And with UMass just four points ahead of Maine,
Northeastern’s three-point lead on the rest of the
league seems somewhat gargantuan. After beginning the year
1-4-0, the Huskies sat just a point out of the Hockey East
basement. Now, riding a six-game unbeaten streak (5-0-1)
for the first time since January 2002, they’re the
class of the conference. Just don’t tell NU coach
“It’s a slippery slope we live
on right now in Hockey East,” Cronin said. “If
you slip, you could find yourself in the middle of the pack
or in last place in a matter of a couple weeks. We’re
aware of that.”
Even though Cronin’s squad is done with
Hockey East action until the new year — Northeastern’s
got Brown and Union before break and then heads to Madison
for the Badger Showdown — he’s got a valid point.
The schedule is a bit chaotic in December with teams playing
out of conference, getting ready for exams, taking a couple
weeks off, and heading across the nation to play in holiday
tournaments, but the standings could see a complete shakeup
in just one weekend.
“Looking at the league in late November,
it reminds me of the Tour de France in that there are a
pack of bicycles and nobody has broken away yet,”
BC coach Jerry York said. “It is going to be an extremely
close race, and we’re really trying to stay in it.
As the year goes on, hopefully [we’ll] break free
of the pack. … The pack is very tight as we approach
December, and that is usually not the case.”
Heading into November, York’s Eagles
were in first place after a few league games (Maine was
in second), but they’re just one of a few teams that
have displayed their schizophrenic personalities. Regardless
of how early we’re at in the season, seeing BC, BU,
and Maine all sitting at the bottom half of the conference
is about as dumbfounding as imagining life without the internet.
“I think some people are surprised that
Maine is at the bottom of the league, BU and BC are in the
middle of the league, and UMass and Northeastern are at
the top of the league,” BU coach Jack Parker said.
“But I said in the preseason that the two schools
most likely to push the usual suspects out of the top four
were UMass and Northeastern this year. They’ve certainly
lived up to my billing so far. There’s a long way
to go, however, and I think teams like BU and BC can certainly
get things revved up enough that we should be fighting for
the top four spots."
“We are disappointed with the results
so far, but not necessarily surprised to be honest with
you,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead, who doesn’t
want his team looking at the standings, which he deems “depressing.”
“We are working on improving each week
and focusing on making small gains in all areas, and if
we do that, then we will continue to improve. And I think
that we can surprise some people down the stretch.”
Maine having to sneak up on teams? That could
be the season in a nutshell. Last summer, this looked like
the season that could see a major shuffle in the standings,
primarily due to the early departures of impact players
like Cory Schneider, Jon Quick, Teddy Purcell, and Torrey
Besides, the groundwork for this season's
unpredictabilty was laid last year when UMass closed out
the regular season with four straight wins to claim fourth
place and crash the Big Four’s party. It marked the
first time since 2003-04 that a team outside BC, BU, UNH
and Maine hosted a playoff series in the first round of
the Hockey East tournament.
This might even be the first time since 1996-97
that two teams outside the Big Four host a playoff series.
Never have there been three intruders. What's more, no one
other than BC, BU, UNH and Maine has entered the league
tournament as the No. 1 seed. Only four times — and
not since UMass Lowell in 1995-96 — has a team other
the usual suspects been a No. 2 seed.
Now, those “bottom feeders” are
“This league will be determined in late
January, February, and March, as it always is,” Merrimack
coach Mark Dennehy said. “It’s too early to
say that any of the perennial top four are out of home-ice
contention. Knowing how good the coaches are in this league,
I expect everyone to improve.”
SEEN AND HEARD IN HOCKEY EAST
Boston's Backyard Brawl:
Winner gets the Green Line. Losers walk.
It’s that time again. Boston College
and Boston University, separated by just a few Comm. Ave.
potholes and an Irish pub or two, have a big home-and-home
series this weekend, playing at Conte Forum Friday and Agganis
Typically, these two teams are looking to
create some separation between one another as they fight
it out for first place in Hockey East. This year, however,
the Eagles and Terriers are simply trying to keep their
heads above water in the league’s tight race.
“I think it’s going to be a terrific
atmosphere at both universities,” BC coach Jerry York
said. “We expect sellout crowds both Friday and Saturday
night. It’s two teams that I expect to contend for
home ice and championships. Both of us have to get going
to catch some of these teams that are playing so well this
year. This is a pivotal weekend for both our clubs. It’s
not the be-all and end-all of your season, but it’s
certainly a key part as we finish up the first half of the
year and head towards exams.
“I’ve been impressed with the
games we’ve played with BU over the past few years.
They’ve been very quick, very fast, and a lot of intensity.
I think it’s a rivalry that keeps getting better and
better, and we look forward to this challenge this season.”
These two teams have been playing at a dead
heat since the 1996-97 season. The Eagles and Terriers have
met 50 times in the last 11 years — each winning 23
games, with four ties mixed in.
“The BC game is different than any other
game we ever play in any year,” BU coach Jack Parker
said. “It’s amazing how much intensity there
is, how much electricity there is in the dressing room and
in the practices. People that wear these two uniforms, I
think, get more ready to play these games.
“We usually bring out the best in each
other. There have been times like last year when we played
them in the playoffs where we didn’t play very well,
but we played very well in games before that. I think the
same thing holds true for BC. There have been a few games
where they haven’t played well against us, but for
the most part, we bring out the best in each other because
we’re so ready for it. In reality, I’ve obviously
been around a long time. No game has ever matched that.
… The BC-BU thing is just something subconscious.
It is on a completely different level.”
Great Weekend Getaway
Boston U. at Boston Coll. (Fri.)
Boston Coll. at Boston U. (Sat.)
While Sunday’s exhibition match between UMass
and the US Under-18 Team looks like a doozy, we’ve
got to defer to this weekend’s home-and-home
between BC and BU. Fueling the fire in this already-hot
rivalry are the teams’ current standing in Hockey
East. The Eagles (2-3-4, eight points) are in a four-way
tie for fourth place, while the Terriers (3-3-1, seven
points) sit in eighth.
What To Do While You’re There:
Grab a steak at Abe & Louie’s, the best
joint in all the land.
could have rolled over and died after losing four
straight and starting out the season 1-4-0. But that
didn’t happen. The Huskies are 5-0-1 in their
enters its weekend set with BU oh-for-November. The
Eagles, winless in their last six (0-3-3), haven’t
been victorious since Oct. 28 at Merrimack. BC’s
only wins this season have come vs. Merrimack (twice)
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• UMass coach Don Cahoon used sophomore
defenseman Martin Nolet at forward against Union Sunday,
but says he has no firm plans with regard to Nolet’s
position in the future. This isn’t new for Cahoon,
who used Mark Matheson primarily as a forward during his
senior season after starting his career on the blue line.
• What was the key to UMass Lowell’s
sweep of Merrimack last weekend? “I took a page out
of Richie Umile’s book,” UMass Lowell coach
Blaise MacDonald said. “I was sick of getting ties,
so I went to the mock turtleneck and got a victory.”
• BC coach Jerry York said Tuesday he
hopes to have Brock Bradford skating in mid-January and
back on the ice in late January or early February. Bradford
broke the humerus in his left arm in the Eagles' season
opener against Michigan in the Ice Breaker Tournament in
St. Paul, Minn.
• Boston College may want to stick to
playing 60 minutes of hockey if at all possible. The Eagles
have played six OT contests this season, going 0-2-4.
• Senior Pete MacArthur became the 56th
player in Boston University history to score 50 career goals
when he tallied the game-winner in Saturday’s win
over Cornell at Madison Square Garden.
• Maine scored an even-strength goal,
a short-handed goal, a power-play goal and a goal with an
extra attacker in Sunday’s tie with Vermont.
• UMass is riding a 12-game unbeaten
streak (8-0-4) at the Mullins Center.
• Merrimack forward Matt Jones leads
Hockey East with nine goals and has been a great addition
to Rob Ricci’s line — so much so that coach
Mark Dennehy joked last weekend might have been the first
time in Merrimack history a team has shadowed the Warriors’
top line. Dennehy also took a line from Reggie Jackson’s
book, calling Ricci “the straw that stirs the drink.”
• New Hampshire forward Mike Radja registered
his first career hat trick in the Wildcats’ 5-2 win
over Brown Saturday. Matt Fornataro also set career highs
with four points and four assists the same night.
• Northeastern has mastered the art
of lulling its opposition into a false sense of security.
The Huskies have allowed their opponents to score first
in nine of 11 games this season, but NU is 6-0-3 in those
• Providence is 6-for-12 on the power
play in its last four games. The Friars are 2-1-1 over that
• Vermont has scored 14 goals during
its three-game unbeaten streak (2-0-1), the most goals in
a three-game stretch since scoring 14 during a three-game
winning streak in February 2004.
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report. Jeff Howe can be reached