is also tied in Hockey East with eight points.

Vermont hosts a pair of Beantown opponents at Gutterson Fieldhouse this weekend, welcoming in Boston University and Northeastern for Friday and Sunday contests to open a very busy stretch of five games in nine days.

The No. 11 Terriers own a 5-0-1 edge in recent meetings with UVM and seek their fourth road victory of the season in Burlington. Currently, sophomore Cason Hohmann is tied for third in the nation with a +9 rating, while Rookie of the Week Matt Grzelcyk is one of just three defensemen in college hockey with at least one point per-game.

Focusing on Sunday's match, the Huskies, who will also take on Providence on Friday at Schneider Arena, seek their fourth in a row over the Catamounts after sweeping last year's season series.

NU hit .500 on the season with two victories over Alabama-Huntsville this past weekend at Matthews Arena. The Huskies saw sophomore assistant captain Ludwig Karlsson break out of the minus with three goals in the series, while senior Chris Rawlings posted his tenth-career shutout in a 3-0 win on Saturday to break Brad Thiessen's previous school record in a career.

The Friars return home from a 1-2-0 road swing to host the Huskies on Friday in the first meeting between the teams since a pair of ties last February in Boston. However, the Huskies have a five-game unbeaten streak (2-0-3) over Providence. It will be NU's first look at Friar rookie Jon Gillies, who decommitted from the Huskies this winter, and has since made 26 or more saves in six of nine games.

Following its long trek to UVM, BU returns to Agganis Arena on Sunday to host No. 6 New Hampshire in a rematch of UNH's 4-1 win at home on Oct. 20. Entering their Friday game at UMass-Lowell, the Wildcats stand at 6-1-1 following a 4-0 victory over Vermont on Saturday at Whittemore Center and are off to their best start since 2003.

Wildcat second-year stopper Casey DeSmith has already posted three shutouts on the season and the second in as many games came on Saturday as he became the first UNH netminder to pitch back-to-back blankings since Kevin Regan in the 2007 Hockey East quarterfinals.

UMass has a busy weekend of travel with a Friday game at Maine and a Sunday date with UMass-Lowell at Mullins Center. Kevin Boyle is off to a great start in his sophomore season between the pipes, sporting a 1.59 goals-against average and .940 save percentage - the sixth-best marks in the nation and the second in Hockey East. Friday's 4-0 shutout of Providence was Boyle's first for the Mass Attack, despite making just 17 saves.

Coming off a 4-3 win at Tsongas Center on Saturday, the Black Bears will be facing UMass for their only game of the weekend with a winning streak in sight. They tied a season-high with four goals in the contest, while three of five golas in the weekend split came from freshmen. Junior Martin Ouellette seems to make solidified the starting role after posting his first win in over one full year on Saturday, playing strong all weekend.

The River Hawks won five of their six combined meetings over their two weekend opponents and are coming off last weekend's split, which included a 2-1 win on Friday. UML had not won a game when scoring less than three goals since Mar. 12, 2010 and looks to junior Josh Holmstrom to keep up his team-leading offensive output.

Following the late-ending weekend, a pair of games will take place on Tuesday night, including the annual match between UMass and Vermont two nights before Thanksgiving. Providence also plays host to Quinnipiac at Schneider Arena as it only plays one game during the weekend.

Friday, November 16
Merrimack at Boston College, 7 p.m.
Massachusetts at Maine, 7 p.m.
New Hampshire at UMass-Lowell, 7 p.m.
Northeastern at Providence, 7 p.m. (Cox)
Boston University at Vermont, 7:05 p.m.

Sunday, November 18
New Hampshire at Boston University, 1 p.m.
UMass-Lowell at Massachusetts, 7 p.m. (CBS3)
Northeastern at Vermont, 7:05 p.m. (WCAXtra)

Tuesday, November 20
Vermont at Massachusetts, 7 p.m. (CBS3)
Quinnipiac at Providence, 7 p.m.

Joshua Kummins is the Hockey East beat writer and a weekend editor for SB Nation Boston. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaKummins.