He inherited a Northeastern squad that lost
Jason Guerriero's 48 points and Keni Gibson's presence in
net. He was brand new to Hockey East. He was installing
a new system. And his team just simply couldn't win. In
fact, they did so just three times on their way to a ninth-place
finish in the league.
"Last year, coming in here was a tough
march," Cronin said before the Beanpot. "We had
one win [at this point], and we were scraping and clawing
just to try to get a tie or a point. I've never been through
anything like that in my life. Professionally, it eats right
"I am very compassionate for the players
on the ice who had to go through it. They had to walk around
campus. I could hole myself up in the office there, close
the doors and wrestle with pillows there around the office
and call a psychiatrist. The players are out there in the
public walking through campus. I felt badly for them."
This year has been a bit different. Though
they lost to Boston University in the first round of the
Beanpot, the Huskies were riding a 6-2-2 streak into the
tournament, a resurgence that started at the turn of the
Northeastern was winless in league play and
tied for dead last in Hockey East heading into the last
weekend of November. It wasn't much better a month later.
NU had two conference wins and was tied for eighth with
UMass Lowell as 2006 turned into 2007.
But a 7-2 whipping of Holy Cross in the UConn
Holiday Classic consolation game turned the tide, setting
off the 6-2-2 stretch. The Huntington Hounds sit in seventh
place in Hockey East and are virtually assured to make the
playoffs with a seven-point lead over ninth-place Lowell,
even after Lowell's 1-0 win on Thursday night.
"They've all finally realized that Greg
knows what he's talking about, and if they play the way
he wants them to play, they'll have some success,"
Jack Parker observed. "It's hard to learn how to win.
We played them at the end of the year last year when we
were fighting for first place and they were in last place
and weren't going anywhere. They were as hard of a team
as we had to play all year because he kept them going and
kept them focused. That paid off this year because they
were losing and still playing hard.
"I was amazed at how well they were playing
and not getting rewarded for it. They had a lot of ties
but weren't getting Ws. Now, they're getting wins, and that
makes them even more dangerous because they realize, 'Oh,
I see what he's talking about, and there are rewards at
the end of this tunnel.' They'll be very, very difficult
for anybody at the end of the year because they're playing
Freshman Brad Thiessen has been a rock between
the pipes since the beginning of January. He has started
all 10 games in 2007, recording two shutouts and beating
Boston College and Maine. In his nine starts before the
Beanpot, he had allowed just 13 goals.
"One of the things I like about Brad
is you can sink your teeth into him every once in awhile
if he is not doing well, and he doesn't go sit in timeout
and play with his toys," Cronin said. "He'll come
right back at you with the way he plays in practice. He
responds to it in a real mature way. We've been very blessed
to have him because you don't build a program without a
You also don't win without a bit of scoring.
Mike Morris is back from another injury and has scored 18
points in 20 games.
"It's been tough so it's nice that we're
playing pretty good hockey right now," Morris said.
"It's a good time of year to start playing well. Hopefully,
we keep it going."
Morris' most valuable attribute may not be
his ability to light the lamp. He provides an invaluable
amount of leadership for a team that plays 14 freshmen and
"He is a very quiet guy and a very composed
person, but when you watch Mike, we tell the younger guys
to watch him, watch the way he practices, watch the way
he plays the game, watch his stick movement, watch his hips,"
"When he is on his game and on his rhythm,
he is arguable one of the best players in the league, and
I don't think there is any doubt he is going to play in
the NHL someday. To have him healthy and to have his timing
and his rhythm is going to be a huge bonus for us down the
Cronin's youth is also coming of age. Freshman
Chad Costello leads Northeastern with 10 goals and 20 points.
Kyle Kraemer, another freshman, is third with 14 points,
and sophomore Joe Vitale has 13 points, three shy of his
total last year. More importantly than their visits to the
red light district, however, has been their education of
how to win a game.
"You can't inject those kids with maturity,"
Cronin said. "You're not going to just show up to the
rink and magically have maturity and composure and confidence.
It takes time. It's a process, and the process gets accelerated
when you win games. Then, they start to believe in themselves
more. They're just starting to believe they can win games,
and they believe in themselves. That's how it starts."
SEEN AND HEARD IN HOCKEY EAST
Long lost letters: When Jerry
York stripped Brian Boyle and Joe Rooney of their captaincies
during winter break, he said he would reevaluate their statuses
before the Beanpot. Apparently, their off-ice performances
made the grade.
Boyle boasted his 'C' and Rooney rocked his
'A' during Monday's opening round action of Boston's favorite
hockey party, and all appeared normal for the maroon and
"They did everything we asked them to
do over the course of the month of January and into early
February," York said. "I was proud of the fact
that they were able to get back on the railroad tracks.
I think both players were very proud that they were elected
captains, and now they have their 'C' and 'A' back. It will
probably give them a lift. That's for sure."
York was unimpressed with the two seniors'
efforts in the classroom last semester and admitted to making
the move to make them better people, not better hockey players.
It served as a great wakeup call for both of them.
"I learned that I have to be more focused
off the ice in terms of going to class," Boyle said.
"That's all it was. On the ice, I felt like I was the
same guy. As far as my teammates, I was the same guy that
pushed a little extra. I was giving a lot and expected a
lot. I was disappointed to lose it, but I responded and
so did Joe.
"I'm fortunate to be able to have the
opportunity to wear it again. It doesn't really change how
I approach games. I didn't try to think about it. When I
got it back, it was something special, and it was a good
feeling. My preparation was the same. The locker room was
the same. It was hard to describe because having that on
was a great honor."
Great Weekend Getaway
at Maine (Fri.-Sat.)
Third-place Vermont and sixth-place Maine are separated
by just three points in the Hockey East standings,
so this series will play heavily in how the league
shakes down over the final four weekends. The Black
Bears have struggled to go on a serious run since
the turn of the year but have a chance to make a push
against the Catamounts this weekend and a two-game
trip to Boston College next weekend. Vermont's last
four weekends have been a bit deceiving. UVM's seven-game
unbeaten streak (4-0-3) was the longest in the nation
until its loss to Providence last Saturday. Two of
those ties, however, were at Merrimack, which was
tough to swallow after sweeping BC.
While You’re There: The original "While You're There" directed readers to Miller's for some pre- and/or post-game grub. Alas, Miller's no longer exists, another addition to our Cocktail Napkin from season two that featured classic but defunct college hockey eateries. –Mike Eidelbes
regrettably very long overdue, but I'd be greatly
remiss if I failed to mention him in this space. Jack
O'Neill – a legendary sportscaster, radio personality
and public address announcer at UMass – passed
away Dec. 15 after a battle with cancer. O'Neill
was a fan favorite in Amherst, and was always
a joy over the loudspeakers when the Mass Attack hit
the ice. He briefly stepped away from the mike last
year when he fell ill but eventually returned, giving
everyone one last taste of his love for the program.
If everyone goes about their daily lives with one-tenth
the passion he displayed for his, we'll all be in
better shape. Jack O'Neill is greatly missed.
getting into heavy detail, the signs for the press
meal at the Verizon Wireless Arena last Friday night
were a bit poorly placed. Actually, they were
very poorly placed. We'll leave it at that.
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• Brett Hemingway was a victim of the
UNH game program cover jinx over the weekend. He missed
the Wildcats' loss to Maine Friday night at the Verizon
Wireless Arena with a groin injury that he suffered during
the week. It was the first game he missed all season. The
typically durable Hemingway missed just two games last season
after playing every contest in his sophomore campaign. He
was back in the lineup for Saturday night's victory over
the Black Bears.
• Mike Radja returned to the UNH first
line Friday night after missing six games with a knee injury.
Bobby Butler and Josh Ciocco took Hemingway's spot at right
wing. Radja scored the game-winner last Saturday.
• Ben Bishop left Saturday night's rubber
match with UNH after a collision with Trevor Smith in the
second period. Bishop remained in net for 86 seconds before
being replaced by Dave Wilson, who gave up two goals in
the 2-1 loss. Bishop was seen walking with a limp to the
team bus after the game.
• Providence earned a couple firsts
in Saturday night's triumph over Vermont. The Friars scored
two first-period goals for the first time all season. Their
win over the Catamounts marked the first time PC has beaten
UVM since Dec. 27, 1997.
• Boston College's sophomore class has
accounted for 51 percent of the team's offense. Leading
the way are Nathan Gerbe, Benn Ferriero and Brock Bradford.
Ferriero recorded his 50th career point with an assist during
the Eagles' loss to UMass last Friday.
• John Curry has five shutouts in his
last 10 starts and a national-best six shutouts this season.
He has 12 in his career, placing him one shy of BU's all-time
• With UMass' 5-3 win over BC, the Minutemen
won the season series with the Eagles for the first time
in program history. They are two Hockey East wins shy of
tying the school's all-time mark of 12 set in 2003-04.
• Lowell senior forward Todd Fletcher
scored his first goal of the season against UMass last Saturday
• Merrimack goalie Jim Healey has been
on a tear of late, lowering his goals against average over
the last five games from 3.32 to 2.65, and raising his save
percentage from .889 to .909.
• UNH has won 20 games for 11 consecutive
• Vermont has 10 Hockey East wins, matching
its total from last season.
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report. Jeff Howe can be reached