We haven't even seen the complete 2012-13 schedule for the defending National Champions, but that shouldn't stop us from projecting out the Eagles' future Hockey East Association schedules. For the 2013-14 sesason, Hockey East will add Notre Dame as the conference's 11th program, a year before UConn joins as #12 in 2014-15.
So for one year only, the conference will have just 11 programs, presenting a rather unique season in terms of scheduling. There's really no blueprint for scheduling
With the end goal of a 22-game schedule (2x everyone else in the league), I'd imagine the league will play just 20 games in 2013-14. The Eagle Tribune's Mike McMahon is thinking along those same lines:
I've heard that they will likely go to 20 league games with Notre Dame comes in as No. 11 (2 games vs. each opponent) and then when UConn joins, it would move to 22 league games (again, 2 vs. each opponent). Teams would play one home and one away vs. each opposing school, with exceptions being Maine, Vermont and Notre Dame, where it would be 2-and-2 on alternating years. That's the early speculation, anyway.
While BC will likely have no problems moving from a 27-game league schedule back down to 20 games in the non-conference scheduling department, I'm interested in figuring out just how the league will structure a 20 game schedule.
My guess is HEA will schedule eight games before the winter break (four series x2) and 12 games during the second half of the season (six series x2 with special considerations given to the Beanpot schools). Given that other leagues don't start play until the final weekend of October, with fewer league games to schedule, I'd imagine Hockey East will follow suit.
For BC, four of those first eight games should really be against Northeastern and Boston University, with the idea of spacing out league meetings from the Beanpot. Ideally, I'd love to see BC open every season with a home-and-home with Northeastern. Then keep the Green Line Rivalry on its usual spot on the calendar on the first weekend in December. That leaves two weekend series to schedule during the first half of the season. I like the idea of scheduling the Notre Dame series to coincide with the football schedule. The only thing is BC and Notre Dame will take both 2013 and 2014 off in the football series, so there won't be any football overlap in the first two years the Irish are in the league.
Given the fact that BC then faces two of the league's stronger opponents in Boston University and Notre Dame, the fourth series during the first half of the year should probably be a weaker conference opponent. Let's go with UMass-Lowell.
That gives BC a first half schedule that consists of:
Oct. Week 4 - Northeastern, @ Northeastern
Nov. Week 2 - @ Notre Dame, @ Notre Dame
Nov. Week 3 - UMass-Lowell, @ UMass Lowell
Dec. Week 1 - Boston University, @ Boston University
Given the above first-half schedule, that leaves BC with series against New Hampshire, Maine, UMass, Merrimack, Providence and Vermont. I like the idea of opening up with UNH after the break during the third week in January as kids are coming back to campus. BC could then follow that up with a home-and-home with UMass to close out the month of January before heading into the Beanpot weekends.
For the first two weekends in February, I'd imagine the league will keep BU, BC and Northeastern close to home. I'd like BC to face Merrimack on the two Fridays before the Beanpot Semifinals and Championship. BU could face PC and Northeastern Lowell.
The Eagles could then round out the schedule with series against Maine (third weekend in February), Providence (fourth weekend) and close the season out with two at home vs. Vermont. The schedule then looks like this:
Jan. Week 4 - New Hampshire, @ New Hampshire
Feb. Week 1 - Merrimack, Beanpot Tournament Semifinal
Feb. Week 2 - @ Merrimack, Beanpot
Feb. Week 3 - Maine, Maine
Feb. Week 4 - @ Providence, Providence
Mar. Week 1 - @ Vermont, @ Vermont
This season will mark the second straight year where BC finishes the season vs. PC and then Vermont, so let's go with that. A late season meeting with Maine should provide for some good drama in terms of the regular season title and home ice. PC is back on the upswing and Vermont isn't typically a pushover as they were last year.
It's not the greatest schedule given the much more unbalanced schedule, but it works. The key will be in establishing specific weekends where clubs can expect to play one another every year, e.g. BC-BU the first weekend in February, BC-Northeastern to open the season, etc.
And while much of the conference may struggle to fill their own barns with an additional seven non-conference opponents, BC will have no problems booking Conte Forum. The rich get richer.