Frozen Four Notebook: Wednesday Edition
by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer
PITTSBURGH As much as Connor Hellebuyck, Massachusetts-Lowell’s freshman goalie, has been heralded as the team’s most valuable player throughout this run to the Frozen Four, defenseman Chad Ruhwedel has quietly become one of the best defensemen in the nation.
High praise, but definitely deserved.
The junior is 31st nationally in scoring among defenders. That’s by no means out of this world. But, what Ruhwedel has provided the River Hawks goes beyond the numbers.
“He has been a real presence for us,” head coach Norm Bazin said. “I think he’s coming of age and maturing into a good defender, apart from the offensive contributions that have been obvious since he’s stepped foot on campus.”
As big a role that Ruhwedel plays on the Hockey East champions, Bazin has, believe it or not, tried to structure the lines so that he plays less than he has in the past.
“He’s had more support around him this year,” Bazin said,” and I think he has improved because of (less ice time). Last year we were forced to play him a little too much at times.”
Allain remembers Murray
Earlier this week, CHN managing editor Adam Wodon recounted the story of Yale’s other Frozen Four team, from 1952, and its run to the national semifinals, led by legendary coach Murray Murdoch. Murdoch was a frequent visitor to Yale games long after he stopped coaching.
“Murray was a wonderful man,” said current Yale head coach Keith Allain, who played goal for Yale in the late 1970s. “He was at every game that I played. They had a special seat with a plaque on it at Ingalls Rink, and he’d come with his flannel shirt, and he was so supportive of the team. But what I remember most about Murray ... we used to have a lot of team functions and banquets at the time, and there would be all kinds of alumns around and I would do whatever I could to have him tell me stories. He was just a great hockey guy and a great Yale guy and I loved being around him.”
It’s all in the name?
Along with Allain, there have been three coaches whose last name started with A that have made the Frozen Four, and all three of them have won the national title. They are Murray Armstrong, Frank Anzalone and Mike Addesa.
Breaking the trade
Two weeks ago, the Boston Bruins seemed on the verge of acquiring star winger Jarome Iginla from the Calgary Flames.
At the 11th hour, literally, Iginla, who has a no-trade clause, told management he would only waive his no-trade in a deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It set the stage for both Yale’s Kenny Agostino and St. Cloud State’s Ben Hankowski changing NHL colors just days before the regional tournament began.
Hankowski was sleeping as the trade broke, changing laundry overnight.
“I did get a text, I was still up,” said St. Cloud head coach Bob Motzko. “It was probably midnight, something like that. And we had a morning practice the next morning and I blew the whistle and everybody came around. I just wanted to break the tension.
“I said, ‘Anybody get traded overnight?’ And the first guy laughing was Ben. He took it in great stride. Then all the guys were tapping him on the shoulder and I said, ‘Well, there are a lot of people who want you, and we’re sure glad you’re with us, here’s the drill,’ and we went on with practice, that was it.”
Hobey finalists take flight Thursday
A pair of Hobey Baker finalists will play in tomorrow’s semifinals, ironically, against each other. St. Cloud State’s Drew LeBlanc will try to put the puck past another member of the Hobey Hat Trick, Quinnipiac goalie Eric Hartzell.
“Just to be associated with the name Hobey Baker has been special for me,” LeBlanc said. “I said it a bunch of times now but it doesn’t happen if our team doesn’t have the success we’ve had this year.”
The Hobey Baker presentation will be made on Friday.
Pecknold part of Quinnipiac’s growth
The road to the Frozen Four for Rand Pecknold and Quinnipiac didn’t start last month with the NCAA regionals. It didn’t start with the ECAC tournament or even this season. This winding, oftentimes bumpy road started 19 years ago, when Pecknold was part of the process that rose Quinnipiac’s program from Division 3 to the Division 1 level. Later, he helped the Bobcats make a move to the ECAC.
Off the ice, the growth has been just as dramatic.
“The progression over my 19 years is amazing,” Pecknold said. “My first year, we had roughly 2,000 applications and this year we should break 20,000. That is staggering growth.
“Everybody forgets this but our first year in Division I, when we were in the MAAC, we did not play one game against the outside four conferences. Not one game was played against us. Nobody would play us. It was unbelievable, everyone seems to forget that.
"At that point we were trying to get anybody to play games. If you asked me five years ago did I think this was possible, no. We’ve only been in our building for six and a half years. Before that, we’re playing in a town rink and you’re not going to do it from there from a recruiting standpoint.”