This Week in Hockey East: Oct. 23, 2003

Twin Bill

Fans at Friday night’s BU-Providence game can expect to come away with a case of double vision.

Terrier sophomore Brad Zancanaro will face off against his identical twin brother Tony Zancanaro of the Friars in the first Hockey East game of the season for both teams. Adding to the intrigue, both players’ coaches are twins as well.

“Interesting, interesting,” Friar Coach Paul Pooley said. “I’m a twin myself, but I’ve never played against my twin, even when we were in different leagues. I coached a twin at Ohio State who had a twin somewhere else, but they never played against each other. I don’t know how they’ll respond across the ice against each other. I can’t envision that against my brother.

“I don’t want to say bizarre, but it will be different!”

“It’s the parents who will have to worry about which side they’re sitting on,” Terrier Coach Jack Parker said. “They’ll go after each other pretty good. It’ll be fun playing against each other, but at the same time it will be no holds barred. I don’t think that they’ll treat each other any different. They won’t go after each other, but they won’t back off either.”

Parker could be considered to be a reluctant expert on the topic of twin versus twin. The Terrier coaching legend played against his twin in a big high school game back in the 1960s.

“They used to have a tournament called the New England Catholic Tournament in those days, and I was playing for Catholic Memorial and he was playing for Malden Catholic,” Parker recalled. “It was the finals of the tournament, so it was a big game. There was a lot of hype beforehand; it was kind of weird in the Boston papers.

“It was fun, but it wasn’t so fun at the end of the game because Malden Catholic won. I think it was more of a big deal to the press than to the two of us, and I’m sure it will be a bigger deal for everybody else than for the two Zancanaros.”

Each player could be described as a big deal in a smallish package. Brad and Tony are listed as 5-5 and 5-6, respectively, but they both have unusually large hearts. As a freshman last season, Brad emerged quickly as a fan favorite with his hustle and energy. After a banner year in the USHL, his freshman numbers (5-9-14 in 42 games played) weren’t impressive, but they were also misleading.

“One of the reasons he was the second-leading scorer in the U.S. junior league was that he had a lot of assists; he led the league in assists,” Parker said. “It wasn’t that he was a great goal scorer; that wasn’t his forte. If his linemates aren’t scoring, he’s not going to get a lot of assists.

“In the second half of last season, all of a sudden Skladany and Magowan — who he was playing with the last 15-20 games down the stretch — started playing great, and I think it was because he was playing so well,” added Parker. “I was amazed at the end of the year to look at his point totals because I thought he had a great year for us. I thought he would have had more points than that. I think that will come. He’s very clever, very reliable and smart, does a great job killing penalties for us.”

Likewise, brother Tony is off to a slow start on the stat sheet but gets high marks from his coach.

“Can’t say enough good things about him,” Pooley said. “A tremendously committed individual; a student of the game, working very hard, and he is a talented hockey player on both sides of the puck.”

Pooley may have the best frame of comparison on the brothers. “We recruited Brad, too,” noted Pooley. “Tony probably gets his points a little differently than Brad. They both compete really, really hard; obviously, they’re both in great shape. Brad probably has the puck a little more than Tony at times, but Tony is really feisty, sticks his nose in there, probably in my estimation they’re very similar in the way they compete; they just get their points differently.”

“He’s always been more of a finesse player, but I think I’ve learned to play more of that in juniors,” Tony said about Brad. “Playing an extra year of juniors helped me with my finesse game, but I do agree with Coach Pooley.”

“That was the case when we were younger playing together,” Brad said of Tony’s style. “I had more of the finesse role than he did; he was more the in-your-face kind of guy. But in his junior years, he developed the finesse part of the game more. I think he can play any kind of game that his coach asks him to.”

So what do the brothers expect for Friday night’s first game in opposing uniforms? The common word all parties used in the separate interviews was ‘weird.’

“It’s going to be weird; it’s going to be different — never played each other before,” Tony said. “I’m kind of excited but nervous at the same time.”

“It definitely will be weird, but it’s something you’ve got to get over and go out there and play like you normally do,” Brad said. “Out on the ice, he’s just another guy from Providence hockey.”

Try telling that to Mom and Dad, who will be flying in for the game and who had a piece of advice.

Said Brad, “My mom said, ‘No fighting.'”

We’re No. 1 … or maybe No. 5

Probably the hardest part about filling in for Dave Hendrickson this week was trying to come up with a sensible poll. Boston College had been No. 1 but suffered its first loss when splitting in a road series against formidable North Dakota. Meanwhile, Maine kicked butt against light opposition, after downing preseason No. 1 Minnesota the previous week. Throw in UNH, also undefeated but somewhat untested, and see what you think about where to rank these teams — let alone the other top schools.

Do you go mostly with results at this point in the season? Do you opt for who you think is a really good even if they’ve lost a tough game? Do you care if a team looked so-so in winning against a weak opponent?

Readers who bashed Dave a few weeks back for “underrating” Maine should take notice: Black Bear Coach Tim Whitehead is the first to concede that this young Maine team may be a bit overrated right now.

“We have been pleasantly surprised,” said Whitehead, shortly before his team was ranked No. 5 this week with a couple of first-place votes. “We figured that it would take us some time to adjust. Our results so far are maybe a little deceptive. We’re going to have a lot of highs and lows this year just because with inexperience you typically don’t have consistency.

“We’re a little inexperienced at forward and defense, so for us to be rated as high as we are now? We’re perhaps a little overrated,” said Whitehead, chuckling. “But on the other side of that, I’m really excited about what we’ve been able to accomplish so far. We had two really different challenges obviously: the first weekend we were the underdogs and we were able to meet that challenge, and the second weekend we were the favorites, and we were able to meet that challenge… We didn’t play the score or the opponent in any case; we just played our game.

“It’s just too early for us to know how far we’ll go this year,” added Whitehead. “I know what we lost and what we have, and I know how competitive it is, and I know it’s going to be a real challenge to continue to play as consistently as we have. Mind you, that’s our objective.”

Meanwhile, Boston College Coach Jerry York saw his team go toe-to-toe on the road with one of the biggest offensive powerhouses in the country, coming away with a respectable split — only to dip behind UNH in the poll. Yet he agreed that the polls only mean so much right now.

“It’s so early; it’s so difficult,” York said of voting in the polls. “We were trying to do the same thing this morning. Early in the season it’s just throwing darts at the board. We need some more in-depth analysis to be accurate on this thing. We’re certainly in the top five. Are we five? Are we one? North Dakota’s certainly going to be in the top five; I was very impressed with their team. They’re a legitimate national contender, but we’re in that mix also.”

“We have a good team and we want to become very good,” York said. “But you’ve got to make some gains to add that adjective. That’s our goal, and we’re trying to achieve it. I think we’ve got to be a little bit better on the special teams. This weekend we were outstanding on penalty killing: We shut out North Dakota ten times on penalty killing [in Saturday’s win]. That’s one area that we’re really trying to concentrate on, and we saw some real positive signs Saturday night. It will be interesting as the year goes by, how much better we’ll get.”

What about the skeptics who say that BC doesn’t have the goaltending to go all the way this year? York acknowledged the scrutiny of junior netminder Matti Kaltiainen — especially after the Eagles surrendered four third-period goals in Friday’s 6-4 loss at Grand Forks.

“He certainly is one of the keys to our season, there’s no question about that,” York said. “I think Matti’s a good goaltender. Now is he a very good goaltender? That’s what he’s going to have to achieve. Our team has to go from good to very good, but our players have to do that also. We expect Matti to improve each week as he goes on.”

For the moment, UNH eked out the No. 1 slot. However, this weekend’s games against Canisius and Niagara will not be gimmes thanks to the suspension of a whopping eight players who were bystanders during an on-campus riot following the Red Sox’ heartbreaking Game 7 loss. Stay tuned for more topsy-turvy poll action.

Rave Reviews For Engelstad

Without even being asked about the new Ralph Engelstad Arena, York couldn’t help gushing about his first visit.

“Hey, have you had a chance to see that facility?” York asked. “I’ll tell you what: It’s better than most pro rinks, but the underneath is way better. All the dressing rooms, training rooms, weight rooms blow any NHL facility away. $104 million on one building they spent. It’s a great credit to college hockey. You gotta get out there!”

Tough Start For Redlihs

What a difference a year makes… and not in a positive sense in this case. As a freshman last season, Terrier blueliner Jekabs Redlihs played with poise and skill from day one. However, Parker agreed that the Latvian native has had a star-crossed sophomore season thus far.

“He’s been out [for the preseason game and the season opener versus Rensselaer] due to disciplinary problems,” said Parker. “He missed the Vermont game — he was going to miss it anyways because of that — and then breaks his collarbone; he’ll be out for four to six weeks, so tough start for him.”

However, there’s a silver lining for Terrier fans. “We’ll certainly get a good look at our three freshman defensemen because of that, but that will just make us a better team. Redlihs is a terrific player, and he’ll be a great player for us in the second half; he’ll be back in December.”

Freshman Tom Morrow, Kevin Schaeffer, and Sean Sullivan have been solid, not at all playing like rookies to date. “They’re playing with a little poise because they know they’ll be in the lineup for a little while.”

Eaves Hurt … Again

Speaking of injuries, the Eaves’ brothers misfortunes have continued this year … but perhaps not too seriously this time. After missing considerable time during his sophomore year and several games last year as well, Ben Eaves will be out of action again this weekend.

“He suffered a concussion on the second shift of Saturday night’s game,” York said. “He’ll be examined by the doctors — a rough guess [is that he’ll be out] seven to ten days.” He was hit into the glass from behind — just rapped his head into the glass.”

Obviously, keeping both Eaves brothers healthy will be critical in getting the Eagles into the FleetCenter in April. Fortunately for the Eagles, they are facing a light stretch in their schedule — Eaves may only miss one game.

Trivia Contest

Just in time for those of you preparing for midterms, a three-part trivia question:

1. Which former Hockey East player turned baseball player reached Double-A in the minors, partly due to switching from infield to catcher?

2. What former Hockey East player scored an impressive 106 goals in three ECHL seasons after concluding his collegiate career?

3. Now the really tough one: What former Hockey East player once inspired his coach to say, “It wouldn’t surprise me if he was named Prime Minister someday”? He was named Hockey East’s top scholar-athlete twice in a row. As a senior, he only scored three goals all season … but two were game-winners.

The winners all hail from different schools. Email me with your guesses. The winner will be notified by Monday; if you haven’t heard by then you either had the wrong answer or someone else beat you to it. If no one gets all three parts, we’ll award it to whoever comes up with the most correct answers in the quickest time.

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

  • For those of you wondering what happened to Dave Hendrickson this week, my sources have neither been able to confirm or deny whether he is out of action due to bulky mental hospital orderlies holding him down and squirting Prozac down his throat with a heavy-duty turkey baster in the wake of the Red Sox’ horrifying loss.
  • Personally, I favor the chewable Grady Little-shaped Prozac pills. There has been much heated, thought-provoking debate in town as to what the fate of the Sox manager should be. Some staunchly call for his head to be lopped off by guillotine on the Boston Common, while some more reasonably advocate a more reserved approach, such as being tarred and feathered and cast from the town.

    Seriously, though, I have been surprised to find many local journalists speaking out in defense of Little. I can barely stomach any further consideration of baseball this year following the gut-wrenching spectacle on Thursday night. However, I will say that Grady’s best and worst quality is that he’s a player’s manager. He’s a really nice guy who is well-liked by the team, and he deserves credit for great team chemistry. But sometimes a boss has to be a boss, and there’s no room for being a nice guy when a trip to the Series is on the line.

  • Okay, enough baseball, already. I am stubbornly spurning this meaningless Series, as the notion of holding my nose while rooting for the Marlins holds little appeal. For those of you looking for an early jump on your holiday shopping, here are some of the best books I’ve read this year thus far: Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem has to be the all-time best-ever quirky mystery revolving around a narrator with Tourette’s Syndrome. Blue Latitudes by Tony Horwitz is an entertaining travelogue in which the author tells the story of legendary explorer Captain Cook while retracing many of his voyages. The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte is another intelligent mystery, revolving around chess and art restoration.

    When Nietsche Wept by Irvin Yalom is an incredibly imagined historical novel revolving around philosopher Nietsche and psychoanalytic pioneer Josef Breuer. If you’re not scared off by epic-length classical fiction, Tom Jones by Henry Fielding is an incredibly intelligent and surprisingly bawdy book for the 17th century. But before you declare me a literary snob, I thought that the latest Harry Potter book was perhaps the best yet, though maybe it’s just tied with the third one (The Prisoner of Azkaban).

  • For those of you who insist on confining your reading to sports-related topics, I highly recommend The Game by Ken Dryden as well as Moneyball by Michael Lewis. I think I know more than a little about baseball and hockey, but I learned a great deal from both books, which artfully show us a behind-the-scenes view of each sport.
  • As you might have figured out by now, yes, I’m to blame for this week’s literary-minded Question of the Week.
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