March 9, 2006
Until the Final Whistle

By Jeff Howe

 Hockey East

John Curry and the Terriers won the regular season title on the final night.

National TV Schedule

It turned out that everyone was right that the end-of-the-year series between New Hampshire and Boston College would decide the Hockey East regular season championship. But no one thought that Boston University was going to crash the party.

The Eagles blew a 3-2 third-period lead on Senior Night at Conte Forum, skating to a 3-3 tie with the Wildcats before drowning in Lake Whitt by a 5-2 score on Saturday. BC allowed the Terriers to sneak through the back door, as Jack Parker’s club swept cross-town rival Northeastern and stole the Hockey East crown from the hated Eagles – all by a single point.

Heading into the weekend of Jan. 27 – through 17 league games – Boston College held a 10-point lead over its Commonwealth Ave. counterparts, but the Terriers knocked off the Eagles that night to take the season series, proceeded to beat BC 3-2 in the Beanpot final and outscored the Maroon and Gold 18-7 in league points over the last 10 conference contests.

With the Hockey East playoffs sweeping in like a New England Nor’easter, BC is forced to pick itself back up after finishing the season at a 1-5-1 clip while BU must catch its breath and move past its red hot finish to focus towards the playoffs and an upset-hungry UMass squad.


The Black Bears are currently on a 10-1-2 run and haven’t lost since UNH took it to them by a 7-4 score. That was an emotionally inspired evening by the Wildcats since they were returning several of their top players from the previous night's team-issued suspension. But while it’s a tossup as to whether or not Maine may be playing better hockey than the Terriers right now, it’s still tough to pick against BU at the Garden, its home away from home.

The Terriers have been getting very good to outstanding goaltending from John Curry. They have two great veteran lines, but their freshman line of Jason Lawrence, Chris Higgins and Brandon Yip combined for three goals and five assists during their two Beanpot games at the Garden just a month ago – so nerves shouldn’t be a problem.
The knock on BU when it struggled during the first half of the season was that the team didn’t come out to play hard every single night. But head coach Jack Parker has screwed everyone’s head on straight, and the Terriers have marched into March with a 14-1-2 record in their last 17 games.

First-Round Matchups
No. 8 Massachusetts at No. 1 Boston University
13-19-2 (10-15-2 HEA)
BU: 21-9-4 (17-7-3 HEA)
Season Series: BU won 2-1-0

Minuteman Fact: UMass is 2-23-0 all-time at BU. One of those wins came in 1920.
Terrier Fact: In the 12 years the playoffs have used a best-of-three quarterfinal format, BU has been a part of the only two eighth-seed upsets over the No. 1 team. No. 8 Merrimack knocked out No. 1 BU in 1998, and No. 8 BU eliminated No. 1 BC in 2004.

How UMass Wins: The Minutemen win all of their games by out-working their opponent, and that needs to be the case this weekend. Whoever starts in net – highly likely to be Gabe Winer’s job until he loses it – will need to string together a couple epic performances.
How BU Wins: UMass doesn’t have the scoring depth to win many games coming from behind so if the Terriers can pick up a couple early scores in each game, they should sail into the semifinals.

No. 7 UMass Lowell at No. 2 Maine
14-18-2 (11-14-2 HEA)
UM: 24-10-2 (17-8-2 HEA)
Season Series: Maine won 3-0-0

River Hawk Fact: UML enters the postseason on a three-game winning streak, the longest in the conference.
Black Bear Fact: Maine has beaten Lowell nine straight times – including a two-game sweep in the playoffs at Alfond last year – by a combined score of 47-14.

How UML Wins: The team has gotten a bit of its offensive mojo back of late, and if the River Hawks can put on some early pressure and crack through Ben Bishop or Matt Lundin, they could rattle the inexperienced playoff netminders.
How Maine Wins: The only blemish against Maine’s record in the last three weekends of play was a 2-2 tie on Friday night when UMass’ Jon Quick made 48 saves at Alfond. Peter Vetri and the UML defense haven’t been able to handle that type of barrage all season. Maine will score plenty and the defense should be solid like it always is come playoff time.

No. 6 Vermont at No. 3 Boston College
18-12-6 (10-11-6 HEA)
BC: 20-11-3 (17-8-2 HEA)
Season Series: BC won 3-0-0

Catamount Fact: UVM was shut out in each night of its two-game trip to Conte on Jan. 20-21 and was responsible for 120 minutes of Cory Schneider’s 242:19 shutout streak.
Eagle Fact: Since nearly breaking that record for the longest shutout streak in the country, Schneider has allowed two goals or less only twice in the last 12 games (4-7-1).

How UVM Wins: Joe Fallon has been great in net all season, posting a 1.92 goals-against average in league play, and he should continue that pattern against the struggling BC offense. UVM needs to pick up the pace on offense to win, though, as the Cats have only scored more than two goals twice in their last eight games.
How BC Wins: If Schneider can match Fallon’s efforts, the top line of Chris Collins, Brian Boyle and whoever fills in on the other wing – it’s been Brock Bradford of late but Stephen Gionta saw the majority of the line time – will provide enough offense to win the series.

No. 5 Providence at No. 4 New Hampshire
17-14-3 (14-10-3 HEA)
UNH: 18-11-7 (14-7-6 HEA)
Season Series: Tied 1-1-1

Friar Fact: The Friars are just 1-8-0 in their last nine trips to the Whittemore Center and have lost four in a row in Durham.
Wildcat Fact: This is the 10th straight year that UNH has hosted their first-round matchup. UNH has won four consecutive quarterfinal series and is 7-2 in that stretch.

How PC Wins: Providence has played the highest level of league competition over the last two months, and this won’t be any different. PC needs to keep each game close and hope its hard-working style of play can win out over the finesse team in the end.
How UNH Wins: The Wildcats can score, and everyone knows that. But it’s the team’s goaltending that has provided the most welcomed spark since early February.


It isn’t always appeasing to the fans when the gate crasher has a first-round date with the favorite, especially when it’s also a matchup that pits the top team in the field against the last one that got in. But that just happens to be the case this year.

Of the four teams that have to hit the road for their best-of-three series this weekend, UMass has the best record in its last 10 games, albeit a modest 4-4-2 mark. Add to the fact that BC is 3-0-0 against a Vermont team that is 3-7-4 since Jan. 20, Lowell is 0-for-the-century against Maine at Alfond, and Providence knocking off New Hampshire wouldn’t be much of an upset; and UMass appears to be the only true underdog with a chance to make a loud splash this weekend.

The Minutemen were 1-2-0 against BU this season, but their lone win came on Nov. 12, and they dropped both games at Agganis Arena. Still, each team that has seen UMass in the second half of the season has expressed its wish to stay as far away from the Minutemen as humanly possible come playoff time. Massachusetts beat three teams – Vermont, Colorado College and Boston College – that were ranked in the top-five during the time of their meeting this season, and they did so with flawless performances in net.

UMass has a proven veteran winner in Gabe Winer and an unflappable freshman in Jon Quick who have split time between the pipes, and Don Cahoon won’t show his hand when it comes to who will play and when. Everyone knows that when it comes to postseason hockey, the best team doesn’t always win; the best goalie, however, sometimes does.


F – Chris Collins, Boston College
Collins led Hockey East with 26 goals and 52 points and was second in assists with 26. He nearly doubled his career totals in each category, and he is a serious contender for the Hobey.

F – Greg Moore, Maine
Moore shattered his past career-highs with 23 goals, 14 assists and 37 points, and he helped turn what is usually an offensively handicapped team into the highest scoring offense in the league.

F – Brett Hemingway, New Hampshire
After getting suspended for the first leg of a big February series with Maine, he promised to deliver in his return to the lineup. He did so to the tune of two goals and an assist in a 7-4 win, starting a stretch in which UNH went 5-1-3 in its last nine games. He was also fourth in HEA with 18 goals and tied for fourth with 37 points.

D – Peter Harrold, Boston College
He was a mainstay on the blue line and an important leader for the young BC defensive corps, picking up the void left by Andrew Alberts. He was also a plus-18; no Hockey East defenseman even came close to that.

D – Marvin Degon, Massachusetts
His 10 goals were tops among league blueliners, and his presence at the point for the Minutemen was invaluable. But there is one thing that sticks out about this offensively gifted defenseman. He also plays defense.

G – John Curry, Boston University
Earlier this season, Jack Parker listed his three stars of the game as “John Curry, John Curry and John Curry.” His statistics won’t always jump off the page at you, but he has all of the intangibles that make him a winner. Forget the top seed in the playoffs, BU wouldn’t even have home ice if it weren’t for Curry.


Providence has been treading water since the turn of the New Year, which may cause some people to jump from Tim Army’s bandwagon to that of Tim Whitehead or Jack Parker. Whitehead did a spectacular job breathing a new life into his team’s season after going through turmoil both on and off the ice in November and December, and Parker turned an overachieving team into a regular season conference champion.

But no one – definitely not in Hockey East and maybe not even in the entire country – got so much out of so little the way Army did this year. The Friars may be disappointed with a fifth-place finish in the standings after holding the lead through much of the first half, but they would have had to turn their 6-8-2 second session into 9-5-2 or 10-6-0 against the toughest post-December schedule in the league to earn a share of the Hockey East crown. It’s just a lot to ask.

Plus, major points go to Army for resurrecting the program of his alma mater to every extent – particularly the public’s perception of Providence and the belief of everyone inside the locker room.


There isn’t much to say about Chris Collins that hasn’t already been said this season. It’s hard to imagine that, after the amazing run Cory Schneider was on for two months, Collins may have actually been more valuable to Jerry York’s team over the course of the entire year.


Big Ben Bishop boasted the best winning percentage of any goalie in the league with his 17-6-2 record. He has a 2.14 goals-against average, and he has allowed just one goal in six of his last 11 starts, a stretch in which he compiled a 9-0-2 record. Life after Jimmy Howard didn’t turn out to be so bad after all.


A lot of players had breakout years this season, and this could have gone to guys like Greg Moore or Chris Collins. Joe Fallon and Brian Boyle deserve some appropriate attention here, too. And although Peter MacArthur’s statistics didn’t exactly skyrocket from a year ago, they did improve while he transformed from a freshman to a vital locker room leader. Oh, and scoring the game-winner in the Beanpot does a thing or two to help someone earn national prominence. Just ask Chris Bourque.