BU will turn around its 0-4 start and go undefeated the rest of the regular season. But the Terriers won’t finish first because UMass-Amherst will. And Merrimack will win the national championship.
Ya gotta believe. Why?
Heck, if former pro wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura can become the governor of Minnesota, anything can happen.
Gov. Ventura, who now prefers to be called Jesse "The Mind" Ventura, will help us out in our picks this week.
KOHO Players of the Week: Jerry Keefe (F, Providence College) and Jeff Farkas (F, Boston College). Keefe compiled a 3-5–8 scoring line and Farkas 5-1–6 in their teams’ sweeps last weekend.
Heaton Defensive Player of the Week: Jayme Filipowicz (D, New Hampshire). Filipowicz scored the game-winner at UMass-Amherst and anchors a UNH defense that has allowed only 1.75 goals a game.
KOHO Rookie of the Week: Chris Brannen (D, UMass-Amherst) scored the game-tying goal and assisted on the winner in a 3-2 win over Merrimack.
Hockey East Standings
Last week’s record in picks: 6-1
Season’s record in picks: 22-8, .733
No. 8 Notre Dame (6-1-0, 5-1-0 CCHA) at No. 1 Boston College (4-0-0, 2-0-0 HEA)
Friday, 7 p.m., Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, MA
Boston College swept UMass-Lowell, 7-3 and 6-4, last weekend to begin its slate of league games. The two contests both followed the same script. The Eagles jumped out to a first-period lead (4-0 and 2-0, respectively), the River Hawks battled back in the second, and BC regained control in the third.
"Lowell impressed me as a very difficult team to play against," says coach Jerry York. "We were able to capitalize on some power-play opportunities that, coupled with our good start both nights, were keys to the game. But they were tough and hard. It was a physical series."
Leading the scoring was junior Jeff Farkas, who got a hat trick on Friday before "slumping" to two goals and an assist one night later. Farkas finished with a 10-27–37 scoring line last year, but seems to be breaking out this season in a big way.
"This is his third year in Hockey East," says York. "He feels much more comfortable with the pace of the game and the physical part of the game. He has really increased his strength since he came in as a freshman. I certainly think he’s become a very dominant player at this level for us."
The Eagles now take a one-game hiatus from their Hockey East schedule for a marquee matchup against Notre Dame that is bound to attract interest from those who associate BC not with Marty Reasoner but with Doug Flutie.
"It’s an intersectional rivalry with schools that share a lot in common," says York. "We have an annual trophy that we give out, the Lefty Smith-Snooks Kelley trophy. It becomes a special game for us, certainly a rivalry that we look forward to playing."
Although a BC-Notre Dame clash in any sport in any year could be expected to get the competitive juices going, there’ll be a little extra excitement this time. The Fighting Irish, who were still a D-I independent as recently as 1992 and then tried unsuccessfully to compete in the CCHA while giving out only 13 scholarships to everyone else’s 18, come in as the country’s eighth-ranked team.
"Dave Poulin has certainly done an outstanding job in this, his fourth year," says York. "He has the Irish in the top ten in the country. Watching them play on film, they’ve got a team that is deservedly ranked very, very high.
"It should be a very quick, up-tempo game on Friday night. And we’re going to sell it out, too, so there are going to be 7800 people there."
(For the scoop on Notre Dame, see this week’s CCHA Preview by Paula C. Weston.)
PICK: Jesse "The Spectator" Ventura, enraged that he can’t get a ticket, bodyslams a ticket-taker into the turnbuckle. Doug Flutie, who may be smaller than Ventura’s neck, runs a naked bootleg around one turnstile to calm down Ventura and make sure the ticket-taker is okay. BC wins, 5-4.
UMass-Lowell (2-2-0, 1-2-0 HEA) at No. 4 Maine (3-0-0, 0-0-0 HEA)
Friday, Saturday, 7 p.m., Alfond Arena, Orono, ME
Maine comes into this game after a week off.
Not only did the Black Bears not play last week, they were limited to conditioning work without pucks. As a result, coach Shawn Walsh gave his players the weekend off and encouraged many of them to get away and mentally recharge the batteries.
Before the layoff, Maine won the J.C. Penney Classic, which it hosted, by topping Moncton, 5-0, and Union, 6-1. In the process, defenseman Peter Metcalf earned Rookie of the Week honors with a power-play goal and an assist.
"He’s a tremendous offensive player," says Walsh. "He really has great sense. He’s a risk-taker on the ice offensively, which sometimes you have to be. He plays a key spot on our top power-play unit, so I think he’ll end up getting a lot of production this year. We thought he was going to be pretty good, but he’s been everything we thought we were getting."
Also catching some attention, although of another kind, was Brendan Walsh, who sat out last year after transferring from BU. He had a goal and an assist in the title game, but also went to the penalty box four times, prompting cries of, "I told you so!" from those who doubted the kinder, gentler Brendan Walsh.
"He’s been great for us," says Shawn Walsh. "He’s had a profound effect on our team. He takes key faceoffs. He penalty kills. He plays on one of the power-play units.
"Actually, three of his penalties were matching minors and then he drew a couple other penalties. I’ve talked to him about his penalties [in that game], but I think he got a little excited about scoring his first goal in over a year. I think he just got carried away."
With freshman goaltender Mike Morrison tossing a shutout against Moncton, Walsh could choose to split the weekend between Morrison and Alfie Michaud (1.00 GAA, .958 Sv%) or instead opt to give Michaud both nights in light of last week’s inactivity.
"I’m open to either scenario now," says Walsh. "It really depends on how sharp they look in practice. I’m not going to make that decision until late in the week."
The Black Bears will be hosting UMass-Lowell, a team that Walsh had the opportunity to scout when it faced Boston College last weekend. The River Hawks dropped both games, 7-3 and 6-4, but still impressed.
"I liked their resilience and I really liked their forwards," he says. "Their forwards can make plays. They’ve constantly been recruiting guys like this. Guys like [Chris] Bell that aren’t fancy, but can make smart plays. They’re as smart as I’ve seen.
"They’re one of those teams that if you have a defensive breakdown, clearly they’ll take advantage of it. [John] Campbell has improved dramatically and [Anthony] Cappelletti has played well on defense.
"They had goalie problems the one game that I watched and that was the difference in the game. They completely dominated the second period."
The River Hawks definitely represent a bigger challenge than Nebraska-Omaha, Moncton and Union — Maine’s opposition to date.
"They’ll be the best team we’ve played," says Walsh. "What scares me about early in the first game this weekend is that we’re coming from playing nobody last week and pretty easy opposition the first two weeks. But they just got done playing the number-one team in the country. It’s a big difference. In a way, I’m glad we’re home."
UMass-Lowell dropped two to No. 1 Boston College last week, 7-3 and 6-4, to even its record to 2-2-0.
"We definitely learned some things the first night and played much better on Saturday," says coach Tim Whitehead. "Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, but there were a lot of encouraging signs.
"It’s early in the season and it’s important that we keep things in perspective. That’s a real good hockey team we were playing. The important thing was that we got better from one night to the next."
Despite falling behind in both games, the River Hawks battled back with strong second periods before succumbing. For a young team, that can eventually translate into wins even if it didn’t this time against the top team in the country.
"Especially early in the year when you play tough competition like that, you’re going to learn some things about your team," says Whitehead. "That’s one of the things we learned — that there is a no-quit attitude there. That’s important. You need that for the challenges as the year goes on."
Another big positive out of the weekend was the play of freshman goaltender Jimi St. John, who came on in relief of senior Scott Fankhouser the first night and started on Saturday. St. John gave up only two goals on Friday, BC’s fourth and seventh, but got tagged with the loss because the fourth was the game-winner.
"He’s aggressive and he plays with a lot of energy," says Whitehead. "He just competes. That was a good sign. He’s focused out there.
"He has some things he wants to work on. He’s not where he needs to be yet, but it certainly was a real good first weekend for him."
Fankhouser had been Lowell’s top goaltender, but now Whitehead has a decision to make.
"We haven’t decided yet, but we have two guys that we’re confident in," he says. "Scott had a rough game on Friday, but he played three great games to start the season so he’ll be fine. And Jimi had an encouraging start. Either way we go, we’re confident that those guys will do a nice job."
They’ll need to because the River Hawks must now take on the number-four team in the country after having just faced number one.
"They’re similar to Boston College in that they’re a talented team that plays with a lot of tempo," says Whitehead. "We have to be ready to match that intensity when we go into that rink.
"It’s their Hockey East home opener, so there’s going to be a lot of energy there, just like there was at Amherst and at BC. We seem to be the team for home openers this year," he says with a laugh.
"The other thing is that they were off last week and they were able to scout us. They’re going to be healthy and raring to go. We’re going to have to work hard up there."
PICKS: Jesse "The Maine-iac" Ventura can’t get a ticket at Alfond Arena either. Calmer at this rebuff than he was at BC, he offers to trade the Minnesota governorship for a ticket. He gets no takers. The Black Bears are much more fun to watch. Maine 5-3, 4-3.
No. 7 New Hampshire (4-0-0, 1-0-0 HEA) vs.
Providence College (3-1-0, 2-0-0 HEA)
Friday, 7 p.m., Schneider Arena, Providence, RI
Saturday, 7 p.m., Whittemore Center, Durham, NH
New Hampshire defeated UMass-Amherst, 4-1, in its only game last week.
"We played just okay," says coach Dick Umile. "UMass approached the game pretty well. I thought Joe [Mallen] had his team prepared and working hard."
Jason Krog scored two goals in the span of 42 seconds to break the game open late in the second period, prompting Mallen to say, "He’s exceptional. We held him off and held him off and held him off, but finally he got free. We thought we had him just where we wanted him — in the penalty box — but then he came out and scored a goal and just turned the game around."
Since Mallen already has faced both Krog and Michigan State’s Mike York, two top contenders for the Hobey Baker Award, his comparison of the two may be of interest to Wildcat fans.
"They have different styles," says Mallen. "York really moves with a lot of speed and tries to collect the puck and go whereas Krog is the kind of guy who is looking and picking and choosing his spots and then trying to collect the puck. His shooting accuracy is as good as anyone I’ve seen in college hockey in a long time. They’re two great players."
Another Wildcat, junior defenseman Jayme Filipowicz, also earned praise, this time in the form of the Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week award.
"That’s great to see," says Umile. "He’s a big strong kid. He and Stevie O’Brien are two of our leaders back there on defense. I think his size, his presence and his physical ability [make him a top defenseman].
"Our entire defensive group is playing well, especially Filipowicz and O’Brien. They’ve done a real good job for us defensively, controlling the one-on-one situations and the boards in the defensive zone."
With only a Sunday game last week, Umile could scout this week’s opponent, Providence College, during its sweep of Boston University.
"Obviously, Providence has a real good team," says Umile. "They’ve got some pretty good players and [goaltender Boyd] Ballard is playing well for them. I was very impressed with the work ethic of both teams and especially Providence’s power play. They can be a threat on it and obviously have a solid team."
Providence swept BU, 5-4 and 6-4, last week to take an early share of first place in Hockey East. The top line of Jerry Keefe, Mike Omicioli and Fernando Pisani ignited the Friar offense with Omicioli scoring twice on Friday and Keefe getting a hat trick and two assists the following night.
Keefe, the league’s co-Player of the Week for his 3-5–8 line, scored only five goals with 10 assists in an injury-plagued sophomore season, but has always been amongst the most skilled Friar forwards. He seems to have found compatible linemates in Omicioli and Pisani, who have been joined at the hip ever since Pisani’s arrival two years ago.
"We all see the ice well and speed is a real key to our line," says Keefe. "All three of us can use our speed and really work teams down low."
Coach Paul Pooley put the line together at the tail end of last year, but the real dividends didn’t show until this season began.
"I’d thought about putting another type of player on that line, a more physical player, but I put those three together and figured they’d be able to dangle with anyone," says Pooley.
Although BU’s shorthanded woes contributed to the PC man advantage, it now ranks tops in Hockey East with a 30 percent conversion rate.
"Ever since we put Jason Ialongo on the point, we’ve become much more successful on the power play," says Pooley.
As a result, the Friars now ride a three-game winning streak into what should be a defense-minded game with UNH.
PICKS: Jesse "The Body" Ventura bench-presses 5-5, 160-pound Omicioli 50 times and then repeats the feat on UNH’s 5-9, 160-pound Darren Haydar. He proclaims, "UNH will sweep, 3-2 both nights."
Northeastern (2-1-0, 0-0-0 HEA) vs.
Merrimack (11-25-1, 4-20-0 HEA) and No. 8 Notre Dame (6-1-0, 5-1-0 CCHA)
Friday (NU-MC), Saturday (NU-ND), 7 p.m., Matthews Arena, Boston, MA
Tuesday (NU-MC), 7 p.m., Volpe Complex, North Andover, MA
After an off week, Northeastern plays three games in five days starting on Friday.
Is that a good thing? A bad thing?
"We’ll know after the five days," says coach Bruce Crowder with a laugh. "Initially, I didn’t think I was going to like it, but I think we’ve been able to take some time and work on some things that we really needed to work on."
"We’ve got to continually try to improve our special teams from both sides," he says. "Hopefully, that’s going to translate into our game situations on the weekend."
Prior to the layoff, the Huskies shut out Colgate, 2-0, with freshman goaltender Jason Braun (2.33 GAA, .922 Sv%) again getting the nod. Although it’s still too early to pronounce him the ideal replacement for the departed Marc Robitaille, the early returns have been very promising.
"Any time a kid comes in as a freshman, there are going to be some highs and lows," says Crowder. "Right now, he’s been very consistent. He’s an even-keel type of kid. Whether he makes a big save or a goal is scored on him, he’s not getting too high or too low. Obviously, in a goaltender that’s pretty important."
Another rookie, defenseman Jim Fahey, got the game-winner against Colgate on the power play. Fahey, who has a great shot from the point, could become an increasingly important contributor on the man advantage.
"I’m never going to put a lot of pressure on a freshman," says Crowder. "Jimmy had a very good game. He played very well defensively and offensively for us.
"We had two other freshman defensemen — Joe Mancuso and Rich Spiller — who also played extremely well. On defense, we’re almost all freshmen and sophomores, so we’re going to have to be patient with that position and hope that it continues to develop for us."
Northeastern sandwiches its clash against Notre Dame with Friday and Tuesday contests against Merrimack.
"Merrimack is always a hard-working team and I don’t expect anything different now that Chris [Serino] is coaching," says Crowder. "They went out to Union and had a nice win over the weekend, so obviously they got the monkey off their backs in terms of getting a win.
"For us, we’ve got to play our game and get back into game condition as soon as possible on Friday night. It’s our first Hockey East game and it’s important for us to get off to a good start."
Although the game against the Fighting Irish is a nonconference tilt, don’t bet on Crowder playing his personnel any differently than in a league contest.
"It depends on what happens on Friday," he says. "If we play strong on Friday night, we’ll probably go back with the same lineup. If we think we need a few changes, we will.
"It’s nice to have a nonleague game, but obviously Notre Dame is off to a terrific start. They’re in the top ten in the country. It’s going to be a tough contest for us on Saturday night."
Last week, Merrimack lost to UMass-Amherst, 3-2, but got off the schneid against Union in convincing fashion, 5-1.
"I thought we played pretty well," says coach Chris Serino. "At UMass we had complete control of the game, but we took a couple penalties that took us off our game and let them back into it.
"We lost the game, but out of the 60 minutes, we probably played pretty well for about 45. That’s not going to get it done — we need a better effort — but we’re getting better.
"Saturday night at Union, we were as close to staying consistent for 60 minutes as we have all year and the result was a win…. No matter how hard you try, you’ve got to get some results so getting the win was a big load off their minds."
Although Merrimack has a good mix of upperclassmen and younger players, they all are still adjusting to the new systems put in by Serino. As a result, there have been growing pains.
"Most of our mistakes are from systems," he says. "One guy forgets what he’s supposed to do. The other four are doing one thing and he does something else. You’re going to make mistakes, but it just seems like every one we make goes in the net.
"It’s almost like having a whole group of freshmen because they’re all learning. Sometimes it’s even more difficult for guys who have been here for two or three years because they’re used to doing something else. But they’re trying to do the things we ask them to.
"We’ll become a good team when they’re doing those things and incorporating their own talents. Right now, we’re still going from dot-to-dot-to-dot, kind of like coloring by numbers. I don’t think we’re completely comfortable with what we’re doing yet, but they’re getting comfortable and they believe in it."
Sophomore goaltender Tom Welby appears to have taken the top spot, at least for now, from junior Cris Classen, who held it for most of last year until the playoffs. Welby played both games on the weekend.
"I’ve evaluated practices and I’ve evaluated games," says Serino. "I just have the most confidence in him right now and I think the team plays well in front of him. That’s nothing against the other guys, but he’s kind of won the spot."
Injuries have altered the depth chart at some of the other positions. Defenseman Stephen Moon, who was expected to make a big impact after sitting out last year because of some games in major junior, remains sidelined with a patella tendon problem. He has yet to practice this year and is out at least until Dec. 1.
Third-line forward Ron Mongeau is also out after showing strong improvement over last year’s freshman season. As a result, Serino has moved second-line left wing Sandy Cohen to the third unit and fourth-liner Ryan Kiley to the second.
"Kiley gives the second line something they need," says Serino. "They need a little more speed. Sandy Cohen and Jayson Philbin will be scorers for us, I believe, but that line needed a little more speed. So I moved him up there.
"And I didn’t think Cohen was getting the puck enough. He’s a goal-scorer and Clevenger is a right-handed center. I’m not too much on that, but he is right-handed and it is more natural for him to get it to the left wing."
The Warriors now embark on a Friday-Tuesday home-and-home series with Northeastern.
"They’re a grinding type of team," says Serino. "They’ve got some good forwards and a good defense. The problem with us is that we can’t play poorly and win. We’ve got to play at our best to beat anybody.
"Northeastern won a lot of games last year and they know what it is to win. They’re very well coached. It’s going to be a tough game for us. If we don’t play well, we’re not going to win."
(Notre Dame is previewed above in its matchup with BC.)
PICKS: In honor of Notre Dame’s swing to the East, Jesse "The Body" Ventura announces that he’s running for Pope. When onlookers explain that this is impossible, he calmly states that he’ll settle for becoming U.S. President in 2000.
Vice President Al Gore, about to get clotheslined by The Body, picks a Northeastern sweep over Merrimack, 4-3 and 3-2, because he likes the nickname "Huskies" more than "Warriors." In a bid for the Catholic vote, though, he takes Notre Dame over NU, 4-2.
Princeton (0-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) at
Boston University (0-4-0, 0-2-0 HEA)
Friday, 7 p.m., Walter Brown Arena, Boston, MA
Boston University remained winless, getting swept by Providence, 5-4 and 6-4. The Terriers are simply not playing good hockey right now.
As if that weren’t bad enough, take a look at what’s coming up: One game against Princeton this weekend. The Tigers were picked to finish second in the ECAC. Then BU faces two against No. 7 UNH and another two against No. 1 BC.
Unless the Terriers start playing dramatically better, can you spell 0-9? Even if they do start playing dramatically better, they could still be 0-9 considering the opposition.
That likely won’t happen, but right now BU is beating itself with very poor defensive play.
"We continue to be horrible killing penalties," says coach Jack Parker with typical candor. "In general, I thought we made some pretty good strides [on Friday] in the second and third periods in our defensive zone coverage and playing hard. But I thought in the second period [on Saturday] we were absolutely horrible in every phase of coverage and competing.
"It’s as bad an effort as I’ve seen a BU team play in that one period. We seemed to be second-guessing ourselves and were nervous out there and not competing as hard as we should and giving up opportunity after opportunity. They got four goals, but they could have had three or four more.
"I thought some guys had a pretty good effort [on Friday], but we had a lot of guys who did that [on Friday] not be able to come back and do it back-to-back and that hurt us. I couldn’t pick out two guys on our club who played well [both games] other than [goaltender Michel] Larocque, who I thought played real well."
Parker saves his most severe criticism for himself.
"The most disappointing thing is that I’m not doing the job I have to do as far as preparing them to kill penalties," he says. "It’s killing us every single game. Our percentage killing penalties right now must be 50 percent or less. [It’s 54 percent.]
"It’s absurd it’s so bad. And it’s not goaltending; it’s everybody else. Everybody else doesn’t know where they’re going because the coach hasn’t explained it properly….We’re assuming that they know what we’re talking about, but obviously they don’t. We’re going to take a good hard look at how we’re teaching it.
"And a bad change has really killed us in every single game this year. This time it was my fault because I didn’t have people ready.
"The boys are having a hard time and the coach let them down again, both in how we got prepared and not getting these guys on and off the ice properly."
So can the Terriers get back on track against Princeton? Even though ECAC coaches picked the Tigers to finish second, they’re coming off an 11-4 exhibition embarrassment against New Brunswick, the same team that lost to Brown 10-0 one night later. And Princeton’s star forward Jeff Halpern is out, serving a one-game disqualification for intent-to-injure in the New Brunswick fiasco.
"We’ll be jacked up to play the next game, I hope," says Parker. "I don’t think it matters who we’re playing. We’d like to get a couple wins under our belt.
"But we’ve got to get a lot of things straightened out before we play another hockey game, that’s for sure. That’s our charge as coaches, to get this thing technically squared around and emotionally squared around by the time we play Princeton."
(For the scoop on Princeton, see this week’s ECAC Preview by Becky Blaeser and Jayson Moy.)
PICKS: Jack Parker takes one look at Jesse "The Body" Ventura lurking outside his office and says, "We’re 0-4. Get lost!"
Ventura leaves. Not even The Body messes with Jack Parker during a losing streak.
Given Princeton’s pathetic performance against New Brunswick, this is a tough one. Assuming that it was an aberration while BU’s start is not, Princeton wins, 5-4.
Harvard (0-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) at
UMass-Amherst (1-3-0, 1-2-0 HEA)
Sunday, 5 p.m., Mullins Center, Amherst, MA
UMass-Amherst split on the weekend, edging Merrimack, 3-2, before losing to No. 7 UNH, 4-1.
"On Friday, the good thing is that we came from behind," says coach Joe Mallen. "At home, that’s important. We spotted Merrimack a 2-0 lead in the first period, but the kids played with a lot of composure and patience and just tried to peck away at it."
The breaks, which hadn’t gone the Minutemen’s way earlier, did for the game-winner.
"One of the interesting things is that Joey Culgin took a shot, it hit off the post, banked off the back of [Merrimack goaltender] Tom Welby’s leg and went into the net," says Mallen. "Just a week before, [UMass-Lowell’s] Kevin Bertram shot one in overtime that went off Joey Culgin’s leg and into the net and we lost the game. So sometimes the bad things and the good things weigh off against each other."
Against UNH, the Minutemen held tough for most of two periods until Jason Krog scored two back-breakers.
"Within a minute he turned the entire game around," says Mallen. "We’re one of the few teams in the country that has played against [Michigan State’s] Mike York and Jason Krog. In both of those games, each of those guys scored goals that decided the game.
"Krog came out of the penalty box and I don’t think it was even a pass, he just collected [a loose puck] and went in alone and finished real well. Next thing you know, we’re looking back and he really put the game on ice at that point [with another one]."
UMass has no player close to Krog’s stature — not that many other teams do — but is grooming several key younger players who could be contenders for All-Hockey East berths before they are done. One such freshman is defenseman Chris Brannen, who earned Rookie of the Week honors for his game-tying goal and assist on the game-winner against Merrimack.
"This kid is a very good recruit," says Mallen. "He’s a 1980 birth date, so he’s only 18 years old but he’s got maturity. He moves the puck very well. I think he’s very underrated.
"We like what he does. He’s a solid kid with good defensive ability. He’s starting to develop some good offensive instincts. He’s going to be an asset."
This week, the Minutemen will host a Harvard team that is just now swinging into action. While the Crimson might not yet be operating on all cylinders, they are among the most talented teams in the ECAC.
"It’s important for our guys that we don’t take this as just a nonleague game," says Mallen. "This is an important game for us. Obviously, Harvard is a program with a lot of tradition and I have great respect for what they’ve done. It’s a great challenge for us, but we hope to be in a position where we can challenge them."
(For the scoop on Harvard, see this week’s ECAC Preview by Becky Blaeser and Jayson Moy.)
PICKS: Jesse "The Mind" Ventura adopts the pose of Rodin’s "The Thinker" and picks Harvard, 4-3.