Looking at Hockey East coaches’ letters to Santa Claus this holiday season

Joseph Woll (BC - 31), Jackson Pierson (UNH - 11), Christopher Brown (BC - 10) - The Boston College Eagles tied the visiting University of New Hampshire Wildcats 2-2 on Friday, November 16, 2018, at Kelley Rink in Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. (Melissa Wade)
Boston College and visiting New Hampshire played to a 2-2 tie back on Nov. 16 at Kelley Rink in Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Mass. (photo: Melissa Wade).

I’ve once again intercepted mail from Hockey East arenas to the North Pole and am sharing it with you.

On Massachusetts stationery:

Ho-ho-ho from Amherst, Massachusetts!

Christmas has come early for the Minutemen. For the first time ever, we’re ranked No. 1 in the nation. No. 1 in the nation! No, I haven’t been hitting the egg nog too hard. It’s real!

We’re undefeated in Hockey East play, and 12-1-0 overall. It doesn’t get much better than that.

So Santa, we’ve obviously been very, very good this year. Let the UMass juggernaut keep rolling through the postseason, and keep those great recruiting classes coming.

On Northeastern stationery:

You know, Santa, if it weren’t for those guys out in Amherst, Northeastern would be the talk of the league. A lot of people thought we’d take a step back here on Huntington Avenue after losing our big line from last year: Hobey Baker Award winner Adam Gaudette, Dylan Sikura and Nolan Stevens.

Instead, we’re second in the league with a 5-1-1 record and 9-3-1 overall. So much for those who thought this would be a rebuilding year. (I believe I saw that word in the USCHO season preview. Ahem!)

We’ll be happy with more of what we’ve seen so far this year and maybe even the highlights from past years. Back-to-back Beanpots would be really sweet. I’m looking forward to our fans chanting to those from BU and BC, “Where’s your Beanpot?”

Return trips to the Garden and the NCAA tournament finish off my wish list.

How about it?

On Providence stationery:

Santa, Nate Leaman here.

I can’t really complain about where we stand: 5-2-1 in Hockey East play, good for third place, and 8-4-3 overall. Once again, we’re one of the league’s top defenses, and we’re scoring plenty, too.

Maybe if we got a little more puck luck, some of those ties would turn into wins and the one-goal losses–I’m especially thinking of the back-to-back ones to UMass–would turn into ties.

It’s all about the process, though, so I’ll take small improvements every practice to get us where we need to be. Can your elves gift-wrap that?

On Boston College stationery:

Well hello, Santa, this is Jerry York.

I was thinking for a while there that we’d be in no holiday spirit to be leaving milk and cookies for you this year. Not after losing our first five games of the year! How does that happen after we brought back every player from last year’s team that won the regular season title? That start sent folks scrambling for the record books.

Fortunately, we’ve righted the ship so we’re now 4-1-2 in Hockey East play. Still in striking distance of first place.

But with an 0-5-0 record outside of conference–including a 4-2 loss to Bentley at home (hardly like losing to Notre Dame in South Bend or the Siou–oops!–the Fighting Hawks at the Ralph)– we’re still below .500 overall. Which means we’re also in striking distance of what happened last year, namely a first place finish and a trip to the Hockey East semifinals, but no NCAA tournament.

I may be biased–well, of course I’m biased–but it doesn’t seem like an NCAA tournament without the Eagles. So how about an NCAA tournament appearance, Santa? From there, we’ll see how far we can take it.

On UMass Lowell stationery:

For several years, Santa, everything we touched turned to gold. In the span of six years, we enjoyed two regular season titles, three Hockey East championships, and five NCAA tournament appearances.

Life was good. Great, in fact.

Then last year we fell back to the middle of the pack for the first time since I came here. Two games under .500. Not a crashing fall into the cellar. Nothing like the last place, 4-21-2 league record that faced me when I arrived.

So not awful, just mediocre. But we’ve gotten used to better than mediocre. Unfortunately, we’ve started out in the middle of the pack again: 3-3-1 in Hockey East and 7-6-1 overall.

So Santa, give us a boost out of that middle of the pack back into the upper echelons we enjoyed so much.

On Maine stationery:

Santa, this is Red Gendron.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This silly letter-writing thing is just a cockamamie idea of that USCHO nitwit Hendrickson.

But I’ll play along if you’ll allow me an eye roll or two.

Last year, we rebounded from a couple down seasons to finish a couple games over .500 overall. And after hearing from guys like Hendrickson about how we couldn’t win games on the road, we went 9-8-1 away from Alfond. (Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.)

We’re in the middle of the pack again so far this year, so it’s good that we haven’t fallen off again, but what would be really nice is if we gave Black Bear fans a great season. Not a good one, but a great one to really get the building shaking like in the good old days.

I’m not saying we have to win a national title. But we’ve had only one NCAA appearance in the last 11 seasons, and the last time was 2012.

So how about an earth-shaking second half that makes Alfond really rock again?

If you’re really real, make Alfond thunder again. End of story.

On Boston University stationery:

Santa, Albie O’Connell here. The new guy. I’m not the guy replacing the legend. I’m replacing the guy who replaced the legend. In theory, that’s the way to do it.

David Quinn, however, had considerable success replacing Jack Parker, the legend. In five years, Quinn led the Terriers to two regular season titles, two Hockey East tournament titles, and four NCAA appearances, including coming within a whisker of winning a national championship in 2015.

So the expectations are as high as they’ve always been here at BU. I’m happy with that, and I love being here. I have great confidence we’ll achieve that success.

But good grief, we got off to a horrible start. We lost our first four games. Three of the four were to Top 10 teams, but still, starting oh-fer is not what the doctor ordered.

We’ve rebounded a bit, but we managed only a single point in our weekend series with BC. That leaves 4-7-2 overall.

Talk about a bag of coal in the stocking.

Hey, we’re 4-4-2 in Hockey East, so we can make some headway there, but the clock is ticking.


How about a jumpstart to a great turnaround, big guy? Whaddya say?

On Connecticut stationery:

I gotta say, I was hoping for better this year than 2-7-1 in Hockey East and 5-9-1 overall. We’ve had some good wins, but we’ve lost five straight now. And we finish the first half with a home-and-home at my old stopping grounds at the Heights.

I’m hoping our trip Belfast for the Friendship Four pays off as a bonding experience–unfortunately, we lost both games–and the team closeness results in the kind of stretch run we’ve seen from past participants in that tourney.

I’m not going to ask for anything specific, Santa, but it’s been an important part of building this program to get a little bit better each year. We’ve got our work cut out for us to keep that going, given this start, but I believe in these guys.

So here’s the math, Santa. We’re 5-9-1 overall and need to improve on last year’s 15-19-2? Got it?

Or are you a bit math-challenged, you big lug, you? If so, we need to do one game better than 10-10-1 the rest of the way. I’d like to talk titles and NCAA bids, of course, but my version of gift-wrapped socks and underwear beneath the tree will be to go at least 11-10-0.

Anything less would be a really ugly tie.

On New Hampshire stationery:

Hey, Santa, Mike Souza here. The new guy at UNH. Yeah, I’m the guy replacing the legend–Dick Umile–but since the last few years have been tough here in Durham, fans have a little bit of patience.

“Little bit” is the operative part of that phrase.

They don’t expect us to make the NCAA tournament this year. Which is a good thing since we’ve opened with a 1-4-3 mark within the league and 2-7-5 overall. People want more but can live with that if the glory days eventually return.

And those were glorious days. Ten straight NCAA tournament appearances, and fourteen of fifteen. Seven Hockey East regular season titles, two tournament championships. Four Frozen four appearances in a six-year stretch.

My four years as a player were four of the best. The goal is to duplicate that (and more in the form of a national championship) as a coach.

So Santa, I’m fine with there not being much beneath the tree this year, just so there’s lots in the years to come.

Just like the good old days.

On Merrimack stationery:

Let me introduce myself. Scott Borek, another one of the new guys.

Oftentimes, we don’t get a lot respect here at Merrimack. We’re small, and have to take on the persona of The Little Engine That Could. We’re not like those holiday commercials in which a couple has bought each other new cars. That might be some of the other teams in this league, but not us.

For example, we were picked to finish last in the preseason coaches’ poll. Not for the first time. Won’t be a last.

Well, we aren’t in last place, but we are next-to-last (2-6-0, and 4-10-1 overall). That said, wanna guess, Santa, who those two wins were over? How about if you can’t guess, then we get enormous presents, like the college hockey equivalent of two new cars?

What? You guessed that we beat BU and BC? You cheated!

When you come down the chimney, expect a roaring fire.

On Vermont stationery:

Santa, this is Kevin Sneddon.

Bah humbug. Bah humbug. Bah humbug.

We were picked to finish next-to-last in the coaches’ preseason poll, but haven’t lived up to even those low expectations. Right now, we’re in last place with a 1-6-1 record and 4-7-1 overall.

What’s a real kick where it hurts is that we opened the season with a 5-2 stunner over fourth-ranked Michigan. In Ann Arbor. Hail to victors, indeed!

That made everyone forget the polls and think we were on our way to surprising all the doubters. Unfortunately, it’s been a lot of overtime games and one-goal losses since then. Six one-goal losses, including two in overtime.

So we’re nowhere near as bad as our record. But fans of so many teams in so many sports have heard those words so many times, they’ve tuned them out. I might as well say them to the wall.

So Santa, if you could give us a bit of puck luck in those one-goal games, and give us a greasy goal in an overtime here and there, it would be much appreciated.

If not, bah humbug, and you need to go on a diet.