November 30, 2005
Retro-Fit: Hockey East and the WCHA

By Jeff Howe

 Hockey East Notebook

Freshman Cory Quirk had a goal and an assist as Massachusetts upset Colorado College, 4-3. (Photo by UMass Media Relations)

National TV Schedule

Lou Lamoriello, Hockey East’s first-ever commissioner, has done some incredible things, not just for the league he helped establish, but for all of hockey. His legacy lives on when teams from Hockey East and the WCHA get together and plan either a one-time meet-and-greet or a multiyear series.

One of Lamoriello’s most significant orders of operation was to create an interlocking schedule between the two leagues back when Hockey East was starting up and looking for a bit of credibility in 1983. Those days were recalled this weekend with Colorado College and Denver visiting Boston University and Massachusetts.

After taking a trip down memory lane, UMass coach Don Cahoon recalls the origin of the league rivalry well.

“I actually left Europe and came back to the University of Lowell back in 1983, when the league was formed,” Cahoon said. “I became the recruiting coordinator out there, and it seemed like we used to play every other weekend out west. That did a great deal to create the rivalry that you now see, and it enhanced both leagues. Certainly, with Hockey East just starting up, it gave it instant credibility on a national level. Certainly, the programs that were in Hockey East were going to do that on their own, but that just made it happen all the faster.

“This is great that we are able to sustain that and having these interlocking games is terrific. I think it’s wonderful for the fans to come out and see these great programs up close in person and recognize what we’re confronted with when we go into their buildings and try to win a game.”

Both Boston University and UMass came out victorious in thrillers on Friday night, and the WCHA teams swept the pairings on Saturday, with three of the four weekend slugfests decided by just one goal.

Denver coach George Gwozdecky commented not only on how closely the two leagues play each other but also on how the two leagues almost mirror each other’s style of play.

“How they play in Hockey East is so similar [to the WCHA] compared to the old days when the east and west played and the styles were so completely different,” Gwozdecky said. “Nowadays, good teams are good teams, whether they are in the east or the west.”

After losing 4-3 to the Minutemen in one of the more exciting games to date this season on Friday night, Colorado College staved off two Terrier goals in the final 90 seconds and eventually won with a Brett Sterling lamplighter 52 seconds into overtime on Saturday. CC coach Scott Owens noted how excited his team was to play on the east coast for a change, but that excitement may have also caused a few gray hairs for the bench captain this weekend.

“It’s healthy for us to get out here to play and for [Hockey East teams] to swing out west,” Owens said. “These are four very good teams, and for us it’s a chance to get out. We play a lot on the road in our league, but we don’t get a chance to play on the road a lot in non-conference games. Our guys were excited to come out even though it was Thanksgiving because it was something new and something fresh.”

Obviously, the student-athletes aren’t old enough to remember the heydays of the interlocking schedule, but for a player like UMass captain Stephen Werner, he was just excited to be a part of the biggest win the team has seen in the last two years.

“I think we’ll definitely remember the win,” Werner said. “A split against those teams was good, but beating the third-ranked team in the country was a huge step for our program this season.”

Young and old, everyone involved in this weekend’s interleague activities was impressed. Unfortunately, most of the nations top Division I programs have their schedules set through 2008 and into 2009, but if Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna and WCHA head man Bruce McLeod could somehow work out future matchups between the conferences, college hockey as a whole would greatly benefit.

Think about it. This is the week of the ACC – Big Ten Challenge in college basketball, one of the most highly anticipated early-season mini-tournaments featuring the two best leagues in the country; the same is said about Hockey East and the WCHA.

College hockey has very limited television exposure, especially at a national level, where TV contracts are virtually non-existent. If these two leagues can hook up their top teams like the ACC and Big Ten, collegiate hockey would profit – and it could capitalize by the NHL being in limbo right now after the lockout.

It would also unify the eastern college hockey world with that of the west, since the two sides are so unfamiliar with each other due to lack of exposure. Obviously, new rivalries would come about, and after taking a glance through some arenas over the past several years, it’s very clear that every single one of these teams has a loyal fan base that is willing to travel with its team.

The growth of these two conferences in the last 20 years has been amazing; the original interlocking schedule is an idea that could be revisited.

It definitely wouldn’t hurt.


Bad News Black Bears – As if losing three of their last four games wasn’t bad enough, six Black Bears have recently found themselves in a whirlwind of legal trouble stemming from an alleged fight that happened inside an apartment near the Orono campus.

According to the Bangor Daily News, junior Mike Hamilton and sophomore Wes Clark were charged on Monday, Nov. 14, with assault and aggravated criminal trespass for a fight that happened Sunday, Nov. 13. In addition, senior Travis Wright, junior Brent Shepheard, sophomore Bret Tyler and sophomore Rob Bellamy were all summonsed and charged with criminal trespass.

The group, which also included several other students, showed up at the apartment where Hamilton’s ex-girlfriend was with a member of the Maine baseball team. An argument between Hamilton and the baseball player escalated into a fight. Clark, Wright, Shepheard, Tyler and Bellamy entered the apartment according to what police told the paper, and Clark allegedly punched and kicked the victim, who was taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor to receive stitches over his left eye.

Hamilton and Clark were suspended indefinitely by the team, while the other four received one-game suspensions, which were served in Maine’s exhibition game against the U.S. Under-18 Team on Nov. 19. Wright, Tyler and Bellamy were all in the lineup in the team’s loss to Vermont on Sunday.

“We’ll let the [legal] process take its course. Until then, I don’t want [Hamilton or Clark] wearing a jersey. Hopefully, everything will be resolved before December 23 [the court date]. That’s a long time in limbo,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead told the Bangor Daily News.

Blake James, the UMaine athletic director, commented to the paper on the one-game suspensions to the other four players.

“They were part of the situation, and that’s the reason they’ve been suspended. But what they were charged with is different than what Hamilton and Clark were charged with,” James said.

Tyler has one goal and six assists in 11 games this season after he was the top-scoring blueliner for the Black Bears last year. Bellamy has two goals and three assists in 12 games, Wright has a goal and an assist in 13 games, Hamilton has three assists in nine games, Shepheard has two goals in 11 games and Clark has yet to play a game this year after breaking his leg during training camp.

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Boston College vs. Boston University
It may be the best rivalry in all of college hockey, and it resumes this weekend when Boston University and Boston College lock up for a home-and-home series. Friday’s meeting takes place at Conte Forum with the opening faceoff slated for 8 p.m., before the two clubs relocate about seven miles down the road to Agganis Arena for a 7 p.m. start on Saturday.

While You’re There: Buy yourself some very neutral clothing. Stay away from reds, whites, maroons and golds. But make sure you keep away from anything in pinstripes; the Boston folk don’t take kindly to those, either. To be safe, just find yourself a Larry Bird jersey.

Stick Salute

New Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy can finally breathe a little easier after his Warriors picked up their first league win on Tuesday night in the most unlikely of fashions. They shut out UNH, which was tied for first place with Providence and also the top-scoring team in Hockey East, 1-0 in North Andover. After beginning the conference season with an 0-5 record, it was the first league point Merrimack had earned since its 2-2 tie at Maine on Dec. 3 last year and first league victory since Nov. 28, 2004, 366 days before.

Bench Minor

In relation to the “Seen and Heard” section, shame on Maine for suspending Travis Wright, Brent Shepheard, Bret Tyler and Rob Bellamy for just an exhibition game. The one-game suspension is fine, but make it during a game that actually counts in the standings, like the Vermont game this previous Sunday, which was the team’s next regular season game after the suspensions were handed down. Suspending players during an exhibition game is useless, and it just provides them with rest and relaxation – not remorse.

‘Cat Fight – By now, everyone knows how good UNH is on offense, but seriously, this is starting to get unfair. Daniel Winnik was named Hockey East Player of the Month for November after totaling four goals and nine assists in the Wildcats’ nine games during the year’s 11th month.

Now, to the unfair part: the two runners-up for this award were none other than Winnik’s two linemates, Brett Hemingway and Jacob Micflikier. Hemingway racked up four goals and eight assists while Micflikier lit the lamp four times but struggled mightily compared to the other two in the helpers department, only being generous enough for seven assists.

OK, so UNH has one line that scored 12 goals and tallied 24 assists for 36 points in just nine November games.

Wait, it gets better – or worse, depending if you’re on UNH’s schedule or not.

In league games, the top line (Winnik is 5-9—14, Micflikier is 4-9—13, Hemingway is 5-7—12) has accounted for 14 goals and 25 assists for 39 points in just nine Hockey East bouts, and they are ranked 1-2-3 in the conference, respectively. But the Wildcats’ top-two defensemen, Brian Yandle and Craig Switzer, have each contributed a pair of goals and eight assists in those nine games, too, meaning UNH has the top-five scorers in league contests in all of the Hockey East land.

Now they’re just showing off.


• After spending days buried in the INCH research lab in preparation for the weekend series between BU and BC, here are some findings: In regular season contests since the 1999-2000 season, BC owns a 12-5-1 advantage, outscoring BU 60-36 in that stretch. BC has won seven of those 12 games at home, while BU has won four of its five games at home. Before BU’s 3-2 victory on Dec. 3 of last year, BC had won seven straight in the series, but BC has still won eight of the last nine. The two teams have not tied since a 4-4 affair on Jan. 8, 2000. By the way, that tie marked the only time in those 18 meetings since 1999 that BU has scored more than three goals, and they were held to less than three goals in 11 of those contests.

• Merrimack has scored just one goal in the last 199:26 of play, which is 5:26 longer than the actual running time of the movie “Titanic.” Both the Merrimack offense and the actual Titanic are still presumed to be missing.

• UMass’ 4-3 victory over Colorado College on Friday was the program’s first-ever win over a team from the WCHA. UMass goalie Gabe Winer made 33 of his 42 saves during that game after the first intermission, and it was his first start between the pipes in 20 days.

• Sunday’s hurrah between Maine and UVM featured the nation’s best two penalty killing teams, respectively, and they did not disappoint, as the two squads combined to be 0-of-7 on the power play.

• In Providence’s 13 games this season, the team has scored 18 of its 36 goals in the third period. However, the Friars have only outscored their opponents 18-12 in the final frame. When PC scores two or more goals in the third period, its record is only 3-3. In the seven games the Friars have outscored their opponents in the third, they are 5-2, but when they are outscored in the final 20 minutes, they are 1-4-1.

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