BC: Playing Favorites
as the favorite can be among the most treacherous positions
in sports. Just ask Minnesota, after its difficult start
this year. Or either of last year’s Super Bowl participants.
among the impressive accomplishments of Jerry York and the
Boston College Eagles this year has been living up to expectations.
The Eagles, overwhelming favorites in the preseason, haven’t
run away from the pack in the conference standings, but
they do stand in first.
head coach Jerry York fighting off a cold and laryngitis,
assistant coach Ron Rolston tried to explain the Eagles’
success despite the weight of preseason expectations.
think first and foremost we’ve got the same group
of kids back from last year, and we learned a lot of lessons
last year,” Rolston said. “We tied for the league
title last year, but we weren’t successful in winning
a lot of championships, like the Beanpot and the Hockey
letdowns have helped the Eagles focus on each challenge
they face during the course of this season.
are six or seven possibilities of winning a championship
during the year,” Rolston said, “starting with
the Ice Breaker, then the Great Lakes Invitational and so
on. We’re moving through the season and focusing on
each of those one at a time.”
now-familiar challenge – of playing as the favorite
– confronts Boston College in an unfamiliar situation
this weekend. When the Eagles, ranked second in the nation,
meet Boston University, stuck at 6-6-6, historically it’s
College believes, of course, that it still is.
were probably the favorite last year at the Beanpot, but
that didn’t matter,” Rolston noted. “Any
time you play in a rivalry, it’s so emotional. The
team that can stay on an even keel will be the one that
coach Jack Parker was among the most effusive in praise
of Boston College before the season. “On paper, BC
is far and above everyone else in the league,” he
said before the first faceoff. “They have a few more
offensive threats … and I think they have a lot of
experience in a lot of areas.”
the year, Parker has made more noise speaking in unfavorable
tones about his own team, which makes you think this series
may be as lopsided as it appears. We’ll find out this
weekend, in two televised games (NESN Friday, FOX Sports
New England Saturday).
AND HEARD IN HOCKEY EAST
Since the Cats Are in the Bag – Hockey East’s
decision to welcome Vermont in 2005-06 came so quickly –
just three weeks after the school’s letter of inquiry,
with the holidays included – that the conference scarcely
had time to consider the consequences the decision would
have on its schedule and tournament. But now that the Catamounts’
position in Hockey East is secure for the 2005-06 season,
the conference will devote some time to those topics and
how they will look now with 10 teams in the fold.
three-person committees have been formed to explore each
of the two subjects, and they will report their findings
to the rest of the conference athletic directors to make
a decision, most likely at the league meetings in Florida
after the season. In the meantime, Commissioner Joe Bertagna
said that he plans to draw up two sample schedules to show
the schools: one 27-game slate in which each team would
play the others three times, and one 24-game, unbalanced
two viable options stand out for the conference tournament:
keep it at eight teams, or expand to 10 with a final five
format like the WCHA. Schedule restrictions at the FleetCenter
may prevent Hockey East from holding games on three straight
nights like the WCHA does, however.
are up, goals are down –
You could note this trend in the NHL, minor leagues, and
probably even the mite games at any MDC rink around Boston:
scoring is down, and ties are up. The two trends –
scoring and stalemates – work hand-in-hand, of course,
since goals help break ties.
East teams scored an average of 2.87 goals a year ago, and
that’s dropped by more than one-quarter of a goal
per game this season (2.60). That’s only a decline
of one goal every four games, so it might not be time to
sound the alarm.
suddenly, tie games have all the predictability of a Roger
Clemens money-grabbing comeback.
of the last two years, 12 Hockey East games finished in
ties. Already this season we’ve had nine conference
games finish tied, which puts us on pace for 20 ties on
the year – nearly double the total from each of the
last two years, and more than the single-season record (18
time to return to the shootouts that were held to settle
tie games in 1994-95 and ’95-96? The coaches’
sentiment, by and large, seems to be against that. Tweaking
the overtime to four-on-four, like the NHL, or even doubling
its length to 10 minutes, could be an option.
tend to like experimenting with rules,” Hockey East
Commissioner Joe Bertagna said. “We may consider what
we do serious business, but it’s still college athletics.
We can experiment with things.”
the shootout, any experimental rule change would take place
for two years, either in one conference or nationwide, before
it is reevaluated. Any experiment would have positives and
negatives, of course, one of which being how the results
of those games would be factored into the Ratings Percentage
Index that’s part of the NCAA Tournament selection
preoccupation with the RPI could be an issue,” Bertagna
said. “It would be unfortunate if that gets in the
way of someone trying a legitimate experiment to improve
to first – Welcome to the league, John Yaros.
The UMass Lowell sophomore goaltender, a transfer from Army,
delivered a 3-2 win at Michigan State in his first appearance
for the River Hawks. He should make his conference debut
against Merrimack this weekend, as those nearby rivals faceoff
in a home-and-home series.
had looked very good in practice, but the decisions you
make in a game, moving the puck, when to tie it up, where
to put rebounds, I didn’t know how he would react
to those factors,” head coach Blaise MacDonald said.
“(Saturday night) he excelled in those areas.”
of his transfer status, Yaros was ineligible in the first
semester, and his debut was delayed further thanks to an
extended bout with mono. Now that he’s arrived, he
joins Chris Davidson and bolsters a suddenly imposing UMass
Lowell goaltending situation.
the hard-to-believe file: the River Hawks were dead last
in Hockey East in conference save percentage for a team
last year (.843, and it wasn’t even close). This year
UMass Lowell sits atop that list with a .919 team save percentage
in conference games, edging out even Maine (.915) and the
Black Bears’ remarkable goaltending tandem. Yaros,
once seen as a potential savior in nets for the River Hawks,
is now half of what could be a very effective duo in the
nets at Tsongas Arena.
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
Great Weekend Getaway
at Maine (Fri.-Sat.)
takes a lot to overshadow a Boston College-Boston
University series, but this may just be the matchup
to do it. It’s a rematch, of course, of last
year’s Hockey East quarterfinal upset in which
Massachusetts signaled its true arrival to the rest
of college hockey. In that series they snapped Maine’s
perfect home record in Hockey East Tournament game;
this weekend, they have a chance to spoil the Black
Bears’ 7-0-0 home record this season.
You’re There: A guy named Mad Chad Taylor will
perform at the Memorial Union after Friday night’s
game, and you can watch him “juggle three running
chainsaws, light his finger on fire, and catch a 15
pound anvil with his head.” And you thought
scoring on the Maine goalies was tough.
Providence’s new uniforms have
arrived, and they artfully blend old and new. The
classic Skating Friar – which was missing from
the front of the new jerseys at the start of the year
– rests atop the school name, in its new font,
on the front of the jersey. The font, in black and
surrounded by silver, looks good for the player names
and numbers, too, something that’s not always
the case when you using anything more than the standard
you think BU’s record is more
than a little creepy at 6-6-6, consider this: earlier
this season they have been 5-5-5, 4-4-4, 3-3-3 and
2-2-2. It’s a bit like looking at the buttons
in the hotel elevator after a really late night at
the Frozen Four.
NHL followers have noted the recent success of backups,
including Rhode Island native Brian Boucher’s remarkable
run and UNH grad Ty Conklin’s success
in Edmonton. It’s a trend that’s evident in
Hockey East as well. Providence’s
David Cacciola started both ends of the home-and-home against
New Hampshire last weekend, and while he lost Saturday,
he looked good in a 33-save tie Friday night. Opposite him
in that game was Jeff Peitrasiak, who is 3-0-1 in seven
games after making just two appearances all of last year
behind Mike Ayers. At BU, Stephan Siwiec
stepped in for Sean Fields and earned the win as the Terriers
came from behind to beat Northeastern in
overtime. Siwiec is 2-0-2 after playing in just three games
all of last year, and Jack Parker told the student paper
that fans may see Siwiec again this weekend against BC.
in all, it hasn’t even been a month, but five of the
conference’s nine teams have had significant contributions
from their “backup” goaltenders since Christmas.
That’s not even counting goaltending tandems at Maine
(Frank Doyle and the injured Jim Howard) and UMass
Lowell (Chris Davidson and John Yaros).
When Providence grad Tom Fitzgerald scored
a goal in his 1,000th career NHL game this week, his coach,
Pat Quinn, reminded him to collect the souvenir puck.
have four kids, who was I going to give it to?" Fitzgerald
said. "Then I saw my Dad behind the bench, so I flipped
it to him."
Commissioner Joe Bertagna’s take on Jerry York battling
laryngitis: “I wouldn’t think that would bother
Jerry too much. He’s not much of a yeller. Chris Serino
would have a real problem with that.”
New Hampshire’s first line has received
its long-awaited jump-start, with senior Steve Saviano leading
the way. Saviano has four goals and an assist in the last
three games, including a hat trick against Dartmouth Tuesday.
The team’s scoring burst has coincided with a big
improvement in its league-leading power play, which is four-for-nine
in the last three games.
It’s often dismissed as a meaningless stat, but plus/minus
is telling the truth in Hockey East: the co-leaders in the
statistic are two impressive but underrated defensemen,
Prestin Ryan (Maine) and Stephen Wood (Providence).
Boston College freshman Adam Pineault is
the No. 21 ranked North American skater in the NHL Central
Scouting Mid-Term Rankings,
tops among Hockey East players. Pineault would forfeit his
college eligibility if he entered this year’s draft,
however; if he stays in school he will be draft-eligible
in 2005. Eleven other Hockey East freshmen made the list,
with Pineault closely followed by three defensemen: Steve
Birnstill (Northeastern), Mike Lundin (Maine)
and Jeff Caron (Merrimack).
Northeastern’s Jason Guerriero (4-11—15
in a six-game point-scoring streak) remains the hottest
hand in Hockey East. He and Providence’s Chris
Chaput (3-12—15 in his last 11 games) could put up
some good numbers this weekend, as the conference’s
two worst overall team defenses face off in a home-and-home
Former Boston University captain and Framingham
native Carl Corazzini got called up by the Bruins and could
make his NHL debut Thursday night in Buffalo.
my God," Corazzini told Joe McDonald of the Providence
Journal after hearing the word. "Just to have
the opportunity to skate with these guys is great. To be
out there with guys like Joe Thornton, Glen Murray and Brian
Rolston – guys I grew up watching – just to
skate on the same ice with them at a real Bruins practice
is real exciting for me."
Joe Bertagna made note of the long-standing relationship
between Hockey East and Vermont. After the initial split
from the ECAC, Bertagna said, intra-conference games were
rare since some bitterness lingered. Vermont was the first
ECAC team to really warm up to the new conference and schedule
games against New Hampshire, BC, BU and the like.
While the ACC tried to pry Boston College from the Big East
a year ahead of schedule, Hockey East won’t try a
similar move with Vermont. Bertagna indicated that the Catamounts
will definitely join the league in 2005-06, and not sooner,
unless the ECAC for some reason decides cut ties a year
early. The guess here is that would only happen if the ECAC
can get a replacement for the Catamounts in place for next
New Hampshire’s Patrick Foley is
one of five finalists for the College Hockey Humanitarian
Award, an impressive recognition for the two-year Wildcat
captain. He will be honored as a finalist for the award,
which goes to “college hockey’s finest citizen,”
prior to a home game later this season.
Here’s a belated plug for a nice story on Maine
hockey in the Maine Times, a publication that re-launched
earlier this year as a full-color magazine. The cover story
in the November 2003 issue does a good job of capturing
the state’s passion for the Black Bears.
variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this