December 9, 2004
Eastern Impact
More and more EJHL veterans are showing up on Hockey East rosters – and thriving

By Nate Ewell

 Hockey East Notebook

Kevin Schaeffer was among the wave of EJHL products to join Hockey East last year.

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League-wide, Hockey East rookies are making a bigger impact in the first half of 2004-05 than they did a year ago. And more and more often those impact freshmen are coming from a small but growing group of 13 teams scattered across the Northeast called the Eastern Junior Hockey League.

Seven of the nine Hockey East teams have freshmen who played in the EJHL last season, and some – like Maine’s Bret Tyler, Massachusetts’ P.J. Fenton and Providence’s Jon Rheault – have been among the best rookies in the league. Hockey East isn’t alone in tapping the EJHL as a resource, either – star freshmen Jon Pelle at Harvard and Shawn Weller at Clarkson are EJHL alums.

The growth of the EJHL may have taken a bit away from prep hockey, although its demise has certainly gotten a bit of the same treatment as Mark Twain’s death. Chris Bourque, Cory Schneider and Billy Ryan are great examples of the continued strength of the prep game. And the EJHL may not have overtaken other sources of talent, like the USHL (Peter MacArthur, Kevin Regan) or Canada (Craig Switzer, Peter Vetri).

But it is presenting another option, an especially good one if players from New England want to stay close to home.

“It’s great for us, since we have a chance to watch it more because it’s right in our backyard,” said Boston College head coach Jerry York, who has two EJHL alums in his freshman class. “The strongest junior league is still the USHL, but I think it’s great that the EJHL is producing more and more quality players.”

Perhaps most telling is that EJHL veterans are coming in and exceeding expectations. Ryan Weston was almost an afterthought in a talented Boston University class, but has come in and contributed in every game. P.J. Fenton got nary a mention when Inside College Hockey compiled our rankings of the top 20 incoming forwards, but you’d be hard-pressed to find 10 freshmen forwards across the country who have made a bigger impact than the Longmeadow, Mass., native, who ranks tied for fifth among Hockey East players with eight goals.

“We love that league,” said Maine head coach Tim Whitehead, whose freshman class includes defenseman Tyler as well as forward Rob Bellamy from the EJHL. “It’s really emerging as an elite junior league and a great alternative for Eastern kids who know they want to stay in this area for college.

“The biggest reason it’s done so well, you look at the coaches in the league,” added Whitehead. “Jim Salfi (Capital District), Peter Masters (Junior Bruins), Gary Dineen (New England), Lincoln Flagg (New England) – right on down the line it’s a very impressive group of coaches. Every single team has a quality coaching staff, and that’s a big reason why players can come in and have such a big impact.”

Some schools have benefited from EJHL recruits for years – Maine’s captain, John Ronan, and leading scorer, Derek Damon, are both EJHL veterans, for example. And their growing impact could be seen last year in freshmen like Colin McDonald at Providence and Kevin Schaeffer at BU.

But the EJHL’s contributions to Hockey East have undeniably picked up, and it’s a trend that should continue. A number of future stars have already committed from the league, like forward Joseph Cucci (Merrimack) and 1988 birthdate Mike Borisenok (UNH).

If past results are any indication, some other EJHL recruits will play an even larger role than expected as well.


61* – Are 61 shots on goal a good sign when you only score once? It’s certainly a good news-bad news situation at Boston College as the Eagles head into Friday’s game against Northeastern. They tied Providence, 1-1, last weekend with Friar senior David Cacciola making 60 saves, the third time this year that BC has had 50-plus shots on goal and not come away with a win.

“We did everything right but light the light,” head coach Jerry York said. “Give Cacciola credit. He was so good at stopping the first shot.''

As much credit as Cacciola deserves, it is cause for some concern in Chestnut Hill. For all the Eagles’ talent, they do lack a pure goal scorer, a la Tony Voce, who graduated last spring, that specializes in burying chances.

“Some players have that knack for scoring goals, and Tony certainly is one,” York said. “But I think you can get better at it, and I think we’ve got a lot of real good goal scorers on our club. We’ve just got to bear down a little bit more.”


Great Weekend Getaway
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UMass Lowell at Northeastern (Sat.)
Both teams face challenges Friday – the River Hawks at Dartmouth, the Huskies at BC – which makes this game all the more interesting. Lowell has dominated Northeastern recently, almost as much as the rest of the league has dominated Lowell this year. Can the River Hawks’ non-conference success begin to spill over?

Stick Salute

A belated salute to my ECACHL colleague, Joe Gladziszewski, who had the best score in INCH Pick ’Em two weeks ago. I’d be doing better, but I keep picking UMass Lowell in league games and against the River Hawks in non-conference games.

Bench Minor

Merrimack’s Chris Serino had an ambitious plan to play in two holiday tournaments in 2004-05, but the timing worked out to give the Warriors eight days to spend at home in between. That is, until Minnesota changed the dates of its tournament, moving it to a midweek affair on Dec. 22-23. The switch came too late for Merrimack to back out, and leaves Serino’s team with a game the night before Christmas Eve in Minneapolis and another seven days later in Storrs, Conn.

Boston University fans upset at Pete MacArthur’s absence from the U.S. National Junior Team may be able to blame – who else? – a BC guy. While the rest of the U.S. lineup may be lacking in playmakers – hence the need for Chris Bourque – there’s a wealth of goal scorers, which would be the more accurate characterization of MacArthur. Among those goal scorers? None other than Adam Pineault, who was among the original 12 selections to the squad, even though he didn’t truly showcase that ability at the Heights.

• Bourque and BC’s Cory Schneider are Hockey East’s lone selections, at this point, for the junior team (MacArthur and BC’s Mike Brennan might be contenders to be added in case of injury). Bourque will miss BU’s home game against Nebraska-Omaha and its “rink swap” weekend against Minnesota. Schneider, meanwhile, will be unavailable for BC’s trip to the Everblades College Classic and a league game at Merrimack.

Boston College took a classy page from North Dakota when each one of the Eagles skated over to shake Jack Parker’s hand after his 700th career victory Friday night. The Sioux, you may remember, did the same for Jerry York when he won his 700th on Oct. 29.

“It’s a tribute to Jack’s longevity, and to have longevity, you have to be successful," said York, who now leads Parker in wins, 703-701. "He’s made a real good impact giving back to Hockey East and the game of college hockey. We didn’t want to lose that game, but it’s a tremendous milestone for Jack.”

• Freshman Peter Vetri made back-to-back starts in goal for UMass Lowell last weekend and seems to have wrested the starting job from senior Chris Davidson. Vetri broke a finger in his catching hand three weeks ago, but since then is 3-1-1, including a three-game winning streak.

• Early in the year, New Hampshire thought it had the makings of one of the nation’s best lines with Sean Collins, Preston Callander and Justin Aikins. It took a little tinkering, but Brett Hemingway is helping the Wildcats fulfill their offensive promise. He’s taken Aikins’ spot on the right wing of that line and promptly put together a six-game point-scoring streak, including goals in five straight games.

Hemingway, whose older brother, Colin, had 148 points in four years with UNH, had two goals in each game last weekend and heads into Thursday night’s game against Massachusetts with a share of the team scoring lead (12-6—18 in 15 GP).

Massachusetts, 6-2-0 at home but 0-6-1 on the road, plays seven of its next nine at home. Unfortunately only four of those seven home games are Hockey East contests.

• It’s not often in college hockey that a player gets to face off against his former coach, but Providence’s Jamie Carroll had that opportunity Wednesday. Carroll had attended Iona before the Gaels dropped their program two years ago, and Rensselaer assistant coach Frank Bretti was Iona’s head coach. Carroll, who has found a home among the Friars’ top two lines, had an assist to extend his scoring streak to six games, but the Engineers won the game, 4-3.

• The Friars are the first Hockey East team to punch the clock on the first half of the season. They are now off until facing Vermont on Dec. 29 in the Ledyard Classic at Dartmouth.

Northeastern has an opportunity to make up a little ground in the standings, as the Huskies are the only team with two league games this weekend. At the very worst, they’ll enter the holiday break three points out of the conference cellar, which isn’t all bad considering last season’s last-place finish.

New Hampshire fans get a look at the next star in college hockey Saturday afternoon when Phil Kessel and the U.S. Under-18 Team visits the Whit. Last week against a team of locked-out NHLers, Kessel danced around 13-year NHL veteran Derian Hatcher and scored on Manny Legace. The 17-year-old Kessel, who will play on Team USA at the World Junior Championship, will attend college next fall and is deciding between Boston College, Boston University, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

• Tickets for the Hockey East championship weekend at the FleetCenter are on sale now and available through Ticketmaster.

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

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