February 3, 2005

By Nate Ewell

 Hockey East Notebook

Mike Morris leads Northeastern in goals with 12, including six in his last six games.

National TV Schedule

Atlantic Hockey/CHA Notebook
CCHA Notebook
ECACHL Notebook
WCHA Notebook

Northeastern needs no reminders of its status entering Monday's Beanpot. The Huskies know they are the only unranked team in the field, and they're well aware of the school's woeful Beanpot history that includes only four titles in 52 years.

Given all that, a little positive reinforcement can work wonders. Especially entering a tournament where, as everyone in the 617 knows, you should expect the unexpected.

"Talking to the team (this week)," said head coach Bruce Crowder, "we know we've had a tough schedule, but we've come out and competed well in really every game but two to this point."

As a result the Huskies – last-place finishers in Hockey East last year – stand at 9-13-4 overall (5-8-3 in the league) entering Thursday's game against Massachusetts. It's not a sparkling record, but not one riddled with bad losses, either.

In fact, Northeastern hasn't lost a game to a team outside of this week's top 15 since October 19. Essentially, the Huskies are beating who they should beat. If they can take that a step further the next two Mondays, Northeastern hopes it can serve as a springboard for future success. Boston University has followed that formula for years.

"There's no doubt that having success in the Beanpot is going to keep your confidence up heading into the rest of the league schedule," said Crowder.

Crowder likes his team's chances not only because of the way they've competed over the course of the season, but also their experience.

"For the most part we're an older team, we've been through it," he said. "We've had some challenges and the guys have stuck through it."

Especially important is the experience of the Huskies' leaders. Crowder cites forward Jason Guerriero, goaltender Keni Gibson and defenseman Tim Judy as his top three players, and each is a senior.

"Jason Guerriero is having a career year," he said. "he's a guy who is really unsung in Hockey East, even though he's up there with the league scoring leaders. In this day and age, he's found a way to be a point a game guy really since he was a freshman, and that's remarkable."

Over the course of the next two Mondays, Guerriero and the Huskies could shed that unsung tag. But even if things go their best, people won't forget that they were the underdogs.


Forward Progress? – Entering the season, it appeared that Massachusetts’ run to the FleetCenter last March might have been a case of two steps forward before one step back. The departures of leading scorers Thomas Pöck and Greg Mauldin left the Minutemen staring at a setback in the ongoing building process under head coach Don Cahoon.

With four losses in a row, a winless January, and the news that injured forward Matt Anderson will miss the rest of the season, it would be easy to forget that despite a step back, the UMass program is still on the upswing.

Much of that positive momentum, of course, depends on the next wave of Minutemen to arrive in Amherst. Coaches aren't eager to look beyond the current season, but players like forwards Alex Berry and Sam D'Agostino and goaltender Jonathan Quick have confidence high for the future.

“We're close to where we need to be," said Cahoon. "We've got one major need at center for someone who can skate and make plays and stir the drink, so to speak. But I think our team looks good at the moment."

The recruits that are in place show that last year's trip to the Hockey East title game is still paying dividends for the Minutemen.

"Those kids took a leap of faith as a result of us making the progress that we have as a program," Cahoon said. "I'm sure it's a little unsettling for them to watch what's happening now, but they know where we are headed."

In addition to next year's freshmen, the Minutemen have made inroads with 16- and 17-year-old verbal commitments – recruiting ground usually reserved for the BCs and BUs of the world. It's a strategy that's fraught with risk, but once again shows the program's progress.

And it offers further hope that there won't be any steps back in the future like the one UMass is suffering now.


Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Maine at New Hampshire (Fri.-Sat.)
For the fifth year in a row, Hockey East's two northern rivals meet on the weekend preceding the first Beanpot games. It doesn't get the ink or the air time – at least not south of the Dover tolls – but this rivalry shares the same intensity as the happenings on Causeway Street Monday.

While You're There: If you have time to venture north on Saturday morning, head to Meredith, N.H., and check out the ice fishing derby on Lake Winnipesaukee (yes, literally on Winnipesaukee).

Stick Salute

The early reviews on Inside Hockey East, airing on NESN before and after Friday Night Hockey games, are very positive, earning a Season Pass on my Tivo. The feature on Merrimack's Bryan Schmidt last week was especially good.

Bench Minor

More teams should have game-worn jersey sales like the one going on at Northeastern. My only qualm, given that the Huskies seem to change jersey styles more than I change my oil, is that there are no pictures of what you're buying.

• Much is being made of Boston's good sports fortune, what with New England shooting for its third Super Bowl title in four years on the heels of the Red Sox win. But forget about pro sports at the moment; consider the schools atop the Hockey East standings. Boston College had a fantastic football season, just missing a BCS bowl, and is unbeaten in basketball. New Hampshire, meanwhile, enjoyed a great football season of its own and the hockey players even had a chance to boast about it. When they played at Michigan State they watched a Big Ten football game, where the Wildcats could say, "Yeah, well you lost to Rutgers and our I-AA team beat them ..."

• For Beanpot history and more, venture over to ECACHL land and visit Harvard's Beanpot site.

• How much Boston University's loss of John Curry, who was injured against Merrimack last week, hurts the Terriers remains to be seen. He's expected to return for the second round of the Beanpot. In his place, junior Stephan Siwiec has a 3.60 goals-against average and a .863 save percentage on the year, but he allowed only two goals in four periods of relief work last weekend (.941 save percentage).

Maine's Jimmy Howard, who was cleared to resume full training at Christmastime, finished January at 4-0-3 and earned Hockey East Goaltender of the Month honors. His Black Bears are unbeaten in 11 straight Hockey East games.

• Don Cahoon's UMass team allowed 11 goalsin two losses to Boston College last weekend, but to hear him talk, it doesn't sound as if the Eagles have hit their offensive stride.

"They certainly know how to generate quality chances," said Cahoon. "They've sort of struggled to score goals, but once they start going in, they'll score a lot."

Merrimack's last two losses have come by one goal. The Warriors are 1-4 in one-goal games this season.

UMass Lowell's loss at New Hampshire ended the River Hawks' 14-game unbeaten streak, and if it didn't end hopes of a home playoff series at Tsongas, it at least put them in jeopardy. Lowell is now eight points behind Maine and UNH, who are tied for third, with 10 games to play.

• Hope for the Friars: Providence is 10-2-3 in February the last two seasons.

• We have to think the college hockey sweaters on the wall helped The Fours earn the No. 1 spot in Sports Illustrated's ranking of the top sports bars in America. Raise a glass to that on Monday.

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

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