February 5, 2004
Level-Headed Lowell

By Nate Ewell

 Hockey East Notebook

Elias Godoy (above), Ben Walter and Andrew Martin, all from UMass Lowell, are the three highest-scoring sophomores in Hockey East.

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Most college coaches react to losses with the kind of anguish normally associated with dying pets and discussions of puppy heaven.

That makes UMass Lowell head coach Blaise MacDonald’s reaction to last week’s news all the more refreshing. The River Hawks were handed not one, but five losses last week when they discovered that transfer Paul Falco was not eligible when he entered the lineup after Christmas.

Although the forfeits dropped the surging River Hawks below .500 and all but out of the race for home ice in the Hockey East Tournament, MacDonald shrugged them off.

“It would be a much different reaction if my son was sent over to Iraq,” said MacDonald. “This is the toy department of life, and we realize that. Honestly, it’s not that big a deal.”

There are a few reasons MacDonald can afford to take what could be devastating news in stride:

1. He knows how good his team is

“The fact remains that we won those games,” he said – not defiantly, but proudly. “The reaction was, hey, we know in this room that we went to Michigan State and won. We know we swept UMass.”

The River Hawks have one of the league’s top forwards in sophomore Elias Godoy, who stands second in points among conference players with 14-19—33. He is complemented by classmate Ben Walter, who’s out with a sprained knee right now, but – according to MacDonald – improving every day.

2. He’s got a young team

What’s been seen as a weakness for the River Hawks all year – the 18 freshmen and sophomores that dot their lineup on any given night – could suddenly be a positive. Instead of fielding a senior-laden team that just had its hopes for a dramatic sendoff dashed, MacDonald views that youth as a positive.

“I think it would make more of an impact if this was a team full of seniors,” he said. “If anything, this adds to the resiliency of a young team.”

3. His team still controls its destiny

With six points now separating UMass Lowell and fourth-place New Hampshire, Tsongas Arena probably won’t be hosting a playoff game this season. But MacDonald is less concerned about where the River Hawks play, and more about how they play.

“The nice thing is that we play six of our last 10 games against the top seven teams in the country,” he said – something that a downtrodden coach would consider more nerve-wracking than nice. “If we want to make some noise, we’re in a great position to do it.”


Lost in Translation – Providence is another team that knows it’s better than its Hockey East record, although the Friars haven’t had to give back any conference victories. The Friars have seen their strength in non-league play, where they were 8-1-1.

There’s nothing but Hockey East play ahead, and head coach Paul Pooley’s challenge is to get his team to produce the results in the conference that they’ve enjoyed outside of it.

“We’re a better hockey club than we’ve shown in the league,” Pooley said. “We just need to do the same types of things inside the league that we’ve done in our other games.”

Part of that is emphasizing the typical things that coaches harp on – sticking to systems, playing as a team. But it’s beyond a cliché on a team that truly boasts no superstars, with five players with seven or more goals, and four within nine points of Chris Chaput’s team lead in scoring.

“What I tell the guys all the time is, when we play well we’re a very good team,” Pooley said. “We’re not a great group of individuals.”

The most individually talented of the bunch may be defenseman Stephen Wood, who was a second-team All-Hockey East honoree last season. If Massachusetts’ Thomas Pock and New Hampshire’s Brian Yandle are the top offensive defensemen in the league, Wood is in a group of elite players in more of a two-way mold, along with Boston University’s Ryan Whitney and Maine’s Prestin Ryan. According to Pooley, if Wood plays consistently over the last nine games of the regular season, that will help the Friars elevate their standing.

“He’s one of the reasons that I’m confident that we can be better,” Pooley said. “When I see him play his game, he’s one of the best defensemen in the league. But I think he can be more consistent. I’ve seen him play some unbelievable games, and I’ve seen him play games where he’s trying to do too much, and that happens to seniors sometimes.”

While MacDonald expresses excitement over UMass Lowell’s remaining schedule, the Friars’ appears much more favorable – only Maine, who they play twice in Orono – is ahead of them among their remaining games.

Last year’s Providence team went 6-0-2 in February. They have the schedule – and, based on their non-league games, the ability – to come close to that mark again.

A Full 'Pot – For "the matchup everybody wants", Boston College vs. Boston University in the Beanpot final is sure lopsided.

The Terriers are 8-1 in their last nine Beanpot championship meetings with Boston College, with the lone Eagle win coming in 2001. And even though this year's BC team holds a clear talent edge over BU, we're reminded of last season, when the Eagles swept the season series but lost the Beanpot to BU, 3-2.

They'll meet again Monday at the FleetCenter, and this year BC will hope to complete the regular season sweep, having already beaten BU three times this year.

The Terriers, whatever their struggles, still have that Beanpot magic, as they proved Monday night. They got a boost from their line of Frantisek Skladany, Brad Zancanaro and Mark Mullen, which generated chances and was the best trio on the ice in the first game.

The Eagles, meanwhile, have found other ways to generate offense without Ben Eaves in the lineup. Fourth liners Ned Havern and Justin Dziama, playing with Adam Pineault, accounted for two of BC's four goals in the win over Harvard. Havern has three game-winning goals in just over three weeks.

BC's ability to win without the elder Eaves left an impression on Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni.

"I think Ben Eaves and especially this year with them, he's had his challenges in his career, and they've seemed to have some challenges when he's been out, but not this year," he said. "They're firing on all cylinders, and it's a credit to ther hockey team."

Last time the two teams met, BU coach Jack Parker noted that if a few more Eagles could be out with injuries, his Terriers might have a chance. Either that, he could have added, or they could just play on the Beanpot stage. That seems to give BU an edge as well.


Great Weekend Getaway
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Massachusetts vs. New Hampshire (in Amherst Fri., in Durham Sat.)
This matchup of New England state universities pits two teams whose fortunes swung in opposite directions last weekend. While UNH was swept at Maine, Massachusetts picked up four wins – one each against Northeastern and Merrimack, and two by forfeit against UMass Lowell. As a result, the Wildcats are essentially out of the race for the conference title, while UMass jumped to second place, just two points behind Boston College.

If you can only make one of the games, make sure it’s at the Mullins Center, and get there early – Friday night is Mullet Night, and the first 1,000 fans through the doors receive a free mullet wig. We’re not making this up.

Stick Salute

Days later, college hockey is still buzzing over Ryan Shannon’s backcheck on Rob Fried’s breakaway in the Beanpot. Providence coach Paul Pooley mentioned Shannon’s play to the Friars at Tuesday’s practice, holding it up as an example of a talented player putting forth the extra effort to win. Shannon shares the Hockey East conference scoring lead with 6-13—19 through 15 games.

Bench Minor

Going for a Mike Legg goal isn’t nearly as cool, Chris Collins, when you don’t get the puck on your stick. (Although don't let this stop you if you get another chance to try it.)

Massachusetts (two wins) and Merrimack (one) were the two teams to benefit directly from UMass Lowell’s forfeits. UMass is now in the hunt for the league title, although the Minutemen have two more losses and are two points behind Boston College. The forfeit gives Merrimack a boost in the clump of five teams at the bottom of the standings, four of which will make the playoffs. The Warriors are in a three-way tie atop that group, but have played the most games of any conference team (18). One of their six remaining games is against Northeastern, currently in last place with seven points.

• John Yaros has started four straight conference games for UMass Lowell, but don’t be surprised if you see Chris Davidson back between the pipes in the second game of a weekend. Yaros is 2-0-0 on Friday nights the last two weeks and 0-2-0 on Saturdays. Head coach Blaise MacDonald said it has been important to get Yaros experience in back-to-back situations – the transfer was out of game action for more than a year and missed nine weeks with mono – but he also knows that Davidson is a capable alternative. Davidson is 6-3-1 with a .919 save percentage in Hockey East games this year.

• The Atlanta Thrashers, in town a night early for a game against the Bruins, were in attendance at the FleetCenter for Monday’s Beanpot games. Do you think Shawn McEachern did a little bragging? McEachern had two goals in the 1990 Beanpot championship game for BU and won it again in ’91.

• Five former Hockey East stars will take part in the NHL’s All-Star festivities this weekend. Former Boston College Eagle Brooks Orpik will participate in the YoungStars Game on Saturday (8 p.m., ESPN), while Adrian Aucoin (BU), Bill Guerin (BC), Dwayne Roloson (UMass Lowell) and Keith Tkachuk (BU) will play in the All-Star Game Sunday at 3 p.m. (ABC).

Northeastern goaltender Keni Gibson gave an early indication of the sort of night he was going to have when he whiffed on a clearing attempt in the first two minutes of Monday's first Beanpot semifinal. The puck eventually slid wide of the post, but it was an ominous start to the game.

• Twin brothers Brad (Boston University) and Tony (Providence) Zancanaro face off for the second time this year on Friday night. Tony had two assists to Brad’s one in the first meeting, but BU came away with a 6-4 victory.

• Speaking of twin brothers, former Maine Black Bears Chris and Peter Ferraro were both named to the USHL’s 25th Anniversary Team, the only Hockey East players among the honorees. Peter and Chris are currently tied for first and third, respectively, in scoring on the AHL’s Springfield Falcons.

• When you go see “Miracle” – it opens Friday, but we trust that most college hockey fans won’t catch it until Sunday, at the earliest – keep an eye out for Elias Godoy and Ben Walter of UMass Lowell, who were extras in the movie. One former Hockey East player who you’ll see a lot of is Mike Mantenuto, who plays the role of Jack O’Callahan. Mantenuto spent the 2000-01 season at Maine, studying theater, before pursuing his acting career.

• Despite the difficulty Mike Ayers faced at Maine last weekend, it’s hard to forget the two saves the UNH goalie made within minutes during Friday’s second period – both of which looked like something out of The Matrix. On the first, Ayers stopped a partial breakaway when Michel Leveille’s shot got behind him, but he kicked up his leg and got the puck with his calf. Shortly after that, he did a two-pad sideways somersault to foil the Black Bears. Nevertheless, don’t be surprised if you see sophomore Jeff Petrasiak, who relieved Ayers Saturday night, in one of the two games against Massachusetts this weekend. Petrasiak has been solid whenever he's been called upon this year, and his play helped snap the Wildcats out of a mini-slump in early January.

Northeastern is having a tough time generating offense beyond its duo of Jason Guerriero and Mike Morris. Those two combined for 12 shots on goal in Monday’s loss to Boston University, but were held scoreless by Sean Fields and Ryan Whitney. The Huskies haven’t scored more than three goals against a Hockey East team all year.

Maine’s power play has been the worst in the league this year, perhaps the Black Bears’ only glaring weakness (11.4 percent going into this weekend’s non-league series with Alabama-Huntsville). They caught fire Saturday against New Hampshire, however, scoring on three-of-five opportunities – which could be a very bad sign for the visiting Chargers, not to mention the rest of Hockey East.

Maine’s series against Alabama-Huntsville and Monday’s Beanpot action represent the last non-conference games of the regular season for Hockey East teams.

Boston College assistant coach Jim Logue, the 1959 Beanpot MVP, will be inducted into the Beanpot Hall of Fame on Monday.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.

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