January 10, 2008
What's The Key To Success? Our Lips Are Sealed.

By Jeff Howe

There's a developing trend that is beginning to kill the spirits of reporters all over New England: A good quote from a coach or athlete has become harder to find than a consistent weather pattern.

Hockey East Notebook

Bill Belichick said ... nothing. And everyone repeated it.

National TV Schedule

And it all starts at the top.

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has broken out the book of clichés and written a completely new testament. It's been an issue since 2000, and it's recently snowballed to the citizens of Hockey East, almost to the degree of high comedy.

Gone are the days of the feelings of self-righteousness, when athletes were mean, their opponents wore pink skirts and rivalries called for blood, not brunch. Great starts – especially those of the unexpected – called for pats on the back or a nice chip on the shoulder.

"For us," said Northeastern assistant coach Gene Reilly, whose Huskies are tied for first in Hockey East, "it's taking a page out of the Patriots' book with humble pie, and we know exactly where we're at here. It's pretty easy to keep the kids focused because we haven't won anything."

Say it ain't so, Gene.

Humble pie has been a desired dessert around the Northeast since Pats linebacker Adalius Thomas coined the term with a box full of T-shirts for his teammates earlier this season. Now, it's a dish served at Northeastern.

Then, there's Massachusetts coach Don Cahoon, whose Minutemen are ranked No. 5 in the nation, their highest mark in school history. But, Cahoon knows trophies aren't distributed in January.

"It doesn't matter much at all because it is only about where you finish, not where you start," Cahoon said. "In the first week of January, the number next to your program doesn't count for a whole lot."

Oh, Belichick would be proud. But Jack Parker, a coach whose existence in Boston predates that of the Pats' boss – along with the Big Dig, Monster Seats, the FleetCenter, Hockey East and everyone under 34 years old – has bought into the trend.

"We can't be looking past anyone," Parker said. "The only game we can worry about is the one that is ahead of us. The only game we can get ready for is the one that is ahead of us, and the only game that counts is the one ahead of us."

To be fair, Reilly, Cahoon and Parker are all correct with their statements. Reilly and Cahoon's squads haven't proven anything other than the fact that they can win in October, November and December. And Parker's Terriers are a hiccup away from finding themselves in danger of missing the Hockey East playoffs.

There isn't a coach in the league who wants to look down the road at that.

But where's the flare? The sizzle? The feelings of self-worth?

It's in Lowell, baby. River Hawks head coach Blaise MacDonald has seen the mountain, and he's singing all about it. After the difficulties his program endured in the spring and summer of 2007, MacDonald is proud of his team for being tied for fourth in the league standings.

"I think I'd be severely challenged to put that into words how sweet it actually is," MacDonald said. "To know what we went through last year as a program, and then losing players, coming into the season and having some serious health issues for some of our incoming freshmen, to see us rebound and show the resolve that our players have this year is amazing to me. It's great. It's a real compelling story from our standpoint. It's almost like justice being served."

To borrow a line from the old testament of the book of clichés, that's one heck of a breath of fresh air. But Belichick might look at MacDonald as though he were Eric Mangini. Apparently, "Hoosiers" has found its sequel.

Either way, Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy has applied these theories and put them in context. After all, the Patriots have won three Super Bowls and seem to be driving toward one more. They're obviously doing something right.

"I'd be a fool not to take a page out of Bill Belichick's book in an era when we're watching the best coached team in New England history," Dennehy said. "So, shame on us if we're not taking it on a day-to-day basis. That's the way to approach it regardless of the makeup of your team. It's back to trying to get better every day. If we do, the rest will take care of itself."


Another Eagle flies the coop: Forward Ryan Hayes has left Boston College midway through his freshman campaign. In six games with the Eagles, the Syracuse, N.Y., native scored two goals and added one assist.

Hayes signed Thursday with the Ontario Junior Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers, and is expected to join the Whalers in time for the team's games this weekend. Hayes's departure, coupled with defenseman Brett Motherwell's defection to the American Hockey League and the indefinite suspension of blueliner Brian O'Hanley, leaves Boston College with 23 players on its roster -- 14 forwards, six defensemen and three goalies.

Hayes, who came to the Eagles from the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., is not related to and BC recruit Jimmy Hayes, who currently skates for the U.S. NDTP.

— Mike Eidelbes

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

New Hampshire at UMass (Fri.)
The Minutemen put their 13-game home unbeaten streak on the line when the Wildcats visit the Mullins Center. The teams have had a solid rivalry going in recent years, with it hitting a high mark when they skated to a thriller in the Hockey East semifinals last year. UNH came out on top, 3-2, in double overtime. The Minutemen beat UNH, 4-1, at the Bill on Dec. 8.

While You’re There: Grab a slice at Antonio's, which is pretty much pizza heaven. Even plain cheese is awesome, but don't order the boring stuff unless you want a tongue lashing from the satirical staff.

Stick Salute

UMass Lowell has killed 18 straight penalties and 29 of its last 30, and its 90 percent penalty kill is first in Hockey East and fifth in the nation.

Bench Minor

NESN will reportedly forego the first three months of the next baseball season and begin picking up the broadcasts of Red Sox games in July. We kid, of course, but you know where we're going with this.


• Boston College junior forward Brock Bradford returned to the ice Wednesday night and showcased his flair for the dramatic. After missing 17 games with a broken left arm, Bradford scored the game-winner in BC's 4-1 victory over Vermont.

• Maine coach Tim Whitehead was very honest this week when assessing his team's season: "It has been very challenging. As coaches, we knew we weren't as talented this year as we have been the last six or seven years. Typically, players don't understand that. You don't have that perspective as a freshman coming in. You are joining a team that has gone to the Frozen Four four out of the last six years. You are thinking, 'Hey, we are just going to be there. It is going to happen automatically.' Not just the freshmen, but also the upperclassmen who have been a part of that success. Some of them have been along for the ride in minor roles, but some of them have been a big part of it. It doesn't just happen. Each year is a clean slate. You don't just get there because you have been there before. You have to earn it, and in each of the past years, we have earned it."

• UMass Lowell and the Lowell Spinners, Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, announced an agreement this week to create the "Spinners on Ice" on Jan. 18, when the River Hawks host Boston College. It will feature plenty of cross-promotional events throughout the game, and Spinners manager Gary DiSarcina will drop the ceremonial first puck.

• The Catamounts were in attendance for Thursday night's game between the Bruins and Canadiens at the TD Banknorth Garden. NESN made a point to highlight the players during its broadcast, as they watched UVM alum Tim Thomas and the B's fall to Montreal, 5-2. Vermont had a day off in between its Wednesday-Friday series at Boston College.

• BU coach Jack Parker on the Terriers' trip Maine Saturday, a pair of teams that haven't found their traditional success this season: "It's a huge game in the standings, but it's probably a bigger game as far as self-worth is concerned."

• UNH coach Dick Umile and Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna each appeared on an intermission report during Bruins games this week. They were helping NESN pump its tires for its first Friday night broadcast of Hockey East action this season.

• Boston University has scored 15 first-period goals in 12 Hockey East games this season after notching just 14 all of last season.

• Maine has killed 23 straight penalties. On an unrelated note, the Black Bears are 6-0-0 this season when scoring first.

• Merrimack has scored 38 goals this season, one more than it scored all of last season.

• UNH goalie Kevin Regan has not allowed a goal in league play in 135:39.

• Northeastern's 11-game unbeaten streak (9-0-2) is the second longest in school history. The Huskies were unbeaten in 12 straight from Nov. 25, 1980 to Jan. 20, 1981. Northeastern will attempt to match the record Friday at Merrimack before returning home to face the Warriors Saturday.

• Providence has out-shot its opponents by an average of 49.5-24 over its last four games.

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