Like Deja Vu All Over Again
Didn’t we do this just two weeks ago?
It was Boston College vs. Maine and Boston University vs. New Hampshire for all the marbles. Two weeks ago the marbles were the Hockey East regular season title; this time they’re the tournament championship.
For the first time since 2002, the top four seeds all advanced. Ironically, the two teams expected to give the top seeds the most difficulty — Massachusetts-Lowell and Northeastern — put up the least resistance, getting swept by cumulative scores of 12-3 and 10-1 respectively. By contrast, Providence became the first seventh seed to win even a single contest, forcing the lone rubber game of the quarterfinals, and Massachusetts took top-seeded BC into overtime in its opener.
“Historically, I’ve always thought this first round has been hard on the top teams,” BC coach Jerry York says. “It might not bear itself out [in the results], but from my perspective it’s always that you’re expected to go to the Fleet [as] the top team or one of the top two or three teams.
“The bottom teams, generally their season ends if they lose. That’s a great motivator because all hockey players want to play hockey. I think we always see the best of the teams when their backs are to the wall. They’re saying, ‘Hey, we’re all finished — our careers for the seniors and our season for the team — if we don’t advance.’
“It’s always been difficult, at least from my perspective, to advance to the Fleet.”
Whether by the skin of their teeth or by virtue of routs, “The Usual Suspects” now face off for the league tournament honors.
“It’s a year where the four top seeds are so close,” York says. “There isn’t much as far as wins and loses that separates one through four.
“The four are all national caliber teams. This year, depending on a little puck luck and injury situations, all of us can make a case where we can bring a national title back to Hockey East. It’s been four of the last five years that the WCHA has won the nationals, but I really like this group of teams as true representatives of Hockey East.
“All the teams have confidence now. We all feel that we’ve had good years just because of the point totals in our league. We all feel that we have a good chance to win this thing. That makes for an outstanding weekend of college hockey.”
BC – Maine, 5 p.m.
Two weeks ago, Boston College took three of four points from Maine to win the regular season title, but the result could have easily been reversed. With six minutes left in the third period, the Eagles were tied in one game and trailing by two in the other. Late goals turned a 3-3 deadlock into a win and a 2-0 deficit into a tie, the latter thanks to an extra-skater goal with 17 seconds remaining.
So even though BC has taken five of six points from the Black Bears this year, the outcome of this clash is anything but a foregone conclusion.
“It’s fresh in our minds that we were very fortunate to have a last minute goal to tie Maine here in our building,” York says. “That gives us a pretty good understanding of how tough this next battle is going to be.
“Maine is a team that has a lot of grit, a lot of determination and spectacular goaltending in Jimmy Howard.”
While even the most casual fan knows that Howard will be providing the last line of defense for Maine, his counterpart in the BC nets is not yet known. It could be either senior Matti Kaltiainen or freshman Cory Schneider, who recently returned from an injury suffered in the Beanpot. York isn’t tipping his hand.
“We’re going to watch this week and sometime on Thursday make a decision which goaltender gives us the best chance to win the game,” York says. “We’re wide open on that.
“We have two very good goaltenders. Cory’s healthy; he’s back. Matti’s had a good March so far. That will be a difficult decision. We’ll make that decision based on who we think can win that particular game for us.”
Either way, it’s a matchup of Hockey East’s top defensive team, Boston College (1.86 goals against per game), and Maine as the runner up (2.00 GAPG), so don’t expect a shootout. BC has the better firepower on paper, but expect to be without Patrick Eaves (bruised back and lung) for the weekend.
“I think it’s going to be a very, very tight checking game,” York says. “We had some very good games during the course of the season and know the stage gets bigger and the lights get brighter. We’re all looking to win a Lamoriello Cup.
“Our squad is really focused on Maine and this particular tournament. Next week we can talk about the nationals, but right now [it’s Maine]. It’s been difficult for the regular season champions to also win the Lamoriello Cup and I have a lot of respect for the other three teams that made it.
“We’ve had some terrific battles with Maine. I expect the exact same again whether it’s 1-0 or whether it’s 6-5. We’ve got to play smart — just good sound positional hockey this weekend.”
Maine left no doubt in its quarterfinal series with Lowell, winning in impressive fashion, 7-2 and 5-1.
“It was very surprising,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead says. “We certainly didn’t expect the score differential. It was great to see some production out of the power play at key moments both nights. That made a big difference for us.
“We knew we were up against a very challenging opponent. To beat them five times in one season, we knew that was going to be very difficult. We’re very pleased to have gotten past them.”
Now the Black Bears have to reverse this season’s results against BC.
“There’s no question that’s going to be very challenging for us,” Whitehead says. “That’s the one team in the league we haven’t beaten this year. They present a very tough opponent for us down at the FleetCenter. We’re going to have to be at the top of our game. We feel we’ve been improving steadily over the course of the season as I’m sure they have, too.”
Whether the results of two weeks ago will have an impact is anyone’s guess.
“You never know,” Whitehead says. “I’ve seen that work a lot of different ways. The key is that both teams know their opponent pretty well having just seen them.
“[But] each game is unique. I’m sure this game will be different from the previous one in what type of game it is. The key is we have to focus on the task at hand, which is beating Boston College in order to advance.
“We’re treating this as its own entity. The slate is clean and here we go.”
Whitehead needs no recent history to anticipate the style of the game.
“Goals should be tough to come by, there is no question about that,” he says. “That’s what we’re expecting. We’re preparing for a hard-fought checking game.
“If we’re fortunate to get a few goals on them that would be the exception to the rule. It’s just going to be a great college hockey game.”
Maine appeared to be on NCAA tournament life support a few weeks ago, but that is no longer the case. They’ve moved to a tie for 11th in the PairWise, primarily as a result of sweeping four games with Lowell, and should qualify for the national tournament unless an unlikely scenario breaks out in other leagues.
“It’s good to know that we’ve been climbing up, but, we can’t count on that,” Whitehead says. “We really don’t know. We’re not in yet, so we’re playing it like it is ‘win or you’re out,’ just like it was last weekend. Our players responded well to that challenge last weekend and I’m hoping they’ll respond again this time.
“we’re treating this as though it’s a must-win situation for us. If we do that, then at least we’re going to leave it all out on the ice, win, lose or draw. So that’s very important for our mindset this weekend. Just go after it.”
BU – UNH, 8 p.m.
New Hampshire rebounded from its disappointing weekends against BC and BU that closed out the regular season, dominating Northeastern by scores of 6-1 and 4-0.
“Northeastern is a very talented team,” UNH coach Dick Umile says. “They had a good season all around. [Keni] Gibson was playing great along with [Jason] Guerriero and [Mike] Morris. The way we played against Northeastern, I was really pleased. We beat a really good team and we played solid hockey for two nights.”
The rematch with BU comes soon enough after the one-point-of-four weekend to keep the memories fresh.
“Here we are again, back at it very quickly,” Umile says. “I think everybody felt there wasn’t much difference between any of the teams that last weekend. I’m sure BC felt that way with their series with Maine, and I know [BU coach] Jack [Parker] and I felt that way with our series. There wasn’t much difference between the two teams.”
Unlike BC-Maine, which is a clash of defensive titans, UNH-BU promises to be a battle between the league’s best offense, New Hampshire (4.08 goals per game) and a very good defensive team in BU that has a goalie, John Curry, coming off back-to-back playoff shutouts.
“There’s no question, that we’ve been known as a team that can put the puck in the net,” Umile says. “I know we lead the league in offense. But typically when you get into the playoffs you have to play really good defense and I thought that’s what we did well against Northeastern. That was a good thing for us going [deeper] into the playoffs.
“There’s no question that BU has always been a tough team to defend against and they play solid defense. BC, for that matter, never gets the credit, but plays great defense. We know how Maine plays defense along with Jimmy Howard. So there are a lot of teams in the tournament that do a really good job defensively.
“We’re going to have to match the other teams defensively and hopefully we have an opportunity to generate scoring. But with the goaltenders that are in the playoffs, you know it’s going to be tough. You’re not going to get many scoring opportunities. Hopefully the opportunities we get are quality grade-A scoring opportunities and we’re successful.”
For BU, the recent success against UNH isn’t a major factor.
“I don’t think it means [that much],” Parker says. “We know each other a little bit better probably. Memory doesn’t fade.
“If we had had to play them in the first round [of the playoffs] it would have been tough, I think, but we’ve already had a tough series and they’ve already had a tough series. So it’s not like, ‘It’s them again!’ although that’s what I was saying about Providence because it was the fifth time in seven years we played them [in the quarterfinals].”
The most interesting aspect to this matchup is how Curry is so red-hot — he was selected as both the league’s Player of the Week and Defensive Player of the Week after his two shutouts over Providence — and how that matches up with the super snipers at UNH. Ironically, Curry is drawing comparisons to former Wildcat All-American Mike Ayers.
Parker says, “After Curry had come in and played about two games, [BU goalie coach] Mike Geragosian said to me, ‘I think we may have another Michael Ayers on our hands here. He plays the same way and he looks real cool.’ It’d be nice if our guy could have a run like Ayers did.
“The most talented offensive team in the league is UNH so we’d have our hands full no matter who our goalie is. We might even put both goalies in there. [UNH is] going to get some goals.”
Curry, dubbed “Kid Zero” by Parker, was clearly flattered by the comparisons to Ayers, but now has an Ayers-like shutout streak of 168:01.
“When you have a shutout streak going over more than one game, nine times out of 10 it has to do with how well the team is playing in front of you,” Curry said after the second win over Providence. “Not just the defense. The defense played great, but even the forwards were playing their position and [had] a lot of big blocked shots.
“That’s the way it’s been the whole series. If you want to show me how many unbelievable saves I had to make, there aren’t any. … I don’t even remember one.”
True enough, but Curry’s style is also to come out of the net to cut down angles, making saves look routine that other goalies might record in more acrobatic fashion.
“Coach Geragosian has been working with me on that,” Curry said. “You want to make every save look easy. If you look at Jimmy Howard that’s why he’s so good. You never see him making the unbelievable save, but he’s always in position. That’s what I’ve been working on. I always want to be in position.”
On Friday, he may be in position to send BU into the championship game.
So Long And Good Luck
I can still remember the enthusiasm of a Northeastern alum nine years ago when he heard the news of Bruce Crowder’s hiring. Visions of Hockey East championships and trips to the Frozen Four were dancing in the alums head.
It was only a matter of time, he figured. Based on Crowder’s track record at Massachusetts-Lowell, most notably two trips to the NCAA quarterfinals, there were plenty of reasons for that optimism. The only question was how long Crowder would stay in the collegiate ranks before moving on to the NHL.
Unfortunately for Husky fans, it didn’t happen the way they’d hoped. And on Wednesday the axe fell on Crowder.
I always liked Bruce and wish him only the best.
If you don’t care about language and grammar, do yourself a favor and skip this section. On the other hand, if you care about such matters, you may or may not have read my feeble attempt at humor from the Beanpot, A Suggestion For The Crimson.
Why did I write such an oddball piece? Why not something more on the beaten track?
Well, USCHO had plenty of writers to handle conventional features, so I figured I’d take a shot at something different. I thought this worked well at last year’s Frozen Four when I had fun with the Minnesota-Duluth cheerleaders.
(Now there’s a phrase that could really send me off on a tangent: Hendrickson has fun with the Minnesota-Duluth cheerleaders…)
Trying desperately to stay on track…
Another such instance came a couple years ago when I catalogued “A Rotten Day.”
I loved that one and I wasn’t alone. One fellow writer and friend said, “Dave, you were born to write that piece.”
So veering away from the beaten track can sometimes be a very good thing.
That said, “A Suggestion For The Crimson” didn’t work as well as I’d envisioned it. It wasn’t as bad as one reader claimed, namely that it was all just one lame joke. It actually was quite a few lame jokes.
It also wasn’t as anti-Harvard as some folk from Cambridge complained. It was just goofing around about a nickname. In fact, I pulled my punches. I was going to make some wisecrack about pomposity using a flavored coffee I’d recently noted, the Harvard blend, which is billed as “a sophisticated blend, deep and complex.”
In any case, I found myself answering more email about the grammatical rule than I expected only to find out that there was more to the story.
So here’s the deal. In grammar, nouns and verbs must agree, singular with singular and plurals with plurals. This can become awkward with teams since people naturally think of a team as 25 or so players and therefore plural. But the rule holds.
As a result, a writer’s reference to, say, Boston University (or BU) is singular while the same 25 players are plural when the reference is to the Terriers. (There’s one Boston University, but multiple Terriers.)
So to be correct, you’d say, “BU now looks ahead to another trip to the NCAAs where it will host the Worcester regional.” Or “The Terriers now look ahead to another trip to the NCAAs where they will host the Worcester regional.” “Looks” and “it” for the singular case; “look” and “they” for the plural.
There are, however, instances that beg for the plural, particularly when “it” sounds cold and stand-offish while “they” has a feel to it that draws you to the players. Here’s a reference to the 1980 Olympians (plural). “They made people who didn’t know a blue line from a clothes line care. They captured America’s imagination. They were heroes in a heroless era.” Good so far, right? Not Pulitzer material, but it works. Now refer to the exact game group of players, but have the previous reference to be to Team USA (singular). “It made people who didn’t know a blue line from a clothes line care. It captured America’s imagination. It was made up of heroes in a heroless era.”
So a writer uses a plural nickname when plurals are called for and then tosses in the singular school name when that works just fine. Mix and match.
Until you get to the Crimson. No plurals possible. Hence, “A Suggestion For The Crimson.”
Actually, it doesn’t quite end there. Singular nicknames are so onerous for writers that the Associated Press reportedly declared all team nicknames plural in its 1997 Stylebook. (To my mind, this is the equivalent of, “Don’t confuse me with the facts. My mind is made up.”) I can’t confirm this stylistic trickery since my stylebook predates that and I’ve gotten conflicting reports as to whether it is, or isn’t, in newer stylebooks.
However, the AP’s decision was sufficiently contradictory to accepted grammar rules that countless organizations have broken with the AP on this point. This includes Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and others.
Since USCHO typically follows AP style, I suppose I should just pull an Emily Litella and say, “Never mind!” But I got enough email on the point that I had to just get all of that out there.
So according to AP style: The Crimson stink. They do. (But not really.)
According to Sports Illustrated, et al: The Crimson stinks. It does. (But not really.)
According to me: AP style ain’t consistent and I ain’t using singular nicknames no matter what. Harumph!
(Please print this segment out and keep it by your bed for nights when you just can’t fall asleep…)
(Thanks to Ed Trefzger and Adam Wodon for their research.)
The Providence women’s team won its fourth straight league championship, defeating Connecticut on Sunday, 3-1. The Friars won the ECAC East in their final year before joining Hockey East and have been three-for-three since.
The outcome was in question, however, midway through the second period. UConn led, 1-0, despite Providence holding the territorial advantage. The Friars had seen this movie before, getting swept in February at the hands of the Huskies, despite dominating the two-game shot totals, 58-31.
So it was a huge goal that Cherie Hendrickson — yup, my niece — scored to even the game.
This is what you dream about when playing shinny on the pond or a backyard rink. We’re down by a goal in the championship game….
Way to go, Cherie!
The Friars have their work cut out for them on Friday when they face top-seeded Minnesota in the NCAAs. The Gophers were 33-2-2 this year and went 18-0-1 on their home ice, which is where the PC women will have to make their stand.
It’s a daunting challenge, but by all accounts one that the Friars are excited about. Flying west certainly has the feel of a national tournament and playing a huge game in front of a large crowd is what you dream about.
Feel The Love…
Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna was in the Agganis Arena press room on Sunday night, having been on hand that afternoon to give the Hockey East trophy to the Providence women’s team. He was working on a crossword puzzle and muttered something about a clue that had him stuck.
Unable to help him, I shrugged and said, “I prefer to avoid things that make me feel dumb.”
Joe didn’t miss a beat, responding, “That must be hard.”
Last week’s question was Scott’s Hockey East Trivia Final Exam. He reprised the anagrams theme that he tried out last month, with an added twist.
Using software readily available on various websites–although obviously also with too much time on his hands — he came up with ANAGRAMS of various CURRENT Hockey East players — one for each team, in fact. Your challenge was to see if you could rearrange each set of words into the name of the player. HOWEVER, this time Scott didn’t give the team names as an added hint.
For example, if you were given this one:
BATHER IN JELLO
You then would rearrange those 13 letters to get:
JOHN LALIBERTE (Boston University)
All players named played in all or most of their team’s games, though they several were not stars. Obviously, you needed to disregard any punctuation marks that Scott inserted in the anagrams. Lastly, he used the names for which players were best known as opposed to their given names. Thus, he would say, “Chris Bourque” instead of “Christopher Bourque” in generating the anagrams.
The nine anagrams and the correct answers:
ARTY JAR GOD Torry Gajda (Providence College)
KERRY JAM? DUD! Jared Mudryk (Northeastern)
SLY TOY ISN’T KEPT Tyson Teplitsky (New Hampshire)
TAKE ITALIAN MINT! Matti Kaltiainen (Boston College)
LABEL DONOR Rob LaLonde (Merrimack College)
LICE ENVY ELK Cleve Kinley (Massachusetts-Lowell)
HER PRETEND BASH Brent Shepheard (Maine)
JAVA MEN RINK Kevin Jarman (Massachusetts)
NCAA RAZOR BAND Brad Zancanaro (Boston University)
The first to get all of them right was Alan Needle. His cheer is:
“GO BU!!! Time to bring the Lamoriello Trophy home to Agganis!”
With USCHO transitioning to previews of the NCAA tournament next week, this is the final column so there’s no new trivia question.
Thanks to “GOT WART ETHICS” (or as some know him, “SWITCH GAROTTE”) for filling in for yours truly, “SHOCKED, VAIN NERD” (aka “INK COVERED HANDS”).
And Finally, It Has Everything To Do With Everything…
Thanks to all of you for reading. Thanks for the friendly emails and the ones that may not have been all that friendly but were constructive nonetheless.
It’s been a fascinating season. Good luck to all your teams in the playoffs and may a Hockey East team prevail in Columbus.