Title page: Who will win the regular season?
winners don’t get showered with praise on ESPN. Heck,
they don’t even get an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament,
as they did just a few years ago.
But for my money,
there’s no better measure of a team’s success
over the course of a season than a regular-season championship.
regular-season championship is a reflection of consistency,”
Maine head coach Tim Whitehead told the Bangor Daily
News. “Each year we strive for a national championship
but we feel there are some important steps along the way.
The Hockey East regular-season championship is one and a
championship in the Hockey East playoffs is another."
coaches, like Whitehead, list the regular-season championship
among their team’s goals, especially because it puts
teams in the ECAC and Hockey East on solid footing in terms
of the NCAA Tournament, even if it doesn’t guarantee
a bid. Success in the regular season affects a team’s
NCAA seed as well, although a little incentive disappeared
this year with the welcome elimination of first-round byes
in the tournament.
coaches, like Mercyhurst’s Rick Gotkin, don’t
focus on the regular-season title at all. In the MAAC’s
case, Gotkin's reasoning makes sense. The conference tournament,
with its coveted automatic bid, is the focus. Instead of
a regular-season title, some coaches emphasize earning a
home ice for the playoffs and playing their best at this
time of year – all with an eye on postseason glory.
each team’s motives, we wanted to take this time –
with between six and eight regular-season games remaining
– to evaluate the regular-season title races in the
Six games remain, but this one could be all but determined
Saturday night, when Cornell visits Harvard. The Big Red
took sole possession of first place last weekend, when they
finally pulled even with the Crimson in games played. Sweep
this weekend and Cornell would have a four-point edge (at
least), and it’s hard to imagine that Harvard could
erase that deficit.
But if the Crimson
can take advantage of home-ice advantage this weekend –
and they are 6-1-1 at Bright this year – it could
get really interesting. Both teams have their toughest remaining
games on the road (Cornell at Yale, Harvard at Dartmouth),
but at that point the title would probably belong to whichever
team didn’t slip up.
East: With six games left, Boston College and Maine
stand tied atop the standings. First things first –
if those two finish tied, BC holds the edge in the tiebreaker
for the top seed in the Hockey East tournament because it
has more league wins than Maine, 13 to 12 (the first tiebreaker,
head-to-head results, finished tied, 1-1-1).
Maine seems to
have the edge in remaining schedule, with only two road
games remaining (a series at reeling Massachusetts). But
the Black Bears face two of Hockey East’s hottest
teams – Providence this weekend, and BU to close out
the season – at home. Boston College, meanwhile, has
home-and-homes with Merrimack, Northeastern and New Hampshire.
That last series could be an opportunity for the Wildcats
to snag the regular-season title, should Maine or BC falter
between now and then. UNH is just two points back in the
With a nine-point edge over Canisius in third, Quinnipiac
and Mercyhurst are towering over the MAAC field.
The Bobcats have
a one-point edge right now, but the Lakers have a game in
hand. They’ll make that up this weekend while Quinnipiac
plays at Air Force. Then Quinnipiac will have a game in
hand, which they won’t make up until the last week
of the regular season.
this title to be decided much earlier than that week, when
both teams host what could be troublesome opponents who
have been playing well of late. Mercyhurst closes the season
against Canisius, while Quinnipiac welcomes Army. Adding
some intrigue, those teams should be jockeying for playoff
position as well – six points currently separate the
six teams between third and eighth in the conference.
MORE NOTES NO FAN SHOULD BE WITHOUT
What He Said
resurgence could make things messy for the NCAA selection
Friars are flying, with three wins in a row and five
in their last seven. They’ve beaten both Boston
College and New Hampshire in the last three weeks,
and they have another shot at Maine – after
beating the Black Bears Jan. 3 – this weekend
in a series at Alfond.
recent run has seen Providence’s NCAA Tournament
stock soar, and according to the Pairwise Rankings,
they’d be right on the bubble if the season
that means in terms of seeds is this: if Providence
gets in, it would play in the East Regional at the
Dunkin Donuts Center because the Friars are the host
school. The other three regional hosts – Boston
University, Michigan and Minnesota – are on
solid NCAA footing at the moment and would likewise
get to stay home.
avoid conference matchups in the first round, then,
the NCAA would have to send at least one Hockey East
team West – likely the team out of Boston College,
Maine and New Hampshire that doesn’t win either
the regular-season or tournament title (assuming one
of those three wins the latter). If one team wins
both, or if BU or Providence jumps up and takes the
tourney title, that could conceivably confuse matters
Beanpot storytelling – You can always count
on the Beanpot to produce some great stories. But never
McConnell's redemption or Sean Fields' stellar play
– this year’s most heartwarming story, for a
change, belonged to the losing team.
Eaves, the fabulous Boston College freshman, skated with
his teammates on Sunday for the first time since suffering
a fractured vertebrae Dec. 7 against Maine.
no timetable for a potential return, but head coach Jerry
York – previously resigned to losing the high-scoring
winger for the season – expressed optimism.
is showing some remarkable improvement with the (CT scan).
It was very positive and showed that whatever it is has
healed,'' York told the Boston Herald. “No
one has given the word that he can play yet. The longer
we can play the more chance that he might be able to come
back this year. . . . The time off has helped. But it's
just good seeing him on the ice skating.”
thought of an Eaves return for the playoffs makes Boston
College – already one of the nation’s hottest
teams at 8-2-0 in their last 10 – downright frightening.
It’s not on the scale of Peter Forsberg’s return
to the Colorado Avalanche lineup for last year’s Stanley
Cup playoffs, but it’s in the neighborhood.
of all, Eaves’ progress toward a full return –
whenever it may be – is encouraging.
Summit meeting – Statistically, they’ve
got the two best goalies in the ECAC in Dave LeNeveu and
Dov Grumet-Morris. Doug Murray and Noah Welch could be the
league’s best defensemen. And offensively, you can’t
go wrong with Ryan Vesce and Stephen Baby on one side, Dominic
Moore and Tim Pettit on the other.
any wonder Cornell and Harvard are the top two teams in
they face off Saturday night just across the Charles from
Harvard Square, as noted above, the regular-season title
could be in the balance.
win would re-affirm the dominance the Big Red showed last
weekend in a pair of thrashings of Dartmouth (6-1) and Vermont
(8-1). After a relatively quiet spell, the offense shined
in those two wins, led by the first line trio of Baby, Vesce
and freshman Matt Moulson, who recorded the first hat trick
for the Big Red since 1998 on Friday. Vesce has 91 career
points in 91 games, and could become the first Cornell player
to reach 100 career points as a junior since Joe Nieuwendyk.
to conference title implications, a Harvard win could do
wonders for the Crimson’s NCAA Tournament aspirations.
As it stands, they may need a repeat of last season’s
ECAC Tournament title to get back to the big dance. Moore
enters the weekend on the verge of a family milestone. He
needs just one point to pass his brother, Steve, on Harvard's
all-time scoring list. They're currently tied with 122 career
Gael force – Iona's first series sweep of
the year couldn’t have come at a better time. And,
remarkably, it's left the Gaels just four points out of
fourth place and home-ice advantage in the MAAC quarterfinals.
for the final playoff spot in the MAAC, the Gaels swept
the team ahead of them, Connecticut, 5-2 and 4-2, to leapfrog
into eighth place. Iona has now won three out of four after
posting just four wins in the first 23 games of the season.
Gaels face Bentley in a home-and-home this weekend to begin
a tough slate – after the Falcons come games with
Mercyhurst, Canisius and Sacred Heart. But Iona has improved
dramatically over the course of the season, thanks in large
part to the maturation of head coach Frank Bretti’s
14-member freshman class.
of those freshmen, goaltender Ian Vigier, is 3-1-1 in his
last five games, with a 2.00 goals-against average and a
.920 save percentage. The veterans are helping as well –
senior Ryan Manitowich had both game-winning goals last
weekend, and junior captain Mark Hallam leads the team in
scoring (21 points).
the logjam in the MAAC standings, five teams are five or
fewer points ahead of the Gaels. If they keep playing well,
Connecticut won’t be the last team they pass in the
Great Weekend Getaways
Providence at Maine (Fri.-Sat.)
needs to put the brakes on a little bit of a slide –
the Black Bears are 2-2-1 in their last five –
but they face a challenge. Providence has won three
straight and five of its last seven and comes to town
poised to snap an 0-23-1 streak in Orono that dates
to 1989. Raise a glass to senior goaltender Nolan Schaefer.
When it comes to conference honors, he has more than
one. The Yellow Grass, Sask., native has earned Hockey
East Player of the Week and Defensive Player of the
Week during the three-game winning streak. He’s
4-0-0 in his last five appearances (1.55, .956 in that
While you’re there: It seems like every decent-sized
New England town has a “Mill Street.” It’s
a shame that every one doesn’t have Pat’s
Pizza, which you can find on Mill in Orono. Fantastic.
at Harvard (Sat.) – It’s too bad these
teams only play twice per season. Per regular season,
that is …
Yale at Union (Fri.) – These teams come by their
success in different ways, as evidenced by their league
goals-per-game totals (Yale’s is 4.75, Union’s
2.94). That should make for an entertaining third-place
battle Friday night at Achilles Rink.
Lost amid the headline-grabbing play of Sean Fields, Brian
McConnell and Justin Maiser were the Beanpot heroics of
Boston University’s Brian Collins. Collins didn’t
have a point in the title game, but head coach Jack Parker
often dispatched him to shadow BC superstar Ben Eaves, and
Collins held him to one assist. Considering the lack of
success the rest of the league has had in slowing Eaves
down, he may see more blanket treatment the rest of the
Former Clarkson head coach Mark Morris resurfaced this week
as a special assistant coach for the Vancouver Canucks,
working with Canucks head coach (and Morris' former teammate)
Marc Crawford. Morris goes from unemployed to spending the
rest of the season working with one of the NHL’s best
didn't want to sit and twiddle my thumbs, and once you're
dismissed from the business it's a lonely world," Morris
told the Vancouver Province. "I'm just thankful
for the opportunity to help out in any way I can contribute."
Army's sophomore C's
all-sophomore line of Chris Garceau, Chris Casey and
Chad Mayfield led the Black Knights to a 4-0 win over
Canada's Royal Military College.
Jon DiSalvatore, Providence
Friars' star scored a jaw-dropping goal against UNH,
chipping the puck over Mike Ayers as he was being hauled
down by a defenseman.
Big Red Freakout!
extended its unbeaten streak in Big Red Freakout! games
to 13 (9-0-4) when the Engineers scored a fluky overtime
goal that went in off a Brown player. The win snapped
Rensselaer's seven-game losing streak and nine-game
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and former U.S. Attorney General
Janet Reno were back at their alma mater Saturday night
to root for Cornell in its 8-1 win over Vermont.
New Hampshire head coach Dick Umile was furious with referee
Scott Hansen at the end of UNH's 5-2 loss to Providence
Sunday. Hansen – who also officiated the UNH-Maine
game two weeks ago that ended with a controversial overtime
goal – assessed Umile a bench minor and a game misconduct
at the end of the game.
Yale has won seven of its last eight games and moved into
third place in the ECAC. Freshman goaltender Josh Gartner
– son of Hall of Famer Mike – is 7-2-0 with
a 2.54 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage
on the year.
Union left wing Nathan Gillies will miss Friday's key game
with Yale. He was among six players – three from each
team – to earn game disqualification majors for fighting
at the end of last Friday's Union-Brown game. Scott Seney
and Jason Kean will also sit out for Union.
Massachusetts has lost five in a row and eight of its last
nine, dropping fast in the Hockey East standings. The Minutemen's
schedule includes only three more league games, so there's
not much time to make up ground – a sixth- or seventh-place
finish seems likely. Their struggles have coincided with
a drop-off on the power play, once a strong suit. In its
last eight games, UMass is just 2-for-31 (6.4 percent).
Quinnipiac has scored one goal – no more, no less
– in each of its seven losses. In their other 18 games,
the Bobcats are averaging over five goals per game.
variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this