And UMass-Amherst gave hope to Red Sox fans everywhere by defeating Boston University for the first time in 79 years. If the Curse of Elton Mansell — the Minuteman coach who won his only game against the Terriers back on Jan. 16, 1920 — is over, can an end to the Curse of the Bambino be far behind?
Oh yeah, and there’s also this thing called The Beanpot on tap.
As for the awards, there’s a strong hint of deja vu this week.
KOHO Player of the Week: Jason Krog (F, New Hampshire) won for the second time in a row after putting together a 2-3–5 weekend, becoming the nation’s leader in points and points-per-game and also registering his 200th career point. With a week like that, he should have bought a lottery ticket.
KOHO Rookie of the Week: Darren Haydar (F, New Hampshire) took this award for the fourth time. (It seems like more because he didn’t win his first until Nov. 16.) Haydar had his eighth two-goal game of the year to total 21, tops in the country. Not just tops for rookies. Tops for everyone.
Heaton Defensive Player of the Week: Boyd Ballard (G, Providence) became the second Friar in two weeks to take this honor, following in Josh MacNevin’s footsteps. Ballard’s 36-save shutout led Providence over Boston College in front of the FOX Sports New England cameras. The national media also took notice as CNN dubbed his performance its "Play of the Day."
Hockey East Standings
Record in picks last week: 5-5 (After 8-0 last week, "Pride goeth before destruction.")
Season’s record in picks: 94-49, .657
Northeastern (8-12-3, 4-9-2 HEA, 7th) vs. Harvard (8-9-1, 3-9-1 ECAC, T-9th)
No. 7 Boston College (15-8-2, 10-5-0 HEA, 3rd) vs.
Boston University (8-13-2, 5-8-2 HEA, 5th)
Monday, 6 p.m. (NU-HU), 9 p.m. (BC-BU), FleetCenter, Boston, MA
Boston College split its weekend series with Providence, losing 3-0 before rebounding with a 5-2 win. The Eagles then dominated UMass-Amherst, 7-1 on Tuesday, for their first back-to-back wins of 1999.
And so, after another tilt against the Minutemen on Friday night, Boston College will once again vie for Beanpot bragging rights. Last year, the Eagles suffered a bitter loss to Harvard in overtime of the first round, but were able to rebound from that defeat to go unbeaten until the national championship game.
They’ll be looking again to follow the Beanpot with a late-season winning streak, only this time have that skein be the result of the momentum gained from a Beanpot championship rather than a rebound from a stinging defeat.
Historically, the Eagles haven’t fared as well as expected in the Beanpot, winning the title only twice in the last 22 years. While BC has boasted some of the country’s strongest teams during those two decades and change, none of those dominant squads celebrated on the second Monday in February. Ironically enough, the two championship years came in 1983, when the Eagles posted a 15-13-2 record, and in 1994, the highlight of a 15-16-5 campaign.
However, perhaps that just means that they are due.
Boston University lost its one game of the week, 5-4 to UMass-Amherst. The Terriers rallied with three goals in the final three minutes, but had dug themselves too deep a hole.
"It was way too little, too late," says coach Jack Parker. "It was the same old thing of not competing, not playing with any enthusiasm. UMass played well. I won’t take anything away from them, but we just weren’t in a frame of mind where we gave a great effort."
Could the Beanpot with all its enthusiasm and excitement be just the thing to get BU (0-5-1 in its last six games) back on track?
"One of the concerns I have with this team," says Parker, "is that the Beanpot is almost a mini-season for us and this season has been one where we’ve been concerned about not winning and not being as good as we used to be.
"I don’t need my club being worried about what it’s going to be like if they don’t win after winning the Beanpot four years in a row. They don’t need the pressure of having to live up to other peoples’ expectations, but they need the opportunity to get excited about hockey games .
"The latter will be more important: ‘Geez, we’re going to be playing Boston College in the Beanpot. That’ll be great. Let’s go after them.’
"Whenever we play BC, it gets us excited. Probably the best game we played all year was against Boston College. We certainly need something to bring us up to that competitive level and enthusiastic level.
"Playing BC in the Beanpot is something that, if it doesn’t get us playing with enthusiasm, there aren’t going to be a lot of games that are going to do it."
The Northeastern Huskies kissed their sister twice last week, failing to hold third-period leads against UMass-Amherst and Brown. Against the Minutemen, Northeastern held a 2-1 advantage with six minutes to play, but had to settle for a 2-2 tie.
That lost point, however, paled in comparison to the 5-5 tie with Brown. In that contest, the Huskies led 5-1 with 11 minutes remaining, but surrendered four unanswered goals.
"I thought we played well both games," says coach Bruce Crowder. "The one [against Brown] really got away from us. It’s one of those things, a great learning experience, but you hope you never have to go through it again.
"Looking back, we were up 5-1 going into the third period, but in the second period they took it to us pretty good. Maybe we were a little bit lucky to be up 5-1 and they were maybe a little bit luckier or took advantages of certain situations to come back and tie it. But I was very impressed with Brown and the way they came at us and played hard for 60 minutes."
Mike Jozefowicz returned from a knee sprain to face Brown, but fellow defenseman Jimmy Fahey remained out with a wrist injury. Fahey is a question mark for Friday night, but Crowder hopes to have him back for the Beanpot.
Prior to Monday night’s Beanpot opener, Northeastern must take on No. 4 New Hampshire.
"They’re a heck of a hockey team," says Crowder. "I had an opportunity to watch them play against Lowell on Saturday night. I thought Lowell played a good game also, but UNH just kept coming and coming.
"They’ve got senior defensive leadership. They’ve got a senior in goal. They’ve got the kid [Darren] Haydar playing extremely well as well as [Jason] Krog, so we’re going to have our hands full.
"They’re a very good hockey team and playing with a lot of confidence. Obviously, we’re going to have to be at our best to counteract that."
As for the Beanpot, the Huskies will be facing a team that appeared dead in the water at one point, posting a 2-8-1 record after the first weekend in December. Since then, however, the Crimson have won six of their last seven games and should be anything but a pushover.
"Expectations were pretty high for them going into the season," says Crowder. "They didn’t really get off to a great start, but they’re playing great hockey right now. I know they’ve been off a little bit for exams, which might be an advantage for us, but I don’t think so.
"Anything can happen when you get to the Beanpot and hopefully we’re going to play one of better games of the year come Monday night."
(For a detailed look at Harvard, see this week’s ECAC Preview by Becky Blaeser and Jayson Moy.)
PICKS: Could BU reprise its Beanpot upsets of the late eighties? Possibly, but BC needs to put together a run, and what better time than now? BC prevails, 5-3.
And Harvard returns to the championship game with a 3-2 nail-biter.
No. 2 Maine (18-2-4, 10-2-2 HEA, 2nd) at
Providence College (13-10-0, 8-6-0 HEA, 4th)
Friday, 7 p.m., Schneider Arena, Providence, RI
Maine continued its winning ways, taking both games at Merrimack, 5-2 and 4-3.
"We were hungry for a sweep," says coach Shawn Walsh. "We actually talked about it before we left Orono. We know we’re in a pennant race and we wanted four points.
"Once we got two [on Friday,] we really wanted it. You could see it in their faces."
It would appear that the Black Bears are not only more talented this year than the past couple seasons, but are also developing the necessary killer instinct.
"They’re getting it," says Walsh. "I don’t think we’re an unbelievable team. We can be beaten by anybody. Certainly UMass and Northeastern have proven that. But we’re getting better.
"I like what I’m seeing out of this team. We’re on a steady climb and we continue to do it with three regulars out of the lineup."
One player who is certainly on a climb is freshman Barrett Heisten, who has five goals and five assists in his last six games.
"Heisten is coming on," says Walsh. "He’s becoming arguably as good a rookie as there is in this league. Since getting back from the World Juniors, he’s been a different player."
While UNH fans will certainly point to their own Darren Haydar as the league’s top freshman, there’s no doubt that Heisten is now a big contributor on the top line with Cory Larose and Steve Kariya.
Speaking of which, Kariya (16-26–42) now trails only Jason Krog (17-31–48) in the league’s overall scoring race.
"Stevie has stepped up," says Walsh. "He’s elevated his game much like [Marty] Reasoner did last year. He’s carrying this team on his shoulders."
The Black Bears face Providence in their lone game this week.
"It’s been a great series, especially the second game when they had us down, 2-0, and we came back and beat them," says Walsh. "We know how experienced they are and how strong they are. Last year, they swept us in their rink and we want to atone for that. We also realize it’s going to be a monumental task.
"It’s our only game of the week, so we’re going to focus on it and give it our best."
The Friars’ split with Boston College last weekend certainly showed that they are a dangerous foe.
"If anything, their win over BC heightens our interest," says Walsh. "Our listening ability will be higher than it would have been had BC won both games. But it will be a typical tough Hockey East game between maybe two of the best four teams in the league."
Providence made the rest of the league sit up and take notice with a Friday night 3-0 defeat of Boston College on the Hockey East Game of the Week. The Friars couldn’t finish off the potential sweep, however, losing 5-2 at home.
"Friday night, we played a very solid game, obviously," says coach Paul Pooley. "[Goaltender] Boyd [Ballard] played exceptionally well, but I thought we did what we wanted to do for the most part. We gave up some chances, but we created a lot of chances, too. It was an excellent game for us.
"On Saturday night, a couple faceoff goals in the first period really set us back. Then they scored a power-play goal to make it 3-0. But we showed a lot of character coming back to 3-2. We had a lot of chances, had a lot of shots. We just couldn’t put it in.
"Our power play was 2-for-6, but when we needed a goal on a power play we couldn’t get it. It’s unfortunate because our power play is going pretty well. But it was a real good game.
"Gionta had three goals: a short-handed goal, a power-play goal and an empty-netter. He’s definitely the key to their team and the catalyst for them. He’s a great player.
"I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t win. But I think we made it exciting and I think we learned a lot about ourselves and what it takes to beat a team like BC back-to-back."
It doesn’t get any easier because the Friars now take on No. 2 Maine and No. 4 New Hampshire.
"It’s a big weekend," says Pooley. "We knew these last four games were going to be big after the Lowell game. We feel good about facing Maine and UNH. BC is probably a little more aggressive on their forechecks. They give up some things a little bit if you execute.
"Maine and UNH are both very sound defensively. That’s their bread and butter. Maine is very, very aggressive and we have to try and exploit some things that they do with their aggressiveness.
"They’re both solid teams. We’ve got to take care of the biscuit and make sure we be patient, wait for the opportunities and be very, very aggressive on the offensive transition."
PICKS: These should be two terrific battles that could go either way. Maine tops the Friars, 4-3 in overtime. UNH makes it two, 3-2.
No. 4 New Hampshire (19-4-1, 11-2-1 HEA, 1st) at
Northeastern (8-12-3, 4-9-2 HEA, 7th)
Providence College (13-10-0, 8-6-0 HEA, 4th) at No. 4 New Hampshire (19-4-1, 11-2-1 HEA, 1st)
Friday, 7 p.m., Matthews Arena, Boston, MA
Saturday, 7 p.m., Whittemore Center, Durham, NH
New Hampshire extended its unbeaten streak to six games with two more victories, 3-1 and 4-1, over UMass-Lowell.
"We’re playing well and obviously the weekend was good hockey, good competition," says coach Dick Umile. "[Lowell goaltender Scott] Fankhouser played well and made it tough, but our team played for 60 minutes and just did whatever they had to do to win the hockey game. I was pleased with the overall performance of the team."
What is striking about the Wildcats is how they don’t have quite the offensive dazzle of last year’s squad, but are just so solid, seemingly devoid of weaknesses.
"We’ve got balance," says Umile. "We’re strong defensively, led by Steve O’Brien, our senior. Our two goaltenders, Sean Matile and Ty Conklin, are playing very well.
"And we’ve got balance up front and our lines can all play. [Jason] Krog is having an absolutely fabulous year. That makes us a very balanced team and we can do a little bit of everything."
On the negative side, a significant Wildcat will be out of the lineup for an extended time for the first time all season. Dan Enders broke a collarbone and will be sidelined for at least six weeks.
On the plus side, Sean Matile, who battled inconsistency earlier in the season, has rewarded Umile’s faith in him with 46 saves of 48 shots over the last two games. His win over Lowell gives him 48 on his career, tying him for the UNH lead with Greg Moffett.
"Goaltending is a tough position," says Umile. "Goaltenders take the blame for loses and a lot of things. At times, it may not be totally their fault. There’s no question Sean wasn’t playing at the top of his game.
"But I believe right now he’s back playing well, playing with a lot of confidence. I know he’s worked at it. We’re with him every single day. People on the outside don’t deal with him every single day so they didn’t know that [earlier] we just needed to give the support that he needed and probably let him fight [through] it."
This week, the Wildcats face Northeastern and Providence.
"They just get tougher and tougher," says Umile. "The competition in our league is always difficult. Playing down at Northeastern is difficult. They always play you tough.
"And then we have Providence. I’m not surprised at the success of Providence of late. I felt that they were a real good team in the beginning of the year. We split with them early on, so it’s kind of a rubber match game for us."
Northeastern is profiled above in the Beanpot section.
Providence is profiled above in its contest against Maine.
PICKS: UNH takes two more, 4-2 over Northeastern and 3-2 over Providence.
No. 7 Boston College (15-8-2, 10-5-0 HEA, 3rd) at
UMass-Amherst (6-15-2, 3-10-2 HEA, T-8th)
Friday, 7 p.m., Mullins Center, Amherst, MA
Boston College is profiled above in the Beanpot section.
UMass-Amherst took three of four points on the weekend, tying Northeastern, 2-2, and defeating BU, 5-4.
"All league points are tough at this point, but three out of four points was a real nice weekend for us," said coach Joe Mallen. "Beating BU is something that’s really been a challenge for us. It was always an uphill battle.
"We felt that we had played so well in those two 3-2 losses [to BU] early in the season that we were due. Our kids just really did a good job. They really went out and played hard. For 50 minutes we played terrific. In the last four or five minutes we had a letdown, but for us to score five goals against BU and a good goaltender like Michel Larocque is a good accomplishment."
Sophomore Jeff Turner was the offensive star, getting the game-tying goal against Northeastern and the game-winner against BU.
"Jeff’s a real gritty player," says Mallen. "[He] missed the whole first half of last year with a broken leg, so really he’s just getting a full year under his belt now. We think he’s going to be one of the leaders of the future on this team."
The Minutemen then opened a three-game series with Boston College with a 7-1 loss on Tuesday.
"Obviously, I have great respect for what BC is doing right now," said Mallen before the game. "They’re definitely one of the top teams in the country. They may be a little up and down, but on any given night they can beat anybody in the country.
"For us right now, hockey is a game of momentum and we’ve just got to use the momentum from the Northeastern and BU games to play real well against BC.
PICKS: BC takes off on a winning streak, 4-1.
Boston University (8-13-2, 5-8-2 HEA, 5th) at
UMass-Lowell (12-12-0, 4-10-0 HEA, T-8th)
Friday, 7 p.m., Paul E. Tsongas Arena, Lowell, MA
Boston University is profiled above in the Beanpot section.
UMass-Lowell lost two over the weekend to No. 4 UNH, 3-1 and 4-1.
"Both nights we were in position to upset them late in the third period," says coach Tim Whitehead, whose River Hawks led one night going into the third and were tied the other. "I’m pleased that we were in position to do that. Obviously, we would have loved to have seen us follow through with that and knock them off, so it was disappointing.
"But UNH, when it came down to it, won the game in the end. We didn’t give it to them. The kids competed and we were in position to win it, we just got beat by some real good plays, particularly the second night at their rink when Krog and Haydar did a nice job of polishing it off."
With the River Hawks now tied for eighth place in Hockey East, this week’s games against BU and Merrimack become the perfect time for them to make a move on two teams that aren’t far ahead of them in the standings.
"We’re excited to play this weekend," says Whitehead. "These are two games with a lot of significance for the teams involved so it should be a lot of fun that way.
"It’s an opportunity for us. If we can get a couple in the win column, we can make some headway. But obviously for us, at this point every game is challenging because you look at the standings and every team is stacked up ahead of us.
"We’ve got 10 games left and all 10 of those are going to be challenging for us. But it’s also an exciting time for us because we have the opportunity, if we knock some of these teams off, to climb up in the standings."
PICKS: Lowell gets back on the winning track, 4-2.
Merrimack (9-13-1, 5-8-1 HEA, 6th) vs. Brown (3-8-5, 2-6-4 ECAC, 8th) and
UMass-Lowell (12-12-0, 4-10-0 HEA, T-8th)
Thursday, 7 p.m., Meehan Auditorium, Providence, RI
Sunday, 2 p.m., Volpe Center, North Andover, MA
Merrimack finished its four-game set against UNH and Maine empty-handed, losing to the Black Bears, 5-2 and 4-3.
"Against New Hampshire, I don’t think we came close, but I thought that against Maine we had some real chances to win," says coach Chris Serino. "Hopefully, we’ll continue some of that against Brown and Lowell this week."
In the second game against the Black Bears, Serino put Greg Classen on the top line with Rejean Stringer and Kris Porter and the rookie responded with two goals. Classen had served as second-line center for most of the year.
"You try to get balance in your scoring and that’s why I had him down there [on the second line,]" says Serino. "But if the first line is going to be the line that scores most of your goals anyway, then you have to take advantage of every opportunity.
"One thing that Greg does very well is he goes to the net. He’s gotten a lot of goals that way: going to the net, getting rebounds, having a quick stick in front of the net when there’s a loose puck. If you play with Stringer and Porter, there’s going to be a lot of those. And he’s got the speed to open up the ice a little bit.
"The other line that I thought played well defensively for us was [Chris] Halecki, [Vince] Clevenger and [John] Pyliotis. We tried to play them on Kariya’s line and I thought they did a good job.
"I’m going to try to keep [those two lines] together and play with the other two."
Although the Thursday tilt with Brown could be viewed as a less important nonconference match-up, Serino sees it as a key contest.
"Brown is a very important game, just to get us back on a winning note," he says. "It’s a big game to get us rolling again.
"With a team like ours, when you win it does so much for the guys that it becomes important for us to win."
And as for Lowell…
"It’s going to be a huge game for us," says Serino.
UMass-Lowell is profiled above in its game against BU.
(For a detailed look at Brown, see this week’s ECAC Preview by Becky Blaeser and Jayson Moy.)
PICKS: Merrimack sweeps, 5-2 over Brown and 4-3 over Lowell.
Thanks to Scott Weighart for his contributions to this preview.