After watching the Governor’s Cup this past weekend, I’ve decided to institute the Hendrickson Forget-The-Box-Scores Player of the Week Award to be given to the player whose contributions other than goals and assists I found particularly impressive.
Unfortunately, not everyone will have an equal chance at this award. After seeing all the teams at least once, I do try to see the more important games as they relate to the league standings. As a result, I’ll see teams near the top of the standings more than those at the bottom. And trips to Orono, Amherst and Providence happen less often than games in my back yard.
That said, this is a chance to recognize the role players and especially the defensive defensemen who rarely get their time in the spotlight.
May I have a drum roll and the first envelope, please.
Although I was mightily impressed with several candidates this weekend — toughest to omit were Maine’s freshmen defensemen — the first winner of the Forget-The-Box-Scores award is New Hampshire defenseman Jayme Filipowicz. Forget the goal he scored. He was immense in UNH’s loss to Maine. Quietly, he has become one of the top defensemen in the league.
Corporations with deep pockets that wish to sponsor this award can reach me 24 hours a day at 1-900-IMBROKE.
After a so-so performance outside the conference (7-6), Hockey East returns to exclusively league competition this week. The slate of matchups is led by No. 5 Boston College against No. 7 New Hampshire.
But first, here’s a look at the bevy of league award winners.
Hockey East Player of the Month: Rejean Stringer (F, Merrimack) scored six goals with nine assists in the month and now is tied for first in overall league scoring. Not coincidentally, Merrimack posted a 5-2 record in November.
Hockey East Rookie of the Month: Darren Haydar (F, New Hampshire), winner of the weekly award on Nov. 16 and 23, totaled eight goals and two assists in November. He has points in his last six games and goals in five of the six.
Heaton/Hockey East Goalie of the Month: Markus Helanen (UMass-Amherst) posted a 3-4-1 record with a 2.23 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage. His 87-save weekend against Maine led the Minutemen to a 2-1 win and a 1-1 tie, the only blemishes on the Black Bears’ record.
KOHO Player of the Week: Steve Kariya (F, Maine) took Governor’s Cup honors with two goals in a 4-3 win over UNH and an assist in the title game, a 2-0 victory over Vermont.
Heaton Defensive Player of the Week: Michel Larocque (G, Boston University) stopped 45 of 46 shots to lead the Terriers to a 2-1 win at St. Lawrence.
KOHO Rookie of the Week: Willie Levesque (F, Northeastern) recorded a hat trick in the Huskies’ 5-1 win at Army.
Finally, in addition to the schools noted last week, Providence College has also announced the recruits that it reached agreements with during the early signing period: Jonathan DiSalvatore (New England Coyotes, F), Michael Lucci (Omaha Lancers, F) and Devin Rask (Yorkton Terriers, F).
Hockey East Standings
Record in picks last week: 11-4 Season’s record in picks: 50-26, .658
No. 5 Boston College (7-3-1, 4-2-0 HEA, 3rd) vs. No. 7 New Hampshire (8-2-1, 4-1-1 HEA, T-1st)
Friday, 7 p.m., Whittemore Center, Durham, NH NH Public TV
Saturday, 7 p.m., Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, MA
Boston College had to settle for a split in its trip to the North Country, parlaying a third-period surge into a 6-2 win over St. Lawrence before falling to Clarkson, 4-2.
"That’s quite a college hockey weekend at Clarkson and at St.Lawrence," says coach Jerry York. "Historically, it’s been difficult for BC to get a sweep there — 1983-84 is the last time we swept. It proved to be just as difficult this weekend."
On Friday, the Eagles trailed the Saints, 2-1, heading into the third before exploding with five goals.
"We really got some hot sticks in the third and capitalized," says York. "But it was a lot closer game than the score indicated. I was very impressed with the way they played, especially their goaltender, [Eric Heffler], early in the game."
The roles were reversed on Saturday night against Clarkson. BC led going into the third period, 1-0, but saw the Golden Knights scored twice to take a 2-1 win.
"They capitalized on a four-on-three with about eight and a half minutes left in the game," says York. "It was just a hard, hard defensive battle. There wasn’t much room on the ice for either team."
The Eagles have now had to settle for splits in each of the last three weekends, falling from a No. 2 ranking to No. 5. Five of the six games have been against teams with losing records, prompting groans from some of the Chestnut Hill faithful who were expecting sweeps.
"There are a lot of good teams in college hockey," says York. "We’re going into buildings now and playing games that seem to be very important to other teams. In the past, that hasn’t been the case.
"So we’re coming in with a reputation, almost like it’s is a bowl game. That happens to all good teams. Michigan, of course, and BU over the last decade have both faced that. We’re playing some very focused teams and there’s not much difference in clubs in college hockey now.
"But those good, hard battles are good for us. So we’re just going to keep on swinging. Our defense has played pretty well the last couple games. We feel pretty well about holding teams down. Now we just have to capitalize some more on our chances."
They’ll have to do so against one of the top defenses in the collegiate game, as they embark on a home-and-home series with UNH.
"We’re back in our league and that focuses us a little bit more on the Hockey East race," says York. "Maine and New Hampshire have certainly broken very, very fast. New Hampshire is a great rival of ours and this will certainly have a big bearing on the top few spots in our league."
New Hampshire suffered a frustrating 4-3 loss to Maine in the Governor’s Cup opener, but dominated UMass-Lowell in the consolation game, 5-1.
Wildcat fans, not mention coach Dick Umile, were incensed at penalties in the final minute that took away the team’s chance to get an extra-skater goal.
"It was a battle," said Umile after the loss, refusing to comment on the officiating. "It was a good hockey game. The third period was a battle. They played a very defensive period. We had our chances to win the game, but we didn’t get it done."
In the consolation game, New Hampshire shut down Lowell in the first period, holding the River Hawks without a single shot.
"When you have a period like that, it shows that the team is playing really well," said goaltender Ty Conklin, who maintained his mental edge by skating around during every stoppage and playing the puck whenever he had a chance. "As long as the team is playing really well, then I’m happy."
Although the River Hawks performed better in the final two periods, UNH still emerged with a clear-cut win.
"I give the guys a lot of credit," said Umile. "It’s difficult to come out and play that afternoon game. It’s a tough game to play, a consolation game.
"[Lowell] obviously came out flat and we came out real strong. It was a combination of the two."
The clamor among many UNH backers to play Conklin more became a little louder after Maine’s Alfie Michaud outdueled senior Sean Matile in the first round. Like most big goalies, Matile can be susceptible to low shots and when he gives up a soft one, it looks worse than for a smaller, more active netminder. And that certainly happened against Maine.
A statistical comparison between the two shows a vast difference — Conklin: 4-0-0, 1.00 GAA, .945 Sv% and Matile: 4-2-1, 2.83 GAA, .856 Sv% — but the stats are almost certainly misleading at this point.
Umile isn’t about to throw Matile overboard, not after the senior has played virtually every important UNH game for the last two years. He did make a few critical saves on the way to the Final Four last year.
That said, it wouldn’t be a shock to see a split in playing time between the two netminders this weekend and perhaps next as well.
As noted in this preview’s introduction, defenseman Jayme Filipowicz played a splendid game against Maine, earning the inaugural Forget-The-Box-Scores Player of the Week Award.
PICKS: UNH wins 3-2 at the Whittemore Center, but BC splits again with a 4-3 victory back at Conte Forum.
Merrimack (6-5-0, 3-2-0 HEA, 4th) vs.
Providence College (6-6-0, 3-3-0 HEA, 5th) and No. 5 Boston College (7-3-1, 4-2-0 HEA, 3rd)
Thursday (PC) and Tuesday (BC), 7 p.m., Volpe Complex, North Andover, MA
Friday, 7 p.m., Schneider Arena, Providence, RI
Merrimack defeated Yale, 6-3, but lost at Princeton, 4-1.
"We played the same way the two games," says coach Chris Serino. "We basically played very well in the first and third periods and awful in the second period. The difference was that at Princeton they scored some goals in the second period when we were down. At Yale, we were playing well in the first period and we put the puck in the net.
"We played sound defensively in the third period, holding both teams to [six or seven] shots. We just had big lead in the Yale game, but had given Princeton too big a lead in the second."
Defenseman Stephen Moon — 6-5, 240 pounds — made his eagerly anticipated debut on the weekend and didn’t disappoint. He assisted on three Warrior goals against Yale and reportedly was a major force.
"I’ve said that you’re not going to see how good he is or what he can do until the middle of January or the beginning of February," says Serino. "He’s making some mistakes right now that hurt us. He knows our systems and what we’re doing, but it’s a lot different in a game when the pace is a lot faster. He made some mistakes, but he made up for them, too.
"People look at him and they just see this crusher at 6-5, 240. But he’s a very skilled kid. And he can pass the puck. He makes plays with the puck. He can shoot it. In the long run, he’s going to help us an awful lot.
"When he hits his stride, he’ll be as good a defenseman as there is in the league. He has it all. He’s big and strong. He’s got all the physical attributes. Plus, he’s got fabulous hands."
Unfortunately, just as Moon rounds into playing shape in these upcoming three games, the team will go on break. Even so, Merrimack could be a surprising dark horse in the race for home ice over the second half with Moon in the lineup.
Rejean Stringer earned Player of the Month honors after being a runner-up for the weekly award four times.
"He’s just a great player," says Serino, who’ll have much more to say about his star in an upcoming USCHO feature. "Not only is he a good player, he’s like having another coach on the ice. He’s very smart. Mark Mowers was like that at UNH.
"I don’t know if he’ll win the Hobey Baker Award because of where we are and the amount of publicity we get, but I’ll be shocked if he isn’t a finalist."
The Warriors will be facing their sternest test in terms of league competition in the next three games as they take on Providence College and Boston College.
"Obviously, Providence has won some big games this year," says Serino. "They beat UNH. They beat BU a couple times. So that’s going to be a great test for us. We’re really looking forward to seeing how far we’ve come and where we’re at.
"And obviously we’re playing one of the top teams in the country in BC. We’re looking forward to it."
Providence acted as Merrimack’s travel partner last week and had similar results, losing to Princeton, 6-5, but defeating Yale, 5-3.
"Friday night [against Princeton] in the first period, we weren’t very good at all," says coach Paul Pooley. "Four bad turnovers really cost us.
"But Saturday night at Yale we played a solid game. It’s always nice to get a win on the road."
After getting off to a good start, goaltender Boyd Ballard is struggling, much as he did during parts of last year. He’s lost his last three games, allowing five goals on 24 shots against Minnesota-Duluth, fours goals on 15 shots in half a game against Maine and, last week, four goals on nine Princeton shots in just one period.
"Mark Kane is the guy right now," says Pooley. "Boyd hasn’t played that well. Quite honestly, goaltending has hurt us over the last few games.
"Mark played well at Maine and did well when he went in on Friday night [against Princeton]. He played a real good game at Yale. We took some penalties and he made some great saves for us.
"So right now he’s the guy we’re going to look for leadership from while we look to get Boyd back on track."
The Friars will be hoping the Yale win got them back on track as a team after losing the previous four games. They had opened the season with wins in their first three league games.
If they aren’t on track, though, the surprising Warriors aren’t going to make it easy getting back on.
"They work real hard," says Pooley. "They’ve played well. They’re probably a little hungry.
"Stringer is obviously playing very, very well. We know they can score and their goaltending is apparently solid. They’re just a good hard-working hockey club that comes to play every night.
"We’ve got to match their intensity, play good defense and wait for our opportunities to score."
So will PC pay extra attention to Stringer, perhaps siccing a checking line on his?
"It depends on how the game goes," says Pooley. "If the match-ups aren’t going well, then we’ll switch them.
"But the funny thing is that the top lines on the other teams haven’t hurt us. It’s been the third and fourth lines that have hurt us. Like against Princeton, Jeff Halpern had a goal, but they had six different guys score and three or four of them had first goals.
"Our third and fourth lines have to do a better job of shutting [the other team] down. It’s been the guys that haven’t been the focus guys that have hurt us. That’s what has been frustrating. You shut the big guys down and the other guys nip you in the butt."
PICKS: Providence and Merrimack both win at home, 4-3. BC takes the midweek contest, 4-2, over the Warriors.
UMass-Amherst (4-6-1, 2-2-1 HEA, 6th) vs.
Boston University (3-8-1, 1-4-1 HEA, 8th)
Friday, 7 p.m., Walter Brown Arena, Boston, MA WABU-TV68
Saturday, 7 p.m., Mullins Center, Amherst, MA
UMass-Amherst split on its weekend trip to Colorado, losing to No. 2 Colorado College, 4-2, before rebounding with a 6-2 win over Air Force.
Against CC, the Minutemen scored late to bring themselves within one goal, but Hobey Baker hopeful Brian Swanson answered that with 27 seconds remaining.
"We’ve played against some pretty good teams [Michigan State, New Hampshire and Maine], but Colorado College was the best team we’ve played so far," says coach Joe Mallen. "They move the puck better than any team I’ve seen in a long number of years."
According to Mallen, the relatively close score belied the team’s actual performance.
"We didn’t play that well at all," he says. "On a scale of one to 10, we were maybe a four or five, at best. I felt that the altitude affected us a little bit…and some of our young guys were a bit in awe of Colorado College, for whatever reason.
"But in the first period, Markus Helanen kept us in it. When we scored the two goals late in the game, it was 3-2 with 42 seconds to go against the number two team in the country. I thought we had a chance to tie, but we made a freshman mistake on a dump-in and, next thing you know, there’s an All-American going the other way, scoring one of the nicest goals of the year to make it 4-2 and it was all over."
Helanen, who stopped 33 shots in the game, earned the league’s Goaltender of the Month Award.
"He’s just an extremely nice kid," says Mallen. "He’s very quiet, but he’s also well-spoken. He’s a good athlete. He’s a competitor. He has really risen to the occasion so we’re really proud of what he’s done."
At 5:00 the next evening, the Minutemen took on a rested Air Force squad and after being tied, 2-2, after one period, scored four unanswered goals to win going away.
"Brian Fitzgerald got a goal and two assists in that game and Ray Geever got two goals on the weekend, [one in each game,]" says Mallen. "Those are guys who haven’t scored much for us at all.
"If as a result of their scoring, those guys can get a little bit more confidence and some of our [top] guys score, then we’re going to have a chance to win a lot of games."
Geever, who didn’t get a point in seven contests as a freshman last year, now totals five in 11 games.
"Ray really needed to develop last year, but he worked extremely hard and he’s earned his spot on the team," says Mallen. "He’s been playing with Jeff Turner, who I feel is a pretty good player, and he’s been getting his chances.
"He had some great chances against some of the better teams we played against, but couldn’t score. Once he broke the ice against Colorado College, I told him, ‘Now the ice is broken, let’s see you keep going,’ and he got one the second night, so that was great for the team."
The Minutemen now face BU from a different perspective — a higher position in the Hockey East standings — than past years.
"Their record may be a little deceiving," says Mallen. "The teams they’ve beaten include Princeton, who could wind up at the top of the ECAC, and BC, who certainly is going to be near the top of Hockey East, and St. Lawrence, who has been having a great year. So they’re capable of beating anybody.
"I would certainly say that on paper, though, it’s the first time that we’re going to go into that rink with an equal chance of winning that game as opposed to the last four or five years. Our kids are optimistic and upbeat. They’re just looking forward to the weekend."
Boston University gained the same North Country split that its travel partner, Boston College, achieved, losing to Clarkson, 4-2, and defeating St. Lawrence, 2-1.
"It was more of the same for us," says coach Jack Parker. "We played fairly well against St. Lawrence and competed hard, but we did not do that against Clarkson until the third period. Probably our best period [of the weekend] was the third period against Clarkson, but it was too late.
"We don’t seem to be able to put together 60 minutes of a hockey game. We have some guys show up one night, but not the next."
After the loss to Clarkson, Parker was even more pointed in his comments.
"We have guys who look more at the scoreboard and give less effort," he said.
"There’s not a lot of leadership with the upperclassmen. There [are] a lot who don’t compete….The freshmen can’t do much without the seniors."
Goaltending provided the two biggest positives on the trip. Freshman Jason Tapp, Michel Larocque’s heir apparent, played in his first full game and second overall. He stopped 30 of 33 shots.
"We’re real happy with his overall performance and very, very happy with his poise and the way he handled the puck," says Parker. "He seemed very sharp."
In the 2-1 win over the Saints, Larocque stopped 45 of 46 shots, earning him league Defensive Player of the Week honors.
"It was similar to the BC game [a week earlier]," says Parker. "We had to kill off a lot of penalties. They went 1-for-11 on the power play and had a couple five-on-threes, so they got a lot of shots in those situations. He rose to the occasion, obviously, and we did a good job of killing penalties in front of him.
"When it was five-on-five, we kind of held the advantage, but we were in the penalty box too much."
In past years, the Terriers have feasted on UMass-Amherst. Except for a 10-2 UMass win during the 1919-20 season, BU has won all the other 18 contests. Since the Minutemen joined Hockey East in 1994-95, they haven’t managed even a single one-goal loss and the average margin of defeat has been 4.3 goals.
But as a non-hockey player from Hibbing, Minn., once wrote, "The Times, They Are A-Changin’."
The Minutemen haven’t allowed more than four goals-against all season and are above the Terriers in the Hockey East standings.
"I don’t think there’s any question that we’ve had their number over a long period of time," says Parker. "But they’ve played much better of late. They gave Maine all they could handle two weeks ago and I guess they’re getting great goaltending."
PICKS: BU wins at home, 4-2, but UMass-Amherst gets a satisfying split, 2-1, back at the Mullins Center.
UMass-Lowell (4-7-0, 2-5-0 HEA, 7th) vs.
Northeastern (4-7-0, 1-4-0 HEA, 9th)
Friday, 7 p.m., Matthews Arena, Boston, MA
Saturday, 7 p.m., Paul E. Tsongas Arena, Lowell, MA
UMass-Lowell dropped the opener and the consolation game of the Governor’s Cup, both of which hurt, but for different reasons.
The River Hawks did everything but win against Vermont in the opener, but waterbug Donnie Richardson gave UVM a 4-3 win at 2:47 of overtime.
"Tough loss," said coach Tim Whitehead after the game. "Any time you lose in overtime, it’s a tough loss. Sometimes you’re going to win them and sometimes you aren’t. Obviously, we’re hosting the tournament and wanted to be in the championship very badly. That’s disappointing."
Making it even more disappointing, though, was the way they controlled key parts of the game, outshooting the Catamounts, 30-17, but couldn’t bury their glittering opportunities in crunch time.
"That happens a lot," said Whitehead. "That’s part of the game. We wanted to hold down their quality chances and their shots on net. I thought we did that with a couple exceptions.
"But we turned it over a couple times and they made us pay for it. We have to play squeaky clean to win those type of games."
Hurting for a different reason was a 5-1 loss to UNH in the consolation.
Lowell set a new team record for futility in the opening period, going the entire 20 minutes without getting a single shot on goal. The dubious achievement broke the previous mark of one shot, first set on Dec. 1, 1976 in the first period of a 6-1 loss to Bowdoin and then equaled on Nov. 5, 1986 in the third period against Boston College, a 4-3 loss.
"What first period? We missed it," said Whitehead, who simply handed his team copies of the shot chart during the intermission.
"We obviously just didn’t show. A lot of times [in consolation games], one or both teams won’t show, but that doesn’t excuse it. It’s just not an exciting event, but that doesn’t excuse it. UNH showed."
Lowell did pick up its play in the second period, but the damage had been done.
"We started playing better, but you can’t spot a team like that a couple goals in a game that already doesn’t have a lot of motivation and then expect to light the world on fire," said Whitehead. "We dug ourselves a hole and couldn’t get out."
As an aside, although the Governor’s Cup will be no more, UML will host another tournament at the Tsongas Arena at the same time next year. Yale, Air Force and an unconfirmed Western team will be the competition.
Northeastern only played one game last weekend, but earned a 5-1 win out of its trip to Army.
"It was something we needed," says coach Bruce Crowder. "Two out of our last three losses, we had played pretty well, but we didn’t get anything out of it. So to go in and get a W was what we needed. We got a confidence boost and I also thought we played well down there."
Willie Levesque netted his first hat trick, earning him league Rookie of the Week honors.
"He played extremely well," says Crowder. "He might have had six goals. He had a lot of opportunities.
"He got [leveled] right at about 10 minutes into the first period and then he went and scored three goals. So I’m going to try," quipped Crowder, "to get that set up before the next game."
The Huskies’ list of walking wounded continues to include some pivotal names. Billy Newson, the offense’s sparkplug, remains doubtful for the weekend with a shoulder injury.
And even more seriously, Arik Engbrecht, one of the team’s top defenders as a freshman last year, may have to shut down for the season. Some bulging disks in his back have not responded since the injury occurred while lifting in the spring. Since half a year has already passed without his return to the lineup, the stark reality might be that he’ll have to redshirt this year and try again next fall.
Coupled with last season’s career-ending injury to fellow defensemen Aaron Toews, the Huskies have simply had no good luck at all in terms of the health of their blueliners.
In any case, they will now try to leverage their win over Army into a successful weekend against UMass-Lowell.
"It’s going to be an interesting series," says Crowder. "They’re the team that knocked us out of the playoffs last year. We’re going to have to be at the top of our game, but at the same time, we’re excited about getting back to playing some Hockey East games."
PICKS: In case you haven’t spotted the trend in these picks, this looks like a fourth split, with the home team taking 3-2 wins both nights.
Thanks to Scott Weighart, Juan Martinez and Rich Tibbetts for their contributions to this preview.