This Week in Hockey East: October 30, 1998

Their own John Campbell took Player of the Week honors with two goals and two assists against the Engineers and an assist against the Minutemen.

Maine Black Bear defenseman David Cullen earned the Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week award for the second time in two weekends of action. He’s looking poised for the kind of national attention that has eluded him to date.

And Drew Omicioli, Mike’s younger, "big" (5-10) brother started earning a name for himself at Providence, scoring twice and taking the Rookie of the Week award.

Last week’s record in picks: 7-5 Season’s record in picks: 16-7, .696

No. 1 Boston College (2-0-0, 0-0-0 HEA) vs.

UMass-Lowell (2-0-0, 1-0-0 HEA)

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

Saturday, 7 p.m., Paul E. Tsongas Arena, Lowell, MA

Boston College is returning to its first significant game action since winning the Ice Breaker Invitational three weeks ago. There was an 8-0 massacre of the University of Toronto back on Oct. 16, but it’s hardly a tuneup when you outshoot a team 52-5, including a 27-1 margin in one period.

As a result, the Eagles could be rusty heading into this weekend, but coach Jerry York prefers to see the positives of the time off.

"I think it gives us more of a chance to work on our club," he says. "We are working on our strengths and weaknesses, but we’re all anxious to get going.

"We’ve had a good start. We want to take each month as a segment of our season. We’re really focused on being a good October team, and I think we’re started along that line."

Although weaknesses may be hard to find on this squad, one strength is apparent.

"I think we’re going to skate very well as a team," says York. "I’ve always tried to incorporate that into the teams I’ve coached, because skating is so important. I think clearly we skate very well and now we’ve just got to mesh as a team. We need games to do that."

York is bringing his three top freshmen — defenseman Brooks Orpik and forwards Jeff Giuliano and Ales Dolinar — along slowly, expecting his upperclassmen to carry the load. Even so, Orpik and Giuliano are part of the team’s top pairings, Giuliano with All-American Brian Gionta and Andy Powers up front and Orpik with All-American Mike Mottau.

"With all three, and particularly Brooks, it’s all still very early for us," says York.

Dolinar joins Nick Pierandri and Matt Mulhern on a checking line.

"Ales is more of a defensive player at this stage," says York. "He’s checking well and I think his offense will come as the season progresses."

UMass-Lowell is one of the surprises of the league, actually garnering votes in the U.S. College Hockey Online Poll after squeaking out a 4-3 win in overtime over UMass-Amherst and then pummeling Rensselaer 8-4. The River Hawks had been picked to finish seventh in Hockey East by league coaches and, ahem, eighth by this writer.

When coach Tim Whitehead said in the

UML Season Preview that he wasn’t worried about generating offense this year, it potentially seemed like whistling past the graveyard in light of some big losses.

But Whitehead is getting offense not only from expected places like Chris Bell and Jeff Boulanger, but also from five players who mustered no more than three goals all last year. Craig Brown, who only had one last year, already has scored twice and had a great assist on Lowell’s crucial tying goal at Amherst. Anthony Cappelletti, who had three all last year, has two in the two games. Kevin Bertram (three last year), Kyle Kidney (three) and Jeremy Kyte (none) have all scored big goals.

"We don’t have any big superstars on our team," says Whitehead. "We’re definitely just a hardworking team….We’re going to need contributions from everybody.

"For us to be successful this year, we’re going to need everyone playing well and people rising to the occasion that maybe had an off game the night before."

More of the UML offense is coming from grinding play — driving to the net, deflections and rebounds — than from highlight-film individual efforts.

"That’s exactly what we’re trying to do," says Whitehead. "If we’re going to be successful this year, it’s going to be as a team. Our players know that."

Six of Lowell’s 12 goals have come on a power play that has converted 35 percent of its chances so far.

"We’re not trying to doing anything special," says Whitehead. "We’re trying to keep it simple, in fact. A lot of times, that’s the best approach. You’ve just got to outwork the other team and shoot the puck. Fortunately, they’ve gone in for us."

The wins have come at an opportune time since Lowell’s next four games are against BC and Maine, the number one and three ranked teams in the country.

"Any win is important…but we have some new faces and some young veterans so it was good for them to know that on any given night, we can beat anybody," says Whitehead. "It was important for us."

PICKS: Lowell may be a lot better than people expected this year, but BC is still BC. Eagles sweep, 5-3 and 4-3.

Boston University (0-2-0, 0-0-0 HEA) vs.

Providence College (1-1-0, 0-0-0 HEA)

Friday, 7 p.m., Schneider Arena, Providence, RI

Saturday, 7 p.m., Walter Brown Arena, Boston, MA

Boston University lost one of its ugliest games in a long, long time, 8-6 to Vermont. BU fans who might have recorded the TV broadcast have no doubt already taped over the game with something more pleasant, like a documentary on dental surgery or reruns of Green Acres.

The Terriers surrendered a goal with 0.9 seconds left in first and another with 2.7 seconds left in second.

"When you give up goals at the beginning of the period or the end of the period, it’s demoralizing," says coach Jack Parker.

Perhaps even more demoralizing, though, was seeing BU’s one star player, goaltender Michel Larocque, play poorly. "Rocco" was expected to be the one stabilizing force on a team that might struggle to find its offense and would be breaking in three new defensemen. Instead, he gave up six goals on 14 shots over the first two periods before getting the hook, including three in the span of 3:05.

"I don’t think he’s really been on yet this year so far," says Parker. "I don’t think he’s looked like our Michel Larocque….I don’t think it’s so much save percentage or bad goals or good goals.

"Even his body language just seems to be a little off. He had some problems, but we created some problems for him too."

One unexpected problem is a broken wrist to freshman defenseman Pat Aufiero, who suffered the injury during practice. He is expected to be out for 4-6 weeks.

With Joe DiPenta returning from a broken ankle, the thin BU defense finally was returning to full strength for the first time. Now, however, Aufiero could be out until after Christmas. Fortunately, he can still skate while the injury heals so he should have his legs when he does return.

The Terriers now stand at 0-2 for only the second time in Parker’s tenure. (In 1976-77, they lost their first five games, but finished with a 22-11-1 record and went to the NCAA Final Four. In 1986-87, they posted a 19-15-3 mark.)

As the 1976-77 outcome shows, it’s too early to panic on Babcock Street, but this weekend is as big as it gets in October. Following these games with Providence and a nonconference tilt with Princeton next week, the Terriers face series with New Hampshire and Boston College. If things don’t go well this weekend, it could get ugly.

Providence split a weekend with the CCHA, blowing leads in a 5-3 loss to Miami before rallying back with a 7-2 win over Lake Superior State.

"I thought the games went very similar," says coach Paul Pooley. "We played pretty well against Miami for the first 30 minutes. I thought we got to the point against Miami where we should have done the same thing [we did to Lake Superior], but we let them back in and our specialty teams weren’t as good."

In the Miami game, the Friar power play got shut out while the PK gave up three goals. Against Lake State, though, the Friars had the better of the specialty teams.

"We were up, 2-0, just like against Miami and had trouble scoring, even though we were all over them," says Pooley. "And then we took a couple penalties. But this time, we killed them off and got the third goal.

"It was a learning process for us, having had a game in control and letting it get away from us and then the next night almost trying to let it get away a little bit again, but we fought through and got the goal we needed."

So are the Friars catching BU at the right time or at the wrong time?

"I don’t think it’s ever a good time to catch BU," says Pooley. "They’ve lost a lot of people and are trying to put it together, but it’s going to be a very, very difficult game for us. They’ve got four solid lines and their goaltending has been very good in the past."

PICKS: BU could very easily get swept this weekend, but from this seat it looks like each team will hold serve. BU doesn’t get off the schneid at Schneider, losing 3-2, but gets in the win column at Walter Brown, 4-2.

Merrimack (0-2-0, 0-0-0 HEA) at

UMass-Amherst (0-2-0, 0-1-0 HEA) and

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

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

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

Merrimack lost two to St. Lawrence, 4-1 and 6-3, last weekend.

"At times, we played very well and at times we played very poorly," says coach Chris Serino. "We gave up [five] power-play goals for the weekend. At times, our shorthand was immense and we didn’t allow a shot. But every time we allowed a shot, they put it in the net. That hurt us.

"We took a lot of foolish penalties that really hurt us. We don’t have the firepower to be shorthanded that long. And some of our top players took the penalties, so they were out of the game for long periods of time."

Nowhere was the Warriors’ inconsistency more noticeable than in the first game, where they dominated the first period and took a 1-0 lead only to lose, 4-1.

"We outshot them 21-14, [including 15-3 after nine minutes,] and then got away from our game in the second period for whatever reason," says Serino. "We’ve just got to keep working on the things we’ve been working on. You’re never going to do everything right for the whole game, but it’s got to be 80-20 rather than 40-60."

Serino has tried to emphasize defense to a team that was dreadful in its own end last year, but the message seemed to be lost the first night when Merrimack allowed 40 shots to a team that had been outshot 50-24 and 31-14 in its previous two games. The Warriors did get their defensive act together the next night, though, when they allowed a more reasonable 26 shots.

"We were playing so well in the first period on Friday and were really going on the offense that, in a way, it hurt us," says Serino. "We forgot about defense and thought we could just control the play.

"The second night, we stayed more to our plan and the kids committed themselves to playing defense. That’s something that as coaches we’ve got to demand, because we’re not that good a team that we can get into wide-open shootouts."

Merrimack opens this weekend on at the road at UMass-Amherst, which also stands 0-2.

"For us, it’s not about who we play but about how we play," says Serino. "We can be beat by anybody when we’re not playing. We have to play our best to beat anybody, whether it’s UMass-Amherst or BC.

"What we’re striving for is to play our best. I’m not naive enough to be looking at major wins and losses right now. I’m looking at improvement. When we get to a point where we’re playing consistently, then we’ll look at the wins and losses."

One night later, the Warriors travel to Union, where the nonconference match-up might allow Serino to opt for some new faces in the lineup.

"It’s unfair to my players not to see some of these guys in a game before I make a decision on who will be our final players and who won’t," says Serino. "I’m glad we have these nonleague games so we can try that.

"But it gets to a point where you have to win a game here or there too so the confidence levels build up. It’s a fine line we’re walking, but we are still trying to find out who’s going to play."

UMass-Amherst lost a heart-breaker to Lowell, 4-3 in overtime last week. The Minutemen held a 3-2 lead with three minutes left and was on the power play, but surrendered a two-on-one goal and then a ricochet score in OT.

"When you get the lead late in the third period, you’ve got to find a way to hold onto it," says coach Joe Mallen. "They go off on a two-on-one late in the game and there’s no need for it. At the end of regulation and in overtime, those are the times that you really have to play well defensively. We had some letdowns in those areas and it cost us the game."

On the plus side, sophomore goaltender Marcus Helanen continued his strong play and the three sophomore forwards who will lead the offense — Jeff Turner, Kris Wallis and Nick Stephens — all scored.

"I’m a little concerned about where our offense is coming from," says Mallen. "Every coach in hockey basically wants to score three or more and give up three or less. I thought we were in a position to do that. With Stephens and Wallis scoring in the third period and putting us in the lead, that’s a good optimistic positive sign.

"I still think the nucleus of our team is that sophomore class: Wallis, Turner, Stephens, [R.J.] Gates and, one year ahead of them, [Nathan] Sell and [Jeff] Blanchard. Those are the guys that are going to have to score goals for us."

The Merrimack contest is the second of five consecutive league games played at the Mullins Center.

"The home games are good for us right now," says Mallen. "The guys play good at home. They play tough at home. These are good opportunities for us to get the ball rolling and the sooner we get the ball rolling, the better."

For the lowdown on Union, see this week’s ECAC Preview by Becky Blaeser and Jayson Moy (aka "Becky and the Boatanchor").

PICKS: Before the season started, this looked like a W for Merrimack, but not now. UMass-Amherst is playing much better than expected and Merrimack isn’t operating on all cylinders yet. Minutemen, 3-2.

The Warriors get one in the win column against Union, however, 4-2.

No. 8 New Hampshire (3-0-0, 0-0-0 HEA) at

UMass-Amherst (0-2-0, 0-1-0 HEA)

Sunday, 5 p.m., Mullins Center, Amherst, MA

New Hampshire defeated Lake State, 5-2, and Miami, 4-1, in impressive fashion last week.

"I’m thrilled," says coach Dick Umile. "It was a great weekend. I think we gave up 25 shots for the weekend. The team played very, very well."

Steve O’Brien, one of the leaders on the blue line, commented after the game on UNH’s stifling defensive play.

"We have a system that we stick by all the way," he said. "When it comes down to one-on-one battles, we physically take over.

"We have the same guys on D [as last year], but everybody has improved. The forwards are coming back hard. They’re picking up their guys late so we can just play the guys one-on-one straight up."

Umile sees more maturity in the defensive group that returned intact from last season.

"We were young last year on defense with three freshmen, three sophomores and a couple juniors," he says. "And we went to the Final Four. These guys are older, they’re more experienced, they’re stronger and we have everybody back."

Ty Conklin, who sat out last year after transferring from Alaska-Anchorage, stopped all but one shot against Miami and this year could be more than just Sean Matile’s heir apparent.

"We knew Ty was a good goaltender," says Umile. "With Ty Conklin and Sean Matile, I’m feeling really good with our goaltending. I’m real happy for him. He sat out the year, got his first start, is a terrific kid, and proved that he’s a terrific goalie."

Miami coach Mark Mazzoleni, when asked about how Jason Krog stacked up against top CCHA players, said, "He’s a real dynamic player. I think the thing is that they’re going to have to get some guys to play with him, too. You can see that without [Derek] Bekar and [Mark] Mowers around there. The one kid on the right side [Chad Onufrechuk] is a pretty good player and they played a freshman [Matt Dzieduszycki] up with them.

"But when you go against the top, top teams, they’re going to throw a few juniors and seniors at you and it’s [a question of] how much help he’s going to get out there. He’s a force within himself, but it’s difficult to do it [alone]."

While Dzieduszycki is likely to be a much more important part of the offense than Mazzoleni expects on just one viewing, Umile has attempted to distribute the scoring rather than pack it all on Krog’s line.

This weekend, that worked to go effect with Jason Shipulski scoring three goals and adding an assist from the third line while John Sadowski added a goal and assist from the second. The two scored only 15 points and 10 points last year, respectively, playing together.

"They were the first to say at the end of last season that they wanted to do a better job," says Umile. "They’re becoming the upperclassmen and the leaders. We’ve got the guys split up. The goal was to spread out the scoring and it’s happening.

"We’ve got good enough offense to win games and I think we’re real strong defensively. But it’s early."

(UMass-Amherst is previewed above in its matchup with Merrimack.)

PICKS: UNH continues to pour it on defensively, winning 4-1.

Thanks to Scott Weighart for his contributions to this preview.