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Hockey East schedule: BC ready for big rivalry weekend; Maine plays key set at UMass-Lowell

After a very structured weekend of league games in the rear view mirror, Hockey East takes a break from that but embarks on a challenging slate over the course of the next three evenings. If one does seek highlight games in the bunch, however, they will be easily apparent as the nation's dominant squad will play in a pair of must-see contests.

The top-ranked Boston College Eagles are in the midst of a six-game winning streak and will face their toughest challenge yet in No. 8 Notre Dame on Friday at Kelley Rink. For the 14th time since 1995-96, the hockey squads will tangle on the eve of the much-anticipated Holy War football match-up. This year's match will break a tie in the historical series between the programs as the squads are 7-7-1 when meeting in Chestnut Hill.

BC owns the nation's best power play at 40 percent and is tied with Union (5-0-1) for the nation's longest unbeaten streak. Senior Steven Whitney and sophomore Johnny Gaudreau each enter the weekend with seven-game point streaks on the line.

The Irish, which join Hockey East as its 11th member next season, currently lead the Central Collegiate Hockey Association standings with a 3-1-0 record (6-0-2 overall). After finishing behind junior T.J. Tynan last season, junior winger and team captain Anders Lee leads UND with five goals, nine points, and 30 shots through eight games.

Following Friday's match-up, focus shifts to the other end of Commonwealth Avenue where the Boston University Terriers will await their Green Line foes following their Friday shuttle to Merrimack's Lawler Arena.

Rookie Matt O'Connor leads No. 11/12 BU into his Friday night start with the conference's only unbeaten record at 3-0-0. Senior captain Wade Megan has scored in five of the previous six games, while classmate and fellow New Yorker Sean Escobedo assisted on the tying and winning goals (by junior Matt Nieto and freshman Matt Lane, respectively) in a 4-2 win on Saturday at North Dakota.

The Warriors host a pair of games this weekend at Lawler Arena as another future Hockey East foe makes its way to North Andover for the second consecutive year in the Connecticut Huskies. In the last four games, junior Mike Collins has been on an absolute tear as the Boston native and Catholic Memorial product has posted a league-best ten points, including seven assists.

Merrimack is 4-for-4 in its last four meetings with the Huskies, including a 5-0 shutout on Oct. 22, 2011. Junior Sam Marotta, a Bridgewater, Mass. native, made his first-career start in that game and made 25 saves.

UMass-Lowell returns from close to a two-week hiatus to face a struggling Maine team twice at Tsongas Center this weekend. The River Hawks scored at least four goals in each of last year's wins over Maine and look for some of that offensive surge to continue, led by junior Josh Holmstrom. UML had not beaten Maine on the road in consecutive games since 1985, but the Black Bears used 35 saves from now-junior Dan Sullivan to earn a 2-1 win on Feb. 11.

Maine has lost eight of its first nine games and is currently in the midst of an uncharacteristic six-game losing skid. The Black Bears have scored just ten goals on the season, but they have come from nine different scorers. Sophomore Connor Leen has scored twice, while senior Joey Diamond's goal and three assists for four points also lead the team.

After suffering a tough Sunday loss at BC, UMass will look to get back on the winning track when it hosts Providence on Friday at Mullins Center. The Friars, which are set to finish a three-game conference road trip, are unbeaten in their last six games with the Minutemen.

PC also captured last year's season series between the two sides, 2-0-1. Senior defenseman Myles Harvey has dished out seven assists to lead the Friar team so far this season, while classmate Tim Schaller is coming off of skating in his 100th-career game.

Another border rivalry meets for the first time this season on Saturday night as Vermont looks to form a winning streak as it takes on No. 9 New Hampshire at Whittemore Center in a match-up that features a pair of strong goaltenders in the early going.

Catamount rookie Brody Hoffman posted a 24-save performance in Saturday's 2-0 home win over Providence - the first shutout of his career. In UVM's split, Hoffman stopped 45 of 48 total shots to earn co-Rookie of the Week honors with BU's O'Connor.

On the other end, sophomore year has been stellar for UNH's Casey DeSmith as he has posted a league-high 197 saves while leading the Wildcats to a 5-1-1 record and two shutouts. The Rochester, N.H. native has captured Defensive Player of the Week honors from Hockey East in each of the last three weeks, thanks to a season-high 42-save shutout at Maine on Sunday.

As a team, the 'Cats are a perfect 4-0 thus far at Whittemore Center and will be taking the home ice just twice in November. UNH is also off to its best start since 2007-08 when its record was identical through seven contests. Led by senior Connor Hardowa's eight assists, the defense corps is third in the nation and has allowed just 1.57 goals per-game.

For the first time in Northeastern program history, the Huskies will take on Alabama-Huntsville twice at Matthews Arena this weekend. The Hounds are winless in their last five games and will look to break that trend in stepping away from league play for the first time this year. Freshman Mike McMurtry posted his first-career multi-point game in Saturday's 4-2 loss at Merrimack, while sophomore Ludwig Karlsson scored his inaugural goal of the year in Friday's 5-2 home setback.

Friday, November 9
Providence at Massachusetts, 7 p.m.
Maine at UMass-Lowell, 7 p.m.
Notre Dame at Boston College, 7 p.m.
Boston University at Merrimack, 7:30 p.m. (WBIN)

Saturday, November 10
Maine at UMass-Lowell, 7 p.m.
Vermont at New Hampshire, 7 p.m.
Alabama-Huntsville at Northeastern, 7 p.m.
Connecticut at Merrimack, 7 p.m.

Sunday, November 11
Boston College at Boston University, 5 p.m. (NESN)
Alabama-Huntsville at Northeastern, 7 p.m.

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