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November 22, 2006 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

Be Thankful

by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer

It's not even December yet.

And for college hockey fans, that means that, no matter who you support, your team's fate for this season is far from determined. Nevertheless, some teams (Harvard, Wisconsin) are proving themselves to be early season turkeys, while the sudden success for others (Notre Dame, Quinnipiac) has been all gravy so far.

Still, every team should be thankful at this early juncture in the season. And, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are the reasons why.

HOCKEY EAST

Boston College: The usual suspects are leading the way; be thankful for Joe Rooney and Brian Boyle, who led the Eagles to a huge victory over Maine on Sunday.

Boston University: The offense may have been struggling lately, but despite averaging just 1.83 goals per game over the last six games, the Terriers have only lost one of them.

Maine: After a hot start that included a win over Minnesota on opening night and two-game sweep at North Dakota, the Black Bears clearly have lots to be thankful for. Still, they've now lost back-to-back Sunday games at home to New Hampshire and Boston College.

Massachusetts: Be thankful that the Minutemen have been one of the quietest teams in the country so far — yet they're 6-2-1, thanks in large part to goaltender Jon Quick.

Mass.-Lowell: An astounding 15 freshmen have already seen playing time this year for the River Hawks — who, despite their youth, have managed a respectable 2-3-2 league record through seven games.

Merrimack: After playing the likes of Maine, Boston College, and New Hampshire this month, just be thankful that November is almost over. December opponents include Northeastern and Robert Morris.

New Hampshire: Be thankful for an early season wake-up call, losing to Yale in overtime. Since that loss, the Wildcats are unbeaten in six straight, averaging five goals per game in that span.

Northeastern: Be thankful for a solid effort against Michigan at Yost Ice Arena in October. The Huskies lost the first of a two game set in overtime and won the second game behind Brad Theissen's 45 save performance.

Providence: Things haven't been easy for the Friars this season, but they can at least look forward to defending the Mayor's Cup in this weekend's matchup against Brown.

Vermont: Be thankful for Joe Fallon, whose 1.66 GAA is the 4th best in the nation. With Fallon steadying the defense, the Catamounts have now won four games (all league contests) in a row.

ATLANTIC HOCKEY

Air Force: Be thankful that Eric Ehn (the nation's leading point scorer) and Mike Phillipich have been so productive, almost leading to an upset at home against Colorado College.

American International: The woeful Yellow Jackets are 0-11-0 and actually haven't had a winning season since 1993-94. Just be thankful that you don't have a game today.

Army: Be thankful for goaltender John Cassel's solid play, as coach Brian Riley and the Black Knights are off to an impressive 6-3-2 league start.

Bentley: Jeff Gumaer is leading the way, as the Falcons scored two third period goals on back-to-back nights earlier this year to earn a three point nonconference weekend against Princeton.

Canisius: Despite a rough start, be thankful that a solid group of freshmen - led by hometown product Josh Heidinger, who's 2nd in the nation in points among rookies - could turn the program around in the years to come.

Connecticut: The Huskies may have struggled, but they have three players averaging over a point per game.

Holy Cross: Be thankful for senior forward Jamie Sixsmith (second in the nation in assists), as he tries to lead the Crusaders back to the NCAA tournament.

Mercyhurst: Ben Cottreau is actually on pace to better his impressive 51 point total of last season.

RIT: The Tigers' transition to being a conference member in Division I hockey is going smoothly - in fact, very smoothly, with a 4-2-1 conference record out of the gate.

Sacred Heart: Be thankful for an explosive offense that has coach Shaun Hannah's Pioneers atop the league standings.

CCHA

Alaska: Be thankful that Kyle Greentree (17 points) and Tyler Eckford (13 points) have the boys from Fairbanks in the thick of the CCHA race.

Bowling Green: The Falcons haven't really recovered yet from a three game stretch that included a loss at Boston College and a pair of losses at Miami, but they can be thankful that their pair of young goaltenders are gaining valuable experience for the future.

Ferris State: The Bulldogs have had a tough season so far, but at least they head into Thanksgiving coming off a shutout win over Western Michigan.

Lake Superior: Be thankful that the Lakers (8-4-0) are off to their best start to a season of this millennium. And it was only a matter of time. Remember - this program went to three consecutive national title games in the early 1990s, winning two of them.

Miami: The first-place Redhawks were no fluke last year. Be thankful for an outstanding goalie tandem in Jeff Zatkoff and Charlie Effinger, and for standout junior forward Nathan Davis, who is 2nd in the nation in scoring.

Michigan: Be thankful for Kevin Porter and T.J. Hensick for pacing the nation's second best offense. The Wolverines are scoring 4.54 goals per game thus far and are coming off a win over rival Michigan State this week.

Michigan State: Be thankful that Tim Kennedy and Tim Crowder aren't sophomore-slumping; still, the Spartans could be especially thankful if they can have a solid weekend coming up, when they go on the road for two huge nonconference games — Minnesota on Friday and Wisconsin on Saturday.

Nebraska-Omaha: They may be struggling, but senior Scott Parse is mostly living up to the preseason hype, with 15 points in 13 games so far.

Northern Michigan: Junior forward Mike Santorelli (21 points) is leading the way for the Wildcats, who tied Wisconsin earlier in the season.

Notre Dame: Despite their nine game unbeaten streak coming to an end on Saturday, the Fighting Irish - backed by the nation's top goaltender in David Brown — are playing tremendous hockey and have plenty of reasons to be thankful. In just his second year, coach Jeff Jackson has turned this program around. Maybe he can bring to South Bend the same type of success he had at Lake Superior (see above).

Ohio State: Troy Smith and the Ohio State Buckeye football team may be the big story in Columbus this week after defeating archrival Michigan on Saturday, but hockey fans can be thankful that many of their team's offensive woes of last season appear to be corrected.

Western Michigan: Be thankful that, after some early season struggles, the Broncos have gotten back on a track a bit, with a 3-2-0 record in their last six games.

ECAC

Brown: It took a few games, but the Bears seem to have found their top goaltender in Dan Rosen. In four games now, Rosen has a 1.39 GAA and a .958 save percentage.

Colgate: Be thankful that the Raiders — who are off to a dreadful start — have 16 league games left to show why they were the chic preseason favorite to finish first in the ECAC.

Clarkson: Matt Beca is one of the highest scoring rookies in the country, and despite struggling the last two weekends, the Golden Knights are scoring over four goals a game.

Cornell: Be thankful that goaltender Troy Davenport and his freshmen classmates — especially Tony Romano and Brendan Nash — have helped the Big Red to a somewhat unexpected 6-2-0 record so far.

Dartmouth: Be thankful that the quirks of the schedule have allowed the Big Green to play eight of their first 10 ECAC games at home in Hanover.

Harvard: Despite their win over Boston College, this 2-7-0 Harvard team has been a tremendous disappointment. Still, be thankful that the Crimson have taken the fewest penalties in the league, while also boasting the ECAC's best penalty kill so far.

Princeton: The Tigers (1-6-1), who have outshot their opponents 274-217 this season, are much better than their record might indicate; five of their six losses have been by only one goal, so there's reason to be optimistic.

Quinnipiac: Be thankful for losing only one of the last 10, for sweeping Colgate and Cornell at home, for rookie sensation Brandon Wong, for the most potent offense in the league... oh, and for being in first place in the ECAC.

Rensselaer: Be thankful for senior Kirk MacDonald's return from fighting cancer... and for new coach Seth Appert, who inspired his new team right away to a tie against Boston University and a win against Denver.

St. Lawrence: Be thankful for the poise shown by Kyle Rank, Drew Bagnall, and company, as the Saints have won all four of their league games by just one goal apiece.

Union: After struggling defensively as of late, the Dutchmen have had - and hopefully utilized - a much-needed three week break before this weekend's nonconference games against Army and Massachusetts.

Yale: Be thankful for freshman forward Sean Backman and for sophomore goaltender Alec Richards, both of whom have helped Keith Allain's club to an entirely unexpected, but very impressive, 6-1-1 record to start the year. The Bulldogs capped off a four point weekend on Saturday by beating Harvard, just a few hours after Yale trounced the Crimson in their football rivalry game.

CHA

Alabama-Hunstville: Despite struggles so far, remember that the Chargers have had only one losing season since 1991-92.

Bemidji State: Be thankful for an impressive two-game road sweep of the WCHA's Minnesota State.

Niagara: Be thankful for the prolific top line of Les Reaney, Ted Cook, and Sean Bentivoglio, all of whom are in the top 10 in the nation in points scored. Thanks to them, the Purple Eagles sit in first place in the CHA and have also picked up good nonconference wins against St. Lawrence and Holy Cross.

Robert Morris: Goaltender Christian Boucher has been fairly solid for the Colonials, who went to Cornell's Lynah Rink earlier this season and, behind Boucher's 42 saves, impressively stayed within a goal until the final minute of play.

Wayne State: Be thankful that coach Bill Wilkinson's reputation - he's 12th on the all-time coaching wins list - allows the Warriors to schedule nonconference games against Minnesota, Cornell, St. Lawrence, Lake Superior, Western Michigan, and Ferris State. And that's just this season alone.

WCHA

Alaska-Anchorage: The Seawolves swept North Dakota over the weekend and, earlier in the season, got a leg up in the Governor's Cup race, earning a win and a tie over archrival Alaska(-Fairbanks).

Colorado College: With the increased importance of special teams play, be thankful for having the best penalty kill in the WCHA. Overall, the Tigers rank 5th in the nation in penalty killing efficiency.

Denver: The Pioneers were CHN's Team of the Week last week, and for good reason: a two-game sweep, on the road, against the defending national champion Wisconsin Badgers. And after a three point weekend against Michigan Tech, they sit in 2nd place in the WCHA standings.

Michigan Tech: Be thankful for coach Jamie Russell - it was only a matter of time before the Huskies (6-4-2) experienced some success, and now in his fourth year, Russell is finally coaching a team comprised almost entirely of his own recruits.

Minnesota: Well there's the obvious - the Gophers are in the top five in the nation in both offense and defense, and they're 10-1-2. But what's special is that the top two goal scorers on the team are - pausing for the rest of the WCHA to shudder - only freshmen.

Minnesota State: This may be a bit of a stretch, but hey, it's been a down year for the Mavericks so far. Troy Jutting's squad is the only team in the nation to score three goals against Notre Dame's top-ranked defense.

Minnesota-Duluth: Despite the high level of competition, freshman goaltender Alex Stalock is putting up some pretty decent numbers so far. Overall, the Bulldogs are a young team and have the potential to be extremely competitive.

North Dakota: Be thankful that, for at least the time being, the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo are safe, thanks to an injunction granted against the NCAA last week.

St. Cloud State: Be thankful for the extra workout this month - before sweeping Clarkson over the weekend, three straight games went to overtime and all resulted in ties.

Wisconsin: It's not entirely surprising considering the departures of Joe Pavelski and Robbie Earl over the summer, but the Badgers have struggled, particularly offensively. Be thankful that the grace period from last year is still in effect.

To all college hockey fans, Happy Thanksgiving.

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