If you think you’re going to read about network journalist Harry Reasoner, you need to watch less TV and more hockey.
The Reasoner is Marty Reasoner, Boston College’s slick playmaker. Reasoner, Marty that is, garnered last year’s Hockey East Rookie of the Year award and should be one of the league’s top forwards this year.
Who will be this year’s Marty Reasoner?
Unlike Hockey East we’ll pick our pre-season rookie team and keep going for three lines, three pair of defensemen, and three goaltenders. Now admittedly this exercise is nothing short of journalistic Russian roulette will most of the barrels full, but at the very least you’ll find our picks entertaining.
Our third string netminder is Marc Robitaille, one of Northeastern’s two freshmen goalies. Robitaille, 20, played last year for the Gloucester Rangers in Ontario’s Central Junior Hockey League where he racked up a 2.94 GAA in 35 games.
Robitaille is competing for Huskie netminding duties with fellow frosh Judd Brackett from the Junior Whalers and seldom-used senior Kevin Noke. According to head coach Bruce Crowder, “Marc has separated himself from the rest of the pack. Of course, there’s a lot left to be seen, but at this point he’s out in front.”
Robitaille won’t duplicate his 2.94 GAA for the rebuilding Huskies, but that shouldn’t stop him from being one of only three league netminders this year to establish himself as a number one goaltender in his inaugural season.
UNH’s Sean Matile nails down the second string spot. Matile played major junior hockey which forced him to miss last year as well as the first ten games of this year. Wildcat fans hope that he’ll be worth the wait.
Coach Dick Umile has tried to rein in runaway expectations, but has also indicated that Matile could contend for Rookie of the Year honors. “When Sean comes back,” he said, “we think that we’ll be real solid in our goaltending.”
Matile, a big boy at 6-3, 220, last played in the British Columbia Junior Hockey League (BCJHL) for the Vernon Lakers. He compiled a 4.32 GAA and .892 save percentage in his last year there. Although mediocre at best, those statistics were reportedly more a measure of the weak team he played for than his own puckstopping ability.
Since then he has drawn raves from everyone from Maine’s top recruiter Grant Standbrook to teammates who practiced with him last year to fans who eyeballed his performance during Wildcat Midnight Madness.
Maine’s Alfie Michaud takes our top spot with a bullet. The more we hear about him, the more we like his chances. Michaud posted a spectacular .920 save percentage and 2.68 GAA last year while going 25-16-2, earning him a unanimous Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League All-Star selection.
Maine preseason press releases termed Michaud’s backups, Javier Gorriti and Ed Washuk, “walk-ons in the truest sense of the word.” As a result, Michaud, who played in 49 games last year, should get the call as long as he can stand. And if someone can prop up his exhausted body, that’ll be considered standing.
Although he looks to be the runaway winner among rookie dufflebags in games played, Michaud’s first-team status reflects more than mere endurance. Teammates who have practiced against him, as well as fans who watched him in Maine’s traditional Blue-White game, are convinced that the kid can flat-out play. They compare him to BC’s Greg Taylor, with the footnote that opponents had better beat him on the second or third shot, because they’ll rarely get the first one past him.
Michaud compares himself to NHL goalie Felix Potvin. “I like to come out and challenge. I have a lot of speed and I try to use it to my advantage,” said Michaud in an article by Larry Mahoney in the Bangor Daily News. In the same article head recruiter and goalie coach Grant Standbrook commented, “Alfie was the best goalie I saw in North America last year.”
Michaud could seriously challenge for Rookie of the Year, especially considering how vital he will be to Black Bear fortunes. All of Maine’s netminding eggs are in Michaud’s basket, so his performances alone could dictate whether Maine will once again be among the top teams in the league or whether they will fall back to also-ran status.
Seven of the last nine years Maine goaltenders have earned All-Hockey East honors. Michaud should eventually carry on that Black Bear tradition.
Our number five and six defensemen are Providence’s Josh MacNevin and UNH’s Dan Enders.
Enders is only 5-10, 178, but that didn’t stop him from being named a USHL second-team All-Star last year. Playing for the league champion Green Bay Gamblers, Enders tallied a 7-19–26 stat line while proving that size is no measure of toughness; he totaled 153 penalty minutes in 45 games.
Enders has reportedly looked good in practices, but played little in New Hampshire’s exhibition game against Ottawa. However, coach Dick Umile had the confidence to use him during a key 4-on-4 late in the game, so we’re gambling that Enders will force his way into the rotation and make an impression once he’s there.
MacNevin, a fourth round NHL draft choice, is an offense-minded blueliner who played last year for the Junior A national champion Vernon Vipers (BCJHL). A second-team league all-star, he tallied 13 goals and 45 assists for 58 points in 51 games. He was also named Vernon’s top defenseman and Rookie of the Year.
MacNevin should have plenty of opportunity to show his stuff. Paul Pooley’s Friars graduated five senior defensemen last year. MacNevin should not lack for ice time.
Our second-team defensemen are Merrimack’s Andrew Fox and New Hampshire’s Jayme Filipowicz. Fox (13-31–44 in 64 games) was selected to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League All-Star squad. He also won team awards for MVP, Outstanding Ability and Gentlemanly Conduct, and Most Popular Player.
Coach Ron Anderson commented that Fox — along with fellow freshmen Sandy Cohen, Chris Halecki, and Drew Hale — “has looked very good and [is] ahead of where I thought [he’d] be. We’ve only been on the ice for four or five days. Give [him] another week and I think we’ll be real pleased.”
If Fox (6-1, 200) lives up to his billing, he could become the third Warrior defenseman and fourth Merrimack player overall in the last four years to earn a berth on the league’s All-Rookie team. He would join fellow blueliners John Jakopin and Darrel Scoville, as well as forward Casey Kesselring.
Filipowicz (6-3, 215) will make an immediate impact on the UNH blueline. He was reportedly the top scoring defenseman (7-29–36) in the USHL last year, and Dick Umile is already showcasing those talents.
Umile paired Filipowicz with Jason Krog on the points on each power play in New Hampshire’s exhibition game against Ottawa. He displayed poise and an ability to find the open man, rather than contributing with booming slapshots.
UNH’s defense struggled last year. If Filipowicz continues his fine blueline play against tougher competition, it will go a long way to catapulting the Wildcats to the top of Hockey East.
BU’s Tom Poti and BC’s Mike Mottau comprise our top pair of blueliners. The two New England prep stars ranked in virtually everyone’s list of Top Five incoming freshmen.
Mottau (6-20–26 in 31 games) hails from Thayer Academy. The New England Hockey Report says, “… Mottau has tremendous talent. He’s highly mobile. He has great hands. He’s an excellent stickhandler…. He also has a highly accurate shot — both wrister and slapper.”
Don’t look to find Mottau (6-1, 180) in the BC sin bin very often, though. He totaled a mere 14 PIMs in 31 games.
Poti, a similarly gifted offensive force, has already caught Coach Jack Parker’s eye. Out of BU’s five freshmen, Parker says, “Tom Poti probably looks the best. [He looks] very, very comfortable and [is] a very talented kid…. I consider him the best incoming freshman defenseman [in the league].”
Chris O’Sullivan’s departure leaves an opening (among others) on one point of the Terrier power play. Poti will be a leading candidate to fill that role.
Since Brian Leetch swept not only Rookie of the Year but also Player of the Year honors in 1986-87, BC’s Ian Moran has been the lone blueline winner of the top freshman prize. Poti could be primed to repeat that feat.
Maine’s Cory Larose, UMass-Lowell’s Greg Koehler, and Northeastern’s Billy Newson comprise our third line.
Newson comes to the Huskies from the Hartford Jr. Whalers. Although his scoring statistics were not available, another Newson stat leaps out. He stands a mere 5-8, 165 pounds. Talent, however, often comes in small packages. Such appears to be the case with Newson.
Coach Bruce Crowder likes what he sees in the roadrunner. “He’s got great speed and he sees the ice really well. He’s also a great competitor.”
The Huskies finished last in league scoring last year and then graduated about half of its offense. Newson should be one of the solutions to that problem for Crowder, especially on Northeastern’s large ice surface where he seems destined to blast past opposing defensemen.
Lowell’s Koehler has already gained a measure of fame for his part in Ken Dryden’s Home Game documentary. Koehler (6-2, 195), a twenty-one year old from the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League, tallied 33-64–97 numbers in 49 games last year.
He begins this season centering an all-rookie line with Mario Leblanc and John Campbell on the wings. The line impressed in Lowell’s exhibition opener against Concordia. UML coach Tim Whitehead said of the three, “We are really pleased with how our freshmen [forwards] have come in and played at a higher level.”
Larose, 21, was named BCJHL Playoff MVP for his efforts in leading his Langley squad to the league championship finals. He also posted 28-46–74 numbers in 54 regular season games.
Larose (6-0, 180) opens the season centering what will probably be the Black Bears’ top line. Flanking him will be top goal scorer Shawn Wansborough and a reportedly much improved Steve Kariya, himself a league All-Rookie selection last year. He will also man one of the points during Maine power plays.
Merrimack’s Sandy Cohen, BU’s Chris Heron, and Lowell’s Mario Leblanc form our second line.
Cohen led the Sioux City Musketeers with 27-27–54 numbers during the regular season. He then elevated his game during the playoffs, carrying a sub-.500 team to the semifinals on the shoulders of his ten goals and ten assists in nine games.
He then upped the ante in the US Junior A Hockey National Championship Tournament when he netted seven goals and five assists in three games.
Smart alecks might opine that Cohen will be a “money player” who never gets to play in a “money game” at Merrimack. But Cohen could be just what the Warriors need to get into money games. Merrimack has needed the sniper that could win for them their fair share of the close games and give them a shot at big time games in March. Based on his performance last year, Cohen is the man.
Perhaps we’re nuts to select seventeen-year old Chris Heron (5-10, 168) for our second line. But perhaps we’d be nuts to leave him off. Playing for the Bramalea Blues in the Ontario Provincial Junior A Hockey League, Heron piled up 48-59–107 numbers. Stats like that make one look past the peach fuzz that may or may not be on Heron’s cheeks.
Other, deeper Terrier teams might have had the luxury of redshirting Heron or playing him sparingly while he matured. This Terrier team, however, will look to get an immediate contribution from the highly sought after recruit. It says here they’ll get it.
UMass-Lowell’s Mario Leblanc (17-25–42 in 25 games) played in the second-line shadows while prepping at Cushing Academy. The unstoppable first line of Jason Philbin, Ryan Moynihan, and Nick Gillis, not to mention blue chip blueliner Tom Poti, grabbed most of the headlines. However, at Lowell he is already emerging from his former teammates’ shadows.
As noted previously, he is now paired with our third line selection Greg Koehler and John Campbell to form an impressive All-Frosh line. Since there are only four returning forwards with any scoring totals of significance, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Leblanc, Koehler, and perhaps Campbell manning Lowell’s second powerplay unit.
The New England Hockey Report says that Leblanc (5-11, 190), “has a very good shot and moves the puck well. A strong forechecker, he can hit and take a hit — he has a nasty streak too.”
Our top line can do it all. BC’s Jeff Farkas, BU’s Dan Lacouture, and Providence’s Fernando Pisani provide a mix of playmaking, sniping, and physical play in the corners.
Pisani (6-1, 185), ranked by The Hockey News as the number eight recruit overall, led his St. Albert Saints to an Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) title. An eighth round NHL draft choice, Pisani (6-1, 180) topped the AJHL with a 40-63–103 stat line in 60 games. He also piled up 134 PIMs.
Coach Paul Pooley has begun the season playing Pisani with Russ Guzior and Mike Omicioli, a line that should top any of the Friars’ lines last year.
Lacouture totaled 24-35–59 in 29 games for the Junior Whalers in the East Coast Junior Hockey League. A power forward at 6-3, 193, he was an early second round NHL pick. Lacouture cannot fill the physical void left in the wake of Mike Grier’s departure; only Grier could do that. However, Lacouture could develop into the Mike Pomichter of the late 90’s for BU. In the meantime, he will be the top power forward among league freshmen.
The Hockey News proclaimed that Farkas was the number one recruit in the country. Farkas (5-11, 175) piled up 36-64–100 numbers for the Niagara Falls Scenics out of the Metro Toronto Junior Hockey League. He has not only played on the national Select 16 and 17 teams, he also played in last year’s World Junior tournament and this summer’s Under-20 competition.
Farkas, the latest in a recent parade of blue-chippers to BC, also doubles as our Rookie of the Year selection. He becomes our “Man Who Would Be Reasoner”, a fitting title since they’ll be celebrating wins out of the same Boston College locker room this year.
USCHO All-Hockey East Rookie Team
Forward: Jeff Farkas, Boston College
Forward: Dan Lacouture, Boston University
Forward: Fernando Pisani, Providence College
Defense: Tom Poti, Boston University
Defense: Mike Mottau, Boston College
Goaltender: Alfie Michaud, Maine
Forward: Sandy Cohen, Merrimack
Forward: Chris Herron, Boston University
Forward: Mario Leblanc, UMass-Lowell
Defense: Jayme Filipowicz, New Hampshire
Defense: Andrew Fox, Merrimack
Goaltender: Sean Matile, New Hampshire
Forward: Billy Newson, Northeastern
Forward: Cory Larose, Maine
Forward: Greg Koehler, UMass-Lowell
Defense: Josh MacNevin, Providence College
Defense: Dan Enders, New Hampshire
Goaltender: Marc Robitaille, Northeastern