October 28, 2004
Unpredictable UMass

By Nate Ewell

 Hockey East Notebook

Matt Anderson leads UMass with seven points in five games.

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Have you gotten dizzy following tracking polls for next Tuesday’s Presidential election? One day your guy is up, another down, and the results vary from state to state?

Such is life in the Mullins Center right now, where the UMass Minutemen have all the predictability of a knuckleball. Friday night, fresh off a trip to Alaska, they skated to a 3-2 win over highly regarded UMass Lowell, with Stephen Werner scoring the game-winner 48 seconds into overtime.

Less than 48 hours later, head coach Don Cahoon’s club suffered its first-ever loss to an Atlantic Hockey team. Again it was 3-2, again in overtime, but this time Connecticut, which finished fifth in Atlantic Hockey a year ago, came away with the win.

“We're a group in transition," said Cahoon. "We've seen some positives, and we've seen a lot of uncertainty. But I like the foundation we have with our players, and if we add some consistency, I think we are going to be fine."

Right now, as his team heads into Hockey East’s first home-and-home series of the year against Providence, Cahoon doesn’t know what to expect.

“In Alaska, we played Minnesota and limited them to 21 shots (in a 1-0 loss),” he said. “We played the game we need to play. Then we trade 40 shots with UConn.”

Cahoon’s not one to slight the talent he has – especially the likes of Werner, Matt Anderson, or defenseman Marvin Degon – or dwell on the past. But he admits that things could be a whole lot easier with a player like Thomas Pock around, especially in a game like the one the Minutemen were in against UConn.

“We are not as dynamic as Thomas was,” Cahoon admits. “We’re going to be in battles, and we have to play it a certain way to win those battles. We have to keep risks to a minimum, and we’re going to be fine.”


Close Calls – It’s a bit early to declare a trend – although I did successfully predict that hockey sweaters would become a fashion trend a few years back – but it’s worth noting that all four Hockey East games thus far have been decided by one goal.

There’s plenty at work here to explain all the non-blowouts, including good early-season matchups and every coach’s favorite quote – top-to-bottom this league is stronger than it’s ever been (and we’ve got to take ’em one game at a time, etc.)

Cliched or not, there’s certainly some truth to that statement. Looking beyond our borders it can be applied not just to Hockey East, but college hockey as a whole. How else can you explain second-division teams from Atlantic Hockey and the CHA beating Massachusetts and Merrimack, respectively, or St. Lawrence stunning Maine? That all happened last weekend, proving that the gap between 1 and 58 is pretty small.

Also contributing to the close scores is the emphasis on rules enforcement. All those whistles can interrupt the flow of the game and keep a superior team from building momentum. Power play chances can help teams stay close as well – witness the two power-play goals Mercyhurst scored against New Hampshire on Saturday to make that a one-goal game.

Always Welcome – Walter Brown Arena may be closing its doors at midseason, but unlike the NHL, it’s not about to lock out former BU stars.

A team of ex-Terriers took on the current club on Sunday in a benefit game for the Travis Roy and Mark Bavis Foundations. The star-studded alumni team showcased its skill in a 9-5 victory.

“It was great for our team, it was great for me personally and of course it was for a great cause," said head coach Jack Parker. "When you can organize something like this, you get guys like Adrian Aucoin to come up, and Jacques Joubert to fly in from Chicago."

"It was a great time," said Chris Drury, who had a hat trick to lead the alums. "It's good to get on the ice at Walter Brown again, especially since it's not going to be used much longer."

Five different players scored for the current BU team, including a late “empty-netter” from Brad Zancanaro after Rick DiPietro wandered from his crease to try a little creative stickhandling.


Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

North Dakota at Boston College (Fri.)
These teams met in two great games in Grand Forks last season, and are supremely talented once again. But things haven’t gone perfectly thus far, and both are coming off losses. A two-game losing streak wouldn’t doom either one by any means, but a win here could be big when it comes time to seed the NCAA Tournament.

Young talent has been on display for both clubs, which were ranked 1-2 in Inside College Hockey’s recruiting rankings. Freshman Rastislav Spirko leads the Sioux in scoring, with Travis Zajac chipping in as well, and rookie Dan Bertram has lived up to expectations on BC’s first line. The Eagle defense, decimated by injuries to Andrew Alberts and Peter Harrold, will be tested by the Sioux.

While You’re There: What a wonderful weekend to be in Boston. Saturday’s Red Sox parade could be, quite literally, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It starts at 10 a.m. near Fenway Park.

Stick Salutes

They’ve gotten a lot of credit over the years, to be sure, but we’ll raise a stick again to Mike Eruzione and the other members of the 1980 Olympic team who played a role – however small – in the Red Sox World Series. The idiots gathered in their Bronx clubhouse last week and watched Miracle before Game 7 against the Yankees, then took care of Finland – er, St. Louis, – with no problem. Nobody had to tell the Sox that they’d take a Series loss to their graves.

Bench Minor

The conference lost to teams from Atlantic Hockey, the CHA and the ECAC (twice!) last week. The non-league slate doesn’t get any easier with two against North Dakota this weekend. Then again, the Sons of Bertagna are a perfect 2-0-0 in the Commissioners Cup standings.

• Hockey East coaches and officials will gather Nov. 11 in Boston to discuss this season’s new standards in rules enforcement. Commissioner Joe Bertagna has been one of the most steadfast supporters of the changes, and he shouldn’t find too much opposition at this meeting – Hockey East coaches have been generally supportive, probably moreso than their counterparts in other conferences.

Boston College landed a good one this week, receiving a verbal commitment from Omaha Lancers forward Brock Bradford. Bradford was one of remaining jewels in the fall 2005 recruiting race, probably second only to Phil Kessel in most scouts’ estimations. BC and Boston University reportedly remain in the race for the services of Kessel.

• Jerry York seeks to become just the third coach in college hockey history with 700 career victories Friday night against North Dakota.

• Not only has John Curry been a pleasant surprise between the pipes for Boston University, with a 1.19 goals-against average and a .951 save percentage through three games, but he also posted an assist in the Terriers’ first conference game, a 3-2 win over Providence.

• Sophomore Matt Byrnes has emerged as a supreme set-up man for Merrimack, posting seven assists (and eight points) through three games. He had six assists and nine points all of last season.

• Experience paid off in Hockey East last season, as the top three overall scorers were all seniors. It’s early yet, but there’s a youth movement on this season. None of the top eight scorers in the league are seniors in 2004-05, led by Maine junior Derek Damon (10 points). The top freshman scorer thus far is BU’s Pete MacArthur, with three goals and five points in four games.

UMass Lowell, stuck at a disappointing 1-2-0 after a pair of 3-2 losses last week ventures outside the league to face Rensselaer and Union. On the way to New York’s Capital District, the River Hawks hope to find some five-on-five offense – they haven’t scored an even-strength goal yet this year.

• One guy we missed in last week's rundown of the "Hockey Sox": Derek Lowe. A good comparison, to match Lowe's versatility, might be Maine's Tom Zabkowicz or Boston University's Bryan Miller. I'll stick with Zabkowicz since, as a sophomore, he'll be back next year, and I'm hoping the same can be said for Lowe.

• Keep an eye out for next week’s “The Show” on ESPN.com, when New Hampshire’s Sean Collins will join Inside College Hockey to field questions. He’ll have plenty of time to prepare, since the Wildcats are off this weekend.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.

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