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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Brown can be his break
Crosstown coaching vacancy should call for ex-Friar Lassonde

At this rate, if hired to any collegiate hockey head coaching post at all, David Lassonde would be the equivalent of a 22-year-old freshman who graduated from high school, made a three-year development detour through the junior ranks, and subsequently red-shirted for his first year on campus.

A one-game wonder in his days as a Friar –having consumed precisely 60 minutes, 32 shots faced, and 29 saves worth of crease time in the 1981-82 season- Lassonde has kicked countless ice chips over that mediocre legacy as a career Division I assistant. As of this summer, he has amassed two full decades worth of feeding off the wisdom of head coaches such as Bob Kullen (New Hampshire, 1989-90), Jeff Sauer (Wisconsin, 1991-94), Mark Mazzoleni (Miami, 1994-97), and Dick Umile (UNH, 1990-91, 1997-present).

On paper, that ought to have him hovering near, if not right at, the top of the list of candidates to replace program founder Mike Kemp at the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s head coaching position. Yet by all counts, the choices standing out in the talks are Mike Hastings –once a 14-year foreman in the United States League- and current Boston University sidekick David Quinn, primarily owing to the Omaha suitcase stickers they have each collected through either the Mavericks or the USHL Lancers.

Let it be. For in the wake of Roger Grillo’s resignation from the head post at Brown University this week, a much more accessible and fitting opening is calling for Lassonde.

An even dozen years have passed since Grillo became the man of the ice house on Hope Street while Lassonde returned to New England to kindle a longer lasting gig in Umile’s office. By each program’s standards, those twelve years –especially the ones freshest in memory- are tricky to describe in gentle terms.

Although Lassonde has pitched in an effort to steer the citizens of Lake Whittemore to six first place finishes in Hockey East, two Lamoriello Trophies, 11 NCAA tournaments, and four Frozen Fours, the ultimate goal has cruelly eluded the Wildcats. And lately, the futility has grown bolder seeing as UNH is going on seven years with neither a Hockey East playoff crown nor a trip to the NCAA’s final frontier.

Meantime, the Bears –wholly bereft of ECAC hardware in their history and without a national bracket berth since 1993- just rounded out their sixth single-digit win season under Grillo and eighth such finish in 14 years. Who better to anchor a sensible stride up from the bottom-feeder than a man who could use a chance to take a little more control of his students and a less sultry pressure cooker?

Of course, Lassonde is hardly a lock here, either. One cannot help but evoke the ornate ECAC resume of Friars’ assistant Stan Moore, who as the top skipper at Union and Colgate garnered conference coach of the year honors in 1997 and 2004 respectively. Perhaps Moore is on the Pat Burns path to replenishing decency and winning that top coach accolade with yet a third team.

Then again, especially considering PC boss Tim Army’s firm reminder this week that he is staying true to his protracted contract, there is next-to-no indication that he will allow his staff to disintegrate. Conversely, in wake of the Omaha notation, Lassonde is fair game to bolt Umile’s administration for a second time.

Furthermore, both parties concerned –even if not openly- are itching for a clean sheet. The Bears are already destined to get that with Grillo already settling in to his new position with USA Hockey. And sooner or later, Lassonde is going to have to get his break.

And, hey, if it happens, by the time the puck drops on the 2011-2012 edition of the Mayor’s Cup, he will have officially coached more regulation minutes in Schneider Arena than he ever played there.

Similar stock, different approach?
Well, the Tim Army Corps has officially surpassed its own year-old record. With the formal confirmation of six additional incoming freshman this week, the program that commenced training camp for the 2008-09 season with an overloaded 31-man roster anticipates dressing 32 players at the next captain’s practice.

Losses from the last class picked by Paul Pooley & Staff: four forwards in Kyle Laughlin, Nick Mazzolini, John Mori, and Pierce Norton; one puckslinging defenseman in Matt Taormina; and one goaltender in Chris Mannix.

Gains stemming from the bushel of newbies: six forwards, two backliners, and one stopper.

The immediate upshot: Army will have a grand total of 21 forwards (yet another new record, besting the 20 he started off with about nine months ago), seven defenders, and four goalies at his disposal. In other words, there shall be up to seven forward lines, one spare body on the blue line, and two substitutes for the cage.

The long-term upshot looks fuzzy at best. After all, the general dysfunction and abysmal transcript that highlighted the 2008-09 campaign can be largely attributed to the natural difficulty carrying such a populous dressing room. Even with the self-deletion of forward Chad Johnson and defenders Bryce Aneloski and Joe Lavin and the all but season-long injuries to Ryan Simpson, Shawn Tingley, and Matt Tommasiello, there still looked to be a little internal competition that ultimately diverted everyone from the external competition.

How many times have we heard educational reform advocates stressing the value of smaller class size? Based on recent history, the same concept applies to the men’s wing at Schneider Arena.

But perhaps this time around, the open-to-adjustments Army will have learned the intangible value of the redshirt.

Five-ring binder
As expected, PC 2006 alumna Karen Thatcher is still standing –opposite nine fellow Minnesota Whitecaps, 13 fellow U.S. national veterans, and 16 aspirant newbies- for tomorrow’s start of the Olympic team’s National Performance Evaluation Camp.

Other notable names relevant to east coast followers, and most all-too-familiar to Friartownies: Chanda Gunn (Northeastern alumna); Kacey Bellamy (freshly graduated from UNH); Molly Schaus and Kelli Stack (each rising BC seniors); Sarah Parsons (rising Dartmouth senior); Helen Resor (fresh out of Yale); and Meghan Duggan (Danvers, Mass., but a priceless gift to the banner-hoisting Badgers of Wisconsin).

Just a few floors down, BC skipper Katie King has been tabbed to teach next year’s installment of the national U18 team, with assistance from Shelley Looney of Nagano medal-clinching-goal fame and Catherine Hansen, Jackie Barto’s longtime sidekick behind the Ohio State bench.

Odd couple honored
Natural competitors during business hours and clear-cut Commonwealth comrades the rest of the time, BC skipper Jerry York and BU puck professor Jack Parker will be dually honored with this year’s Special Achievement Award at the Boston Sports Museum. The Museum’s eighth annual “Tradition” ceremony –featuring fellow honorees Troy Brown, Ken Hodge, Sam Jones, Nancy Kerrigan, and Curt Schilling- will be conducted two weeks from this Wednesday, some 96 nights since they last formally got together at the Garden for their 66th chess match in 15 years.

Quick Feeds: Plattsburgh State women’s head coach Kevin Houle has offered confirmation that would-be PC junior goaltender Jen Smith has transferred to his Division III program for the coming autumn. With no legitimate doubt, the Friars will seek to plug the resultant void in their now two-member goalie guild sometime within the next three months. Please stand by…The St. Lawrence women have already unveiled their 2009-10 game schedule, including a visit from the Friars for Saturday, October 10, at 4:00 p.m.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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