Saviano seems like the type of player you can’t help
but root for.
maybe not if your team is playing against the New Hampshire
senior co-captain. But everybody else, it seems, just loves
fans voted him their “Fan Favorite” last year.
Merrimack coach Chris Serino couldn’t stop talking
about Saviano after he scored four goals against the Warriors
last weekend. His coach, Dick Umile, calls him “a
terrific player and a terrific guy to coach” and his
teammates, like long-time linemate Sean Collins, talk about
how proud they are of him.
believe in me, and that’s always a good feeling,”
said Saviano, who leads all Hockey East players with 34
points. “I’ve found that you get a lot out of
at INCH, we picked him as a Preseason All-American based
on his dominant performance throughout the playoffs last
season. At the Frozen Four, after forging a career as Collins’
set-up man, he scored two pretty goals in the semifinals
– the first two-goal game of his UNH career.
shoot-first mentality has carried over to this season, and
after scoring only nine goals last year, he has 20 this
season – tied for the second-highest total in the
nation behind North Dakota’s Brandon Bochenski. Entering
this weekend’s crucial series at Maine, Saviano has
five two-goal games and three hat tricks on the year.
didn’t mean to make the change [from set-up man to
goal scorer],” Saviano said. “I worked on my
shot a lot this summer, and I did each of the last three
summers, because that was the weakest part of my game. Coming
into this year Coach said to shoot more, and so far it’s
goals doesn’t explain why people root for Saviano,
however. He hits closer to that truth when he talks about
his work ethic, something that is visible in his defensive
effort and penalty killing. There’s also the fact
that there’s nothing to dislike about Saviano’s
game – he has zero penalties on the season.
in all, it makes you wonder how he got overlooked for so
long. It’s a frequently told story that at Reading
High School, Collins was the recruiting prize while Saviano
had limited options. His freshman year at New Hampshire
he only skated in 16 games and recorded 1-1—2.
Saviano doesn’t begrudge anyone for doubting him.
He just keeps making believers of them, one person at a
confidence has been going up and up every year,” he
said. “I didn’t play much here as a freshman,
but Coach believed in me, and saw something in me. I’ve
just been working hard.”
AND HEARD IN HOCKEY EAST
at Boston College – Boston College enters
the Beanpot as the favorite, but to win, the Eagles will
have to continue overcoming adversity.
adversity" is an overused catch-phrase for most good
teams, but it’s really true in BC’s case. The
latest obstacle is senior leader Ben Eaves’ fractured
kneecap, which will keep him out at least a month.
to Eaves, who by almost universal agreement is Hockey East’s
best player, is a huge challenge to overcome. But already
this season the Eagles have won consistently despite a nagging
ankle injury that has kept forward David Spina out of all
but seven games, injuries that have forced Patrick Eaves
to miss eight games, academic issues that have sidelined
defenseman J.D. Forrest at times, and team rules suspensions
to goaltender Matti Kaltiainen and forward Adam Pineault.
there they are – No. 2 in the country, leading Hockey
East by five points, and favored in the Beanpot.
I like most about this particular team is that every week
they are getting better," head coach Jerry York said
at Wednesday’s Beanpot press luncheon. "I'm proud
of the way they work very hard on being a better team. They
work on individual skills, and as a team. They've done a
terrific job. They've gone from being a squad in September
to a real team now.”
to players missing games, BC hasn’t gotten consistent
production from anticipated offensive sources like Forrest
(3-3—6 in 19 GP), senior Ty Hennes (two points after
posting 21 last year), or freshmen Brian Boyle (0-1—1
in his last 11 games after a fast start) and Pineault (4-3—7
on the year).
all the talent on the Eagles’ roster, Hockey East
coaches will have no sympathy for them, regardless of what
troubles they face. Should they overcome the loss of Ben
Eaves as well as they have their previous difficulties,
the Eagles will be in great shape come March and April.
Strength – Massachusetts had its top three
forwards all on the ice Thursday night for the first time
since Dec. 13, a span of seven games without a full complement
of firepower. Not surprisingly, the Minutemen were shut
out in three of those games and held to one or two goals
two more times.
Mauldin missed time after suffering a concussion Jan. 3
against UMass Lowell. Stephen Werner was overseas lighting
up the competition at the World Junior Championship. And
sophomore Chris Capraro had been away from the team for
five games for personal reasons.
return last weekend at Maine gives head coach Don Cahoon’s
team a huge boost. Prior to Capraro’s five-game leave,
Cahoon had discussed how much the 5-foot-7, 180-pound left
wing means to his team – in remarkably simple, but
is a natural hockey player,” Cahoon said. “He
doesn’t have great speed, doesn’t have the best
shot, but he has great hockey sense. He has a great ability
to make plays, and three or four times a game, he does something
and you wonder how he sees it the way he does.”
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
Great Weekend Getaway
did you expect me to recommend Saturday’s Merrimack
at Massachusetts tilt? This year's Beanpot features
as many storylines as ever, with a seemingly dominant
Boston College team missing their captain, a Northeastern
team that's finding its groove, and a mysterious Harvard
team that has to come around eventually – right?
Then there's BU, which just always seems to win the
thing. A limited number of tickets for each round
of Boston’s signature sporting event are still
You’re There: If, on the odd chance, this is
your first visit to the FleetCenter, you’ll
want to make time to visit the Sports Museum of New
England, which is located in the building. Also take
the time to do a little scouting for the Frozen Four,
since we’ll all be back here in April.
• Boston University goaltender Sean
Fields deserves credit for bouncing back
from a nightmarish Friday night – indeed, a
nightmarish first half of the season – to post
an impressive 1-0 shutout of Maine on Saturday. Funny
how Fields and the Terriers appear poised to make
a run just as the calendar flips from January to February.
Another Terrier worthy of note is athletic trainer
Larry Venis, who returned to the
bench Friday night for the first time since being
hit by an errant puck on Nov. 15.
thought we had something good going against the ECAC
until Brown spoiled things last week.
Hockey East had been 8-1-2 against ECAC teams since
the holiday break before Yann Danis and the Bears
beat Merrimack and UMass Lowell.
New Hampshire’s Mike Ayers –
like most of Hockey East – will be pulling for the
Patriots in the Super Bowl on Sunday. We'll single out Ayers
thanks to his fashion sense, since the Hingham, Mass., native
sports a blue hat with the old “Pat Patriot”
logo on the front.
Ayers, by the way, returns to Orono to face Maine
this weekend, where he had a tendon in his wrist
severed two seasons ago in UNH’s last two-game visit.
The next night he came back to stop 33 shots, wearing a
restrictive brace on his wrist, in a 2-2 tie. Ayers stopped
25 shots in a 2-1 loss in a single-game return to Orono
last season. So far this season, Ayers is 5-0-2 with a 1.12
goals-against average and a .962 save percentage against
Don't miss Paul Kariya's essay on Maine hockey
Illustrated. A fantastic tribute to his home far
away from home that assistant coach Grant Standbrook has probably already photocopied and mailed to every Maine recruit.
Providence, coming off of an impressive
sweep at Lake Superior State, is having a season that eerily
resembles UMass Lowell’s campaign
last year, when the River Hawks were 7-2-1 outside the conference
but 4-16-4 in Hockey East play. The two wins over the Lakers
make the Friars 8-1-1 in non-conference action, but they
are mired at 2-7-5 in Hockey East, tied for seventh place.
With Providence and UMass Lowell facing off Saturday at
Schneider Arena, it’s no surprise that River Hawk
head coach Blaise MacDonald recognizes how dangerous the
Friars can be.
a very good team, but they’ve struggled a little bit
in Hockey East play,” he said. “When you get
on a bad turn, it’s tough to get out of it. Providence
has had a hard time stringing together some wins, yet they
are a good team. The 2-1 loss against Boston College they
played very well in, and looking at their non-league record,
they have been impressive outside the conference. Providence
is a great transition team, they move the puck from the
defensive zone to the offensive zone very well, they have
some skilled and experienced defensemen, very good in the
net, and very dangerous in all aspects of the game. It’s
just a matter of them clicking on all cylinders, and they
can beat anyone.”
The Friars may appreciate league games
– especially league road games – more after
last weekend’s journey. They flew to Detroit, then
bussed six hours north to Sault Ste. Marie. Along the way
they crossed the five-mile-long Mackinac Bridge to get to
the Upper Peninsula, a span that’s so imposing, they
have a free “Driver’s Assistance Program”
for those uncomfortable driving across it. Makes a trip
to Orono look like a hop, skip and a jump.
Red Line Report, an independent scouting newsletter
covering NHL prospects, revealed an interesting tidbit about
UMass senior Thomas Pöck in its recent
edition posted on USAToday.com. Pock, although undrafted
by an NHL team, will need to be drafted before he can sign
a professional contract, because he was playing in Europe
the year he turned 18. That makes the forward-turned-defenseman
– who many assumed be one of the nation’s most
appealing unrestricted free agents at the end of the year
– actually eligible for the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
Red Line speculates that Pöck may be a mid-round pick,
but the opportunity to pick up a 22-year-old offensive defenseman
with room to grow in his own zone could make him a prize
in an earlier round.
Maine’s seniors enter this weekend’s
series with a 3-0-1 record against New Hampshire
at Alfond Arena. Only UNH’s Patrick Foley, who played
in a 5-4 win in 1999-2000 and redshirted the following year,
has been a part of a Wildcat win in Orono.
Maine’s three short-handed goals
in Friday night’s 8-4 win at Boston University
tied the school and conference records for shorties
in a game. It also marked the third time in four games at
Walter Brown Arena that the Black Bears had scored at least
seven goals – even after getting shutout on Saturday,
they are still averaging 5.6 goals per game in their last
five visits to BU.
Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week Bobby Goepfert
appears to have reclaimed the No. 1 goaltending position
at Providence. David Cacciola has posted
incredible numbers (1.85 GAA, .940 save percentage), but
has just one win to show for it (1-4-4). "It’s
all about winning games," head coach Paul Pooley told
the Woonsocket Call. "If (Goepfert is) winning,
he plays. I believe in both Bobby and Cash, but Bobby’s
finding a way to win games right now."
If you haven’t had a chance to enjoy watching Elias
Godoy and the UMass Lowell River Hawks
this season, set your TiVo for Friday night. The River Hawks’
game against Boston University on NESN's
"Friday Night Ice" is their first television appearance
of the year.
This much we know: college hockey’s winningest active
coach will be in Hockey East for a while. Possession of
that title could change between BU's Jack
Parker (687 wins) and BC's Jerry York (686).
Both teams play Friday but have Saturday off in preparation
for the Beanpot.
Northeastern’s Bruce Crowder picked
up his 200th career win on Saturday night. He has guided
the Huskies to a 7-3-2 record in the last 12 games after
opening the season 0-9-2.
Hockey East has turned to a fitting panel to help select
its “Top Fan” as part of its 20th anniversary
celebration – the fans. Log on to the
conference web site and read the nominating essays about
the 10 finalists, then cast your vote. The results will
be used in conjunction with a league committee vote to determine
the winner, who will get two tickets and two nights of hotel
accommodations for the Hockey East championship weekend.
variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this