Hockey East Column: Oct. 12, 2000

UNH Proves Best Out West

New Hampshire opened its season with a bang this past weekend by winning the Ice Breaker Cup. The stellar field included No. 1 North Dakota, host and No. 2 Michigan, No. 9 UNH and No. 16 Colgate. The Wildcats faced a distinct possibility of playing well, but returning home oh-for-two after facing the top two teams in the country. Instead, they squeaked past the top-ranked Sioux with a shootout win and followed that with a convincing 7-3 victory over Colgate.

“The thing I was most impressed with was [our] speed and the conditioning factor,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “Our guys played well and they got better as the week went along. We’ll be better for having played the teams we played this past weekend.”

UNH got the exceptional performances they’ve come to expect out of their two superstars, Ty Conklin and Darren Haydar.

Conklin entered the season as Hockey East’s top goaltender and did nothing to diminish that reputation, especially in the opener against North Dakota. Apart from a fluke goal caused by an odd carom off the boards, he allowed only one other score, stopping all seven Sioux attempts in the shootout.

“He played extremely well,” said Umile. “In the North Dakota game, Ty played very well in the second period. They got the best of us in the second period and we got the best of them in the third.

“He showed what he can do for us when we need it. He gave us the chance to come on in the third period, which we did.”

Haydar also was predictably immense. Against North Dakota, he scored one goal and assisted on the other. In the title game, he scored the first two goals and assisted on the fourth. Just two games into his junior year, he is now among the top 50 UNH point producers of all time.

“Darren is a proven goal-scorer,” said Umile. “He has a knack for making plays and scoring goals. He’s done it his whole career.

“That’s why he’s going to be one of the top goal-scorers to have ever played here and probably one of the top goal-scorers in the country.”

Conklin and Haydar, however, were the sure bets for UNH this year. The key to the team’s success would lie elsewhere, particularly the sophomore class. It’s not a coincidence, then, that five of the seven Wildcats attempting shots in the shootout were second-year players: forwards Jim Abbott, Colin Hemingway, Lanny Gare and Josh Prudden as well as defenseman Garrett Stafford.

“Colin Hemingway is someone who stood out,” said Umile. “He played extremely well.”

Hemingway — who missed the first half of last year with an injury — scored one goal, Gare added two more with an assist and Abbott assisted on three tallies. Stafford scored the game-winner in the shootout, added an assist against Colgate and played strong defense while paired with senior Mark White.

Stafford and Abbott also quarterbacked the power play, a weakness in last year’s squad.

“They did it last year, but they were two freshmen doing it last year,” said Umile. “They’re a little bit older now and a little bit more experienced. They handled it pretty well.

“They’ve got a year under their belt, so hopefully they’re playing with a little more confidence and understand what we’re doing. It showed this weekend.”

Three injured Wildcats — C.J. Ficek, David Busch and Matt Swain — made significant contributions despite not playing at 100 percent. Busch scored twice, Swain added a goal and an assist and Ficek provided another assist.

“They gutted it out,” said Umile. “C.J. played two pretty big games for a kid who had his appendix out [two] weeks ago, so give him a lot of credit. He’s a hard-nosed kid. He may get injured here and there, but he’s a tough player.

“Busch has a pin in his foot and there’s a little bit of a psychological factor there. He’s fighting through that and this weekend really helped him. He scored a couple goals and played extremely well.

“Matt Swain had a hip pointer and he played extremely well.”

Of course, two games don’t make a season. The Wildcats have another tough road trip this weekend to Vermont before opening at home on Oct. 20. With the Catamounts coming off the turmoil of last year’s cancelled season, the UVM fans are likely to give their team an even bigger emotional boost and home ice advantage than usual.

“It’s always difficult to go up to Burlington, Vermont,” said Umile. “It’s one of the premier college rinks in the country. We always look forward to going up there.

“The fans are terrific. I’m sure they’re going to be real excited. It was exciting to take our team to Yost Arena in Michigan for the Ice Breaker and now we’re going to go to Gutterson Fieldhouse in Vermont. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

The Transitive Law and Exhibition Games

Acadia traveled to Boston College and Providence last weekend, losing to BC, 6-2, and PC, 4-2. Therefore, the Eagles will probably beat the Friars by two goals per game this year, right?

Toronto visited Boston University and Northeastern, losing to BU, 5-3, and NU, 11-0. Therefore, the Huskies will clobber the Terriers by nine goals per game this year, right?

Ottawa played UMass-Lowell and Merrimack, upsetting Lowell, 4-3, before taking it on the chin from the Warriors, 12-2. Therefore, Merrimack will crush UML by 11 goals per game this year, right?

Well, not exactly.

The transitive law in mathematics that, loosely interpreted, might call for some of the above conclusions doesn’t hold for hockey in general, and certainly not for exhibition games.

In all three cases, the Canadian teams not only played a different goaltender on the second night, but also were skating on presumably tired legs against a fresh opponent.

So Husky and Warrior fans may need to temper their dreams of recurring blowouts this year over their neighboring rivals. The transitive law does not apply.

Class dismissed.

Around the Arenas

In Boston College‘s 6-2 exhibition win over Acadia, the Eagles’ top line of Krys Kolanos (goal, assist), Marty Hughes (goal, two assists) and Brian Gionta (three assists) figured in four of the six Eagle goals.

“I think we’ve got some good depth, but we’ll depend on [the top] line this year,” said coach Jerry York.

Brooks Orpik is day-to-day with a groin injury.

Although Boston University‘s game against Toronto resulted in 92 penalty minutes, coach Jack Parker isn’t concerned.

“It’s the first game for us, and guys are trying to show us that they’ll stand up, take a hit, give a hit,” he said. “We haven’t gotten into the discipline stuff. Guys haven’t gone to Mookville yet because they’ve taken stupid penalties.”

(Mookville involves very early morning runs for offending Terriers.)

Parker was happy with the play of his freshmen.

“I thought all the freshmen played really well, which is really why you play these games, to see how they get acclimated,” he said. “Especially Steve Greeley, I thought he played extremely well.”

Senior captain Carl Corazzini talked after the game about BU’s national aspirations.

“We have 18 players back from a team that got to the quarterfinals last year,” he said. “I think this year, realistically, we’re one of about seven teams that has a shot at a national championship.”

Maine was the only team that didn’t play last weekend. Coach Shawn Walsh completed his third five-day cycle of immunotherapy treatments at UCLA and will recuperate prior to another cycle scheduled to begin around Oct. 17.

Wisconsin swept UMass-Amherst, 9-6 and 3-0, but the Minutemen mainstays performed well. Goaltender Markus Helanen only allowed four goals on the weekend and the Turners led the scoring: Tim with two goals and three assists and Jeff with three assists.

“[The Turner brothers] go pretty good,” said Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer.

UMass-Lowell certainly had the roughest weekend of the Hockey East teams. It’s never a good sign to lose in an exhibition game to a Canadian team.

“We have to play a certain way this year if we’re going to be successful, and we did that in the first and third periods,” said coach Tim Whitehead. “But we can’t play only 40 minutes and expect to win hockey games. We have to play a physical style of hockey for 60 minutes.”

Merrimack College fans had to like what they saw in the 12-2 shellacking of Ottawa.

“We’ve got some guys who can put the puck in the net this year,” said coach Chris Serino. “I think we’ve got some good balance and some good depth.”

Junior Ryan Kiley, who scored five goals in both his freshman and sophomore seasons, matched those totals in this one game. Perhaps he can now book a flight to Bermuda since he’s already filled this year’s quota.

On a more serious note, freshman Marco Rosa turned some heads with two goals of his own. Defensemen Darren Clarke and Jeff State have moved to the head of a crowded rookie class, joining the veteran pairings of Stephen Moon with Brad Mills and Tim Foster with Nick Cammarata.

Northeastern rookie Scott Selig took all of 1:19 to score his first collegiate goal. He added another early in the third period. Which is not to say that the highly-regarded freshman will be anointed the Huskies’ offensive go-to guy.

Last year, Mike Ryan scored two goals in his first game and — perhaps beset by excessive expectations — went on to add only two more the rest of the season.

Selig may eventually be a first-line and power-play guy for the Huskies this year, but look for there to be a brake applied to expectations.

Ryan also scored two goals and added two assists while Jim Fahey led the blueliners with three assists.

All three goaltenders — Mike Gilhooly, Jason Braun and Todd Marr — played one period of shutout hockey.

Providence goaltenders Boyd Ballard and Nolan Schaefer split the time in the nets with each allowing only one goal.

Freshman forward Peter Zingoni broke into the collegiate scoring column with a goal and an assist.

With defense a key position for the Friars this year, the assists that went to rookies Dominic Torretti and Stephen Wood in their first action was a welcome omen.

Doherty and the Media Award

In case you missed it, Hockey East bestowed its Media Award on Northeastern good guy Bill Doherty last week. Doherty, a former NU Sports Information Director who still acts as part of the school’s radio broadcast team, built a reputation for writing some of the most colorful game notes in the business.

A defenseman wasn’t “hard-hitting”; instead, he “hit like a root canal.” Doherty coined many an exquisite Bermanism. (He may have even preceded ESPN’s Chris Berman at the practice.) A personal favorite was goaltender Mike (Bud) Veisor, not to mention Dan (Hobey Dobey) McGillis.

Doherty didn’t disappoint in his Media Day acceptance speech, reciting a poem he’d written for the event. It was a gutsy choice considering that much of his audience’s exposure to poetry was probably limited to limericks involving the word Nantucket.

Here, then, is Doherty’s poem.

by Bill Doherty

We’re all about the hush
Before the rush

When writers weigh leads,
All possible
And brilliant, of course

‘Til overtime intrudes
And panic bleeds
A better source, of beginnings

We’re all about the hush,
When arm-banded men dare
Crack the ice, and the silence
Of coliseum Krazies
Who would referee them

We’re all about the hush,
When real fans pin their ears
To the symphony of men
Chiseling Sherwoods,
In the balconies-on-Botolph

We’re all about the hush,
When players inhale
As the team bus exhales
To an eerie stop at Alfond

We’re all about the hush
When dogs heel to
Parker’s tweed, a heed, to business
Crowder’s fist to jaw,
On the bench, they’ll witness

We’re all about the hush
When win, lose or brush
We’ve collaborated — on stories
For anyone who’ll listen
To dufflebags zippin’,
Hockey Gods sippin’
To that Shawn fella,
With the clipboard

Our blue-print for the hush,
Before the rush

New Hockey East Award

Hockey East has announced that it will award the ITECH “Three Stars of The Game” after all league contests. The player earning the most Star of the Game points over the course of the season will be recognized at the league’s championship banquet at season’s end. Additionally, all league goaltender awards will bear the ITECH name.

Phantom Assists

It took only one week for the first unquestionably phantom assist to rear its ugly head. In UMass-Amherst’s season opening loss to Wisconsin, a Minuteman player’s pass deflected off a skate into his own net.

Wisconsin wing Kevin Granato was credited with the goal, but amazingly two assists were awarded!

“I think the ref asked [Wisconsin winger Dave] Hergert who scored and he said ‘either 32 or 14,'” said Granato. “I was just surprised that there were two assists on the goal.”

Surprised indeed.

Trivia Contest

This season, the first person to correctly answer a trivia question will not only be recognized in this column, but allowed to give a brief (roughly one sentence) cheer for his or her favorite team. Note to all the USCHO Message Board rabble-rousers: positive cheers only are allowed. This writer reserves the right to judge what is acceptable.

Here, then, is the 2000-01 season’s first question: what player performed in Hockey East last year, made an NHL squad this fall and assisted on a goal in his team’s opening game?

Mail your responses to Dave Hendrickson.

And Finally, Not That It Has Anything To Do With Anything, But…

If you have not yet seen Almost Famous, please tell me that you will not let another weekend pass without that travesty being corrected.

This is a wonderfully written movie with great acting overall and mind-boggling performances in the supporting roles.

Two days after seeing Almost Famous the first time, I went and saw it again.

If you do not like this film, then you and I live on different planets.

Thanks to Scott Weighart and Jon Linder for their assistance.