Maybe there is something about that Friday the 13th hooey after all.
Check out how the USCHO Top 10 fared that night. Playing 10 unranked opponents, the group won only four games. And the Hockey East contingent — Boston College, Maine and New Hampshire — didn’t manage a single victory.
Unlike BC and UNH, Maine saw its bad luck carry over into Saturday. For the second straight night, the Black Bears could muster only one goal against UMass-Amherst. This time it was good for a 1-1 tie, but it isn’t often that over two games a team outshoots another, 89-33, and only comes away with one tie to show for it.
Care to guess who the Player of the Week is?
On an unrelated note, Jack Parker will celebrate his 900th game as a head coach on Tuesday in BU’s game against Harvard. He holds a 578-270-49 record In his first 897.
KOHO Player of the Week: Markus Helanen (G, UMass-Amherst) stopped 87 of 89 Maine shots to lead the Minutemen to a three-point weekend.
Heaton Defensive Player of the Week: Anthony Cappelletti (D, UMass-Lowell) scored the shorthanded game-winner against Army with 54 seconds left.
KOHO Rookie of the Week: Darren Haydar (F, New Hampshire) scored two goals and assisted on another in UNH’s win and tie against BU.
Hockey East Standings
Record in picks last week: 4-6 (1-5 in conference games — a level of incompetence usually reserved for pro wrestling referees)
Season’s record in picks: 31-19, .620 (and falling)
No. 2 Boston College (5-1-1, 3-1-0 HEA) vs.
Boston University (1-5-1, 0-3-1 HEA)
Friday, 7 p.m., Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, MA WABU-TV68
Saturday, 7 p.m., Walter Brown Arena, Boston, MA WABU-TV68
Harvard (1-3-0, 0-3-0 ECAC) at
Boston University (1-5-1, 0-3-1 HEA)
Tuesday, 7 p.m., Walter Brown Arena, Boston, MA
Boston College split with Northeastern, losing 5-4 in overtime before rebounding to a 6-3 win.
"It was a typical Hockey East weekend," says coach Jerry York. "Both teams competed very hard and the outcome of the games was decided in the third period. What is unusual is that we split by both winning in the opposing rink.
"Our attitude going in was that it would be a hard, tough series and it certainly was. Nothing surprised us. Northeastern played very well."
In the 6-3 win, the Eagles won all three periods for the first time this year, posting a 2-1 advantage in each frame. In particular, they’ve had their toughest times in the second period. Prior to the Saturday night game, in the middle 20 minutes they’d been outscored, 11-5, and outshot in every contest but one (St. Lawrence in the opening week).
"Certainly we want to play consistently well over 60 minutes," says York. "But the other team has something to do with that. The lapses that we might have are created by good play by Lowell or Notre Dame or Northeastern.
"Our goal, as it is for all coaches, is to be consistent over 60 minutes, but you have to respect the fact that there will be momentum shifts over the game because other teams have good players and other teams are well-coached and they’re looking for 60 minutes also.
"That’s our game plan, but the opposition is going to make some runs also."
Mike Lephart, who has been an important physical contributor on a line with Blake Bellefeuille and Jeff Farkas, missed both Northeastern games with a shoulder injury and remains day-to-day this week.
Lephart’s absence forced some line juggling which resulted in a pairing of Farkas with Brian Gionta and Jeff Giuliano. If that line stays together, it may remind opposing defenders of the highway signs that read, Speed Kills.
"With the special-teams play, they didn’t get a chance to play together a lot of Saturday night, but it’s something that we’ll look at during the week," says York. "We feel that Jeff [Giuliano] is coming along pretty well for a freshman and certainly it helps having Brian and Jeff [Farkas] on his wings."
This week, the Battle for Commonwealth Ave. continues as BC and BU play a home-and-home series. Although it appears a mismatch between teams with mirror-image records (5-1-1 vs. 1-5-1), this rivalry always brings out the best in the two squads.
"They’re our main rival," says York. "It certainly adds a great deal of excitement whenever BU and BC play.
"It’s still early in the season and both teams are trying to find out who should play in certain situations and who should play with whom, but it’ll certainly be a good early test for both of us."
Boston University squeaked out a 2-2 tie against UNH on Friday, largely on the shoulders of goaltender Michel Larocque. New Hampshire outshot the Terriers, 36-16, but "Rocco" showed why he was an All-Hockey East pick last year.
"Our number-one star was Larocque, our number-two star was Larocque and our number-three star was our red line of [Carl] Corazzini, [Albie] O’Connell and [Tommi] Degerman," said BU coach Jack Parker.
Parker also added a touch of humor.
"Considering where we were a couple weeks ago, now my wife can give me back my ties and belts [because now] I won’t hang myself," he said.
One night later, though, it might have been time to hide the ties and belts again. UNH not only defeated the Terriers, 3-1, in their own building, but totally shut down the BU offense for the first two periods.
"I’m embarrassed that we only got five shots and six shots in our own building [in the first two periods]," he said after the loss. "That was the combination of UNH playing great, gritty defense, especially through center ice, and us just absolutely skating in sand.
"We made great strides [on Friday]. To turn around and have the performance we had tonight in the first two periods was very disheartening. We’ll have to take a good hard look at who’s playing where and how much they’re playing.
"My biggest concern is our lack of competitiveness, our lack of jump and go. It’s almost as if we’re waiting for something bad to happen. We have no faith in ourselves right now. You would think that would have turned around with Larocque playing as great as he has lately."
In one way, facing Boston College couldn’t come at a worse time. Facing the consensus top team in the league and number-two team in the country isn’t exactly an elixir for a team playing without confidence.
On the other hand, though, if this rivalry doesn’t get the Terrier competitive juices going, nothing will.
"Usually BC has brought out the best in us," said Parker, "but we’ve got a long way to go to get the best out of us right now."
(For a look at Harvard, see this week’s ECAC Preview by Becky Blaeser and Jayson Moy.)
PICKS: BC sweeps BU into a 1-7-1 record, 5-3 and 4-3.
But the Terriers let Parker celebrate his 900th game with a 4-1 win over Harvard.
Northeastern (3-5-0, 1-3-0 HEA) at No. 6 New Hampshire (6-1-1, 3-1-1 HEA)
Saturday, 7 p.m., Whittemore Center, Durham, NH
Cornell (3-0-0, 2-0-0 ECAC) at
Northeastern (3-5-0, 1-3-0 HEA)
Tuesday, 7 p.m., Matthews Arena, Boston, MA
New Hampshire took three out of four points from BU, settling for a Friday night, kiss-your-sister 2-2 tie after outshooting the Terriers, 36-16, but then finishing off the weekend with an impressive 3-1 win. With upsets flying all across the nation, the Wildcats moved up to sixth in the polls.
"It was a great weekend for us," said coach Dick Umile after the win. "We played hard and competed. It was a great win, coming into a tough place to play a good team."
UNH’s defensive strength made an impression on BU coach Jack Parker.
"They’ve shut us down easier than the other clubs [we’ve faced]," he said. "I was attributing that a little bit to the big rink [on Friday], but it had nothing to do with it [on Saturday].
"Overall, their team speed gets to you, they backcheck real well so their defense is supported real well. And they’re playing a nice scheme. They come at you with a pretty good forecheck, but they really clog it up at center ice. I was very impressed with them both nights defensively."
Once again, the Wildcat shorthanded unit sparkled. It is now 32-for-32 on the penalty kill this season.
"It’s always an important factor," said Umile. "Penalty killing is as good as your goaltending. Between Sean Matile and Ty Conklin and our aggressive shorthand, we’ve been fortunate."
Conklin played well on Saturday and has provided Umile with excellent depth between the pipes. The sophomore, who had to sit out last year after transferring from Alaska-Anchorage, now has a 1.00 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage in his three games. He ranks first in Hockey East in both statistics.
As noted in this column recently, however, Umile sees no looming goalie controversy.
"Sean has done a lot for our program and he’s our number one goalie," said Umile. "People ask what I’m going to do about the goaltending. I’ve told Ty to be ready. I told him [Saturday] at 2:00 that he was playing."
Darren Haydar, the Hockey East Rookie of the Week, scored two goals and added an assist on the weekend. The 5-9, 160-pound winger is now playing on the top line with Jason Krog and Mike Souza.
When Haydar appeared for media interviews in just shorts and a T-shirt, a jovial Umile admonished him to "wear more clothes. I don’t want them to see that you don’t have a lot meat on your bones."
Umile then complimented Haydar’s play on the first line and then quipped, "I’ll give him a few of my pounds. We’ll get some meat on his bones by having him eat at my house."
Northeastern earned a surprising split with Boston College, upsetting the Eagles in their barn, 5-4 in overtime, after falling behind 3-0. Back at home, the Huskies lost, 6-3.
"One of the things we did extremely well on Friday is that we were able to play five-on-five a lot," says coach Bruce Crowder. "We only gave them four power-play opportunities, compared to Saturday night when they had nine. I think we stayed pretty focused on Friday night and stayed within our game plan. We didn’t get too excited as the game went on and we found ourselves down."
Not only were they down, 3-0, but they were playing on the road without top defenseman Arik Engbrecht and forwards Billy Newson and Todd Barclay, two-thirds of their top line. They had lost three straight games and, oh yeah, were facing the number-two team in the country.
Time to fold the tents, put it in neutral and scurry back home?
"When you’re dressing 17 freshmen or sophomores, you’re looking to see some sort of character to step forward," says Crowder. "To do that with some key personnel being out and still staying focused was very encouraging.
"The thing that we learned from this weekend is that if we want to play hockey, we can probably play with anyone."
With Billy Newson and Todd Barclay out of the lineup both nights, the Huskies got scoring from all sources in the win. Roger Holeczy, Graig Mischler, Bobby Davis and defenseman Matt Brown scored in regulation and Sean MacDonald got the OT game-winner.
"One of the things we weren’t getting was a lot of support from a lot of people offensively," says Crowder. "For us, we need that to continue. I’ve said that since the start of the year. I wouldn’t say we’re to the point yet where we’re doing that consistently."
Although goaltender Jason Braun played every minute in Northeastern’s first four games, and five of the first six, he split the action with fellow freshman Scott Sutton on the weekend. Sutton picked up the win.
"I think we’re going to continue to give both kids a look and see what happens," says Crowder. "Since we’re so young and it’s early in the season, now is the time to see what each kid can bring to the table.
"If that works, it’ll be a rotation situation until all of a sudden late in the season somebody steps forward and shows that he’s a notch above the other one. Then we’ll go with a single goalie."
On the injury front, Mike Jozefowicz returned to action against BC, but Engbrecht could not and remains day-to-day. Newson isn’t expected back, but Barclay is, although that won’t be certain until late in the week.
(For a look at Cornell, see this week’s ECAC Preview by Becky Blaeser and Jayson Moy.)
PICKS: UNH’s D is too much for NU, 3-1. The Huskies take Cornell out of the undefeated ranks, though, 3-2.
Providence College (5-3-0, 3-1-0 HEA) at No. 7 Maine (5-1-1, 2-1-1 HEA)
Friday, Saturday, 7 p.m., Alfond Arena, Orono, ME
Maine outshot UMass-Amherst, 89-33, on the weekend, but lost, 2-1, and then had a seems-like-a-loss 1-1 tie.
"I feel like we landed every tee shot in the fairway, hit 18 greens in regulation, and then three-putted 10 of the 18 greens," said coach Shawn Walsh with a rueful laugh.
"We played pretty well, but I give them a lot of credit. They’re playing a system that’s giving them an opportunity. And [Markus] Helanen is playing very well. As I look back, we did everything but score. But that’s hockey."
Sometimes shot totals can be deceiving — not all shots are created equal — but Maine’s statistics showed the advantage there, too.
"The scoring chances the first night were 29-8," said Walsh. "The second night, they were 27-14. We just had one of those weekends. But a lot of the credit has to go to UMass and their coaching staff."
Although Walsh will address the lack of scoring during this week’s preparation for Providence College, there won’t be any major adjustments that compromise the defensive end.
"You have to be careful," says Walsh. "Certainly we’re going to concentrate on taking care of the opportunities when they present themselves. But we have to maintain our sound defense.
"We limited them to 33 shots, total, on the weekend. We really did a good job of that. But we also know that we’re going to play a much better offensive team, so it’s going to be a good test for us."
Even though PC’s top line of Jerry Keefe (5-10–15), Mike Omicioli (5-10–15) and Fernando Pisani (4-8–12) ranks tops in the league collectively, Walsh doesn’t intend to match lines.
"I haven’t done that over the years, but you certainly have to pay attention to them," says Walsh. "And clearly a lot of their points are also coming on the power play. Our penalty killing has been great, but that’s going to be tested as well this weekend."
Unfortunately, the Black Bears will be missing Cory Larose, their number-two scorer, who will probably be out two to three weeks with a deep charley horse suffered on what Maine felt was a leg check. On top of that, Larose also injured a shoulder when he fell after the hit.
"It really throws us off because he’s one of our top three players," says Walsh, who now must try to juggle the lineup in Larose’s absence. "I’m clearly searching. Do we go with three lines? Do we go four? It’s going to be an interesting dilemma."
Providence went through a bit of a Jekyll-and-Hyde weekend, dominating a visiting Minnesota-Duluth squad, 7-2, on Friday only to hand the Bulldogs their first win of the season, 5-4, one night later.
"[The difference was] mental mistakes," says coach Paul Pooley. "Saturday night we had chances to score but we weren’t making the right plays. It was almost like it was too easy, we had too much time and we tried to make the fancy play.
"And [goaltender] Boyd [Ballard] didn’t play well. That was the difference. They really didn’t have that many shots. We had good coverage, for the most part, but the pucks went in and [UMD goaltender Brant] Nicklin made some big saves when he had to.
"The thing that disappoints me is that two back-to-back Friday nights we’ve had 6-1 and 7-2 wins and come back on Saturday night and not had a great effort and lost tight games.
"I know we had the capabilities of winning two this weekend and two with UNH, even though UNH is a good club. I’m not saying [they aren’t], but we didn’t have our best effort. And that’s one thing that we have to improve on as a hockey club."
Sophomore Heath Gordon had his best weekend as a collegian, earning Hockey East Player of the Week honors. In the win, he scored two goals while playing on the third line with Drew Omicioli and Doug Sheppard. With Jon Coe sitting out Saturday’s tilt, Gordon moved up to the second line with Troy Lake and Jon Cameron and scored another goal and added two assists.
"He played well and made some things happen," says Pooley. "He got more of an opportunity, which was good. He’s a kid who — if he’s intense all the time — has the capability to play at a high level."
Providence, which was leapfrogged by UNH in the Hockey East standings, now returns to league play with two games at No. 7 Maine.
The trek to Orono has not been kind to the Friars. Although their record at Alfond Arena against Maine is a bad, but not outrageously bad, 9-23-1, their last win there came on March 24, 1989 in the NCAA quarterfinals. Their last regular-season victory at Alfond was a 4-2 win on Nov. 8, 1986, the Friars’ first year after the Chris Terreri era.
That’s not quite up there with the Red Sox and the Curse of the Bambino, but it is a boatload of bad karma.
"Obviously, it’s a tough place to play," says Pooley. "It always is. I thought we’ve played some good games up there, even though we haven’t come out victorious. The one thing that we have to do is play good specialty teams and solid five-on-five."
PICKS: The Red Sox didn’t end the curse this year and neither will Providence. It’ll be close, 3-2 and 2-1, but the Black Bears sweep.
Merrimack (4-3-0, 2-1-0 HEA) vs.
UMass-Lowell (3-4-0, 1-4-0 HEA)
Friday, 7 p.m., Paul E. Tsongas Arena, Lowell, MA
Saturday, 7 p.m., Volpe Complex, North Andover, MA
Merrimack stretched its winning streak to four games with a 5-3 win over Army, its only action of the week.
"We didn’t play as well as we’d been playing, but we did something I didn’t think we could do and that’s not play well and win," says coach Chris Serino. "The first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes, we played well. In between, they just outworked us everywhere."
Even so, the Warriors pulled out the W and also gave goaltender Cris Classen his first game action in some time.
"He played okay," says Serino. "Tommy [Welby] is still going to be our number one goaltender, but it was a good time to get [Classen] some game-playing time and build his confidence up."
Defenseman Andrew Fox scored his first goal of the year and continued his recent strong defensive play as well. Considering all the question marks on the Warrior blue line going into this season, Fox’s play is good news, indeed.
"He started off slowly, but the last two or three games — the Northeastern series and the Army game — he’s really picked his game up and is playing very well," says Serino. "That’s a huge plus for us because we need to get some play out of our blue line.
"The other defenseman that is starting to pick his play up is Drew Hale. We need someone to take charge back there and it looks like they’re starting to do that."
The blueliner originally expected to take charge, sophomore Stephen Moon, has been sidelined with a patella tendon injury all season, but is nearing a return to the lineup. Mostly likely, that won’t be until after Thanksgiving, though.
"He can skate like heck forward, but he still has pain when he goes backwards," says Serino. "That’s the problem.
"The kid has waited so long that we don’t want to rush him and set him back even more, so we’re trying to be cautious."
In the meantime, the Warriors will take on Merrimack Valley rival, UMass-Lowell, which also defeated Army last week.
"It’s going to be a battle," says Serino. "They play hard every night. They come at you. They’re very physical. I think it’s going to boil down to the team that takes the [fewest] penalties and stays disciplined."
UMass-Lowell squeaked out a 4-3 victory over Army last weekend when defenseman Anthony Cappelletti scored a shorthanded goal with 54 seconds remaining.
"It wasn’t a pretty win, but we’ll take it," says coach Tim Whitehead. "No one is going to care in the future — in fact, nobody probably cares now — what kind of win it was, so they certainly won’t in a week.
"It was a long road trip and we fought through some stuff there and we came back from 2-0….I’m not excited about the way we played, but I am encouraged by some other signs."
The River Hawks seem to be making a habit out of using shorthanded goals in late, desperate circumstances to pull out wins. They opened the season with a game-tying goal while a man down against UMass-Amherst and went on to win it in OT. This time, the key shorthanded strike was the game-winner.
Which is not to say that Whitehead will be encouraging his troops to take a penalty late in a tight game just so he can roll out his penalty-killers, but it does provide an indicator of a team’s heart and belief in itself.
"One of the qualities you want to have in your team is the ability to bounce back in situations and make a big play when the game is on the line," says Whitehead. "So it’s good to know that we have that ability.
"I’m not saying that we do that every game. We’re not tooting our own horn, but at the same time it’s good to know that we can do that. It’s good to know that we have the confidence that we can bounce back in tough situations."
Speaking of tough situations, the River Hawks again had their bus break down on a road trip. The first time was in that same UMass-Amherst game with the shorthanded goal. There could be an Oliver Stone movie in this…
"I’m hoping the bus breaks down every time we have a road trip," says Whitehead with a laugh, "because we’re 2-0 with the bus problems."
Cappelletti, the scorer of the game-winner and the Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week, now has a team-leading five goals on the season. He’s also been a stabilizing force on the blue line, trying to fill the void left by some big defensive graduations. "He’s cut down on his penalty minutes and he’s playing with a lot of composure," says Whitehead. "He jumps in on the offense.
"The best asset Anthony has is that he comes to play every night and competes. He just doesn’t quit. He blocks shots. He plays his heart out. He plays with a ton of heart and courage and he’s a real good leader for our team.
"He leads by example on the ice and it just so happens that the goals have been going in for him. It’s rare for a defenseman to get a ton of them so it’s nice to see that result."
Although Lowell has held the upper hand in the series with Merrimack, posting a 43-26-2 record, Whitehead knows that won’t carry over into this weekend.
"We have our hands full," he says. "They’re playing real well right now so we have to be ready to step to the plate right at the drop of the puck."
PICKS: It’ll be a split, with the home team winning, 4-3, each night.
UMass-Amherst (2-4-1, 2-2-1 HEA) vs.
Union (1-5-0, 0-2-0 ECAC) and Vermont (4-2-0, 2-0-0 ECAC)
Saturday, 7 p.m., Mullins Center, Amherst, MA
Tuesday, 7 p.m., Gutterson Field House, Burlington, VT
UMass-Amherst shocked Maine last weekend, opening with a 2-1 win and following that up with a 1-1 tie.
"It was a pretty big weekend for our program," says coach Joe Mallen. "Taking three of four points from the number four team in the country is a pretty big accomplishment. And going back to our final game last season, we’ve taken four out of six points from them at home in the last three games.
"Obviously, Markus Helanen played very well. He’s the Hockey East Player of the Week this week. I also thought our team defense was great keeping Maine off the board on their power play. That’s a very difficult thing to do, but we were able to do it. It was just two real good defensive teams playing two games back-to-back. It was a pretty exciting weekend."
Helanen gained his biggest attention to date with 87 saves on 89 shots, but other than an off-game against Harvard last week has been a major factor in the Minutemen’s success so far this year.
"He’s done a great job at controlling his rebounds and directing the first shot," says Mallen. "I think our defense has really helped him. We’re giving up a lot of shots, but we’re not giving up a high number of quality shots in tight or odd-man rushes. That’s helping him as well.
"But he’s really doing a lot of it for himself, too."
UMass’s defensive-oriented schemes have put Helanen in a position to shine and given the Minutemen a chance to succeed against teams like Maine.
"I thought over the course of the summer that our team lacked any returning experienced scorers," says Mallen. "I thought that the first thing we had to do was put in a defensive system and try to play tight to the vest and wait for the breaks.
"[Assistant coaches] Bill Gilligan and Dale Dunbar have had good input, too, in terms of tightening the system up and integrating it with the players we have.
"Right now, it seems to be working. If you look at all of our games, we’ve been in just about every one all the way to the end."
The Minutemen will now try to keep the momentum going their way this week with two non-conference games. "Obviously, the number one thing is we can’t get too high over the last weekend," says Mallen. "It was a great accomplishment, but it’s so early in the season that we’ve just got to get focused to play Union….
"The key right now is to try to get some consistency between that last weekend and Christmas-time. If we can do that, we can make a push into the standings in Hockey East."
(For a look at Union and Vermont, see this week’s ECAC Preview by Becky Blaeser and Jayson Moy.)
PICKS: The Minutemen will split with the ECAC, defeating Union, 3-1, but losing to Vermont, 3-2.