wisdom tells you that Boston College heads to Orono this
weekend with very little to play for beyond ratings percentage
index points few of us care to understand and playoff momentum
they might not even need.
a little bit more at work, however, and it's fitting that
the Eagles, on the cusp of the best Hockey East season in
a decade, are playing in Maine. It’s the 1992-93 Black
Bears, after all, who are brought up most often in comparison
to Boston College. Oddly enough, that edition of the Black
Bears has seemed to be mentioned more this year, in relation
to BC, than last year, when they celebrated their 10th anniversary.
the Eagles worthy of such lofty comparisons?
question,” said Maine head coach Tim Whitehead, whose
team faces BC this weekend. “They’ve got elite
players at all three positions. They are excellent on special
teams, they’ve got good team speed and real good team
defense. There aren’t a lot of holes there.”
coaches tend to agree.
College is as good of a hockey team as I’ve seen in
a very long time,” said Blaise MacDonald – before
his UMass Lowell River Hawks were swept by 4-1 and 5-0 scores
by BC. “Boston College is a team that the more you
watch them on film you see that they put so much pressure
on a team, it forces a team to beat itself.”
“I think they are just a terrific hockey team,” Massachusetts head coach Don Cahoon said. “It's made things really difficult for the rest of the league. New Hampshire beat them last week and Northeastern beat them earlier, but for the most part, they've just had their way with the rest of the league.”
of style and makeup, this year’s Eagles are much different
than the ’92-93 Black Bears, a high-flying group that
got big contributions from freshmen (the Ferraro brothers
and a guy named Kariya). BC’s freshmen get their minutes
on the fourth line – one of the three sits out each
game, on a rotating basis – and, while they have offensive
stars, the team’s success is rooted in its puck-possession,
Hockey East Records, All-Time
the Eagles could end up with the fourth-best season in Hockey
East history, and the best since Boston University in 1993-94
– the year after the oft-mentioned Maine team. BC
enters the weekend with a .841 winning percentage, which
could climb as high as .854 with two wins.
head coach Jerry York, naturally, sees room for improvement.
so hard to stay at a plateau all year,” he said last
week. “We’re always trying to get better, and
you should get better as you practice – that’s
what the coaches are here for.
think each month as I’ve looked at our team, we’ve
gotten better in a lot of categories. We’ve still
got ways to improve. I’d like to see our special teams
get better, our 4-on-4 needs to be better, and our faceoffs
could be better.”
have a final regular season opportunity to work on those
facets this weekend, while wrapping up one of the best seasons
this league has seen.
AND HEARD IN HOCKEY EAST
Matchups – Jack Parker doesn’t care
who he faces in the playoffs – he just wants in. But
to fans of the sport in the Boston area, there’s certainly
some appeal in the possibility of a BC-BU first-round series.
the league champion and all the home ice spots locked up,
we’re left with this in the final week of the regular
season: learning who plays where. Other than revealing who
gets the eighth and final playoff spot – BU or Northeastern
– the matchups are all the intrigue that’s left.
Lucky for us, in addition to the chance of a BC-BU meeting,
there are a few other interesting possibilities, led by
Lowell at Massachusetts: If the Minutemen can hold off New
Hampshire for the No. 3 spot, they might end up against
their Alumni Cup rivals. As the River Hawks remember well,
their two-game sweep of UMass in early January seemed to
signal a turning point in their season – they were
poised to challenge for home ice in the playoffs. Since
then, they learned that Paul Falco was ineligible for those
games and had to forfeit them, plus three other victories.
That news sent the River Hawks into a bit of a tailspin,
but they snapped a seven-game winless streak with a 3-2
victory over Maine on Friday. Think they’d be motivated
to take on UMass again?
at Boston College: Headed into this weekend, the Warriors
are one of only two teams in the conference that BC didn’t
beat twice (UNH is the other, while Maine could make it
three). Chances are very slim that Merrimack would fall
to eighth, since BU would have to sweep New Hampshire, but
it could happen. With ties in their first and third meetings,
Merrimack gave the Eagles some trouble, even though they
never came out with a win. Not to mention this potential
series would be a rematch of last year's first-round series
in which Exter was injured.
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
Great Weekend Getaway
at Massachusetts (Sat.) There’s
no question that the best hockey in the league this
weekend will take place in Orono, where Boston College
visits for two. But those teams aren’t playing
for their hockey lives. Such is the case for the Huskies,
who have been a good but not great team since the
start of December (9-7-5). If they win at home Friday,
they just might sneak into the playoffs with another
win at the Mullins Center.
and BC will play on, and odds are they’ll even
play each other again in a couple of weeks. But it’s
worth watching junior Jason Guerriero (10-16—26
in the 21 games since December began) and company
now, in case they are done until next October.
Senior Nights are an important college tradition,
but they can be overdone and repetitive at this time
of year. BC’s tribute of painting the
players’ numbers on the ice is a nice,
not above serving this one myself,
for last week’s suggestion that Boston College
and Maine could enter this weekend’s series
with the two longest active winning streaks in the
nation. The Black Bears saw their run end Friday,
while BC lost Saturday. The longest current unbeaten
streaks in Hockey East? Northeastern and Providence,
at two games each.
Northeastern is alive in the race for the
eighth spot in the standings, but just barely. The Huskies
are two points behind Boston University,
and in all likelihood need to pass the Terriers to get in.
The first tiebreaker, head-to-head, won’t come into
play because the teams finished their series 1-1-1. BU currently
holds an edge in the second tiebreaker, conference victories,
five to three.
unlikely event that Northeastern gets two wins this weekend
and BU ties twice, the two teams would finish with identical
records and go to the third tiebreaker: record against the
first-place team. Northeastern would win that one, based
on its 1-2-0 mark against BC.
The turning point of Friday’s Providence win
over Merrimack was unquestionably the Friars’
ability to kill of a five-minute major assessed to Torry
Gajda in the first period. Gajda is the team’s fifth-leading
scorer with 10-10—20, but has been held without a
point since Jan. 17 (12 games).
As the season has progressed, there’s a growing sense
that Matti Kaltiainen’s 1.69 goals-against average
and .912 save percentage for Boston College are
more than just products of the team’s outstanding
defense. Instead of “solid” you’re hearing
words like “exceptional” and “elite;”
one coach went so far as to call Kaltiainen a Hockey East
Player of the Year contender.
UMass can finish third with a win in either
game against Northeastern this weekend.
Regardless, the Minutemen are certain to improve on their
previous best finish in Hockey East (sixth in 1998-99 and
Merrimack has only one game left (Thursday
at UMass Lowell), but the Warriors could
still finish anywhere from sixth to eighth. Holding on to
sixth, where they stand now, could be key, as it would mean
avoiding Boston College or Maine
in the first round.
Mike Ayers enters this weekend’s home-and-home with
BU one win shy of Ty Conklin’s New Hampshire
record for career wins (57).
New Hampshire center Nathan Martz, who
has missed four games due to injury, is expected back for
Thursday night’s game at Boston University.
His return bumps red-hot Preston Callander back to the wing
on the second line. They are joined on the left side by
freshman Jacob Micflikier.
Thomas Pöck and Ryan Whitney both lead their teams
in scoring as defensemen, but neither can claim the conference
scoring lead among blueliners. That honor belongs to Providence’s
Stephen Wood, who has 19 points in conference games –
one better than Pöck and UNH’s Brian Yandle.
Wood has been fantastic of late, with 4-6—10 in his
last eight games.
Friday night’s win over Maine was
a first in a lot of ways for UMass Lowell.
It was the River Hawks’ first win at Tsongas against
Maine and Blaise MacDonald’s first win over the Black
Bears since he took over at Lowell. Finally, it was UMass
Lowell’s first win in February, as the River Hawks
had gone 0-3-3 to that point.
If you haven't had a chance yet to check out Michael Silverwood's
INCH Slideshow from the night Boston College clinched
the Hockey East regular season title (at right), I suggest
you do so. I can tell you that shot No. 7, of Steve Saviano
breaking in on Matti Kaltiainen, makes a great desktop wallpaper.
Be sure to check out Hockey East's salute
to its "Top Fans," released this week. The
honorees, who receive two tickets and accommodations at
the Hockey East championship weekend, are Pierson Van Raalte,
Stephen Sullivan and Michael Raymond Walsh.
While I said at the beginning of
the year that I wouldn’t be surprised to see three
BC players atop the Hockey East scoring
chart, I didn’t expect one to by junior Ryan Shannon.
Shannon enters the final weekend of play with a three-point
edge on five players tied for second, including his teammates
Tony Voce and Patrick Eaves. Also within striking distance
for the league scoring title, with a big weekend, are New
Hampshire’s Justin Aikins and Steve Saviano
and Maine’s Colin Shields.
Boston University (eight), Northeastern
(seven) and Providence (seven) have all
set or tied school records for ties in a season. Ten-minute
variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this
report. Next week's Hockey East Notebook will feature a
look at the regular season in review, plus the quarterfinal