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College Hockey:
Beanpot distractions, Rookies of the Year, and a lost playoff berth

These are three things I think I learned from this past weekend.

1. Only one Hockey East Beanpot team was thinking about Monday on Friday. 

Coaches and fans of Beanpot teams always worry about the Friday night before the Beanpot.  Will their team be looking ahead to the contest three nights ahead at the Garden when they should be focused on the game at hand?

After all, the Friday night pre-Beanpot contest is almost always a league game, therefore counting in the standings while the Beanpot, for all its allure, does not.

Well, Boston University and Northeastern kept their eyes on the Friday night prize. The Terriers invaded Merrimack’s Lawler Arena and came away with an impressive 4-1 win, seizing the lead just 1:29 into the game and making it 3-0 midway through the second period.

The Huskies had a tougher time of it but also emerged victorious. After taking a 2-0 first period lead, they gave up three straight to the Minutemen and needed a Robbie Vrolyk goal to draw even going into the third. While that period finished scoreless, Vinny Saponari’s game-winner needed only 22 seconds of overtime.

Indeed, only Boston College among the Hockey East Beanpot representatives, failed to live up to the “Focus on Friday” mantra. The Eagles, however, had a good excuse. They were inactive this weekend.

2. Scott Wilson took a big step toward winning Rookie of the Year honors. And could have taken an even bigger step.

Wilson, Massachusetts-Lowell’s top scorer even as a freshman, recorded two goals and five points on the weekend. In doing so, he may have moved into the driver’s seat for Rookie of the Year. In Hockey East games, which are the only ones that are supposed to matter in consideration for this award, he’s now the top-scoring freshman and ranks tied for ninth overall (10-9-19).

He almost took an additional step toward winning the award when he scored another goal early in the second period on Saturday night. That one, however, went to replays which showed a fellow River Hawk in the crease and was therefore disallowed.

Wilson has some competition, of course, most notably Northeastern’s Ludwig Karlsson and Casey DeSmith, the late-charging New Hampshire goaltender. But this was a very, very good weekend for the River Hawk freshman.

3. UMass may have lost a playoff berth due to 24 seconds.

As agonizing weekends go, it’s hard to imagine one much worse than what Massachusetts just endured. On Friday night, the Minutemen rallied from a 2-0 deficit with three straight goals before Northeastern tied it.  As noted earlier, just 22 seconds into overtime the Huskies got the game-winner to put dagger number one into UMass hearts.

One night later, the Minutemen again rallied — three times, in fact — in the ultimate see-saw contest. Merrimack scored first, UMass answered. That scene was reprised twice until Jeff Velleca put in the game-winner with two seconds remaining in regulation.

Two seconds. And twenty-two seconds.

UMass now sits in ninth place. Although the Minutemen hold a game in hand over their nearest competition, their remaining schedule looks tough.  Five of their eight games come against teams in the PairWise’s top ten — Maine (2), Merrimack (2),  and BU(1). Fortunately, the other three will be played at the Mullins Center where UMass has been 8-2-3 this year and pit the Minutemen against New Hampshire (twice) and Providence, two teams vying for the same playoffs spots.

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  • Guest

    Isn’t Velleca’s first name Jeff, not Joe?

    • Dave Hendrickson

      You are, of course, correct.  Thanks for the heads-up.  It’s fixed now.

      I knew it was Jeff but somehow slipped up.  I’ll blame it on the Super Bowl…