January 6, 2005
Rolling on the River
Lowell hopes to carry the momentum of its seven-game unbeaten streak into its return to conference play

By Nate Ewell

 Hockey East Notebook

Andrew Martin has four goals and eight assists in his last eight games.

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This week's schedule

Atlantic Hockey/CHA Notebook
WCHA Notebook

No one has to remind UMass Lowell that it is winless in Hockey East. The River Hawk players stare down that fact every day on a board in the team’s dressing room that lists the conference standings.

At the same time, the River Hawks are unbeaten in seven straight and are one of the nation's hottest teams entering a home weekend against Massachusetts and Northeastern. And they've been reminded of that success as well, with a second chart alongside their locker room standings that lists their current number of consecutive wins.

That positive reinforcement helps explain the team's confidence entering a home weekend against Massachusetts and Northeastern.

"There's no point in not looking at [our Hockey East record]. It's there," said junior forward Andrew Martin. "We're not worried about it. We've got a lot of hockey ahead of us, and we're excited about what we can do."

The paradoxical nature of Lowell's in- and out-of-conference records has been one of the most puzzling parts of the Hockey East season thus far. Part can be blamed on a tough schedule, and part can be blamed on timing – when the River Hawks have played well, they've run into teams playing just a shade better.

Martin offers another explanation when asked to rate his play over the first half of the season.

"Average," he said. "I think a lot of guys would say average. We rate our performances after every game, and so far we don't think we've played an A game."

Martin doesn't have much reason to apologize for his game, as he is one of three River Hawks averaging over a point per game on the year. He has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in the last eight games.

Freshman goaltender Peter Vetri has had similar recent success, securing the starting job with a stretch that's seen him go 4-0-2 with a 1.78 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage. This weekend the River Hawks expect to welcome talented transfer Jeremy Hall to the lineup, a player Martin compares a bit to Lowell sophomore Jason Techjma.

As Martin, Vetri, Hall and the rest look to turn around their Hockey East season, they'll take a fairly unique approach. Before the season, the River Hawks broke down their schedule into four- or five-game "stages" – remember, this is the team that read Lance Armstrong's book in the off-season. The goal in each stage is ambitious, but reasonable: win three of the four or five games.

The current stage got off to a good start with a 5-2 win over Niagara Dec. 30. The rest of the stage is all in Hockey East, which means a successful stage could spark a second-half surge from the conference's last-place team.


The Golden Arena – If you weren’t among the sold-out crowd Monday night, but want to understand the impact of Boston University’s gorgeous new Agganis Arena, you can read the slew of newspaper clippings or listen to the sounds bites about how it will help recruiting.

Or do what I did. Ask people – fans, media, players, coaches – what their single favorite feature in the new rink is. You’ll probably discover, as I did, two amazing things:

1) Nobody feels content to limit it to one item
2) Everyone seems to mention something different

The answers ranged from the spacious locker rooms to the beer served at the concession stands (I think it was the fact that there was beer, more than the beer itself). In between there was plenty more—the press box, the pictures on the concourse, the sightlines, the comfortable chairs, the jumbotron, the weight room and the video room, just to name a few.

Me? I’m a details guy. I’m kind of fond of those paw prints on the red line.

Will We Meet Again? – According to Mapquest, the campuses of Harvard University and Merrimack College are a 25-mile drive apart. So it makes perfect sense that the fist-ever on-ice meeting between their two hockey teams would take place a mere 1,400 miles from Cambridge and North Andover, in Minneapolis.

Such are the quirks of the holiday tournament, and such was the arranged meeting after both the Crimson and the Warriors lost their opening-round games in the Dodge Holiday Classic at Mariucci Arena – the first of Merrimack’s two holiday tourney stops. The all-time series between the schools now stands at 1-0 in favor of Merrimack after the Warriors scored four power play goals and held off a late Crimson rally to win 6-4.

From Harvard’s perspective, the lack of previous meetings can be explained by a non-conference schedule that’s restricted due to Ivy League regulations, plus commitments to play in the Beanpot and non-Beanpot meetings with Boston College and Boston University.

Feeling frisky after a much-needed win by his club, Warriors coach Chris Serino had a different good-humored take on the scheduling quirk.

"They won't play us. They're afraid of us," he said with a sly grin. "With their non-conference schedule, I think we're on some kind of waiting list to play them."

Perhaps the Crimson's desire to avenge their loss will mean another meeting between the two schools sometime soon.


Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Northeastern at UMass Lowell (Sat.)
These two teams tied, 2-2, just before the holidays. With both in the bottom half of the standings as the calendar turns to 2005, points are precious. Key to both teams' hopes are the play of their goalies: senior Keni Gibson and newcomer Peter Vetri for UMass Lowell. Both stopped 30-plus shots in the tie back in December.

Stick Salute

The administration and staff at BU deserves a lot of credit for putting together a showcase series for their move between rinks. It was as well orchestrated as the construction of the new rink itself, which everybody seems to love.

Bench Minor

Yes, it has seen its share of big games, but it’s not as if leaving Walter Brown Arena is like closing Faneuil Hall. In a region that has lots of reason to appreciate its history, the outpouring of affection seemed a bit much for a 33-year-old building that didn’t age gracefully.

• While Agganis Arena was the star of the Terriers' recent two-game series against Minnesota, honorable mention goes to Brad Zancanaro. The diminutive forward scored the final goal in Walter Brown arena and the first goal in Agganis. Zancanaro now has points in six straight games (seven goals, two assists).

• For nearly two months, Providence longed for the return of sophomore forward Colin McDonald from injury. He got back on the ice at the Ledyard National Bank Holiday Classic and earned All-Tournament team honors, with a goal and an assist in the Friars' win over Bowling Green. He now has seven points in seven games this year, six of them goals.

Boston College got some encouraging play from Brian Boyle at the Florida College Classic, as the towering center had a goal and an assist and was named to the All-Tournament team. He added another assist in Tuesday's win at Merrimack, giving him nine points in 16 games including a three-game point-scoring streak.

Maine, which won two of the first three editions of the Florida College Classic, has finished fourth in back-to-back years. The Black Bears are 1-2-3 in their last six and hope to get back on track against the U.S. Under-18 Team and Quinnipiac this weekend.

Maine and BU fans should get the opportunity to see superstar-in-waiting Phil Kessel this weekend, as the U.S. Under-18 Team pays a visit. For the Terriers, still reportedly on Kessel's short list of potential schools (along with BC, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin), it's a prime opportunity to show off Agganis Arena. As of mid-week the folks at USA Hockey weren't 100 percent sure Kessel would make the trip, in case he needed to rest after the grueling World Junior Championship schedule.

New Hampshire’s two losses to Michigan State – half the Wildcats’ total this year – are just one puzzling piece in what has been a very tough-to-figure Spartan season. In fairness to UNH, Michigan State is better than its 10-9-1 record, and was picked for a top-10 season before the year, while the Wildcats were not. Plus, UNH put forth a much better effort at the Great Lakes Invitational than they did back in October in East Lansing.

• The nominating process for 2005 Vote for Hobey has begun. Head over to hobeybaker.com to show your support for your favorite Hockey East players.

• NESN’s Friday Night Ice package of league games begins this week with Boston University at Northeastern. Starting next week, Inside Hockey East – a half-hour magazine-style show on the conference – will appear every other week.

BU radio voice Bernie Corbett had to give his run of 684 consecutive Terrier games the Heisman just before the holiday break. Corbett, in his 20th season at the BU mike, missed a game while in New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation as part of a book project

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report. Special thanks to Jess Myers for his contributions from the Dodge Holiday Classic.

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