This Week In Hockey East: March 7, 2002

The Hobey Hopefuls

Visitors to the official Hockey East website over the past two months or so have seen rotating photographs of four players deemed at the head of the Hobey Baker Award class: New Hampshire’s Darren Haydar, Northeastern’s Jim Fahey, Maine’s Mike Morrison, and UMass-Lowell’s Cam McCormick.

The decision to highlight that quartet was made by Hockey East Director of Media Relations Noah Smith along with league webmaster Dan Parkhurst.

“We figured at that point that those were our strongest candidates,” says Smith. “We wanted to narrow it down so that we could be promoting these guys and not inundating the market. For example, [UNH forward Colin] Hemingway certainly deserves attention, but when you promote two from the same position from the same team, it’s kind of tough.”

This perspective can be seen in the materials emanating from UNH itself in which Haydar is listed as a Hobey candidate while Hemingway is getting the push for the All-America team.

Recently, however, Smith and Parkhurst have augmented the original four candidates with Hemingway and Maine defenseman Peter Metcalf.

“We ended up [going with the additional players] eventually because there are only a couple weeks left,” says Smith. “But if you do that too early, you run the risk of turning people off. So we just made the decision that we wanted to get as many teams represented without inundating the market.”

Of course, there are other deserving players who were not added, such as Merrimack’s Anthony Aquino and Boston College’s Tony Voce.

“Aquino could be considered,” says Smith. “Voce could be considered and is a much stronger candidate now than he was then, but Boston College certainly has struggled over the course of the season. It’s hard to sell a player from a team that’s not succeeding.”

Although that may be an unpopular truth for those supporters of schools in the lower end of the standings, most accept the practical realities.

“I think people understand where we’re coming from,” says Smith. “We haven’t heard any formal complaints. People from BC might have said in passing, ‘Why isn’t Voce up there?’ or people from Merrimack said, ‘Why isn’t Aquino up there?’ But most of the individuals involved understand the promotional aspect of it.”

So given all of that, who in the league stands a realistic chance of winning it all?

As the league’s top forward and one of the nation’s top scoring players, Haydar certainly could.

As Hockey East’s best defenseman and the NCAA leader in points from the blueline, Fahey also could be one of the favorites.

Morrison could be a Hobey finalist, considering not only his overall numbers (2.13 GAA, .925 SV%), but also his leadership role in the Black Bears’ coping with the death of their legendary leader, Shawn Walsh, at the beginning of the season. That said, if a goalie wins the award this year, it won’t be Morrison. Almost certainly it would be Michigan State’s Ryan Miller, who’d become the first ever repeat recipient.

After those three, however, the remaining candidates are longshots to become finalists. McCormick’s numbers (1.87 GAA and a .920 save percentage) are right up there with Morrison’s, but now that he’s been supplanted by Jimi St. John, any hopes of being a finalist are over. As for Metcalf and Hemingway, they both come in second in comparison to Fahey and Haydar at the same positions, respectively. They may deserve considerable All-America attention, but would be major surprises as Hobey finalists.

Hobey Spotlight: Jim Fahey

The thing that catches every Hobey voter’s eye is Fahey’s point totals. His 14-29–43 scoring line is 19th among all players and tops among defensemen. But if you talk to Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder, Fahey’s accomplishments go even further.

“What makes him special is his competitiveness,” says Crowder. “He’s a guy that reminds me a lot of Terry O’Reilly. He’s a competitive, competitive guy.

“The other thing that makes him special over a lot of the other guys looking for this award is that he’s doing it with four freshmen [on the blue line]. He’s got a freshman partner; he’s got a freshman goaltender.

“He’s a guy that we’ve relied on a lot. He plays a ton of ice every night. He comes to play every game. He comes to play every practice. At times I wish he might take it easier in practice, but he’s there going full bore the whole time.”

And unlike some offensive defensemen who are turnstiles in their own end, Fahey gets it done in all three zones.

"I was there for one reason and for one reason only — it was our seniors’ last game and I thought I owed it to them that if I could be on the bench, and I gave them my word Wednesday, that I’d give it a shot."

— Chris Serino

“We talked about a month and a half ago [how his play] defensively is going to be a key for him,” says Crowder. “He’s got the points to make people sit up and look and say, ‘This defenseman has got 40-odd points,’ but the other key is for him to play sound defense. I think he’s done that for us.”

Hobey Spotlight: Darren Haydar

For just about the entire season, Haydar has been either at the top of the nation’s scoring list or trailing by only a point or two. His offensive exploits have led the best offense in college hockey.

“He’s a terrific hockey player,” says UNH coach Dick Umile. “He’s proven that for four years. He’s done an awful lot for this program in goal production. He’s one of the top goalscorers in the history of UNH, so obviously as a hockey player he’s there [at a Hobey Baker Award level].

“He does it all. We put him out there at the end of the game. If we’re down two men, he’s the first guy we put out there. Penalty kill, key faceoffs. Everybody is trying to stop him.

“He’s not just doing it with speed. He’s a real smart hockey player who is very clever. He’s been a joy to coach.”

Umile is also quick to add his endorsement of Haydar’s off-ice credentials.

“He’s been very, very involved in the community,” says Umile. “He’s like a little kid with the kids in the community, whether it’s the DARE program or with some kid who isn’t as fortunate as everybody else. In academics, he’s a peer advisor in the Whittemore School of Business.

“He’s just a terrific kid. He’s been a joy for me to coach him. The kid has done everything that has been asked of him and more.”

Hobey Spotlight: Mike Morrison

Despite being more of a longshot than Haydar and Fahey, Morrison may appreciate being a finalist more than any other candidate. After his first three years, the senior had recorded only 22 decisions combined, despite posting numbers such as a 1.96 GAA and a .924 save percentage in 2000-01.

This year, however, Morrison has recorded a very impressive breakout year, wresting the top job from Matt Yeats.

“Michael has really emerged this year as one of the top goalies in the country because he’s worked very hard,” says interim Maine head coach Tim Whitehead. “He’s a big guy who is very athletic. He can pick up a basketball and do a 360.

“He’s just a good athlete. That helps him in the net because he’s able to recover after the first shot and make a second or third save. He loves to play the game and is a real competitor. Those are big strengths.

“He’s really attacked the season. That’s the best thing about it. He’s really determined to make this a special season. He hasn’t play a ton obviously for the first three years, but when he has played, he’s played well.

“This season was an opportunity for Mike to emerge and prove that he can really help our team on a consistent basis and he’s done that.”

The Walter Brown Award Favorite

The Walter Brown Award is given annually to the outstanding American-born college hockey player in New England. As such, you can take the aforementioned Hobey candidates, subtract any Canadian or European players, and add in the cream of the ECAC (and MAAC) crop.

This year’s 12 finalists are: Fahey, Morrison, Voce, Ben Eaves (BC), Mike Ryan (Northeastern), Mike Pandolfo (BU), Jon DiSalvatore (Providence), Sean Collins (UNH), Dan Lombard (Yale goaltender), Peter Capouch (Harvard defenseman), Mike Maturo (Dartmouth forward), and Pat Rissmiller (Holy Cross forward).

It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see any of the Hockey East underclassmen win the award in future years, but this season the choice is clear. In this writer’s opinion, Fahey should dominate the voting.

Serino Benefit

A dinner hosted by family, friends and the college hockey community will be held to honor Merrimack hockey coach Chris Serino on Monday, May 6, 2002. All proceeds will benefit Serino and his family as the coach continues his battle with throat cancer that was discovered at the start of the school year.

Titled “An Evening with Christie Serino — ‘The Coach,'” the night will include dinner, featured speakers and a silent auction. The event will be held from 7-10 p.m. at The Diplomat on Route 1 in Saugus. Cost for the dinner is $50 per person.

There will also be a reception from 6-7 p.m. with Coach Serino and several area celebrities. Cost for the dinner plus reception is $100.

Tickets for the event are now available at the following locations:
Merrimack College Athletic Department (978) 837-5341
Kasabuski Rink, Saugus, Mass. (781) 231-4184
Dynamik Sports, Reading, Mass. (781) 942-1153
Lease One, Lynnfield, Mass. (781) 581-9700

For sponsorship opportunities and additional information on the event, please call (978) 664-0302.

Serino Returns… For Just One Game

Last Friday, Serino returned to the bench for the first time in months to pay tribute to his players being honored for Senior Night.

“[My health] is getting better, but it’s certainly not good enough to coach a game,” said Serino. “I knew I couldn’t finish the season. I was there for one reason and for one reason only — it was our seniors’ last game and I thought I owed it to them that if I could be on the bench, and I gave them my word Wednesday, that I’d give it a shot.

“I didn’t do it thinking it would be a big moral lift for them. I did it out of respect for the seniors on my team who’ve been here and played hard for me over the last four years. I thought that was the least I could do for them on their last game.”

Coach, come back healthy next year!

The Quarterfinal Matchups

Last week, this column speculated that six teams could win the Hockey East tournament without the result being considered a major upset. Based on match-ups and injuries, the list has since dropped to five. Had Boston College drawn BU as an opponent, then that series would have suddenly become a wild card.

The Eagles travelling to Alfond Arena, however, is a different story, especially with defensemen J.D. Forrest and John Adams out of the lineup. As a result, look for three of the four series to finish quickly.

(All figures below based on Hockey East games only to avoid distortions from different strength of schedules.)

No. 1 Seed New Hampshire Hosts No. 8 Seed Merrimack

The Warriors might have preferred playing the Canadian Olympic Team at Salt Lake City over facing the Wildcats on “Lake Winnipesaukee.” It simply makes for the worst possible match-ups: UNH’s offense (first in Hockey East) against Merrimack’s defense (eighth). Merrimack’s offense (eighth) against UNH’s defense (first). The Wildcat special teams (first on the power play and penalty kill) vs. Merrimack’s (eighth and ninth).

The Warriors had captured lightning in a bottle there for a while, but UNH is just too tough.

Picks: UNH 6 Merrimack 2; UNH 5 Merrimack 2 (UNH wins a rubber game, if necessary)

No. 2 Seed Boston University Hosts No. 7 Seed Providence

Of the top three seeds, BU stands the best chance of getting taken to a third game. The Terriers just don’t have the offensive explosiveness that UNH and Maine do.

That said, the Friars don’t appear to have what it takes to push BU to the limit. With a consistency matched only by UNH running the board with the top statistics in the league, PC ranks seventh in team offense (how is that?), defense, power play, and penalty kill.

Picks: BU 3 PC 2; BU 4 PC 1; (BU wins a rubber game, if necessary)

No. 3 Seed Maine Hosts No. 6 Seed Boston College

This was not the ideal match-up for them, but the Eagles might have stolen a game from the
Black Bears with a full lineup.

However, Forrest is as important to the BC defense as Eaves is to the offense. We all know what happened when Eaves was out of the lineup. Adams’ concussion has forced coach Jerry York to shift Ales Dolinar back on defense. Now two positions are weaker.

Depth was the Achilles’ heel of this team during the regular season and will be so again in the playoffs.

As for the Black Bears, they are really on a roll now, especially on offense. It wouldn’t be a shock to see them in the Frozen Four.

Picks: Maine 5 BC 2; Maine 4 BC 2; (Maine wins a rubber game, if necessary)

No. 4 Seed UMass-Lowell Hosts No. 5 Seed Northeastern

While the other series look lopsided, this one could go either way. Ultimately, the two teams may find that the winner was decided last Wednesday when the River Hawks went into Matthews Arena and emerged with home ice. Lowell has posted essentially the same record at home (10-6-1) and on the road (10-5-2), but Northeastern has a monstrous gap (12-4-2 vs. 5-10-1).

The River Hawk power play struggled for much of the season, but has really come around of late. The Huskies can no longer claim a special teams advantage in this matchup.

Instead, Lowell’s experience and home ice will win out.

Picks: Lowell 4 NU 2; NU 4 Lowell 3; Lowell 3 NU 1

TV Talk

Fox Sports New England has announced that this week it will be televising live the Thursday night UMass-Lowell vs. Northeastern match-up and that Saturday and Sunday are wild card games. There will be no game shown on Friday night because of a conflict with the Boston Celtics, who FSNE is contractually obligated to carry live.

What this means for Saturday’s and Sunday’s games remains to be seen. In all likelihood, if Lowell-Northeastern goes to a third game on Saturday, that will be deemed more compelling viewing than a second game in the UNH vs. Merrimack or BU vs. Providence series. That is, unless either the Warriors or Friars appear poised for a major upset. That would make for a tougher call. (The results of the Maine-BC series are irrelevant in this regard because FSNE will not be making the trip to Alfond Arena because of the high production costs.)

It’s hard to conceive FSNE having a choice between two games on Sunday night since that would mean that both UNH and BU had been pushed to a third game of their series. More likely, there will be no Hockey East game to show that night. But stranger things have happened… .

What’s likely to raise the blood pressure of some fans, however, is the outlook for next week. The semifinals at the FleetCenter are poised for Friday night beginning at 4 p.m. and the championship on Saturday is at 8 p.m.. Unfortunately, the Celtics are playing both nights, putting all but the early semifinal game on tape delay.

FSNE has a one-year option that it will have to decide whether to pick up or not after the season. If it is declined, there may be some interesting negotiations looming.

As the deal stands now, no money exchanges hands. Hockey East gets no revenue from the TV package, but doesn’t have to pay a flat fee or production costs the way that, for example, the ECAC does.

One possible scenario, should FSNE decline the option, is for the league to separate the postseason TV rights from the regular season. Given FSNE’s inability to broadcast playoff games live whenever there is a conflict with the Celtics, Hockey East could sell the postseason to an outlet such as NESN and use that money to finance either a separate regular season deal with FSNE or distribute the money to member schools and allow them to make their own deals, such as the one that BU arranged this year that put so many extra Terrier games on TV.

A Little Gambling Talk

Not that I’m a degenerate gambler — I’m a degenerate in other ways — but I came across the following Las Vegas odds to win the national championship. (This comes from Roger Brown, a great guy and UNH beat writer for the Portsmouth Herald. Roger is no degenerate gambler either, but writes a column every year on the topic.)

These odds are as of three weeks ago, as posted by Bally’s Race and Sports Book:

Minnesota 5/2
St. Cloud State 7/2
Denver 9/2
New Hampshire 5/1
Boston University 6/1
Michigan State 6/1
Boston College 7/1
Michigan 10/1
Colorado College 12/1
Northern Michigan 15/1
Maine 20/1
UMass-Lowell 20/1
North Dakota 20/1
Harvard 20/1
Nebraska-Omaha 22/1
Wisconsin 30/1
Ohio State 30/1
Dartmouth 40/1
Clarkson 40/1
Providence 60/1
Alaska-Fairbanks 60/1
Rensselaer 75/1
Minnesota-Duluth 100/1
St. Lawrence 200/1

The rest of the field (all teams not included above) go in at 18/1.

Ignoring oddities such as Alaska-Fairbanks (20-11-3) sharing the same 60-to-1 odds as Providence (13-18-5), here are a few observations.

The best bets, in this writer’s opinion, are New Hampshire, Michigan, and Maine. All three are riding high going into the postseason and have been there before. There will be no happy-to-be-there sentiments. Of the trio, Maine would be the best bargain at 20-to-1.

The worst bets would seem to be the two teams that competed in the NCAA championship game last year, Boston College (18-16-2, but 7-to-1) and North Dakota (16-17-2, but 20-to-1). Veterans of the wagering game will point out that odds are not just a prediction of results, but also are a mirror of public perception. Casual fans, as opposed to the cognoscenti of USCHO readership, may instinctively go for last year’s title combatants even if they are overpriced.

Warning: If you take out a second mortgage on your house, fly out to Las Vegas, place a huge bet on your favorite team and lose… it isn’t my fault. If you win, however, a five-percent finders fee to the Dave Hendrickson Retirement Fund would be appreciated.

A Brain Cramp

When Providence traveled to UMass-Lowell last Friday, almost everyone expected that Nolan Schaefer would get the start in the Friars’ crease. After all, PC still had a chance to finish sixth in the standings with a win. Instead, freshman David Cacciola got the nod and the Friars lost, 6-1.

The reason behind Cacciola’s start, though, is a head-shaker. It turns out that Schaefer, who is one of the few goaltenders that catches with his right hand, had left his catching glove behind at Providence.

If frustrated Friar fans were looking for the perfect symbol to capture a frustratingly disappointing season, they got one.


On Feb. 22, BC scored the most goals of its season (seven) on the fewest shots (19).

Haydar has never missed a game in his UNH career. He has now played in 152 straight and is closing in on the school ironman mark held by Mike Souza (156).

Trivia Contest

Last week’s question asked which team entered the postseason with the longest losing streak, but still advanced to the Hockey East semifinals. The answer was the 1997-98 Merrimack Warriors, who entered the league playoffs with a 12-game losing streak, including a 9-1 loss in the regular season finale to BU, but then stunned the Terriers in three games. It was the league’s only upset of a top seed by an number eight.

The first to answer correctly was Scott Kaplan, whose cheer is:

“Go UML! Neuter the Huskies and the Dog House!”

This week’s question notes that Maine has lost only a single men’s Division I postseason game at Alfond Arena. What was the opposing team, date and score? Email me with as many of those three details as you know (or care to guess).