This Week in Hockey East: March 13, 2003

Crossing Our Fingers

A year and a half ago we were reminded that what we take so seriously is in fact a collection of games. Games. Matters of life, death and health render wins and losses insignificant. The deaths of Shawn Walsh, Mark Bavis and Ed Arrington combined with the news of Merrimack coach Chris Serino’s cancer — a battle he has since won — to cast a pall on the opening of the 2001-02 season.

We now enter Hockey East’s Championship Weekend with a similar feeling of gut-wrenching sadness. Joe Exter lies in a hospital bed and what lies ahead for him is anyone’s guess.

“The situation I thought of was J.P. McKersie,” says Massachusetts-Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald, who served as an assistant coach at Boston University during McKersie’s tenure. “He was an All-American goaltender, a huge part of the program and a great kid. He suffered similar injuries when he was hit by a car during the offseason.

“It was a long road back, but he made a full recovery. I saw first-hand his struggles and adversity, but most importantly the strength he gathered from the support of the college hockey community and the people of this area. It allowed him to recover much more quickly than the average person right off the street might have.”

After missing the 1994-95 season, McKersie returned to the BU team the following season and earned distinction as the winner of the inaugural Hockey Humanitarian Award.

With that note of hope, I think back to a conversation I had at a rink several years ago. The parent of a high school senior who was giving up his dream of playing college hockey referred to Exter, shook his head, and said, “He’s wasting his time. He should just give up and get on with his life.”

At the time, Exter was paying some extra dues after graduating from Cushing Academy in 1997. It wouldn’t be until the fall of 2000 that he would see his first game action for Merrimack.

I had to disagree with the parent, who somehow felt that his own son was superior in giving up a dream to a kid who was still fighting to achieve his. If an 18-year-old just wants to move on, that’s fine. But I had then, and still do have, great admiration for kids who don’t give up. In an instant gratification world, they keep their eyes on the prize.

We all cross our fingers and send all our thoughts and prayers to Joe Exter. May he make the biggest save of his life.

Exter kept his eyes on the prize and after the 2000-01 season earned a berth on the Hockey East All-Rookie team. Thursday night, he’s likely to be named to the All-Hockey East Team.

So much for wasting his time. Exter persevered and eventually reached his collegiate goals.

One hopes that the same inner toughness and perseverance can serve him well now. That, plus the support of the hockey community that made a difference for J.P. McKersie.

We all cross our fingers and send all our thoughts and prayers to Joe Exter. May he make the biggest save of his life.

Heroes at Merrimack

It’s hard to imagine a coach and a team displaying any more class than Merrimack coach Chris Serino and his Warriors in the game following Exter’s injury.

Prior to that emotion-filled contest, Serino said, “I asked [my players] to look me in the eye and tell me they could go to a game tonight, play a hockey game tonight and try to win the hockey game. Not to try to play a hockey game and try to have revenge or anything like that.

“Every one of them I had them look me in the eye and tell me they could play the game and play the game the way it should be played. I’ll stake my reputation that my players will play the game the way it should be played.”

If that isn’t class — staking his reputation on his players’ behavior — then what is?

The Warriors, none more so than substitute goaltender Casey Guenther, performed in heroic fashion, taking a tie game into the final minute while playing “the game the way it should be played.”

That program should be proud.

Let’s Not Have a Second Victim

One would hope that Patrick Eaves will not become a second victim, albeit one many light-years removed in severity from Exter, in this tragic accident. Forget the game disqualifications that will sideline Eaves until the Frozen Four should Boston College get that far. The concern here is that he should not be demonized as an “intent to injure” type of goon. This is not Marty McSorley taking a swipe at Donald Brashear or any comparable dirty play. Eaves’ reputation should be that of a very talented goalscorer, not a monster.

“All our thoughts and prayers are with Joe Exter,” says BC coach Jerry York, making clear that Exter’s health is the overriding concern. “The other part of it is that there was absolutely no intention to create any type of injury. It was a race to the puck. Patrick Eaves has really been affected by these circumstances. The DQs are secondary to my point. There just was no intent to injure.”

Eaves’ father, Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves, commented on the tragedy during a WCHA teleconference this week.

“[Patrick] knows in his heart that it was just a pure accident,” said Eaves. “But the main concern of his right now is that the young boy is in serious condition. I know my wife was out there this past weekend and they visited with the family and everybody’s heart’s in the right place. They understand [that] in athletics these types of things happen.

“Patrick knows better than anybody because of what happened to him [fracturing his neck] early this year. But everybody has young Joe Exter in their thoughts and prayers now and hoping this young man gets through this tough time.”

Numbers Three and Four Go Down

Heavy-hearted, we move on to the games….

When both number three seed Maine and number four Providence fell in two games last weekend, it marked only the third time both those upsets have occurred since Hockey East went to a best-of-three series format for good in 1996. In 1997, sixth-seeded Lowell upset Providence while fifth-seeded Boston College defeated Merrimack. One year later, upsets were actually the norm as number five Lowell eliminated Northeastern, number six Maine toppled New Hampshire and number eight Merrimack stunned top-seeded Boston University.

The only other upset since the format change came two years ago when fifth-seeded Lowell knocked off New Hampshire. Otherwise, it’s strictly been the favorites which have advanced.

UMass and the Unthinkable

When the partial scores from Orono began arriving, they evoked stunned responses such as, “Holy cow!” and others that were less holy involving cow byproducts. Maine, fourth in the country at the time, had never lost a Hockey East tournament game at Alfond Arena and Massachusetts had never won there.

However, UMass coach Don Cahoon hasn’t been looking to recruit history majors as he’s built the program, but rather history-makers. He got that in spades when his Minutemen toppled the Black Bears, 5-3 and 4-2.

“I’m really happy for the young people involved and for the people who have been with this program for years when things didn’t always go the way you wanted them to,” says Cahoon. “Sometimes you have to pinch yourself to make sure that it’s really happening and understand that these things are fleeting.”

The Minutemen got a first-hand look at just how fleeting success can be when in early January they achieved their first national ranking only to fall into the depths of a streak that saw them lose eight-of-nine games.

“In early January everybody was saying that this could happen and that could happen and maybe you could get home ice,” says Cahoon. “Deep down inside, I knew that, hey, we had a long ways to go and a lot of tough situations to get ourselves through.”

After the tough times hit and the losses mounted, obscuring the milestones the program had achieved, Cahoon identified three goals that would give his team something to hang its proverbial hat on at season’s end. First would be the two-game series Maine would play at the Mullins Center on Feb. 21-22. Second would be the regular season finale against Merrimack, which would almost certainly determine UMass’ final position in the standings. Third would be a good showing in the quarterfinals.

“Even when things were in a downcycle, I tried to direct the kids toward those three things,” says Cahoon. “We hung on. The best thing about this team is that it hung on to what opportunities it had through all the struggles that we went through in January.”

Indeed it did. Rather than folding, the Minutemen bounced back from the losing streak with three wins in the four games leading into the quarterfinals. That included a major confidence-builder in goal number one: they split their two-game set with Maine, winning the first night, 4-2. They then achieved goal number two, defeating Merrimack, 5-2, to close out the season on a high note, finishing in sixth place.

The third goal of a good quarterfinal showing remained, but Alfond Arena didn’t look like a particularly hospitable venue for making it three-for-three.

“[We wanted] not to just show up, but to walk away with something positive,” says Cahoon. “At first, I didn’t know whether that meant, hey, whether we could stretch it to three games. People would have viewed that as a positive, just winning in that building and taking Maine all the way to the end. But doing the unthinkable, going in there and sweeping them, was beyond probably any of my thoughts.”

So what did Cahoon say to his team to prepare it for achieving the unthinkable?

“The biggest thing was just keep it between the boards and not get caught up with everything that’s going around you,” he says. “Maine is a real good team. They’re going to have their opportunities. There are going to be swings in the momentum of the game. Stay within yourself and believe in yourselves and do what we’re trying to do to a T. Pay attention to detail.

“That was it. The emotion of the game took care of the kids being ready to play.

“The Thursday game, we were helped the most by the fact that uncharacteristically they gave up a couple of soft goals, or they were even freaky goals, not so different than the goal in our second game here [at UMass] when [John] Ronan threw the puck from center ice on a change up and it bounced by [goaltender] Gabe [Winer]. That was the first goal of the game for them and that was the middle of the second period. There wasn’t any other scoring until the third period. Those things happen.

“That deflated them and uplifted us and that got us playing a little harder and maybe with a little more of a mission. That got us through game one. If it weren’t for those two [soft or freaky goals], it could have been a tied game settled in overtime or a game where maybe they won by a goal and we could have said, ‘Geez, we played pretty well, but we just didn’t have quite enough.’ So that was a bit of an aberration.

“Then in game two, they had a 10-minute flurry in period two after they scored the first goal to make it 3-1 that led to a lopsided [10-1] shot differential and kind of swung the game their way, [but] we got back in the locker room and settled down. Outside of those 10 minutes, I thought we really did a good job of keeping them in check and doing what we were attempting to do. It was all about the kids believing, getting a sniff, getting a sense that it could happen and being excited.”

Considering that this is an amazingly young team — there are only four juniors and seniors total in the lineup — the adversity in late January and early February may have even been a blessing in disguise that hardened the team’s resolve and, after the rebound, made the Minutemen all the more dangerous.

“It’s all part of the shaping of the learning curve,” says Cahoon. “I certainly don’t have a crystal ball and can’t say how this is going to play out or what was going to happen. But you look back with 20-20 [vision] and say that we had a pretty good run, and then we didn’t handle things all that well and we leveled off and went through some struggles.

“We found a way to pinpoint a couple things we could give the kids a little direction with and they made the most of those opportunities and now here we are where at the beginning of the year we would have just been dying to be. It never goes the way you think it’s going to go, but here we are.”

Remarkably, the youngest players on the team made some of the biggest contributions in the Alfond upset. Freshmen Stephen Werner, Matt Anderson, Chris Capraro and Stephen Jacobs all scored goals and Winer, yet another big-time freshman, stopped 51-of-56 shots to earn Hockey East Rookie of the Week honors.

“They just played,” says Cahoon. “Those younger players have a lot of experience now. Those younger players are no longer real young players. They’ve got 35, 36 games under their belt with a lot of bumps and bruises, some successes and some disappointments, so they’re truly fairly experienced Hockey East players now.”

Which puts UMass into the FleetCenter for the first time.

“Now they’re not experienced,” says Cahoon, laughing. “I have no idea how they’re going to react. That’s my challenge, to try to figure that out and try to cope with that. We’ll spend a lot of time preparing to play the game, obviously, and trying to deal with what New Hampshire’s strengths are and try to make a good account of ourselves on that front.

“But the other side of what we’re doing is to try to give [the kids] the best opportunity to give themselves a chance. You have lots of choices. Do you lay the law down and really get hard with them or do you really loosen it up and let them relax? Those are the discussions we’re having right now as to what approach we’re going take in terms of trying to create a good atmosphere for them to walk into that challenge.”

And in the “perchance to dream” category, should UMass topple UNH, the Minutemen will then be playing for not only a Hockey East title, but also an NCAA tournament berth.

“That conversation, you can’t ignore it because you know that the kids understand it,” says Cahoon. “But you have to go back to square one. It’s about one shift at a time; it’s about one period at a time; it’s about one game at a time. Any mindset other than that can only get you in trouble.

“There’s no secret here. Your program is about what you do on a day-to-day basis. If you get beyond that you can really get caught up in things and get in trouble.”

Maine: What Went Wrong, What Next?

The flip side of UMass’ jubilation is the dejection felt among the Black Bears after they failed to take advantage of home ice in the quarterfinals for the first time.

What went wrong?

“It was a couple things,” says Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “They got off to an early lead both nights on what you might say were some weird goals. But they earned those by getting to the net front and creating traffic. A couple goals each night went off somebody’s foot or shin or stick or whatever. That’s how you score goals half the time. That’s to their credit.

“On the flip side of that, we just didn’t protect the front of our net as consistently as we needed to. Both nights we came back with a lot of passion. Unfortunately, we spotted them three goals pretty quickly both nights and that’s tough to come back from against a team like UMass. We certainly had our chances both nights to win it, but I thought Winer played real well and they did protect the front of their net and blocked a lot of shots.”

Maine fans need not fear that the season is now over. The Black Bears are currently tied for fifth in the PairWise Rankings, making them a lock for the NCAA tournament. They will, however, experience a three-week layoff between games. As a result, Whitehead has chosen to give his team this week off from practice. Since the school is on spring break, those players who could make last-minute arrangements to get home have left and will return with the rest of their classmates.

“We’re going to recharge our batteries, mentally and physically, which will be good for us,” says Whitehead. “I think we’re a little burned out. We had a real good run right through the end of January, but February we obviously tailed off. I think our guys are a little tired and burned out, mentally and physically, and so hopefully this break will allow us to recharge for the NCAA tournament.”

Whitehead expects that freshmen Greg Moore and Jimmy Howard will particularly benefit from the time off. Howard’s performance in the UMass series was particularly conspicuous since the one-time NCAA leader in save percentage allowed six goals on only 21 shots, getting him the hook in both games. Although Howard started both nights, Frank Doyle could supplant him in the NCAAs.

“Jimmy and Greg are two kids who played in the World Junior Tournament,” says Whitehead. “Certainly, they never had a break at all and they’re both true freshmen and that can wear on you. They were practicing on Christmas Day. I think for Jimmy that’s been a big factor for him down the stretch. That definitely was a contributing factor to why we took him out both nights in that series. He’s fatigued a bit so this break will be very good for him. He’s going to be a lot more refreshed when he comes back from home. Whether we go with Jimmy or Frank remains to be seen.”

The three-week layoff poses major problems for the Black Bears. Even the Hockey East tournament champion will have two weeks off, a scenario that evokes memories of 1992. That year all the Eastern teams had two weeks off to one week for their Western counterparts. The Eastern schools went 0-for-the-NCAAs.

“That will be a challenge for us,” says Whitehead. “Three is a little more than you’d want, but that’s why we’re taking this week off. As far as our game sharpness, on game day we’re going to have to be as sharp as we can be because it’s one game and you’re out. We’ll just have to wait and see how it affects us. But I think our guys are going to be very excited to play and very hungry.”

Matchup Number One: New Hampshire vs. Massachusetts

Regular season:
Nov. 24: New Hampshire 4, UMass 0 (at UNH)
Jan. 17: New Hampshire 2, UMass 1 (OT) (at UNH)
Jan. 19: New Hampshire 4, UMass 3 (at UMass)

New Hampshire is coming off duplicate 8-4 wins over Lowell to advance to the FleetCenter and attempt to defend its title.

“Defensively you want to tighten up, but offensively we did well,” says UNH coach Dick Umile. “The specialty teams were very good, both shorthand and the power play. That was a difference in the series. Defensively we gave up a couple more goals than you would like — four goals in a game means you need five to win — but I do give Lowell credit for putting a lot of pressure on. They fell behind by a couple goals and they sent everybody into the zone. It’s difficult, but you’ve got to cover it.”

The UNH power play, which only got a single opportunity on Friday, exploded with a 5-for-10 performance on Saturday. An area of concern earlier this year, the man advantage units were on fire down the stretch, raising their percentage conversion rate to finish second in the league at 21.1 percent.

“We’ve had a little more patience and are making better decisions,” says Umile. “Early in the season I thought we got into the zone and moved the puck, but we just didn’t make as good decisions with the puck and turned it over. Now we’re being a little more patient and making a couple more passes. We’re not rushing it so much and I think that’s helped.

“It’s not only Garrett Stafford, [who rejoined the team in the second semester]. He’s helped, but the other power play group is also moving the puck really well and that’s Sean Collins, Steve Saviano and Nathan Martz. Both groups are moving the puck well and we’re pleased with our specialty teams.”

Umile recognizes that even though UMass may not have the national rankings of the other three teams at the FleetCenter, the Minutemen are a dangerous opponent.

“Right now they clearly have a completely different attitude and all that credit goes to Donnie Cahoon,” says Umile. “They’re playing with confidence and are disciplined. They’ve given themselves opportunities to win. They’re all working well together. They’re a good team.

“They’re young in areas, but have some experience in some areas and are really putting it together. Their power play has worked well. They’re making good decisions with the puck and have gotten better and better as the season has gone along. They started out well, had a little dip in the middle — that usually happens with a young team — but they got it back, got their confidence back and are playing well.

“Anytime you go up and beat Maine at Maine in two games, that says a lot about the team, the coaches and the program. They’re a good program. If we’ve learned anything in this league, it’s that you have to respect your opponent every night. This is the semifinal round of the Hockey East playoffs so obviously they’re a very good team.”

The experience disparity between the two teams is enormous. UNH boasts six seniors and eight juniors to UMass’ four total. The Wildcats are also the defending champions while the Minutemen are making their first semifinal appearance.

“Hopefully experience can help,” says Umile. “You’d hope so. But it’s going to be based on how well we play on Friday night. Young teams have upset older teams so you’ve just got to come out and play a 60-minute hockey game.”

Can UMass counter the third-ranked Wildcats? It’ll be difficult. There are many UNH strengths to deal with.

“First of all, you’d hope that their power play would stay quiet,” says Cahoon. “At least you wouldn’t be overwhelmed with the prospects of that. But they go 5-for-10 on that and that changes that. So we can start with their power play. We know they’ve got great players, but now all of sudden they’re organizing on that front.

“Secondly, their goalscoring capability is like no one else’s. They finish better than anybody. BC might be as good a team offensively, but this team has more pure finishers. That’s an issue.

“[Goaltender Mike] Ayers has proven that he’s a gamer and can be a difference-maker. He’s been great every time we’ve played them so we can anticipate that being a struggle as to how we can get to Ayers.

“Part of that is that their defense plays very hard and is very disciplined. They tighten it up [defensively] from time to time. You’ve see them do that with BC. I remember being at their first game with BC in November and the thing that was most revealing to me was how BC and New Hampshire could play such great team defense. It wasn’t about all the offense you read about; it was about how hard they play defense.

“We played a game up at New Hampshire earlier in the year and lost 4-0. I thought my team played very well, but we never got to Ayers. We’ve got to try to offset those dimensions that they throw at you.”

Matchup Number Two: Boston College vs. Boston University

Regular season:
Nov. 15: BC 3, BU 2 (at BU)
Jan. 16: BC 3, BU 1 (at BU)
Jan. 17: BC 3, BU 2 (at BC)
Feb. 10: BU 3, BC 2 (Beanpot)

The Exter injury rendered Boston College‘s sweep of Merrimack all but meaningless by comparison.

“Both teams had a lot more on their mind than just playing hockey on Saturday night,” says BC coach Jerry York. “Our thoughts and our prayers before going onto the ice [were for Joe Exter]. Father Penna, our chaplain, led us in a short prayer for him. It was a difficult weekend for all concerned.”

BC’s focus will need to be on beating BU this Friday, not on the events of a week ago.

“That’s our process this week as we look ahead to our match in the FleetCenter with our rival Boston University,” says York. “I watched the [BU-Providence] film the other night and they looked very, very sharp in all kinds of areas against Providence. This is what we’ve worked for all year.”

While BC swept the three-game Hockey East series, BU prevailed in the Beanpot.

“This is FleetCenter II,” says York. “I think we’re both playing well. We’re both going to be in the national tournament later this month, but this is for the Hockey East championships. That’s our main focus now. Seedings and where you go in the regionals go along with that. The big picture, of course, is the national championship, but the FleetCenter and the Lamoriello Cup is a major, major goal.”

York sees the usual key factors.

“Goaltending is such a key part,” he says. “Matti [Kaltiainen] gave Merrimack just one goal each night. He’s progressed as the year has gone along and met a lot of big challenges. [BU goaltender Sean] Fields has done the same thing. So these are two outstanding goaltenders.

“Special teams are also a factor in big games.”

Boston University may have finished out of playoff home ice, but is playing exceptional hockey right now. The Terriers faced a Providence team that had gone undefeated in February and beat them two straight on the road.

“If you look at the shot chart, we didn’t give up too many grade A chances [on Saturday] and that’s a good club to hold down [their] chances like we did,” said Parker after the series-clinching win. “I was real pleased with our thought process of offense off of defense. We kept playing defense and the puck turned over for us and we got some goals.

“We got 12 goals on the weekend against a goalie [Nolan Schaefer] that was an All-American two years ago, a fabulous goaltender. It was pretty nice to be getting goals like that.”

BU is now 9-2-1 dating back to the end of January. Even the two losses deserve asterisks. One came to Providence on a shorthanded goal scored in the final minute of overtime. The other came in a split at Maine, usually considered a weekend you’d be happy with.

The Terriers may be peaking at just the right time.

“It’s a big lift just to get to the FleetCenter,” said Parker. “Playing Boston College will be an exciting matchup. I don’t think we’ll need a lift [to face them]. These guys will feel a little better about their scoring ability now that the puck went in.”

Freshman David VanderGulik added, “They’ve had our number this year except for the Beanpot. It’s nice to be the underdog coming in. It takes the pressure off. We didn’t really care who we play, but it’s nice to play BC because those games are always unbelievable. BC is a stronger team [than Providence] so we’re going to have to be at 110 percent with everything clicking.”

Why Providence Has a Chance

Are the Friars out of the NCAA tournament picture?

Not necessarily.

They’ll need to get into the top 14 in the criteria at the very least, since the MAAC and CHA conferences will put their tournament winners into the NCAAs even though none of their members would otherwise qualify for an at-large berth. If similarly low-ranked teams from the other four conferences win their tournaments, then that will further shrink the pool of available at-large berths. So top 14 may not be sufficient.

But let’s assume that the four traditional conferences all have their tournaments won by teams that would make the NCAAs anyway.

Can PC get into the top 14? At present, it is tied for 14th in the PairWise Rankings, but a closer inspection gives the a grim result. When you look at the head-to-head comparisons — which is what the NCAA does — the Friars are in trouble. Even though they currently win their comparison with North Dakota (11th in the PairWise), they lose the comparisons with all the best-positioned teams on the bubble — Denver, Harvard, Ohio State and St. Cloud State.

There’s still hope, though. All but the Ohio State comparison are close ones that PC loses either 2-1 or 3-2. If Harvard were to lose two to Vermont in the ECAC tournament this weekend, that would be sufficient to turn that comparison loss to a win. (Harvard’s Ratings Percentage Index, currently the deciding factor for the Crimson would dip below PC’s and become decisive in the other direction.) On the other hand, Denver and St. Cloud would maintain their comparison wins even after getting swept this weekend.

So does that mean all PC hopes ride on Harvard crashing and burning?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Keep in mind that the NCAA has introduced the concept of “good” nonconference wins forming a bonus to a team’s Ratings Percentage Index. Providence has more such quality wins than its closest rivals for an NCAA berth. The Friars have two such wins, both at home. Denver has one at home, St. Cloud has one on the road and Harvard has none.

So depending on how much that bonus is worth, Providence’s Ratings Percentage Index could get enough of a boost to leapfrog any of the three. Harvard is clearly the most vulnerable, but the other two are possibilities as well.

So if you’re either a Friar fan or simply a Hockey East fan who’d like to see a fifth team from the league get in, keep an eye on Harvard, Denver and St. Cloud.

ESPN Documentary

A couple weeks ago I noted that Boston fans should get their VCRs ready for ESPN’s Beanpot feature, which will air on ESPN2 on Thursday, Apr. 10, at 3 p.m. and again on ESPN two nights later at 5:30 p.m.

I stand corrected. Having seen an advance copy of the show, I’d recommend it to all college hockey fans. Sure, it focuses on the Beanpot itself, making it especially attractive to the four Boston schools. For example, there’s Brian Collins relating the story of how he told BU coach Jack Parker that he (Collins) had always wanted to play in the Beanpot. Parker answered, “You got several choices if you want to play in the Beanpot, but there’s only one place to go if you want to win it.”

But there’s plenty of interest to all fans. There’s an old-time story of two players getting into a fight during the Beanpot and finding out that they were dating the same girl. There are looks into shiny hockey on the ponds and the little rink rats that grow up to become Beanpot participants. There’s a tribute to John Cunniff.

There are some great glimpses inside the locker rooms, such as a coach yelling, “We’re going to hunt this team down like a pack of [email protected]#$-ing dogs and rip the life out of them.”

Presumably, the “f” word will get bleeped, but there’s a hilarious deadpan comment that “the ‘f’ word is the root of the most multipurpose adjective in working-class Boston and its hockey community. It can modify any word, add urgency to any sentiment.”

I highly recommend it.

A Few More Recommendations

  • I somehow neglected to mention this back in February, but Bernie Corbett’s Beanpot book and the Beanpot video/DVD are musts for any college hockey fan. I’d be tempted to say that if college hockey fans ever want to see a history of their sport, they need to support products like these. The sales numbers will speak loudly one way or another. But it isn’t necessary to toss a guilt trip on fans outside of Boston. The book and the DVD stand on their own. If you’re in a book store, check out Bernie’s excellent work. I think if you look through it, you’ll buy it.
  • Since I was on NECN’s Sports Late Night with Mike Giardi two weeks ago, this is going to sound inevitably like a quid pro quo, which it absolutely is not. But after hearing about their college hockey coverage and the various players and coaches they’ve had on the show, I’d recommend that you either watch it or set your VCR. There isn’t another late night show that pays anywhere near the same attention to our sport. (It slipped under my radar screen until now because I’m either still at an arena writing my story at that time or am packing up for the drive home.) I plan to set my VCR for Saturday nights from 11 p.m. to midnight. As noted in the sidebar, I’ll return to the show on Mar. 22 and Apr. 5, but this recommendation holds true on all Saturdays.
  • If you’re looking for your son or daughter to get professionally videotaped either to provide a lasting keepsake or something you can send to coaches as part of the recruiting process, contact Bree Cheatham or Courtney King of Earth on Fire at (978) 256-0006. I was very happy with their work.

    So You Wanna Get Recruited?

    Since mentioning that my son Ryan will be playing next year for Wesleyan — a spectacular academic school often referred to as one of the Division III “Little Ivies” — I’ve gotten emails asking for suggestions as to how to get recruited. Your best bet is to see our Recruiting FAQ. But here are some personal observations.

  • Be the best student you can be. Not only will you be much better off in the long run, but it’ll widen your options. Keep in mind that except for a very select few, the payoff for your six ayem practices is not going to be a career in the NHL. It may not result in a Division I offer. But it may be a difference-maker if you’re applying to some of the exceptional Division III schools that reject upwards of 80 percent of their applicants.
  • Stay out of trouble. When I hear of talented kids who I’ve coached in their younger years and who were being recruited only to get kicked out of school as seniors, I just shake my head. Don’t waste your talent.
  • Never stop working on your skills. Shoot pucks on end. If your Mom will let you, dribble a golf ball inside the house. You can never be too skilled.
  • Be a team player both on the ice and off. Make yourself the kind of teammate and person that your coach will want to talk to college coaches about and say, “You want this kid.” If you’re a troublemaker or a selfish player, don’t blame your high school coach for being unwilling to put his reputation on the line for you. That’s your fault, not his.
  • Don’t take any games off. Come to play every night. This should be automatic anyway, but I watched one prominent coach shake his head in disbelief at the lazy play of a kid he’d come to watch, saying, “That was a waste.” The coach, however, did make note of two other kids who caught his eye and they soon received recruiting letters from that coach. You never know who is watching. But, hey, if you need to remind yourself of that to get yourself to work hard, you’re probably wasting your time.
  • If you’re not at one of the Division I powerhouse prep schools like Cushing or St. Sebastian’s that get constant exposure, then be sure to give coaches a chance to see you in as many ways as possible. Play in the Hockey Night in Boston tournament.
  • Play midget hockey at the highest level possible before the high school season. My son played for the Central Mass Outlaws in the Massachusetts Select League and got a lot of interest from coaches who might have otherwise missed him.
  • Be nice to your Mom and Dad. It won’t make you a better hockey player, but it’ll make you a better person. Besides, you didn’t drive yourself to those six ayem practices when you were a Mite.

    The Last Column of the Year

    Barring unforeseen circumstances, this will be the final conventional Hockey East column of the season, since the USCHO writers will switch to combined previews of the NCAA Regionals and Frozen Four in the upcoming weeks. As a result, you’ll need to wait until October for your next shot at fame and adoration as a trivia contest winner.

    Here’s hoping we meet at the FleetCenter this weekend, at the Worcester or Providence regionals two weeks later or in Buffalo. If you spot me, stop by and say hi.

    Trivia Contest

    Last week’s question asked what two teams have appeared in the Hockey East semifinals the most number of times? The answers were Maine (14) and Massachusetts-Lowell (12). First to answer correctly was admitted ECAC interloper Bill Fenwick, whose cheer is:

    “Let’s go RED!! Bring home title #10!”

    How that’s for irony? An ECAC guy gets the final word in until next October. Say it ain’t so.

    Calling All Illiterates

    Last week’s challenge included the following passage:

    “Where’s the TV?” Juan motions to the vacant space in the center of the wall unit. “Don’t tell me you launched it off the balcony again.”

    That sometimes happens when I try to watch music videos. “It’s pathetic,” I say to my friend. “I’m not proud of myself.”

    “Who was it this time?”

    “One of those ‘boy bands.’ I don’t remember which.”

    Juan looks a little uptight.

    “You’re how old now — thirty-four?” I ask.

    “Not tonight, Jack.”

    “You should be top of the world, man. You’ve already hung in there longer than Keith Moon or John Belushi.” I can’t help myself.

    This comes from the hilarious novel Basket Case, by the funniest writer on the planet, Carl Hiaasen. If you read this book and don’t spend a lot of time laughing at the neurotic “Obituary Boy” then you have no pulse.

    Once again, Brian Langan was first to answer correctly. He recommends The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract by the legendary Bill James.

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

  • So when exactly are we going to be able to get the golf clubs out? July?
  • Yes, the Red Sox are going to win the pennant.
  • And I can’t wait for the Patriots season to start either.

    Thanks to Jim Connelly and Todd D. Milewski for their contributions.