Summit meeting: UNH, BC battle for title
Umile knows that things would have to go nearly perfectly
for his New Hampshire Wildcats this weekend to take three
out of four points – and the Hockey East regular-season
title – from Boston College. That said, he’s
thrilled for the chance to try to make it happen.
play very, very well and still lose, and that’s the
case for both BC and UNH,” he said. “But this
is something that you strive for. To have an opportunity
to play for the regular-season title – that’s
really hard to do in our league.”
admits that he took note of this series on the schedule
before the season even started and wondered just what might
be on the line. It’s played out just as he had suspected,
with BC and UNH ranking 1-2 in conference offense, defense,
power play and penalty killing. They’ve been the class
of the league all year – along with Maine (which could
still conceivably earn the No. 1 seed in the Hockey East
tournament if it sweeps BU and UNH posts a win and a tie
vs. BC, creating a three-way tie for the title).
Hampshire, which has won five in a row against Boston College,
could be bolstered by the return of defenseman Kevin Truelson,
who missed the last two games with a cast on his troublesome
foot. The cast was removed Wednesday, and the gritty Truelson
hopes to play through the pain. He would be a crucial addition
against BC’s high-flying lineup, providing some defensive
leadership to try to slow the likes of Ben Eaves, Tony Voce
and Ryan Shannon.
Umile credits the line of Steve Saviano, Sean Collins and
Nathan Martz, which has emerged to take pressure off the
Wildcats’ top unit of Lanny Gare, Colin Hemingway
and Josh Prudden. Saviano, for one, has 15 of his 26 points
since the start of 2003.
has really come on since we put them together early in January,”
Umile said. “They’ve been one of the best lines
in the league, and they’ve given us some real balance.”
Despite the excitement
a weekend like this generates – with a title on the
line, packed crowds and television Saturday night –
Umile says that there’s no threat of making out to
be too big. A potential trip to the FleetCenter and the
NCAA Tournament both await, after all.
not the end of the world if we don’t win,” he
said. “It’s a fun opportunity to play in, but
coming in first, second or third in this league isn’t
a bad thing.”
MORE NOTES NO FAN SHOULD BE WITHOUT
What He Said
not leaving now, are you?"
week's revelations in my colleague Mike Eidelbes's
West Notebook that the CHA was looking to add a seventh
member from an existing Division I conference prompted
plenty of speculation as to the identity of that team,
with the focus on the MAAC.
Quinnipiac would appear to be a candidate to flee
the scholarship restrictions of the MAAC. But head
coach Rand Pecknold said that while his school always
keeps its options open, the Bobcats have no immediate
plans to leave the MAAC.
always looking at the options that might be available,"
he said. "We've had talks in the past with Hockey
East. Our women are looking at going to the CHA –
I'm not sure if that's going to happen, but the thought
came up that if they did that, it might make sense
for the men's program, too.
now we're pretty happy in the MAAC, and we're not
going anywhere in the immediate future. I think the
MAAC has improved greatly each year, and we're
happy with the direction it's heading."
athletic director Jack McDonald reiterated that the
school is happy in the MAAC. Meanwhile, the CHA's
Structure Committee met last week but didn't come
to any conclusions about the addition of a seventh
team. The issue will be discussed by the conference
athletic directors either at the conference tournament
in March or at the league meetings in April.
want to make sure we're doing it right, and there
doesn't seem to be an immediate urgency," CHA
commissioner Bob Peters told Eidelbes.
No place like ... – No one in the nation
enjoys a better home-ice advantage than Cornell. Not only
were the Big Red perfect at Lynah this season, at 13-0-0,
but visitors were lucky to score a goal – Dave LeNeveu
and the boys held opponents to 12 goals in the 13 games.
This marks the
first time since 1970-71 that the Big Red have been perfect
at home, and they’ll have a chance to build on that
mark in two weeks when the ECAC quarterfinals come to town.
home-ice advantage is high on every team’s list of
goals, even though it only means two (maybe three) extra
games in front of the home crowd. But for some clubs, like
Cornell, it’s much more significant than others.
another example, Providence (11-4-1 at home, but under .500
on the road). Think the Friars wouldn’t feel a whole
lot better about their quarterfinal series against Boston
University – and thus their NCAA Tournament chances
– if they can play the series at home instead of at
Walter Brown Arena?
Here, then –
with BU-PC and a few other home-ice spots up for grabs –
is a quick look at who else stands to gain considerably
from home-ice advantage:
Dartmouth: Thompson Arena has been jumping this year, and
the Big Green have responded. They are 12-3-0 at home, but
3-8-1 away from home.
Brown: Currently tied with Dartmouth for fourth place, the
Bears will be similarly motivated to gain home ice. They’ve
posted an 8-2-3 record at home (4-9-0 on the road). By the
records, both Brown and Dartmouth stand to benefit from
home ice more than Union (6-5-2 at home, 7-10-2 on the road),
which stands two points behind them entering this weekend.
Holy Cross (third place), Army (tied for sixth) and Canisius
(tied for sixth) are all over .500 at home and would love
to play their MAAC quarterfinal games at home.
Of course, there
are other teams where home-ice advantage doesn’t mean
quite as much. Bentley currently stands in fourth in the
MAAC – the final spot for home ice in the quarterfinals.
The Falcons, however, are the rare team that seems to be
better off on the road – they are the only team in
the East with an under .500 home record (5-7-0) and a road
record of .500 or better (8-8-0).
Then we come
back to Providence. The Friars, while much better on the
season at home, haven’t lost a road game in Hockey
East since Jan. 5, posting a 4-0-2 record since then.
Play-in game – UMass Lowell’s ties
in back-to-back games – against an excellent team
in New Hampshire and a good team with an excellent goaltender
in Merrimack – sets up a battle for the eighth and
final playoff spot in Hockey East Saturday night against
Winner take all?
Well, not exactly. But winner takes a little something,
and the loser is stuck at home for the playoffs.
competitor loves the matchup,” River Hawks head coach
Blaise MacDonald said. “It’s a sixty-minute
playing at home, we’re playing against a good team,
a team we match up well against, and a team that is going
to give us a lot of problems if we don’t execute our
game plan. It’s going to be exciting. It is similar
to last year when we played Northeastern where it came down
to a one-game series. The winner goes to the FleetCenter
and the loser goes home, and last year we were able to get
it done. I expect a high-intensity game out of our team.”
River Hawks probably have an edge based on how their playing
– and every opposing coach this year seems to have
said they’re the best last-place team they can imagine.
They’ve been bolstered by the season-long improvement
of their freshmen, and rookies Danny O’Brien and Elias
Godoy recorded the team’s lone goals against Merrimack
star goalie Joe Exter Tuesday night. Freshman Andrew Martin
has been strong as well, standing second on the team in
goals with 10.
So keep an eye
on the freshmen, but remember this as well – with
seniors Ed McGrane (UMass Lowell) and Mike Ryan (Northeastern)
participating, this game will be the last for one of Hockey
East’s elite players. They both lead their teams in
scoring, and one might have a say in making sure his team’s
Great Weekend Getaways
Boston College vs. New Hampshire (at BC Fri., at UNH
brag that I predicted this series could have the Hockey
East title hanging in the balance in Inside College
Hockey’s conference preview, but I also said the
series would decide the scoring race between BC’s
Ben Eaves and UNH’s Colin Hemingway. Close, but
not quite – Eaves has it wrapped up, with a seven-point
lead over Hemingway’s linemate, Lanny Gare. I’ll
stay out of the prediction game in this one, and leave
it to Merrimack head coach Chris Serino, who has seen
each team play over the last two weeks: “I personally
think UNH is the best team," he told the Portsmouth
Herald. "I hope we don’t see them anymore."
While you’re there: Why not visit Boston Common
Saturday morning for a skate on the Frog Pond? It's
not quite as invigorating as true pond hockey –
no sticks and pucks allowed – but it's a treat
at Yale (Sat.) – Can the Bulldogs match their
typical offensive output against Cornell’s stingy
defense? If they can, this is the place to do it.
Yale holds a 5-0-1 record in Cornell’s last
six trips to the Whale. If you can’t make it
to this one, catch it on NESN or YES – it kicks
off the ECAC’s television package and is one
of a host of great games available on the dish this
weekend (check out our National
Quinnipiac vs. Connecticut (Sat.) – Easy, MAAC
bashers. The location alone makes this one worth the
trip – Madison Square Garden. And don't worry,
you don't have to stay to watch the Rangers.
The big top – Quinnipiac has a solid grip
on a top-two finish in the MAAC, and controls its own destiny
in terms of the regular-season title. But head coach Rand
Pecknold is pointing to this weekend’s series with
Connecticut – which features a televised game Friday
night and a trip to Madison Square Garden Saturday afternoon
– as a chance to regain some momentum before the playoffs
begin in two weeks.
certainly need to start playing better,” said Pecknold,
whose team is 4-6-0 in its last 10. “Everyone on the
team has been struggling the last few games. We had a big
win against Holy Cross Saturday in overtime, so hopefully
we can build on that.”
game at the Garden is the first appearance for college hockey
at MSG in 25 years, since the ECAC Holiday Tournament was
held there in 1976-77.
excited,” Pecknold said. “I know the players
are, and our students and alumni are excited as well. We’ve
got seven or eight busses going to the game already.”
the game to the Garden was possible thanks to Quinnipiac’s
association with the NHL in a program that allows former
NHL players to study at the school. That initiative was
announced in the fall at MSG, and Quinnipiac athletic director
Jack McDonald began discussions about bringing college hockey
back to the world’s most famous arena.
to the stakes for this weekend’s series is the Heroes
Hat, which goes to the winner of the UConn-Quinnipiac series
in honor of the victims of Sept. 11. Pecknold calls that
the team's focal point, even amid the other excitement of
the weekend, but he hopes it all will contribute to his
would certainly hope so,” Pecknold said. “But
you’ve always got to wait and see how the team responds.
This is an exciting time of year – we’re getting
ready for the playoffs, Friday’s game is on NESN,
then Saturday at the Garden. It’s probably our biggest
weekend of the year.”
Boston University forward John Sabo was arraigned this week
on charges that he allegedly assaulted a BU senior outside
a bar last September. Sabo – who is expected to be
in the lineup this weekend against Maine – pleaded
not guilty to assault and battery, assault and battery with
a dangerous weapon (a shod foot) and making threats. Sabo
will make his next court appearance for a pre-trial hearing
April 8, which will be after the Terriers’ season
unless they reach the Frozen Four (the semifinals are April
Trevor Byrne, Dartmouth
of the best two-way defensemen in the college game,
Byrne has recorded his third straight 20-point season.
He scored his career-best seventh goal in the Big Green’s
win over Brown Saturday.
Chris Owen, Princeton
an unhappy season at Old Nassau, Owen has been a big
bright spot, accounting for a remarkable 30.2 percent
of Princeton’s goals in ECAC play. His two goals
Saturday night give him 13 in league games, tied for
fourth in the conference (that's offensive ability usually
reserved for Princeton's lacrosse team). He and Princeton’s
other top eight scorers will all return next year to
try to improve on the Tigers’ 3-23-1 record.
Scott Clemmensen, ex-Boston College
night was like 2001 all over again at Pepsi Arena, where
Clemmensen’s Albany River Rats beat ex-North Dakota
netminder Karl Goehring and the Syracuse Crunch, 4-2.
Maybe if the Crunch had pulled Goehring for an extra
attacker earlier, it would have gone to overtime.
It's a credit to Cornell that there was a good deal of debate
at Inside College Hockey about which Big Red player deserved
mention as "second fiddle" to Dave LeNeveu in
this week's edition of Go-To
Guys. We nearly gave the nod to Ryan Vesce over senior
defenseman and returning Hobey finalist Doug Murray. You
can make a great case for the junior center, who leads the
team in scoring with 15-22—37. Most importantly, the
smooth, creative Vesce makes everyone around him better
– helping make his line, including wingers Stephen
Bâby and Matt Moulson, into one of the ECAC’s
best trios. Help us settle the debate – who’s
The ECAC’s new 12-team tournament format creates some
intriguing possibilities entering the final weekend of the
year. Clarkson, for example, could conceivably earn a first-round
bye (first through fourth), or it could be on the road for
the first round (ninth through 12th). Most likely, the Knights
will be somewhere between fifth and eighth and host a first-round
series (they’re currently seventh). The Golden Knights’
travel partner, St. Lawrence, swept a weekend series for
the first time last weekend (vs. Princeton and Yale). The
Saints (tied for ninth), however, could still host a first-round
series if things go well this weekend at Brown and Harvard.
Clarkson leads the ECAC in penalty minutes per league game
with 21.5, nearly five more than Brown and Harvard (its
opponents this weekend), which are tied for second (16.8).
It’s a good thing for the Knights, therefore, that
they lead the conference in penalty killing as well (88.0
percent, with five short-handed goals).
Mercyhurst athletic trainer Mike Folga has been busy lately,
with forward Adam Tackaberry headlining a large group of
injured Lakers. Tackaberry is joined by three defensemen
– Mark Chambers, Mike Kirby and Mike Muldoon –
and all four are listed as out indefinitely.
At first glance, the Mercyhurst-Bentley game Saturday night
is the most enticing on the MAAC slate this weekend. But
don’t overlook Bentley’s game the night before,
against Fairfield. Two of the Stags’ seven victories
this season have come against Bentley. Stag fans should
be raring to go, as well – they’re meeting up
at Tom’s Busy Bee Pub in Watertown beforehand. I’ve
never been, but with a name like that, it’s got to
be a good place.
ESPN will air a one-hour documentary on the Beanpot during
the Frozen Four. It will air between the semifinals on ESPN2
(April 10, 3 p.m. EST) and before the championship game
on ESPN (April 12, 5:30 p.m. EST). If you’re making
the trip to Buffalo, set your VCR – or better yet,
get TiVo, man's best invention since the curved blade.
Big week for shutouts in the ECAC: Cornell's Dave LeNeveu
tied Ken Dryden's school record with his sixth of the season,
while Brown's Yann Danis set school records for shutouts
in a season (four) and career (seven).
Harvard is 18-0-0 when leading after the second period,
but 0-6-0 when trailing.
variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this
report. Special thanks to Joe Gladziszewski and Ken Schott
for their contributions.
VESCE OR MURRAY?
guys really paid any attention to Cornell hockey, you'd
know the correct answer is Stephen Bâby. See Moy and
Blaeser's choice for ECAC player of the year over on USCHO
– the thinking man's college hockey web site.
Bâby deserves all the kudos behind LeNeveu. He is
a monster along the boards and a star on the power play.
Possibly the ECAC Player of the Year?
but only by a hair. As a Cornell fan, while Vesce is the
key to the offense, Murray is the key to the defense on
the best defensive team in the country, and the key to a
Big Red power play which is among the best in the country.
However, the player who perhaps plays second fiddle most
is LW Stephen Bâby, one of the best defensive forwards
in the ECAC.
Catherine van Buren