BOSTON -- We did a little digging, found out who’s been naughty and nice, and intercepted a few Wish Lists meant for Santa. From the bottom up, here’s a look at the Hockey East teams' lists, with a bonus appearance from ECAC Hockey’s Harvard, given the Crimson’s proximity to Boston.
HARVARD (2-8-0, 2-7-0 ECAC Hockey): The Crimson are no doubt seeing red, given their first-half flop, which even included an exhibition loss to the Sweden U-20 team. As a result, things have been looking pretty gloomy at the Bright Center.
Coach Ted Donato: A few breaks would bring a bit of joy to our team right now. A couple of wins here and there, just to save face in Boston. I’m getting mighty weary of hearing BC this, or BU that. We’ve been lighting the lamp less than twice per game, so some offensive pop would really be appreciated. Those four goals in 36 power-play opportunities is not exactly striking fear in the hearts of our opponents. A Beanpot trophy would be nice, too. We haven’t won the darn thing since 1993. Plus, if there are any more Biega boys crawling out of the woodwork, I hope they come my way.
UMASS-LOWELL (2-14-2, 2-10-0 Hockey East): The River Hawks lost a ton of experience from last year’s squad, including both goaltenders, so expectations were tempered right out of the gate. It’s been a bumpy ride since. Lowell got thumped by Maine, 8-2, in the season opener, and has managed only two wins (Providence and Vermont) since. And things don’t get any easier for the River Hawks in the New Year -- they open the second half of the season at New Hampshire.
Coach Blaise MacDonald: I don’t know where to start. And if I ask for everything we need, I’m going to appear greedy. We sure didn’t need those back-to-back spankings at Princeton to finish the semester. We’re dead-last in team defense, and next-to-last in team offense. We’re also the least-penalized team in the league, so maybe we’ve got to get some nasty. Our special-teams play (4th in penalty kill, 3rd in power play) has been solid, so I’ll risk the trade-off. Short of the second coming of Dwayne Roloson, I’d just like to get that extra save or two from my young goalies. That 3.94 team goals-against average is brutal. Oh, and an extra-large carton of Tums would be appreciated.
VERMONT (2-8-4, 1-6-3 Hockey East): After Vermont squeaked into the NCAAs last spring, the current season has been a stunning stumble back to earth. Losing your top five scorers will do that. With the exception of a five-goal outburst at home against Boston College back on Nov. 13, and Sunday’s crazy 6-5 win over Dartmouth, the Catamounts have been offensively inept. Coupled with a team goals-against average of 3.31, second only behind UMass-Lowell in Hockey East, and Vermont has a slew of issues to deal with. A solid showing at the New Year’s Catamount Cup tournament in Burlington would be a big bump for a team in desperate need of one.
Coach Kevin Sneddon: I keep hearing other coaches complain about a lack of offense, but we’re rock-bottom in that category. Sheesh, we don’t even have 20 goals in nine league games. Then, on Sunday, we erupt for six against a pretty good Dartmouth team. Where did that come from? I just hope it wasn’t an early Christmas present, because we could use more of that in the New Year. And I'd like to tighten things up on the blue line. Oh, and I could probably use a bottle of Just For Men, since winning seesaw 6-5 games is going to age me prematurely.
MASSACHUSETTS (3-7-3, 2-4-3 Hockey East): The youthful Minutemen struggled to start the season, going winless in their first nine games. However, Toot Cahoon’s charges began to find their legs in mid-November, and looked promising in wins over Vermont, Quinnipiac and UMass-Lowell. Look for more from the young guns in Amherst.
Coach Donald “Toot” Cahoon: I had a hunch it would be rough sledding to start, so I’m not too disappointed at this point in the season. I’m encouraged that we’re scoring in the latter stages of games, so maybe I’d ask for a little more urgency from my boys. We’ve got only eight first-period goals, which usually translates into us playing catch-up hockey. And we’re not good enough to do that very often. That was a tidy three-game win streak late in the semester, before that 4-1 hiccup at Maine on Sunday, so I’m asking for more of those.
NORTHEASTERN (3-9-4, 3-6-3 Hockey East): The Huskies have been respectable on the defensive end, and just plain futile on offense. They work hard, hustle, and never quit. But the results aren’t there yet, and coach Greg Cronin looked noticeably weary after dropping a semester-ending 5-4 decision at BU. It didn’t help that stalwart sophomore goaltender Chris Rawlings, the team’s backbone through the early season, was pulled from the BU game after allowing four goals in only 13 shots.
Coach Greg Cronin: Instead of coal, we need more goals. And enough with the goofy penalties. We need scoring, and that’s not going to happen while we’re sitting in the box. Northeastern is a good school -- is it too much to ask that my guys play a little smarter? Right now, we’re leading the league in penalties, and it's not the category I want to be the front-runner in. And the Beanpot. We’ve won only four times in 59 freakin’ years, for crying out loud, and the last one in 1988. It’s about time we got a little puck luck the first two Mondays in February. I’m not whining or anything -- just looking for a fair shake here.
PROVIDENCE (7-6-5, 3-3-4 Hockey East): The Friars are riding a roller coaster so far this season. They started with a win, promptly dropped four straight, and then went on a seven-game undefeated streak. Go figure. To make matters worse, they’ve hardly hit the iron of their schedule, so it’s going to be interesting to see if Tim Army can get his boys up for the big games come second semester.
Coach Tim Army: Relevance. I want the Friars to be relevant again. Is that too much to ask? Remember, I was there, on the ice, when Chris Terreri and the rest of us flat-out stole the first Hockey East title 27 years ago. That seems like a lifetime ago. Missing the playoffs the last two years nearly killed me. It was worse than my hip replacement surgery. A more potent power play would be a huge step toward getting us back into contention. We’re just not getting it done (7/80, 8.8 percent) with the extra man. Alex Beaudry has been a stud in net, so I’m thankful for that.
MAINE (7-4-4, 5-3-2 Hockey East): Will the real Maine please stand up? Really, what can you say about a team that crushes national power North Dakota twice at home, and then gets spanked twice by a combined 8-1 margin against Boston College? There have been some nice results in between, like a hard-fought 2-2 tie with BU in Boston, but consistency continues to plague the Black Bears.
Coach Tim Whitehead: We here in Orono feel a certain kindred spirit with Santa, since most folks treat us like we’re from the North Pole. We’ve been inconsistent, never really bad, but not good enough over long stretches, especially recently. That last-second loss to New Hampshire at home Friday was a tough one. Glad we had a chance to bounce back against Massachusetts. Now I just want a home seed for the Hockey East playoffs; that home crowd at the Alfond is the best. And if we can get one or more of our young goalkeepers to start channeling their inner Jimmy Howard, that would be nice. Lastly, I'd like an elf or someone to disconnect the battery to Gustav Nyquist’s car, just in case he had any ideas of leaving Orono after the season.
MERRIMACK (7-4-4, 5-4-3 Hockey East): One of the big question marks heading into the season was whether the Warriors would be for real. The answer is a resounding “yes.” Even when they lose, the Warriors make certain that their opponents knew they were in a game (three of their four losses were one-goal affairs). In fact, the Warriors cracked the nation’s Top 20 for the first time since the North Pole froze over, and more good things may be happening in North Andover.
Coach Mark Dennehy: If this is all a dream, I don’t want to wake up. Two wins against the defending national champs? And a Top 20 national ranking? I feel like I’ve already had Christmas! So, if I was being covetous (which, of course, I’m not), I’d like to ask for an NCAA bid. A couple of early second-half wins against Maine (1/8) and BU (1/12) would go a long way, I think. If the guys keep playing hungry, that’s going to give us a chance every night. So would the continued stellar play of my No. 1 keeper, Joe Cannata, since he’s not flying under anybody’s radar anymore. Oh, and lastly it'd be nice if Stephane Da Costa decides he loves college so much that he ignores any offers from NHL clubs and returns for one more season.
BOSTON UNIVERSITY (8-4-5, 6-3-4 Hockey East): After a quick start to the season, which led to a brief dalliance with the country’s No. 1 ranking, the developing Terriers have cooled considerably. Coach Jack Parker scoffed at the high ranking in early November, but was genuinely concerned that his young squad lacked confidence after back-to-back beatings at the hands of the BC Eagles.
Coach Jack Parker: First, I'm thankful for the new lease on life this past summer. The ticker feels great. Just ask the refs. As for my team, I just don’t want these guys to get too full of themselves. Some of them think they’ve already hit the top, just because they’re pulling on a BU sweater. They came out and fought against Northeastern (Dec. 8) after we got manhandled by Boston College, and then we go up to RPI and get pancaked. The second half of this season is going to be interesting. You’d think with all the NHL-caliber ability we’ve got, our power play would be cranking. Instead, it’s sputtering. Any ideas from Santa, or whomever, would be great. I’ve been dong this a long time, but the young kids can still drive me batty, no matter how talented they are.
BOSTON COLLEGE (9-4-0, 11-5-0 Hockey East): It was a terrific start for the Eagles, with two big wins over Denver, and then a little inconsistent stretch, losing four of their next seven. Two home wins against Maine got the Eagles back on a roll, though, and from mid-November on, they’ve been very, very good indeed, capping off the first half of the season with a pair of thrashings over arch rival Boston University, 9-5 and 5-2, respectively.
Coach Jerry York: The way my guys are playing right now, I wouldn’t mind a super-duper remote control -- like the one Adam Sandler had in "Click" -- with a space-age fast-forward button so we could get started with the NCAA playoffs right now. I mean, how good have our guys been in the last three games? We outscored our opponents 20-7. Sharing the league lead for penalty minutes with Northeastern is a tad disconcerting, but the way we score shorthanded goals, it’s difficult to complain. My other wish is for nothing to happen to my four sophomores heading up to Buffalo and the Worlds Junior Championships over the break. Having Tommy Cross back with two sound knees would be a plus. Oh, and a new set of custom Pings would be nice, too!
NEW HAMPSHIRE (10-2-4, 8-1-2 Hockey East): The Wildcats have been the surprise of the season in the eyes of many college hockey observers, sitting atop Hockey East with 18 points in 11 games. And they’re doing it with typical UNH firepower. Over the past nine games, the Wildcats' superb top line of Phil DeSimone, Paul Thompson and Mike Sislo has combined for 53 points on 15 goals and 38 assists. Timely scoring from Dalton Speelman and timely goaltending from Matt DeGirolamo has also been a big boost for Dick Umile’s squad.
Coach Dick Umile: The guys are playing great, especially my first line, and DeGirolamo has been a revelation in goal. So, for 2011, I’d like, um, a nice piece of hardware. We’ve been hearing the same old joke for years, and it’s getting irritating. What’s worse, the football coach here keeps telling me he’s gonna win a national championship first. That’s driving me nuts. I’m tired of being regular-season wonders. Oh, and I'd like a whistle for (associate head coach) Scott Borek, just in case I happen to lose my voice while ranting at these guys! It’s for their own good. Really.