January 19, 2007
How Joe Bertagna Slams The Gavel

By Jeff Howe

When Maine coach Tim Whitehead and referee Scott Hansen exchanged some heated words in a postgame confrontation Saturday night, it marked an unusual event in Hockey East.

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BU's Pete MacArthur is the INCH Shop Player of the Week, and talked about the Terriers' reputation for being a strong late-season team.

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This is a rare occurrence in the conference, but when a situation arises that demands the mediation of Joe Bertagna, the league commissioner knows how to react.

Bertagna, who has served as Hockey East commissioner since July 1, 1997, was not in Orono to witness Boston University's 3-0 victory or the altercation that ensued afterwards, and the game wasn't televised so it makes things a little more difficult.

Getting a statement from both sides – in this case, Whitehead and Hansen as well as the coaching staffs and officiating crew – is obvious. Deciphering the responses is a bit more tricky.

"Two people can look at an incident and agree on the facts and the timeline, but each person can give a very different account just based on their emotional attachment to the issue," Bertagna said. "It's difficult to find an observer who doesn't have a vested interest. We have officials who were involved, staff members from the schools and certainly the last place we're going to look at for opinions is fans."

Bertagna would hope Whitehead's staff would be objective when assessing the case, but he realizes that may not entirely be the case. The same goes for Hansen's crew, which had to restrain the head referee following the incident.
The commish recalled a former incident when he got the same facts from both sides, but two entirely different spins on the situation.

"Something I remember from before was an official trying to break up an altercation and a coach feeling the official used undue force," Bertagna said. "The official's comment was, 'I was getting punched in the back of the head. What am I supposed to do?' Both acknowledged that the exact same things happened, but both had a different spin on it based on where they were in relationship to the incident."

There are several different ways Bertagna can hand down a punishment, if he decides to do so at all. He admitted he rarely ignores a situation. Depending on the severity of the incident, he can make a phone call to those involved, write a private letter of reprimand, a public letter of reprimand or suspend the guilty party. Fines are not an option in Hockey East. The CCHA is the only conference that does fine coaches.

After Whitehead apologized to Hansen, Bertagna released a public statement, essentially declaring the situation over and done with.

This was rare in another way, too. Whitehead and Hansen are both in high regards with the conference, and Bertagna takes that into consideration.

"The thing to keep in mind is we're talking about people who have pretty good reputations in their respective fields," Bertagna said. "Scott Hansen is rated very highly almost across the board and has been at a number of championship games. Tim's character and reputation is obviously top-shelf. But you get into situations and into the heat of the battle and things are said.

"There is some precedent in my time here where a response is measured based on if it's the first time or it's completely out of character. In other cases, and there are times when we don't publicize it, but we write or have conversations where someone is put on notice nonetheless, letting them know it's the first time but it's still serious. If there is a next time, even if it doesn't rise to that level, we'll go at it a bit differently."

Even the legends have to abide by the rules.

"I suspended Jack Parker one time because of a situation involving respect for an official," Bertagna said. "I think it was the second or third time so even though the last incident by itself didn't warrant [the suspension], but because there was a pattern, this was a case where previous history resulted in a suspension."

Things can change a bit when a player is the one under investigation. As with the coaches and referees, if a player has an upstanding reputation, he may get off with a lesser penalty. And if the player's coach hands down that penalty, Bertagna will stay clear.

"We had a case one year when a player was spitting in the direction of a fan," Bertagna said. "It was behind the glass, but it was still the gesture. When it was confirmed, I was going to suspend the player, but the coach was already ahead of me. I said, 'Fine, as long as he misses the next game. It doesn't matter of it comes form me or you.'"

Of course, that can change, too. Bertagna knows a suspension from the league carries a bit more bite. There are cases when he won't let the coach or institution make the first move.

Either way, and with any of these situations, Bertagna made one thing clear. This isn't the NHL. While Hockey East is indeed a business, it's not pro wrestling. Hockey should be the show. Showing up a coach, player or referee should not.
"We have to remember that we're not pro hockey," Bertagna said. "We're not in the entertainment business. We're educators, and everything we expect of our people go with the expectations that we have in an academic climate."


MacArthur is king in sweep of Maine: As Pete MacArthur put it, last weekend's sweep of Maine at Alfond Arena was "indescribable." It was the first time Boston University won a two-game tilt in Orono in 20 years, and it marked the official coming out party for the Terriers this season.

While struggling to find the back of the net most of the season, BU exploded for wins of 6-5 and 3-0, and MacArthur registered his first career hat trick Friday.
The Terriers are tied with Boston College for second place in Hockey East heading into this weekend's slate, which has BU set up for a home-and-home with lowly Merrimack. BU's resurgent offense and climb back into league contention is even more impressive after a 10-game stretch earlier this season when the Terriers didn't score more than two goals in nine contests.

"It's just about getting used to the system that we play here at BU," MacArthur said. "It's more of a conservative style, which obviously wins hockey games, but it takes a little longer each year to get used to playing within yourself, not worrying about messing up while playing to win and not playing not to lose. We're a little bit more comfortable taking risks.

"We had a similar first half to last year. We have a lot of the guys in the locker room here now from last year so we know we're capable of putting together some wins. Hopefully, this weekend we can kick start a similar streak we had last year at this time."

The streak he spoke of was a 19-1-2 stretch that vaulted the Terriers to a pair of Hockey East championships and a Beanpot crown. Boston University is 4-0-1 in its last five games, but MacArthur noted that slipping up against Merrimack – tied for last in Hockey East – is anything but an option.

"If we can't get a couple wins this weekend, then those two wins up at Maine don't mean a whole heck of a lot," MacArthur said. "There is no room for letdown, especially where we are in the league right now. We're in third place right now, and we've played more games than anyone. A letdown is not acceptable with anyone in the locker room."

Brandon Yip finally returned from a shoulder injury he suffered earlier this season. He tallied a pair of assists in Friday's victory and should be a huge factor for the forwards' production.

"That's been awesome," MacArthur said of Yip's comeback. "He makes us so much deeper throughout our forward lines. He allows some guys to go back and fill different roles, and we have two, solid scoring lines. He is a guy who can not only go out there and score some goals, but he sets up plays and can play on the power play. He is a huge addition. We're grateful to have him back."

One Terrier who is flying well below the radar is goalie John Curry, the main reason BU has floated around .500 all season. The netminder is third in Hockey East in save percentage (.929) and second in goals against average (1.89).

While Trevor Smith has stolen headlines at New Hampshire with his league-leading 30 points, Curry has been the leading candidate among goalies for league Player of the Year.

"I don't think you can say that this is not his best year so far," MacArthur said. "If it wasn't for him, we would not be anywhere near the position we're at in the league right now. His record isn't unbelievable because we have so many ties, but there aren't too many goalies who have lost only four games and have played the amount of minutes he has played. You can't say enough about what he means to this hockey club."

You can say the same thing about the sweep of Maine.

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BC at Vermont (Fri.-Sat.)
Vermont sits three points behind the Eagles in the Hockey East standings and can make serious waves by defending its home ice this weekend. The Catamounts need to come out with a killer instinct and shouldn't be satisfied with anything less than three points if they want to be serious contenders in the league this season. BC has owned Vermont since it came to Hockey East, though, winning all six meetings between the two teams. The Eagles went 5-0 against UVM last year and swept the Catamounts out of the playoffs.

While You’re There: If you're coming from the BC area, you've probably noticed a lack of snow this winter season. Take advantage of the mountains while you're in Vermont.

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Northeastern is showing some positive signs under second-year coach Greg Cronin. The Huskies have scored 51 goals in their first 21 games, not making them world beaters by any stretch, but that is 13 more than they had at this point last year. It helps that NU has only been shut out twice to this point this season, compared to six blankings in 21 tries a year ago. Lately, Northeastern has really picked it up. The Huskies are 4-3-2 in their last eight games, the best eight-game stretch since February of 2005, when they went 5-2-1.

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Merrimack's lowly offense has produced just 26 goals in 21 games. It doesn't matter how good your defense and goaltending are when you're only scoring 1.24 times per contest.


• BC sophomore forward Benn Ferriero recorded his first career hat trick and finished last week's home-and-home sweep of Merrimack with four goals and two assists to earn Hockey East Player of the Week honors.

• UNH goalie Kevin Regan stopped 43 shots, two shy of his career-high, to earn RiverStone Player of the Game in the Wildcats' 4-2 win over rival Dartmouth Saturday.

• Lowell freshman forward Ian Schaser scored his first career goal in a 5-1 loss to UMass Friday night. He has a three-game point streak.

• Vermont's Jay Anctil earned the first point of his career with an assist in the Catamounts' win over Northeastern Saturday.

• Maine's equipment manager Eric Marsh resigned from the team. Marsh graduated from Maine in 1997 and was a defensive back on the football team.

• With BC's season sweep of Merrimack, the Eagles' four seniors finished a 10-0-2 career against the Warriors.

• A few more notes from the BU-Maine series: The Terriers' six goals were the highest in an opposing rink since topping UMass 7-1 at the Mullins Center on Dec. 4, 2004. Providence was the last team to shut out Maine at Alfond, a 4-0 decision on Jan. 20, 2006. Pete MacArthur became the first opponent to record a hat trick against the Black Bears since Brian Gionta did it on Jan. 27, 2001.

• A couple Minutemen ended some long scoring droughts in their win over Lowell Friday. David Leaderer scored his first goal in 67 games (Jan. 27, 2005), and Zech Klann found the back of the net for the first time in 40 games (Feb. 26, 2005).

• Merrimack has three Hockey East wins this season, matching its total from last year.

• How's this for consistency? UNH forward Jacob Micflikier has 138 career points in 139 games.

• Providence's win at Lowell Saturday marked its first road triumph of the season and its first win since Nov. 24 – against, of course, Lowell. It ended the Friars' seven-game skid.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report. Jeff Howe can be reached at jeff@insidecollegehockey.com.