On the bright side, Maine and Merrimack had great weekends, sweeping series with other Hockey East foes.
On the sobering side, Black Bear alum Jeff Libby
sustained a terrible eye injury in a recent Lowell Lock Monsters (AHL) game. Our thoughts are certainly with him.
Hockey East Player of the Month: Mike Mottau (D, Boston College) ranked among the league scoring leaders in October with an 0-8–8 scoring line while anchoring BC’s defense.
Heaton/Hockey East Goalie of the Month: Alfie Michaud (Maine) went 3-0-0 in October with a 1.00 goals-against average and a .958 save percentage.
KOHO Player of the Week: Dan Kerluke (F, Maine) scored two late goals to lead the Black Bears to a 3-2 OT win over UMass-Lowell on Friday.
Heaton Defensive Player of the Week: Boyd Ballard (G, Providence College) made 63 saves in PC’s split with No. 8 New Hampshire.
KOHO Rookie of the Week: Mike Pandolfo (F, Boston University) achieved BU’s first hat trick since his brother Jay four years ago.
Hockey East Standings
Jesse "The Mind" Ventura’s record in picks last week: 5-5 Season’s record in picks without Gov. Beefcake: 22-8, .733 Season’s record in picks with Gov. Beefcake: 27-13, .675
No. 2 Boston College (4-0-1, 2-0-0 HEA) vs.
Northeastern (2-4-0, 0-2-0 HEA)
Friday, 7 p.m., Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, MA
Saturday, 7 p.m., Matthews Arena, Boston, MA
In Boston College’s only action, the Eagles came back to tie Notre Dame, 5-5, in an exhilarating display of college hockey at its best.
"It was a game of ebb and flow," says coach Jerry York. "We weren’t sharp in the second period, but it was good for our club to be down, 5-2, and come back like that."
After a lot of empty seats and low decibel counts in Conte Forum during the Eagles’ down years, the building was certainly rocking in the clash with the Irish.
"In my five years here, it was the loudest and most vocal the crowd has been," says York. "That really fueled the comeback."
Chris Masters, an excellent faceoff man and defensive forward, also helped fuel the comeback with the tide-turning third and fourth goals. Masters centers the third line with Kevin Caulfield on one wing and Tony Hutchins on the other. Although the scoring that came from their line was a welcome bonus, its job is usually to wear the other team out by cycling the puck and grinding down low.
"Taking nothing away from our line, the skill on our first two lines is unbelievable," says Masters. "They’re just dynamite players.
"On our line, it’s a combined weight of 645 pounds — 220, 215 and 210. We’ve got a lot of beef so as long as we can get the puck down low and move it on their D and just wear them down, not only are good things going to happen for us, but also in the last half of the game and especially the end of the third period, it lets [Brian] Gionta and [Jeff] Farkas and those guys wheel right around them because they’re so tired."
The one potential negative for the Eagles in the tie was giving up three goals during seven Notre Dame power plays. Two of them came on a five-on-three sequence.
"You just can’t put yourself in that situation too often and for a long stretch," says York. "They had a five-on-three in the first period, too. I was more concerned with our taking penalties rather than our killing them, because good teams are going to score goals against you [in that situation]."
Northeastern is picking a tough time to take on the nation’s number-two team, having just lost three games in five days. Merrimack’s 5-4 and 4-3 wins over NU (the latter in overtime), sandwiched a 4-3 Husky loss to Notre Dame.
Against the sixth-ranked Irish, Northeastern at least looked good in defeat.
"We were a lot better hockey team [against Notre Dame] than [against Merrimack]," says coach Bruce Crowder. "We played hard and physical for three periods. The result wasn’t there that we wanted, but as far as I’m concerned it was a totally different hockey team out there.
"I loved their work ethic….Anything could happen this year. If I can get them to play like this, we’re probably going to win more than we’ll lose."
Notre Dame’s major contributions from its four seniors underscored the absence of a single such upperclassman in the Northeastern lineup.
"We’re playing with 17 freshmen and sophomores," says Crowder. "You need leadership in the senior position a lot of times to really get the success that you want.
"I look at some of the past teams that I’ve had. The seniors all came to the forefront, the [Jeff] Daws, the [Christian] Sbroccas, the [Brendan] Concannons.
"We’re young and we have to be patient. It takes time. We surprised a lot of people [last year]. I don’t mind expectations being high, but we have to be realistic."
Goaltender Scott Sutton saw his first action in the Irish tilt and performed well, stopping 29 of 33 shots.
"We’ve got to see what we’ve got," says Crowder. "We threw him in the frying pan against Notre Dame and he came out with pretty good marks."
On the down side, defensemen Mike Jozefowicz and Arik Engbrecht both missed the game with injuries and team sparkplug Billy Newson went down in the third period with a second-degree shoulder sprain. Jozefowicz and Engbrecht also missed the Tuesday game against Merrimack, but will probably play this weekend.
Newson, however, is out for a minimum of three weeks. His loss is a major one for a team whose offense depends heavily on its first line.
The Huskies followed the encouraging loss to Notre Dame, however, with a second poor performance against Merrimack. And it cost them.
"We just got beat," says Crowder. "From about the 10-minute mark on to the overtime winner, we didn’t accomplish a whole lot. Merrimack turned the tide and dominated the game.
"Do I have the exact, number-one answer [for what’s wrong]? No. It’s a combination of a lot of things. We’ve come up with different excuses here and there, but the bottom line is that we just didn’t compete and Merrimack did. They deserved the win.
"We continued to take questionable penalties. We had five in a row called against us. Whatever flow you have, that just kills it.
"We’re going to go through some highs and lows this year with our youth and this was one of those nights that hopefully we’ll learn from and will help us down the road."
To get back on track, all the Huskies must do is take on Boston College.
"Obviously, we’re very concerned about BC, but we’ve got some things that we’re concerned about within this team," says Crowder. "We’ve got to try to find some things out.
"If you’re going against the number-one or -two team in the country, you’ve got to come out and compete. Are we projected to sweep them? I don’t think so.
"We’ve got to get back to basics and play smart percentage hockey. We’ve found ways to lose the last few games. A lot of little things. Not getting the puck out. Not doing the clears properly. It’s a bunch of things.
"Obviously I’m very disappointed and I am concerned, but I’m not overly worried about it. We’ve got a great bunch of kids and they’re going to rebound."
PICKS: Tough sledding for the Huskies. BC sweeps, 5-2 and 4-2.
No. 4 Maine (5-0-0, 2-0-0 HEA) at
UMass-Amherst (1-4-0, 1-2-0 HEA)
Friday, Saturday, 7 p.m., Mullins Center, Amherst, MA
Maine swept UMass-Lowell, 3-2 (in OT) and 5-2, to maintain its unblemished record and pick up its first Hockey East wins.
"We’re certainly pleased to get four points, but it was a deceptive four points," says coach Shawn Walsh. "Lowell played very well and both games could have gone in either direction."
After opening the season against Nebraska-Omaha, Moncton and Union — teams that aren’t highly regarded this year — the Lowell series began to provide a better barometer of the Black Bears’ strengths and weaknesses.
"I’m not worried about rankings as much as trying to improve on areas that we need to improve on," says Walsh. "We’ve had some of them exposed this weekend to me.
"We gave up some two-on-ones on Saturday night that we can’t keep giving up."
"We also need to get more production out of some lines that haven’t scored as much. All the lines created chances, though. In general, it was good to play a Hockey East series because you realize how tough it is to create scoring chances."
While not all the lines have been as productive as Walsh would like, the scoring has been nicely distributed among the upperclassmen and youngsters. On Friday night, sophomores Matthias Trattnig and Dan Kerluke found the back of the net. Kerluke scored twice, including the game-winner, earning him Hockey East Player of the Week honors.
One night later, it was seniors David Cullen (twice) and Steve Kariya along with junior Cory Larose.
"What has helped our team is that we have more than one line to turn to," says Walsh.
The Black Bears have also turned to goaltender Alfie Michaud on a consistent basis and he’s responded. He leads the league with a phenomenal .948 save percentage and is second with an equally exceptional 1.25 goals-against average.
Small wonder, then, that he was chosen Hockey East Goalie of the Month.
"I think his playoff performance really solidified his confidence that he can be among the best goaltenders in the country," says Walsh. "He was Goalie of the Month in March and now he is again for October, so he’s really taken off.
"He played exceptionally well on Friday night in a game that he had to. He made a save with three seconds to go that could have easily gone in. He kept the game tied and then we won it in overtime. [Those are] the kind of saves that you need."
The Black Bears now look to stay unbeaten and move into at least a share of first place with a series on the Olympic sheet at UMass-Amherst.
"Every report that we’ve gotten is that they’re a much improved team," says Walsh. "They’re obviously at home and it’s going to be a series that will probably be very low scoring and intense. We’ve got to just keep playing our game.
"The big sheet will be a difference, that’s for sure, but I think we’re confident on the big sheet after the success we had in New Hampshire in the playoffs last year. But each time you change venues like that, it makes for a whole different game."
UMass-Amherst lost to Harvard, 3-1, a score that belied just how close a game it was. Prior to the Crimson’s empty-netter, the Minutemen had held them to just 15 shots and two goals.
"We had Darcy King walking across the front of the net with a backhander that if it goes in, it’s 2-2 with two minutes to go in the game," says coach Joe Mallen. "But it hits the side pipe and that’s it.
"Limiting Harvard to just 15 shots with the exception of the empty net goal is a pretty tough thing to do. Our team defense has been very strong and our penalty killing was good over the weekend.
"But we’ve just got to find a way to put some pucks home. One or a number of these guys is going to have to break out. That and the power play are two areas of concern, but I see us making a lot of improvement over a short period of time so far."
While the Minuteman shorthanded unit ranks third in the league with an 82.1 overall kill percentage, the power play is last at 10.3 percent.
Making matters worse, the three UMass goals scored on the advantage are offset by three against. And the three shorthanded goals allowed have all been critical. Against UMass-Lowell, one turned a win into an overtime loss. A week later, another broke open for UNH a 2-1 game late in the second period. And against Harvard, that was the deciding goal.
"We had just addressed it the day before, too, about not relaxing on the power play and making sure if they gain possession that we’re in good defensive position," says Mallen.
"We’ve given up different kinds of shorthanded goals. It’s not like we’re allowing somebody to break up the middle or whatever. This was just a different kind. It was just a long shot that beat Markus [Helanen] cleanly."
Helanen, who had played exceptionally in the nets all season, had his first sub-par game for the Minutemen.
"Markus finally had one of those nights where he didn’t have a lot of shots and that can be tough for a goalie," says Mallen. "The two goals were kind of longer shots, but even if he gives up those two goals, we still should be able to get three to win the game. Otherwise, he’s been playing very well for us."
UMass-Amherst now faces the stiff challenge of taking on No. 4 Maine.
"We know that we’re running into a hot team now," says Mallen. "They’re undefeated and they’re playing very well. Their special teams look excellent. They’ve got some great players, both up front and on defense.
"We’ve got to challenge them here at home. We’ve tied them and beaten them here over the last couple years. We just have to hope that we can use the big rink to our advantage."
PICKS: Maine stays unbeaten, 4-2 both nights.
No. 8 New Hampshire (5-1-0, 2-1-0 HEA) vs.
Boston University (1-5-0, 0-2-0 HEA)
Friday, 7 p.m., Whittemore Center, Durham, NH
Saturday, 7 p.m., Walter Brown Arena, Boston, MA
New Hampshire took one between the eyes from Providence, 6-1, before rebounding, 3-1, back at the Whittemore Center.
"On Friday, we had our opportunities early on but then they took it away from us and won the game," says coach Dick Umile. "They scored goals and we didn’t. But we’re a good team and we came back on Saturday and won a very important game."
While the Friday night loss itself was no major surprise — Providence is an underrated team that no one can take lightly — it was a shock to see UNH’s vaunted defense and goaltender Sean Matile allow six pucks to go in the net behind them. In their four prior contests, the Wildcats had allowed a total of only seven goals. On this night, however, the Friars capitalized six times on just 21 shots.
"You’ve got to give credit to them," says Umile. "They put them in. They had some advantage plays and there were some shots that Sean normally [would have stopped].
"It was just a combination of things, but those things happen. The score was not indicative of the game, but they’re a good team."
While UNH maintained its perfect 25-for-25 penalty killing, it went 0-for-11 on the power play on the weekend, dropping it to next to last in the league at 14.29 percent.
Even so, both statistics are misleading in terms of the weekend’s action. Both teams scored just after a power-play expired, goals that didn’t count in the statistics but were really a reflection of the man-advantage situation.
"If you generate scoring opportunities like we did on Saturday, that’s one thing," says Umile. "But Friday night we didn’t do a good job at all. Saturday night, we generated the opportunities. They just didn’t go in."
Rookie Darren Haydar scored twice in the 3-1 win.
"He’s a good hockey player," says Umile. "That line of Haydar, [John] Sadowski and [Mike] Souza had an exceptional game. They’re a good combination and they’re working very well right now.
"Haydar’s second goal was a great play from Sadowski to Souza out to Haydar and he’s got a great stick. If he gets scoring opportunities, he’ll put it in. He’s a good player."
With backup netminder Ty Conklin’s strong play on Saturday — play which takes him to a 2-0-0 record, a 1.00 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage — some fans might just assume that a 50-50 goaltender split is called for, forgetting that last year Matile compiled some pretty nice numbers himself (2.52 GAA, .908 Sv%).
"We’ll just take it week by week," says Umile. "Ty was asked to play on Saturday and he did his part. Ty knows he needs to be ready at all times and he’s going to play some games. How many, we don’t know.
"I’m not going to predict now what’s going to go on the whole season. Sean is one of the top college hockey goalies. He didn’t have his best game Friday night, but that doesn’t mean you put him on ice."
The Wildcats now prepare to take on a Boston University team that may be 1-4-0, but is coming off a very impressive win.
"It’s BU-UNH," says Umile. "You can throw out all the records. They were [supposed to be] worried about scoring goals, but guess what? They’re scoring goals. It should be a great weekend of college hockey."
Boston University got on the winning track in a big way, blowing Princeton out of the building, 9-1. The win was a true elixir for a team that had opened the season with four losses.
"Obviously, we played much better killing penalties," says coach Jack Parker. "They were 0-for-9 on the power play after we’d been letting teams go 4-for-6. That was a major turnaround for us and something we worked hard on all week to see if we could solve that problem.
"I also thought we bumped pretty hard. We played through some guys and were a little bit more physical."
Parker also points to a strong performance by goaltender Michel Larocque, and catching Princeton in their first regular-season game at a time when the Terriers already had four under their belt.
Of biggest importance, though, was fixing the penalty-kill. BU had entered the Princeton game with a league-worst 54 kill rate, a statistic no team can be successful with.
"We rethought the way we’re killing penalties and tried to make it a little easier and more 1950’s style," says Parker. "So that helped us out.
"We would certainly like to get back to pressuring, but we’re not ready to do that yet."
Although they are finally off the schneid, the Terriers still are far from business as usual.
"We’ve got a long way to go," says Parker. "First of all, we’re 1-4, so we’re far from turning the corner. Number two, we’re still a very young team. We still need to get games under our belt.
"We need the experience of playing games to get our freshmen and sophomores more acclimated to the pace of the game, the intensity of the game, the physical nature of the game, and most importantly how important they are individually to our team’s success."
One freshman, Mike Pandolfo, contributed a hat trick to earn league Rookie of the Week honors and run his season totals to 5-1–6.
"He’s played very well," says Parker. "I think he’s had one game where he really wasn’t where we wanted him to be, but the rest of the games he’s been pretty consistent.
"The guy that really impressed us against Princeton was Dan Cavanaugh, who played very well for a freshman. He centered Pandolfo’s line and he was very impressive."
As impressive as the win over Princeton was, the Terriers now face the challenge of the eighth-ranked UNH Wildcats, opening the home-and-home series on the Whittemore Center’s Olympic ice surface.
"We’re going to have to be a little more conservative up there and play a little different style in some areas," says Parker. "We’re going to have to continue to bump in a building that’s hard to bump in.
"Also, when UNH takes the ice, the first guy you notice is [Jason] Krog. They’ve got a real solid team. They’re solid in goal and they’ve got real strong defensemen, but their offense revolves around number 28 and their power play revolves around him as well. He’s a guy we’re going to have to be concerned about."
PICKS: A week ago, this looked like a Wildcat sweep. Now it looks more like each home team will hold serve, 3-2 at UNH and 4-3 at BU.
Minnesota-Duluth (0-5-1, 0-5-1 WCHA) at
Providence College (4-2-0, 3-1-0 HEA)
Friday, Saturday, Schneider Arena, Providence, RI
Providence stunned UNH, 6-1, before settling for a split with a 3-1 loss. The Friars now sit atop Hockey East, at least until BC, Maine or UNH cash in on league-games-in-hand this weekend.
"Obviously, we felt Friday night was a good game," says coach Paul Pooley. "We scored on the chances we had to open it up.
"Saturday night was a good game up there. UNH played very well. We thought we played a solid game, but they deserved to win that night.
"We did have some chances late in the game to go 2-2, but when they scored the third goal it put us behind the eight-ball. But you give them credit. [Ty] Conklin made some good saves when he had to."
Goaltender Boyd Ballard earned league Defensive Player of the Week honors for his 63 saves and appears to be back to his early-season form of last year.
"Ballard played very well," says Pooley. "We’re very happy with how he’s playing."
Rookie Mark Suderman contributed his first collegiate goal in the win.
"He’s just a smart player," says Pooley. "He thinks the game very well. He does a lot of little things well. He knows the game, he competes, and he’s smart. He’s just going to get better."
The Friars now host Minnesota-Duluth, a team they swept last year on the road.
"We’ve just got to execute for sixty minutes and continue to play solid hockey against Duluth," says Pooley.
(For the scoop on Minnesota-Duluth, see Todd D. Milewski’s WCHA Preview.)
PICKS: Providence sweeps, 5-3 and 4-2.
Merrimack (3-3-0, 2-1-0 HEA) and
UMass-Lowell (2-4-0, 1-4-0 HEA) at Army (3-3-1, 2-2-0 vs. aligned D-I)
Friday (MC), Saturday (UML), 7 p.m., Tate Rink, West Point, NY
Merrimack swept Northeastern, 5-4 and 4-3 (the latter in overtime) to forge a three-game win streak and even its record at 3-3-0.
During the regular season last year, the Warriors never led a single league game after two periods. They trailed in 18 contests, of which they lost 17, and were tied in six others, which they split, winning three and losing three.
This year, they have yet to trail after 40 minutes and have the improved record to show for it. There’s something to be said for not digging a hole for yourself.
Although goaltender Tom Welby opened the first game by allowing a couple questionable goals early, he bailed the Warriors out in the rematch by stoning Northeastern until his teammates got their act together.
"Welby played great in the first period," says Serino. "He gave us the opportunity to win by keeping us in the game. We could have been out of the game early. Then we’d be kicking ourselves in the rear end because we’d gone down, 4-1, after one period."
The Warriors are getting some great contributions from their rookies. Three of them — Greg Classen, Ryan Kiley and Nick Torretti — scored in the Friday night win and Classen got his fourth of the season and the OT game-winner on Tuesday. Classen and Kiley now team with Jayson Philbin on the second line, while the 5-8 Torretti and another freshman, 5-9 Nick Parillo, are waterbugs on the fourth line.
"We’ve got to get contributions out of all three lines," says coach Chris Serino. "We’ve got depth there. Who’s going to score? I don’t know, but they’re all capable of doing it.
"And Sandy Cohen isn’t going yet. When he gets going, we’ll be pretty good.
"You know Reggie [Stringer] is going to get his. You know [Kris] Porter is going to get his. They’re great players. These other guys have to pick up the pace because on the nights when [Stringer and Porter] are off, you can’t just say we’re not going to win.
"They didn’t get any [on Friday] night at Northeastern and we won. [On Tuesday], Porter got a couple and the other guys got chances. If they’re creating opportunities, they’re doing something right."
Having seen losses snowball in past years, Merrimack fans will be hoping that the recent wins will likewise snowball into continued success.
"It builds confidence," says Serino. "They believe they can win. It’s like anything else. If you keep getting beat up, eventually you think you stink. They won a couple games. Now they know what they’re capable of doing."
Of course, Serino does plan to point out to his troops that just because they swept a league rival, doesn’t mean that they only need to show up against Army.
"That’s the way it’s going to be every week for us," he says. "We can win some games, but we’re going to lose the next one if we don’t play well. I think they know that. We preach it to them every day, that we’ve got to play well to win."
UMass-Lowell also travels to Army, but unlike Merrimack is coming off four straight losses. That fact, however, begs for the added note that the defeats came at the hands of No. 2 Boston College and, last week, No. 4 Maine (3-2 in overtime and 5-2).
"It was definitely a disappointing loss the first night after battling back to tie it," says coach Tim Whitehead. "But at the same time, we were encouraged by a lot of the things we saw both nights. We’ll definitely be a better hockey team because of the weekend."
And what would those positives be?
"We came to play both nights," he says. "We weren’t intimidated the way we were the first night against Boston College. We had good first periods in both games, which is something we’re shooting for. We were physical. We stayed out of the penalty box. And we competed. We went toe-to-toe with them.
"Obviously, we have to take another step because we want to beat some of these teams, but at the same time, for early in the season with some of the inexperience that we have on defense and in goal, we were excited to see some progress there."
Having just played the number-two and -four teams in the country, a letdown against Army is a concern.
"We’ll address that," says Whitehead. "Whether we win or lose, we want to make sure that we come to play.
"That was important this weekend. We felt that we did come to play. We didn’t win the games, but we really liked the effort and the progress on a lot of fronts. If we see the same type of effort from here on in consistently every night, we’re going to win more games than we lose.
"But we have to come to play. It’s human nature to take an opponent lightly after you’ve just come off the top team in the country, no matter who you’re playing.
"But our guys should know that every year with Army we’ve had a one-goal game one way or another. Last year’s game went to overtime. Because our games with Army have always been so competitive, [overconfidence] shouldn’t be there because our guys know how tough they are just from year’s past. It shouldn’t be an issue, but we’ll address it anyways."
The River Hawks should be healthy for the match-up. Dan Fontas, who has been sidelined since the opening weekend of the regular season, is expected to get a clean bill of health to return to practice.
Army is coming off a sweep of Nebraska-Omaha, 6-5 and 2-1, and a week earlier scared Colgate before falling, 4-3.
The Cadets return last year’s top three scorers — Andy Lundbohm, Greg Buckmeier and Jason Choi — but are having to live without Darren Clapprood on defense and Daryl Chamberlain between the pipes, both of whom graduated.
Corey Winer has taken over in goal for Chamberlain.
PICKS: It’ll be feel-good weekends for Merrimack and UMass-Lowell as both win 5-2.