November 15, 2006 PRINT Bookmark and Share

River Hawk Rookies Take Flight

by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer

If you said that after nine games, Massachusetts-Lowell would be 3-3-3 (2-1-2 in Hockey East), many would've thought you were nuts.

A look at the roster explains why.

Last season was loaded up with seniors, and many predicted great success, but it never came to fruition. This year, everything is reversed. In the Nov. 3 game against Merrimack, the River Hawks had 11 freshmen in their lineup. That wasn't a one-time deal either; they have consistently been dressing double-digit freshmen all year.

Head coach Blaise MacDonald said he's been impressed by his freshmen's ability to adapt. And MacDonald himself may have had help adapting; he went through the same situation when he was coaching at Niagara.

"Our success at the start of the year has really surprised me," MacDonald said. "Fortunately I had an experience coaching at Niagara where we had a young team and had the opportunity to develop them.

"The major difference is that in Hockey East, there are really no feel-good games on your schedule. So I understand people's expectations of our team."

The River Hawks season was not expected to be measured in the win column, but their early success has fans excited.

"We weren't going to measure our team as much on wins and losses as we were going to measure the progress" said MacDonald. "I have to give total credit to the seniors who have integrated the freshmen so quickly, and I have been really pleased with how we have played the entire year."

With so many freshmen on the roster, the rookies had no choice but to make an impact.

"I have to commend them first and foremost for their preparation over the summer to get ready for college hockey," MacDonald said. "I have to commend them for the commitment to playing college hockey and their ability to continually increase their talent."

Paul Worthington leads all River Hawk freshmen in scoring (seven points in nine games), but the class has contributed to the team as a group.

"No one really sticks out as a most valuable," MacDonald said. "In terms of specific units, our most valuable freshmen have been on the defense, and when I say that, I mean all of them. They have played with great rhythm, speed, alertness and poise.

"They really have allowed us to change the entire complexion of our team and how we play the game, and I didn't expect them to have this sort of impact at this point."

Leading the freshman charge on defense has been Jeremy Dehner, Nick Schaus, Steve Capraro and Barry Goers. With the exception of Capraro, all of those rookies have played in every game.

If you were to name a freshman MVP, it would probably lay in the crease, where freshman Carter Hutton has surprised the entire league with his early success.

"Extremely surprised," MacDonald said. "It was an odd situation because he was a late addition, because we lost one of our goaltenders from last year (Peter Vetri)."

Though he was a late addition, Hutton was a welcome one for a River Hawk team that had an enormous question mark in goal at the start of the season. Their most experienced returning starter was Vinny Monaco, who had just three games under his belt. That question had appeared to have found an answer in Hutton.

"We knew he was very well liked by his coaches and teammates last year, we knew that he had a great work ethic, and loved playing in big games," MacDonald said. "That was all nice, but you never really know how that is going to translate into the college level.

"But he seems to get better everyday. It's been a team effort all around, but he is a big reason that we have been playing the way that we are."

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