When the calendar gets ready to hit December, it is safe to say that the college hockey season is revving into high gear and every game begins to mean that much more. The contenders and pretenders (and the playoff picture, if you can believe it) will be even clearer as this weekend draws to a close.
This weekend's Hockey East slate is highlighted by the second and final regular-season installments of "The Battle of Commonwealth Avenue" between top-ranked Boston College and No. 9 Boston University on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Mike "Doc" Emrick and Pierre McGuire will call the national broadcast for NBC Sports Network on both nights.
The two Green Line rivals met just 19 days ago at Agganis Arena, where Friday's game will take place, with BC earning a 4-2 win. The Eagles have enjoyed success in the league's other Comm. Ave. establishment, having won or tied ten of the 12 meetings between the teams in the arena's history.
Friday's contest marks the 260th in the all-time series and could see another chapter added to the series' history as BC head coach Jerry York would tie Ron Mason's NCAA Division I all-time record (924) with another road victory.
Thanks to his 21-save shutout of St. Lawrence on Saturday, Sean Maguire was named Hockey East Pro Ambitions Rookie of the Week, becoming the third Terrier to earn the honor this year. Senior Wade Megan (five goals, one assist) and junior Matt Nieto (three goals, three assists), who both rank in the top five on the team in scoring, each have six career points against BC.
The Terriers have won four of their last six games with the two losses coming against the nation's top two teams currently - the Eagles and New Hampshire on consecutive Sundays, Nov. 11 and 18.
Suffering its first scare in some time at the hands of No. 11 Dartmouth, the top-ranked Eagles rallied for a dominant third period in a 6-3 home win on Saturday. Sophomore Johnny Gaudreau posted a career-high five points in the contest, becoming BC's first five-point scorer in a single game since 2007.
The top line of Gaudreau and seniors Steven Whitney and Pat Mullane accounted for the only three goals of the third period, as well as 12 points in the game, to lead the offense in their tenth victory in as many games.
Riding a six-game unbeaten streak and a win last Saturday at then-No. 2 Denver, New Hampshire faces UMass-Lowell in a home-and-home set, beginning Friday at Whittemore Center. Sophomore Casey DeSmith's 23 saves lifted the 'Cats to a 3-0 win in the first meeting of the season series on Nov. 16.
UNH's 6-4 victory over the Pioneers saw junior Kevin Goumas, the reigning Hockey East Player of the Week, and sophomore Grayson Downing each record hat tricks.
UML has won three of its last five games, including a combined score of 11-3 in its last two wins at UMass and against Princeton. River Hawk sophomore Scott Wilson has come into a zone of late with six points over the previous pair of contests.
Cellar-dwelling Maine continues and concludes its three-game homestand with a pair of key league bouts with Vermont at Alfond Arena this weekend. Friday's 8 p.m. game will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network with Eric Frede and veteran National Hockey League scout Dave Starman on the call. There is a lot on the line for a pair of sides that have struggled quite a bit this season, having scored at an average clip well below two goals per-game.
The Black Bears own a 7-1-1 record in the last nine head-to-head bouts with the Catamounts, including four wins in a row, but the teams have split the last six meetings in Orono.
Maine will see its first action since a 2-2 tie with UMass on Nov. 16. Senior captain Joey Diamond enters the weekend with goals in four straight games against the Catamounts, while rookie Devin Shore's five assists and six points top the team.
UVM battled hard in a pair of close losses to No. 3 Minnesota last weekend at Gutterson Fieldhouse as sophomore Jacob Fallon and senior Brett Bruneteau scored goals. In addition, the Catamounts have killed off 36 of their last 40 power plays and were 8-of-9 against the Gophers' sixth-ranked attack last weekend.
Providence and Merrimack are separated by just a single point in the league standings as the sides set for battle in a weekend set. The Friars are riding high after rookie Jon Gillies paced the squad with 35 saves in a 7-0 shutout of Brown on Saturday, while the Warriors look to break a four-game winless streak as they oppose a squad that took the season series with two victories last season.
MC hosts the series opener and its final Hockey East league game of the calendar year on Friday night. Junior Mike Collins still leads the conference with 12 points on four goals and eight assists in league play this year.
With a Husky career-best point streak of seven consecutive games intact, senior Vinny Saponari and Northeastern face UMass in a vital series that begins at Mullins Center on Friday. Including a 5-2 loss to St. Lawrence on Black Friday, NU has lost its last three games and will seek its first league win since beating Boston College on Oct. 13.
The Minutemen were 1-0-1 last week, beating UVM last Tuesday before drawing with Quinnipiac this past weekend. Junior Conor Sheary scored the second shorthanded goal of the campaign for the Mass Attack in the 2-2 tie as his team looks to get ahead of NU, after a 1-1-1 season set last year.
Friday, November 30
Northeastern at Massachusetts, 7 p.m. (CBS3)
Providence at Merrimack, 7:30 p.m.
Boston College at Boston University, 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
UMass-Lowell at New Hampshire, 7:30 p.m. (WBIN)
Vermont at Maine, 8 p.m. (CBSSN)
Saturday, December 1
Vermont at Maine, 7 p.m. (The CW Bangor)
New Hampshire at UMass-Lowell, 7 p.m.
Merrimack at Providence, 7 p.m.
Massachusetts at Northeastern, 7 p.m.
Boston University at Boston College, 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
Wednesday, December 5
Vermont at Dartmouth, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)
Joshua Kummins is the Hockey East beat writer and a weekend editor for SB Nation Boston. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaKummins.