Back in December, New Hampshire used the phrase "Ty 2K" to promote the Hobey Baker Award candidacy of goaltender Ty Conklin. But ties of a different sort have also been all the rage.
After finishing with 19, 24 and 21 sister-kissers the last three years, respectively, Hockey East teams have already accumulated 30 in 1999-2000 with several weeks still to go. In fact, only 1994-95 and 1995-96 stand between this season and a new league record for games ending in a deadlock (the results were prorated for all years with fewer than nine teams).
And even the 37 ties in 1994-95 and 1995-96 deserve asterisks. Those were the two years in which Hockey East employed shootouts to resolve deadlocked league games. A conventional win netted a team five points, a shootout win three points, a shootout loss two points and a traditional loss zero points.
Although the relative values of wins and ties remained essentially unchanged (assuming you won 50 percent of your shootouts), one could argue that players and coaches raised on the standard two-points-for-a-win-and-one-point-for-a-tie system viewed a "pure" loss’ drop of five points as precipitous and as a result played more conservatively near the end of tie games.
Which brings us back to the uniqueness of this season. If conclusive evidence is still required, an additional look at the sharp increase in one-goal games could be offered. But the Exhibit A would have to be Merrimack’s new Division I record of six consecutive overtime games.
"It’s a positive when you win; it’s a negative when you lose," says coach Chris Serino whose Warriors have won one of the six and lost one as well. "It puts you in a pressure situation time and time again.
"When you come out with a win or a tie, it’s tough physically. But when you lose an overtime game, it’s mentally exhausting. It wears on you.
"But in our situation, we’ve got to go after wins. We need points. Hopefully, we’ll get into the playoffs and [we’ll be ready because this] has been like playoff hockey."
Exhausted or not, Serino still offers a humorous look his team’s preparation for one overtime game after another.
"We’re ready for it," he says. "Practice would get over every day this week and we’d just stretch and relax. And then go out for another five minutes."
Is it possible that too many ties could be a bad thing? That fans come away a little less satisfied?
One would think not, but the NHL has experimented this season with employing four-on-four play in overtime to open up more offense and decrease the number of games that end deadlocked. Although it might up the mental wear-and-tear ante that Serino mentions, it could happen in college hockey, too.
"There hasn’t been any formal discussion," says Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna. "The place where that would happen would be at the [coaches’] convention in Florida. I’m on the Rules Committee and it has the power to grant experimental rules status.
"If we wanted to petition next year and say that in our league games only we’d like to try four-on-four, that committee of nine people will give it thumbs up or thumbs down. It wouldn’t surprise me if somebody figures that the pros are doing it and if it works, let’s give it a try.
"I haven’t been privy to any discussion yet, but the timing wouldn’t be now anyway."
A New TV Deal And FSNE?
Since Hockey East’s three-year contract with Fox Sports New England runs out at the conclusion of this season, there are any number of obvious questions, only some of which have answers. Is a new deal imminent? Why hasn’t an extension already been negotiated? And where will the games go if the two sides part ways?
While the Fox productions are the best the league has ever had, there are no definitive answers yet on what the future holds.
"We have a four-person committee of athletic directors [who will be responsible for a new TV deal]," says Bertagna. "I’ve already given them some talking points. They’re going to meet as a group and then they’re going to sit down across the table and meet with the Fox people.
"Fox has said that they would look at things at any time, but they wouldn’t make a decision until after the season was over. The ratings, I know, are higher than last year at this time. We’re thrilled with the production values and the relationship.
"We have a small list of things we’d like to present to them about doing differently, but I’m hoping we can keep that going."
If there’s a Hockey East line that qualifies as the Rodney Dangerfield "I Don’t Get No Respect" trio, the vote from this corner would be for Merrimack’s
Greg Classen, Anthony Aquino and
John Pyliotis. Opposing coaches know that these three warrant special attention, but fans who just look at Hockey East’s scoring leaders may wonder what all the fuss is about.
After all, there’s a big gap between Jeff Farkas’ league-leading 21-22–43 stat line and that of The Rodneys: Classen (12-12–24), Aquino (13-10–23) and Pyliotis (5-18–23).
But do you think that Mike Mottau and Bobby Allen contribute significantly to the point totals of Farkas, Brian Gionta and Blake Bellefeuille? Would Tommi Degerman and Chris Heron have fewer points without a Pat Aufiero, Chris Dyment or Freddie Meyer? Is the offensive success of Cory Larose and Barrett Heisten tied to the skill of Doug Janik and Peter Metcalf?
While Merrimack’s defensemen are hard-working kids who have been a big part of the Warriors’ surprising success this year, there isn’t a Mottau, Aufiero or Janik in the group.
That statement should not be misinterpreted to demean the Warrior blueliners. Collectively, they’ve reduced their goals-against numbers from last year’s 3.78 per game to 3.17. You think that has a little to do with the team being one point out of sixth place instead of the cellar, where it was predicted in the preseason?
Of course! But none of the Merrimack defensemen are in the offensive class with the league’s elite. All of which means that The Rodneys have to work a little harder for their points than do virtually all of the league’s scorers who seem to be a good deal ahead of them in the statistics.
"Night in and night out, they dominate play when they’re out there," says Serino. "They get great scoring chances. Greg’s a sophomore, Anthony’s a freshman and Johnny’s a junior so there are only good things to come for them. They play pretty good at both ends of the ice, too. They compete. People look to shut them down.
"They move the puck as well any other line. It’s not like they’re just scoring goals. They make some great plays. They’re fun to watch. I catch myself watching sometimes when they’re out there. They’re as good a line as there is in Hockey East."
Classen emerged in the last two weeks from a snakebitten stretch in which he was creating opportunities for both himself and his linemates, but just wasn’t burying the puck.
"He’s one of the few players in Hockey East who helps his team every night even when he’s not scoring," says Serino. "He’s been a great player for us all year — scoring-wise or not scoring-wise, defensively and doing all kinds of things. He’s a goal-scorer — they’ll come for him.
"To his credit, his game hasn’t changed even when he’s not scoring goals. It’s not like he gives up and does everything else poorly, trying to get goals. He just plays the game and it’ll come to him.
"There isn’t a guy in Hockey East I’d trade for him. None."
Adam Wodon’s Between The Lines Column is almost always one of the best things on USCHO. But I had to shake my head at his latest missive, in which he commented on Vermont’s Kevin Karlander.
While at times criticizing the UVM captain, Wodon also offered up forgiveness and the following, pardon my expression, hogwash.
"The mob mentality that leads to out-of-control hazing rituals is no different than the mob mentality the leads to the public flogging of those involved…. We set the example. For Kevin Karlander to be made the whipping boy out of fears of our own failures is as abhorrent as the activities he participated in."
Pardon me while I throw up.
I’m no ostrich with my head in the sand who is appalled, I say appalled at underage drinking or the like. But what happened at Vermont was clearly over the top behavior.
And even if you ignore the actions themselves — a big if — the clear Fact, according to all accounts, is that Karlander and company deliberately violated a direct order by their coach. One which promised that they would be booted off the team if they did not heed it. They then lied in an official school investigation.
And the result? Instead of being expelled for their cover-up, which would certainly be a typical result at a lot of schools, the Catamounts have retained their scholarships and are practicing for next year.
Yet Karlander has the gall to whine to the New York Times, "The governor made a political move to end our season so he could say ‘Hazing will not be allowed.’ The governor? The attorney general? Are you kidding me? It’s a college! We’re getting hung out to dry. We’re being made an example of."
Excuse me, but the one who was hung out to dry was coach Mike Gilligan. And the ones doing the hanging were the players who violated his direct order. Karlander may want to paint himself as the victim, but as the team captain and the one who rented the house where the hazing occurred, it’s hard not to see him as the ringleader of the mutiny.
Some sympathy and forgiveness may be in order for those who were caught up in the peer pressure of going along with the ringleaders. But the ringleaders deserve none.
They are lucky they weren’t expelled. They are lucky they retained their scholarships.
Whipping boys? Gimme a break.
Around The Arenas
I’d have loved to have seen the look on one coach’s face when he was informed after a tournament game that he was sitting on the wrong team’s bus. Now that is intensity!
And I won’t mention which USCHO staffer received Valentine’s Day flowers at the Beanpot, but his face sure matched the flowers. It’s funny, too, that some of the TV folk assumed that flowers would be for them.
Boston College goaltender Scott Clemmensen has three consecutive shutouts to his credit. He now holds the team career record with nine.
This prompted some observers to question coach Jerry York’s selection of Tim Kelleher to start in the Beanpot championship game. A freshman over a guy with three straight shutouts?
"Scott has been hot, of course, with the three shutouts," said York, "but Timmy has been on fire all year."
In this writer’s opinion, it was the right call. Kelleher has been more consistent. This also has the side effect of setting up the rotation for the bigger Clemmensen to start at the Whittemore Center and then Kelleher back at Conte Forum.
As well as BU played in the Beanpot final, some of BC’s problems were self-inflicted. Particularly damaging were all the penalties in the third period. That’s not how you recover from a deficit.
"We took too many penalties late in the game to get back into it," said York. "It was 3-1 down going into the third period and we had to kill three power plays. That was a problem for our club."
Not to mention that fighting disqualifications will leave the Eagles without Jeff Farkas and Brooks Orpik for Saturday night’s tilt at UNH.
"It’s unacceptable for us to lose two guys going into the next game, which is an important game for us at New Hampshire," said York. "It’s a very, very important league game.
"But we have enough players. We’ll shuffle some players around."
Boston University will be without defensemen Pat Aufiero and Keith Emery on Friday night as a result of the other end of the fighting disqualifications at the end of the Beanpot championship game. However, the Terriers dodged a major bullet when a BC player fell on Chris Dyment’s knee. It had all the look of major reconstructive surgery, but Dyment has worn a brace since injuring the same knee last year and that brace saved him.
He missed three games following the initial injury on Dec. 4, 1998, and then another nine after reinjuring it on Jan. 7, 1999. Those lost 12 games, however, probably saved him a year’s worth.
UMass-Lowell lost a tough one to BU on Friday night, prompting Terrier coach Jack Parker to say, "We played three games against Lowell this year. And if it wasn’t for our goalies standing them on their ears for the first half of every one of the games we played, we’d have lost all three games…. I hope Lowell winds up in the playoffs, but not matched up against us."
The contest featured the extraordinary statistical novelty of Dan Weinreib playing exactly 19 seconds and getting credited with the loss. UML coach Tim Whitehead briefly pulled starter Cam McCormick for Weinreib and BU scored on a two-on-one.
Talk about a tough-luck loss.
The River Hawks rebounded from a poor start on Sunday against Merrimack during which they fell behind, 4-2, but salvaged a point. Both teams played terrible defense for two periods, scoring a total of 12 goals in 40 minutes only to then go scoreless for the final 25.
"It took us three periods and an overtime, but it finally turned into a good game as far as coaches and players are concerned," said Whitehead. "I’m sure it was a very entertaining game from start to finish for the fans."
Brad Rooney’s first multi-goal game since his freshman year helped the River Hawk cause in the FSNE Game of the Week.
"I knew Ma and Pa were back home watching, so you want to put on a good show," he said. "With the cameras and the hype, the guys get a little antsy. But we’ve played some pretty good games on TV in the past so even with the start we had, we knew that — with some people back home — we could turn it around and impress some people. We stuck with it.
"It wasn’t too little too late, but it wasn’t 65 minutes either."
Unless UMass-Amherst takes at least a point in its four remaining games with UNH and BC, the tie clinched a playoff berth for Lowell.
Merrimack will be without two top defensemen again this weekend. A test on Drew Hale’s spleen as the big blueliner recovers from mononucleosis initially looked promising, but further examination put him out until at least next week. Tim Foster is also out until the Maine series.
New Hampshire will be looking for some home ice magic on Saturday night to rebound from its recent slump. The Whittemore Center will be sold out and the Wildcats are 16-0-4 in the last 20 games when the "Big House" is packed.
Northeastern played extremely well on the weekend and could have come up with two wins. After knocking off the then-second ranked UNH Wildcats, 6-2, the Huskies outshot Harvard, 39-16, in the Beanpot consolation game only to lose.
"It was one of those games," said coach Bruce Crowder. "We had trouble scoring goals. We couldn’t get it by [J.R.] Prestifilippo. He played great. I thought that we played hard and strong, but we just couldn’t score.
"We’ve been down this path before, but we just have to keep going as a team. We had six goals on Friday night against the number two team in the nation. I guess some days you get it and some days you don’t. We haven’t had it much this year….
"We have been very consistent in the way we play. We just aren’t consistent the way we score goals. I’ll take the way we’ve been very consistent in the way that we play because if you don’t have that, you’re in trouble.
"We’ve got that. I’ll play our team against anybody."
After going without defenseman Mike Jozefowicz in the consolation game, the Huskies lost another blueliner, Brian Sullivan, with a shoulder separation. Initial indications were that he’d be gone for the year. Jozefowicz is day-to-day, but likely for this weekend.
As is his wont, Crowder injected some humor into the postgame press conference. Mindful of the near total disinterest in consolation games, he asked, "Are most of your bosses upset with you guys so you got stuck doing this game?"
He also followed up his reference made in the Beanpot first round that a priest had stopped by BC’s dressing room, but not Northeastern’s.
"By the way," he said, "the priest this week said he said a prayer for me going out for the third period. Obviously he doesn’t have his connections to the top."
Harvard is 2-5-0 in non-conference games with both wins coming against Northeastern.
Providence College split with UNH and BC last weekend, giving the Friars a 6-6 record against nationally ranked teams this season. Goaltender Boyd Ballard’s 32 saves against UNH moved him to a 9-9 record, a 2.84 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage.
Last week’s contest posed the following question, courtesy of the Boston Herald’s Jocko Connolly: name the two players who have competed for more than one school in the Beanpot.
The tip of the fedora goes to Rick Sacks, who was the only one who correctly got both double-dippers. Joe Fidler played for BC (1971-73) and Northeastern (1975); Bruce Milton skated for BU (1980-82) and BC (1983-85).
This week’s question comes courtesy of Mark Baumhardt. Ideally, it would have been posed a few weeks ago during Super Bowl fever, but it was impossible to wedge in any earlier. It asks: which Hockey East school faced St. Louis Rams hero Kurt Warner in a 1993 (football) playoff game?
Send your responses to Dave Hendrickson. Those who actually had nothing better to do than watch the Pro Bowl are eligible, but pitied nonetheless.
And Finally, Not That It Has Anything To Do With Anything, But…
As hat tricks go, this was one of the worst.
We lost three good ones last week. Charles Schulz, Billy Riley and Joe Concannon all passed away.
Schulz was the much-beloved creator of the Peanuts comic strip. It’s difficult to add to what others have already said about this legend, but suffice it to say that his legacy is one that anyone with artistic interests would be proud of.
Riley, father of the former UMass-Lowell coach, was himself a two-time All-American at Dartmouth (1948-49) who totaled 118 goals and 110 assists for 228 points in just 71 games. All three marks remain school records to this day. After his playing days, he remained active as a referee.
Concannon covered college hockey, among other things, for the Boston Globe through the end of last year. He regularly vacationed in Australia or New Zealand in the early winter and was nice enough to tell me in USCHO’s early years that he kept abreast of Hockey East from Australia by reading my column. It was a kind thing to tell someone and meant a lot at a time when this site was working so hard to establish credibility.
Schulz, Riley and Concannon will be missed.
Thanks to Scott Weighart for his contributions.