From Jen Gunnels, NCAA.com

As the first half of the hockey season begins to wrap up around the country, a few hotly contested games are left on the slate. An important Hockey East matchup this weekend will pit No. 3 New Hampshire against No. 6 Maine on Friday night. Maine leads the all-time series 56-45-5, although New Hampshire has won seven of the last 10 meetings between the rival schools. The Black Bears enter the game at 7-3-4 overall after earning their first shutout performance of the season Saturday, a 5-0 blanking over Providence. The Wildcats are just two points behind Boston College in Hockey East standings and enter the contest at 9-2-4 overall. The 7:30 p.m. ET game will be broadcast nationally on CBS College Sports Network.

Tied with New Hampshire at second place in Hockey East standings are the No. 7 Terriers of Boston University. BU will travel to take on No. 15 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) on Saturday in a nonconference matchup. The Terriers claimed a 5-4 home victory over Northeastern on Wednesday night after being swept in a home-and-home series with Boston College last weekend. RPI has won four of its last five games and is undefeated at home so far this season.

While many teams are engaging in nonconference contests during the month of December, the race for the MacNaughton Cup continues in the WCHA as all 12 teams engage in conference play this weekend. No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth will look to maintain its spot atop league standings when it travels to take on the Golden Gophers of Minnesota for a Friday/Saturday series. The Bulldogs rank second in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 3.94 goals per game, and will look to repeat last year’s trip to Minnesota when they swept the Golden Gophers in a pair of November contests. Elsewhere in the WCHA, No. 5 North Dakota will travel to Minnesota State, where the Mavericks swept Minnesota last weekend and stretched their unbeaten streak to four games. The Fighting Sioux trail Minnesota-Duluth by just one point in league standings and are coming off of a home sweep over St. Cloud State. No. 10 Denver is heading north to Alaska Anchorage for a Friday/Saturday series against the Seawolves. The Pioneers own a 41-15-7 edge in the all-time series with Alaska Anchorage and currently rank third in WCHA standings.

While No. 12 Michigan hosts Michigan State in the historic Big Chill at the Big House on Saturday, No. 11 Notre Dame will look to move ahead of an inactive Miami (Ohio) squad to take the top spot in CCHA standings in a series with Northern Michigan this weekend. The Fighting Irish are undefeated at home so far this season and boast a 10-5-2 overall record. Northern Michigan is 7-7-3 overall and 6-4-2 in CCHA conference play.

In ECAC Hockey action, No. 1 Yale extended its winning streak to six games with a 3-0 shutout victory over Vermont on Wednesday night in the team’s final game before the three-week holiday break. The win was the Bulldogs’ first victory over the Catamounts since 2003. Sharing the top spot in ECAC Hockey standings with Yale are the Tigers of Princeton, who will host UMass-Lowell in a nonconference weekend series. The Tigers lead the nation in the penalty kill, having successfully killed off 45 of 50 chances for a 90 percent penalty kill rate.

And in Atlantic Hockey action, the Colonials of Robert Morris travel south this weekend to take on Alabama-Huntsville in a nonconference series, their first of the season. Robert Morris continues to top Atlantic Hockey standings and is off to the best 14-game start in program history at 8-4-2. The Colonials last met with the Chargers in the first round of last year’s College Hockey America Championship, which the Chargers went on to win, before eventually falling to Miami (Ohio) in the first round of the NCAA tournament.