the remake of a classic rock song, there’s plenty
about this year’s Maine team that sounds like previous
editions. But just as the Ataris felt the need to take out
the “Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac” line from
“The Boys of Summer,” the 2003-04 Black Bears
are definitely putting their own stamp on things.
a decade, Maine teams were characterized by the quickness
and skill of the Kariya brothers. Once the last one, Marty,
graduated last spring, along with a wealth of talent boh
at forward and on defense, no one was certain what to expect
from the Black Bears.
they’ve surpassed expectations – to the tune
of a No. 3 national ranking and a shot at the Hockey East
regular season title – is thanks in large part, especially
lately, to a tough style of play that has made Maine one
of the league’s more difficult teams to play against.
of the biggest things since Christmas is that we’re
really becoming a strong team physically,” said head
coach Tim Whitehead. “I don’t know what it is
– maybe that we’ve got so many young guys, and
they’ve been hitting the weight room. You wouldn’t
normally characterize us as a physical team, but certainly
it’s been a strength lately.”
defenseman Prestin Ryan, who has emerged as the Black Bears’
blue line leader, leads the physical approach, but he has
plenty of support. Forwards like Dustin Penner, Greg Moore
and Jon Jankus are among those throwing their bodies around
cost the Black Bears somewhat in terms of penalties –
they lead Hockey East with nearly 20 minutes per league
game – but with a good penalty kill, the style helps
more than it hurts. Since other elite teams in the league,
like Boston College and New Hampshire, are more finesse
than physical, the different style could give Maine a pronounced
edge down the stretch.
familiar refrain in Orono is outstanding goaltending –
and, as has become a bit of tradition, more than one goalie
provides the highlights. Whitehead was an assistant at Maine
when Garth Snow and Mike Dunham were splitting time en route
to the 1993 national championship; by the time he returned
for the run to the 2001 title game, Matt Yeats and Mike
Morrison were splitting time.
it’s Frank Doyle and Jimmy Howard, a duo that has
shown to be most valuable, ironically, when Howard was out
with an injury for the last five weeks.
for our team, losing Jimmy Howard could have really hurt,”
Whitehead said. “A lot of times that will really turn
a season around. We didn’t miss a beat.”
Black Bears were 4-2-0 without Howard, a goalie so skilled
he would have been the starter for the U.S. National Junior
team that brought home the gold medal. Doyle, who’s
undrafted, is the less heralded of the two, but has been
equally impressive. Both have save percentages of at least
.930 and rank 1-2 in the conference in goals-against average.
a little too early to make comparisons [to Snow and Dunham],
but these guys are right up there,” Whitehead said.
“There’s a nice tradition here of winning with
two. We have two outstanding goalies – that’s
hasn’t always been the case [here], but that can be
AND HEARD IN HOCKEY EAST
in Durham – New Hampshire returns to Hockey
East play this weekend with a goaltender playing like an
All-American, a recommitted defense, and a first line on
par with the best in the country.
those fears that the Wildcats might have been making their
last appearance of the year at Verizon Wireless Arena last
Tuesday against Dartmouth seem more than a little ridiculous.
A more likely question now: how many trips to Boston’s
FleetCenter does this team have in it?
Wildcats rival Massachusetts and Northeastern as the conference’s
most up-and-down team so far this season. An 8-2-1 start
may have made the ’Cats look a little more formidable
than they actually are, but certainly they are better than
the 1-4-2 stretch that followed.
contention, even during that dry spell, was that they were
playing better than their record. Now, with three straight
wins headed into this weekend’s single game at Merrimack,
they are getting the results to prove it.
think we’re finally starting to get the hang of this
thing," senior Steve Saviano told Al Pike of the Foster’s
Daily Democrat. "We’re playing well and
working hard, that’s the most important thing. We
said that earlier, we felt we were playing well but we weren’t
getting the Ws, but we worked through that."
Approach – Merrimack’s special teams
have helped carry the Warriors for stretches this year,
a fact that underscores captain Marco Rosa’s contention
that the collection of talent in North Andover easily exceeds
that of the previous three years.
how head coach Chris Serino deploys that talent on special
teams, however, that’s particularly noteworthy. While
other teams, like Boston College and New Hampshire, will
deploy four forwards on the power play, Serino sends out
first power play unit consists of Rosa and forward Brent
Gough near the net, with defensemen Bryan Schmidt, Jeff
Caron and Tony Johnson forming an umbrella at the top of
the zone. In penalty killing, Rosa, Gough, Schmidt and Eric
Pedersen make up Serino’s most formidable unit, but
he also uses a three-forward, one-defenseman alignment as
do things a little backwards on special teams,” Serino
admits. “But it just so happens that our three best
shooters are defensemen, and we want to have Schmidt, Caron
and Johnson back there firing away. And we’ll use
three forwards killing penalties because that gives us the
best chance to put pressure on the opposition.”
that unconventional approach is working. The Warrior power
play stands sixth in Hockey East (18.0 percent), while the
penalty kill is second (87.9 percent) in the conference
and fourth nationally headed into this weekend’s home
games against New Hampshire and Northeastern.
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
Great Weekend Getaway
at UMass Lowell (Sat.) Besides
the Beanpot, there’s precious little non-conference
action after this weekend. Enjoy an unfamiliar face
while you can at Tsongas Arena, where Hobey Baker
candidate Yann Danis will lead Brown against the River
Hawks. Brown has taken a good tour of Hockey East
while its ECAC travel partner, Harvard, takes exams.
Tests at “Fair Harvard” may be tough,
but so are road games at UNH, Merrimack, and UMass
Lowell. So far the Bears are 1-1-0.
They always seem to get mentioned together, and New
Hampshire’s high school teammates, Sean
Collins and Steve Saviano, could hit an impressive
milestone at the same time this weekend. Collins enters
the weekend with 98 career points, while Saviano goes
in with 97.
and Northeastern tied all three times they
played this season. As recently as 1998-99, no team
had more than three ties against the rest of the conference,
much less one team.
we mentioned Maine’s Frank Doyle
and Jimmy Howard and UMass Lowell’s Chris
Davidson and John Yaros as the conference’s only goalie
tandems. A week later, it’s clear that we missed the
duo in Providence, where junior David Cacciola
has earned at least a 50 percent share of the Friar starts.
didn’t make an appearance last year, but he’s
allowed only one goal in four of his last five starts, and
had started four straight games before sophomore Bobby Goepfert
got the nod in the last two. He leads Hockey East in conference
(.936) and overall (.940) games, despite picking up only
one win on the year, in a non-league game. Goepfert hasn’t
been bad between the pipes, either, recording 47 saves in
Saturday’s 3-3 tie against Northeastern and
36 in Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime loss to BC.
BU’s another team where a goaltending
tandem has emerged, although it can’t be said that
either Sean Fields or Stephan Siewec are making great cases
to hold on to the job full-time. Siewec relieved Fields
in Fields’s last two starts and it was Siewec who
started Saturday’s game against BC.
Nevertheless, goal scoring remains the No. 1 concern on
Babcock Street, as the Terriers have scored two or fewer
goals in more than half of their games this season (11 of
The best player in the two-game BC-BU series?
Look no further than Stephen Gionta, who was rewarded with
a goal in each game.
What a wild overtime in North Andover Friday night. Merrimack
was awarded a penalty shot against UMass
Lowell in the 3-3 game, but the shot went wide.
Moments after the penalty shot UMass Lowell thought it had
the winner, but the goal was disallowed. Then leading River
Hawk goal scorer Ben Walter went down with a knee sprain
that will keep him out three-to-five weeks. Finally Danny
O’Brien scored the game-winning goal to deliver a
4-3 overtime win that featured more action in three minutes
than most 65-minute NHL games.
Don’t look now, Thomas Pöck fans, but Brian Yandle
– who pilots the league-leading UNH power
play, along with national assist leader Justin Aikins –
has caught up with UMass’s awesome
Austrian in Hockey East scoring (both defensemen have 7-7—14).
Yandle, however, has two games in hand.
Providence is 0-5-3 in Hockey East games
since what appeared to be a monumental win at the time,
a 7-4 home victory over New Hampshire on
Nov. 14. The Friars, 6-1-1 on the year outside of league
play, get a chance to right the ship this weekend with two
games at Lake Superior State. Head coach Paul Pooley was
an assistant on two Lakers teams that brought NCAA championships
home to Sault Ste. Marie (1992, ’94).
Providence’s Chris Chaput scored
the team’s lone goal in Tuesday’s overtime loss
to Boston College, the 13th time in 14
games that he’s registered a point.
Northeastern has played one-and-a-half
of its best games this season against Boston College.
Nov. 29, when still winless, the Huskies raced to a 2-0
lead against the Eagles, only to fade in a 4-2 loss. Jan.
3 at Matthews Arena Northeastern posted its most impressive
win of the year, 3-0 over BC. They get a chance to win the
season series with the league leaders Friday night at home.
BC fans had to take joy in Adam Pineault’s
two-goal effort – his third and fourth of the year
– Friday night against Boston University.
5 rated freshman forward coming into the season, the
17-year-old Pineault struggled to adjust, and didn’t
get a whole lot of ice time given the Eagles’ talent
up front. With Ben Eaves and Dave Spina out of the lineup
Friday – with Patrick Eaves to follow on Saturday,
although he has since returned – Pineault picked an
opportune time to lift his game.
variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this