With the calendar flipped to 2013, Hockey East gets back to work with two nights chock full of non-conference games, as well as a single league game on Saturday night at Vermont's Gutterson Fieldhouse.
Leading the way is a Top 20 battle as ECAC foe and No. 17 Yale meets its toughest challenge yet - the No. 2 Boston College Eagles on Friday night at Kelley Rink. The Eagles will be without the services of sophomore Johnny Gaudreau (Team USA in World Junior Championships) and senior defenseman Patch Alber (tore meniscus last Saturday), but seek their third win in five games.
The teams met on Nov. 26, 2011 at Ingalls Rink in New Haven and current New York Rangers product Chris Kreider scored the game-winner to beat the 'Dogs, 3-2. BC handily leads the all-time series, 43-11.
Kenny Agostino and Antoine Lagainere each posted a point in last year's meeting for the Bulldogs and now lead the team in scoring with a combined 33 points. Junior Gus Young of Dedham is the lone Massachusetts native on the roster, while rookie Rob O'Gara is a Milton Academy product and Boston Bruins prospect.
In the lone league game of the weekend, Merrimack returns to Burlington to face UVM on Saturday after competing in last weekend's Catamount Cup. Vermont took down the pair of ECAC schools - Union and Princeton - to capture the title for the third time in five years. Rookie Brody Hoffman made 44 combined saves on the weekend to win Defensive Player of the Week honors in Hockey East, while three forwards, including sophomore MVP Jacob Fallon, were named to the All-Tournament Team.
UMass-Lowell and Providence are each away for weekend excursions to conclude their respective non-conference schedules. Following a 3-2 win over Bentley on Sunday, the River Hawks head to Potsdam, N.Y. for a pair with ECAC foe Clarkson, while the Friars see action for the first time since Dec. 20 at No. 14 Minnesota State.
Lowell will be facing the Golden Knights for the first time since 2004 as they begin a four-game road swing (which also hits Vermont next weekend) and seek a fifth straight win in the all-time series. For his shutouts of Northeastern and Harvard in December, rookie Connor Hellebuyck was named Hockey East Goaltender of the Month as he stopped 55 shots.
PC will commence its series with Mankato for the first time since 2003 and will meet the Mavericks for just the fifth time as a pair of games kick off on Friday in Verizon Wireless Center.
Freshman Jon Gillies is also at World Juniors, so senior Russ Stein will likely get the chance to follow up the career-high 28 saves he made in the 4-4 tie with Vermont. Senior Tim Schaller carries a four-game scoring streak (2-4=6) into the weekend, which is PC's first in Minnesota since 2010.
Junior Cody Ferriero and Hockey East Rookie of the Month Kevin Roy both re-wrote the Northeastern record books in last Saturday's 5-1 win over Harvard as the pair combined for five goals and four assists. The Huskies return to Matthews Arena to host Bentley this week.
Ferriero posted the second natural hat trick of his career in the contest, while Roy became the first NU skater since 2005 to post five points in a single game. Each were named to the league's weekly honor roll on Wednesday with Ferriero, an Essex, Mass. native, taking home a share of Player of the Week honors.
The Big Red Freakout travels north for the weekend as RPI brings its show to No. 9 Boston University and No. 4 New Hampshire for a pair of games. The Engineers are in the midst of four of their next five games on the road.
Things will look a bit different for the Scarlet and White on Friday. as senior captain Wade Megan and sophomore Alexx Privitera will both be absent from the line-up. Rookie Wes Myron will take Megan's spot on the top unit, while junior Jake Moscatel will make his BU varsity debut. For Saturday, the Wildcats seek a second straight victory after coming back to beat Bemidji State in overtime on Monday.
After taking back the Florida College Classic title, the Maine Black Bears will use to different venues to host Mercyhurst this weekend as the teams meet at Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland on Friday, before returning to Alfond Arena for the finale. Hockey East Co-Rookie of the Week Matt Morris made 22 saves in Saturday's tournament title game as he improved to 2-0-0 for his career with a 6-4 victory over No. 11 Cornell.
Friday, January 4
Yale at Boston College (7 p.m.)
Mercyhurst vs. Maine (7 p.m. at Cumberland County Civic Center, Portland)
UMass-Lowell at Clarkson (7 p.m.)
RPI at Boston University (7:30 p.m.)
Providence at Minnesota State (8:30 p.m.)
Saturday, January 5
Mercyhurst at Maine (7 p.m.)
Bentley at Northeastern (7 p.m.)
RPI at New Hampshire (7 p.m., WBIN)
UMass-Lowell at Clarkson (7 p.m.)
Merrimack at Vermont (7:30 p.m., CBSSN)
Providence at Minnesota State (8 p.m.)
Joshua Kummins is the Hockey East beat writer for SB Nation Boston. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaKummins.