This Week in Hockey East: Dec. 10, 2009

Letters To Santa

For the final column before the holidays, we’ve once again 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.

Things are looking pretty good here in Durham.

First place in Hockey East with a 7-2-2 record. We’re 5-0-1 in our last six games, all of them in the league. In fact, we came within 11 seconds of being way out in front with an 8-1-2 league record. That tying goal in regulation and overtime loss at UMass really hurt at the time and still stings a bit, but the way the boys are playing now has me thinking of March and maybe even April instead of the past.

Santa, did you hear that word? April? As in April in Detroit? That’s what I’d like under my Christmas tree.

And if you didn’t mind, I’d sure like it if come NCAA time you arranged it so that Wisconsin was in another bracket. They really took it to us and I’d really rather not see their coach, Mike Eaves, again until the Coaches’ Meetings after the season in Florida.

That’s it.

Well … maybe not. There is one other thing you could do for me. Remember that newspaper writer who wrote last year that I should get fired? Right before we came so close to the Frozen Four?

I try to be a nice guy — you know that — but that writer really got to me. So if you leave some coal in the guy’s stocking I wouldn’t be at all disappointed. Oh, and if the reindeer left some droppings on his roof, well that would be just … just … heh, heh, heh … it would be just perfect.

On Boston College stationery:

Well hello, Santa, this is Jerry York.

I’m pretty happy with my club right now. We haven’t lost in almost a month. We’re 5-0-1 in our last five, 7-1-1 in our last eight, and all but two of those wins came in Hockey East play.

We’re scoring at a good clip — tops in Hockey East — and playing well defensively too. We’ve got a power play that’s clicking at 22.8 percent and the league’s best penalty kill.

You’d think I have it all and have nothing to ask for. Except, of course, another championship banner to hang at Kelley Rink.

But there is something. Could you please help John Muse return to his play of two years ago? That’s my No. 1 worry. Last year he wasn’t quite himself because his hip was bothering him.

So he had the offseason surgery and could be rounding into form if our recent game against BU says anything. He stopped 30 of 31 shots. A little more of that will go a long way. Our freshman, Parker Milner, is looking pretty good, but I think Muse can be a difference-maker again for us down the stretch so give him a good dose of health for me, would you?

Oh, and one other thing. If you could get Dave Hendrickson a brain for Christmas, he sure could use it. A nice kid and well-meaning, but dumb as rocks. He picked us to finish eighth this year, can you believe it?

Eighth!

So a little boost to the guy’s IQ would do him a world of good cause it sure seems like he’s taking stupid pills.

Hey, that’s it, Santa. Help yourself to some milk and cookies, and go Eagles!

On Maine stationery:

Santa, this is Tim Whitehead.

For a while there, I thought you were dumping another load of coal on me this year. A slow start after two rough years and I could hear the grumbling.

He’s no Shawn Walsh. He’s no Shawn Walsh.

Yeah, well, who is? Hey, I knew I was going to hear that even after all those Frozen Four appearances. It comes with the territory, like it or not.

So I was going to ask for some earplugs but guess what?

I don’t need them. We’ve just won four straight and after opening the season with some of the most brutal defense in the college hockey, we’ve allowed only a single goal in each of those games.

We’re in third place now and it’s like old times again with us up at the top along with UNH and BC. Only BU is missing from what they used to call the Big Four. It’s nice just to hear that phrase again.

The Big Four.

Yeah.

But it isn’t easy keeping all that going. The competition just gets tougher and tougher.

So here’s what I’d like. While my assistants and I are scouting the rinks for next year’s freshmen, could you keep an eye out for another family like the Kariyas? I know I asked you for that last year, but I’m going to keep asking until that next group of stars arrives.

On UMass-Lowell stationery:

Blaise MacDonald here.

Three and three, Big Guy. Three and three.

Here’s what I’m talking about. We got to No. 3 in the country — three in the country! — and then we lost three in a row.

We went from one of the top offensive teams in the league to one that scored four goals in three games.

So a little bit of consistency would be nice. We’ve become Hockey East’s top defensive club so that’s great but we’re only middle of the pack in both special teams areas. So a little boost there would be appreciated.

But overall I like my team. I like our crowds. And I like this program’s chances to do something big this year.

Which reminds me …

You don’t have to bring us anything now. Wait until March sometime. When we really need that little extra something. Like … oh, say like last year in the Hockey East championship game when a win would have given us our first title and a trip to the NCAA tournament. And there was that goal that got waved off …

Yeah, that one.

You want to make up for that one? See me in March.

On Massachusetts stationery:

Santa, this is Toot Cahoon.

You got our hopes up again. Four wins to start the season. Seven out of eight. Nine out of 11.

Then three straight losses.

I’ve heard a few too many times about our fast starts and our less stellar finishes.

You know, this is a pretty good club. Second-best offense in the league. The top power play. A pretty good defense.

I wouldn’t be out of line to ask for home ice in the playoffs and then a trip to the Garden and then how about a Hockey East championship we can call our own.

How about it?

On Vermont stationery:

Santa, this is Kevin Sneddon.

Last year’s trip to the Frozen Four was just what this program needed. It was a great experience and we came so close. Seven minutes away from the championship game and we held the lead …

Ah well, there’s nothing you can do about that game unless you’ve got a time machine stashed away up there on the North Pole.

So let’s talk about this season. We just haven’t been able to put it all together so far. Our power play has been killing us just about the whole year. I mean, 12.1 percent? Last in the league? And our PK hasn’t been much better.

It seems like when we get the offense, we don’t get the defense and goaltending. Or when we get the other, we don’t put the puck in the net.

We’re not bad. We aren’t pushing panic buttons.

But we could be a lot better.

So if you’re dropping off gifts, those of the special teams variety would be especially welcome. But other than that, any little thing will do. A little more of this and a little more of that may be all we need.

On Northeastern stationery:

Greg Cronin here.

I gotta tell you, Big Guy, I really don’t believe in you. I’m only writing this stupid letter because Hendrickson, that nitwit Hockey East writer for USCHO, asked me to.

I remember last year, I told you that if we had another good-first-half and bad-last-half season, I’d consider it a mound of coal in my stocking and whack you over the head with it. You got the message. We had a heckuva year.

Close but no cigar in so many ways. The Hockey East semifinal game. The NCAA tournament game.

But a heckuva year.

So since it worked, I’m going at it again (even though I don’t believe in you). See, I don’t really want to whack you over the head with a stocking full of coal. I really don’t. But I will.

That is, unless we get more scoring. We’re last in the league in team offense. A week ago, we got two long 5-on-3s against Merrimack in the third period and couldn’t score once.

So we need some more scoring. And a stocking full of coal would give you a really bad headache.

Got the picture?

On Merrimack stationery:

Mark Dennehy here.

You know, Santa, I’ve got to admit it. I thought you were just one big pantload while we were finishing in last place my first four years here, especially the season when we went 3-27-4 and scored a whopping 28 goals in 27 Hockey East games.

Yeah, ho-ho-ho. I was laughing all the way.

But we’ve really turned the corner here so I’m feeling a lot more in the holiday spirit. We’re second in the league in scoring, first on the power play, and second on the penalty kill.

It used to be that teams didn’t like to come to our barn because … well, it isn’t exactly a palace. But you know, now teams really don’t like to come into our barn and you know why?

Because we kick their butts.

We’re 7-1-0 at home. Check out these scores: 5-2 over Vermont, 5-3 over BC, 6-3 over BU and 3-1 over Northeastern.

Hey, if we played and won the two games we hold in hand over most everyone else, we’d be sitting in fourth place.

Fourth place!

Home ice.

Did you catch that? We’re not talking about sneaking into eighth place so we can be someone’s sacrificial lamb. We’re talking about kicking butt, taking names, and maybe even getting home ice.

Home ice at the J. Thom Lawler Arena. That has a nicer ring to it than any of your stupid sleigh bells, if you ask me.

So what am I asking for?

A little better defense, but basically more of the same, baby, more of the same. Oh, and if next year’s recruiting class could include another Stephane Da Costa, that would be really sweet.

On Providence stationery:

Santa, Tim Army.

You been paying attention, oh Jolly Round One?

Last year, we missed the Hockey East playoffs for the first time. Ever. So I had a pretty lousy offseason. Every drive off the tee was a snap hook into the woods. Every burger on the grill got burnt. Every horn honked on Route 95 sounded like a goal siren going off in our end.

So it was quite a relief when we got off to a great start this year: 4-1 after five, 5-2 after seven and 6-3 after nine.

Unfortunately, most of those wins were against nonconference teams. And now we’ve lost three straight.

We do hold games in hand against every team in the league, three in hand over most of them. So we hold our destiny in our hands. But we need to win those games because right now we’re ninth in winning percentage.

And you know what that means. If the season ended today, we’d miss the playoffs again. So maybe you understand why I’m not in the best of moods.

Here’s what I want. A playoff berth, for starters. We are not going to miss the playoffs two years in a row. And then I’d like an upset so we get to the Garden. And finally, how about a young Ron Wilson and Chris Terreri as recruits for next year?

On Boston University stationery:

Santa, Jack Parker here.

If you had anything to do with those miraculous two goals against Miami last year, thank you, thank you, thank you. You don’t owe me anything. You delivered eight months early.

If not, then I’ve got two words for you.

Bah humbug.

Hint, hint. They Make Great Gifts

For those booklovers on your shopping list, don’t forget The Trouble With Heroes, an anthology of original stories looking at the other side of mythical and historical heroes. It includes my own snarky contribution, “Beloved.”

You’ll find it the Science Fiction/Fantasy section (perhaps under new releases) under the editor’s name, Denise Little, or order it through Amazon.

There’s also Scott Weighart’s book, Burn the Boats: A Seven-Championship Season for Boston University Hockey.

You can’t go wrong with either one.

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

• I was in a public place when the Patriots went down to defeat last Sunday. It was a stunning loss but even more stunning was the reaction. “Tom Brady, you [stink]!” “Bill Belichick, a genius? My [butt]!” What an incredibly spoiled bunch we’ve become.

• Based on the way the Pats defense has been playing, the go-for-it call on fourth-and-2 now seems like the only rational one to make.

• Yeah, the defense would be better with Richard Seymour but it hardly looks like our boys would have been heading to the Super Bowl with or without him. It remains highway robbery that we traded one year of Seymour for many years of a future star.

• Marco Scutaro should improve the Red Sox a ton next year at shortstop even though I am leery of one-year wonders. I’m not sure I’d have given up a first-round pick for him even if we’re getting one back for Billy Wagner. My guess, though, is that he’ll instead cost a No. 2 after we sign Adrian Beltre, whose home-away splits suggest that he could be a Fenway monster.

• If you like science fiction, check out Diving Into the Wreck by Kristine Kathyrn Rusch.

• If you’re a fiction writer who’s interested in improving your work, check out Odyssey and these Oregon workshops.

• No matter who you are, thanks for reading this year. Have a safe, healthy and happy holidays, one and all.


Thanks to Diana Giunta.

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