Between the Lines: Feb. 1, 2006
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
OK, so Boston University has won six in a row. OK, so BU is in second place in Hockey East. What does it really mean?
Clearly, the win over Boston College last Friday was the best of this run. The others, it's hard to judge. But the BC win helps put everything in a more positive light.
BU's KRACH rating is 12, which is second best in HEA behind BC's No. 4. And things are even nuttier in the Pairwise, where BU would currently garner a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.
It's easy to be skeptical of BU, because the Terriers still haven't groomed a sniper that would get them over the hump. And they have still shown a tendency to be inconsistent. But as assistant coach David Quinn pointed out, the return of seniors David VanDerGulik and Jekabs Redlihs bring a stability to the team that has helped smooth things out and prevent that inconsistency. Of course, just at that time, John Laliberte went down, so maybe that offsets things a bit.
The discrepency for BU between the KRACH and Pairwise comes because of BU's pretty good record against "Teams Under Consideration," i.e. good teams. But the Pairwise doesn't penalize for losses to lesser lights, some of which BU had. The RPI doesn't care which teams you lost to, and the Pairwise is heavily skewed towards defeating good teams because so many of the criteria take that into consideration.
So BU still has a lot to prove, but is getting there.
Bottom line, with Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and Providence all seemingly hovering and shifting in and out of being true teams of "national interest," it's hard to know where to place the Terriers without seeing evidence in either direction. A few stumbles, and they're in that mish-mosh bubble. A few more wins, and they are solidly entrenched near the top of the ratings with Boston College.
Last week, we talked about the fact that only Boston College was a lock in Hockey East to make the NCAAs, which is hard to believe since we're only seven years removed from HEA having three teams in the Frozen Four. There's a lot of talk about the reasons for this, most of which come down to the WCHA improving its facilities and coaching in the last 10 years or so.
But one thing that is overlooked is the quality of youth players. According to a couple of Hockey East coaches, for some reason, New England is simply not producing as many blue chip kids anymore. This will take some more investigating to determine whether this is valid, and if so, why. But note, for example, that Wisconsin now has 13 players on its roster from the state of Wisconsin. And we all know about Minnesota. Plus Colorado is booming in production. The Western schools have an advantage in geography.
Perhaps we can blame it on Global Warming. I'm fond of blaming that for a lot of things. You got warts? "Global Warming." The Red Sox win the World Series? "Must be Global Warming." ... But in this case, the warmer temps in New England over the last 20 years means less pond hockey. It could be a factor.
Upon Further Review
Michigan State's disallowed goal on national television raised some eyebrows last Friday, mainly because it probably cost the Spartans the game. They settled for a 1-1 tie with Michigan.
At the time, most of us in the CSTV studio and the location were all over the CCHA and/or the refs for taking nine minutes to rule it was not a goal, when the behind-the-net replay shown on TV showed conclusively in about three seconds that Ethan Graham's shot actually went in and through the mesh.
As it turns out, we were wrong. The CCHA got it right — at least in so far as following its protocol.
The NCAA protocol, put on the books this past summer, calls for an overhead camera only in regular-season games. As a result, that was the only camera the referee had access to. If he was informed of the CSTV angle, he was not allowed to use it. Although maybe that's why it took him so long to review it — maybe he knew about that angle and was trying his darndest to find evidence of it on the overhead camera.
Alas, the CCHA and the officials did the right thing. But the issue will be revisited, you can count on that. Sure, there is no way to account for everything, especially in college when not every game is televised, and even if they are, there's a disparate amount of angles depending on the facility and the broadcast operation.
But if a television feed is available, there seems to hardly be any harm in utilizing it. Sure, there will be a disparity between arenas, but as long as it affects both teams equally within that game, there's no reason why that should matter.
* Brandon Kaleniecki made a triumphant return to the lineup this past weekend for the Wolverines. Michigan had been playing inconsistently, thanks in large part to its youth. That's why it really missed the senior Kaleniecki. All he did was score three goals in the two ties against Michigan State. He then added the game winner Tuesday in a 7-3 victory over Western Michigan.
* Can we forgive Phil Kessel for his hijinks after scoring a clinching goal in his hometown of Madison on Saturday — just like we can forgive Minnesota teammate Danny Irmen for his check-me-out shirt-pull after a goal in his native North Dakota? We can. But we don't have to like it. Some will say this brings personality and it's no big deal. But let's not forget that Irmen's showboating came just after he got out of the box for a horrible penalty. Kessel shouldn't necessarily get a pass just because the Badger fans were all over his case all weekend. There's a long way to go, and karma can get 'ya. Call me old-fashioned (hardly) but showboating to that extreme shows a lack of class, regardless of what the locals are doing to you.
* ECAC commissioner Phil Buttafuoco's reign is officially over. He resigned last week, to no one's disappointment. After his fateful reign of disfunction over the hockey side of the ECAC, the league's athletic directors — after years upon years of urging (begging) from this columnist — finally divorced themselves from the ECAC home office two years ago and set up a separate hockey league, vaguely under the ECAC banner. It, once and for all, usurped Buttafuoco's authority, a reign that included neglect of the product, at best. The last two years have been blissful for the ECAC Hockey League. But Buttafuoco was still in control of other ECAC areas, such as D-III hockey and lacrosse. Now, that is over too. Val Belmonte, the one-time Illinois-Chicago head coach, Union athletic director and USA Hockey executive, who now is an assistant to Quinnipiac AD Jack McDonald, would be a prime candidate to take Buttafuoco's place.
* We chronicaled UAA's defensive woes last week that impacts all the rubber their goalies are facing. So things weren't helped this past weekend when the Seawolves had to dip to freshman No. 3 Mike Rosett to get his first NCAA action. No. 2 John DeCaro was not dressed because he was up all night with his wife, who was giving birth to their child. No. 1 Nathan Lawson was then injured nine minutes into the game in a collision with Denver's Peter Stastny. UAA was up 1-0 at the time, then fell behind 2-1 after two periods. DeCaro was able to then dress for the third period, but coach Dave Shyiak stuck with Rosett in the 3-2 loss. The new daddy played the next night in a 5-3 loss. Meanwhile, Lawson is unlikely to play this weekend either.
* Former Yale player Chris Higgins, now with the Montreal Canadiens, grew up on Long Island. He is best friends with current St. Cloud State goalie, and fellow Long Islander, Bobby Goepfert. Goepfert said the two of them used to get together near Higgins' home in Smithtown, and sneak onto Smithtown Landing Golf Course at night to play some par 3s. During the summers, they still get together at Smithtown Landing to play, and not much has changed. "Now he's making a million dollars, but we still sneak on," joked Goepfert. Goepfert recalls that, for whatever reason, Higgins' dad grew up a huge Canadiens' fan, despite living on Long Island, and passed that to Chris. Sure enough, when draft day rolled around, Montreal selected him in the first round. "I called him right before I knew (Montreal was up in the draft)," Goepfert said. "And when they took him, on the tape, you can clearly hear Mrs. Higgins scream 'Oh my god!'" Goepfert said Higgins is having a grand old time in the NHL, as you would suspect, especially when he was put on a line recently with his boyhood idol, Saku Koivu.