Dark horses: Providence makes a late-season run
teams have stood atop Hockey East all season – Boston
College, Maine and New Hampshire.
if the Hockey East Tournament started today, you’d
have a hard time calling one of the big three the favorite
to win it. The conference’s two hottest teams occupy
the fourth and fifth positions – Boston University
Not only are
the Terriers and Friars on course to meet in the first round
of the postseason, but they face off in a home-and-home
series this weekend.
won six in a row, and its Beanpot-related resurgence has
been well documented. Providence, meanwhile, has posted
a 4-0-1 record in its last five, including taking three
points at Maine last weekend – the first time any
team has done that in an Alfond series since BC posted a
sweep Jan. 28-29, 2000. PC has outscored its last five opponents,
Friars – whose 7-0-0 start to the season was dismissed
by many as the result of a weak schedule – have rebounded
from a 4-10-1 stretch and are playing their best hockey.
Nolan Schaefer has certainly emerged, and he’s really
been the key for us,” head coach Paul Pooley said.
“I think we’re playing better defensively, and
our transition game has been working better.”
and freshman Bobby Goepfert – the United States’
star goaltender at the World Junior Championship –
shared time for the first four months of the season, but
Schaefer has emphatically earned the starting nod with a
string of impressive performances. He's 5-0-1 with a 1.52
goals-against average and a .954 save percentage in his
last seven games. Meanwhile, the offense – led by
seniors Jon DiSalvatore, Peter Fregoe and Devin Rask –
has clicked, producing 4.6 goals per game over the last
it has all come together. And just in time, too, since a
run to end the season would put Providence in position for
an NCAA berth. The Friars will host the East Regional, but
Pooley quickly dismisses any discussion of the postseason.
East: Last Five Games
games of Feb. 19
just think about the next game,” he said. “That’s
all. Early in the year I think we started looking ahead
a little bit, and it cost us. We can’t do that. And
we can’t control what other people do.”
run might have inflated some expectations in Providence,
but it also hinted at this lineup’s capabilities.
In retrospect, the sweep of Minnesota State, Mankato –
currently the third-place team in the WCHA – was more
impressive than most thought at the time. The team has recaptured
that spark, and according to Pooley, it starts with the
work ethic displayed by Schaefer and the rest of the seven-member
seven seniors and they’re all playing well,”
Pooley said. “It starts with Nolan, and Jon, Peter,
and Devin have been our best players up front. When we have
success, they’re working hard and playing well defensively,
and they’ve been doing that lately. That’s where
leadership comes in for your hockey team. Your best players
have to be the hardest workers.
a while in November and December, we were having real problems
scoring,” he adds. “We always had guys who could
score, but we weren’t getting the breaks. Now we’re
getting more goals that are maybe blue-collar goals –
a lot of hard working goals, and we’re getting a lot
of goals that start from shots from the point.”
MORE NOTES NO FAN SHOULD BE WITHOUT
What He Said
you from, boy?"
some time to sift through the data in Inside College
of the Game report, which breaks down the hometown
for every player in Division I. It's got some fascinating
tidbits, and I say that not just because I wrote it.
the interesting nuggets you'll find in the breakdown
of players by conference:
46.75% of ECAC players are Canadian, the highest percentage
of any of the six conferences.
A shade over 35% of Hockey East players are from Massachusetts
(76 players). Minnesota – a surprise to me,
at least – and New York were tied for second
among U.S. states with 14 players apiece in Hockey
The MAAC has players representing 27 states, the most
of any conference (edging the CCHA, with 26 states
All about the D – For a team that scores
goals at a pace that screams 1980s like leg-warmers and
Thriller, it’s curious to hear head coach
Tim Taylor describe the secret to Yale’s success.
It's downright Generation Y.
successful, we pay attention to detail in terms of our team
defense,” Taylor said. “That’s not our
strong suit – our strong suit is putting the puck
in the net – so when we focus on defense, we have
the Bulldogs have 86 goals in conference play, nine more
than the next-closest ECAC team (Harvard) and an average
of 4.78 goals per game. But their recent 8-1-0 streak has
coincided with a distinct downturn in goals against –
they’ve allowed 2.33 goals per game in that time.
to a renewed commitment to defense, Taylor’s team
has benefited from the emergence of freshman goaltender
Josh Gartner. Gartner spent a rough final year in juniors
with Green Bay, where he played sparingly, and Hamilton
(Ont.), for a coach who had little patience with his goalies.
“When I went to Hamilton late last year, I saw him
get pulled and put back in. I really didn’t know what
to expect,” Taylor said. “I quite honestly told
him that he’d have to come in and be third out of
three (in the depth chart).”
took over the starting job, the wins seemed to follow. Of
course, it helps when the offense includes players like
Chris Higgins and Ryan Steeves, just to start – really
Taylor and his assistants have compiled an entire lineup
think our offensive success has spread throughout our team
and absolutely, it’s contagious,” he said. “We
don’t have what I would call a classic checking line.
Every one of our lines goes out there and the reason that
they are Division I hockey players is because they have
offensive talent. They put up the numbers in juniors, and
they’re doing it again here.
realize that they have a chance to excel offensively, and
my job is to make sure that they pay attention to the team
defense side of the game.”
The result? Yale
stands relatively comfortably in third place, four points
ahead a three-way tie for fourth. A successful trip to the
North Country this weekend could secure a top-four finish
and a first-round bye in the new format of the ECAC Tournament.
And while he’s
not about to turn away from a couple of wins, Taylor isn’t
enamored with that “reward.”
sure every coach is telling his team that this is playoff
hockey right now,” he said. “But if you do well
enough over these next couple of weeks to get home ice,
then you have to sit around and wait for a week. This is
the time of year when you’re supposed to be playing.
The way we’re playing, we’re better off playing
than sitting and resting for a week. That could change if
you get some injuries or get banged up, but right now it’s
Follow the bouncing ball – Scheduling conflicts
with the FleetCenter and the NCAA men's basketball tournament
will force Hockey East to play this season's championship
weekend one week earlier than conference coaches would like.
the ECAC, MAAC, CCHA and WCHA are playing their quarterfinal
series March 14-15, Hockey East will be crowning its tournament
champion and awarding its automatic bid (College Hockey
America will also play its championship that weekend).
East commissioner Joe Bertagna explains that the conflict
came up because of a change in the dates of the Frozen Four.
After the dates were originally scheduled, the FleetCenter
booked Hockey East for March 14-15 and joined Boston College
on a successful bid to host the first and second rounds
of the basketball tournament the following week. By the
time the Frozen Four was pushed back a week, to April 10-12,
Hockey East couldn't adjust the dates of its championship
coaches – not wanting to wait around for a week for
the NCAA Tournament to start, or worse yet, to find out
if they got a bid – voted to explore the possibility
of an alternate site. But the nine athletic directors decided
to stay at the Fleet.
ADs have the financial responsibility for the league,"
Bertagna said, "and like most leagues, the bulk of
our finances come from our tournament. I think the ADs felt,
and I agree, that we can’t disrupt what we’ve
got at the Fleet Center."
result, some teams may end up practicing for a week without
being sure whether or not they'll get a tournament bid.
One that might be red-hot will have to cool their jets for
a week. They could always catch some exciting roundball
at the Fleet, or watch the other conference championships.
someone catches fire, sweeps their quarterfinal series,
wins the tournament, then has to sit a week, we will hear
more from the coaches," Bertagna said. "But who
knows – maybe they can use that week to scout other
teams, and it could work out to be a good thing."
Great Weekend Getaways
Boston University vs. Providence (at Providence Fri.,
at BU Sat.)
East's two hottest teams collide (see above), and home
ice in the first round could be on the line. The coaches
will want to keep their scouting reports handy –
that first-round series, wherever it is, will likely
feature these two teams again.
While you’re there: During the Providence
Frozen Four in 2000, a friend and I came up with an
elaborate rating scheme to evaluate our favorite bars.
Sadly, the champ is gone. You can go to America Restaurant
on Pine Street and get a great meal; I'll be stuck wondering
how we gave Challenges five stars but it still couldn't
vs. Holy Cross (at Holy Cross Thurs., at Quinnipiac
Sat.) – The Bobcats' toughest remaining tests
as they pursue the MAAC regular-season title. They
are one point behind Mercyhurst, but with a game in
hand and the Lakers facing a much tougher slate, they
control their own destiny.
Brown at Dartmouth (Sat.) – These two teams
enter the weekend tied for the fourth spot in the
ECAC (with Union). The result of this game could go
a long way towards determining the conference's fourth
and final first-round bye in the ECAC Tournament.
Take a seat and give me 10 – An unusual penalty
call and an early defection contributed to Mercyhurst’s
surprising 8-3 loss to Sacred Heart Friday night in MAAC
the Pioneers’ Ryan Bremmer scored to give Sacred Heart
a 3-1 lead, Laker goaltender Andy Franck was assessed a
10-minute misconduct – a penalty that, unlike a minor,
a goalie has to serve. According to Rule 4-4-a in the NCAA
rulebook, “A misconduct penalty involves the removal
of a player, including a goalkeeper, from the game for a
period of 10 minutes; however, a substitute is permitted
to replace that player immediately.”
substitute was freshman Ryan Kobel, a veteran of 4:24 of
collegiate action entering the game. Junior Matt Cifelli,
who had split time in goal with Franck for the first half
of the season, left school a few weeks ago, shortly after
Franck had assumed the starting position full-time.
Heart outscored the Lakers 3-1 over the next 9:03, and by
the time Franck returned to the ice, the Pioneers led 6-2.
The rout was on, and Mercyhurst had lost control of its
destiny in the MAAC regular-season title race.
Lakers still lead in the standings by a point, but second-place
Quinnipiac has a game in hand.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League will bring its first-ever
U.S. franchise into Black Bear territory, beginning in 2003-04.
The Sherbrooke Castors have announced plans to relocated
to Lewiston, Maine, for next season. The City of Lewiston
will help fund improvements to the Central Maine Civic Center,
where the team will play.
College, Cornell and Harvard are the first teams to
secure home-ice advantage. Many more dominoes will be
in place after this weekend's games.
the "This is our house" sign at Bright Saturday
night. Especially since it was true.
up and down the East coast got an extra day off from
practice this week, which can't be a bad thing at this
time of year.
Good to see Niko Dimitrakos (Maine) record his first career
NHL goal on ESPN2 Tuesday night. Dave Ryan and Brian Engblom
– who called Maine's championship in Anaheim in 1999
– were in the booth for the Deuce.
Defenseman Garrett Stafford returned to action for New Hampshire
Wednesday night against Merrimack after sitting out two
games for an academic-related suspension imposed by head
coach Dick Umile. Stafford posted three assists in the win.
Defenseman Kevin Truelson missed the game, however, and
Umile told the Foster's Daily Democrat that he
will be out of Friday's game at UMass Lowell as well with
a nagging foot injury.
The expansion of the NCAA Tournament field to 16 this year
has changed the way we'll watch the next few weeks. Cornell,
for example, has a little less to gain by winning the ECAC
Tournament thanks to the elimination of the first-round
bye. Joe Bertagna said that it's changed the way he looks
at games from the conference office: "With the bye
being so important, you used to hope that your best teams
would do well, so you could be in a position to get one
or maybe even two teams a bye. Now you hope your bubble
teams do well, because you could be in a situation to get
four and maybe even five teams into the tournament."
Bentley's Friday night win over Iona included dramatic swings
of momentum. After the Falcons opened the scoring, Iona
scored the next four goals. Bentley scored the following
four, however, including three in the third, to win. Bentley
lost to the Gaels the next night to drop into a tie for
fourth in the league with Canisius.
Cornell's Ryan Vesce continued his impressive play with
two goals, including the game-winner, in the showdown against
Harvard. He has 3-4—7 over the last two weekends.
Boston College still leads Hockey East in team offense (4.10
goals per game), team defense (2.15), power play (20.9 percent)
and penalty kill (88.5 percent) in conference games.
Boston University's Jack Parker, college hockey's winningest
active coach, moved into third place on the all-time win
list with his 675th victory. Meanwhile, UNH coach Dick Umile's
next win will be the 300th of his career.
variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this