This Week in Hockey East: Feb. 27, 2003

Mystery Schmystery

When the news leaked out that the NCAA had tweaked its tournament selection process to reward “good wins” in what sounded like some subjective manner, it sounded like the worst idea since inviting Roseanne to sing the national anthem.

Turns out, it’s not that bad. As noted in Adam Wodon’s story about the change, it’s a completely objective process. What’s more, it’s a change designed to be fairer to those schools which aren’t necessarily financial powerhouses, but have strong on-ice teams.

The “fairness” problem is that powerhouses will naturally play more nonconference home games than their less privileged counterparts because they can offer attractive financial guarantees for one-way visitors instead of a reciprocal home-this-year and road-next-year arrangement. Since it’s obviously easier to win at home, it’s an improvement to adjust the process so that nonconference road wins are rewarded.

The tinkering with the RPI smacks a bit of being a Band-Aid to the process instead of using superior mathematical approaches such as the version of KRACH which accounts for road and home factors. That point, however, we’ll leave to the math wizards.

What stinks like month-old garbage in July is that the selection committee has decided to keep the adjustment a secret.

“This will add a little mystery to [Selection] Sunday,” Division I men’s ice hockey committee chair Ian McCaw says.

With all due respect, if we want mystery, we’ll go for Agatha Christie or Ed McBain. There’s plenty of mystery on Selection Sunday. Is your favorite team going to stay in its region or not? Who else is in its bracket? If the team wins, then who will it likely face in the Frozen Four? There’s even more mystery this year as the regionals have gone from two to four sites in the wake of the tournament’s expansion from 12 teams to 16. For Hockey East fans, that means asking whether staying in the region means Providence or Worcester.

The beauty of college hockey’s selection process is that not only is it 100 percent objective, but also every team knows where it stands. Does the committee care to know that USCHO staffers have been asked in press conferences after league tournaments if they could update the PairWise and relay the results? Does the committee care to know the numbers of times I’ve FAXed or phoned updated PairWise standings to coaches who are temporarily away from computer access? Does the committee care to know how frustrated schoolboy hockey fans are that no one has made the effort (even though it could be done) to provide something comparable to the PairWise to let teams know exactly where they stand?

How would you like to be, say, the coach of a WCHA team that thinks it’s in the NCAAs after getting a tie in the WCHA consolation game only to find out that it is out because of the “secret” factor. And that had the coach known, he would have pulled his goalie in the final minute of that tied game.

It sure seems that the committee is just asking for headaches and complaints. A team and its fans have a right to know whether they’re in or not. Enough of this coquettish secrecy. College hockey players, coaches and fans deserve better.

The Key Games

For Merrimack and Massachusetts, there’s not a lot at stake this weekend. Their jockeying for either sixth or seventh place won’t make a significant difference in their playoff matchups since they’ll both be major underdogs traveling to either Maine, Boston College or New Hampshire.

Everyone else has major rewards to be earned or lost in this final weekend of the regular season.

Boston University and Providence are locked into facing each other in the quarterfinals for the third straight year and fourth time in five, but home ice for the series is still up for grabs. Unless Massachusetts-Lowell upsets the Friars on Friday, BU will need to take at least three of four points in its two-game set at Maine. (PC takes the tiebreaker with BU by virtue of a 2-0-1 record head-to-head in their series.)

“If we lost all three games [to Providence] and we got home ice, it wouldn’t bother me,” BU coach Jack Parker says. “The fact is that you’ve got to see who wins home ice.

“Any way you look at it, they were three hard-nosed games. Nobody’s going to think, ‘We’ve got a lot of confidence against that club’ and nobody’s going to think, ‘Oh, [no], we can’t beat that club’ either.

“So I don’t think that’s the problem. The problem is where the games are going to be played. That’s a problem because that’s a big advantage for the home team.”

For Northeastern and Lowell, a Saturday winner-take-all game looms to determine the final entrant in the playoffs. More on that below.

All of which leaves BC, UNH and Maine. The three powers all have hopes of a regular season championship so clearly the players’ focus should be especially sharp for these teams.

Which leads us to…

For All The Marbles

For now, Boston College is in the driver’s seat, atop Hockey East with 33 points. The Eagles lead New Hampshire by two points and Maine by three. The road to a second regular season crown for BC in three years, however, is strewn with potholes. Those potholes have names like Mike Ayers, Lanny Gare, Colin Hemingway and Garrett Stafford since the Eagles finish the regular season with a home-and-home series with UNH.

BC coach Jerry York says, “Right at the start of the year when we got the league schedule I saw [the final week with] BC-New Hampshire right next to BU-Maine and thought, ‘Who’s going to play for the championship there?’ Those pairings really jumped at me. I was hoping we’d be in this position.

“It’s a matchmaker’s dream. The schedule has come out perfect for us. We have a lead, but we’re also conscious of our very formidable opponent. They’ve beaten us already here once this season.”

Sean Collins finished the contest with an overtime goal, but that was all the way back on Nov. 19. Now Boston College is atop not only the Hockey East standings, but also all four key statistical categories in league contests: team offense (4.23 goals per game), team defense (2.18 goals against per game), power play percentage (21.8 percent) and penalty kill percentage (88.0 percent, tied with UNH).

However, UNH doesn’t trail far behind, ranking second in all but its tied-for-first penalty kill: team offense (3.50 goals per game), team defense (2.32 goals against per game) and power play percentage (20.7 percent). What’s more, the Wildcats are particularly hot. In their last four games they’ve killed 20 of 21 penalties (95.2 percent) and over the last eight they’ve almost matched that figure, killing 36-of-38 (94.7 percent). That includes two games with Maine, one against BU and another with red-hot Providence. UNH’s power play has also scored at a 50 percent rate (6-for-12) over the last four games.

“Special teams generally decide these big games along with the goaltenders,” York says. “It’s a good matchup as far as both goaltenders being sharp; both Matti [Kaltiainen] and Ayers are at the top of their games. I think we both feel pretty good about our special teams. New Hampshire’s PK is on quite a pace there, but we feel pretty good about our special teams.

“There are really some marquee players in this matchup. For us, of course, Ben Eaves and Tony Voce as well as Andrew Alberts, who has been playing really well on defense. They come back with Hemingway, Gare, Collins and Stafford. It’s what we all look for: a championship-level weekend between two teams really capable of making runs here late in the year.

“I think it should be very quick, very fast. I’d believe the tempo of the game is going to be extremely quick.”

While the Eagles need only a split to clinch the title, UNH needs at least three points, a challenge that becomes a sweep if Maine sweeps BU since the Black Bears win a three-way tie.

“These are the kind of positions you’d like to be in, coming down to the end of the season and having an opportunity,” UNH coach Dick Umile says. “We could win it, come in second or come in third. The fact is that we’re in this position and it should be an exciting weekend.”

While a sweep would be an elixir for New Hampshire fans, a more realistic hope might be that BU will take at least one point from Maine, which would mean that a tie at Kelley Rink would bring a game for all the marbles back to the Whitt.

“You would hope that and obviously that’s exactly what’s got to happen,” Umile says. “We’ve got to make our home game [decisive]. It’s still going to be an important game regardless. It would be an important game for second or third, but we’ve got to at least tie to bring the game for the championship back to the Whittemore Center.”

Like York, Umile points to special teams as critical.

“Our specialty teams have been going pretty well as of late,” he says. “That’s really important especially when you play the likes of a Boston College. They’re pretty good at killing penalties and are a threat, so our power play has to be effective and our shorthand unit has to be ready to play against their power play, which is a real strong group that has real good players that make smart decisions.

“Defensively, we were kind of slipping a little bit there. We played real well against Merrimack but then [just] okay against Lowell. But give credit to Lowell, they play hard in the offensive zone. But overall the team is playing okay.

“Right now you have to do all the little things well because we’re down to playoff hockey.”

The Hottest Goalie

This is the first week in the last four that Providence goaltender Nolan Schaefer hasn’t won either Hockey East’s Player of the Week or Defensive Player of the Week. Make no mistake, though, he’s still as hot as any goaltender out there. Last weekend the Friars were outshot a collective 67-41 in a home-and-home series, but still came away with three points because they won the goaltending battle.

“It’s coming down to the end of my last year here at Providence,” the senior says. “I’m just going to try to do the best that I can for my team. I’m trying to get better prepared for these big games and the team is playing great in front of me. I see most of the shots. Any time the team is playing good in front of you, you’ve got to give them credit, too.”

In mid-January Schaefer lost his job to freshman Bobby Goepfert (2.39 GAA, .924 Sv%) and sat for four straight games. Since coming in midway through a Jan. 31 contest, however, Schaefer has led Providence’s February surge of 5-0-2. He’s posted a 2.07 GAA and a .929 save percentage, numbers that are especially impressive when one considers that the last five games have come against nationally ranked opponents.

“[Sitting for those four games] obviously drew my attention,” Schaefer says. “When you’re a senior and it’s your last year, you don’t want to miss any games, especially four in a row. I did try to bear down a little bit more, but Bobby played great, too, and it’s not his fault. Whichever one of us is in the net, we’re just doing the best we can.

“It’s been a great month. It’s been really positive. It’s a team thing and everybody’s been picking it up straight from the defense to the systems. Everything has just been going our way. Hopefully, we can keep it up through the playoffs.”

In the quarterfinals, Providence will face BU, a team against which Schaefer has backstopped PC to five points out of a possible six.

“I don’t ever want to say that I’d like to face BU because they’re a really tough team, but at the same time I’m always excited to play them,” he says. “It’s a great rivalry. Hopefully we can come out on top.”

Not Just on a Roll, but on a ROLL

Providence opened the season 7-0, but then failed to win back-to-back games from Nov. 8 through the end of January.

A disappointment?

It sure looked it.

Then something clicked and at the oddest of times. Of PC’s eight February contests, five were against nationally ranked teams.

Not exactly the ideal time to become Hockey East’s hottest team.

Defying expectations, the Friars remain undefeated in February with a 5-0-2 record including a 3-0-2 mark against Maine (two games), BU (two) and UNH (one).

What has changed about the team that couldn’t put two wins together for almost three months?

Well, the Friars did switch from zone defensive coverage to man-to-man in January, but the results weren’t instantaneous. There were, however, January wins over Maine, BU and BC to spark the team’s confidence and perhaps set the table for February’s stunning stretch run. PC coach Paul Pooley split up the mega-line of Jon DiSalvatore, Peter Fregoe and Devin Rask (into Rask, Fregoe and Jonathan Goodwin plus DiSalvatore, Peter Zingoni and Doug Wright) and the three responded well to the separation. In February’s seven games, DiSalvatore has scored eight goals with an assist, Fregoe six goals and two assists while Rask has been the playmaker with two goals and eight assists. Defenseman Stephen Wood has also stepped up his offensive production with four goals and eight assists in the month.

Whatever the catalyst, the Friars are now trapping to perfection these days, scoring opportunistically and getting great goaltending from Schaefer.

“[We’ve got] a sense of urgency, a commitment to the system,” Pooley says. “We’ve always had a commitment to what we were doing, but the kids love what we’re doing right now. They enjoy it and they like playing it. When you have a group of guys, who are led by our seniors, who like to do what they’re doing, it’s a very positive thing. They just feed off of each other.

“We talked in practice [last] week about what our game is and one of the guys that doesn’t play an awful lot said, ‘It’s ugly, Coach.’ I said, ‘Okay, we’ll take that.’

“We want to use the boards. We want to keep it simple. We want to be a counterattack team. We’re not here to impress anybody. I keep telling our guys that. We just want to be productive out there and just win hockey games. That’s what we’re focusing on. I can’t give our seniors enough credit because in the stretch here they’ve been the catalysts. Everybody else has been feeding off of them in this run here.”

Initially, one would guess that the player with the “it’s ugly” comment is frequently on the sidelines because he just doesn’t get it.

“No, that’s a compliment,” Pooley says. “That’s what we want to do. We want to play on the boards. That was the highest compliment. We want to control the puck outside. We want to play on the boards and we want to play down low. That’s where we want to play. That’s a compliment. It shows the guys are buying in and understand what we’re trying to do.”

After taking only one of a potential six points from Providence this year, BU coach Jack Parker was asked why the Friars have been so successful.

“They stop the puck well,” Parker says with a rueful smile. “In this stretch they’ve gotten unbelievable goaltending for sure and we started them off when [Schaefer] made [42] against us here [on Jan. 9]. And they battle down low. They’ve got two or three real good scorers, which a lot of teams don’t have. They’re like BC in that they’ve got a couple guys who can put the fear of God in you: Rask, Fregoe and DiSalvatore. There aren’t too many teams that have three guys like that. Some may have one, but [Providence] has three. They get opportunistic.

“In general, they play a good hard-nosed defensive game. They’re pretty physical defensively. They know they’re not the most talented [group] back there so they play a conservative game back there and wait for opportunities. I think their defense is underrated; they’re playing much better than they were earlier in the year. The big thing is that they know if they make a mistake, Schaefer is going to come up big for them.”

Slip Slidin’ Away

On New Year’s Day, Maine held the nation’s number two ranking with a 15-1-2 overall record and only a single tie to blemish an otherwise perfect league record. By the middle of January, the Black Bears had become the nation’s number one team, boasting an 18-2-2 mark overall and 8-1-1 within Hockey East. Their first outright regular season title since 1992-93 appeared to be theirs to lose. (For those just emerging from a cave, the 1992-93 team featured Paul Kariya, would eventually win a national championship and came one overtime loss to BU away from an undefeated season.)

Since mid-January, however, Maine has posted an uninspiring 5-4-3 record. Six straight weekends the Black Bears have had four points up for grabs and had to settle for less each time. The tell-tale signs of a slump were initially hard to detect. Three of four points from Merrimack and then Lowell. A split on the road with UNH. A weekend that included a loss to BC and a win over Merrimack.

Two weeks ago, however, the signs became apparent. Providence took three of four points at Alfond and then last week UMass earned a split.

Maine still holds a remote chance for a regular season championship: it must sweep BU this weekend while UNH takes exactly three-of-four points from BC. In the resulting three-way tie, Maine emerges as the tiebreak winner. That said, Paul Simon is strumming his acoustic guitar and the Hockey East title tune he’s playing is “Slip Slidin’ Away.”

Considering the control Maine appeared to have over its own destiny, it’s a surprising slump.

“Basically what has happened is that we got off to an unexpectedly great start,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead says. “Toward the end of January some guys got a little tired, a little burned out — not just Jimmy Howard and Greg Moore who went to the [World Junior] Tournament — but some of the other guys, too. Mentally as much as physically.

“The other factor is that we took for granted what got us there a little bit. That’s human nature to think that we’re a little bit better than we really are and I think that was part of it. As a team, some of our go-to guys maybe started not playing with the same urgency that they had played with up to that point. That contributed a little bit.

“And our goalies cooled off a tad. That was factor, too. We had some injuries. That was a factor, too. Throw them all into the mix.

“All the teams in the league have gone through it. BU and BC went through it early. UNH and ourselves are going through it now. Providence did in the middle of the season. Things come a little too easily so [teams] have to go through some things like this.

“This last month has been important for our team in that we’ve gone through some tough results and in the end the players have recognized what we already knew as coaches: you can throw a blanket over any of the top 20 teams and they all have an opportunity to make some noise at the end of the year. We’re just one of those 20 so we really have to stick to our game plan, play very hard and very smart. For the most part we’ve done that this year, but recently we got a little away from our game and how we want to play. We’ve paid the price for that.

“[The 4-0 win over UMass] was a good building block on Saturday. It was as solid of a game as we’ve had in quite a while from the defensive side of things, from the goaltending side of things, from the offensive side of things and from an effort point of view. So there were a lot of real positives there.”

The goalie cooling off and burnout issues are best exhibited by Jimmy Howard. By the end of January his nation-best .947 save percentage and second-best 1.52 GAA appeared to have forced the end of his rotation with Frank Doyle. Although he started both games against UNH to open the month, however, his hot hand has turned cold. Through the end of January, he had played 13 games, never allowing more than three goals and only reaching that figure three times. In February, however, he’s allowed more than three goals in four-of-five starts with only an .870 save percentage.

(A pox on any Maine fan who accuses this writer of jinxing Howard on Jan. 31 by saying he was “perhaps not only the best in the league, but also the country.” The timing might point toward a guilty verdict, but it’s pure coincidence. Really.)

During that same February stretch, Doyle has reasserted himself, allowing a total of only four goals in his three starts. Small wonder, then, that the rotation returned.

“The reason I went with Jimmy back-to-back nights at UNH was because my gut feeling was that he was going to respond the second night and play well,” Whitehead says. “So I broke out of the rotation — we weren’t really doing a strict rotation anyway — but that was the one time. Other than that we’ve pretty much alternated right through the year.

“Both Frank and Jimmy have been very consistent this year. We’re committed to giving both of them an opportunity to help our team and we’re very confident that Jimmy will catch fire again. He’s certainly playing very well. He was playing ‘beyond well’ before. For a freshman even we were surprised — and we recruited him — with how consistent he was. So he’ll be back at his best. But he’s still playing well. I thought he had a real good game on Friday night at Amherst.

“But Frank Doyle has been very consistent, too. So we’re going to continue to give both of them the chance to play and if one of them clearly gets hot, then we’ll just go with our gut feeling on that particular weekend if we want to double-up. We’ll see where that takes us, but we’re very confident in both.

“The biggest thing is that we want to play better in front of them, play better in front of our net to help our goalies out and eliminate second and third shots, which is what we did for most of the season. Recently, we’ve gotten a little careless in front of our net and we’ve paid for it.”

Do or Die

Regardless of what they do on Friday night, either Northeastern or Lowell will earn the last playoff berth on Saturday with a win in their head-to-head matchup. (In the event of a tie, the teams’ performances on Friday will matter.)

“It’s do or die; it’s a drive to survive,” UML coach Blaise MacDonald says. “It’s going to come down to who has the stronger will, who’s mentally tougher in a game like that. I’m not so sure that it’s going to be the big play or the offense or who has more talent, but [rather] who’s more prepared to put it on the line. Who’s more prepared to make the sacrifices whether it’s going down to block a shot or getting killed with a big hit to make a play. Those will be the tell-tale signs of who’s going to win a game like that.

“They’re a good team and [Mike] Gilhooly’s playing well in the net all of a sudden and they do have that one big line [of Mike Ryan, Jason Guerriero and Mike Morris]. But when we’ve had success against them in their building and even in our 4-1 loss to them here, when we got the puck in deep, we were able to work their defensemen down low. That’s something we’ve done a very good job of in a lot of games.

“We’ll have to convert on some opportunities and just be very physical. We need to turn this game into a real war, a real grudge match, and put everything on the line.”

On the plus side, Lowell’s much-maligned goaltending has stabilized under Dominic Smart. Where the River Hawks were enduring a team 79 percent save percentage in league games well into the year, Smart’s has performed at an 88-to-89 percent level of late, culminating in his earning last week’s Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week.

“He’s played well for 10 or 11 games now,” MacDonald says. “We’ve come to expect that now from him.”

Northeastern’s stretch run — one tie and six losses in the last seven games — has been less productive than Lowell’s but none of that will matter if the Huskies win on Saturday.

“Nobody is going to backdoor this thing,” NU coach Bruce Crowder says. “Whoever wins is in.

“A lot of it is going to come down to goaltending. Both teams have struggled a little bit with their goaltending. The other thing is special teams. Those things plus who comes to play.”

One recent positive has been the play of freshman Mike Morris, who missed several contests due to a concussion, but since returning has scored four goals in the last six games.

“He’s the real deal,” Crowder says. “Obviously, we really missed him when he was out in January. He’s got a quick release. The accolades he’s gotten after being a first round pick are something that he’s shown he deserved. Not having him in the lineup hurt.

“And we lost Eric Ortlip for a while, too. We’re not in the position to lose two quality players like that. We’re happy to have them back.”

Back for the stretch run as well has been goaltender Mike Gilhooly. Heading into the season, most expected sophomore Keni Gibson to be The Man for the Huskies with Gilhooly only seeing spot action in his senior season. That proved true in the early going with him totaling less than 100 minutes of action in the first semester. In February, however, he’s played all but one of the Huskies’ seven contests.

“It’s a lot of credit to Mike,” Crowder says. “We had a conversation at Christmastime. We were coming off a pretty good stretch where we had given up six goals in five games and Keni was playing really well. I sat down and talked to Mike and said, ‘Mike, I’ve got you for three months and I’ve got Keni [for two and a half years] and [freshman Tim] Heneroty for three and a half years.’

“He just said, ‘I’m going to keep working hard, Coach, and I appreciate everything you’ve done. It just hasn’t worked out and those things happen.’ Next thing you know in practice, he was showing us that we needed to give him another opportunity.”

Although Gilhooly did surrender 11 goals in a home-and-home series with Boston College last weekend, he’s not necessarily passed the torch back to Gibson or Heneroty.

“[We were] playing Boston College,” Crowder says. “They have a habit of making anyone look worse than you’d like.”

Patrick Eaves Possibly Returning

At the Beanpot Luncheon, Jerry York told of going back to the BC locker room during a practice for a sweater and encountering injured Patrick Eaves dressed in full uniform including helmet and skates. Eaves had been the league’s leading Rookie of the Year candidate with 10 goals and 17 points in 13 games until fracturing his neck in a Dec. 7 game. Although there would be no lasting effects from the injury, he was feared lost for the season.

“Gee, I really miss it, Coach,” Eaves said to York that day.

It turns out, however, that Eaves may be suiting up for real for games soon. With all the bones healed, he’s been practicing without contact and may make the next step shortly.

“Watching him, he’s coming back pretty strong,” York says. “Certainly not for this weekend, but there’s a good possibility for the opening series — the quarterfinals — that he’ll be able to play.

“It’ll be early next week [that the decision gets made]. It’s his decision; I’ve talked to him. It looks like medically the bone has healed. Now it’s a question of whether it has healed enough to go into a hockey setting. He’s working to strengthen his neck muscles around there, but the bone is [okay].

“Dr. Duff at St. Elizabeth’s is going to meet with him early next week. He’s been Patrick’s neurosurgeon. Dr. English, our orthopedic surgeon, and Dr. Duff are going to get together and have a meeting of the minds. Next week, we could have a good indicator, but he may be available for the first round.”

For anyone who heard the hush at Kelley Rink when Eaves was injured — or heard others whisper, “Please move!” — this is great news indeed.

Tune in to NECN-TV

Yours truly will be gracing the TV screen with his ugly mug this Saturday night on NECN’s Sports Late Night. The show runs from 11 to midnight so you should be able to return from watching your favorite team play and still catch some college hockey talk.

Las Vegas has set my over-under for dumb comments at seven. Bet the rent check on the over.

Beanpot Feature

Beanpot fans should get their VCRs ready for ESPN’s feature on the February highlight. It will air on ESPN2 on Thursday, Apr. 10, at 3 p.m. and again on ESPN two nights later at 5:30 p.m.

Senior Night

It’s a personal favorite to see schools pay tribute to their seniors this time of year. Kudos to all these players who have invested so much of their time and effort in the game we love.

Everyone With a Hat to Hang On

Even the four teams with no remaining chance at playoff home ice can point to taking points from the league’s top three powers over the last two weeks. Merrimack defeated BC; Massachusetts-Lowell and Northeastern both tied UNH; Massachusetts defeated Maine.

Trivia Contest

Last week’s question asked what team has the longest (in terms of calendar time) scoreless streak on the power play this year. The unfortunate owner of that mark is Lowell, which scored on Nov. 21 and then went until Jan. 18 before again capitalizing on the man advantage, an 0-for-34 drought. First to answer correctly was Chris Sayles, whose cheer is:

“1…2…3 M-A-I-N-E GoOOOO BLUE!”

This week’s question asks what contest this year involved two teams with the same nickname and head coaches with the same first name (e.g., “Head Coach Dave’s Donkeys”)? Email my trivia account with the two teams, coaches and the date they met. The winner will be notified by Tuesday; if you haven’t heard by then you either had the wrong answer or someone else beat you to it.

Calling All Illiterates

Last week’s challenge came from nonfiction for a change.

When the 173rd held services for their dead from Dak To the boots of the dead men were arranged in formation on the ground. It was an old paratrooper tradition, but knowing that didn’t reduce it or make it any less spooky, a company’s worth of jump boots standing empty in the dust taking benediction, while the real substance of the ceremony was being bagged and tagged and shipped back home through what they called the KIA Travel Bureau.

This is an early segment from Dispatches by Michael Herr, a remarkable book that set the standard in 1978 for the Vietnam war books that followed. Brian Langan, who was the first to answer correctly, recommends Ashes to Ashes: America’s Hundred Year Cigarette War, the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris by Richard Kluger.

This week’s challenge turns to back to novels again with the character’s name changed to initials.

So then I have to go downtown to the University and forage for dollars again. It doesn’t take much cash to keep me going — $200 a month will do nicely — but I’m running low, and I don’t dare try to borrow from my sister again. The students will shortly be needing their first term papers of the semester; that’s always a steady business. The weary, eroding brain of [D.S.] is once more for hire. I should be able to pick up $75 worth of work on this lovely golden October morning. The air is crisp and clear. A high-pressure system covers New York City, banishing humidity and haze. In such weather my fading powers still flourish. Let us go then, you and I, when the morning is spread out against the sky. To the Broadway-IRT subway. Have your tokens ready, please.

You and I. To whom do I refer? I’m heading downtown alone, after all. You and I.

Why, of course I refer to myself and to that creature which lives within me, skulking in its spongy lair and spying on unsuspecting mortals. That sneaky monster within me, that ailing monster, dying even more swiftly than I.

This passage is easily found via search engines so you’re on the honor system to find the answer on your own. Email me with the author and title to get your opportunity to state your own favorite next week. The winner will be notified by Tuesday; if you haven’t heard by then you either had the wrong answer or someone else beat you to it.

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

  • Condolences to all the families of the horrific nightclub fire and stampede tragedies. Also to the family of Belmont Hill hockey player Darren Gallup. Also to the family of my friend Jimmy Porcello, a good guy who deserved a much longer life.
  • Geez… With sadness, onward…
  • If your personal favorite didn’t win a Grammy, don’t go into cardiac arrest. Bruce Springsteen has yet to win Album of the Year. Toto leads the Boss by one in that category.
  • If there are any talent scouts out there, I’m still ready to be a rock star. Hey, I’m younger than Mick Jagger.
  • Kudos to outgoing coaches Dave Snyder (Wesleyan) and Doug Roberts (Connecticut College), who faced each other last weekend in the final games of the coaching careers. Both men — terrific people who I had a chance to meet during my son Ryan’s recruiting process — have been the only coaches those programs have ever known. They can certainly look back with pride at their work and the young men they influenced.
  • Last Friday was quite the day for Hendrickson hockey players. My son’s Pingree team defeated Rivers, 7-1. My niece Cherie’s Brooks team beat Governor Dummer Academy, 3-1, as did nephew Scott’s boys JV team, 3-2. The piece de resistance, though, was another nephew Kevin and his Brooks varsity toppling Division I playoff-bound GDA, 2-1. If there was a bigger upset all year in prep hockey, I haven’t heard it. Oh, and by the way, Cherie finished as the number four ISL scorer. Congrats to all the Hendrickson “kids” who learned all their moves from Dad/Uncle Dave.
  • Unfortunately, Wednesday was not as happy of a day as both Ryan and Cherie’s teams were upset in the playoffs. The sting will linger, but both teams had terrific seasons. In Pingree’s case, the Highlanders earned the number one seed for the first time in the school’s history, but unfortunately got matched against three-time defending champion Tilton. Hold your heads high, both of you.