UNH wrapped up the league title last weekend
by convincingly sweeping a home-and-home with Boston College,
then in second place and not long removed from a Beanpot
championship. Last year, the Wildcats nearly collapsed,
closing out the schedule on a 1-4-1 clip and managing to
win the conference crown by a single point due to their
But there was none of that this year. UNH
controlled much of Friday night’s play in a 2-0 win
at Conte Forum before storming past the Eagles in a 5-1
drubbing Saturday at Lake Whitt, a game that ended with
a victory lap around the rink to pay respect to their fans.
“I just think our intensity has picked
up a little bit,” senior goalie Kevin Regan said after
Friday’s win. “You can tell by tonight, playing
playoff hockey, focusing on defense, obviously our power
play has been big for us the last couple weekends.”
Playoff hockey with a five-point lead on a
Friday in February?
“Absolutely,” Regan said. “BC
is going to be there in the end. These are the teams you
need to beat to go win championships. We tried to take a
playoff atmosphere into this one.”
And that has been the exact difference between
the last two seasons. The Wildcats admitted they let the
play come to them at the conclusion of the 2006-07 campaign,
figuring the wins came early so they might as well come
late, no matter how they showed up to the rink. Last weekend,
they could have taken just about anyone, and it all started
in net with Regan, who made 54 saves in the two games and
recorded his third shutout of the season.
“He’s standing on his head,”
UNH sophomore Bobby Butler said. “He’s kept
us in there, a shutout again [on Friday]. He is doing a
great job. He’s really the backbone of our team right
now. He’s just really playing well. I look forward
to riding him all the way into the playoffs.”
Regan has been especially hot of late, but
he’s been solid if not spectacular all season. He
has started every game in the Wildcats’ current nine-game
unbeaten streak (8-0-1), and has boasted a 1.54 goals-against
average and .952 save percentage over that stretch. He is
also averaging 30.7 stops per contest over the last nine
It’s a brief synopsis of his season-long
effort between the pipes, but it’s taken nearly that
long for most to notice. Regan has been named the Hockey
East Defensive Player of the Week six times this season
and was tabbed the league’s co-Player of the Week
for his performance against Boston College. He’s even
been honored by the conference in six of the last 10 weeks,
but not one time has Regan been named the Goalie of the
“Just practicing with him and seeing
him come to the rink every day,” senior forward Mike
Radja said, “he’s one of the hardest working
goalies, and he’s always focused. I think he is overlooked
compared to a lot of goalies.”
Regan also earned his 48th career Hockey East
victory last weekend, moving him into second all-time behind
Boston College’s Scott Clemmensen, who had 52 career
“It’s nice, I didn’t know
anything about that,” Regan said when informed of
the news. “I’m just grateful I’ve had
the opportunity to play here for four years. Anything else
is gravy for me.”
Last weekend was especially nice for Regan,
who grew up in South Boston and had a “lot of family”
in attendance. But his performance was mostly par for the
course for his standards. Regan made all of the saves he
was supposed to make, and he threw in a few of the stand-on-your-ear
variety for good measure.
“He’s just played solid,”
UNH coach Richard Umile said of Regan, who is 12-0-1 with
a 1.45 goals-against average and .956 save percentage in
his last 13 Hockey East contests. “He’s been
doing that a lot. When we do make a mistake or give up a
good scoring opportunity, he’s there to make the saves.
He’s making the saves he should make, and then he’s
taking away the great scoring opportunities. That’s
what makes him special.”
SEEN AND HEARD IN HOCKEY EAST
Mounting up: Vermont coach
Kevin Sneddon knew it was time to make a change. His team
was just swept in a lopsided series (4-1 and 5-2) at Boston
College in early January, and the Catamounts were tied for
eighth place in Hockey East.
So, Sneddon and his coaching staff rolled
up their sleeves, demanded more accountability, tightened
the reins in practice and called for something of a program
revolution. He called for his players to be more responsible
off the ice, as well — during social situations and
in the classroom — and strived to make practices tougher
It was a complete overhaul, and it couldn’t
have worked much better.
Vermont is 8-2-2 since getting blitzed at
The Heights and is currently tied with Boston University
for second place in the league standings. While Sneddon
knew a change was in order, he admitted the timing was also
right to clamp down on a team that was desperately searching
for its identity.
“I think if we had pressed this hard
as we did in January back in October with such a young team,
we would have really struggled from a confidence standpoint,”
Sneddon said. “It almost had to be the right time
for us to say, ‘OK, this is how we’re doing
it.’ Give credit to [the players]. They were ready
to accept change. It was obviously the right time to push
the heavy buttons that we pushed. They responded exactly
like you’d want them to respond.”
Now, the Catamounts have a chance to make
program history. They’ve finished in sixth place in
each of their first two seasons in Hockey East and have
yet to make it out of the quarterfinals, going 1-4 in the
playoffs in the process. Vermont is riding a four-game winning
streak and coming off a pair of wins at UMass Lowell, UVM’s
first weekend sweep on the road since March 2003 at Clarkson.
As a result, Vermont has the inside track
to host its first-ever Hockey East playoff series. If that
happens, whichever team that is forced to make the four-plus
hour bus ride through a potential blizzard to the brink
of Canada will certainly have its share of adversity. Gutterson
is a terribly hostile environment and could pose to be the
most daunting road trip a team might face considering the
combination of elements.
But the Catamounts still have some work ahead.
They are a point ahead of fourth-place Boston College and
three points in front of Northeastern and Providence. Vermont
hosts a revitalized Maine team for a pair this weekend,
and UVM is 1-1-1 against the Black Bears at home since entering
Hockey East. And next weekend, Vermont travels to UNH for
two games. UVM is 0-5-2 against New Hampshire since entering
the league and lost 5-1 to the Wildcats at home on Feb.
While the task at hand might be new and not
the least bit challenging, Sneddon is confident his team
can mount up down the stretch.
“It’s been a very interesting
ride, and since we’ve been in Hockey East, we haven’t
taken the ride, a pathway, a journey this way,” Sneddon
said. “This is new for us. We were a team that was
in eighth place at one point and were there for quite awhile.
The two previous years, we started to grip our sticks tightly
down the stretch because we were in the top four and hanging
on for dear life. We weren’t playing great hockey,
and we were focused on areas that we had no control over.
"We were focused on rankings. We were
focused on the NCAA tournament. We were focused on, ‘Hey,
we’re in a home-ice spot. We’ve got to hang
on for dear life.’ We just weren’t playing very
good hockey, and we were focusing our energies a lot of
other areas. I think this year’s group, the strength
lies in the fact that they’re able to focus on today
and today only, and not worrying about anything else.”
Great Weekend Getaway
Maine at Vermont (Fri.-Sat.)
Maine is coming off a huge weekend sweep of UMass
to keep itself in playoff contention, while Vermont
is coming off an equally impressive road sweep of
UMass Lowell to move into a tie for second place.
The Black Bears are still fighting an uphill battle,
as they’re two points behind the Minutemen for
the last playoff spot. The Catamounts need to prove
they can defend their home ice, considering they'll
likely host a playoff series at the Gutt in a couple
While You’re There: If you
want to get a real feel for the Vermont lifestyle,
head to Main Street and grab a drink at Nectar’s,
where legendary jam band Phish got its start. Or if
you’re looking for a good Italian meal, go to
Bove’s on Pearl Street for a highly recommended
bite to eat.
has risen from the dead to jump into a tie for second
place in Hockey East by winning a nation-best six
straight games. Leading the Terriers has been freshman
Colin Wilson, who has four goals and five assists
over that stretch. In the process, he has positioned
himself as the strongest candidate for Hockey East
Rookie of the Year, and has become one of the brightest
young talents in the nation.
was swept in its home-and-home with Merrimack last
weekend, 2-0 on the road and 3-2 at home. The Friars
had been in a tie for third place entering the weekend
but are now in a tie for fifth in the league standings.
Perhaps it’s needless to say, but teams looking
to clinch a rare home-ice playoff series can’t
afford to get swept by Merrimack in late February.
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• Vermont has taken another step closer
toward building a new hockey arena, according to Sneddon.
The university's Board of Trustees met recently and approved
“almost a million dollars” for the planning
of the new barn, among the advancements of other athletic
facilities on campus.
Sneddon said it was a positive move in the
right direction, and there is “a lot of energy behind
it right now. People realize it’s important and needs
to get done.” The next step will happen at the next
Board meeting in the spring.
• UNH’s Kevin Regan, BC’s
Mike Brennan, BU’s Pete MacArthur, and Providence’s
Jon Rheault have all been named to the East squad for the
NCAA Skills Challenge, which will be held April 11 in Denver.
Of course, none of those players are hoping to participate
in the event because that would mean their team didn’t
qualify for the Frozen Four.
• UNH, BU, Vermont, BC, Northeastern,
and Providence have all clinched a Hockey East playoff spot.
UNH is locked in at No. 1, while BU, UVM, and BC could finish
anywhere between second and seventh in the standings. NU
and PC can finish anywhere between second and eighth.
UMass Lowell will get in this weekend by sweeping
Northeastern, and the River Hawks can finish anywhere between
third and last in the standings. UMass can clinch a spot
this weekend by taking at least three points from BU, in
addition to getting plenty of help from Maine and Merrimack.
• New Hampshire finished the regular
season 9-0-0 against the other three members of the Big
• UMass could have eliminated Maine
from playoff contention with a weekend sweep. Instead, the
Minutemen blew a third-period lead on Saturday and fell
in overtime Sunday after a spirited comeback. In the process,
Maine snapped a seven-game losing streak and eight-game
winless streak, won a game after trailing in the third period
for the first time all season, and won consecutive contests
for the first time since winning four straight in October.
• Boston University senior Bryan Ewing
had three goals and two assists in a home-and-home against
Northeastern last weekend and scored the game-winners in
• Seven of BU’s 14 wins this season
have come in February.
• Colin Wilson’s 32 points this
season are the most by a Terrier rookie since Mike Prendergast
scored 34 in 1991-92.
• If UMass senior David Leaderer plays
the next four games, he will set the program’s all-time
games played record on Senior Day March 7. All-around good
guy Pete Trovato currently holds the school record with
145 games played.
• UMass Lowell has only lost three 1-0
games in program history, but two of them have come at home
in the last month (Jan. 25 against Minnesota Duluth and
last Saturday against Vermont).
• Current Northeastern assistant coach
Shawn McEachern, who is a former Boston Bruin and Boston
University standout, will be inducted into the BU Athletic
Hall of Fame May 10. The Terriers will also honor program
legend Jack Kelley before and during Friday night’s
game against UMass.
• By taking two games against Providence
last weekend, Merrimack earned its first home-and-home sweep
since February 2000 against Northeastern.
• UNH has won 20 games in 12 straight
seasons, the longest active streak in Hockey East. And the
Wildcats will host their 12th straight HEA quarterfinal
playoff series, also the longest active streak in the league.
• Northeastern’s Joe Vitale has
11 goals and 19 assists this season, making him the first
member of the Huskies to record 30 points in a season since
Jason Guerriero (48 points) and Mike Morris (39) did it
in 2004-05. Also, Tyler McNeely (21 points) and Wade MacLeod
(20) are the first Northeastern freshman tandem to put up
20 points since Guerriero (35) and Tim Judy (22) turned
the trick six years ago.
• Providence senior goalie Tyler Sims
played in his 110th career game last Friday, breaking Dan
Dennis’ (1993-97) school record of 109.
• Vermont is 9-2 this season in one-goal
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report. Jeff Howe can be reached