If we’re gonna thump our chests when we’re the toughest guy on the block, then we have to fess up when we’re having a pocket protector season.
This week’s release of the PairWise says it’s fess-up time for Hockey East apologists. Only one team from the league is in the top 10, that being Boston College in a tie for sixth. If the season ended today and there were none of those mysterious bonus points for good wins, only Vermont of the 10 Hockey East teams would be joining BC in the NCAA tourney.
Boston University and New Hampshire are on the bubble, dependent on bonus points for now, tied for 15th. Providence and Maine come in at 20th and a tie for 21st, respectively.
A pocket protector season indeed.
Once again we see the irony of Vermont, the league “rookie,” supplanting perennial powerhouses as one of Hockey East’s standard-bearers on the national stage. At the same time, those perennial powerhouses are in danger of having seasons far shorter than they’ve become accustomed to.
Sure, there’s a lot of hockey left to be played and much jockeying for positions still to be done. But when’s the last time Hockey East found itself in such a weak position?
Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in 1999 anymore.
The Hockey East Deck Of Cards
On the heels of that sobering news, let’s engage in a bit of frivolity. Let’s look at the Hockey East deck of cards and see what each rank represents.
Pick a card, any card.
Who is the all-time Ace of Hockey East?
This deck of cards is going to show the image of Paul Kariya.
The magnificent number nine is the only player to earn the Hobey Baker Award as a freshman. That season, 1992-93, Kariya scored 100 points, setting a Hockey East record that still stands today. He led Maine to its first national championship, a title which was also a first for the league.
The Black Bears dominated college hockey that year, going 41-1-2 while averaging 6.75 goals per game at the same time they allowed only 2.33. After winning the regular season and playoff titles in Hockey East, only the elusive NCAA championship remained.
Lake Superior State, in the midst of a dominating stretch itself, made it as difficult as possible. If not for Kariya, the Lakers arguably would have won three straight titles from 1992 through 1994. In the championship game, Maine trailed 4-2 after two periods, but Kariya assisted on three Jimmy Montgomery goals to send its fans into delirium.
Kariya played only another half-season in college, moving on to the Canadian Olympic team and then the NHL. However, the excitement that he brought to the ice during that year and a half topped that of any other Hockey East player.
The current King of the league would be Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna. But with all due respect to the outstanding job he’s done, the King in this deck of cards is the league’s first commissioner, Lou Lamoriello.
Lamoriello led Providence to a nation’s best 33-10-0 record in 1982-83, his final season as a coach, but then resigned to concentrate on his duties as athletic director. This, however, coincided with the birth of Hockey East that offseason and on Oct. 21, 1983, he was named its first commissioner.
With the fledgling league to begin play a year later, he arranged for the innovative interlocking schedule with the WCHA and college hockey’s first television package, a three-year deal for Hockey East with NESN and WSBK-TV.
Who knows how the league would have fared if not for Lamoriello’s leadership in those early years?
Sorry, but I ain’t touching this one. Until a closeted Hockey East player comes out, I’m not about to anoint anyone The Queen. I prefer my teeth right where they are, thank you.
This, of course, has to be Boston University coach Jack Parker. If there’s a conversation going on in Hockey East circles and someone says, “Jack blah blah blah,” there isn’t any doubt who Jack is.
On Nov. 4, Parker became the first coach to win 300 Hockey East games. No one else is even close. The late Shawn Walsh is second with 226 wins, followed by UNH’s Richard Umile and BC’s Jerry York.
Suffice it to say, Parker is a legend. He may have been preceded by another legend and another Jack, namely Jack Kelley, but for this generation of college hockey fans, it’s Parker who is synonymous with Boston University.
The number could stand for the 10 teams now making up Hockey East.
Instead, however, I’ll use it to honor one of my favorite players of all time, BC’s Brian Gionta. The feisty, 5-7 sparkplug holds the Hockey East record for the fastest two goals. In a Nov. 21, 2000 game against Merrimack, Gionta scored goals just 10 seconds apart.
He tallied 30 goals in his freshman season as he teamed up with Marty Reasoner to help put BC back on the map after a considerable drought. In the three years that followed, his goals never fluctuated from that initial mark by more than three, plus or minus.
He was a constant force, a bee in the bonnet of opposing defensemen and a joy to watch.
Nine runners-up to other conferences.
Hockey East teams have been bridesmaids in the NCAA tournament 11 times, but twice that hasn’t counted quite the same because it’s been to other teams in the league.
No one likes to finish second, but to some degree it’s a natural byproduct of getting to the championship game eight straight years and 11 of 12 until last year’s shutout.
The close but no cigar teams have been:
Year Loser (Winner)
2004 Maine (Denver)
2003 New Hampshire (Minnesota)
2002 Maine (Minnesota)
2000 Boston College (North Dakota)
1999 New Hampshire (Maine)
1998 Boston College (Michigan)
1997 Boston University (North Dakota)
1995 Maine (Boston University)
1994 Boston University (Lake Superior)
1991 Boston University (Northern Michigan)
1985 Providence (Rensselaer)
The eight card in the deck will have a Beanpot on it with a Boston University logo. The number will represent the unprecedented eight titles the Terriers won in a nine-year span from 1995 through 2003, including six straight to kick off that stretch.
Other schools didn’t want to hear it, but in those years the tournament became the BU Invitational.
There have been signs that the Terriers’ stranglehold may be loosening, namely BC’s wins in 2001 and 2004, but until proven otherwise the favorites will be wearing the scarlet and white.
For me, the number seven will always stand for my son Ryan. He plays for Wesleyan, which wasn’t in Hockey East last I checked, but don’t confuse me with the facts.
Aside from being the Greatest Son in the History of the Universe, he’s also a player his teammates at every level have always admired. He’s a hard worker, an outstanding penalty-killer and a forward with a gift for getting the puck to open linemates.
And you should have seen his personality on display as he played with kids during the team’s Skate With The Cardinals event last weekend.
Don’t waste my time even thinking about any other number seven.
Hockey East has celebrated six Hobey Baker Award winners.
The first of two three-peats began with David Emma (BC) in 1991. Emma led Hockey East with 81 points. Scott Pellerin (Maine) followed after scoring 32 goals and 57 points. Paul Kariya made it back-to-back Black Bears in 1993.
Chris Drury (BU) got the second run going in 1998, a lesser year statistically for him than his junior campaign, but one which saw him finish his career with 113 career goals and 100 assists. Jason Krog (UNH) became the first Wildcat to be so honored after totaling 85 points. And Mike Mottau (BC) became the first defenseman to win the award since Tom Kurvers in 1984.
Five stands for the number of Hockey East coaches who have won the Spencer Penrose Award as the nation’s top coach. Len Ceglarski (BC) won it in 1985, the league’s first year of existence, but it would take another 10 years before another was so honored. Walsh (Maine, 1995) and Bruce Crowder (Massachusetts-Lowell, 1996) made it back-to-back winners, followed by Umile (UNH, 1999) and Tim Whitehead (Maine, 2002).
Winners with ties to Hockey East who won before the league’s inaugural season included Ceglarski (with Clarkson in 1966 and BC in 1973), Fern Flaman (Northeastern, 1982), Charlie Holt (UNH, 1969, 1974, 1979), Parker (1975, 1978) and York (with Clarkson in 1977).
In these parts, when you’re talking hockey and number four, you’re talking Bobby Orr.
But since this is about Hockey East, the favoritism shown above to my son notwithstanding, four stands for the national championships won by Hockey East teams.
In 1993, Maine broke through with the first one, as detailed above under the Ace himself, Paul Kariya.
BU took no prisoners in 1995 en route to its first NCAA title since 1978. The Terriers defeated Lake State, 6-2, Minnesota, 7-3, and Maine, 6-2. It was about as dominating of a march to a title as possible.
It was Hockey East’s year in 1999, when the league placed three teams in the Frozen Four: Maine, UNH and BC. Maine squeaked out an overtime win over Boston College, 2-1, to advance and then the Wildcats defeated Michigan State, 5-3, to make it an All-Hockey East final. And what a championship game it was, the proverbial contest that you hate to see anyone lose. At 10:50 of overtime, Marcus Gustafsson converted Cory Larose’s pass to give the Black Bears their second NCAA title.
Two years later, Boston College appeared in its fourth straight Frozen Four and this time the Eagles went home champions. Leading 2-0 late into the third, BC saw its margin evaporate in agonizing fashion with two North Dakota extra-attacker goals. The first came on the power play at 16:18, a six-on-four advantage that arose out of a too many men on the ice penalty. The second came just 36 seconds from the Promised Land. The Fighting Sioux had broken the Eagles’ hearts in the 2000 title game, but this time Krys Kolanos scored 4:43 into overtime to give BC its first title since 1949.
When you think three in hockey, you’re thinking hat trick.
One stands above all others: Jay Pandolfo’s shorthanded hat trick on Nov. 4, 1995. Yes, that’s right. The BU star scored three goals while killing penalties.
To understand how remarkable that feat was, consider that the league record for shorthanded goals in a season is five, most recently by Pandolfo that year (three that night plus two others). Or that the league record is eight for a career, held by Mark Mowers.
Eight in a career; three in one night.
An amazing accomplishment.
The Deuce. It’s the lowest card in the deck. So it would be appropriate to point out that the deuce should stand for the two teams left out in the cold come playoff time this spring. With the expansion to a 10-team league has come a doubling of those who get left out.
But yours truly prefers to emphasize the positive, so even though the deuce is the lowest of cards, we’ll come full circle by referring to the player who wore number two on a BC jersey back in 1986-87.
Arguably, he would have been the second ace in the Hockey East deck, if we were listing more than one. The dominating defenseman played only one year in college hockey before moving on to be captain of the U.S. Olympic team. But what a year it was.
As a freshman defenseman, he scored 47 points, quarterbacking one of the great teams in the league’s history. He earned Hockey East Player of the Year and First-Team All-America honors. He was Hockey East Tournament MVP after the Eagles defeated Maine, 4-2, to take its first league title.
And so that wraps up the Hockey East deck of cards. Shuffle ’em up and deal.
Was It Worth It?
When the Collins family traveled to Denver to see their son Chris play in BC’s holiday tournament, they didn’t count on United Airlines losing their luggage. Unfortunately, what was missing didn’t just include trivialities like clothes. The really important items, two sticks for Chris, were also lost.
The next day United delivered the rest of the luggage, but not the sticks. Glenn Collins, Chris’s father, had to drive to the airport and search for the missing sticks until they were eventually found in the back of a storage room.
In the Denver Cup opener, Chris scored a shorthanded goal and then another in a shootout to help BC advance. In the championship game, he added another two goals.
Think the trip to the airport was worth it?
USCHO’s Elvis The Pelvis
Exhibiting provocative hip movements akin to those which led to Elvis Presley being shown only from the waist up on the Ed Sullivan Show, USCHO’s own Lee Urton was the winner of the iPod Dance Contest at Agganis Arena between periods of Saturday’s Boston University-Maine game. Lee went home with a 20 GB iPod and, presumably, a horde of female followers seeking a sweat-drenched remnant of his ripped-off, tattered clothing. USCHO has neither confirmed nor denied reports that Lee is now being considered as Mr. February in a prospective swimsuit calendar of staffers.
(This item is courtesy of Scott Weighart.)
Last week’s question asked about a Hockey East goaltender who is a rookie in the NHL this year, won his first four decisions, and while a collegian backstopped his team in the NCAA semifinals, but did not play in the championship game.
The answer was Mike Morrison, who backstopped Maine in its 7-2 win over New Hampshire in the 2002 NCAA semifinals only to be back on the bench for the Black Bears’ overtime loss to Minnesota in the title game. Matt Yeats got the nod in that contest as coach Tim Whitehead stuck with the rotation.
Morrison then had to pay his dues in the minors, both in the ECHL and AHL. Even this season, he hasn’t been immune from trips down to the ECHL (nine games with the Greenville Grrrowl).
However, good things sometimes do happen to good people and perseverance really does pay off. Morrison has played in 10 NHL games with the Edmonton Oilers, recording a 5-1 record and the best stats of any goalie on his team: a 2.35 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage. Ironically, one of the other two Edmonton netminders is former New Hampshire star Ty Conklin.
(There may be some debate as to Morrison’s status as a “rookie” since some have contended he is too old for the NHL’s definition which is used to determine awards like Rookie of the Year. That may be, but there’s no other goalie who fits the criteria specified and based on Webster’s definition of the word rookie, Morrison is certainly one since he’s seeing his first NHL action. Personally, I’m a bigger fan of Webster than the NHL.)
Ryan Lambert was first with the correct response. His cheer is:
“Let’s go Hawks! Beat the Huskies!”
This week’s question asks what is the Hockey East school which most recently celebrated the 1000th win in the program’s history, and when did that happen? E-mail Dave Hendrickson’s trivia account with the school and the date. 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.
As always, you can also submit suggested trivia questions to the same email address and if your question is used, you’ll get a cheer as long as you were first to submit it. Please include something like “SUGGESTION” in the subject line.
And Finally, Not That It Has Anything To Do With Anything, But…
• Did the NFL get its officiating crews last weekend from pro wrestling? Holy smokes, talk about huge blown calls! Unless you slept through the weekend, all I need to say is Asante Samuel and Troy Polamalu. Just pathetic.
• If you’re Jerome Bettis, how do you go into the line like that, carrying the ball like a loaf of bread? And how does a defensive back like Nick Harper allow himself to be tackled by a quarterback in the open field, for all practical purposes running into his arms? Unbelievable.
• If you’re a Patriots fan, you have to be stunned at the way your team gave it away in a fashion its opponents usually do. There’s no excuse for all those turnovers, especially the Troy Brown fumble, not to mention the penalty at the five-yard line which potentially set up the Champ Bailey interception that otherwise might not have happened.
• That said, how much did that game turn on two officiating calls? The outrageous pass interference call on Samuel was a pivotal seven-point difference in the first half. And the debatable decision on Ben Watson’s forcing of the Bailey fumble was a huge seven-point difference in the second half (first and inches, Denver ball vs. first down at the 20, Pats’ ball.) Hey, the Pats gave it away. But they still might have pulled it out if those two calls went the other way.
• How sweet would it have been for Champ Bailey to have become Chump Bailey had that call been reversed? That kind of showboating before you get to the end zone drives me absolutely nuts. Watson’s effort, on the other hand, personifies everything that has been right about the Patriots for the past four years and gives reason to believe that they’ll be back again next year.
• Then you have the Indianapolis Colts. Not only do they lay a big game egg again, but Peyton Manning shows his leadership credentials by saying, “I don’t want to be a bad teammate. Let’s just say we had some problems in protection.” Not wanting to be a bad teammate and not being a bad teammate are two different things. Do you think Tom Brady would throw his line under the bus like that? The fact that he wouldn’t is just another reason why the Pats have three rings and Peyton has none.
• Then you have Mike Vanderjagt, aptly ripped as VanderJerk, after his field goal attempt came within about an area code of the uprights. “From the Polamalu interception reversal to Jerome’s fumble, everything seemed to be lined up in our favor. I guess the Lord forgot about the football team,” he said. I guess the Lord forgot about the football team? First off, perhaps we should assume that the Lord has more pressing concerns than giving the Heimlich maneuver to a football team. Beyond that, was there ever a comeback more gift-wrapped for a team than the Colts? If the Lord did care more about the Colts than the Steelers (for some reason I’d be interested to hear), He did his part! VanderJerk, you just choked. Just like against the Pats. Don’t look to the sky; look in the mirror.
• All of which is why New England Patriots fans have to feel a lot more comfortable about next year than their counterparts in Indianapolis.
Thank you to Scott Weighart and Chris Lerch.