Mid-term evaluations for the East
Yale. Just a year removed from a 9-11-2,
ninth-place conference finish, the Bulldogs jumped to a
7-3-0 start this season. The reason: a free-wheeling, offensive
style of play with the personnel to pull it off. Two terrific
lines lead the way, highlighted by Chris Higgins on one
and Evan Wax on the other.
East: Tie – Massachusetts and Merrimack.
Near-unanimous picks for the bottom of the league, the Minutemen
and Warriors have four Hockey East wins apiece at the break,
which is just two off the pace of the conference’s
co-leaders. Can either compete for the conference title?
Probably not – they are a combined 0-5-0 against Hockey
East’s “big three” of Boston College,
Maine and New Hampshire. But they’ve proven that they
don’t deserve to be dismissed as the “bottom
Canisius. The Golden Griffins have surged into
a tie for second place in the MAAC after an 0-6-0 start.
Freshman Andrew Dawe started the Griffs’ 6-2-0 run
with an overtime goal against Sacred Heart; the streak has
also featured wins over Mercyhurst, Army and Connecticut.
Sophomore Fred Coccimiglio (5-5—10) is averaging a
point per game.
Evan Wax, Yale.
Wax leads the ECAC in conference goals (10) and points per
game (2.00). Overall, the senior has posted 10 goals and
eight assists in 10 games, just two points shy of his career
high (20 points as a sophomore). He provided the ECAC’s
best individual effort in a game thus far with four goals
against Vermont and has been a key factor in Yale’s
East: Peter Fregoe, Providence. He’s not
a total surprise – he did, after all, average a point
per game last season – but Fregoe and the Friars took
college hockey by storm in the early going this season.
He had a pair of hat tricks and three four-point games as
Providence raced to a 6-0-1 start. While Fregoe, like his
team, has slowed of late, he still shares the Hockey East
overall scoring lead (with teammate Jon DiSalvatore) with
12-13—25 through 16 games.
David Wrigley, Mercyhurst. The Lakers knew they
needed a balanced attack this season, especially in the
absence of last year’s leading scorer, Louis Goulet.
Wrigley – eighth on the team in scoring a year ago
– has stepped up to assume Goulet’s mantle,
posting 6-9—15 through 12 games.
HAPPENED TO …
The Bears still have the goaltending that lifted them to
back-to-back shutouts to open the season. Problem is, there’s
not enough offense to support Yann Danis (5-5-1, 2.44, .907).
They’ve gone 2-5-1 since a 3-0-0 start, managing just
six goals in the five losses and one tie.
East: Providence. The Friars’ fast start
rekindled the optimism of last year, when they were expected
to contend for the Hockey East title. Unfortunately for
PC, November resembled last year as well. In retrospect,
the 6-0-1 start may have been a product of the schedule,
which included Princeton, Iona and Minnesota State.
Mercyhurst. They may not have assumed the same
standing as last season, when the Lakers started the season
20-0-3 in the conference, but fear not. Their 4-2-1 MAAC
record is not that unexpected – and remains within
easy striking distance of the top. Mercyhurst has a young
roster, a new goalie and has faced a nearly impossible schedule
Beating up on the ECAC (with the exception of Dartmouth,
which has earned nemesis status in Ithaca) hasn’t
been enough for the Big Red, which is 5-0-0 outside the
league. Included are sweeps of Boston University and Western
Michigan, plus a win at Ohio State. The Everblades College
Classic provides a test after break, especially if Dave
LeNeveu makes the Canadian National Junior Team.
East: UMass Lowell. With a 0-7-0 Hockey East record,
the River Hawks join Lake Superior and Michigan Tech as
the only teams without a conference win this season. The
good news: at least UMass Lowell isn’t located in
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. More good news: The River
Hawks are 6-1-0 outside the conference, including a split
with Colorado College – the only loss this season
for the No. 1 team in our Power Rankings.
Quinnipiac. Sure, the Bobcats didn’t win
at Northeastern or at Maine. But the pair of 2-1 losses
– just two days apart – proved that head coach
Rand Pecknold’s club can skate with anybody. Assuming
the Bobcats survive the MAAC Tournament – yes, a big
assumption, but they’re certainly the favorites at
this point – teams won’t be clamoring to play
them in the NCAAs.
ECAC First Half
St. Lawrence over New Hampshire, 4-2, Dec. 7.
It’s plenty sweet when you earn your third win of
the season against the nation’s No. 2 team. Scoring
four straight goals in the third period makes it even sweeter.
East: Merrimack over Boston University, 4-3, Oct. 22.
Merrimack earned its first win of the season – and
perhaps signaled the inconsistency ahead for preseason favorite
BU – thanks to an all-around effort, including goals
from two freshmen.
Iona over Mercyhurst, 5-4 OT, Nov. 16. Iona’s
first win of the year came against the defending league
champs. And don’t look now, but it sparked a three-game
MAAC winning streak for the Gaels.
The Engineers played nine of their 17 games against teams
that have made the NCAA Tournament at least once in the
past three years. Five of those nine games were on the road,
including splits at St. Cloud State and the IceBreaker Tournament
(win vs. Wisconsin, loss to Boston University – one
of two to the Terriers).
East: Boston College. The Eagles have faced tough
teams from the CCHA (Notre Dame), ECAC (Harvard and Dartmouth)
and WCHA (Denver), not to mention battles with New Hampshire,
Boston University and Maine (twice). Nobody has an easy
slate in Hockey East, but Boston College gets the nod here
for its five-game road stretch from Oct. 26 through Nov.
15, in which the Eagles went 4-0-1.
Mercyhurst. Mercyhurst’s first half lists
cities like the back of a Rolling Stones Tour t-shirt (if
the Stones played Orono, Troy, Colorado Springs and the
Soo). The Lakers’ 4-9-1 record (2-1-1 at home) doesn’t
accurately reflect their talent – but it does demonstrate
head coach Rick Gotkin’s desire to test his young
team early. Expect them to prove how much they’ve
grown in the second half.
Hockey East First Half
Forrest, Boston College
Truelson, New Hampshire
Gare, New Hampshire
McGrane, UMass Lowell
Eaves, Boston College
The story of the first half in the ECAC, of course, was
in Potsdam, where the university fired Mark Morris. The
Knights have more challenges ahead in their second-half
schedule, beginning with a trip to the Wells Fargo Denver
Cup (New Hampshire, then Miami or Denver). Clarkson still
faces Cornell, Yale and Dartmouth twice each, with the Harvard/Brown
trip looming on the last weekend of the season.
East: Boston University. It’s been far from
easy for the Terriers thus far – with the IceBreaker
and a trip to Cornell highlighting the first half –
so Jack Parker’s boys should be well prepared for
what lies ahead. The path is daunting: the Great Lakes Invitational,
the Beanpot and weekend series with Boston College, New
Hampshire and Maine. Both Maine games take place in Orono,
on the last weekend of the season.
Iona. Maine will likely move to 4-0-0 against the
MAAC – all at home – when it hosts the Gaels
on Friday. After that, Iona can look forward to more challenges
in its league schedule: three games against Sacred Heart,
two remaining with Holy Cross and Quinnipiac, and one vs.
Cornell at Harvard, Feb. 15.
The Bright Center will be ready for what could be its biggest
game in years. By the looks of it, the winner would have
the inside track on the ECAC regular-season title.
East: Boston College vs. New Hampshire, home and home, Feb.
28-March 1. The conference co-leaders will clash
on the final weekend of the regular season, reprising their
terrific overtime game from Nov. 19 (a 3-2 Wildcat win).
Of course, somebody’s got to beat Maine for this series
to impact the race for the regular-season title.
Mercyhurst at Quinnipiac, Jan. 17-18. The MAAC’s
two most high-profile programs meet twice in Hamden to settle
their season series, which began with a 3-3 tie Oct. 26.
MAAC First Half
Irving, Holy Cross
Doria, Holy Cross
Caron, American Intl.
Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning (Vermont).
NHL pundits love his size, pointing to St. Louis as proof
that the little guy can make it. We love the memories from
Gutterson, and wonder if his November numbers would have
tailed off with Eric Perrin on his line.
East: Eric Boguniecki, St. Louis Blues (New Hampshire).
Boguniecki finally got a sustained look from the
Blues, and he’s responded. By Dec. 11, he’d
scored more goals (a team-high 11) than the number of goaltenders
the Blues had auditioned (six).
Pat Rismiller, Cleveland Barons (Holy Cross). The
MAAC may lack an NHL star, but Rismiller can make the conference’s
fans proud. He signed with the Barons’ parent club,
San Jose, during training camp, and has performed well in
the AHL. He even picks up the phone and checks in with Holy
Cross coach Paul Pearl on occasion.
Will Cornell match its nine-point cushion in last year’s
We suppose the Big Red could still run and hide, but the
field is keeping pace to this point. Harvard’s 9-2-0
record with a home game remaining against Cornell gives
the Crimson the best shot of overtaking the Big Red –
or at least staying close.
East: How will Maine replace Matt Yeats and Mike Morrison?
Who? The play of Jim Howard and his oft-used backup, Frank
Doyle, makes it easy to forget that Maine had a goaltending
question coming into the season – and easy to see
why the Black Bears were the league’s best team in
the first half.
How much will Mercyhurst miss Peter Aubry? Certainly
any team would miss a three-year starter in goal who has
spent this season in the ECHL and AHL. But the Lakers have
survived, thanks to the performances of junior Matt Cifelli
(2-5-1, 3.62, .902) and freshman Andy Franck (2-4-0, 4.51,
.874). Cifelli has been especially solid in MAAC games (2-1-1,
Who will take over the head coaching duties at Clarkson?
While a strong performance this season could give interim
coach Fred Parker a boost, the university will conduct a
national search – and it figures to be more extensive
than Maine’s at the end of last year. Other candidates
could include Los Angeles Kings' scout Greg Dreschel, Lake
Superior State assistant coach Jim Roque, Oswego State head
coach George Roll, and former Bowling Green and RIT coach
East: How will BC respond after Patrick Eaves’ injury?
Eaves fractured a vertebrae on a fluke play, keeping
him out of the lineup for six weeks – at least. That
leaves the Eagles to cope with both the frightening nature
of the injury and with the loss of their top scorer in the
first half. “What a year he was having. Ten goals!”
head coach Jerry York told the Boston Herald. “We're
trying to lift his spirits. He's a resilient kid. When we
left here (Saturday) night, we thought we had dodged a bullet.”
Time will tell how the Eagles – winless in three straight
entering tonight’s game at Harvard – respond
on the ice.
Can the MAAC post its first win against a Hockey East team?
The Bobcats came oh-so-close twice, and Connecticut had
a shot at New Hampshire. The prime opportunities appear
to have passed, but circle these two dates on your calendar:
Holy Cross at Merrimack, Jan. 24, and UConn at Massachusetts,
Feb. 14. It could still happen.