This Week in Hockey East: Dec. 7, 2006

Before The Frivolity

Although much of this column will be light-hearted, the recent violence against hockey players begs comment. I speak, of course, of the attack on BU players and the murder of former [nl]Norwich captain Michael Serba.

When someone is suckerpunched and then killed with a blow to the head with something like a brick … when an altercation escalates to involve baseball bats being fetched and then swung … when a woman’s jaw is dislocated — as has been alleged in these incidents — it sickens us.

Sadly, violence is all too common in our society. In some respects, we have emerged from the barbarities of past generations; in other respects, however, the barbarism remains. It feels worse when it strikes so close to home, but whenever the same sickening assaults are perpetrated on strangers the violence is every bit as real, every bit as inexcusable and appalling.

One can only hope that in all cases the barbarians are brought to justice, regardless of whether the people involved are our athletic heroes or not, because a sane society doesn’t tolerate violence.

Letters To Santa

Once again, we’ve intercepted mail from Hockey East arenas to the North Pole and are sharing them with you.

On New Hampshire stationery:

Hey, Santa, Dick Umile here.

Thanks for dropping off the gifts early this year. Undefeated since October. A 9-1-1 record in Hockey East. First place and threatening to run away with the Hockey East title.

We’ve got an offense that is the envy of every other coach in the league. Heck, we’re at 4.57 goals a game, Maine’s at 3.77, and no one else cracks 3.00. Of the league’s top eight scorers, five of them are Wildcats.

Santa, you’ve just been giving and giving. And I really appreciate it.

But at the risk of sounding greedy, I have just two more requests.

I’d always like a stingier defense, more Scrooge-like, if you know what I mean. We’re third in the league now, but I’d like to be even a little better.

Most of all, though, don’t give us everything right now. Keep a little in reserve for March and… and how about April?

Take an extra helping of milk and cookies, Santa. And thanks.

On Vermont stationery:

Santa, this is Kevin Sneddon.

I learned my lesson last year. I was hoping we’d make a big splash in our first year in Hockey East. And we did for quite a while. National rankings and all that. But our best successes were in nonconference games and we really tailed off at the end.

This time, I’ve been more specific. I’ve been looking for more success inside the league. And we’ve gotten it. Second place. A seven game win streak, six of them in Hockey East, until UNH took us down last Sunday.

We’ve got far and away the league’s best defense. Only 1.67 goals against per game. You gotta love that come playoff time.

So if you could bring us just a touch more scoring and let us build up a head of steam heading into the playoffs, I’d really like that a whole lot.

On Boston College stationery:

Hey, Santa, Jerry York here.

I know you’re busy, so I’ll be quick. Santa, we need some consistency. We haven’t won back-to-back games since October. If we keep this up, all our fans will have ulcers by March.

Everybody thought it would be easy for us this year after almost winning the national championship eight months ago, but it hasn’t been. No one gives you anything for free in this sport. You have to earn it.

Here’s my idea. You just take all those 19-year-olds that I have and turn them into 21-year-olds on Christmas Day. What do you think? I’m not sure how the elves could do that, but some extra maturity will help us out on the blue line and up front, too.

If that doesn’t possible, then just let us get hot at the right time like we did last year.

On Boston University stationery:

Santa, Jack Parker here.

Whatever you do, don’t bring me any more ties. I’ve got too many of them already. It’s enough to remind me of Ed Carpenter, our retired Sports Information Director, and some of those neon specials he wore at the NCAAs.

Ed never needed any more ties for Christmas and neither do my Terriers. We’ve played 13 games and five have finished dead even. Enough is enough. I want wins. I don’t care if they’re blowouts or squeakers in OT.

Our defense is second best in the league, I can’t complain about giving up 1.85 goals a game, but we need to be filling the net more. I’m not asking for you to turn us into UNH on offense — unless, of course, you can turn us into UNH on offense — but we’re going to keep getting only a point after sixty-five minutes if we can’t find the back of the net more regularly.

On Maine stationery:

Hey, Santa. Tim Whitehead.

I don’t know whether to ask for a repeat of last year or not. We’ve had back-to-back great starts, but have started to repeat last year’s troublesome middle. It looked like it might cost us an NCAA berth last year and three losses in a row this November had me feeling a little deja vu. It was good to get the win last Friday over Providence, so maybe I was just getting a tad paranoid there. We’ll see.

In any case, if we’re going to have a soft December and January underbelly like last year, I’m just asking for the stretch run that came along with it.

Get us into the Frozen Four again and I’ll take my chances.

On Massachusetts stationery:

Santa, this is Toot Cahoon.

The early gifts looked like they were piling up there for a while. Opening with a 6-1-1 record was pretty heady stuff. But with things evening out since then, I guess you didn’t stop by early after all. Not with a 1-3-1 record over our last five and a home-and-home with Boston College to finish the semester.

We’ve had a surprising amount of production, good for third in the league, so Santa I’d like plenty more where that came from. If we finish third in offense, I like our chances. And Jon Quick has been really good in goal.

So let me believe that the 14 goals in two nonconference games aren’t a mirage of firepower that have distorted our statistics. And a little tightening on defense and we’ll be just fine.

But, you know, a split with BC would be just what the doctor ordered going into the break, so if you could leave that it would be much appreciated.

And how about a trip to the Garden in March?

On Providence College stationery:

Santa, Tim Army.

I don’t want to be short with you, but you certainly didn’t make any early drop-offs in Friarland. We got off to a real tough start and haven’t put two wins together yet.

We’re ninth in defense. Hey, I never expected we’d lead the league in goals against, but I didn’t expect ninth either.

And we’re ninth in scoring, too. If you’re an up-tempo team, you should be scoring more than that.

But you know what? We had a big start last year and then faltered a bit down the stretch. If we do the flip side of that, I won’t be too upset.

Give us a second half like last year’s first half and there’ll be plenty of milk and cookies for you and the reindeer.

On UMass-Lowell stationery:

What’s up, Big Guy? Blaise MacDonald here.

I really like the potential of this young team of mine. But I don’t want to shortchange their chances in the right here and now. Even with a six-game losing streak, I’m not looking ahead to next year. Not yet.

So a little more scoring and a little more defense would be great.

But what I really want is this: First, help my freshmen and sophomores mature as quickly as possible. That’ll go a long way to putting a smile on my face. And please, for the sake of my sanity, give me consistent goaltending. It’s been the position that has been up-and-down here. Carter Hutton had a stretch there were it looked like he was the answer. Please, let him be the one. Or Nevin Hamilton or Vinny Monaco. Someone, please.

On Northeastern stationery:

Greg Cronin here, Santa.

What a start we had. We went through October and November without a single league win.

December arrived and in just one weekend we got a sweep.

You know, Santa, it would be special if we could head into the break with a third straight win, the hat trick coming against my old friends at Maine.

I know we’re leading the league in penalty minutes. I’m not sure if you like that feistiness or if it makes you inclined to give us a bag of coal. Hey, I hope you’ll give us a break.

Specifically, our January could make or break our season. BC, BU and then two each against Vermont, Lowell, and Maine. I know some think that with that group of games I should just ask for a 3-5 record, but I’m not that type. How about a winning record in January? Whaddya think?

On Merrimack stationery:

Mark Dennehy here.

To be honest, I wasn’t even going to write you this year. We were 1-12-1 and I didn’t really believe in you any more.

But then came a nice win over UMass to head into the break with our heads above water. And I’m willing to think you just might come through for us.

We’re last in the league in both defense and offense, so any help you could provide would be appreciated. Our scoring could use a lot of help — heck, we’re averaging only 1.20 goals a game, almost a goal behind ninth place.

Help these kids keep their confidence. And give me a couple breaks in the recruiting wars.

But most of all, give us a way to get into the playoffs.

Wesleyan Update

I can hardly be expected to keep quiet about my son Ryan being named number one star of the game last Saturday, can I? Of course not.

I’m proud as anything, but in the big picture it didn’t matter who got the accolades. What matters is that the Cardinals’ win gave them an important two points in the standings. It was a bizarre weekend in the NESCAC with stunning upsets all around, so the league is getting even more tightly bunched than expected. Which means every point counts.

And with a group that I’m convinced is talented enough to make a real move — talented from freshmen on up through seniors — the opportunity will be there for a second half push.

It’s a nonconference slate of games this weekend followed by the holiday break, but January will be huge and I’m betting the Cardinals are up to the challenge.

Trivia Contest

Last week Scott Weighart came up with the weekly trivia question: Who were the two TALLEST teammates in Hockey East history? Scott knew of two former Hockey East teammates who together were 13 feet, one inch — so you’ll have to at least match that number to get this one right!

Well — believe it or not — once again we have provided you with evidence that this column is written by Tweedledum and Tweedledumber, and I hope it’s obvious who is who out of that dubious pairing. Once again — and it feels like this has happened almost every freakin’ week this season — we asked a question and had an answer in mind… but it did not turn out the be the right answer!

Scott was thinking of the twin towers from Merrimack in the mid-1990s, teammates Jon Jakopin (6’5″) and Steve McKenna (6’8″), who combined for a whopping 13’1″. HOWEVER, many readers were quick to point that CURRENT Maine teammates Ben Bishop (6’7″) and Simon Danis-Pepin (6’7″) add up to one inch more: 13’2″. Of course, Bishop was listed as 6’5″ last year, so perhaps we can forgive Scott for not combing the UPDATED height listings for this season… but then again, we don’t HAVE to forgive him.

The first to come up with the correct answer was Hockey East intern Scott Donnelly — now a two-time winner this season.

Scott Donnelly’s cheer is:


Now that we’ve cleared up yet another embarrassing development, here’s this week’s question — another one from the Marquis de Scott, and another one involving former Hockey East teammates. This is called “Friends Turned Foes.” There have been countless situations in which former Hockey East teammates faced off against each other in National Hockey League action. But who were the first pair of former teammates to score in the same game this season while playing for opposing teams?

E-mail Scott’s trivia account (not Dave’s) with the right answer. If you haven’t heard back by Monday morning, assume that someone else beat you to the right answer.

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

If you’re a fan of reading fantasy and horror, I strongly recommend Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts, a collection of outstanding short stories. You won’t regret it.

Hill is — hush, hush! — Stephen King’s son, but he’s sticking to the pseudonym, presumably to gain attention on his own merits. And merits he has in abundance.

It might make a perfect gift for a literate friend.

Have a safe and Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a Happy New Year.