The Other Side of The Story
The story of events at Johnson & Wales has more than one side to it. Last week you heard from J&W coach Lou Izzi. This week, two former players, junior co-captain Scott Graham and junior Scott Feeney, have their turn.
Asked about complaints on ice time or statistics, Graham said, “No. Not at all. I don’t know where that came from.”
“No,” Feeney agreed. “There was none of that. Guys were doing fine statistically. [Co-captain Dave] Acetturo was a senior and he was one of the leaders in scoring. Why would he be complaining about stats?”
According to Feeney and Graham, what happened with the team began very early in the season. The players were winning, but they were not making smart decisions on the ice or off.
“Through the beginning of the season the team started to get a negative attitude towards the program because of the lack of discipline. There is no discipline,” said Graham. “Guys have done things around the school that they shouldn’t. The same guys take bad penalties all the time and don’t pay for it at all. There was no motivation, no instruction, no respect. [The lack of discipline] showed on and off the ice and it was becoming the cancer of our team.
“So in reaction to this, as a team we decided to try and remove or fix the problem, which was created by lack of discipline.
“On the outside everything looks wonderful because the team is winning. ‘Wow, the team is winning. They must be happy’ — that seems to be the theme around here. Well, it’s not. It is a very disgusting situation. On the inside everything is just twisted up into knots. I hope the best for my friends who are still on the team,” added Graham. “There are some sketchy things going on and it started a long time ago. We thought we could change it as upperclassmen, and that is what we were trying to do.”
Added Feeney, “The whole thing started from the beginning at the beginning of the year. There is a lack of discipline through the whole program. It ripped through the team. Guys don’t learn anything. People are having bad experiences.”
Graham and Feeney suggested that a lack of discipline was the reason they were knocked out of the playoffs last year and they were determined not to let that happen again.
“Something had to be done,” said Feeney.
According to Feeney and Graham, the events that led up to that something were as follows.
On November 4 an assistant coach quit because he felt like he didn’t have the ability to instruct the players on his own. Later in November, a second coach, brought on after the first one left, quit for the same reason.
“Then we got a third coach who knew a lot about hockey. He was teaching us a lot about the game. Then he was fired after the December 30 game against St. Thomas,” said Feeney.
And that is when the decision was made by the players to do something.
“At the practice after St. Thomas (their third straight loss to the tune of 7-4), the team did not get dressed and we told Coach Izzi that our team has a problem, and we will not play until it is fixed. Then we had a meeting with the athletic director and a few other faculty members. We stated our claim and presented the petition of no confidence.”
That petition of no confidence was one that the captains drew up after some of the younger players voiced their concern for what was happening. Graham outlined the contents of the petition.
“The petition had ‘JWU Hockey’ at the top and under that it said, ‘Petition of no confidence against Lou Izzi.’ That is all it said. And everyone except for one player signed it.”
The following day the team had a meeting with the school president, the Athletic Director and Coach Izzi. “[The president] told us that Izzi would remain the coach and whoever wants to play for him can do so,” said Graham.
After the meeting the players got together on their own and decided that they would not play or practice until something was done. The idea was that if the school didn’t have a team, then someone would take notice and the school would be forced to do something about it.
“We just wanted a change,” said Feeney. “It didn’t even have to be coach getting fired. We just wanted something to change.”
At that point, matters broke down. Feeney said, “When we left [for the winter break] everyone was in. But I guess we didn’t have a strong enough nucleus.”
Feeney and Graham, along with a number of the other older players, advised the younger players that if they didn’t think anything would change than they should continue playing. A number of those players elected to do so.
Now Feeney, Graham, Acetturo, former co-captain Chris Molyneaux and others who stuck with the petition are without a place to play hockey. They say that they hope their stand makes people stand up and take notice. They hope their stand produces changes. And perhaps most importantly, they hope they can get a chance to play hockey again.
“We hope this changes the program,” said Feeney. Would he play next year under different leadership? “Definitely.”
Said Graham, “We didn’t want to win any more games for that guy. I’m hoping something will happen. If he’s gone next year I’ll play again. I just don’t want to be looked at as a quitter. It’s bad. I don’t want to be a part of a bad situation.”
It should be noted that the players, both former and current, are still friends and interact socially on a regular basis. In fact, some of the former members of the team still live with current members of the team.
So when Graham suggests that the difficulties among teammates “[were] not personal at all,” circumstances agree.
According to Graham, the NCAA has been in contact with him in regards to a possible investigation into the team. Reached for comment, Wallace Renfro, a public relations contact for the NCAA, said, “We don’t comment. We don’t confirm or deny any investigations.”
“They haven’t been in contact with me since the initial email,” said Graham.
The Streak Is Over
It’s almost comical how every time a ECAC Northeast team is on the verge of being ranked — or actually is ranked in the top ten — they lose.
To fans and supporters of the ECAC Northeast — this writer included — it is discouraging. You have to be perfect to crack the top ten, it seems. Not almost perfect or practically perfect, you have to be perfect. First it happened to Wentworth. After the gigantic win over undefeated (at the time) RIT moved them into the USCHO top ten, making them the first ECACNE team to ever be ranked that high, the team stumbled. Then JWU was getting some votes and making a strong case to be ranked and lost more than just games.
Now it has happened to Lebanon Valley.
That’s right, folks, the longest win streak in college hockey is over. For the first time since November 2, the Flying Dutchmen did not win. They tied Southern New Hampshire in Hooksett last weekend in a fantastic 1-1 battle. They followed that up the next afternoon with a loss at Wentworth. Too bad for LVC and, in a way, the conference. It would have been nice to see an ECACNE team in the top ten for a sustained period. Don’t get the wrong impression about the tie, though. It wasn’t a case where LVC took them lightly and was clearly the better team having a bad night.
On the contrary, SNHU looked like a good t-e-a-m out there. And we all know how far that can take you. (Ahem: New England Patriots — Super Bowl champions.) I’m not saying that the Penmen are going all the way, but don’t rule them out to slip into the championship game come Division II playoff time. They already own a win over DII rival Assumption College and their 3-2 loss to Saint Michael’s went down to the wire. And if you get there, you never know.
SNHU had been doing some good things even before the LVC game. Heading into the Saturday night matchup with the Dutchmen, the Penmen had won their last three. Plus, Pat Doherty was last week’s Division III USCHO.com Offensive Player of the Week last week.
Doherty (10-5–15), a freshman out of Wakefield, Mass., only recently launched himself onto the public scene with his POTW performance, but he is a heckuva player who will be heard from in the next few years.
Doherty plays tough, he is big (6-1, 180), he works hard along the boards and his success stems from that. Add to that a nice pair of mitts, a slinkiness with the puck, a willingness to shoot and, assuming his learning curve is at least average, he will be one of the top players in the league in the next few years. In the last minute against LVC he was the biggest threat out there.
Other forwards that impressed included Ryan Frew, who takes a beating and keeps plugging while stationed in front of the net. You gotta like that in a player. Leading scorers Chris Russo (7-14–21) and Nick Nugent (8-11–19) are solid forwards. Mike Flynn’s mucker-type tying goal against LVC, his fifth of the season, was a clutch effort.
Bottom line: the Penmen are solid up front.
Also contributing to SNHU’s win was a solid pair of defensemen. Dan Brown (2-3–5) and David Yasinka (1-4–5) are smart young players. If you go and watch SNHU you will like them as a pairing. They might not show up on the scoresheet all that often but their intelligence with the puck and vision allows them to make the right play. When you have a good young duo that, despite their youth, makes few mistakes, you’re doing all right.
In goal, Brian Holland (7-7-1, 3.66 GAA, .893%) played a good game against the Dutchmen, though he wasn’t tested all that much, a credit to the solid defensive effort on the part of SNHU.
Expect good things in the near future from the Penmen. I know I wouldn’t want to oppose them in the latter part of the season.
Leopards Continue To Impress
Wentworth, 17-4 overall, 10-1 in conference play, had a historic weekend. With his three-goal performance against Nichols last Wednesday, senior sniper Tim Yakimowsky became the all-time leading scorer at Wentworth. He passed former teammate Ivan Filipov’s old mark of 76 career goals, and the Leopards have four more games, not including playoffs, for Yakimowsky to extend his mark. He also recently became the ninth player in school history to play in at least 100 games.
With Sunday’s win over LVC (you mean there were other things going on last Sunday?), the Leopards moved into a tie for first place in the Northeast. It is nice to see Raj Bhangoo getting a break from tending the twine for Wentworth: a smart move by Bowes, who will need Bhangoo fresh for the playoffs.
Jamie Vanek played well in the 4-1 loss to Manhattanville. The junior goaltender, who plays a smart butterfly — almost Patrick Roy style despite his lack of Roy size, has quietly put together an impressive 2001-2002 campaign. He is 6-1 with a 2.86 GAA and a .910 save percentage.
Freshman Bryce McFadden (1-0, 2.86, .906) made his first career start against Nichols and kicked aside 21 shots, earning the win.
The aforementioned Bhangoo got the big start against LVC and continued to stymie the opposition, giving up only two goals, one on a late power play, in the giant 4-2 win. That was a good tuneup for the playoffs.
Freshman forward Jayden Der is only 5-5 and 143 pounds, but is a talented player capable of big things. He has speed, great hands and he makes good little (excuse the pun) plays in the offensive end that catch the eye.
Credit should be given to the line of Bill Clifford (6-2–8), Joe Crowley (2-4–6) and Ben Pierce (2-11–13). They are a hardworking, basically mistake-free group that helps Wentworth win games. These kinds of players deserve a little pub once in a while, too.
For the first time since the 1997-98, the 10-7-1 Colonels have won ten games. Mike O’Sullivan (17-14–31), Joe Savioli (11-18–29), and Brian Doherty (13-13–26) have been on fire as of late. They have helped Curry outscore its last three opponents to the tune of 25-13.
The Soaring Seahawks
Salve Regina is 4-2 in its last six games — not overly impressive on first glance.
When you consider who they have beaten, it is: league powers UMass-Dartmouth and Wentworth have fallen victim to the Seahawks.
The usual suspects have contributed. Billy Baker (last week’s ECACNE Player of the Week), Matt Hillberg, and Jack Wallace are all scoring at a decent pace. Add freshman Adam Asselin (13-12–25), who had a goal in five straight games before Tuesday’s loss against Worcester State, to the mix and you have a prolific offense.
Other youngsters contributing offensively are Geno Binda (5-12–17) and Eddie Maurer (10-5-15), who was on fire with six points in his last two games heading into the game against the Lancers.
Netminder Chris Burns’ numbers (2.95, .907) remain solid. He is a valuable asset for the Seahawks and will be counted on come playoff time.
Tonight is Thursday, the night I put the finishing touches on this column. And it might be the best weeknight of matchups the league has had all season. I’m glad I only predict weekend games because each one of these would have been tossups.
Wentworth travels to New Bedford to take on UMass-Dartmouth in what should be an epic battle (ECACNE championship preview?).
Stonehill will play at Curry in a matchup of snipers remarkably close in the scoring race. Sean Pero/Rob Pascale, Brendan Flemming/Mike O’Sullivan, Mike Ryan/Joe Savioli, Brian Doherty/Jeff Rowe are all gunslingers. If those guys get some room to move it should be a high-scoring affair, exciting to watch.
Fitchburg plays at Assumption in what should be a tough one between two good teams.
The Pairwise Rankings
Don’t ask me to explain them, but you should take a look at the Pairwise Rankings for Division III.
There you will find that LVC is No. 4, Wentworth 12th, and UMass-Dartmouth barely misses the top 20 at number 21. See Lee Urton’s article (though it references the D-I significance) at if you’re interested in what it all means.