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Hockey East Power Rankings: BC on top; Lowell, UNH battling key injuries

01.27.14 at 8:53 pm ET
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The Beanpot is a week away and everyone in Hockey East has completed more than half of their league schedule, so this is a perfect time for some power rankings as we gear up for the stretch run.

1. Boston College (18-4-3, 11-1-1 HE)
Every other spot in these rankings is debatable, but the top one is not. The Eagles are 10-0-1 in their last 11, and they’€™re six points clear of the field in the league standings. The top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Bill Arnold and Kevin Hayes has combined for a ridiculous 26 goals and 41 assists in their 11 games playing together. Gaudreau is riding a 20-game point streak and leads the country with 50 points (22g, 28a), while Hayes has a 12-game point streak and ranks second with 45 points (19g, 26a). Both should be Hobey Baker finalists, and Gaudreau is the odds-on favorite to win the award right now.

2. UMass-Lowell (16-7-2, 6-4-1 HE)
I hesitate to put the River Hawks this high given their injury situation, but after watching them demolish Providence on Saturday night, I can’€™t really justify putting them any lower. The injury situation is that four key players — forwards Scott Wilson and Ryan McGrath and defensemen Zack Kamrass and Jake Suter — got hurt Friday night, and all four missed Saturday’€™s game. Coach Norm Bazin didn’€™t provide any information on the injuries, but it sounds like Kamrass and Suter are more day-to-day, while Wilson and McGrath could potentially miss a significant amount of time. Lowell’€™s strength is its depth rather than its stars, but losing two of its top six scorers would obviously be a pretty big blow.

3. Providence (15-6-5, 7-5-1 HE)
The Friars just haven’€™t looked right in the second half, as they’€™re now 3-4-2 since Christmas. Part of that has been the surprisingly subpar play of Jon Gillies — the usually excellent netminder has an .886 save percentage in six games since returning from the World Junior Championships. The offense has struggled, too, as the Friars have scored two goals or fewer in six of their last eight games. They had scored five-plus in the two games prior to Saturday’€™s loss, though, so that might give them something to build off.

4. Northeastern (15-8-3, 8-5-1 HE)
I’€™m still worried about the fact that the Huskies are being outshot by 5.42 shots per game (the second-worst differential in Hockey East), and I’€™ll continue to be worried until/unless it changes, which I’€™m not sure it will. The Huskies are benefiting immensely from the fact that Clay Witt (.943 save percentage) has been the best goalie in the country this year, and they’€™ll need him to stay hot if they’€™re going to challenge for championships. Pushing the shot concerns aside, I’€™d be remiss not to mention that Northeastern is second in Hockey East and seventh in the Pairwise (the rankings used to determine the NCAA field).

5. Maine (12-9-3, 6-4-2 HE)
It’€™s not quite Gaudreau/Hayes territory, but Devin Shore has six goals and 12 assists in his last 10 games, which is still pretty darn good. Maine is in good shape in the league (currently fourth), but it’€™s just 21st in the Pairwise. The splits between the Black Bears at home vs. on the road are just amazing. At home, they’€™re 10-1-0 with 4.55 goals per game and a 1.64 goals against average. On the road, they’€™re 0-8-2 with 1.50 goals per game and a 3.20 goals against average. Needless to say, they’€™ll want to make sure they finish in the top four and get home ice for the quarterfinals.

6. Notre Dame (15-9-1, 4-6-1 HE)
The Fighting Irish are the opposite of the Black Bears. They’€™re struggling in the league (currently eighth), but they’€™re in pretty good shape in the Pairwise (12th) thanks to an 11-3-0 record in non-conference games. One point of concern is that Steven Summerhays has an .894 save percentage since the start of December (8 games). Most recently, he gave up four goals on seven shots Friday night before bouncing back with a 36-save shutout on Saturday.

7. Vermont (13-9-3, 5-7-0 HE)
These next two are basically a toss-up, but I give Vermont the slight edge for now because I still need to see more of UNH without Trevor van Riemsdyk. The Catamounts won the Catamount Cup to open the second half, but they’€™ve split every week since and are now 19th in the Pairwise. Fifth-year senior Chris McCarthy (13g, 14a) is having the best season of his career and has registered eight goals and five assists in the last nine games.

8. New Hampshire (14-13-1, 6-6-0 HE)
The Wildcats earned a split against Maine in their first series without two of their best players — defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk (4g, 19a) is likely out until at least the postseason with a fractured ankle, while forward Grayson Downing (9g, 7a) is expected to miss a few more weeks with a shoulder injury. Obviously how they play without those guys is something to monitor. Casey DeSmith has recovered from a rough stretch from early December to early January by posting a .931 save percentage over the last six games.

9. Merrimack (7-13-3, 2-7-2 HE)
Big drop-off from eight to nine. These bottom three are interchangeable, but I’€™ll give the Warriors ninth because they at least have some decent results in the last month (splits against Quinnipiac and Clarkson and a tie against Providence). Merrimack still ranks last in the league in offense with 2.00 goals per game.

10. UMass (7-16-3, 3-8-2 HE)
And I put the Minutemen ahead of BU because they at least have more than one win since the start of December. They’€™re 10th in the league in both offense and defense. One of the most fascinating UMass stats is that after winning 59.5 percent of his faceoffs last year (the best mark in Hockey East), Branden Gracel is winning just 44.5 percent of his draws this year.

11. Boston University (8-14-2, 3-8-1 HE)
The Terriers are 1-8-1 since the start of December and they’€™re getting outshot by 10.38 shots per game on the season — the worst mark in Hockey East and third worst in the entire country (the only two worse are American International and Alabama-Huntsville, which is some pretty bad company to be in). Oh, and their best player — Bruins draft pick Matt Grzelcyk — is done for the season with a shoulder injury. The bright spot for BU fans is that the Terriers’€™ next few recruiting classes are absolutely stacked, so there could (and should) be a pretty quick turnaround.

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