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This Week in Hockey East

College Hockey:
Dear Santa: Here’s what Hockey East coaches might be asking for

I’ve once again intercepted mail from Hockey East arenas to the North Pole and am sharing it with you.

On Boston College stationary:

Well, hello, Santa, this is Jerry York.

There really isn’t much for me to ask for. I’ve become the guy no one wants to get in the Christmas draw because, well … I kind of have everything.

Three national championships in five years, not to mention four Hockey East titles. An 11-2 record this year and first place in Hockey East.

It’d be rather unseemly for me to complain about dropping to No. 2 in the rankings after we’ve spent so much time at No. 1.

(And I suppose you’ve heard about me tying Ron Mason’s record for the all-time winningest coach. I hate to talk about that, which is why I’ve put this in parentheses, but yes, I certainly have a lot to be thankful for.)

I guess I’m supposed to ask for something, right? So how about another national championship?

Hey, that’s it, Santa. Help yourself to some milk and cookies, and go Eagles!

On New Hampshire stationary:

Hey, Santa, Dick Umile here.

Things are looking mighty good here in Durham.

No. 1 in the country. An 11-1-2 record. A point behind BC in the standings, but we hold a game in hand.

The No. 1 offense in Hockey East. The No. 1 defense in the league. Both are No. 3 in the country. And the best special teams net in Hockey East.

Santa, I’ll make this short and sweet. Please just let us be playing this well at the end of the season and into the playoffs. And if we’re in the national championship game and it’s all going to come down to a bounce of the puck — you remember 1999, don’t you? — for the love of God, please let the bounce go our way this time.

On Boston University stationary:

Santa, Jack Parker here.

I don’t think there’s any question that we’ve done all right so far this year. Seventh in the country? I’ll take that this time of year, especially after the season and offseason we just came out of.

Third place in Hockey East? It’s not first or second, but we’re still in striking distance and we’ve come from farther back than this before.

I like my team. The freshman goaltenders have answered the biggest preseason question mark. I’m getting good play from other freshmen. And that important sophomore class, too.

We’ve beaten all the teams we’re supposed to beat. We have five losses, but those have all been to top-10 teams. So that’s not too bad.

The problem — and I know you know this — is that “not too bad” isn’t good enough for BU hockey. We’ve already lost our season series with BC and UNH and as I write this, we’ll soon be heading to Durham where the Wildcats could finish off a season sweep.

Yeah, we do have a win over BC and another over North Dakota. But 2-5 against top-10 teams isn’t good enough. Second or third banana in Hockey East isn’t good enough.

So if you get this before Thursday night, give us a win up at UNH. Maybe another after the holidays at Denver. And a Beanpot win that includes a title game over BC.

That would get us to 5-5 against top-10 teams going into the playoffs. If we do that, I’ll take my chances.

On Providence stationary:

Santa, Nate Leaman.

Just between the two of us, I was pretty surprised how well my team came around last year. I thought it would take a lot longer.

We went from three straight years of missing the playoffs to finishing seventh and then upsetting Massachusetts-Lowell in the first-round to get to the Garden for the first time since 2001.

Sometimes a coach can have a little too much success in his first year when expectations are low and then have a tough time living up to the high bar he sets for himself.

So I’m happy with being a game over .500 and in fourth place. We’re doing a good job with scoring and are the second-best defensive team in the league. Jon Gillies is doing a great job as a freshman between the pipes. We’re even getting votes for the national rankings.

It all looks good to me, Santa. The kind of year-to-year progress I saw while building Union into an ECAC Hockey and national power.

So all I’m looking for is just to keep that positive momentum going. We don’t have to win the title this year — although if you’re thinking of putting that puppy beneath the tree, my eyes are certainly going to light up like the rest of the tree. Just so long as we can keep building to that future.

On Merrimack stationary:

Mark Dennehy here.

You know, Santa, the “experts” keep counting us out. They thought that we’d turn into pumpkins when the clock struck midnight and Stephane Da Costa left.

Nope. We came within a point last year of fourth place and getting the quarterfinals in our barn instead of Alfond. Give us home ice in that series and I think we’d have gotten to the Garden again.

Then this year comes along and we’re picked to fall to eighth. Like the bad old days in the cellar were just a matter of time.

Well, not to be childish or anything, but let me stick out my tongue, plug my thumbs in my ears and wiggle my fingers at the experts. Na-na-na-na-na.

It feels good to be .500 in the league with an overall 3-3 record on the road as well. Those cellar days are over.

So that’s what I’m looking for, Santa. Let us keep hanging in there year after year with the Big Boys of the league, fighting for home ice in the playoffs, putting ourselves in the position to shock ‘em all.

Hey, don’t get me wrong. I’d love to finish first or second. But if we can’t, we’ll take fourth or fifth, in the hunt yet again. Then let the chips fall where they may.

On Massachusetts stationary:

Santa, this is John Micheletto.

This is my first letter to you as a head coach and I’ve got to say I’m not going to ask for much more than what I already have. I was really happy to finally get this position after paying my dues for so many years.

I’d like to think UMass is a program I can really put on the map. If you can provide a bit of help to speed that along, it would be much appreciated. A couple of blue-chip recruits would be great.

As for this year’s team, I can’t complain there, either. We were picked to finish ninth, but here we are tied for fifth, just a point out of fourth (albeit giving up a couple games in hand).

We’ve also survived an opening gauntlet of games that included five straight against the three league teams in the top 10. So that means only one left against BC and BU, and two left with UNH. Things are looking bright.

We aren’t playing any more league games until after the break, so if you could just gift-wrap a couple of them as wins — say, a sweep over Providence at the beginning of January or one at Vermont later in the month — that would be great.

Other than that, I’m loving it here at UMass and thanks for making previous years’ wishes come true!

On Vermont stationary:

Santa, this is Kevin Sneddon.

It’s hard to believe that from just 2009 to 2012 we went from the Frozen Four to the basement of Hockey East. And not just the basement. Our 3-23-1 record left us with only seven points compared to ninth-place Northeastern’s 22.

So I’ve got to tell you, Santa, a tie for fifth place feels a lot better. Our stats don’t look spectacular, but we’re winning some of those close ones that make all the difference. (Taking three of four points at Maine last weekend sure put a smile on my face.)

I’m going to make a different request than most, Santa. I usually like to emphasize the present, but just talking about last year has me shuddering. So here’s what I want: Don’t ever let us finish dead last like that again.

On Northeastern stationary:

Jim Madigan here.

I tell you, Santa, there’s nothing worse than getting teased. And those two wins to kick off the season — over Merrimack and then BC, the defending national champs — were about the most tantalizing teases I can remember.

Everyone’s hopes went up, mine included. We were soaring.

Then we got the door slammed in our faces. Not counting the wins over Alabama-Huntsville (which most people aren’t counting on account of their record last year and this), we went 0-7-1 after that.

Thank goodness we split with UMass last weekend. Otherwise you’d be getting an even nastier letter than this one.

Let me cut to the chase. I’m a nice guy, but I’m not going to let our program get pushed around. We’ve missed the playoffs two of the last three years and in agonizing fashion. Last year, my first, we lost because of a tiebreaker. In 2010, it was by a single point (and as that USCHO nitwit Hendrickson likes to point out, we were four points out of third place).

So we’ve taken enough. If there are going to be tiebreakers, they’d better go our way. If there are teams left on the outside looking in, it better be someone else.

Otherwise, you’re gonna find out why, back in the day, they called me “Mad Dog” Madigan.

On UMass-Lowell stationary:

Norm Bazin here.

I’ll make it short and sweet. How about giving me a second half that resembles last year?

We were second in the league. One game from the Frozen Four. The second-best turnaround in Division I history (from five wins to 24).

Hockey East coach of the year. USCHO coach of the year. I got a four-year contract extension.

And we brought back almost the entire team! So what are we doing in ninth place with a 2-6-1 league record?

Ninth place! We were supposed to finish second!

We’ve got the worst special teams in the league. How did that happen?

Last season, everything I touched turned to gold. This year, everything I touch turns to … well … something you scrape off the bottom of your shoe.

So how about a return to some of last year’s magic, Big Guy?

On Maine stationary:

Santa, this is Tim Whitehead.

Hey, I knew this year’s team would be a work in progress, but this is ridiculous. Sure, we graduated a ton of talent. But last place? A 2-10-2 overall record?

We’re last in Hockey East in offense and last in defense. We’ve gone from a power play that was one of the nation’s best for the last three years to one that has converted only 7.5 percent.

If I actually believed in you, I’d wait with a sack of coal to hit you over the head with. But I don’t believe in you. You’re not even worth staying up for.

So here come two words for you.

Bah humbug.

And finally, not that it has anything to do with anything, but …

This will be my final column before the holidays. (Jimmy will be entertaining and enlightening you next week.) So I hope you have a great holiday season.

And when you do your holiday shopping, please consider my novel Cracking the Ice, available at Amazon or Barnes and Noble online. If you’d like to order a personalized copy, drop me a line at hewriter@uscho.com or send $15 (shipping included) via PayPal to that email account. Be sure to include address and personalization instructions. Thank you!

USCHO covers Hockey East all week long on the Hockey East Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.


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  • staind86

    Dear Santa:
    Please bring Maine fans a new coach for Christmas.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrew.desmarais.7 Andrew Desmarais

    Dear Santa:
    Vermont fans are hoping for the same thing next year. As for this year, would it kill you to give us a winning season?

  • http://www.facebook.com/oscar.e.flores.129 Oscar E. Flores

    Dear Santa:
    Please get the NU Huskies a real coach. Someone with real college hockey experience as a coach. I realize this might not be feasible for a while but please keep in mind that time is ticking as the hockey program at NU is crumbling .