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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

How they can be fine in ‘09
Rational, feasible resolutions for all Hockey East tenants

Boston College: By now –in fact, way beyond now- it is second nature knowledge that a BC youngster is expected to perform beyond his years. With no more than six goals or eight points apiece and plus/minus rates below the poverty line, this is the exact message that Cam Atkinson, Paul Carey, Tommy Cross, and Jimmy Hayes must resolve to start swearing by. Carey, in particular, could dish up a lot more salsa-based rubber if he just shot more frequently (four goals on a shallow 22 SOG over his first 13 games). And with a similarly slow start after a radiant rookie campaign, sophomore Joe Whitney could indubitably stand to step it up as well.

Boston University- Compared to recent preceding seasons, Professor Parker’s Pupils have sculpted a much better long-term savings account by sweeping their first five nonconference contests. Now would be the time to assert themselves amongst their Hockey East cohabitants, against whom they have charged up an iffier 6-4-1 transcript thus far.

Maine- Supra-.500 again so soon, maybe now the Black Bears can start thinking about trying to arrange their first Causeway Street engagement since 2006. To do that, though, they’ll need to pad on a couple of layers of offensive punch to go with the surprising reliability of freshman goalie Scott Darling. And despite a passable 5-4-1 intraleague record, Maine is a collective -4 during Hockey East games this season. For the love of their fan base, they shouldn’t signal satisfaction in merely rekindling their playoff contention.

Massachusetts- Getting scorer Will Ortiz and stopper Paul Dainton back in the regular rotation and back in their respective standard forms should only bolster the Minutemen’s endeavor to boardhop over the right side of the .500 fence. The ordinarily reliable Ortiz missed four of his team’s first 15 games and had but a solitary goal and assist in that span.

UMass-Lowell- For a program whose coach, Blaise MacDonald, has recently lauded the stimulating, auscpicious buzz it gets from its home crowd, the Riverhawks could sure do a little more to return the favor. They hit their break brandishing an edgy 5-4-0 log at Tsongas Arena, all four of those losses coming against Hockey East foes. Lowell must learn to neutralize the self-stirred pressure to stir cute home cooking as well as the external pressure that comes with closeness. They are currently 0-5 overall in one-goal decisions. But perhaps consistent health in their robust goaltending tandem of Nevin Hamilton and Carter Hutton can serve as a start.

Merrimack- Some thirty-plus years ago, a Charlestown fan told another renowned blue-and-gold club, “You guys have gotta stop losing. Get the power play together.” Ditto these guys, who have subsisted much to disproportionately on the goaltending of Joe Cannata and Andrew Brathwaite.

New Hampshire- Much to their fan base’s brimful impatience, the Wildcats are in limbo as far as home ice for the HEA quarter-final and an at-large NCAA bid are concerned. Could an upward dash away from their chin-to-chin 52-51 GF-GA differential remedy that itch? Could a depth chart with up to 10 more James vanRiemsdyks and Mike Sislos be in order, perhaps?

Northeastern- The fast forthcoming priority for the first-place Huskies (whuh oh, sound familiar?) is to stay hot long enough to, for once, make this year anybody’s Beanpot. And while Northeastern is tops in Hockey East in the way of penalty killing, they have coincidentally taken more citations from the refs than any of their peers. They ought to can that habitual torch-juggling before the PK blows a tire in front of an established powerhouse come crunch time.

Providence- The statistically and psychologically bloodied Friars ought to link up with Farmer’s Insurance and let their sanity make a comeback. Once they’ve implanted that, the long-cold likes of senior captain Kyle Laughlin (two points and two benching in the team’s first 16 games) and junior pivot Greg Collins (one assist in eight appearances) need to re-amp their productivity to salvage the morale, not to mention PC’s shot at a 25th consecutive Hockey East playoff passport.

Vermont- Their #7 rank in the league scoring charts is a tad deceptive as the Catamounts have only inserted 12 fewer goals than the leading stick rack from BU. However, the goaltending of Mike Spillane and Rob Madore has yet to sufficiently fill the pads of Joe Fallon. If the not-so-shabby Catamounts can diligently fortify their own borders, they should cement their certificate as a constant contender.

Boston College- BC sculpted one of the league’s more roundly braced resumes throughout the first half of the season –during which they consumed just over half of their WHEA schedule- pacing itself to a 10-4-3 overall record and a first-place 7-3-1 transcript within the conference. However, a majority of their chasers have 3-4 games in hand, leaving the Eagles with the wager of continuing to stoke their flare and prop up their momentum ever as their frequency of game activity decelerates in the stretch drive.

Boston University- Only once out of six possible occasions have the Terriers whittled off Hockey East points within regulation time. Two other conference wins have required a shootout and another three could-be two-pointers wound up only half-full finishes. Another pinch of persistence would be a requisite as the four-year-old program vies to continue its exponential ascent.

Connecticut- Assertive as they are with a top-slot stick rack and special teams net rate, UConn could still use better depth beyond the tireless puckslinging of Dominique Thibault, Michelle Binning, and Amy Hollstein. The three constituted 37 of the Huskies’ first 61 goals scored over 19 games. That’s all fine, but they needed one or two more lines of this caliber to break the program’s conference banner/NCAA tourney barriers.

Maine- Weave in every third period of their first 19 games, and the score reads a deficit of 31-12. Short on stamina much? And we all thought it was the neighboring UNH Wildcats with the numerically challenged bench.

New Hampshire- Granted, it has not exactly been the Easter Egg Hunt of flaws some had anticipated before the Wildcats commenced their campaign with merely 17 rostered players. Everyone is scoring and/or defending at a rate worthy of at least a B+ and the team is in the thick of the reckonable realm with a 4-1-4 league log and 9-4-5 national transcript. Naturally, the second-half wager is to keep their tanks from giving out in Part II. Boundless fuel and discipline are no-duh essentials for activity beyond February.

Northeastern- Kristi Kehoe’s scoring posture, when measured up with that of her associates, cries “Help Wanted” with a Juno-like volume. Though propped up by the league’s #1 goalie guild of Florence Schelling and Leah Sulyma, Northeastern ranks dead last in the WHEA’s scoring charts, with Kehoe’s 11 strikes constituting over one-third of the team total of 29. Before they go forward, a one-dimensionality awareness lecture from men’s coach Greg Cronin would be advisable for the Hub Huskies Sorority.

Providence- The Friars sat through their protracted hiatus at #4 in the way of power play proficiency, penalty killing, and intraleague point cultivation. Might an upgrade in special teams proportionately upgrade their stature in the standings? It couldn’t hurt. Nor could the same suggested recipe for Northeastern: i.e keep the supernaturally stellar goaltending as is, but pack some more punch in the offense.

Vermont- The Catamounts have charged up a grand total of seven first period goals in a space of 17 games versus an aggregate 13 apiece for their middle and closing frames. A habitually chop-chop flick of the ignition could only help this program’s endeavor to crash its first playoff party.

Quick Feeds: So, the Patriots do everything right on their part in the climactic stages of the regular season and still miss out on the post-season? That anguishing upshot must feel all-too-familiar to those Foxborough football buffs who double as women’s hockey Superfans at Chestnut Hill…BC’s Brock Bradford, Maine’s Chris Hahn, and Vermont’s Dean Strong are the remaining Hockey East satellites in the Lowe’s Senior Class Award derby. The national pool of 20 candidates will be halved to 10 next month…This author’s picks for the out-of-market game of the week: Top dog Notre Dame hosts a weekend series with Alaska, which is still grittily clinching a perch in the Top 20 national leaderboard.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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