thought of three freshmen on the ice at one time –
unless it’s after practice, picking up pucks –
can be enough to send any coach reaching for his bottle
of Tums. That’s one reason the Maine coaching staff
was pleasantly surprised while reviewing the play of their
all-freshman forward line two weeks ago at New Hampshire.
coach) Grant Standbrook came down from the press box in
the second intermission and said, ‘I think Billy Ryan
is our most reliable forward in the defensive zone,’
” head coach Tim Whitehead said after the Black Bears’
win that night at UNH. “That’s a statement that
never could have been made in the first half of the season.”
defensive prowess of Ryan and his two classmates and linemates,
Keenan Hopson and Rob Bellamy, was one reason to get excited
about Maine’s new freshman line. The fact that the
rookies were on the ice for all three Maine goals in that
win over the Wildcats was a bonus, as far as Whitehead was
success for all-freshmen lines isn’t unheard of. Beyond
the Maine example, BU found success early this year with
Chris Bourque, Boomer Ewing and Pete MacArthur skating together
(Brian McConnell has since supplanted MacArthur on the line).
And last year, Providence had great success down the stretch
with Bill McCreary, Colin McDonald and Tony Zancanaro skating
experience with Bellamy, Hopson and Ryan is telling in terms
of how all-freshmen lines can develop. Hopson and Ryan,
in particular, came to school with reputations as offensively
gifted players, but their commitment to defense was lacking,
especially by Maine standards. The coaches worked closely
to emphasize positioning and tenacity away from the puck.
are big steps for a player who is offensively gifted,”
said Whitehead, whose team visits Providence for two games
this weekend. “(Ryan) is a great guy to work with
because he doesn’t fight you. We had very similar
issues with Keenan, who is a gifted offensive player who
has worked very hard to improve.”
coaches went so far as to sit Hopson down for the series
prior to the trip to UNH, hoping the freshman would pick
up his intensity level. He responded, and earned playing
time not only with Ryan and Bellamy, but also in four-on-four
situations and at the point on the power play.
wasn’t angry at anyone but myself (for not playing),”
Hopson said after assisting on one of Ryan’s two goals
at UNH. “The coaches wanted me to get more involved
with the game, and control the game a little more.”
result is a combination that throws a bit of everything
at an opponent.
were fired up all week,” Ryan said. “We knew
we were going to be a good line. Keenan and I have the opportunity
to do our thing offensively, and Rob just runs around and
hits everything he sees.”
still had some concerns before sending the group out there
for the first time, especially on the hostile Whittemore
Center ice against rival New Hampshire.
talked about (our concerns) a lot,” he said. “We
debated it, and in the end it was just a gut feeling. There’s
good chemistry there among the freshman class. It’s
a chance we decided to take, and you have to take some chances
end, it paid off with a win, and Whitehead never had to
reach for the antacid.
really wasn’t very worried when they were out there,”
Whitehead said. “That kind of surprised me.”
AND HEARD IN HOCKEY EAST
Wildcats – How balanced is New Hampshire’s
offense? The 20 goals the Wildcats have scored in the last
three games shows it pretty clearly, but in case that’s
not enough, here’s another tidbit:
UNH has seven players with 25 or more points
on the year. The rest of Hockey East combined has only 11,
and three teams have none.
It’s a remarkable note, and shows
the reasoning behind Preston Callander’s answer when
I asked the senior captain to identify an unsung star among
“You can’t really single anyone
out,” he said. “We can roll four lines, and
on any given night, each one of them can score. It’s
kind of tough to pick out a specific player.”
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
Great Weekend Getaway
Boston College vs. UMass Lowell (at BC Fri., at Lowell
Lowell’s hopes for home ice are slim at best,
but these games could end up even more important for
Boston College. New Hampshire’s surge to the
top of Hockey East jeopardizes BC’s chances
of a third straight regular-season title. Compounding
matters for the Eagles are not only their injuries,
but also their schedule. This starts six straight
games against ranked teams (UMass Lowell, New Hampshire,
Maine) to close out the season.
BU's ongoing dominance
in the Beanpot gets plenty of well-deserved attention.
It's easy to dismiss as something annual, like Groundhog
Day, but unlike the animal's shadow, you can't shrug
off its significance.
We raised a stick to Sports Illustrated earlier
this year, so we don’t mind sending the mag
to the penalty box now. It’s certainly deserved
after this week’s issue cited five Hobey Baker
Award candidates, but not one from East of
Ohio. Patrick Eaves, anyone?
There are still three weeks left in the regular season,
but all four home-ice spots could conceivably be wrapped
up this weekend. All eight playoff spots could be secured
as well, but don’t worry – there will still
be some intrigue after this weekend because both of those
things can’t happen. The latter would require Providence
sweeping Maine to eliminate Merrimack
from playoff contention, while the former would require
Maine to sweep Providence (plus points lost by UMass
Lowell and Northeastern).
Northeastern's gritty performance in the
Beanpot – a microcosm of much of the Huskies' season,
really – left the players hoping for another opportunity
to play at the Fleet.
that's our goal right now," said senior center Jason
Guerriero, who may have earned enough attention this week
to shed his most underrated player in Hockey East tag. "It's
in guys' minds that we lost the Beanpot but tomorrow's another
day and that's what we're here for. It's the college game
and we have a lot more to do. We play (BU) two more times
so I don't think they got away that easy."
As Lowell and Northeastern
jockey for team-nobody-wants-to-play status entering the
Hockey East playoffs, it's quite the opposite in Amherst.
Massachusetts has secured a spot in the
postseason, but after their 8-1 and 6-1 losses to UNH
last weekend, the Minutemen have only one win in Hockey
East since Dec. 3, and none all year against a team in the
If Merrimack misses the playoffs –
and the Warriors are five points behind Providence
after Wednesday’s loss to New Hampshire
– it would be the first time since 1995-96 that they
missed the postseason. Merrimack has one league victory
and three points in the standings through 20 games and is
in danger of setting the league marks in those categories.
Several teams have finished the year with just three wins,
while the 1989-90 Merrimack team had the fewest points (six).
Warriors are at Northeastern Friday before
meeting Providence twice next weekend.
Dick Umile earned hearty congratulations for passing his
former coach, Charlie Holt, on UNH’s
career wins list, but he deflected the praise with trademark
an honor to be associated with him," said Umile. "He
was a great coach. He was a well-respected coach. I don't
look at it as breaking coach Holt's record. Just to be associated
with him is what's special."
Umile has given freshman Kevin Regan four straight starts
in goal, all wins for UNH. Regan has won
his last six starts in all, and is 11-1-0 on the year.
UMass Lowell’s John Yaros came back
from a broken collarbone – an injury more than a few
hockey players have called the most painful in their careers
– to post a shutout in his first start back, 2-0 over
Providence. Yaros, who figures to back
up freshman Peter Vetri the rest of the way for the River
Hawks, made 26 saves in the game.
In a little more than a calendar year since last Valentine’s
Day, New Hampshire sophomore Jacob Micflikier
has 44 points in 42 games, including 6-4—10 in his
last three outings.
Jamie Carroll, the former Iona forward who has been one
of the few bright spots for Providence
this season, saw his six-game point streak end Sunday in
the Friars’ shutout loss to UMass Lowell.
Providence has further evidence not to
mess with the Skating Friar: “The Friars are 0-3-0
in their three games wearing their gray third jerseys with
the large ‘P’ on the front,” wrote Travis
Barrett in the Woonsocket Call after Sunday’s
loss, “and they’ve been outscored 10-2 in those
variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this
report. Special thanks to Joe Gladziszewski.