I’ve made up my list of the Top 10 matchups for Maine this season. Now note that this list could be different by later this year based on performance. But on paper in October I feel these are the biggest matchups.
vs. Vermont November 8-9, 2013 (Alfond Arena)
-While it is a conference matchup; there’s more prominent opponents on the schedule, I just don’t feel it’s as important as others. I feel this series will be a split at the Alfond.
vs. Umass-Lowell December 7, 2013 (Alfond Arena)
-This one was was close to making the list, but it’s date was the main factor in making this an honorable mention. It’s going to be a contentious game before the end of the semester, which could carry momentum into second half. But with other games on the schedule, this one gets pushed aside as a hypothetical #11 on this list.
(10) at Quinnipiac: January 4, 2014 (TD Bank Sports Center)
While it’s a non-conference matchup, it’s at the halfway point of the season. Maine was defeated by Quinnipiac at home last October. But with Frozen Fenway one week after this game, it could be a good warmup for taking on BU. Quinnipiac is #10 in the USCHO poll (9/30)
(9) at Umass: November 1-2, 2013 (Mullins Center)
Maine kicks off their Hockey East campaign against the Minutemen of Umass in a weekend series at Amherst. While it isn’t the biggest matchup (as evident for being #9), it’s the first Hockey East games for Maine and they need to get off on the right foot unlike previous years. Last year the series was split 1-1-1 including a tie at the Alfond back in Nov.
(8) at Merrimack: February 14-15, 2014 (Lawler Arena)
Merrimack has proven to be a worthy opponent to Maine over the last few years, with meetings in the 2011 & 2012 HE Quarterfinals. Maine has been catching up to Merrimack recently even though Maine lost 2 of 3 and drew the other game last year. But Maine could finally get over the hump and maybe win the series, if not split it evenly.
(7) Florida College Classic: vs. Princeton, then UNH/Cornell
December 28-29, 2013 (Germain Arena in Estero, FL)
The Florida College Classic is a tournament that in recent years have launched Maine towards the second half last year. Last year they won the tournament after beating Cornell in a comeback victory last year. While I don’t see Princeton as a challenge, playing either Cornell or UNH will be a good test for what will be the road ahead. Maine has won this tournament 3 out of the last 4 years.
(6) vs. Boston College: November 23, 2013 (Alfond Arena)
Eight days after Maine plays BU at Alfond, the Black Bears face an equally tougher opponent as the take on the BC Eagles. Maine has been the winner of the season series the last few years, but BC will look to win at the Alfond for a 2nd straight year after winning 4-2 over Maine last November, Maine took the other two on BC’s turf last January. The battles at the Alfond have been intense over the last couple of seasons. Maine will have a lot to prove to enter the conversation as a top dog in Hockey East, and beating BC would be a great way to start. BC enters as #4 in the USCHO poll (9/30) and was picked to win Hockey East in the Preseason Coaches Poll.
Last year’s battle felt like a David vs. Goliath battle, Maine went toe-to-toe with BC for 2 periods before BC pulled away, here’s the highlights from that Alfond battle.
(5) vs. Boston University: November 15, 2013
Before Maine takes on BC, they’re gonna host rival BU at the Alfond which has the possibility of being an epic battle. One big thing about this matchup is that both teams have new coaches following the retirement of Jack Parker of BU and the firing of Tim Whitehead of Maine. These two foes had three great games last year, BU won 1-0 at home in Dec ’12, then drew 3-3 and won 5-4 in OT at the Alfond back in Feb ’13. Maine will look to get some revenge before their big match at Fenway Park a month and a half later. Expect this match to be as intense as many recent ones. BU is #19 in the USCHO poll (9/30).
(4) @ New Hampshire: January 24, 2014 (Whittemore Center)
vs. New Hampshire: January 25, 2014 (Alfond Arena)
It’s the Border War once again, with the adjustment to the new Hockey East schedule, Maine and UNH will only play twice. Leading to a home-and-home series between these two foes in late January. They split the 2012-13 series 1-1-1 as each team took one in each other’s building and tied the 3rd matchup. Maine-UNH games are always good matchups and these shouldn’t be any different. These games take place in late-January, there will only be a month left of hockey after these two games. Maine will look to not only defeat their rival once again, but to jumpstart that final push of the season. UNH starts out as #13 on the USCHO poll (9/30).
This was their clash at Whittemore where Maine won 4-3
(3) @ Boston University: January 11, 2014 (Fenway Park)
You might be surprised that I didn’t pick Frozen Fenway as (1), believe me I was asked this when I was comprising this list. But I did have this matchup in my top 3, it’s a historic game and venue between two rivals and this game will take this rivalry to another level. Both teams are historic Hockey East powers, it only seems fitting that these two will meet on the magical cathedral on Lansdowne and Yawkey frozen under a sheet of ice (though not literally all over). As previously mentioned BU is #19 in USCHO poll (9/30)
(2) @ Notre Dame: February 7-8, 2014 (Compton Family Center)
Maine takes on newcomer Notre Dame in South Bend, IN. Maine has played Notre Dame only a few times in their collective histories, most recently last year in the Ice Breaker Tournament in Kansas City last fall, ND won that matchup 1-0. Notre Dame comes in this season ranked #8 in the USCHO poll (9/30), it is one of Maine’s biggest challenges all year. Junior Defenseman Jake Rutt said that it’s a matchup he and the rest of the Maine team are looking forward to playing. It’s gonna be a fun one in South Bend, can’t wait for it.
(1) @ Umass-Lowell: January 17, 2014 (Tsongas Arena)
@ Boston College: January 18, 2014 (Conte Forum)
I lumped both these games into one because both games are in the same weekend. This is probably going to be Maine’s toughest weekend, not only do they have to play at BC (previously mentioned as #4 in USCHO poll); but they have to play at Lowell (#1 in USCHO Poll – 9/30). Maine’s season ended at Lowell last year with the Black Bears falling in OT in the Hockey East Quarterfinals. It’s one thing when you have to prepare for one tough opponent, but it’s another thing to have to prep for two tough opponents. In my opinion, it’s Maine’s toughest matchup this season. It’s tough to say now if Maine has a chance, but down the road I’ll give a better preview down the road.
If you have an opinion of what you think is Maine’s biggest matchup of the year, leave a comment below or tweet at me @aquirko