The Black Bears opened their season by making
a huge statement, knocking off Minnesota 3-1 in the Twin
Cities, before heading back home to sweep last weekend’s
series with Bemidji State in Orono. For dessert, coach Tim
Whitehead’s crew will take a weekend tour to North
Dakota for a pair of games between two of last year’s
Frozen Four contestants.
Many teams are loading up on cupcake opponents
before becoming fully engulfed in the league schedule, so
why is Maine one of the few teams this year scheduling the
class of the college hockey world?
“We’ve never shied away from the
tough competition,” Whitehead answered. “We
learn a lot about ourselves. Win, lose or draw, we’re
going to be a better team when we play good competition.
You’re not always able to get those matchups at the
beginning of the year, and we were fortunate to stack up
some good teams at the start. That’s what we try to
do. We’re very pleased to have such a good schedule
early because it helps you find out about your team and
prepares you for the league competition as well.”
Whitehead has learned quickly through three
games that his team may very well be – or can at least
grow to be – on the same level it was at last year.
Not coincidentally, Maine brought two-time defending national
champion Denver into Alfond Arena during the second weekend
of last season – which resulted in another two-game
sweep for the Bears.
There was a lot to be learned that weekend,
too. Whitehead found out that Ben Bishop, who stopped 38
of 41 shots in the two wins over the Pioneers, could fill
the void left by the legendary Jimmy Howard, who surprisingly
turned pro three days before the beginning of the school
Whitehead may have gotten a few more answers
about his team again this October. With the graduation of
last year’s leading goal and point scorer Greg Moore
(28-17—45), plus Derek Damon (15-20—35), John
Hopson (10-14—24) and Jon Jankus (7-11—18),
the Black Bears lost 60 goals and 62 assists. But after
putting up 16 goals through three games, scoring may not
be as much of an issue as originally thought. Of course,
it’s still only three games into the season.
Maine’s bench boss is looking toward
a group of players to take over the spotlight left by Moore,
and he is not changing the philosophy of how he hopes that
“We’ve always been a team that
wins more by a committee than with one or two superstars,”
Whitehead said. “That’s not to say that we don’t
develop a lot of elite players, but we take a lot of pride
in our training and how we prepare for our opponents. We
rely on our players to develop while they’re here,
and [Moore] is a great example of that. He started as a
very good player for us, and then he became an elite player
and one of the best in the country.
“We’re hoping that other guys
– when their turn comes, which it now has –
can rise up and bring their game to the next level. I think
we have a couple guys who can do that. Michel Léveillé,
Mike Lundin, and Ben Bishop are three guys who have elite
potential, and it’s going to be a process but I think
Léveillé is most ready to take that step.”
Whitehead also expects to see a big year from
defenseman Bret Tyler, who chalked up six assists over the
weekend and is currently the team’s leading scorer
as a result. While fighting through a tough ankle injury
last year, Tyler played in 33 of Maine’s 42 games,
contributing seven goals and 16 assists.
"He is a heck of a player, and he is
a tough kid, too,” Whitehead said. “I love the
way Bret plays. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He’ll
block a shot then lead the rush. He is a fierce competitor,
and he’ll put up the numbers. He's got a knack for
making the right decision on the power play, getting the
puck to the net and finding the open man. He is another
guy who is emerging for us.”
While Whitehead has already learned a great
deal about his team through three marquee non-conference
games, maybe some other programs can take a look and learn
a thing or two from Whitehead when it comes scheduling in
SEEN AND HEARD IN HOCKEY EAST
York’s Lucky Peep on Sneep:
Ty Eigner, who is the Brainerd (Minn.) High School hockey
coach, owes a great deal of his success to Boston College
coach Jerry York, who was Eigner’s coach at Bowling
Green some 15 years ago.
Now, and maybe for the next three-plus years,
York may owe some of his coaching success to Eigner, who
helped York land his highest-touted recruit in this year’s
freshman class. Defenseman Carl Sneep, who was the first
Hockey East player selected in June’s NHL Entry Draft
(second round by the Penguins, 32nd overall) played for
Eigner at Brainerd.
York didn’t know about Sneep until Eigner,
himself a defenseman, gave his old bench boss a ring.
“It’s funny how that works,”
York said. “Ty Eigner, who was a captain for me at
Bowling Green, just called me one late afternoon. I picked
up the phone and he says, ‘Hey, Coach, I’ve
got a terrific young player out here I’d like you
to see.’ That’s how it started.
“It wasn’t through any [recruiting]
festivals. It was just a phone call. I’m glad I answered
the phone,” York concluded with a smile as though
he just won the Massachusetts State Lottery.
In one game this year, Sneep has yet to factor
in on any scoring, but he showcased a fine presence in the
defensive zone, especially in one instance while keenly
breaking up a Northeastern two-on-one in front of Cory Schneider.
With his skills still very raw – he
also played football and baseball in high school as opposed
to most recruits who play hockey year round – York
knows he still has to develop his young blueliner.
“He hasn’t had a lot of hockey,”
York said. “But I think he is going to be very good
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
Great Weekend Getaway
Dame at Boston College, Friday, 7 p.m.
Hockey’s version of the “Holy War”
takes center stage in Chestnut Hill on Friday night.
Charlie Weis and a quarterback named Brady won’t
be running the streets of Boston before this one,
but when these two Catholic universities meet, there’s
always an extra glow coming from the crowd.
While You’re There: If you
can’t find something to do in Boston, you’re
probably not a reader of this Web site. But we’re
always willing to help out. After the game, jump on
the Green Line and explore the night life. Stop at
Harvard Ave. (find the old INCH stomping ground Our
House), Kenmore (walk down Lansdowne Street to Tequila
Rain), Boylston (find Whiskey’s) or Government
Center (take a stroll to Faneuil Hall to one of INCH’s
favorites: the Bell In Hand Tavern). So many choices
Tap the ice and raise ‘em high
for a pair of milestone wins during
Hockey East’s opening week. BC coach Jerry York
captured his 750th career victory with a 5-2 win over
Northeastern on Oct. 10. And Vermont head man Kevin
Sneddon snagged career win No. 100 by taking the Ice
Breaker Tournament championship on Oct. 7.
This would be easier if the Arizona
Cardinals were a hockey team, but since they’re
not, we’ll pick on another easy target: the
It’s understandable to want to
try new things every hockey season to see what works
and what doesn’t, but this four-official system
for select games is just ridiculous.
There is a laundry list of things wrong with putting
four zebras on the ice at one time, along with a slew
of jokes worthy of a future cocktail napkin, but is
there any need to have approximately one-third of
the on-ice bodies wearing black and white stripes?
More refs means two things: more penalties
(and a slower game), or more indecision resulting
in a reliance on the other guy to make a tough call
when one official doesn’t want to. If they’re
really looking for another party to enforce the rules,
just let the crowd reaction dictate play from now
on. That’s about as reasonable as sticking four
whistles out there at the same time. If three is a
crowd, what on earth can we start calling four?
• Two freshman goalies – Dan Meyers
from UMass and Ryan Simpson from Providence – earned
their first career wins over the weekend. Meyers stopped
18 of 20 shots in a 3-2 win over Sacred Heart on Friday
night, and Simpson blocked 22 of 24 St. Lawrence shots in
a 4-2 decision on Saturday.
• Sticking with the freshman goalie
theme, UMass Lowell’s Carter Hutton, who started twice
over the weekend in lieu of the departed Peter Vetri, made
38 saves in a 3-3 tie at Minnesota Duluth on Friday. Hutton’s
Saturday performance wasn’t as peachy in the rematch,
as he allowed seven goals on 39 shots in the River Hawks’
• Boston University’s sophomore
line got off to a great start in the team’s season
opener on Saturday. Brandon Yip (1-0—1), Chris Higgins
(2-1—3) and Jason Lawrence (0-3—3) combined
for three goals and four assists in the Terriers’
4-4 tie with Rensselaer. BU’s top line of Kenny Roche,
Pete MacArthur and Bryan Ewing was blanked on the night.
• Hats off to David Strathman and Randy
Guzior of Northeastern, Teddy Purcell and Zach Still of
Maine, Martin Nolet of UMass and Jeremy Dehner of UMass
Lowell who all scored their first collegiate goals last
• Merrimack got off to a tough start
this weekend, losing 6-2 to Alaska Anchorage and 5-0 to
Colorado College, but through the pair of shellackings,
Justin Mills finished +1 and was named to the Nye Frontier
Classic All-Tournament Team.
• Two UMass players ended a pair of
lengthy goal-scoring droughts over the weekend. Kevin Jarman
lit the lamp for the first time since Nov. 25, 2005, against
Colorado College, and Matt Burto beat a netminder for the
first time since March 12, 2005, against BC in the conference
• New Hampshire officially opens its
80th hockey season with a two-game series at Colorado College
• The U.S. Under-18 Team played a pair
of exhibitions against Hockey East elites over the weekend.
BC scraped by with a 5-4 win on Friday before New Hampshire
knocked off the youngsters 7-1 on Saturday.
of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report