by JOSHUA KUMMINS
1. Quinnipiac: For the first time in program history in any sport, the Bobcats earned a No. 1 national ranking last week and maintained that this past Monday, despite seeing their NCAA-best 21-game unbeaten streak snapped to St. Lawrence at home on Friday, 2-1, at the High Point Solutions Arena at TD Bank Sports Center. However, QU bounced back and reversed the same score on Saturday night against Clarkson as it now sits at 15-1-2 in the ECAC. Even with Friday’s loss, the ‘Cats were able to clinch the league’s Cleary Cup regular season title and earn a bye in the first round of the conference tournament for the first time since joining the league in 2005. With his 22nd win of the season on Saturday, senior Eric Hartzell broke QU’s school record for wins in a single campaign, passing J.C. Wells’ mark in 1998-99. Aside from Hartzell’s outstanding 28-save effort, Bryce Van Brabant and Connor Jones both scored first-period goals to lead the offense to the win. This weekend, the ‘Cats will welcome a pair of regional league rivals to Hamden as they host No. 9 Yale on Friday in the 11th Annual Heroes Hat Game, before Saturday’s Senior Night against Brown.
2. Merrimack: The Warriors sit 17th in the national picture this week and become the first Hockey East squad to clinch a playoff berth, after a three-point weekend that included a dramatic overtime victory over Boston College on Friday night at Lawler Arena. With a 12-6-3 league record, Merrimack, which is 7-1-2 in its last ten games, has never sat atop the pack in Hockey East this late in a season since it joined the league in 1989. Since the league expanded from eight teams, a Merrimack senior class had never advanced into the playoffs in four consecutive years. Sophomore Connor Toomey (Billerica, Mass.) scored Friday’s winner on the power play with 31.7 seconds remaining, handing BC just its fifth loss after February 1 over the last four seasons. In that four-year span, the Eagles’ senior class, which won Beanpot titles each February of their careers, is just 1-4 in North Andover. On Sunday, rookie Vinny Scotti scored both goals for the Warriors. Junior Sam Marotta (Bridgewater, Mass.) was named Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week on Monday as he made 63 saves in the two games and continues to lead the league with a 2.01 goals-against average and .931 save percentage overall.
3. Harvard: Led by ECAC Player of the Week senior Marshall Everson, the Crimson bounced 29-time Beanpot winner Boston University to fourth place for the second time in three years and gained three valuable league points on the weekend. Harvard opened the week with a 7-4 win over Boston University at TD Garden and was paced by senior Luke Greiner, who scored the Beanpot Tournament’s second hat trick in as many weeks. Everson, a Edina, Minn. native, scored twice in that contest and also found the back of the net on two occasions in a 4-1 win over Colgate on Friday. After one goal in Saturday’s 2-2 tie with Cornell, he finished the week a +3 rating and four goals, tying him with rookie Jimmy Vesey (North Reading, Mass.) for the team lead with ten this season. Rookie Peter Traber earned his first-career victory in the Beanpot consolation game, making 43 saves, while sophomore Raphael Girard bounced back with a strong weekend that included 38 stops in Saturday’s draw. For the penultimate week in the ECAC regular season, Harvard makes the long weekend trek to St. Lawrence and Clarkson.
4. UMass-Lowell: For the second year in a row, the River Hawks swept their Alumni Cup rival UMass Minutemen in the three-game Hockey East set between the Bay State’s two Division I hockey-playing institutions. Freshman Connor Hellebuyck earned his seventh and eighth victories in a row, making 49 saves over the two contests in 6-3 and 3-2 decisions. Junior Derek Arnold (Foxboro, Mass.) was named league Player of the Week as he registered three goals, five points, and seven shots on goal in the series, including two goals and an assist in Friday’s road victory. In his last seven games, the former Foxboro High School Warrior has posted a strong six goals and eight points, while rookies Ryan McGrath (5-11=16) and Christian Folin (3-12=15) have led UML’s strong youth movement over the last 15 games (17-13=30).
5. American International: Despite struggling mightily for most of the year, the Yellow Jackets have rattled off a six-game unbeaten streak in Atlantic Hockey play to pull within two points of tenth-place Army. AIC used 4-0 and 9-1 decisions in a home-and-home series to “sting” Sacred Heart, keeping the Pioneers winless on the year at 0-26-2 – a streak that was broken with a 7-3 win over Holy Cross on Tuesday. Senior Ben Meisner started both games and turned out to be the victor for the Jackets as he saved 43 of the 44 shots he faced on the weekend, including 18 in his second shutout of the year on Friday. Meisner, a Nova Scotia native, has now set school and Atlantic Hockey league records with his 3,459 career saves – 25th all-time in NCAA Division I. On the offensive side, senior Adam Pleskach and junior Jon Puskar each posted two goals and two assists over the set. AIC looks to keep up the momentum on Friday and Saturday as it takes on fellow Bay State foe Holy Cross for a home-and-home duel.