November 3, 2005
Hockey Least?

By Jeff Howe

 Hockey East Notebook

UMass Lowell is among the Hockey East teams suffering through a difficult start.

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CHA Notebook
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WCHA Notebook

If parity is supposed to be a good thing, then everyone around Hockey East should be happy with the results over the first month of the new season. But since only three teams in the 10-team conference have an overall record above the .500 mark, this parity philosophy may need a bit of tweaking.

It’s been no secret that Maine and Vermont have gotten off to tremendous starts, with the Black Bears boasting a 7-1-0 record, only being topped by UVM’s string of seven consecutive victories to launch its inaugural Hockey East campaign. Even still, Maine (2-0-0 in league play) and the Catamounts (1-0-0) are the only two schools without a conference loss in the young season.

And in Hockey East’s marquee matchup to this point, a game between New Hampshire and Boston College – the third team with an overall winning record – at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, sloppy play on both sides resulted in anything but an exhilarating early-season slugfest. If the play between these two high-profile teams is a sign of things to come, Hockey East may be in trouble if it plans on regaining some of its thunder that the WCHA stole last spring.

Another team that has gotten off to a hot start has been Providence, which is 3-1-0 in HEA play and was briefly tied with the Eagles in the third period before surrendering the game-winning goal in the Friars’ only loss. But PC tripped up during its weekend getaway to the North Country and was swept by Clarkson and St. Lawrence on Oct. 14-15, leaving the Friars’ overall record at 3-3-0.

So with the conference’s overall record standing at 29-27-3 through the early portion of the schedule and with half the teams giving up more goals than they are scoring, there is definitely some room for improvement. But as any coach would proclaim, it’s not where you start but where you finish, leaving optimism that the league can shed its “Hockey Least” tag for that of a more desirable “Hockey Beast” one.


Capital punishment – In terms of scoring, skating and, in general, making opposing defensemen look bad, things have always come pretty easily for former Boston University freshman stud Chris Bourque.

But after leaving the Terriers at the end of last season to ultimately join the Washington Capitals’ organization, pro life has been anything but easy. The son of Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque, Chris has realized that his fortunate hockey upbringing has transformed into an unfortunate string of events as a member of the Caps’ American Hockey League affiliate Hershey Bears.

Despite his small stature, he has been easy for his opposition to spot on the ice, and he has been on the wrong end of several cheap shots during the early portion of the AHL season. On Sunday night, he was drilled from behind by a member of the Hamilton Bulldogs and hit his head off one of the goal posts, resulting in a concussion. Originally, after being carried off the ice on a stretcher, there was speculation that he may have suffered a neck injury, but he is expected to be fine.

Bourque was a high school freshman at Cushing Academy when UMass defenseman Marvin Degon and UNH defenseman Brian Yandle were both senior teammates. Here is Degon’s take on the situation:

“I never really noticed [people going after him in high school], but I know that he is about 165 pounds playing in the AHL, so that is going to happen. It’s going to happen because he is a rookie, and it’s going to happen because he is 165 pounds. There might be a bull’s eye on his head, but that sort of stuff happens.”

Degon noted that Bourque organized the underclassmen at Cushing to honor the seniors by putting their numbers on the bottom of their skates for a game on a night that the seniors were supposed to do something special for the underclassmen.

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Degon said. “He has got leadership qualities that, if he was at BU for four years, he would be a leader on that team. Wherever he is, he is going to be a leader eventually. It’s disappointing that other players would try to take advantage of the fact that his name is ‘Bourque’. They have got to regulate these penalties better.”

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Vermont at Boston University (Fri.)
If the third time really is a charm, then it’s a sure bet you can be a part of history on Friday night at Boston University’s beautiful new Agganis Arena. BU coach Jack Parker will take his third shot at winning his 300th Hockey East contest, but don’t look to Vermont to just roll over for sentimental reasons. The Catamounts are riding a 7-0-0 start, their best in program history, and will take the ice for their second Hockey East game of the season after knocking off Northeastern 5-3 on Tuesday night.

While You’re There: In town for the night? Head to Abe & Louie’s on Boylston Street across from the Prudential Center for the best steak in the Bay State. Or call in sick to work on Monday and stick around for an extra few days to see the New England Patriots welcome old friend Peyton Manning as they take on the undefeated Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium.

Stick Salute

It’s kind of like celebrating a newborn baby’s first steps, first words or first – well, anything. Vermont’s first period of Hockey East action was somewhat successful after dropping five goals on 15 shots against Northeastern Tuesday night in Boston. With a .333 shooting percentage in the opening frame, the Catamounts may qualify to give Shaquille O’Neal some tips on his charity stripe woes.

Bench Minor

Northeastern is 0-4-1 to start the season, has only scored two power-play goals in 25 chances, has spent 188 minutes in the penalty box (an average of 37.6 minutes per game) and tied the U.S. Under-18 National Team 1-1 in an exhibition matchup on Sunday.


• Boston College rookie Brock Bradford came down with a case of déjà vu over the last week. In a span of four days, Bradford has scored his first two career goals, both game-winners, both in the third period, both in 3-2 games. On Saturday, the Eagles defeated Providence and then took down UNH at Manchester’s Verizon Wireless Arena.

• Vermont seems to be adjusting to its new surroundings pretty well. Besides its 7-0-0 start, Brady Leisenring was named Hockey East’s Player of the Month after posting four goals and seven assists for 11 points, tying him with teammate Torrey Mitchell for the most points in the conference in October. Mitchell was named runner-up for his efforts.

• Sticking with the monthly accolades, Maine freshman Ben Bishop picked up a couple of them. On top of being the conference’s Rookie of the Month, he was named Goaltender of the Month, too. His 4-1-0 record included two wins over two-time defending national champion Denver, and he also boasted a 1.59 goals-against average and .943 save percentage.

• In the professional ranks, former BC standout Ryan Shannon was named American Hockey League Rookie of the Month after recording seven goals and five assists in eight games for the first-place Portland Pirates.

• Providence’s 3-0-0 start in the league before losing its 2-1 third-period lead over BC on Saturday was the team’s first unblemished three-game start since 1998-99. The loss to the Eagles also ended the PC's six-game conference winning streak. The Friars get a chance to kick off a new streak with a home-and-home series against UMass this weekend.

• Speaking of the Minutemen, their offense has sputtered a la the British army during the days of the American Revolution. UMass lost 4-1 to UNH on Friday night and 4-0 to Maine on Saturday, meaning the Maroon and White have only scored just one goal in its last 126:36 of action and a mere two goals in the last 173:17 of ice time. And the power play has failed to convert in 18 consecutive chances.

• UMass Lowell found its offense against Boston University this weekend after it disappeared for a stretch 180:39 of which the River Hawks failed to score a single goal. Andrew Martin’s goal 10:38 into the first period started an avalanche of scoring, as UML was able to light the lamp seven times in the 7-4 victory.

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