Hockey East Column: Oct. 19, 2000

Goal By Walsh, Assisted By Walsh and Walsh

When North Dakota took the ice last Friday night for its game with Maine, fans might have wondered if they were seeing double. Or triple. Or quadruple….

Every Fighting Sioux’s jersey bore the name “Walsh” in honor of Maine coach Shawn Walsh, who was in California receiving treatment for kidney cancer. After the game, North Dakota donated the jerseys to the Coaches Foundation for auction.

The Coaches Foundation was formed in July in response to the many people who have been moved to offer assistance to Walsh in his battle against cancer. Walsh, in consultation with friends and advisors, asked that an on-going charitable group be set up to serve as a resource for coaches who might need financial help in the face of devastating illness.

The foundation will provide assistance in meeting the costs of medical treatment, medication and medical equipment for amateur athletes and coaches in significant need as a result of cancer or other forms of serious illness. It can also assist the families of coaches and provide support for participation in medical research projects, including experimental treatments and clinical trials.

Administering the foundation is a Board of Directors, including, among others, Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna (who also serves as Executive Director of the American Hockey Coaches Association) and Norinne Daly, a former Hockey East assistant commissioner.

The foundation or any of its board members may be contacted at:

The Coaches Foundation P.O. Box 115 Bangor, ME 04402-0115

On Oct. 1, the Notre Dame hockey team also contributed to the foundation. For the last three years the Irish have held a charity event in the fight against cancer in memory of assistant coach Andy Slaggert’s brother, Ed Slaggert. This year, the team held its Blue-Gold intrasquad game and sent the proceeds to the Coaches Foundation in honor of Walsh.

“The hockey community is a small one that attempts to do things both well and right,” said Andy Slaggert. “We strive to represent both Notre Dame and the sport of hockey well. Accepting this gift will allow our young men to do both.”

Husky Fever

Something is missing from Northeastern’s locker room. The standings board, that staple of locker rooms everywhere, has been banished.

Last year, the Huskies posted a 4-4-4 record in conference games against Hockey East’s four NCAA-bound teams — Boston University, Boston College, Maine and New Hampshire — including a 2-0-1 record against Maine and a 1-0-2 mark against UNH. Their record against the rest of the league, however, was a losing one. They lost all three games to Providence, lost two and tied the other against seventh-place Merrimack and lost two with one win against last-place UMass-Lowell.

Presumably, there was too much attention paid to the standings last year.

“We just take one game at a time,” said NU coach Bruce Crowder after opening the season with a 4-3 win over St. Lawrence. “That’s an old cliche, but we don’t have our standings board up in the locker room anymore. We don’t have any of that. I don’t care who we’re playing. We’re going to play. That’s the mentality. I think it’s going to be good for this team.”

Crowder’s players echoed that mindset.

“We just need to get geared up every night,” said sophomore Mike Ryan. “Every night is going to be a battle.”

“You can’t look beyond the next game,” said captain Jim Fahey. “The next game is it. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they do. They’re here to win a game and we are, too. If they’re the better team, then [so be it], But I doubt that.”

That approach to getting jacked up for the middle-of-the-road and lower teams will be tested this week as Northeastern travels to Notre Dame. The CCHA Coaches’ and Media Preseason Polls pegged the Fighting Irish at fifth and sixth, respectively, in that league.

So the jury is still out. Heck, after just one game the jury hasn’t even settled in its seats to begin deliberations.

But Northeastern’s one game was an impressive start in a year critical to the program’s hoped-for emergence on the national scene. Playing against St. Lawrence, the ECAC’s projected top team and ranked number six in the country at the time, Northeastern outshot the Saints by a wide margin in every period: 15-3, 16-3 and 13-7. This was not a misleading case of attempts coming primarily from the perimeter; the shot charts distributed to the media between periods instead showed a congestion in the “Grade A” area.

Pessimists might have still been in the majority after two periods, though. Despite a 31-6 shot advantage, the score was still 1-1. “Same old Huskies” might have been a common refrain.

“We just kept working at it,” said Crowder. “Our guys could have gotten frustrated, but hopefully this is a sign of good things to come this year.”

A third-period hat trick by Ryan proved to be the difference. All four goals came from the line of Graig Mischler, Ryan and freshman Scott Selig.

“Mischler is a little bit of a leader there,” said Crowder. “Then you’ve got Mike Ryan, who really made a commitment in the offseason. He’s bigger and stronger and he’s not getting bumped around as much. You’ve got Scottie Selig, a freshman who has some pretty good hands and some good size. He’s going to get bigger and stronger.

“Right now, it’s a good mix. We’ve got to find the other guys to do it also. So, that’s what we’re hoping for when we get back to the drawing board.”

Ryan, who bulked up by 17 pounds in the offseason, may be the go-to guy some expected when he arrived on campus as a second-round NHL draft pick.

“I feel a lot better than last year,” he said. “The coaches told me that they think I’m lot more mature after the summer. I stuck around the summer and worked out here. I feel very comfortable this year. I feel like definitely [I can be] the go-to guy if they need it.”

A strength this year may also be the Huskies’ ability to win the physical battles along the boards.

“I looked at [St. Lawrence’s] lineup before the game,” said Crowder, “and I came back and [said], ‘Boy this is a big team!’ But I thought our kids handled themselves pretty well. I thought we were a little overmatched in size, but our kids have pretty big hearts and that can make up for a lot.”

Northeastern is also getting an increasingly stronger contribution from what has become a seventh player at home, the Dog House fans. NU students have taken a page from the yellow-shirted BC Superfans and now arrive wearing black T-shirts. And with the great acoustics at Matthews Arena, they generate a lot of noise.

“It’s been fantastic,” said Crowder. “It just seems to be growing and growing. You see the balcony almost full tonight. It’s a great place to watch a hockey game. The old-timers that come in and see this, they just love it.

“That’s what we wanted to do when we came in here as a coaching staff. We wanted to not only win hockey games, but make it an event, make it something that the kids want to come to.

“The university has just expanded its on-campus housing so we’ve got a lot more kids. It’s not a commuter school anymore. We have two brand-new residence halls that opened the last two years. Those are the kids that we need to draw out on a Friday night.”

All of which is not to suggest that the Huskies will go undefeated at home this year and are now ready for the Frozen Four after playing the perfect game on opening night. There were some negatives on Friday.

Although the Huskies outscored SLU, 3-0, while playing five-on-five, they did give up a shorthanded goal and two on the Saints’ power play. St. Lawrence’s penalty killers, ranked tops in the ECAC the last two years, frequently gave them fits. And given the paucity of SLU quality shots, NU goaltender Mike Gilhooly might have been expected to allow fewer than three goals.

“It’s the first game and we made some mistakes,” said Crowder. “It’s good to play good teams at the beginning of the year because if you get your butt kicked you know what you have to improve on. They’re the teams that are going to probably be there at the end of the year, so why not learn from them?”

“We’ll be a better team come next Friday and Saturday than we were here,” said Fahey. “I can guarantee that just [based on] the way the coaching staff does things. We’ll be a better team.”

Around the Arenas

Boston College defeated Notre Dame and Nebraska-Omaha to win the Maverick Stampede.

“We are very proud to be the first recipients of the Omaha Cup,” said coach Jerry York. “We don’t get to play for very many championships during the year, so we were very excited about coming to Omaha.”

Four Eagles earned berths on the all-tournament team: forwards Krys Kolanos and Mike Lephart, defenseman Bobby Allen and goalie Scott Clemmensen. Clemmensen was selected Most Valuable Player after stopping 61 of 63 shots in the two games.

“Certainly the MVP was justifiably Clemmensen,” said York.

Two BC freshmen finished prominently in the scoring. Ben Eaves had three assists in the win over Notre Dame. Chuck Kobasew also assisted on a goal against the Fighting Irish and added a power-play goal in the title game.

Boston University saw its 17-game home undefeated streak ended at the hands of Rensselaer, 5-4. The Terriers fell behind early, but tied it up midway through the third period, only to lose on a late goal by Marc Cavosie, who had a hat trick.

“I don’t know that much about him, to tell you the truth,” said coach Jack Parker of Cavosie. “I know that he had a pretty good freshman year. But I would say a lot of guys are going to break out against our club if we play defense like we did tonight.

“We just didn’t cover anybody. We let people roam around in front of our cage, roam around in front of the Grade A area all night. We gave up five goals in our building and every one of ’em was up front. You’re not going to win too many games doing that.”

Parker did see some positives in the Terriers’ fight back from 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2 deficits.

“We didn’t die; we didn’t fold,” he said. “We played hard. I told the guys that I thought that we played hard in the areas that it’s easy to play hard: offensively going to the net, trying to pick up pucks and go. But I told them that we didn’t play hard in the areas where it’s hard to play hard: covering guys without the puck, playing hard without the puck, covering guys out front, getting the rebounds in front of their net.

“We didn’t play as hard as we should have, and that’s real disconcerting. And that’s how we started off the season last year. We had real difficulties in those areas last year. And I thought we’d be a little better because of our veteran defense. But I thought our veteran defense, which I thought was the strength of our team, looked back on their heels tonight.”

Maine opened its season with a 1-1 tie against top-ranked North Dakota, but lost 4-2 in the Saturday rematch.

“We played pretty well defensively,” said interim head coach Gene Reilly after the opening-night tie. “This early, you expect some mistakes, but we covered our zones well.

“[But] our special teams didn’t play well tonight. We will need to be more consistent in that area. When you have some big guns, it usually clicks early, but we don’t have that right now and we’ll need to find a way.”

The second-night loss came as a result of a second period in which the Black Bears gave up three goals.

“That’s what you get when you don’t play good defense,” said Martin Kariya. “We just didn’t play well defensively that whole period and it cost us.”

Offense was a problem as well. By game’s end, the Black Bears would finish with a 45-30 shot advantage, including a 20-7 mark in the scoreless third period, but still with only two goals. And that came on the heels of a 46-28 advantage in the 1-1 tie.

“We got another 40-plus shot night and have very little to show for it,” said captain Matthias Trattnig.

This is an area of concern for the Black Bears. After losing their top four scorers from last year’s team, they were looking for Niko Dimitrakos and Colin Shields, among others, to take up a good deal of that slack. Dimitrakos had been injured for much of last year and Shields was considered the freshman most likely to make an immediate impact.

Dimitrakos, however, is out for the first month of this season with a broken wrist and the news is even worse for Shields, who is ineligible for the entire year.

As a result, scoring is likely to be in short supply for Maine, at least until Dimitrakos returns.

UMass-Amherst and Providence did not play last week.

UMass-Lowell had a feel-good game, posting a 6-1 victory over UConn. The River Hawks dominated with a 45-10 shot advantage, but may have had a few queasy moments when they fell behind 1-0 in the first, considering their 4-3 exhibition loss to Ottawa.

“I was pleased with our effort and with our special teams,” said coach Tim Whitehead, referring to a power play that went 2-for-5. “But we were convinced going into the game that we weren’t going to let up, even if we fell behind.

“I was actually kind of glad [UConn] scored first because we knew we wouldn’t let up until we had the upper hand.”

Whitehead may have found the sniper that the team lacked last year in freshman Laurent Meunier. Meunier, who hails from Echirolles, France — not a bad recruiting trip, there — scored twice, both on the power play.

“He’s a good all-around player,” said Whitehead. “He’s good on faceoffs, he’s got some good moves and he has skill.”

Merrimack had to feel good about its play in the Johnson Nissan Classic even though it came away with a tie and a loss. Facing the consensus choices as the class of the CCHA, Michigan and Michigan State, the Warriors acquitted themselves admirably.

They played the second-ranked Wolverines to a 2-2 tie while even strength, falling only to a superior power play.

The Warriors then tied the fifth-ranked Spartans, 1-1, after which the media selected MSU goaltender Ryan Miller the Player of the Game. Put two and two together and you have a Merrimack squad outplaying a highly-ranked team.

All the more ammunition for the observers such as yours truly who do not expect the Warriors to finish in the Hockey East basement.

And while there are many reasons for Merrimack fans to stay focused on this year, a peak ahead to next season sees the addition of forward Matt Foy. Foy has opened his junior season with 13 goals in his first seven games. Do you think a line of Foy, Marco Rosa and Anthony Aquino will give opposing coaches an ulcer or two?

New Hampshire dodged a bullet when it defeated Vermont, 5-4 in overtime despite trailing 4-2 with 10 minutes remaining.

“Anytime you go into Gutterson Fieldhouse, it’s tough, especially tonight with all the emotion they had here,” said UNH coach Dick Umile, referring to Vermont’s return to hockey after last year’s cancelled season. “A lot of good things happened and we were fortunate to win it. The guys stayed with it and found a way to win the game.”

Darren Haydar continues to be the league’s top scorer. He leads Hockey East with seven points — four goals and three assists — in three games. He also scored one of the decisive blows in the UVM game. Just 29 seconds after a goal that would have staked Vermont to a 4-1 lead was disallowed, Haydar narrowed the gap to one with a sniper’s special.

“That was a huge goal,” said Umile. “Anytime you get within one, you get them back on their heels.”

The critical emergence of the sophomore class continued with Jim Abbott and Lanny Gare scoring goals in the last 10 minutes of regulation to force overtime. The two are now UNH’s second- and third-leading scorers, both with five points.

On the down side, sophomore defenseman Kevin Truelson suffered a chest contusion and head injury on a big hit along the boards. Early indications were that he will be out for 10 days.

Trivia Contest

Last week’s question was: 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?

Although a fair number of people got the correct answer — Merrimack’s Greg Classen — Brian Tower was clearly the first. As a result, he earned the right to select the following cheer:

“Maine Black Bears will see the rest of the perennial powers in Albany!”

This week’s question may stump a few of you. One NHL team started this season with a line made up of a three-time Hobey Baker Award finalist, a two-time Hobey finalist and a one-time finalist. Who are the three players? Warning: these aren’t necessarily Hockey East alumni.

Take your shot at choosing a positive cheer for your favorite team by mailing your smugly confident answers or wild guesses to Dave Hendrickson.

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

My motto has always been “Why do yard work when you can golf?” With the golfing season sadly coming to a close, however, I decided two weekends ago to make my annual pilgrimage into the jungle that is my back yard.

I should have gone golfing.

I now have the results of poison sumac or poison oak all over my legs and some of my arms. (It isn’t poison ivy. I know what poison ivy looks like. I’m not a total moron, just a 95 percenter.)

I itch like you would not believe! If a wild beast were about to maul me to death, I would merely request that it start with my legs and give them one really good scratch.

To make matters worse, tendinitis in one of my knees — it’s tough getting old — prompted me to take some medication. An allergic reaction resulted in hives all over my chest.

To make matters worse still, I am one of those sad creatures who considers October 15 to be my tax deadline. On April 15, I send my estimated payments along with the four-month automatic extension to file. On August 15, I request an additional two months to file. Going beyond October 15, however, is sure to raise the ire of the IRS, which even a 95 percent moron knows enough to avoid.

So here I am on October 14. It is the most beautiful day of Indian summer that one could ever imagine. It’s got to be at least 70 degrees outside, but it would just be torturing myself to get the exact temperature.

Am I golfing in a short-sleeved shirt and shorts, coated with sunscreen?

Nooooooooo!

I’m sitting at my desk wanting to claw my legs to bits. My chest is itching me to distraction. And I’m not golfing, I’m doing my *@#$^& taxes!

I cannot imagine that it could possibly be worse.

That is, until I remember the time I got poison ivy in the worst place you can imagine. Well, let me clarify. The worst place a guy could ever imagine, if you catch my drift.

Suddenly, life is not so bad. IRS Form 4562, Depreciation and Amortization, is like a stroll in the park. The nonstop itch, itch, itch of my legs and arms and chest is like nothing compared to what it could be if I had it there again.

I no longer feel pity for myself.

In the words of Lou Gehrig, I consider myself the luckiest man alive.


Thanks to Scott Weighart, Brian Brashaw and Jim Leonard for their assistance.


LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here