This Week in Hockey East: November 27, 1998

In late-breaking news, Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna has outlawed midweek nonconference games after the league went 0-for-3 against the ECAC on Tuesday.

And not that anybody really cares, but should it be the Governor’s Cup or Governors’ Cup?

Singular or plural?

It is, after all, a competition between four state universities. There are, therefore, four governors rolling up their proverbial sleeves, getting ready to duke it out for the cherished cup. Hence the plural form.

On the other hand, one could argue that since only one of the governors actually wins the cup, then the singular is the appropriate choice.

Who is that snoring in the back of the class?

My goodness. I really do need to get a life….

The early recruit signing period is now over. Many of the Hockey East schools haven’t yet released their results, but here’s an incomplete look at the official signings.

Boston College: Jeremy Wilson (Cushing Academy), Forward.

UMass-Amherst: Jimmy Callahan (Omaha), Forward.

Merrimack College: Nick Cammarata (St. Sebastian’s), Defense; Luke Smith (Thayer Academy), Forward; Anthony Aquino (Bramalee).

Northeastern: Michael Ryan (BC High), Forward.

Onward, then, to the league honors for last week….

KOHO Player of the Week: Brendan Walsh (F, Maine) scored four goals, including a natural hat trick, in the Black Bear’s sweep of Providence.

Heaton Defensive Player of the Week: Michel Larocque (G, Boston University) made 32 saves on Saturday night to gain a split for the Terriers with Boston College.

KOHO Rookie of the Week: Darren Haydar (F, New Hampshire) scored two goals and assisted on another for the second straight week, this time in the Wildcats’ lone game, a 4-2 win over Northeastern.

Hockey East Standings

Record in picks last week: 8-3 Season’s record in picks: 39-22, .639

Governor’s Cup No. 6 Maine (7-1-1, 4-1-1 HEA, T-1st) vs. No. 7 New Hampshire (7-1-1, 4-1-1 HEA, T-1st)

UMass-Lowell (4-5-0, 2-5-0 HEA, 7th) vs. Vermont (5-3-0, 3-1-0 ECAC)

Friday, 4/7 p.m. (Maine-UNH/UML-UVM)

Saturday, 4/7 p.m., (Consolation/Championship)

All games at Paul E. Tsongas Arena, Lowell, MA

Maine rebounded from a disappointing weekend at UMass-Amherst one week earlier with a sweep of Providence College, 6-1 and 3-2. The Black Bears now share the Hockey East lead with New Hampshire.

"It was very important to get two wins," says coach Shawn Walsh. "On Saturday, we grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat. They had us down, 2-0, and had just killed off a five-on-three. [Doug] Janik’s goal just turned everything right around."

Janik, a freshman defenseman whose strength is primarily in his own end, got the tide-turner at 8:46 of the second period. Within four minutes, Maine held a 3-2 lead.

"He was immense," says Walsh. "We had him out against their top line all weekend long. Almost every shift he played five-on-five was against [Mike] Omicioli’s line.

"He’s developed into a Scott Stevens kind of player."

Brendan Walsh earned Hockey East Player of the Week honors for his hat trick on Friday and the game-tying goal on Saturday. The junior sat out last year after transferring from Boston University, but now centers one of Maine’s top two lines.

"I feel good for Brendan," says Shawn Walsh, "because he sat out a year, he made some sacrifices to return to college hockey and he’s a changed person.

"I think a lot of fans have erroneously made judgements on Brendan. He’s not the first guy who has transferred and done well. I think a guy named Jason Blake is doing pretty darn well up in North Dakota."

Goaltender Alfie Michaud could have also garnered league honors. He stopped 24-of-25 Providence shots on Friday night to get the weekend off on the right foot. One night later, he entered the game at the start of the second period with Maine trailing, 2-0. He then proceeded to shut down the Friars, stopping all 18 shots.

PC coach Paul Pooley says, "He was the difference this weekend."

Going into the season, a lot of people may have conceded the All-Hockey East goaltending berths to BU’s Michel Larocque and UNH’s Sean Matile. At this point, however, no one has been Michaud’s equal.

This week, No. 6 Maine and No. 7 New Hampshire open the Governor’s Cup in what looks to be the best match-up of the weekend.

"It’s two teams that are playing so very well defensively," says Walsh. "I really give Dick Umile and his coaching staff a lot of credit. They lost three tremendous players — [Mark Mowers, Derek Bekar and Tom Nolan] — but they brought their whole defense back. They’ve molded this team around that.

"Every report we’re getting is just how quick they are and how tenacious they are defensively. We’re very similar. So I think it will be a wonderful match-up.

"In a way, it’s unique that it doesn’t have a bearing on the Hockey East standings, but it’s a precursor to what’s going to happen later in the year when we meet again."

The two teams met in the championship game of last year’s Governor’s Cup, a contest that UNH took handily, 7-0. In the Hockey East playoffs, however, Maine upset the Wildcats, 3-2 and 5-3, so both sides will have something to hang their motivational hats on.

"I think every one of our players remembers losing 7-0 to them last year," says Walsh. "We’re going to have a maximum focus by both teams this week."

New Hampshire beat Northeastern, 4-2, in its lone game of the week.

"It was one of our better games," says coach Dick Umile. "We were quick and we played very, very well in all facets of the game. I liked the way the team played."

Darren Haydar scored two goals and added an assist.

No, that’s not a leftover note from last week. The freshman did it again, this time in one game rather than two, thereby repeating as the league Rookie of the Week. With a 6-2–8 scoring line, he trails only linemates Jason Krog (6-8–14) and Mike Souza (2-11–13).

"He’s playing well," says Umile. "He’s feeling good about himself. He’s playing with a couple of good hockey players. He had a good weekend and he could have had a couple more goals. We’re very happy with the way that he’s playing along with our other freshmen."

Although both sides from the upcoming clash with Maine could claim motivational edges tracing back to last season, Umile discounts those.

"You can forget about last year," he says. "It’s UNH and Maine hockey. There will be a good tournament atmosphere and it should be a good hockey game."

UMass-Lowell split with Merrimack last week, winning at home, 4-3 in overtime, before losing the back end of the home-and-home, 6-3.

"I thought we played better on Saturday, but we rose to the occasion on Friday with a good third period and overtime," says coach Tim Whitehead. "We played much better on Saturday, but it didn’t translate into a win."

In the overtime win, the River Hawks had to rebound from a Rejean Stringer extra-skater goal with 13 seconds remaining that tied it, 3-3. Sophomore Jeffrey Boulanger got the game-winner at 3:17 of OT.

"Any time a team scores with 12 seconds left and you lose a lead and go into overtime, it’s going to be a deflating situation," says Whitehead. "To bounce back from that was obviously a very good sign."

After playing league foes in six of their last seven games, the River Hawks will play Vermont in the Governor’s Cup first round before facing the more familiar Maine or New Hampshire squads on Saturday.

"We just want to focus on us," says Whitehead. "We have some things we want to work on, especially limiting quality scoring chances. It’s probably good timing for us to play a game now where we don’t worry much about the opposing team.

"We just don’t know much about them, so the focus will be on our effort and our execution."

(For a detailed look at Vermont, see this week’s ECAC Preview by Becky Blaeser and Jayson Moy.)

PICKS: Maine – UNH should be a barnburner, with Alfie Michaud being the difference. Black Bears win, 3-2.

Vermont – Lowell will see another tight one, with Vermont pulling out a 3-2 win.

Maine and UNH will both win on Saturday by 4-2 margins.

No. 3 Boston College (6-2-1, 4-2-0 HEA, 3rd) and

Boston University (2-7-1, 1-4-1 HEA, 8th) at

No. 10 St. Lawrence (6-2-0, 2-1-0 ECAC) and Clarkson (1-6-0, 1-2-0 ECAC)

Friday (BC) – Saturday (BU), 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Appleton Arena, Canton, NY

Friday (BU) – Saturday (BC), 7:30 pm – 7 pm, Cheel Arena, Potsdam, NY

Boston College beat BU convincingly on Friday night, 6-2, but had to settle for a split when Michel Larocque stoned them back at Walter Brown Arena. The Eagles outshot BU, 34-17, in the rematch, but still came out on the short end, 4-2.

A combined crowd of 11,442 saw the series, 7,636 at BC and 3,806 at BU.

Brian Gionta earned USCHO/CCM Offensive Player of the Week honors for his three goals and three assists on the weekend. In particular, he was immense on Friday. Not only did he notch his second hat trick of the year, he also created a two-on-none that resulted in an assist as well as creating a power play when a defenseman had to haul him down to avoid a breakaway. BC scored on the resulting man advantage.

"He’s just a remarkable player," said coach Jerry York after the game. "And what you see is not the whole story. In the locker room, he has tremendous vitality and leadership. He really lifts our whole club, whether it’s a Monday practice or prior to a game. He’s just an outstanding person."

Although the third line of Chris Master, Tony Hutchins and Kevin Caulfield lead BC’s physical play, York expects his entire lineup to play hard-nosed hockey.

"They set the tone, but we like Blake [Bellefeuille] to be physical and Jeff [Farkas] to be physical right through our lineup," he says. "You don’t have to be big-big. You just have to stick your nose in and play through people.

"We’re a pretty solid lineup. And when we play physical, our skill seems to get better. We can’t just be a skill team. When we get too fancy, it hurts us."

Although the Eagles couldn’t manage a sweep, York still applauded his team’s play in the road loss.

"We competed hard," he said after the game. "We got a lot of shots on goal. It was a good Eagle hockey team we brought over tonight. I give full credit to BU. Larocque played extremely well in goal and they killed penalties very well.

"It was an excellent college hockey game with lots of emotion and excitement. Our kids are certainly disappointed. We wanted to win the game tonight, but to a man they all felt we competed hard and played well.

"We just didn’t score goals. You’ll run into hot goaltenders during the course of the year, but if you play well and compete hard, you move on to the next game.

"I have no regrets about how we played tonight."

Boston University’s chances of gaining a split didn’t look particularly strong after Friday night’s 6-2 loss.

"Territorially, I thought we played pretty well, but our young defense got blitzed a little bit and that hurt," said coach Jack Parker.

"Their team defense didn’t make any critical mistakes. Our team defense did. They have the ability to jump on and turn those critical mistakes into goals.

"I don’t think there’s any question that we’re capable of playing better. It’s a long season. We’re obviously not going to be odds-on [favorites] to win the national championship this year, but we’re going to be a much better team at the end of the year. I think we’ve got an easier time to make improvements than some other teams. And I’m looking forward to that improvement.

"There may be some improvement tomorrow night. It may be as soon as that or it may take a while. But the fact of the matter is that we’re a young team. And in February, we won’t be as young."

That improvement did, in fact, come one night later in the 4-2 win.

"We killed a few penalties tonight and played with some emotion," said Parker after the win. "More than anything else, we were jacked up and played hard. That’s what we haven’t been doing.

"We’ve been so concerned about what the outcome was that we weren’t playing hard. I was absolutely flabbergasted last night that we played as semi-lackluster as we did because I was sure that BC would bring out the best in us.

"I challenged the boys tonight to step up and be counted and they all did, every one of them."

Larocque earned Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week honors for his heroics in the win. But forward Tommi Degerman also had a terrific game even though he only showed up in the box score with a single goal.

"I thought Tommi Degerman played as good a hockey game as he’s ever played here," said Parker. "He was absolutely fabulous in every phase of the game."

Parker ironically quoted former BC coaching legend, the late Snooks Kelley, in assessing his team’s turnaround.

"As Snooks Kelley used to say, ‘One snowflake doesn’t make a blizzard.’"

That proved ominously prophetic a few nights later when the Terriers snowflake melted against Harvard, 5-3.

In past years, BU teams have had such a talent advantage that they could get away with an emotional letdown after a big win over an arch-rival like BC. This year’s edition, however, can’t afford that luxury.

"That was a horrible display by my team," said Parker after the game. "I don’t think we have enough guys in that dressing room that are willing to compete. We took a step in that direction on Saturday and to fall as far as we fell off of that today is mind-boggling.

"We stood around and watched in every phase of the game."

(For a detailed look at St. Lawrence and Clarkson, see this week’s ECAC Preview by Becky Blaeser and Jayson Moy.)

PICKS: BC sweeps, 4-3 and 4-2. Clarkson and St. Lawrence, however, get splits on the weekend by achieving the same scores against BU.

Merrimack (5-4-0, 3-2-0 HEA, 4th) and

Providence College (5-5-0, 3-3-0 HEA, 5th) vs.

Yale (2-2-0, 2-2-0 ECAC) and Princeton (3-1-1, 3-0-1 ECAC)

Friday (Yale), 7 p.m., Volpe Complex, North Andover, MA

Friday (Princeton), 7 p.m., Schneider Arena, Providence, RI

Saturday (PC), 7 p.m., Ingalls Rink, New Haven, Conn.

Sunday (MC), 5 p.m., Hobey Baker Memorial Rink, Princeton, New Jersey

Merrimack split with UMass-Lowell, losing in overtime, 4-3, on Friday, but rebounding with a 6-3 win back at home.

"Actually, I thought we played better on the first night [in the loss] than we did the second night," says coach Chris Serino. "On Friday, I thought their goaltender played real well. I was pretty proud of how we came back late in the game and tied it up and I thought we kind of controlled the overtime. But a bounce of the puck here or there and that’s how it goes.

"On Saturday night, we played well early, but then Lowell controlled the game for the end of the first period and they really took it to us in the second. We were lucky to get out of there with a 3-3 tie. And then in the third period [when we scored three times], I thought we played very steady."

Rejean Stringer posted another terrific weekend, scoring the two third-period goals to force overtime on Friday. With a 7-12–19 scoring line, he is tied with Brian Gionta for the overall league scoring lead.

"He’s a great player," says Serino. "I don’t think people in this league know how good he is. He can do everything. I have clips of the Lowell game where he was backchecking guys to the net and scoring at the other end. He just makes the players around him look better."

The surprising Warriors, who have won five of their last six games, now take on Yale and Princeton.

"They’re both good teams," says Serino. "It’s a battle for us every night. We’re just looking to get better each night. If we do that, then we’ll be okay."

Providence traveled to Orono and, after losing on Friday night, 6-1, almost pulled one out on Saturday. The Friars led, 2-0, but fell, 3-2.

"We played some solid hockey, but obviously not good enough," says coach Paul Pooley. "We had some stretches where we played well. The shots were pretty even. It just came down to not making the plays when we needed to.

"Both nights, they scored three goals in four- or five-minute spans. We need to be a little more composed at times.

"[Maine goaltender Alfie] Michaud played really well this weekend, especially Saturday night. He faced a lot of good chances and breakaways and made some nice saves. He was the difference this weekend."

Despite the losses, Pooley can point to several strong performances.

"Michael Omicioli worked very, very hard," he says. "He was paid special attention by them. He’s got to be able to control his emotions a little bit more, but it was very tough.

"He had the heart of a champion out there. He just worked as hard as he could.

"I also thought Troy Lake had a good weekend and Jayson Ialongo played very well for us."

The Friars now take on Princeton and Yale, before returning to league play.

"We need to be a little more balanced," says Pooley. "We had some guys play really well this weekend, but we had some guys just play very, very average.

"Getting a team consistency back is big so I can know I’ll get something out of everybody that’s on the ice. That’s the big thing I’m looking for."

(For a detailed look at Princeton and Yale, see this week’s ECAC Preview by Becky Blaeser and Jayson Moy.)

PICKS: Princeton and Yale both sweep and by 3-2 scores each night.

UMass-Amherst (3-5-1, 2-2-1 HEA, 6th) at No. 2 Colorado College (8-2-0, 8-2-0 WCHA) and Air Force (6-3-1)

Saturday, 7 p.m., Colorado Springs World Arena, Colorado Springs, CO

Sunday, 5 p.m., Cadet Ice Arena, United States Air Force Academy, CO

UMass-Amherst split two nonconference games this past week, defeating Union, 4-2, before just coming up short at Vermont, 2-1.

"I have to give Union credit," says coach Joe Mallen. "They played very well. Their win at RPI one night earlier showed that they’re a good team."

For the first time this year, the Minutemen enjoyed a significant advantage in shots, 34-19, and capitalized on that edge. "Obviously, the good news for us is that we scored four goals and kept up our good team defense," says Mallen.

Junior Nathan Sell scored twice in the win, including a back-breaking shorthanded goal.

"He’s a very underrated player," says Mallen. "We usually rely on him to kill penalties, take key faceoffs and shadow the other team’s top forwards. But he’s got a great shot and release and if he keeps putting the puck on net he could get 15 or 20 goals for us."

Although the game at Vermont just went into the standings as a loss, Mallen still saw positive signs.

"It was a very tough loss, but it was also an uplifting loss," he says. "The way we competed from the drop of the puck to the last whistle at a very tough place to play was very encouraging. I was really pleased with how hard we worked.

"It was still 0-0 after two periods and even after they led, 2-1, we had our chances. Jeff Blanchard had a penalty shot and put it through [UVM goaltender] Andrew Allen’s legs, but it just caught the back of Allen’s toe padding behind him and deflected wide. And we had a great chance with 38 seconds left and the goaltender pulled, but we just couldn’t score."

Having just played a Tuesday night game, the Minutemen have a full slate ahead of them. Their bus broke down on the way back from Vermont so they didn’t get back on campus until four in the morning. They’ll then travel to Colorado Springs, where they’ll face No. 2 Colorado College and then Air Force.

"We’ll have the advantage on Saturday against Colorado College because they’ll have played Air Force the night before," says Mallen. "But on Sunday, we’ll be facing an Air Force team that has had an extra day of rest. And Air Force played us tough last year."

UMass-Amherst has been a pleasant surprise to date. In five of its first 10 games (including the upcoming clash with CC), the Minutemen will have faced teams ranked in the top seven nationally. Picked to finish last in the coaches’ preseason poll, they have instead posted a more-than-respectable 3-5-1 record.

(For a detailed look at Colorado College see this week’s WCHA Preview by Todd D. Milewski.)

(And for Air Force, check out Jayson Moy’s Season Preview .)

PICKS: Colorado College will be just too tough, winning 4-1. A rested Air Force squad could just pull an upset, but will fall short, 2-1.

Northeastern (3-7-0, 1-4-0 HEA, 9th) at Army (4-5-0)

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

Since shutting out Colgate five weeks ago, Northeastern has fallen on tough times, losing six of the last seven contests. Last Saturday, the Huskies fell to UNH, 4-2, a result that was unfortunately duplicated three nights later against Cornell.

Coach Bruce Crowder was not happy with his team’s performance in the UNH game.

"We did not play well," he says. "The result was a combination of us not playing well and UNH being a very good team. Actually, the 4-2 score looks a little bit better than the game was."

Ironically, NU’s lone win during the past few weeks came against No. 3 Boston College, its toughest opponent, at least on paper. And the Huskies played very well in a 4-3 loss to No. 5 Notre Dame.

"Except for the UNH contest, we’ve played extremely well against the teams that maybe we weren’t favored to beat," says Crowder. "We’ve got to get things down to basics a little bit better and just play one shift at a time, one period at a time and not worry about what’s going to happen two periods or two days down the road."

This week, a visit to Army is all that’s on tap for the Huskies. Sometimes teams fall into the trap of viewing games against Division I Independents like the Cadets as automatic wins.

"Well, we did last year," says Crowder with a rueful laugh, recalling a 6-5 loss. "We did that last year so I don’t think it’s going to be the situation this time.

"[The Cadets] play extremely well. Lowell had to luck out a win against them with a shorthanded goal with less than a minute left. And they played Merrimack very tough. Obviously, we haven’t beaten Merrimack this year so for us it’s a game that we’re not going to be looking at as an automatic W."

(For a detailed look at Army, see Jayson Moy’s Season Preview .)

PICKS: Army could be catching Northeastern at just the right time, but here’s a vote for the Huskies starting to rebound, 4-3.

Thanks to Scott Weighart for his contributions to this preview.