In the last weekend of Hockey East regular
season action, there will be a family feud, a rematch
of last year’s league championship and –
perhaps most importantly – a chance that, for
the first time in the league’s 22-year history,
four teams could wear the conference crown.
Boston College has lost four of its
last five games while Boston University, Maine and
New Hampshire have put together some impressive runs
to distress the Eagles’ comfort level, and the
four teams are separated by four points with just
a pair of games left on the slate. BC’s eight-point
lead has shriveled to two points over BU and Maine
and four points over UNH.
The weekend’s marquee matchup
is a home-and-home between the Wildcats and Eagles.
If New Hampshire sweeps BC, Maine only picks up two
points on UMass and BU only pockets a pair from Northeastern,
there will be a four-way party at the top of the Hockey
East standings – with UNH winning the tiebreaker
for the top seed in the playoffs.
UNH’s leading point-scorer Daniel
Winnik is excited for yet another important late-season
series with Boston College.
“I figured it would be a big weekend,”
Winnik said about his reaction to looking at the schedule
for the first time last summer. “It seems like
it is every year. My freshman year, we lost down there,
and they clinched the regular season title. Last year,
if we could have won a game there, we would have clinched
The Wildcats also fell victim to BC
in the championship game of last year’s postseason
tourney, 3-1, at the FleetCenter. Eagle senior Chris
Collins echoes his opponent’s sentiments.
“The last few years, we’ve
had UNH in either the last week or one of the last
weeks of the year, and it always jumps out on the
schedule,” Collins said. “I think they
do that for a reason, and it’s always a fun
one at the end of the year.”
This season, though, there are bloodlines
shared between the two programs, adding extra significance
to what has become such a heated rivalry between the
Eagles and Wildcats. Collins, who leads Hockey East
with 26 goals and 51 points, will be skating against
his younger brother Greg, a UNH freshman who has tallied
five goals and an assist in his rookie campaign.
“It’ll be a lot of fun for
both me and him,” Chris said. “We talk
everyday. We’re best friends. I actually got
out to see him last weekend in his game against Providence
(a 2-2 tie with UNH on Friday night) and got to meet
up with him after. We’re both really excited
about it. Another nice thing is he is going to be
there for my Senior Night, which is pretty special.
My whole family will be there, and it will be nice
to have him on the other side of the ice.”
The elder Collins plays his final regular
season game at Kelley Rink on Thursday night, and
although his parents will be on hand to support both
of their sons, Chris already knows what colors they’ll
“I’m pretty sure they’ll
root for me; at least that’s what they tell
me,” Chris said with a laugh. “I’m
a senior, and I’ve been here for four years
so I think they need to cut me a little slack and
root for me because he has another few years under
BC is the only team in the league that
controls its own destiny as far as winning the regular
season championship is concerned so if the Eagles
take at least three points from UNH, they’ll
lock up the title for the fourth year in a row, a
feat no BC team has ever accomplished.
“Our seniors – Peter Harrold,
Stephen Gionta and myself – are feeling a little
lot of pressure because this could be our fourth regular
season championship in a row for us. That is really
important to all three of us, and we’ve been
looking to do that since the beginning of the year.
Now we’re still where we want to be; we’re
two points ahead here, and we control our own destiny.”
If UNH finds a way to sweep the weekend
or at least pick up a split, a whole new set of circumstances
will open up for the Terriers and Black Bears, who
can each still win the crown outright.
“Obviously, it’s a pretty
big weekend for us,” said BU sophomore and Beanpot
MVP Peter MacArthur. “If we can win the first
game then win on Saturday night and get some help
from UNH, then we can hopefully win the regular season
“I like our chances. Northeastern
is going to come at us hard. We’re their biggest
rival, and they’ve got nothing to lose. They
would love to play the spoiler. They can salvage some
of their season with a couple wins against us. It’s
not going to be easy. They’re not going to just
roll over and die for us. These are going to be two
“The incentive to want to win
this weekend is just based on the points system in
Hockey East right now and our ability to finish as
high as we can in the standings,” Maine’s
leading goal and point-scorer Greg Moore said. “We
obviously just want to make sure we can put ourselves
in good position heading into the playoffs.”
The Terriers put together one of the
most impressive winning streaks in the nation this
year, a streak that reached 11 games. Over the last
15 contests, Boston University is 12-1-2. But even
though BU has climbed leaps and bounds to get itself
back in the hunt, MacArthur doesn’t think his
squad will spend much time staring down the out-of-town
scoreboard, a characteristic the Terriers had to shake
when they were struggling in the early winter.
“Early in the year, one of our
biggest problems was worrying too much about what
other teams were doing while not really concentrating
enough on ourselves,” he said. “But in
the second half of the year, all of the coaches have
been saying that we just need to focus on our next
shift and our next period. We’ve been really
focused on the task at hand. We can only control our
own destiny. Let’s win one game then let’s
win another game. We won’t be scoreboard-watching
But on the heels of BU’s impressive
second-half march has been a similarly remarkable
run by the Black Bears, who have won four in a row
and are 9-1-1 in their last 11 games. Maine has also
held its opponents to just a single goal in each of
its last seven victories. And while Maine has seemingly
locked up a berth in the NCAA Tournament, it is still
flying under the radar, especially in comparison to
all of the publicity BU received – which sits
perfectly well with Moore.
“We don’t want to give teams
any more motivation to come and beat us,” Moore
said. “We can just keep plugging away and keep
trying to improve every week. It definitely helps
when other teams are doing well because that takes
the pressure off of us.”
BU also looks to have filled out its
RSVP to the NCAA dance party, and depending on what
happens in the weekend’s premier series, another
team may also have a shot at the national prize. If
the tournament started today, BC would be in, but
if Jerry York’s club continues to struggle down
the stretch, UNH may earn an invite instead. It doesn’t,
however, look as though the 16-team field is big enough
for both teams at this point.
“It’s very important when
you look at the NCAA Tournament because right now
we’re kind of a bubble team,” Winnik said.
“If we were to sweep BC, it may put them as
a bubble team, and we’d maybe switch positions.”
“It’s the biggest weekend
of the year for us,” Collins said. “There
aren’t just Hockey East regular season and playoff
implications but national implications, too. We really
have to win both games to get a chance at the NCAA’s,
so our whole team knows how serious this weekend is.”
Each team knows what is currently at
stake. They know what they have to do, and they understand
what kind of help they need from others on the outside.
Everyone likes their chances heading into the first
weekend in March, but once the puck drops in their
respective games, chances are just that – chances.
“I think we’re all ready
for it,” Collins said. “I think we feel
good about it as a team. I think we’re all real
confident, and I think we’re just going to go
out and get two wins.”
“Everyone in the locker room had
the belief that we could do this, and we have turned
the belief into a reality,” MacArthur said.
“We’re going into the last two games of
the season, and the regular season championship is
right in front of us. We’re licking our chops
and ready to get after it, and we’ll see what
happens this weekend.”
Great Weekend Getaway
at BC, Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
BC at UNH, Saturday at 7 p.m. When the Hockey East schedule
was first released, this was the series everyone
immediately pointed to. The regular season championship
is on the line for BC, and if UNH can sweep
and get some help, the Wildcats will share the
crown with the Eagles – and possibly others.
These two met up in the conference championship
game last year at the FleetCenter, and in the
last weekend of regular season play, the spotlight
will once again be focused on UNH and BC.
While You’re There:
Stay in Boston until Friday so you can catch
Boston University and Northeastern at Matthews
Arena or take the 30-minute ride to Lowell,
where the River Hawks host Vermont. If you choose
the Lowell option, check out the scene in the
Downtown area where you’ll find The Old
Court, the best bar in the city famous for starting
America’s Industrial Revolution.
off to all of the Hockey East seniors
who played in their final home game last weekend
and the ones who are about to this weekend.
Special mention goes to the UMass senior class
including defenseman Marvin Degon, who picked
up a pair of assists on Senior Night and has
been one of the most hard-working and first-rate
individuals the program has ever seen.
goalie Gabe Winer may have had a déjà
vu experience on Friday night at Northeastern
after he was run over by a group of Huskies
directly before they scored the game’s
tying goal. Referee Jeff Bunyon
once again chose to eat his whistle –
which also happened during a game he was officiating
between the Minutemen and Wildcats in Durham
on Jan. 21, when Jacob Micflikier trucked Winer
before a Joe Charlebois score.
And during the second-to-last
weekend of the year, Bunyon – like most
refs – is still consistently making inconsistent
calls when it comes to the notorious hitting-from-behind
penalty. Husky Louis Liotti was given the gate
at 3:20 of the third for a hit he put on UMass
freshman Alex Berry along the right boards,
but just 2:20 later – directly in front
of Bunyon – Brian Deeth put a similar
hit on Minuteman Cory Quirk along the back boards
but never received what would have been an equally
warranted game misconduct.
SEEN AND HEARD IN HOCKEY EAST
M&M trouble: When
Maine and Merrimack – two polar opposites in
the Hockey East standings – were scheduled for
a pair in North Andover last weekend, it didn’t
appear that there would be a ton of newsworthy information
coming out of Lawler Arena when all was said and done.
Boy, was that a terrible assumption.
With time winding down in the third
period of Friday’s slugfest, mayhem broke out
along the Merrimack bench. According to the Maine
Morning Sentinel, Maine forwards Brent Shepheard,
Jon Jankus and Rob Bellamy got involved with players
on the Warrior bench, including MC assistant coach
Darren Yopyk, who also apparently started throwing
“Shepheard got backed up into
the bench, and guys started punching him, including
the assistant coach,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead
told Kevin Thomas of the Morning Sentinel.
Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy made the
decision following the game that Yopyk would not be
on the bench for Saturday’s contest.
“It overshadowed a pretty good
effort by our guys,” Dennehy told the Morning
Sentinel. “He’ll learn from this.”
Then on Saturday, Maine junior defenseman
Mike Lundin had to have the tip of his right pinky
finger reattached by a doctor after being slashed
earlier in the night during Maine’s win. He
also fractured a bone in the finger, according to
the Bangor Daily News.
“It seems to be taking pretty
well, but we’ll have to wait and see if the
body accepts [the tip of the finger] back,”
Whitehead told the Daily News. “If
it does revascularize, that’s a step in the
Whitehead doesn’t know if Lundin
– whose brother, Matt, is a goaltender for the
Black Bears – will be able to return to the
ice this season.
“We’ll know more later in
the week,” he told the Daily News.
“We’re hoping he’ll have a chance
to play in the playoffs, but we aren’t counting
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• With their
two ties against Boston University this past weekend,
Vermont has now gone into overtime in six of its last
nine contests, including each of its last three. The
Catamounts have now built up a 15-game unbeaten streak
in bonus hockey (5-0-10) since January of 2004.
his first-period score on Thursday night against UMass
Lowell, Boston College’s Brian Boyle had scored
each of BC’s last five goals against the River
Hawks. He picked up all four goals against Lowell
in an overtime win on Jan. 28 to start the streak,
which was halted when Benn Ferriero lit the lamp in
the second period on Thursday. Still, Boyle went on
to record a hat trick in the 6-0 victory and then
added a goal in Saturday night’s 6-3 defeat
at the Tsongas Arena to give him eight goals against
UML in three games this season. The BC center has
now totaled 11 goals in eight career games against
the River Hawks.
the first time since a 5-1 loss to Providence on Jan.
6, Boston University failed to score at least three
goals in a game on both Friday (1-1) and Saturday
(2-2) night at UVM, ending a stretch of 13 games.
senior goalie Gabe Winer notched his 50th career victory
on Saturday night in the final game he’ll ever
play at the Mullins Center.
is the only team in Hockey East not to have lost a
season series this year, but the Wildcats lost their
first meeting with BC, 3-2, at the Verizon Wireless
Center in Manchester on Nov. 1. They’ll need
a three-point weekend with the Eagles to make sure
that holds true.
skating to a 2-2 tie at Northeastern on Friday night,
the Minutemen became the 59th and final Division I
team in the nation to register a tie.
goalie Jim Healey swiped away Mike Hamilton’s
bid on a third-period penalty shot, keeping Healey
a perfect 3-for-3 on such attempts this season.
Providence can skate away with a two-game sweep in
its home-and-home against Merrimack this weekend,
the Friars will tie their program record of 15 Hockey
East wins, which was set in the inaugural 1984-85
season. Additionally, Cody Wild tied Sean Whitham’s
PC record for most goals by a rookie defenseman (six),
also set in 1984-85.
variety of sources were utilized in the compilation
of this report.