This Week in Hockey East: Dec. 6, 2007

Letters To Santa

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

On Northeastern stationery:

Greg Cronin here, Santa.

I might have been a little curt with you at this time last year, and I guess I should explain. We had a killer schedule to start the season, and I’m not one who’s much for moral victories. So if I seemed a little grumpy back then, I apologize.

I’m in a much better mood this year. My boys have been very, very good. We’ve exceeded everyone’s expectations, including — if you’ll keep this under that big red hat of yours — even my own. Picked to finish seventh, we’re on top of the league. Who’d a thunk it?

So I’m just going to ask for more of the same in the second half, Santa.

Although, come to think of it, we finished 7-5-3 inside the league last year after the holidays, so maybe you responded to me getting a little testy. If so, then I’m giving you a warning. Give us a strong second half, Big Guy, or be prepared to drop the gloves.

On Boston College stationery:

Hey, Santa, this is Jerry York.

I was thinking you might have dropped a big mound of coal in my driveway this fall. We came within one day of going 0-for-November.

But there’s nothing like a win over Boston University to get things started. And nothing like a sweep over those Terriers to really get me in a good mood.

Hey, you know I was thinking that even if there are a lot of ups and downs in the early going, what really matters is how you finish.

So how about a 13-game winning streak down the stretch just like last year? Only this time, start it one game later. Let number 13 come in the national championship game, not the semifinals like last year.

Help yourself to some milk and cookies, and go Eagles!

On New Hampshire stationery:

Hey, Santa, Dick Umile here.

Thanks for giving me another great group of forwards. I can see the other coaches in this league all but turn green with envy when they have to face them.

But nobody writes you and just says thanks, so neither will I.

I would like to tighten up the defense just a little bit more. That never hurts. And I’d sure like to get the power play kick-started. A group that talented shouldn’t be eighth in the league.

But most of all, give us a little boost when we get to the Garden this year. Not that it’s automatic or anything that we’ll get there, especially the way the league is this year. It’s just that another Hockey East title like in 2003 would be really great.

And then in the NCAAs, well, we got to the championship game in 2003 and if that happens again this year, I’ll take my chances.

See, I’m only asking to win Hockey East and a 50-50 shot at a national championship. With this group of kids, I don’t feel like I’m out of line.

On Providence College stationery:

Santa, Tim Army.

I was a little worried there early in the season. Coming off a tough year, I hated to get off to a start like that.

But 4-1-1 over our last six is pretty good, even if I feel like that loss — in overtime against UNH — should have at least given us a point.

I’ve got to love our special teams. First in the league on the power play. Hey, I believe in letting players play and… well, you’ve got eyes, Santa. On the man advantage, are they playing or what?

They’re also tied for first on the PK. So I don’t need any help there under the tree. And I like both our team offense and defense.

So just some ongoing improvement and continued momentum is what I’m looking for.

On Massachusetts stationery:

Santa, this is Toot Cahoon.

I can’t say that I’m unhappy, but there’s always room for improvement. We could be more consistent. We’ve only gotten a single pair of back-to-back wins all year. But at the same time, we’re 4-1-3 over our last eight, so we’re definitely moving in the right direction.

We had some significant losses in personnel that we’ve replaced pretty well, I think so I’m pretty happy with that.

I’m delighted that we’re tops in Hockey East in scoring defense, especially after losing Jon Quick. It’s a testament to these kids, how hard they’ve worked, and how talented they are.

So what I’d really like for starters is another home ice berth. Getting those back-to-back would really solidify the gains we’ve made in the program, trying to bring winning teams year in and year out to the Pioneer Valley.

That’d be great for starters, but if we can do that then… well, call me in March.

On UMass-Lowell stationery:

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

Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving me some goaltending. It’s just about all I asked for last year and even if it’s a tad belated I’m not going to complain. You can’t win in this league without those guys between the pipes so I’m happy.

The team’s penalty kill also has put a smile on my face. Tied for best in the league!

For a team comprised almost entirely of freshmen and sophomores, not to mention picked to finish ninth, 3-4-4 isn’t too shabby. Three wins out of the last four is also a good sign, especially that W against UNH.

But please, Santa, cut us some slack. No more injuries. We can’t take much more of them. So tops on my list is health for the boys.

Oh yeah, it’d also be great if I could get a whole box of Dick Umile mock turtlenecks.

On Vermont stationery:

Santa, this is Kevin Sneddon.

Things weren’t looking so good there for a while, were they? Starting 0-4-1 had me thinking I’d be building a fire in the fireplace come December 24th instead of leaving out milk and cookies. I tell you, I bought matches and lighter fluid after that 9-1 loss to BU.

But we had a 3-1-1 stretch prior to last weekend’s loss and we’re scoring goals like never before, so there are some positive signs.

Still, we’ve got to fix our defensive play. I’m not asking for a return to all those 2-1 games. I still like our stylistic switch. But we can’t keep giving up goals at this rate.

So how about turning Joe Fallon into superman while we iron out the kinks in the defensive end?

On Boston University stationery:

Santa, Jack Parker here.

We’re 4-9-2. 4-9-2!

We just got swept by You Know Who.

Most nights, our goaltenders remind me how much John Curry meant to this team. And when the goalies do play well…

Hey, Santa, if you can’t figure out something to bring me, I’m declaring you academically ineligible.

On Merrimack stationery:

Mark Dennehy here.

Hey, Santa, not that I’m a vengeful guy, but how about a little bag of coal to all those who predicted we’d finish last this year?

Not that much coal on the planet? Okay. Well, you get my point.

These kids have believed in themselves and busted their butts and now they’re 6-6-2. Based on all the inner thoughts of the pundits, You Know Where has frozen over.

I’d really like to see a nice reward for these kids. We’ve finished last three straight years and its time for these guys to make the playoffs. It’s a tough league — a brutal league, make that — and it won’t take much of a bad streak for us to drop into last place.

After all, who are the only two teams who aren’t ahead of us? BU and Maine.

So give us a break. We don’t want any charity. We’ll be happy to earn it. But let a bounce or two go our way, let the kids keep improving, and we’ll take our chances on playing March 14th.

On Maine stationery:

Hey, Santa. Tim Whitehead.

Last place? Last place?

You’ve got to be kidding me. After back-to-back trips to the Frozen Four, the cellar makes me feel like I’ve fallen down Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole.

I knew after losing all those forwards, we’d have a lot of holes to fill this year but I didn’t expect to be last in the league in offense, power play percentage, and penalty kill.

A power play conversion rate of 7.0 percent after last year’s nation-best 25.4? It’s a bit cruel, don’t you think?

I think we’re going to turn it around and any help you can provide especially in pucks finding the back of the net would be appreciated.

But if it isn’t going to get any better, could you do me a favor? Hit me over the head with a Synergy and don’t get out the smelling salts until April.

Trivia Contest

Last week’s question asked about “well-rounded” hat tricks after UNH’s Mike Radja completed the trick with one goal on the power-play, one while shorthanded, and the other at even strength. You were to name the last Hockey East player before Radja to score such a “well-rounded” hat trick.

Without extensive research, the last one known to achieve the feat was another Wildcat, Sean Collins, on Dec. 5, 2003 at Clarkson.

Since no one guessed Collins or uncovered a more recent case, this week’s cheer goes to my niece Cherie’s team, the Providence Friars.

Go Friars! Beat Yale and Harvard! And keep that sniper shot going, Cherie!

With the column and almost all of Hockey East taking a break for the holidays, the trivia contest will, too.

Happy Holidays, one and all!