You must all be familiar with those letters that people enclose in their Christmas cards summarizing the activities and accomplishments of everyone in the family, in some cases out to distant relatives and family pets. As the digital age has advanced, these letters have started to feature more pictures than prose, but I’m a writer, not a photojournalist, so we’ll be doing a throwback version of a Christmas letter.
Since much of my year consists of going to hockey games, and I’ve already written about those, I’ve decided to write a letter that would be included in a Christmas card that you’d receive from the D-I women’s hockey coaching family.
Disclaimer: the content below may contain statements that are untrue — even more so than most of my columns.
Greetings hockey fans!
We are midway through a typical season where each success comes with a setback for another member of our family. That tends to spark argument among us as to whether we present that as good or bad news, so we’ll just offer a glimpse as to what is new with each of us.
First, we’d like to introduce you to a future member of our family, Erin Hamlen. Her work at Merrimack thus far doesn’t include games or players, but it also means one attribute of our dream job, no parents. (Wait — are we sending this to parents?)
Union’s Claudia Asano Barcomb is using the break to look up home remedies on the Internet for treating bruises after Shenae Lundberg made over 600 saves thus far; no other goalie has yet reached 500 saves for the season.
Amy Bourbeau has reason to celebrate after Brown scored five or more goals four times in its first 13 games, after failing to score more than four in any game last season. Her secret? She trashed the “Hockey For Dummies” text the team was using and replaced it with a text she authored, “Hockey For People Smart Enough To Get Into Brown.”
Penn State’s Josh Brandwene is spending as much of his time in University Park as possible around Russ Rose, in the hope of learning secrets to building a championship team. Rose’s advice thus far has been essentially, “You need more height on your roster.”
Earlier this month, John Burke’s Rensselaer squad defeated Brown, scoring seven goals in the process. That was the most goals the Engineers had scored in a game in more than five years, though it must have felt a little like taking a Charlie Brown Christmas tree home and having all needles fall off when the Bears outscored RPI, 5-0, over the final 19 minutes.
Robert Morris’ Paul Colontino starts every day by watching the movie “Groundhog Day” in the hope that it will yield some insight into how he can go back and redo the season to date. Thus far, he has merely learned Sonny Bono’s vocal performance on “I’ve Got You Babe” would not have enabled him to win any season of The Voice, even if he’d been the only contestant.
Given none of their teams have more than two Hockey East wins to this point, Providence’s Bob Deraney, Connecticut’s Chris MacKenzie, and Vermont’s Jim Plumer are wondering who favored the change to best-of-three quarterfinals in the league playoffs this year. They are working with USA Hockey to send most of the Boston College roster to PyeongChang, South Korea, three years early.
Doug Derraugh’s Cornell squad is off to its slowest start since 2006-07, his second season as head coach, but it has won three straight. A barometer of success going forward: the Big Red are .500 overall, but are 5-0-0 when senior Jillian Saulnier scores a goal.
Clarkson’s Matt Desrosiers is basking in the afterglow of the ultimate NCAA success, but also learning that coaching 20 women gets a lot more complicated without access to the bailout response of, “You should probably talk to Shannon about that.”
Boston University’s Brian Durocher is back to working on a project he first started three years ago while Marie-Philip Poulin was injured: how to clone a human without the prolonged waiting period inherent in going the “Dolly the Sheep” route. His previous attempts failed, but he has since made a few tweaks after he discovered on the Internet that typical human cloning doesn’t work when the original is superhuman.
Greg Fargo is looking into the idea of having Colgate join the Ivy League. His first three Raiders teams have failed to reach five wins by the break, so one solution would be to play fewer games in the first half. It’s like the old joke where the guy tells the doctor, “It hurts when I do this,” and the doctor replies, “Well, don’t do that.”
Syracuse’s Paul Flanagan thinks it would be nice if hockey games were like Christmas gifts. That way, one could stop and savor that first-ever win for the Orange over Mercyhurst, and just take the games at Boston College and Clarkson back to the store and never think of them again.
Northeastern’s Dave Flint tries to avoid watching Pittsburgh Penguins games, because once he does, the rest of his day is invariably spent in frustration as he ponders why Taylor Crosby became a goaltender.
Yale’s Joakim Flygh is trying to decide if the glass is half-full or half-empty in New Haven. Yes, some might have anticipated a bit more from Yale, whose .500 record includes a win over Sacred Heart. It’s still an improvement for a team that didn’t record double-digit wins last season and three short years ago finished 1-27-1.
Minnesota’s Brad Frost is battling depression in Minneapolis after the third straight semester in which his team failed to go undefeated.
Two years ago, Ohio State’s Nate Handrahan’s team went into the break ranked No. 10, but then opened the second half of the season by going 2-9-1. He has solved that problem by only giving the Buckeyes one weekend off for the holiday, and thus, less time at home with mom’s baking.
Dartmouth’s Mark Hudak is quickly becoming a believer in the theory that hockey games are a race to three goals. The Big Green are undefeated when scoring at least three, but have lost all six when scoring two or fewer. Dartmouth didn’t tally as many as three times in any of its 20 losses last year, either.
North Dakota’s Brian Idalski and his team are appreciating the family time that the holiday break offers all the more this year after the serious automobile accident involving sophomore Lisa Marvin that necessitated her hospitalization for a week in November.
Wisconsin’s Mark Johnson recently announced that he’ll be leaving Madison at the end of the season to become the next coach at Minnesota-Duluth. Just kidding, Badgers fans. Like the drive to grandma’s house, these things get a little long, and sometimes you need a little something to wake you up and get you refocused.
Jeff Kampersal gets to enjoy the holidays a bit more this year, after having to prepare for coaching the United States in the Under-18 World Championships the previous two seasons. He’s in his 19th season at the helm at Princeton, and the Tigers have recorded double-digit wins in his first 18.
Boston College’s Katie King Crowley is getting into the holiday spirit in Chestnut Hill by doing the “Elf on the Shelf” thing. So far, all of her pictures have displayed the elf in a hockey net. She says with her players, that’s where everything ends up.
Scott McDonald and RIT got off to a strong 5-2-1 start to the year, but finished with a rough 2-9-2 stretch that leaves the team four games below .500 for the first time since moving to Division-I. Most of the losses have come without star goaltender Ali Binnington, who carried the Tigers to their first CHA championship in March.
Minnesota State’s Eric Means is spending more time working with kids in Mankato this year. I thought it was nice that he is giving back to the community by helping out youth, but he says it is actually his varsity team.
Shannon Miller recently learned that the 16th year isn’t that sweet after all, at least not in Duluth.
Maine’s Richard Reichenbach and his wife and assistant Sara welcomed daughter Mia into their family on Aug. 30. We always hear of children growing up around hockey, but usually not so literally. Link: http://www.goblackbears.com/sports/w-hockey/2014-15/videos/20141217-knmbmvwr
Eric Rud is adjusting to being back in St. Cloud after spending three years in Colorado, where both the arena and the fans are a mile high.
First-year coach James Scanlan has the shortest break of any coach with only 12 days off between games. It really amounts to just another bye week, one of five for Bemidji State over the course of the season.
Rick Seeley is enjoying the view from atop the ECAC standings. Still, he gets a bit of an uneasy feeling to see that his team has 13 wins. Over the previous four seasons, Quinnipiac has had an average of exactly 13 wins at the break, but didn’t reach double digits in victories after the new year in any of those campaigns.
Contrary to popular belief, Mercyhurst’s Mike Sisti has found that his head actually feels heavier on those rare instances when he isn’t the one wearing the crown.
Lindenwood’s Scott Spencer and New Hampshire’s Hilary Witt are lobbying the NCAA to adopt the approach of the International Olympic Committee or FIFA for the World Cup and allow the hosts to automatically participate in upcoming Frozen Fours in St. Charles and Durham.
Harvard’s Katey Stone is back in Cambridge after traveling the world during the early part of the year. Sochi, Russia, was one of her destinations, but apparently that trip lasted a few minutes too long.
The holiday break is a hard time for St. Lawrence’s Chris Wells. He’s not accustomed to going four weeks without pulling his goalie for an extra attacker.
Like many families, we have our share of differences. For example, we can agree that on-ice officials are wrong about half the time, but we disagree about which half. So we’ll close by saying Happy New Year, and the very best wishes for whatever other holiday you may celebrate that we couldn’t agree on how to spell.