This Week in Hockey East: November 14, 1997

Freshmen netminders Boyd Ballard of Providence and Scott Clemmensen of BC shared league Rookie of the Week honors.

On a more depressing note, this column’s 1-900-FAT-HEAD Pick of the Week phone line has been changed to 1-900-CLU-LESS after last week’s 3-6 debacle. After taking the weekend off to be in Ottawa — during which a lowlight was watching Eric Lindros attempt to log 30 minutes of ice time without once breaking a sweat — my return was marred by the copious amounts of egg found on my face. 3-6! Ouch!

Season’s record in picks before last week: 31-6 Last week’s record in picks: 3-6 New season’s record in picks: 34-12

U.S. College Hockey Online Game of the Week

No. 2 Boston University (4-0-0, 2-0-0 HE) vs. No. 7 New Hampshire (5-2-0, 1-2-0 HE)

Friday, 7 p.m., Whittemore Center, Durham, NH Saturday, 7 p.m., Walter Brown Arena, Boston, MA

Boston University took a major step in asserting its preeminence, both in Hockey East, and nationally with a 6-0 shutout of Maine.

One key to the win was another spectacular performance, particularly in the first-period, by goaltender Michel Larocque.

"He played extremely well," said coach Jack Parker. "He made some miraculous saves, but in general he was very, very steady. When a team like Maine gets six power plays, you need great goaltending.

"I don’t think there’s any question that his overall play was a major factor in the win. There was a big difference between our goaltending and their goaltending on this particular night."

The previously noted honors bestowed on Larocque and Noble won’t surprise any stathounds. Both can boast of 1.00 goals-against averages, with Larocque weighing in with a .968 save percentage and Noble at .952.

No goaltender can achieve those numbers without a stellar defense in front of him and BU’s rotation of All-American Chris Kelleher, All-American-in-waiting Tom Poti, Jeff Kealty, Dan Ronan, and freshmen Joe DiPenta and Colin Sheen certainly qualify.

"We think our forte should be, and will be, overall team defense and winning games 4-2, and not 6-5," said Parker.

Up front, the Terriers received encouraging contributions in the Maine game from freshmen Juha Vuori (two goals), Carl Corazzini (one goal), Russ Bartlett (two assists) and Nick Gillis (one assist).

After their first major Hockey East test against Maine, the Terriers now look to a home-and-home with UNH to potentially distance themselves from a top opponent. Although BU took all four games from the Wildcats last year, there’s no guarantee for the Terriers that last year’s success will continue this year.

"If you look at the track record over a long period of time, it should be UNH’s turn," said Parker. "But the bottom line is that it’s like flipping a coin. It’s 50-50 every time. I think that in a lot of those games that we’ve won, the games could have gone either way and we were just fortunate.

"We’ll begin a new series and a new era this year and we’ll see what comes out of it. They certainly are a solid team and they’ve got plenty of firepower up front. We’ll have our hands full, especially up in the Whittemore Center with that big ice surface."

While BU cruised last week, New Hampshire stumbled twice against Boston College,

losing 6-4 in a Tuesday night road game

and again

4-1 on Friday at home,

before bouncing back with an

impressive 11-4 win over Merrimack.

"BC is playing a little better [than us]," said UNH coach Dick Umile, "but Friday night we played well enough to win, believe it or not. We just had a couple major breakdowns in the third period. Combined with our inability to score, that resulted in them getting the three goals [plus an open-netter] to our one.

"I’m not going to take anything away from them playing better. They’ve got some real skilled hockey players there, but we kept them to 18 shots. But then we just let them walk to the net on [Brian] Gionta’s goal. It was poor coverage on our part.

"Then, in four-on-four play, we left the front of the net to run and get the puck and they passed it out in front and tipped it in. That’s pathetic coverage on our part."

As a result, UNH entered the Merrimack game with an 0-2 league record, in danger of digging itself a huge hole in the standings with another loss. Instead, the Wildcats rebounded with four goals in the opening 1:32 of the second period to blow open a 1-1 game in a style reminiscent of last year’s detonators.

"We responded the way I wanted us to respond after Friday night’s loss," said Umile. "We played well on top of Merrimack not playing as well as they’re capable of playing."

The explosion included eight different goal scorers, including two by Dylan Dellezay, a senior with only three prior goals in 39 career games. Breaking up the Mark Mowers-Jason Krog-Tom Nolan line, Umile put Dellezay on a wing with Mowers and Nolan. In one of the sport’s great I’ve-died-and-gone-to-Heaven moments, the unsung hero made a strong bid to keep the experiment alive. "He had a very, very good weekend," said Umile. "He was in the lineup because he’s worked hard and he’s played well in practice. He gives us another player we can use up front there."

Now Wildcat eyes turn to Boston University, who handed them four of the 11 losses they suffered last year.

"I expect BU to do exactly like they’ve done every single year," said Umile. "They’re a solid team from the net out. We’ll have to play well to compete with them."

PICK: BU sweeps, 5-4 and 5-3, not because the Terriers have any magical hex over UNH, but because BU is simply playing so well right now.

Merrimack (4-3-0, 1-2-0 HE) at No. 6 Maine (4-2-1, 2-1-0 HE)

Friday, Saturday, 7 p.m., Alfond Arena, Orono, ME

The league’s most eagerly anticipated game of the year turned into a dud, at least on the scoreboard, when

BU shut out the Black Bears 6-0.

The loss marked Maine’s worst home thumping in 11 years and served as a dramatic counterpoint to last year’s dominating




Maine sweep.

"It was actually a surprising kind of game," said coach Shawn Walsh. "I thought we played perhaps our best period of the year in the first period, had nine good scoring chances to their three and were down 2-0. Hockey can do that sometimes.

"Then BU’s talent, experience and defense just took over. They played very well with the lead after the first period. We had some terrific chances, but Larocque was outstanding. That happens in single games."

Two Terrier goals, in particular, combined to sink the Black Bears. A Greg Quebec shot from near the red line eluded Maine goaltender Alfie Michaud early in the game to establish a 2-0 BU lead. Then, in the closing minutes of the second, Chris Drury scored a shorthanded tally to widen the gap to 3-0 and diminish chances of a comeback.

Especially surprising was BU’s 0-for-6 shutout of Maine’s previously-lethal power play. In their previous games against U.S. Division I clubs, the Black Bears had scored on 48 percent of their man-advantage chances.

"I don’t think we executed well at all and they executed terrifically well," said Walsh. "We had probably too much of our share of puck luck in the first six games and it came back to haunt us. We had nothing — no luck at all — in this game. That happens. You have to look at it over a long period of time."

They now host Merrimack, the only team that beat them in the final 17 games last year. The Warriors not only defeated them, they did so twice.

"I’m sure our guys realize how good Merrimack can be," said Walsh. "They were the best team we played in the second half last year. They didn’t surprise us. They just played well. We’ll work hard this week and just keep trying to get better."

In Merrimack, Maine faces the one team with potentially an even more deeply wounded pride than its own. The Warriors, picked in last week’s column to beat Northeastern and then upset New Hampshire, instead dropped both,

getting stoned by NU goaltender Marc Robitaille, 6-4,


being blown out 11-4 at UNH.

Based on their 4-1 record that included a win over Boston College — a team that has now moved into the top ten — the Warriors had appeared primed for such a move themselves. Instead, the loss to Northeastern effectively canceled out the BC win. With their next four games against Maine and New Hampshire, they could very easily stand 1-6 in the league in two weeks with miles of ground to make up.

Despite that bleak prospect, the Friday night loss to Northeastern, ironically enough, gave some hope that the Warriors could take some points in the next four games. In that loss, they outshot the Huskies 48-27, only to be stymied by Robitaille.

"I thought we played very well," said coach Ron Anderson. "We had 48 shots, but hit a really hot goaltender. We made a couple mistakes and they capitalized on them. We could have won that game and still had a 1-1 weekend.

"Saturday night [against UNH], we were just a team out of gas. We used up so much energy on Friday night trying to win, especially when we fell behind. We really pressed late in that game, so we were just running on empty Saturday night. And UNH played very well."

Nonetheless, the 11-4 loss was hardly the pick-me-up that Anderson would have wanted going into two very tough weekends.

"We’ve just got to make sure that we don’t psychologically take a blow," said Anderson. "It’s up to the coaching staff to make sure that doesn’t happen.

"We expect to be back playing well again this weekend. We’ll reorganize and be ready to go again. Our goal has to be that game in and game out we play our best and give it our best effort."

One obvious key to the game will be to control Maine’s potent power play. The Black Bears had been scoring at a 48 percent clip going into the BU game, only to have BU shut them out.

"Right now, we don’t know what they’re doing on the power play," said Anderson. "We haven’t seen them yet, so we can’t say how we’ll kill penalties. The best way for us to kill them is not to take any."

PICK: Maine won’t allow a repeat of last year. Black Bears 6-4, 5-4.

No. 9Boston College (6-1-0, 3-1-0 HE) vs.

Northeastern (3-3-0, 2-1-0 HE)

Friday, 7 p.m., Matthews Arena, Boston, MA Saturday, 7 p.m., Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, MA Harvard (0-1-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) at Boston College (4-1-0, 2-1-0 HE)

Tuesday, 7 p.m., Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, MA

Boston College vaulted into the top ten on the heels of its




sweep over UNH and now ranks higher than it has since Feb. 24, 1991.

"We’re very excited about the start that we’ve had to our season," said coach Jerry York. "We’ve won six of our first seven games. The two most recent ones against New Hampshire certainly met key objectives for us, and that was to beat those upper-echelon teams that we really have had some problems with the last number of years.

"I thought our two wins were keyed by the exceptional play by Scott Clemmensen in goal, and Marty Reasoner and Brian Gionta, who were significant offensive contributors. They had the puck an awful lot all during the series.

"I also thought our defense played well, especially Kenny Hemenway and Brendan Buckley, who really did a nice job for us."

Now the Eagles must focused against a team that has already proven it can knock off strong opponents. At times, young BC teams of recent vintage have taken such games for granted. How well the Eagles fare in this series will show a lot about the mental toughness of a team that could be tempted to re-read last week’s headlines.


upset Merrimack, 6-4,

before coming back to Earth with a 7-2 loss to UMass-Lowell.

"We got some really good goaltending both games, especially against Merrimack on Friday," said coach Bruce Crowder. "We were able to explode and make the most of our opportunities. Unfortunately, it was like a different team showed up the second night. We didn’t compete real well and Lowell handed to us pretty good.

"With the youth that we have," — frequently skating only three juniors or seniors — "we’re going to have rollercoaster weekends. We played decent on Friday night, though not real great, but then Saturday night I didn’t think we played well at all. It’s a matter for us as coaches eliminating the ‘not playing well at all’ and getting that to more of ‘playing pretty good’ or ‘real good.’"

For the third time this season, the Huskies won a game in the third period.

"That’s nice to see," said Crowder. "We’re only six games into the season, but we’ve come from behind or won three games in the third period. That never happened last year, so that’s a big positive."

Crowder is getting strong contributions from his two transfers, forward Bobby Davis, who came in from Northern Michigan, and defenseman David Dupont, who made the switch from Michigan Tech.

"They’re both playing well," said Crowder. "They’re obviously real hungry because they haven’t played in a year. In our situation, even though they practiced with us last year, they’re still a little bit like freshmen. We’ve got to utilize their talents to put them in situations where they can be successful."

The host of freshmen have also gotten off to strong starts.

"Most of our freshmen have gotten on the scoreboard early here," said Crowder. "It’s nice to get that off your back a little and realize that, ‘Hey, I can play at this level!’ and then hopefully get stronger and better."

The Huskies now face Hockey East’s latest top ten team, Boston College.

"Lucky us!" said Crowder with a laugh. Then, getting serious, he added, "Whenever the Boston schools play each other, anything can happen. We’re going to have to be pretty much error-free on the weekend. We can’t get overly excited, but stay within the system.

"BC is getting some good goaltending and some great offense from guys that should be giving them the offense. If anything, their defense is young, but going against one of the best offensive teams in the country [in UNH] definitely didn’t show that it was their Achilles’ heel."

Following the weekend, BC takes on Harvard in a Tuesday night clash. Last week, the Crimson split their first two games of the season. Reigning ECAC Rookie of the Year, goaltender J.R Prestifilippo, allowed an uncharacteristic five goals each game. In the more egregious performance, he allowed them on only 23 Cornell shots, leading to a 5-2 loss.

The Crimson bounced back with a 6-5 win over Colgate with Prestifilippo this time turning away 37 of 42 shots.

(For a more detailed look at Harvard from an ECAC perspective, check out this week’s ECAC Preview.)

PICK: If the Eagles take the NU series for granted — something easy to do, sandwiched between the twin UNH upsets and next week’s two against Maine — they will only split. It looks from here, though, that BC will be ready. BC 5-4, 5-2.

BC then completes its tripleheader sweep with a 4-1 win over Harvard.

UMass-Lowell (4-2-0, 2-1-0 HE) at UMass-Amherst (1-4-0, 0-3-0 HE)

Friday, 7 p.m., Mullins Center, Amherst, MA

Providence College (3-2-0, 0-2-0 HE) at Army (2-4-0, 0-4-0 vs. aligned D-I)

Friday, 7 p.m., Tate Rink, West Point, NY

UMass-Amherst (1-4-0, 0-3-0 HE) at

Union (1-5-0, 1-1-0 ECAC)

Saturday, 7 p.m., Lawrence H. Achilles Rink, Schenectady, N.Y.

UMass-Lowell (4-2-0, 2-1-0 HE) at

Providence College (3-2-0, 0-2-0 HE)

Sunday, 2 p.m., Schneider Arena, Providence, RI

After flirting with disaster in a

2-1 overtime win over Army , UMass-Lowell came back with a more impressive 7-2 win over Northeastern.

"It was definitely a good team effort," said coach Tim Whitehead. "A lot of people contributed. Specifically, it was great to get production from our so-called second power-play unit, which," Whitehead added laughing, "is now our first power-play unit."

That group, which includes freshmen Jeff Boulanger and Brad Rooney, sophomores Chris Bell and Kevin Bertram, and junior Anthony Cappelletti, exemplifies the contributions the River Hawks are getting from their youngsters. They scored twice on the man advantage and Boulanger added an even-strength and a shorthanded goal. Another rookie, T.C. Harris, added another goal, his first as a collegian. Freshmen and sophomores recorded all seven tallies.

Now, Lowell travels to Amherst to play its rival sister school. The two met in the season opener, with

UMass-Lowell winning 6-4 at home.

Few rinks, however, offer a bigger difference than Lowell’s small ice surface and the Olympic sheet in Amherst.

"They’re very strong in their own rink there," said Whitehead. "We have an advantage in our rink and they have one in theirs. We’re aware of that. We just have to be careful of turning the puck over in the neutral zone, making sure that we support the puck offensively and defensively. There’s so much space there that you kind of get lost if you don’t support each other."

UMass-Amherst traveled to the Midwest where it split with the upstart Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks, getting its first win of the season, 3-2, before dropping the back end, 5-1.

"I tell you one thing," said coach Joe Mallen. "They get the place going. They get 8500 people every night. They are a very hard-working team. They’ve got a lot of transfer students, so they don’t exactly have the same sort of makeup that we had a few years ago with an all-freshman team.

"I thought we played very well the first night and wound up at least breaking the ice and getting into the win column. The second night they got a lead on us and the crowd got into the game."

One positive did come out of the loss, however. Mallen installed freshman goaltender Marcus Helanen in the nets for his first official game action. Helanen, who stopped 31 of 36 shots, is expected to succeed senior Brian Regan next year.

"We decided to give him a shot and see what he could do after Brian Regan played the night before," said Mallen. "He looked real good. He’s a big 6-4 kid. He’s got good hands, good feet, and he handles the puck well. He definitely showed some real good signs."

There’s no start of a netminding controversy here, though.

"Regan is definitely my number one guy," said Mallen. "There’s no doubt about that."

Like Whitehead, Mallen points to his home ice advantage as substantial.

"Playing at Lowell and playing at UMass are just two different scenarios," said Mallen. "They have a real, real small rink and we’ve got a real, real big rink. We’re looking for it to be a different game. Playing at their home is an advantage to them and playing at our home is an advantage to us. We’re looking to utilize our speed on our big ice surface.

The Minutemen will then go on to play Union, a team that still features All-American goaltender Trevor Koenig, but graduated 13 seniors last year.

"They’ve got a young team, a hard-working team," said Mallen. "They block a lot of shots. With Koenig, like against any good goalie, you’ve got to work on the stuff that’s going to beat him, maybe not the first shot but the rebounds, the tip-ins and the screens. Those are things that we’ll have to work on this week in practice."

(For a more detailed look at Union from an ECAC perspective, check out this week’s ECAC Preview.)

Last week, Providence ventured to Minnesota-Duluth and came away with a

6-5 win in overtime


a 3-0 shutout.

The sweep marked the first time a nonconference foe has swept a weekend in Duluth since 1986.

After conference losses to Northeastern and Maine sandwiched a 5-4 overtime win over Union, the trip proved the perfect elixir for the Friars.

"It was a good experience for us," said coach Paul Pooley. "We really pulled together the first night after coming out a little sluggish, and maybe needed a little confidence boost."

After falling behind 2-0, the Friars bounced back and held the lead into the final minute only to have Duluth knot the game on a penalty shot. Despite the deflating goal, PC scrambled back for the win in overtime on a shot that went in with a fraction of a second remaining.

"We’ve shown resilience the last couple years to fight back through things like that," said Pooley. "We were down 2-0 in the first five minutes of the game and fought back too. I think our team may just be growing up a little bit, in the sense of trying to keep things in perspective. It was a real good confidence-builder."

Saturday’s shutout earned freshman goaltender Boyd Ballard co-Rookie of the Week honors and gave the Friars their first winning record of the year.

"One of the things I liked," said Pooley, "was that after the first period we were up 2-0, and I said, ‘Listen, we’re not playing that well. How many guys think we’re playing well?’ Not one guy raised his hand. Everyone said that we could do better. We went out and played a really good second and third period."

Now the Friars travel to West Point for a game against an Army team that is playing close-but-no-cigar hockey. Last week, the Cadets

fell 2-1 in overtime to UMass-Lowell,

its second overtime loss of the young season. Their top line of 6-3 Andy Lundbohm, 6-1 Greg Buckmeier and 6-3 Jon Toftey is always a threat and goaltender Daryl Chamberlain has stolen more than a couple games in his four years.

Although Division I independents frequently get little credit, Pooley is not about to let his team be lulled into overconfidence.

"Look at what Mankato State is doing," he said, referring to the independent that now sports a 4-3-1 record against teams from the four major conferences. "They’re beating up on some teams that just say, ‘Hey, we’re going in for our two points and then get out of here.’

"Going down to Army is a big test because they play with so much emotion and hard work. We have to really make sure that we’re ready to play."

PC then returns home to host UMass-Lowell on Sunday afternoon. Providence swept last year’s regular season series with the River Hawks, only to see Lowell pay them back with interest with a Hockey East quarterfinal sweep to get to the FleetCenter.

"That’s a dangerous hockey club," said Pooley. "They’ve got some really good players, they play well as a team and their goaltending is solid. It’s going to be a Hockey East battle where we have to make sure that we’re ready to play, work hard and execute what we want to do."

>From Lowell’s perspective, Whitehead definitely noticed what the Friars achieved in Duluth and knows his team is catching a hot opponent.

"It’s a good job any time you make a Western swing and win two in somebody else’s rink," he said. "Obviously, they’ve got it going and they’re a strong team. It was a real good rivalry last year, so I’m sure it’ll be a hard-fought game."

PICKS: UMass-Lowell takes two on the road, 4-3 over both UMass-Amherst and Providence. The Minutemen gain a weekend split, defeating Union 3-2, as do the Friars, 5-2 over Army.