This Week in Hockey East: Jan. 24, 2002

Pay Up Or You’re Next

You want your team to do well? Then pay up or shut up.

It all started with the Nov. 15 column. In it, I wrote about BU’s Cardiac Kids, who had been winning the close ones while compiling a 6-0-1 record. Following that praise, the Terriers stumbled to a 6-5-1 mark going into last weekend.

Such was the beginning of a hex that yours truly now casts on the lead subject of every column (save those missives featuring the midyear report card and individual honors, which had no lead subject).


Nov. 29: I asked and half-answered whether New Hampshire was “The Best Team in Hockey East?” Result: Clarkson upsets UNH.

Dec. 6: I drooled over Cam McCormick’s amazing 0.60 goals against average and .970 save percentage. Result: Since then he’s “slumped” to marks of 1.10 and .952.

Jan. 10: “Eagles Risin'” highlighted Boston College’s 10-2-1 hot streak. Result: BC hasn’t won since and is now on a four-game losing streak.

Jan. 17: “How ‘Bout Them Hawks!” applauded UMass-Lowell’s rise to No. 1 in Hockey East, No. 2 in the Pairwise Rankings and No. 3 in the polls. Result: The River Hawks get swept by Northeastern.

With my anti-King-Midas powers growing harder to conceal the last few weeks, several UNH fans have written to me in concern. They are worried that I might sabotage their league-leading Wildcats.

They should be worried.

Heh, heh, heh.

How much are your Wildcats worth to you, UNH fans? I sense a lead story on Darren Haydar.

Heh, heh, heh.

Or maybe Haydar and his fellow Hobey Baker Award candidate, Colin Hemingway.

Heh, heh, heh.

You, too, BU fans. I stuck a fork in the Terriers months ago and they’re only now recovering. It happened then. It can happen again.

Heh, heh, heh.

How much is it worth to you?

Go get your credit cards and pick up the phone. Call 1-900-IMATWIT and tell them that you are making a voluntary donation to the Dave Hendrickson Retirement Fund.

Heh, heh, heh.

Man, I just love the spirit of college hockey fans.

Fifth With A Bullet

Without a doubt, the team making the biggest leap forward in the standings of late has been the Northeastern Huskies. Not too long ago they were a point out of the cellar. Now they are fifth in Hockey East and narrowly missed making the nation’s Top 15.

They are 9-3-1 in their last 13 games, but what really catches the eye is that they’re 4-0-1 in their last five, all games against Top 15 teams. Their most recent pair of triumphs came at the expense of UMass-Lowell, which had entered the weekend ranked third in the country only to be swept.

“We’re getting some balance,” says coach Bruce Crowder. “We’re getting some good play out of a lot of people. That’s what you need in this league. When you look at the line of Brian Tudrick, Leon Hayward and Trevor Reschny, they’ve scored some important goals — [Tudrick with one on Friday and Hayward with one each night against Lowell] — and they’ve done a good job of checking the better lines on the other teams.

“We had two freshmen — [Jason Guerriero and Jared Mudryk] — who scored big goals for us on Friday and [another one, Jaron Herriman on] Sunday. Jim Fahey continues to play well, as does Mike Ryan, and Keni Gibson has given us some pretty solid goaltending right now.”

Not coincidentally, the 9-3-1 streak began when Gibson took over between the pipes on Nov. 23. Back problems had limited the freshman to only one previous game, but he’s started every one since, allowing more than two goals only three times and more than three goals only once.

Of course, those kind of defensive results are also a credit to the defensemen as well as the overall team dedication to playing well in its own end. Holding opponents to only two goals or less most of the time will win a lot of games.

“That’s a great surprise,” says Crowder, “considering that we’re playing four freshmen D, of which two are pure freshmen: Bryan Nathe and Donny Grover. I look at a kid like Timmy Judy and he’s playing fantastic, [even strength], power play and penalty killing. Pairing him up with Fahey, he’s had a good start to his college career. And Jon Awe has been the big surprise in that element.”

The offense, which hadn’t been great, but rather good enough during the early part of the 9-3-1 streak, posted nine goals plus an empty-netter on the weekend against a Lowell team whose strength has been its defense.

“I just think that we’re doing some things and the kids are making plays,” says Crowder. “Even Sunday night’s game, I think we hit three goalposts in the second period. The kids are going pretty good right now.”

Having taken on the league’s iron in recent weeks, Northeastern will now play four league games against teams with losing records. Unfortunately, this part of the schedule has often been the Waterloo for previous Husky squads that seemed equally capable of knocking off the top in Hockey East one week and then losing to the cellar-dweller the next.

How will they avoid getting full of themselves and stumbling during this stretch that begins with a home-and-home series this weekend against UMass-Amherst?

“It’s a new cliche we’ve come up with as a staff: one game at a time,” deadpans Crowder. “Amherst, hey we lost to them, [4-2 on Nov. 3]. As far as I’m concerned, we haven’t shown that we beat Amherst and they’ve obviously shown that they can beat us.

“We’re going to have our hands full with them. They’re coming off a couple tough weekends and they’re trying to turn things around themselves.

“[But] I like the mental makeup of this team and the camaraderie. It’s something that I haven’t seen in a while and we’re hoping that that can carry us a ways.”

The Stars In The Spotlight And The Not Ready For Prime Time Players

Fox Sports New England (and its predecessor Sports Channel New England) have broadcast Hockey East games for the past four-and-a-half years dating back to the 1997-98 season.

In that time only two league teams have compiled a winning record in front of the FSNE cameras.

Take a minute and make your guesses as to the two schools. One answer won’t surprise you, but the other certainly should.

(Fine print: This includes only the league’s TV package with FSNE. It does not include this year’s BU package nor NCAA games the cable outlet has picked up.)

Made your guesses? No peeking unless you have.

The first column includes all games on Sports Channel New England. The second has the FSNE regular season games, the third the FSNE broadcasts of the quarterfinal playoff games and the fourth the semifinal and championship games at the FleetCenter.

Seasons 1997-98 to 2001-02 (through Jan. 22, 2002)

       SCNE     FSNE     FSNE     FSNE   Overall
RegSeas Quarter Fleet

BC 0-1-1 10-3-1 4-0-0 7-1-0 21- 5-2
BU 1-1-0 4-9-2 1-3-0 0-1-0 6-14-2
ME 0-1-1 2-5-1 0-0-0 3-3-0 5- 9-2
UMA 0-0-0 0-2-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0- 2-0
UML 0-0-0 3-1-1 1-2-0 0-2-0 4- 5-1
MC 0-0-0 0-0-1 1-2-0 0-1-0 1- 3-1
UNH 1-0-0 3-8-1 1-1-0 1-2-0 6-11-1
NU 1-0-0 7-1-0 0-1-0 0-0-0 8- 2-0
PC 0-0-0 2-2-1 2-1-0 1-2-0 5- 5-1

Given Boston College’s dominance during the period in question, the Eagles’ exceptional record is no surprise. What is stunning, however, is that the other top performer hasn’t been BU or UNH or Maine. It’s Northeastern! Apparently, when the spotlight is on, the Huskies shine.

Who’da thunk it?

Ironically, this Sunday night’s broadcast — part of a rare FSNE Hockey East doubleheader — pits BU (6-14-2) against UNH (6-11-1).

McCormick vs. Miller, Redux

My erudite CCHA colleague, Paula C. Weston, included in her column last week a comparison of UMass-Lowell’s Cam McCormick and Michigan State’s Ryan Miller. The statistics came from Spartan Sports Information Director Mike Eidelbes, who clearly is angling for early entry into the Get-A-Life Hall of Fame.

A summary of his argument is as follows:

McCormick is a big guy, 6-2 and 237 pounds. MSU goaltender Ryan Miller is also 6-2, but weighs only 160 pounds.

Miller had totaled 572 saves this season (as of last week) to McCormick’s 279.

As a result, Miller’s saves per pound (SPP) are 3.58, to McCormick’s 1.18 SPP.

Eidelbes therefore concludes that, “The numbers indicate Miller easily leads McCormick in the saves per pound category. Therefore, Ryan Miller is — pound-for-pound — the best goaltender in college hockey today.”

This wonderful piece of whimsy begs for a rebuttal. As a charter member of the Get-A-Life Hall of Fame, yours truly happily volunteers. Those who might be humor-impaired can please skip to the next segment.

At 160 pounds, Miller barely weighs more than his goalie pads. In fact, the conversation in one press box recently turned to the idea of organizing a food drive for the no-meat-on-them-bones kid. As for McCormick, nobody will be organizing a food drive for the 237-pound Camster.

Food Drives: Advantage McCormick.

In fact, if Ryan Miller were to volunteer to help at a homeless shelter’s soup kitchen, he might instead be hustled to the head of the serving line.

Soup Kitchens: Advantage McCormick.

With anorexia a prime concern these days, our athletic role models need not be 6-2, 160-pound twigs. Give us a wide body who looks a little more like us.

Anorexia and Wide Bodies: Advantage McCormick.

Of course, Miller could actually gain some noticeable weight if he ever starts growing some facial hair. Is this guy a collegiate goaltender, staring down the toughest of snipers, or Baby Face Nelson? It’s hard to tell. Compared to the hirsute McCormick, Miller looks like a 12-year-old Cub Scout.

Manliness: Advantage McCormick.

To be fair, though, Miller did earn a Hobey Baker Award last year.

Hobeys: Advantage Miller.

Miller Time

Enough of Ryan Miller. Time to talk about Bryan Miller, BU’s erstwhile defenseman turned forward, at least for a few games.

When BU coach Jack Parker decided to send Justin Maiser to the stands for a game because of taking a bad penalty, Miller was the surprising replacement. A lifelong defenseman playing in only his third game as a forward, Miller joined Mike Pandolfo and Brian McConnell on the first line. Yes, you read that correctly. The first line.

The results showed that Parker just might know a little something about coaching and hockey, because Miller assisted on both of the Terrier goals. The first was a thing of beauty to send McConnell in all alone.

“That was a fabulous pass he made to McConnell,” said Parker after the win. “I didn’t think he even saw him and he put it the only place he could have put it. He laid it out easy for him to go in and pick it up. If he’d tried to pass it directly to him, it would have been intercepted.”

Miller’s success was no surprise to Parker.

“He’s a real smart player,” he said. “I had no qualms whatsoever that he’d be able to handle that position and play well.”

Miller had been willing to do whatever would help the team, but may have had a few qualms himself.

“He’d been asking us questions all week about what forwards are supposed to do,” said McConnell. “Just about forechecking and what to do off faceoffs. He knows what to do in the defensive zone, but not in the offensive zone really. He did a great job, though.”

Without question, despite playing outside his comfort zone.

“I was pretty surprised,” said Miller of Parker’s decision. “Coach called me inside and asked me how I’d feel if I played right wing this weekend. I said, ‘To be honest, that’s your call. It’s not my call.’ So he said, ‘All right. I’ll go put you with McConnell and Pandolfo.’

“That was the biggest surprise. I wasn’t expecting to jump right in with those guys. We practiced together this week and I tried to do my part to fill in for Maiser.

“I’ve always played D my whole life. This year is the most I’ve played the position in my whole life. It’s worked so far, [but] I’m still trying to learn the position. It’s pretty tough at this level.”

Not bad for on the job training.

Rush It or Dump It

BU’s Pat Aufiero’s end-to-end rush against BC last Sunday put the Terriers on the scoreboard, but also prompted the question of when a blueliner should carry the puck into the zone and when it’s better to play it safe.

“Coach likes us to dump it in as defensemen,” said Aufiero. “He doesn’t like us to get caught in the zone, so I usually dump it in. I just had a lot of momentum going and I wanted to break the game [open]. I just saw an opening and went for it.”

Parker soon after clarified his approach.

“It’s a matter of decisions,” he said. “Do I have a chance to get by these guys or am I just turning it over at the blue line and getting everyone caught flat-footed? [Aufiero] had his head up and there were a lot of holes.”

Boston Herald legend John “Jocko” Connolly asked the question of the year after Aufiero described his goal.

“What are you going to tell Jack the next time he tells you to dump it in?” asked Connolly with a grin.

Aufiero’s response drew universal laughter.

“I’m going to listen to him.”

Quote of the Week

Although greatly impressed by Northeastern, UMass-Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald didn’t mince words about his own team’s performances while losing two to the Huskies last weekend.

“We lost our ability to work and our ability to prepare,” he said. “If you had been inside and seen our team meetings, seen our practices and seen our focus for the week and then see us go out and play each first period as we did, you’d probably throw up all over yourself. That’s what disappoints me.”

Hard To The Net

This perhaps could also be filed under the category of “All’s Well That Ends Well,” but Providence forward Peter Zingoni perhaps took the dictum of going hard to the net a little too far on Jan. 11 prior to the Friars’ game against BU. Reportedly, Zingoni crashed the net so hard during warm-ups, he injured himself and had to be replaced in the lineup with Chris Chaput.

The silver lining to the injury was twofold: Chaput scored in that evening’s 5-5 tie with the Terriers and Zingoni returned to active play this week, scoring a goal in PC’s overtime 4-3 win over Brown.

UNH-Lowell Clarification

In last week’s segment on UMass-Lowell, I related a UNH fan’s unflattering comments about the River Hawks to make the point that Lowell was much more than just a one-man team.

That prompted a few letters from the Wildcat faithful, of which the following is typical.

Do you really need to quote an idiotic fan from UNH, stating that without McCormick Lowell would be just another “unheard” of D-I team? Seems to me this just continues to fuel the flame fests that much too often take place on the USCHO message board. Most New Hampshire fans admire what Lowell has accomplished this season and give them their due respect. This coming from a long time UNH fan who knows what it is like to try and earn respect. Kudos to UMass-Lowell for their great season to date. Let’s hope for Hockey East’s sake they continue to play well.

Well put. I did feel that I needed to quote the fan, but I should have pointed out that the sentiments were miles away from that of the average UNH supporter.

Selected Quick Notes

Boston College’s position in the Pairwise Rankings on Jan. 10 was 13th in the country. One week later, after getting swept by UMass-Lowell, the Eagles had risen to 11th. Go figure…. Before you start railing about the system not working, keep in mind the volatility of PWR at this time of the year, not to mention the almost universal upsets of ranked teams that weekend. At least the Eagles lost to a top team.

BC was so short of bodies last Sunday, it could only dress 11 forwards and five defensemen.

Boston University is getting a lesson in discipline from coach Jack Parker. Justin Maiser watched the Jan. 18 game against BC in street clothes as punishment for taking a bad penalty. One game later, John Sabo followed suit in the back end of that home-and-home series for his 10-minute misconduct. If you don’t think it doesn’t hurt a Terrier to sit out a game against BC, you haven’t paid attention to that series.

Sean Fields is now 6-0-1 in his last seven games.

After only one Hockey East team sweeping the week before, four of them swept last weekend.

When It Rains, It Pours

Fox Sports New England will be broadcasting not one, but two, Hockey East games on Sunday. At 3 p.m., Boston College hosts Providence and then at 7 p.m., UNH visits BU’s Walter Brown Arena. New Hampshire Public TV makes it a hat trick with Friday night’s BU at UNH matchup.

Trivia Contest

Last week’s question asked which Hockey East player earlier this year scored goals on his team’s first shot on net in back-to-back games?

A popular response was Darren Haydar, who did so in two out of three games, but not consecutive ones. The correct answer was Merrimack’s Anthony Aquino, who performed the feat on Oct. 13 and 18 against Miami and UNH. Against Miami it took only 1:31 into the game, but the oft-dominating Wildcats held Merrimack without a shot until the 13:25 mark, at which point Aquino gave the Warriors a bizarre 1-0 lead.

Todd Cioffi was one of only two readers to answer that obscure one correctly. His cheer is:

“The BU Express… leaving Chestnut Hill… next stops: Durham, North Andover and Downtown Boston… BU Hockey: There’s more where that came from!”

This week’s question asks which player led Hockey East in scoring (league games only) the last time the New England Patriots made it to the Super Bowl? Email Dave Hendrickson with your carefully researched answer.

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

  • Here are a couple words for upper management at the Enron and Arthur Anderson corporations. If you somehow avoid jail, perhaps you can find something you are ethically well-suited for. Something like being a WWF referee.
  • Ben Dreith earned his position in infamy 25 years ago with his outrageous call in the Pats-Raiders playoff game that gift-wrapped a trip to the Super Bowl for Oakland. Most of us in New England have assumed he was either incompetent or just had a momentary lapse of judgement, rather than an actual bias.

    His interview earlier this week on WEEI, however, made you wonder if he dressed up for Saturday’s game in his silver-and-black lingerie. In perhaps the most embarrassing interview of all time, Dreith essentially said that he had never blown a call, would have called the Tom Brady non-fumble a fumble regardless of what the rule says and when asked about a potential roughing-the-passer call on the non-fumble play fulminated about the Patriots’ rough treatment of Jerry Rice.

    I’m on the radio every now and then myself, typically with mixed results. There’s a reason I’m a writer, not a broadcaster. But, folks, if I ever sound that moronic, not to mention biased, on the airwaves, please shoot me.

  • It says here that the Patriots will not expose Drew Bledsoe in expansion draft. Yes, that would save them a big chunk off the salary cap, but that advantage would be for one year only as compared to trading him. Trade him for a number one pick (and then some) and you’ve helped yourself for 10 years, not just one. Of course, you still have to draft well…
  • I’m hoping for a Super Bowl involving defensive coordinators Lovie Smith (Rams) and Romeo Crennell (Pats). You think years ago both of their daddies lost a bet?
  • Perhaps she was just fishing for a large tip — she got one — but bless the young lady who waited on my table over the weekend. Seeing me polish off a breakfast of Eggs Benedict, two orders of toast, hash browns and oatmeal, she wondered how I stayed in such great shape. Hey, she either needed glasses or some drug testing, but she put a smile on my face.
  • Shoulder surgery has certainly had its negatives. Physical therapy. Non-stop home exercises. Cutting myself shaving because I’m incompetent with my left hand. However, I recently had a privilege of saying some words that made it almost worth all the aggravation: “Hey, honey, the snow is piling up. Better go out there and shovel the driveway! The shovel is by the door!”

    You think I’ll catch that shovel on the side of my noggin one of these days?