Hockey East and the NCAA championship game seem to go hand in hand. At least they did until last year. The 2011 final was the first time the bouncers kept them out of the party in 6 years. From 2006-2010 Boston College or Boston University reached the final with the Eagles winning twice and the Terriers once. So will the beasts from the east return to the big dance and if so, who's the favourite? We previewed the conference with Jimmy Conelly who covers the league for USCHO.COM.
History seems to be repeating itself in the Boston area as Boston College and Boston University will head in as the top two seeds respectively, but not by much.
"When I really look up and down at Hockey East you have BC and BU and they have potential to be good, but this is one year where I really feel that Hockey East is wide open" Connelly told us while adding that it's almost tradition to put those two schools on top in the pre season. Connelly told us in detail why BC's off season losses bring them back to the pack and create so much parity, he's not sure who might win the conference title.
What about New Hampshire? They're the last HE club not named BC Maine or BU to reach the Frozen Four doing it in 2003 where they lost to Minnesota.
"They did lose Blake Kessell, but they're bringing in James vanRiemsdyk's brother (Trevor)." The Freshman is a 6 foot 2, 185 pound blue liner. "It's becoming a nice little trend for UNH to be getting the benefit of the back end of the brother combo and that's a very, very good bloodline if you think about it."
Connelly agrees that BC is probably #1 heading in, but not by much over BU and UNH.
Last season Guy picked the Merrimack Warriors as his dark horse team, and trotted it out with every win, but I'll give him credit as he was right, until they ran into a bad overtime bounce against Notre Dame in the opening round of the tournament.
Will the Warriors be able to reload after a 25-10-4 season?
"It is a thinner team, Stephane Da Costa was one heck of a great player last year, but the one thing that you can't really take away from teams is the ability to get there, and once you get to the NCAA tournament they have the experience of playing. When you think about returning players you right away think of the goaltender Joe Cannata." However the expectations shouldn't be as high for the Warriors this year as they were last season.
That's the immediate future for Hockey East, but what about down the road? With all the upcoming movement does HE rise to the top, or atleast near the top of the college hockey.
"It'll be interesting to see no doubt, the fact that things will changes so dramatically and Hockey East could be completely untouched. You gotta think that gives HE a little bit of a leg up, but the teams that are joining the NCHC are great clubs."
If the new conference is top dog, would attracting Notre Dame to the east put HE over the top? Well if the Irish want in, they'll have to bring a friend with them according to Connelly.
"The one issue HE has is they won't expand to 11. They'll go from 10-12 but they don't want an odd number in terms of how many league games that creates. The number of league games you play indirectly affects how many non league games you can play and these teams actually want to increase the non league games and decrease the number of league games."
Jimmy also chimed in on what schools could or won't be joining Notre Dame and if it's not Hockey East then where the Irish might end up, as well as an interesting Cornell rumour. You can hear it again, or for the first time by clicking here.