A Hero Among Us
Sacrifice is a word invoked often in team sports. Without question, the collective willingness to subjugate the individual for the greater whole is often the difference between success and failure.
Here, however, it’s time to look at sacrifice in an even more significant context, one particularly appropriate in light of the observance of Veteran’s Day.
I speak to you of Derek Hines. You may have watched him skate for the Army hockey team and admired his speed and tenacity. Or perhaps you never saw him play.
Either way, Hines made the supreme sacrifice for his country on Sept. 1. An Army Ranger and First Lieutenant, he was killed in a firefight with insurgents in Afghanistan.
He was 25.
It’s a tragedy whenever a young person dies. A friend of my family survived his tour of duty in Iraq only to be killed recently in a motorcycle accident. In a horrific irony, his death came on the night on which he, along with many of his comrades, was to be honored for his service.
All such deaths are tragic.
But Hines was one of us, a member of the college hockey community.
“At 5-6 and 165 pounds, ‘Hinesy’ was certainly not the biggest player when he stepped on the ice,” wrote Army coach Brian Riley in his letter to the college hockey community. “But when the game started, he played as big as anybody out there. As a result of his hard-working attitude, he was a fan favorite here at Tate Rink. I know all college hockey fans would have loved to have Derek play for their team. You could not have asked for a better teammate than Derek.
“His biggest concern when he played was always for his fellow teammates. Derek never put himself before the team, and as a result, was respected and held in the highest regard by everybody with which he played. I know that every college hockey player would have considered it an honor to be a teammate of Derek’s.
“As a coach, Hines was exactly the type of person that you want all of your players to be when they are in your program. More importantly, he was exactly the type of person you hope all of your players become when they leave your program.”
If not for the likes of Derek Hines in past generations, we would not have the freedoms that we enjoy today. It’s an obvious fact, but one commonly overlooked.
Servicemen and servicewomen of this generation have, like Derek Hines, willingly chosen to put themselves in harm’s way because of principles that they believe in and are willing to sacrifice for.
Here’s a thank you to them all.
Standing At The Precipice
Massachusetts-Lowell went into its Nov. 2 game against Merrimack seemingly on the precipice of a second-straight disastrous start to a season. Last year, the River Hawks didn’t win their first league game until January 7. On that date, they were 9-0 in nonconference games, but that did them no good in the Hockey East standings.
This year, they entered the Merrimack game with three losses in their four league contests. Another loss would be all too familiar.
In fact, it might have been worse. While Lowell’s schedule in 2004-05 included the likes of Boston College, Maine, Boston University (twice) and New Hampshire — namely a gauntlet of Hockey East’s perennial powerhouses — this season’s early losses had included a sweep at the hands of Providence. The Friars were impressing a lot of people, but in the preseason Lowell had been picked to finish third and Providence eighth.
So if ever a Nov. 2 game fit into the must-win category, this matchup with Merrimack was it. The Warriors were also making a positive impression, but they’d been picked to finish last. If Lowell were to lose this game, it would be a steep uphill climb the rest of the season.
After two periods, the River Hawks trailed, 1-0, despite outshooting Merrimack, 35-15.
Oh, and by the way, the next three league games on the schedule were against Maine and New Hampshire. Followed by one against undefeated and sixth-ranked Vermont. And then another three against Maine and New Hampshire.
Not to belabor the point, but that added up to a seven-game stretch of league games involving three against second-ranked Maine, one against number-six Vermont, and three against 12th-ranked UNH.
Can you hand me the pain-killers, please?
And if the potential for deja vu wasn’t enough, guess when that murderers’ row of games ended? Yeah, the exact same Jan. 7 date that marked Lowell’s final breakthrough last year.
Entering that stretch with a 1-4 record within Hockey East would be a recipe for disaster.
And if players thought like fans, they’d grip their sticks so hard that their knuckles would be white and the flow of blood to the fingers would be cut off.
After the River Hawks scored three unanswered third-period goals to grab the comeback win, coach Blaise MacDonald explained.
“[The win was] enormous, but our M.O. was not about that,” he said. “It was about [giving our] best effort. We needed to play harder.
“I had no reservations whatsoever. If we lost that game, 1-0, and played like [we did], that was going to be a massive accomplishment for us. Getting the W obviously quantifies it.”
The way they got the win, by means of a tough comeback, made it even better.
“Going into this game, if you were to script the type of game that would unfold and we would end up getting a W, it couldn’t have been better,” MacDonald said. “We’ve had a problem fighting ourselves mentally.
“We played great [tonight] over 40 minutes, but didn’t have a lot to show for it. [But] there was no give-up; if anything there was more inspiration. This game should go a long way in our development.”
With consecutive league wins against BU and Merrimack under the River Hawks’ belts, MacDonald was then asked whether that built momentum that would make future games a bit easier.
“It should,” he quipped. “We’ve got a couple cupcakes coming up in Maine and UNH.”
Making A Difference At Both Ends
BU’s Brad Zancanaro earned kudos from coach Jack Parker after Friday’s win over Vermont for his play while down five-on-three and six-on-three.
“[He’s got] heart,” Parker said. “He’s a terrific competitor. He’s in great shape; he can play a lot. But even when he gets tired, he doesn’t stop. Some guys say ‘That’s it; I can’t go any more,’ and they stand there until the whistle blows, but he just keeps going.
“He’s such a great competitor; he’s smart, and he’s a very strong kid for his size. All of those things make him very valuable defensively.”
On Sunday, the 5-5 sparkplug flipped the coin to the other side, scoring the game-winner at Maine.
“In general Zancanaro has been playing like that the whole year,” Parker said. “I am glad to see he got rewarded for it.”
Quotes Of Note
Parker on BU’s win over Vermont: “At times we were absolutely terrific, and we’d be a 10 or 11 [on a scale of 1 to 10]. But there were a few times when I thought, ‘What are they thinking out there?’ We went brain-dead a few times, and we got away with it tonight.”
Parker on Peter MacArthur’s goal in that game: “It’s almost like the goalie’s saying ‘Hey, I didn’t know you were going to shoot it: Tell me when you’re going to shoot it next time, will you?’ He’s amazingly quick at getting his shot off, and he seems to disguise it. We’ve seen him get a number of goals from 40 feet because the goalie wasn’t quite ready for it.”
UVM assistant coach Damian Digulian after Vermont’s loss to BU: “We got away from the things that have made us successful so far this year — blocking shots, backchecking hard, playing hard along the boards, etcetera. I think we just got away from Catamount hockey for the evening, and they took advantage of it.”
Parker after BU’s win over Maine: “This was the best team we played all year.”
Maine coach Tim Whitehead after that loss: “They aren’t all going to happen just for us.”
MacDonald on Brian Bova scoring the game-winner at Merrimack, just 10 minutes from where he grew up: “That’s why you coach, to see guys like that get what they deserve in their hometown.”
Crank Up The Tivo
Get-A-Lifers, it’s time to put your Tivo into action. Starting on Friday, Nov. 11, there will be eight Hockey East games telecast in nine days, with eight of them being league contests. Five different television stations combine to provide this bonanza.
It doesn’t stop after the nine days. As noted in previous columns, this is a 70-telecast season for the league. But this amounts to a special nine-day stretch.
Upcoming Hockey East Television Schedule
Fri., Nov. 11: 7:00, NESN — New Hampshire at Boston University
Sat., Nov. 12: 7:00, NHPTV — Maine at New Hampshire
Sat., Nov. 12: 7:00, CN8 — Boston University at Massachusetts
Sun., Nov. 13: 3:00, ESPNU — Boston College at Vermont
Thu , Nov. 15: 7:30, CN8 — Harvard at Boston College
Fri., Nov. 18: 7:00, NHPTV — UMass Lowell at New Hampshire
Fri., Nov. 18: 7:00, CoxSports — Boston University at Providence
Sat., Nov. 19: 7:00, CN8 — Northeastern at Boston College
Congratulations to Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon and his wife on the birth of their baby girl.
And that also goes to BU coach Jack Parker for becoming the first coach to win 300 Hockey East games. That milestone came in the Terriers’ win over Vermont on Friday.
In last week’s trivia contest, Scott Weighart was after a little alliteration. Earlier in his column, Scott referred to Terrier recruit Brett Bennett. His challenge for last week: For as many letters of the alphabet as possible, try to come up with one current or former Hockey East player who has the same first and last initial.
Scott received quite a variety of replies for this one. He ended up thinking that he should have had a mile-long list of fine print for the rules on this one — something like those worrisome “User Agreements” that one has to accept before being allowed to download software from the Internet.
Some people submitted all the names that they could think of that fit the alliterative pattern instead of trying to maximize the number of letters of the alphabet. Some pointed out that Scott did not specifically say that he wanted the names of Hockey East men and therefore submitted the likes of Gretchen Gottwald (Providence) and Vanessa Vani (Maine).
Sorry, folks. All I can say is that I’m glad that Scott asked to receive the entries instead of me, because I’m too senile to figure out who should have been declared the winner.
This question proved to be a great one for the Get-A-Life crowd, as it turns out that the one guy who has a first and last initial of ‘F’ played all of one game for UMass! Wow, that was challenging! A few other entries ran into problems because they named players who played at Hockey East schools before there was a Hockey East!
In the end, BU superfan Sean Pickett came up with players representing 14 letters of the alphabet — claiming top honors although he didn’t submit until 1:42 a.m. on Sunday morning. Here is his winning entry, with at least some of the other possible options following parenthetically:
Adrian Aucoin, BU (Anthony Aquino, Andrew Alberts); Brian Bova, Mass.-Lowell (Ben Bishop, Brock Bradford, Blake Bellefeuille); Carl Corazzini, BU (Chris Collins, Chris Chaput, Chris Classen); Dave Dahlberg, BU (Derek Damon, Dan Dennis, David Dartsch, Dan Donato); Fernando Fernandez, UMass; Glenn Grayton, Mass.-Lowell; Jacques Joubert, BU (Jon Jenkins, John Jakopin, Jon Jankus); Kevin Kielt, BU (Krys Kolanos, Kyle Kidney); Lucas Lawson (Maine); Mark Mullen, BU (Mick Mounsey, Mark Mowers, Mike Mottau, etc.); Pat Percella, BU; Rob Regan, BU (Rico Rossi, Rob Ricci); Sean Sullivan, BU (Steve Santini, Steve Slonina, Stephan Siwiec); Terry Taillefer, BU (Tyson Teplitsky, Tim Turner).
A few people came up with 13 but were stumped on matching Sean: not because of the immortal Fernando Fernandez but because of Glenn Grayton, who played quite a few games for Lowell in 1984-85. Thanks especially to Jonathan Fox for providing a lengthy and neatly alphabetized list!
Sean Pickett requested two cheers, which was granted in light of the difficulty of this question. His winning cheers are:
“Go, Cats, Go!”
The latter is not for New Hampshire, but rather Vermont, his second favorite team.
This week’s question is: Which UNH hockey player has a brother playing hockey at the University of Maine? There’s more to this one than meets the eye. Email my trivia account with your answer. 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.
Note: Submit suggested trivia questions to the same email address and if your question is used, you’ll get a cheer as well as long as you were first to submit it. Don’t forget to include the answers, since yours truly isn’t the brightest bulb in the chandelier.
And Finally, Not That It Has Anything To Do With Anything, But…
• I’m sorry, but losing Theo Epstein was the unpardonable sin for Larry Lucchino and Red Sox ownership. Take Bill Buckner, Grady Little and every other Sox screw-up and put them all together and it doesn’t match the blunder quotient of this one. Folks, losing Theo, and especially in this way, was on par with the New York Yankees’ all-time chokeroo last year. There can be no excuse for this one. Make no mistake; this greatly affects the team’s chances this year and for many years into the future. And it forever taints this fan’s view of Lucchino.
• Unless rumors of Theo’s possible return become reality. “We Want Theo! We Want Theo! We Want Theo!”
• And what a duplicitous scumbag Dan Shaughnessy showed himself to be, as if we needed any further evidence. He wrote like Lucchino’s lapdog in his infamous Sunday hatchet job and then reacted with a “Who me?” attitude when Theo bolted.
• As for the Patriots, their current failings in the defensive secondary would be easily understood and considered even intuitively obvious if not for the group’s success last season. This is exactly what I thought would happen when Ty Law and Tyrone Poole went down a year ago. Instead, the Pats took street free agents and players who didn’t start in college and rode them to another Super Bowl. Yes, Rodney Harrison acted as the glue in the secondary and he’s sidelined now. But the unit was struggling this year even before he went down. I just don’t get it.
Thanks to Scott Weighart and Matthew Conyers.