East Commissioner Joe Bertagna isn't shy about the fact
that the league develops the regular-season schedule with
an eye toward compelling matchups late in the season.
what begins Thursday evening has to be beyond what Bertagna
or anyone else could have hoped for in the season’s
a veritable four-for-all, with four teams – nearly
half the league – within reach of the conference title,
and matched up against each other in two head-to-head series.
Just imagine if nearly half the movies made in 2004 had been nominated for Best Picture Sunday night. Like an early Christmas present, it feels like we’re
getting to start the playoffs a week early.
College helped create the logjam at the top with a tie and
a win over New Hampshire last weekend. Jerry York lamented
before the weekend that his Eagles allowed control of their
destiny to slip away; they didn’t completely regain
their grip last weekend, but came close.
out of four points for us makes it a race,” York said
after Saturday’s game. “We're thickly involved
in it and it's going to be an outstanding finish.”
which enters the weekend in fourth place and has the toughest
odds of coming away with the title, is another team that
got back in the hunt with an impressive showing last weekend.
exciting to be back in the mix,” head coach Tim Whitehead
acknowledged. “It’s always great to win the
regular-season title, and we have an outside chance this
– or perhaps greater – concern for the Black
Bears is improving their standing for the NCAA Tournament
and building momentum for the playoffs. One thing’s
for certain with these four teams playing, they all should
come out of the weekend ready for the playoffs.
should really prepare us well,” Whitehead said. “One
of the strengths of our league, over the course of the season,
you feel like you are really battle-ready. If we’re
fortunate enough to make the NCAA Tournament, we know we’ll
be ready for it.”
the pace of this weekend’s games truly does prepare
these teams for the playoffs, it won’t be any surprise
at all to see the same four clubs gathering at the FleetCenter
in two weeks.
AND HEARD IN HOCKEY EAST
Heroes – In the coming weeks, with the announcement
of all-league teams, team MVPs and the like, we’ll
hear plenty more about Hockey East stars like Patrick Eaves,
Sean Collins and Jimmy Howard.
that in mind, we cast our gaze this week to the unsung heroes
of Hockey East. These are the players who may not have had
their names trumpeted in this column, or many other publications,
but have contributed to the success of their team in their
own quiet, efficient way.
College: Mike Brennan was a heralded recruit for
the Eagles, but he’s had a relatively quiet freshman
season, largely due to the fact that he’s put up only
he’s been consistent defensively, which is a lot to
ask some freshman defensemen. And he’s appeared in
every game, something that’s helped a relatively thin
Eagle defense corps that has suffered injuries at key points
University: Two freshman forwards named Ryan –
Monaghan and Weston – earn some attention here. Classmates
Chris Bourque and Pete MacArthur have gotten more publicity
for bringing some much-needed offense to the Terrier lineup.
But a level of intensity game-in, game-out, was lacking
last year as well, and Monaghan and Weston have that. They’ve
only totaled 12 points, combined, but they’re worthy
With goals in four straight games, Maine’s
Brent Shepheard is well on his way from moving from unsung
the sophomore, who was limited to 20 games last year due
to injury, has impressed his coaches all season, and all
over the ice.
really emerged for us as an elite player,” said Tim
Whitehead. “He’s physical, he’s strong
defensively, he’s tough and he can put the puck in
David Leaderer looks to be the latest in the Minutemen’s
line of talented offensive defensemen, following in the
footsteps of Thomas Pöck and senior Marvin Degon.
has 4-7—11 on the year, not overwhelming numbers,
but impressive for a freshman. They include three power-play
goals. He hasn’t been scoring on creampuffs, either
– his goals came against Boston College, Boston University,
Denver and Maine.
Lowell: He’s a top-five scorer and a first-line
player, but junior forward Danny O’Brien often gets
lost amid the praised heaped on his classmates, Ben Walter,
Elias Godoy and Andrew Martin.
may be just the way O’Brien likes it. He’s just
as slippery on the ice, especially in front of the net on
the power play, but he doesn’t want any credit. “It's
an easy job with guys like Marty and Eli and Cleve (Kinley)
and Walter getting you the puck,” he said.
What few accolades the Warriors have earned in
their one-win Hockey East season have gone to defensemen
Bryan Schmidt and Jeff Caron, who have been impressive despite
their team’s record. Also worthy of note is junior
forward Matt Johnson, who has provided a bit of offense
for a corps of forwards in desperate need of goals.
has scored 10 goals, equaling his previous career total,
and appeared in all 35 games for the injury-riddled Warriors.
He’s also been fairly consistent over the course of
the season, never going more than three games without recording
Hampshire: One dangerous line can be cause for
concern. Two is really a recipe for success.
when UNH’s third line hits the ice, led by sophomore
Josh Ciocco, it’s hardly an opportunity to exhale.
Ciocco barely played last year (17 GP, 0-2—2), but
he’s been a force as a sophomore, skating primarily
with two freshmen and putting up 9-9—18. Those contributions
give the Wildcats another dimension beyond their powerful
top two lines.
Words like “scrappy” and “waterbug”
are much more apt to describe Northeastern’s Jared
Mudryk than “goal scorer,” but the addition
of the senior to the Huskies’ first line has provided
a real spark over the last month.
tirelessly all year and done a good job of generating chances,
if not always finishing them. On the ice with Jason Guerriero
and Mike Morris now, more of those pucks are going in. Mudryk’s
contributions are a big reason for NU’s success in
Chris Chaput is a more dynamic player, Colin McDonald
more of a pure goal scorer, and Jon Rheault among the top
freshmen in the league.
head coach Paul Pooley reserves some of his highest praise
for sophomore forward Jamie Carroll, the transfer from Iona.
the course of the year, he’s been our best player,”
Pooley said. “Other players have had spikes when they’ve
played better, but Jamie has been consistent all year. Whatever
line we’ve put him on has had success.”
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
Great Weekend Getaway
Maine at Boston College (Fri.-Sat.) It's
a tough pick between this series and BU-UNH, but with
the Eagles and Black Bears on a roll, this one gets
the nod. Start scouting now in case they meet again
in two weeks.
You're There: If you're a car person, you'll want
to check out the Museum of Fine Arts, which is showcasing
Ralph Lauren's collection of classic cars. You'll
understand why those clothes of his cost so much.
College hockey gets a limited amount of media coverage,
but each year a handful of stories emerge as absolute
must-reads for every fan. We’d like to think
some of those reside on these pages. Meanwhile, we’re
proud to say that our affiliate site, ESPN.com, has
produced what may
be the best of this year as David Albright
chronicles UMass Lowell’s trip to Maine.
Between BU and the league's NESN contracts, it's a
shame Thursday night's BU-UNH game won't be
Ottawa likes Patrick Eaves. Not a surprise – a lot
of people like Patrick Eaves, including The Hockey News,
which has him ranked 32nd among all NHL prospects in its
Future Watch issue.
only thing the Senators would like to change – and
it’s bad news for Boston College
fans – is where he’s playing.
we've got to do,” Ottawa general manager John Muckler
said, “is get Mr. Eaves to come out of school. He's
been the best player on his college team and he's really
developed by getting stronger."
a junior, is the only current Hockey East player on the
magazine’s list of the top 50 prospects.
There's a little bit of suspense remaining for Merrimack
fans, regardless of the fact that the team has been out
of the playoff picture for two weeks:
Can defenseman Bryan Schmidt become the first Warrior to
earn first-team All-Hockey East status? Certainly Merrimack
– and Schmidt – would trade the honor for some
more team success, but it would be a bit of a balm on a
Jimmy Howard's nine career shutouts for Maine in
Hockey East games are a league record.
Four of the five players with a realistic shot at winning
the league scoring title are playing in the "four-for-all"
mentioned above in the race for the league title. The most
favorable schedule belongs to Northeastern's Jason
Guerriero, who plays two games against Massachusetts.
Guerriero is one point behind New Hampshire's Jacob
Micflikier entering the weekend.
Senior John Ronan scored what could be the biggest goal
of Maine's season – and potentially,
in the long run, UMass Lowell's –
when he put home a short-handed tally Saturday night with
one second remaining in the second period. Ronan's goal
gave Maine a 3-2 lead that they would eventually build to
5-2 (the Black Bears won, 5-3).
Getting a lead is key for lots of Hockey East teams –
last week we mentioned it for Providence.
But check out Boston University's numbers
when grabbing a lead: The Terriers are 15-1-3 when scoring
first, 13-1-1 when leading after one period and 17-0-2 when
leading after two periods. BU is yet to win when trailing
variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this