Change for the Better
things simply fail to hold up to logic, like losing weight
while chomping on nothing but bacon. Take, for further example,
Thomas Pöck’s offensive production relative to
his position. In just over two years when he played forward,
Pöck produced less than a point every two games. Since
he switched to defense early last year, he’s averaged
1.14 points per game.
the way he has become one of the most dangerous weapons
in Hockey East. And not to put too fine a point on it, but
the senior from Klagenfurt, Austria, may have just turned
around the fortunes of the Massachusetts hockey program.
Thomas to defense was the most significant single move we
made last year to turn things around,” said head coach
Don Cahoon, whose team is 7-1-0 and atop the Hockey East
standings entering this weekend’s games against Boston
College and Providence. “We really needed help back
there in terms of coming out of our zone, and we thought,
‘Let’s put him back there and see how it goes.’
It became an instant breakout for us, and the puck started
going in for him.”
leads the nation’s defensemen in points per game by
a wide margin, and even more impressively, leads all Hockey
East players in conference scoring. Yet even he’s
at a loss when asked to describe why he’s such a good
fit on defense.
seems to work in my favor, but I don’t know why,”
he said. “If I knew, I would have made the switch
sooner. Maybe you can actually see the ice better from that
position. And not too many (opposing) teams expect offense
from defensemen, so maybe you can catch them off guard.”
days of surprising Hockey East teams are over (and the same
could probably be said about his resurgent UMass team).
Pöck uses his patience, stick skills, vision and heavy
shot to his advantage from the defense position, in ways
he wasn’t able to as a forward.
a combination of skills that makes Pöck a very unique
talent on the blueline. Cahoon can't think of anyone who
reminds him of Pöck as a player, although he made note
of a similar move he made with a player named Gary Connors
when he was coaching at Norwich more than 20 years ago.
attributes combine with a Paul Coffey-like appetite for
offense. Even when he’s using his 6-foot-1, 208-pound
frame to fight off opposing forwards, he's thinking offense
definitely like playing offense,” he said. “When
I play in our defensive zone, I try to get the puck out
of there as quickly as possible. I don’t like it back
there – you can’t score in your own zone, and
the other team can.”
to his skills and approach to the game, his added maturity
probably helps explain his emergence the past two years.
Unlike countryman Thomas Vanek at Minnesota – who
Pöck played against a few times growing up –
Pöck didn’t spend any time in North American
junior leagues before coming to Amherst, so there was a
definite transition period once he got to college.
to that move, perhaps changing positions is easy. And now
Pöck, who speaks perfect English with a distinctive
Austrian accent, even sounds like a defenseman.
main goal this year is to improve my plus/minus,”
he said. “I look at my plus/minus from my first two
years (-14 combined), and that’s one thing I want
to get rid of. If I can be plus in every game, it shows
I’m doing something right.”
so good. It may not get as much attention as his seven goals
and 14 points through eight games, Pöck is plus-10
overall. Like his offense, that leads all Hockey East defensemen.
AND HEARD IN HOCKEY EAST
the help of photographer Michael Silverwood, we've chronicled
Wednesday's UNH-BC game in pictures. Click on the photo above
to view the INCH Slideshow.
Meeting – Wednesday’s Boston College-New
Hampshire game looked to be our last chance to watch two
teams face off while they were unbeaten in Hockey East play.
to their scintillating 2-2 tie at Manchester’s Verizon
Arena, however, it could happen again on the next-to-last
weekend of the season. And while the strength of the conference
makes that incredibly unlikely, given the way the Eagles
and Wildcats are playing it’s certainly possible.
teams’ strengths rose to the occasion again Wednesday,
with Ben and Patrick Eaves leading the way for a tremendous
effort by Boston College, only to have Mike Ayers save the
day for New Hampshire. Ayers’ save on Patrick Eaves’
shorthanded bid in the third set the stage for Nathan Martz’s
battled back in the third period," said UNH head coach
Dick Umile, whose team took five out of six points in a
three-game run against BU, Maine and BC. ""It's
a good team we just played here tonight. We had an emotional
weekend ... and the guys found a way to come back. It was
a good effort. We'll take the point.”
coach Jerry York felt like his team played well enough to
win, but was impressed with both teams.
thought our team played well," York said. "We
played a strong New Hampshire team. These are two teams
that if they continue to improve will certainly contend
for No. 1 – After their 2-2 tie Friday night
at Matthews Arena, Northeastern and Providence head coaches
Bruce Crowder and Paul Pooley shook hands and noted how
tough Hockey East is, top to bottom.
saw his team come up just short in its bid for its first
win of the year, as the Huskies led 2-0 before the Friars
came back. Still, he was encouraged.
East is a tough league to get points in, and we had a good
opportunity tonight with a two-zip lead," Crowder said.
"But overall this was our best game of the year. We
just have to find ways to score goals. We're going to be
goal scoring should come around, with the likes of Jason
Guerriero and Mike Morris up front and the emergence of
Brian Swiniarski (1-1—2 vs. Providence). Against the
Friars, Keni Gibson’s play in net was particularly
encouraging, as he stopped 25 of 27 shots (.926) after Husky
goalies had just an .824 save percentage in their first
of these days, it will all come together. Of course, the
schedule maker wasn’t kind to Crowder this weekend—his
team heads to Maine to face the Black Bears, winless in
their last two and hungry to get back on track.
Great Weekend Getaway
at Providence (Sat.)
a light slate Saturday night, with only two games
on the schedule, so plenty of people have free time
to take in this one. Unbelievably, it’s already
the third and final meeting of the season series for
these two teams, as they split a home-and-home two
weeks ago, with both teams winning in the other’s
barn. Both have tough tune-ups Friday night as well,
with Providence hosting New Hampshire and Massachusetts
hosting Boston College.
Four games and almost three minutes ago, Boston University
scored against New Hampshire goaltender Mike
Ayers. This unbelievable streak is just one
reason he’d be the Hockey East Player of the
Year if the award was voted on today (which, of course,
it’s not – he’ll have two more chances
to shut out the Terriers before the ballots are accepted).
the silly penalties towards the end
of both the BU-UNH and BC-Maine games. It’s
tough because tensions run high (as you learn even
in meaningless beer league games), but the late-game
scrums took away from what was a fantastic night of
Hockey East action.
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
Boston College alum Brian Gionta returned
to his hometown of Rochester for Wednesday night’s
New Jersey Devils-Buffalo Sabres game, held there as part
of Buffalo’s effort to reach out to fans throughout
Western New York. But Gionta’s dad, Sam, couldn’t
be in attendance, since he was in Manchester to see current
Eagle Stephen play against UNH.
all nights to have a scheduling conflict,” the elder
Gionta told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
“But we went to all of Brian’s games in college,
so we thought it only right that somebody be at Stephen’s
wish I could be there in Rochester, but Brian will have
plenty of support. There should be about 100 Giontas at
the War Memorial. It should be some night for hockey in
Gionta had a point Wednesday night, as both games finished
in 2-2 ties.
Merrimack will unveil a new logo Friday
night against Boston University. They will
remain the Warriors, but a new design with replace the old
Former Boston College head coach Len Ceglarski
was in attendance at Friday night’s BC-Maine game
as Jerry York tied Ceglarski with his 673rd career victory.
New Hampshire alumnus Ty Conklin made back-to-back
starts this week for the Edmonton Oilers (and was expected
to play again Thursday at Minnesota, with Tommy Salo still
on the shelf). Conklin won in New York and looked good vs.
Boston at the FleetCenter, despite suffering a 4-3 loss.
New Hampshire sophomore forward Eddie Caron
– already struggling offensively with just one goal
(no assists) through seven games – had a rough stretch
Wednesday night. Referee Scott Hansen whistled Caron for
three penalties in just over six minutes of the second period.
Caron leads UNH with 10 penalties and 31 penalty minutes.
Massachusetts head coach Don Cahoon signed
a contract extension to coach the Minutemen through the
Boston University – 0 for its last
16 on the power play – is just 2-for-26 with the man
advantage this year. The Terriers rank 53rd out of 58 Division
I teams on the power play. Then again, it might not matter
too much, since the team in 52nd is none other than No.
1 North Dakota, which hadn’t scored a single power-play
goal until last weekend.
Jason Tejchma – a proud member of INCH’s recruiting
team – has goals in back-to-back games for UMass
Lowell and has earned high praise from head coach
Blaise MacDonald. “He’s a player that is very
well-rounded,” MacDonald said after Tejchma’s
first goal, against Boston College. “He does everything
well, from the way that he moves his feet to how close he
is to the puck, where he’s most effective. Tejchma
brings a nice level of grit, skill, and speed to our team.
He’s had some good opportunities right from the first
game of the season, and it’s nice to finally see him
put one home. He’s trustworthy and dependable, and
he’s only going to get better as he gets older, and
I think those are attributes that every player should aspire
Speaking of MacDonald, his wife, Carol, gave birth to a
baby girl this week. Just one more and he’ll have
a defense pair to play along with his forward line of three
boys, Cameron, Joseph and Jacob. Congratulations to the