Hockey East Preview
are no surprises among the four favorites in Hockey East
– traditional powers Boston College, Boston University,
Maine and New Hampshire.
conference’s five other teams hold out hope that they
can be this year’s Providence (2000-01) or UMass Lowell
(2001-02), but on paper, the big four look like they hold
their elite status for a reason. Not only could any one
of them win Hockey East, they are all contenders to capture
the national title next April in Buffalo.
great talent up front, and a solid group of young defensemen.
are nothing short of phenomenal. And while Maine and UNH
both lost some key players, they are blessed with depth,
and the experience of last year’s Frozen Four trips.
hope for the rest of the pack – or at least Providence,
UMass Lowell and Northeastern. BC, BU, Maine and UNH have
finished 1-2-3-4 (in any order) only once in the 18 years
of Hockey East (1999-2000).
Barring a big
surprise, 2002-03 will make it twice.
seventh-place finish last year may have eased the expectations
the team had after it finished second in 2000-01. But the
Friars certainly have the potential to surprise. Terrific
forwards like Jon DiSalvatore (16-26—42), Peter Fregoe
(15-23—38) and Devin Rask (16-19—35) posted
solid numbers even during last year’s disappointment
and played big roles on the NCAA Tournament team two years
ago. They are part of a talented senior class (Fregoe is
actually a graduate student).
defensemen return in front of senior Nolan Schafer (11-18-5,
3.29, .905), a second-team All-American in 2000-01, and
highly touted Bobby Goepfert, the 2002 USHL Player of the
FOR A FALL
the strength throughout the conference – and the losses
the River Hawks suffered – it’s tough to expect
UMass Lowell to duplicate last season’s
fourth-place finish. Gone from the banks of the Merrimack
are both goaltenders from last season, including Hockey
East goals-against average leader Cam McCormick, and two
of the top three scorers, French Olympians Yorick Treille
and Laurent Meunier.
Lowell was primed for an NCAA Tournament bid before a 6-10-2
stretch to close last season – and still could have
made it in with a break or two, including another goal in
a 4-3 Hockey East semifinal loss to UNH. It will take another
surprising performance from Blaise MacDonald and crew to
get that close this season.
we’re tempted to tab Blaise MacDonald for his efforts
at Niagara and UMass Lowell, or Tim Whitehead for his “interim”
effort at Maine last year, it’s impossible to overlook
consistent success. And if Jack Parker’s
655 wins and two national titles don’t speak for themselves,
get this – he got a promotion this summer, becoming
BU’s first Executive Director of Athletics.
Ron Mason, who took over as Athletic Director at Michigan
State, Parker remains behind the bench. And while Mason’s
college hockey record of 924 career wins may be out of reach,
Parker will add impressively to his current total with this
year’s Terriers. Led by captain Freddy Meyer (5-15—20)
and first-round draft pick Ryan Whitney (4-17—21),
BU has the deepest and most talented defense in Hockey East,
if not the country.
ON THE HOT SEAT
it would take a lot to put his job in jeopardy, it’s
important for head coach Paul Pooley’s
Providence team to show improvement from its seventh-place
finish last year. With one top-three finish in eight years
at the helm, Pooley has shown the ability to develop a winner,
and has the talent to sneak back into the top three again
ACT TO FOLLOW
time his team reached St. Paul, the “interim”
that preceded Maine head coach Tim Whitehead’s
title had become comical. They could have called him “janitor”,
“Zamboni driver” or “Governor” (which
more than a few Mainers considered Shawn Walsh) –
everyone knew he would be the coach at Maine this year.
days after leaving St. Paul it was official, and now Whitehead
follows not only Walsh, but also his own success. While
he strives to repeat last year’s accomplishments,
the means may not be the same.
year is a new team-building process, and we’re going
to make adjustments, just as we did last year,” he
says. “You have to see what you have and what it takes
to win games.”
Hemingway, New Hampshire
are some unknowns in debating the best player in Hockey
Can Colin Hemingway be “the man” now that Darren
Haydar has left UNH?
• Can Ben Eaves stay healthy all season?
• Will they stand out from their teammates, like Tony
Voce at BC or Sean Collins at UNH?
Hemingway and Eaves can dazzle – there’s no
debate about that. And while we came away impressed from
our brief chat with Ben,
Hemingway earned the preseason nod as the
conference’s best player with his 66-point performance
last year (33-33—66).
Hemingway to have any trouble assuming the go-to role in
Haydar’s absence. While Haydar received a lot of attention
last season, Hemingway did a lot of his work on his own.
The first-team All-American from Surrey, British Columbia,
scored nearly a goal a game in conference play (23 in 24)
and led the nation with 10 game-winning goals.
who watch him often contend that UMass Lowell’s Ed
McGrane belongs in the category above this one
– and for good reason. McGrane is simply Hockey East’s
most complete forward, with the ability to score, win faceoffs,
and kill penalties. He has led the River Hawks in scoring
for two straight years and was a runner-up for Hockey East’s
Best Defensive Forward award last year.
people who can pronounce “Tsongas” have ever
heard of McGrane. But his return helps head coach Blaise
MacDonald offset heavy losses to graduation. If the River
Hawks can finish in fourth place in the league again, McGrane
will be a big reason – and you’ll know his name
when it turns up among the Hobey finalists.
Morrison and Matt Yeats have departed, but Maine plans to
rotate two more goaltenders – freshman Jimmy
Howard and sophomore Frank Doyle – at the
start of the season. Expect Howard to take over the top
spot before too long, except during his stint as starter
for Team USA at the World Junior Championships – at
age 18, a la former No. 1 draft pick Rick DiPietro. Howard
led the U.S. to its first gold medal in the World Under-18
Championships last year, was the USA Hockey Goaltender of
the Year, and should establish himself as the top freshman
goaltender – and one of the best goaltenders, period
– in the country.
IT DOWN – Six things you can take to the bank in Hockey
East this season:
Hemingway and Ben Eaves will decide the scoring title when
they meet for two games in the last week of the regular
season. Their teams could have the league title on the line
will earn a fifth straight NCAA tournament bid, the only
team in Hockey East that can make that claim.
the fifth time in six years, two Hockey East teams will
reach the Frozen Four.
will still have the nation’s best uniforms, thanks
to the decision to stick with the Skating Friar over the
university’s somewhat haunting new
will win the Beanpot. Sources also tell us that the sun
will continue to rise in the East.
coach Don Cahoon’s team at Massachusetts will improve,
albeit gradually. His freshman class could provide the foundation
for future success, much like his Jeff Halpern-Steve Shirreffs
class at Princeton, especially if a player or two emerges
as a star. Still, it could take time – neither Halpern
or Shirreffs had noteworthy freshman years. Two names from
the Minutemen's rookie class to watch: Stephen Werner, who
like Halpern is from the Washington, DC, area, and Michael
Mullen, son of former BC and NHL star Joe Mullen.
YOU AT TOURNEY TIME
New Hampshire, Boston College, Boston University