Can it get any better than No. 2 Maine and No. 3 New Hampshire on Sunday, followed by the Beanpot championship on Monday? Get them VCRs running….
And speaking of the Beanpot, is there any better way to spend the first Monday in February than watching two overtime games in the Battle for Boston? Writers mindful of their deadlines groaned over the extra sessions — a blowout by either team would be preferable since the game story would be all but completed by the second intermission — but the fans and purists got their money’s worth and a whole lot more.
With a plethora of awards this week, let’s get right to the envelopes, please.
Player of the Month: Jason Krog (F, New Hampshire) takes this award for the second straight month. Krog ranks as the nation’s top scorer, while leading the country in both points-per-game (2.00) and assists (34).
Rookie of the Month: Barrett Heisten (F, Maine) posted a 6-5–11 scoring line for January, including three game-winners.
Heaton Goalie of the Month: Sean Matile and Ty Conklin (New Hampshire) both posted great numbers while leading UNH to a 9-1 January record. Conklin (1.60 Jan. GAA, .922 Jan. Sv%) and Matile (1.80, .918) split the 10 games.
KOHO Player of the Week: Jayme Filipowicz (D, New Hampshire) scored both game-winning goals against Northeastern and Providence, while totaling a 2-3–5 scoring line.
KOHO Rookie of the Week: Ales Dolinar (F, Boston College) registered three assists in two games against UMass-Amherst.
Heaton Defensive Player of the Week: Anthony Cappelletti (D, UMass-Lowell) led the resurgent River Hawks over BU and Merrimack, complementing his strong play in his own zone with a goal and an assist. Cappelletti (11-17–28), one of the league’s most underrated and underrecognized performers, shares the Hockey East scoring lead among defensemen with Maine’s David Cullen.
Hockey East Standings
Record in picks last week: 5-4 (include an oh-fer in the Beanpot as several readers have gleefully pointed out)
Season’s record in picks: 99-53, .651
The Beanpot: Championship Game
Northeastern (9-13-3, 4-10-2 HEA, 8th) vs.
Boston University (9-14-2, 5-9-2 HEA, T-5th)
Monday, 8 p.m., FleetCenter, Boston, MA WABU-TV68
Who’da thunk it?
Boston University hadn’t won a game since Dec. 27. The Terriers had lost to UMass-Lowell, 4-1, on Friday, a game in which coach Jack Parker sent Russ Bartlett, Chris Heron, Juha Vuori and Colin Sheen to the stands as healthy scratches.
So what happens against No. 7 Boston College, the only nationally ranked team in the tournament? Not only does BU win in overtime, 3-2, but Vuori and Sheen earn Parker’s praise while Heron and Bartlett collaborate on the winning goal.
"There were a number of guys that played extremely well," said Parker after the dramatic win, "but a couple that really stood out were two defensemen who didn’t play the last game, Colin Sheen and Juha Vuori. They both played extremely well.
"We got steady performances from [Joe] DiPenta and Danny Ronan. Pat Aufiero gave us a great game for a freshman. He played really well. I was really pleased with our defense overall. That was the difference in the game.
"The difference in our team over the last few weeks is that we’ve been real sloppy defensively and we haven’t played that hard defensively and been really jumpy with the puck. We were none of those things tonight. In an area where we could have been real nervous, we were as poised as we’ve been all year.
"And obviously we had a chance to win because [Michel] Larocque did what he usually does for us. He had a terrific game. When they had a few flurries, he stood tall for us. Especially in the overtime when they had a couple chances, he really looked sharp."
The win extended BU’s Beanpot dominance over BC to a stunning 11 straight games dating back to 1982. When Parker arrived on campus as a player in the sixties, the Terriers had lost six of the eight head-to-head Beanpot clashes. Since then, BU has posted a shocking 19-2 record in the match-up.
So what is the secret?
"Boston College has always brought out the best in us," said Parker. "The 1976 Beanpot final… the 1981 first-round game… those were the two times BC has beaten us and I remember those two games and it’s [still] hard to swallow. BC is our biggest rival and vice-versa. We have been very fortunate against them in this tournament, there’s no question about it."
Although any win over BC is savored by the Terriers, especially those in the Beanpot, Parker found this one particularly special.
"This was really satisfying because we have been struggling so badly in areas where there was no way we were as bad as our record was showing," he said. "It had a lot to do with our poise and how hard we were playing. And we played hard tonight and played with a lot of poise tonight."
One advantage BU did have in the semifinal contest, however, could turn against them in the championship game against Northeastern.
"The pressure was on BC," said Parker. "As much as we’ve been successful [in the Beanpot,] if we didn’t win it, well, we’ve won it four years in a row. There was a lot more pressure on BC just to get into the final. I thought we had an advantage there."
Against Northeastern, however, that same pressure of expectations could work against BU. BC was the nationally-ranked powerhouse, but the Huskies and Terriers share more than just canine nicknames. There is little to separate the two teams in the standings. But as the de facto owner of the Beanpot in recent years, BU will be a heavy favorite to take a fifth-straight title. Whether that becomes a Terrier advantage or disadvantage remains to be seen.
Northeastern, on the other hand, will be making only its second title appearance since 1988, when it last won the Beanpot. As much as BU has dominated the tournament, the Huskies have been its doormat. They’ve won it only four times and finished last more often than the other three schools combined.
"It’s great to be playing in the late game next week," said coach Bruce Crowder, who had wondered aloud at the Beanpot luncheon about his program’s continued ghettoization to the early game in the first round.
The Huskies will be playing second fiddle to no one next Monday, though.
"We’ll have to get some extra sleep next week," quipped Crowder.
Northeastern got to the championship game by rebounding from Harvard’s tying goal with 4.5 seconds left to win it in overtime. Brian Cummings became the Huntington Hounds hero with help from Ryan Zoller and defenseman Jim Fahey.
"Any time you can come into a tournament like this and especially win in overtime, they don’t really get much better than that," said Crowder after the thriller. "I told the kids between the third period and overtime, ‘This is what dreams are made of. You’ve got a great opportunity to be skating out there and be a hero. You dream about that and a lot of times it doesn’t come true, but now you’ve got it at hand. Take advantage of it.’"
And take advantage they did.
The game-winner, not to mention the entire box score, fit the team profile to a T. The Huskies typically don’t play a single senior and consist of only four juniors to complement the 11 sophomores and nine freshmen. Other than junior Billy Newson’s second-period goal, all the other points went to underclassmen. Freshmen Leon Hayward and Willie Levesque scored and assists went to rookies Fahey (2), Rich Spiller (2) and Zoller.
"I don’t think there’s enough time," answered Crowder when asked to assess the impact of his freshmen. "They’ve been fantastic. They’ve come in and a lot of kids have really surprised us.
"With us being young, for us to be successful we’re really going to have to get a lot out of our freshmen. They were equal to the task tonight, especially in front of this type of a crowd and this type of environment. As a coaching staff, we were tremendously pleased."
The burden on the young defensemen could ratchet up yet again if the ongoing blue-line attrition claims sophomore Matt Brown. Brown suffered an injury in the game and was being X-rayed for a broken hand.
For those expecting a repeat of BU’s 11-4 shellacking of Northeastern in the 1996 title game, that wouldn’t appear to be in the cards. While BU struggled coming into the tournament, the Huskies have slowly been putting the pieces to the puzzle together, losing only to Providence and nationally-ranked UNH and BC since the holiday break.
PICK: This flies in the face of Beanpot history, not to mention all the BU fans who have chided me for incorrectly picking Boston College last week, but the hunch here is that Northeastern will win in overtime, 2-1.
The Beanpot Consolation Game No. 7 Boston College (16-9-2, 11-5-0 HEA, 3rd) vs. Harvard (8-10-1, 3-9-1 ECAC, T-10th)
Monday, 5 p.m., FleetCenter, Boston, MA
Will the Beanpot frustration never cease for Boston College?
Ask current Boston Bruin Steve Heinze, an All-American at Chestnut Hill almost 10 years ago when the Eagles also had great teams but couldn’t win the ‘Pot, and he almost winces.
"Those would be my worst memories of Boston College," he says. "We never won the Beanpot…. BU owned the thing and we couldn’t pull it out."
This time, the Terriers topped the heavily-favored Eagles in overtime, 3-2, marking BU’s eleventh straight Beanpot win in the match-up.
"I thought our team played very, very well," said coach Jerry York after the loss. "We played very hard. It was unfortunate in the OT that we gave up an outnumbered rush. It was something we’ve talked about and have tried to stay away from.
"We had good chances to score tonight, but the bottom line is that you have to convert good chances into goals.
"But I’m very proud of how we played. We played hard and well. Full marks go to BU."
So how are the Eagles to regroup from this unkindest cut of all?
"You go to the next game," said York. "There’s no option."
Lest BC fans grow too despondent, a recent history lesson is in order. Last year’s squad used a crushing overtime loss in the first round as a launching pad for its stretch run, going undefeated from that point until the national championship game.
Can the Eagles repeat that performance? It remains to be seen.
(For a detailed look at Harvard, see this week’s ECAC Preview by Becky Blaeser and Jayson Moy.)
PICK: In the game that no one wants to play, the Eagles dominate, 6-3.
No. 2 Maine (19-2-4, 11-2-2 HEA, 2nd) vs. No. 3 New Hampshire (21-4-1, 13-2-1 HEA, 1st) and
Northeastern (9-13-3, 4-10-2 HEA, 8th)
Friday, 7 p.m., Matthews Arena, Boston, MA
Sunday, 7 p.m., Alfond Arena, Orono, ME FOXSNE
Maine jumped in front of Providence last week, taking an early second-period lead of 4-0. PC rallied to make it 4-3 before the Black Bears pulled away to a 7-4 victory. The win gave Maine a sweep of the season series.
"We knew it was a game where we could gain on UNH and BC because both teams had lost to Providence and this was our third game [after two wins]," says coach Shawn Walsh. "So from the very start we were a very focused team."
Barrett Heisten earned Hockey East Rookie of the Month honors for his six goals and five assists in January. When he left for the World Junior Tournament, the freshman had yet to find the back of the net, perhaps making him the best forward in college hockey without a single goal. But he got the bung-puller first for Team USA and then in a collegiate sense against Boston College in his second game back. He’s been on a roll since.
"He’s a young freshman who was just getting used to college hockey and college life," says Walsh. "Clearly, once he scored a goal, he was much more relaxed.
"But Barrett Heisten doesn’t need to score goals to be a great player. He’s such an all-around, solid defensive forward that anything we get out of him in terms of offensive production is gravy."
With Sunday’s much-anticipated Clash of the Titans on deck, the Black Bears may be tempted to look past Northeastern and think only of New Hampshire. Walsh intends to dash any such leanings.
"The focus for our four days of preparation is Northeastern," he says. "We won’t talk about New Hampshire until after Friday’s game. Northeastern played us very, very well in the series up here [on Dec. 12-13.] That 7-7 tie showed how much strength they have offensively.
"I walked away from that series very, very impressed with that team. And last Friday, they had New Hampshire on the ropes and then won their Beanpot game. So they’re coming around."
Following that contest, the Black Bears will host New Hampshire in one of the marquee matchups of the year.
"I’d like to have more than one day to prepare for them," says Walsh, noting that the clash is UNH’s only one of the week. "That’s the difficult thing. But we’re at home.
"It’s clearly a game between two teams that have played very, very well. What’s a compliment to both teams is that in this day and age of a lot of parity in college hockey, these two teams have found a way to win.
"I’m really impressed with New Hampshire. They’re just an excellent club. Their overall speed is very good and they have a real commitment to defense. They’re the best opponent I’ve seen on film so far."
Special teams could be the deciding factor. The two teams rank one-two in the league in penalty killing, but while UNH is atop the league with a 24.03 power-play percentage Maine has struggled of late with the extra man. After leading the nation two years ago and trailing only Boston College last year, Maine’s power play has dropped from a superb 31 percent rate early in the season down to 21.40.
New Hampshire won its seventh and eighth straight games last weekend, squeaking past Northeastern, 5-4, and Providence, 4-2.
"We found a way to win," says coach Dick Umile. "I’m not surprised that the games were close. We were playing good hockey teams.
"Obviously, Northeastern is a good hockey team. They’re well-coached. The game became a power-play game. We got the last power play and ended up winning the game by executing on the power play.
"Against Providence College, Sean [Matile] kept us in it in the first period. In the first 10 minutes of the second period, we played well and in the last 10 minutes, they played well. But we played a good third period and gave ourselves the opportunity to win. It was a game that went back and forth. Providence played well, both goalies made some big saves, and we came out on top."
Jayme Filipowicz became one of the few defensemen to win league Player of the Week honors.
"He’s been playing well," says Umile. "We’ve got some great defensemen in the league and I’m not going to take anything away from the other ones, but Jayme and Stevie O’Brien are two very solid defensemen in the league. They’ve done a lot for our team. They lead our defensive group in general."
Along with Matile and Ty Conklin sharing the Goaltender of the Month award, Jason Krog took Player of the Month. As the nation’s top scorer, he’s getting a lot of UNH fans talking Hobey Baker Award.
"He’s a terrific candidate for it," says Umile. "I know it’s not on his mind 24-hours-a-day, but he’s doing everything he can possibly do to prove that he’s a strong candidate. "He’s the main reason that our team is where we’re at. We wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing without him, that’s for sure. He’s playing tough games: people are in his face, shadowing him, but he’s still finding a way to either set up a goal or score a goal for us. He’s having a terrific season so far and he’s a terrific person."
On Sunday, the Wildcats will be taking on the Black Bears in the first league match between Hockey East’s top two teams. The two titans did meet in the opening round of the Governor’s Cup, a contest won by Maine, 4-3, but that game did not count in the league standings.
"Right now, they’re playing a lot better than when we saw them in the Governor’s Cup," says Umile. "They’re a typical Maine team. They’re quick, they transition well, they do well in specialty situations, and they’re getting good goaltending.
"They’re number two in the country, not by mistake. They’ve earned it. They’re a real solid team. We’re going to go up there and hope we play our best and they play their best. It should be a great college hockey game."
Northeastern is profiled above in the Beanpot section.
PICKS: Maine defeats Northeastern, 4-2, prior to Sunday’s clash. Against UNH, the home ice advantage proves decisive, 3-2.
No. 7 Boston College (16-9-2, 11-5-0 HEA, 3rd) hosts
UMass-Amherst (6-16-2, 3-11-2 HEA, 9th)
Friday, 7 p.m., Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, MA
Boston College is profiled above in the Beanpot section.
UMass-Amherst lost the first two of its three-game gauntlet against BC, 7-1 and 3-1.
"The first night down at BC we had a lot of guys with no legs," says coach Joe Mallen. "It got to be a long night.
"But the game back here [at the Mullins Center], I thought we played very well. We were beaten by a couple of great plays by two real good players. Bobby Allen jumped down on a power play and scored a real nice goal and Jeff Farkas just had a great individual effort to score the third goal.
"No matter how you slice it, we’re heavy underdogs in those games. But we stuck to our game plan that second night… and we were right in it the whole night.
"Now we have to just see what can happen three times in a row."
Following that third game against the Eagles, UMass-Amherst will be one of the few teams with no games left against Hockey East’s three nationally ranked powerhouses. The Minutemen close with two league games each against Merrimack, UMass-Lowell and Providence plus a singleton vs. Northeastern.
"We’re real excited about the last part of the schedule," says Mallen. "In the past years within the league, it always seemed to have been two at Maine, two at UNH and two at BU. It just seems that this year, if the Hockey East schedule can give us a break, this is the break.
"This is the time we have to make a move."
PICK: How will BC react to its Beanpot frustration? Look for a 4-1 win.
Providence College (13-12-0, 8-8-0 HEA, 4th) vs.
UMass-Lowell (14-12-0, 6-10-0 HEA, T-5th)
Friday, 7 p.m., Paul E. Tsongas Arena, Lowell, MA
Saturday, 7 p.m., Schneider Arena, Providence, RI
Providence’s bid to crash the party of the league’s blue-blood trio — UNH, Maine and BC — fell short last week when the Friars lost to Maine, 7-4, and New Hampshire, 4-2.
"We played well in the second and third periods against Maine, but got down too much," says coach Paul Pooley, whose Friars trailed 3-0 after 20 minutes.
"I thought we played a solid game at UNH, controlled the play a lot, but missed some chances. [Sean] Matile made some big saves for them…. They’re a team that has obviously won a lot of games in the third period. They’re a solid club."
PC now takes on a Lowell team that has posted an 8-3 record since the break and is only four points behind the Friars and fourth place.
"BC, Maine and UNH are the three top teams in the league and for everybody else it depends on who gets playing well at the right time," says Pooley. "Lowell is coming on, so it’s going to be a big weekend for us, as it is for them."
Coming off games against the league’s top two offensive teams, will the Friars be approaching the River Hawks any differently?
"Against Maine, you have to try to take away their transition game because they just come, come, come," says Pooley. "And UNH, [too]. But Lowell is a very good transition club as well with [defenseman Anthony] Cappelletti joining the play. They give the guys the green light to go, especially in the offensive zone. So it’s a matter of executing and taking care of the puck, making sure it gets in and trying to dictate what we’re going to do with them."
UMass-Lowell vaulted from a share of the cellar to a tie for fifth place with wins over BU, 4-1, and Merrimack, 4-3.
"It was an important weekend for us, but so is this weekend," says coach Tim Whitehead. "The way the standings are now… teams can make a jump like we did and leapfrog us as well. Our goal is just to continue to chip away at the standings and work our way up."
Here’s a pop quiz. What league defenseman is tied with David Cullen for the blue-liner scoring lead?
The answer is one of Hockey East’s most underrated players, Anthony Cappelletti. The senior, the Defensive Player of the Week, now totals 11 goals and 17 assists.
"We’re real proud of Anthony and how he’s developed here," says Whitehead. "He got some ice time as a freshman, but the end of that year was the first opportunity he had to really make an impact. He really stepped it up during the playoffs after not playing a lot of games. In his sophomore year, he made a big improvement and again in his junior year and this year, too.
"It’s nice to see a guy improve like that and come from a humble start and really make a name for himself. He’s a very underrated defensemen…. There are some others too, but he certainly deserves everything he gets, because he’s worked so hard to get it.
"The interesting thing about him is that he does not look like the smoothest player out there, but then he’ll amaze you with the smooth plays that he makes. He’s really a very composed competitor out there."
The River Hawks were 6-9 before the holiday break, but have posted an 8-3 record since. And two of those losses were to No. 3 UNH. What has been the key to the turnaround?
"As a team, we’re playing more conscientiously defensively and our goaltending has been more consistent," says Whitehead. "Scott Fankhouser has made a tremendous improvement this year.
"We had to be patient with him going into this year because he didn’t have a lot of experience, but I’m just proud of the improvement he’s made and the consistency he’s shown.
"He’s still working at it. There’ll be some ups and downs, but he’s given us the opportunity to win some games."
Lowell is now a sweep of this weekend away from a share of fourth place. Even a split, however, won’t be easy against the Friars, who won the first game in this series three weeks ago, 5-2.
"They’re a very dangerous team," says Whitehead. "They can be very explosive on the special teams, both on the power play and shorthanded. They’re a very balanced, hard-working team that I’ve been very impressed with. They’re a tough team to beat. They certainly handled us last time in our rink.
"They’re a team that I don’t feel has any weaknesses. You can’t look at them and say that this is what you can exploit. They’re a very sound team. They’ve got good leadership back at the blue line, they’re getting solid goaltending and they’ve got some offensive threats that you really have to respect.
"They’re a well-rounded team. We’re certainly going to have our hands full."
PICKS: The teams split, with each taking 4-3 wins on the road.
Merrimack (9-15-1, 5-9-1 HEA, 7th) at
Boston University (9-14-2, 5-9-2 HEA, T-5th) and
UMass-Amherst (6-16-2, 3-11-2 HEA, 9th)
Friday, 7 p.m., Walter Brown Arena, Boston, MA
Saturday, 7 p.m., Mullins Center, Amherst, MA
Merrimack lost its fifth and sixth straight games, falling to Brown, 3-2, and Lowell, 4-3. Against Brown, the Warriors outshot the Bears, 42-18, but Brown goaltender Scott Stirling stole one with his spectacular play.
"I thought we played real well, but we had major breakdowns," says coach Chris Serino. "It’s not like they just threw some pucks on the goal, they earned the goals that they got. So I’m disappointed that we didn’t play a full game."
Hosting the River Hawks, Merrimack bounced back from a 2-0 deficit to lead, 3-2, with four minutes remaining. A power-play goal tied the game, however, and UML got the game-winner with 1:15 left.
"We started slowly, but we played well and did a lot of good things," says Serino. "But we’ve got to do away with the major breakdowns because, right now, every time we have a major breakdown it’s going in the net."
Despite the losing streak, Serino is still encouraged by some aspects of his team’s play.
"I went back a reviewed film from us earlier in the year and we’re playing much better," he says. "We’re just not getting the results that we got early. That’s what we’re trying to impress on the kids, that if we keep getting better things will come our way."
Serino recognizes, however, that as much as wins can create positive momentum, losses can begin to snowball, making it all the tougher to right the ship.
"We held Lowell to six shots in the first period and seven in the second period," he says, "but they got 13 in the third. I thought we played the third period not to lose rather than to win. That’s where we’re at right now. We’ve got to start playing to win and not to not-lose."
Boston University is profiled above in the Beanpot section.
UMass-Amherst is profiled above in its game against Boston College.
PICKS: Merrimack gets back on track, topping BU, 4-3, and UMass-Amherst, 4-2.