Tuesday, September 25, 2012

BU Tabbed 3rd By Coaches

Matt Nieto was named to
the preseason All-Hockey
East team by the media.
(Photo by Matt Dresens)

Today, the Hockey East Coaches Poll was released and BU was slotted to finish third in the conference. Defending National Champion, Boston College was not surprisingly picked first, receiving 9 of 10 first place votes. UNH picked up the other first place vote. 

Lowell was notched at two and following BU, it was UNH, Maine, Northeastern/Providence, Merrimack, UMass, and Vermont.

The Coaches Poll closely mirrors the Media Poll that was released yesterday. The Hockey East writers saw the league shaping up as follows: BC (21), Lowell (3), BU, UNH, Providence, Maine (1), Merrimack, Northeastern, UMass, Vermont. 

In the Media poll, Garret Noonan and Matt Nieto were named to the preseason All-Hockey East Team. 

In Other News 
Yesterday, the USA Today Preseason poll was released. BU was ranked 13th, in the 15 team poll. Shockingly, Boston College was ranked number one. Kinda. They actually tied with Minnesota for the number one slot with 476 points. BC picked up 20 first place vote, UofM was handed 12 and third place Michigan received the other two. North Dakota and Union rounded out the top five.   

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My Hockey East Pre-Season Picks

Once again, it is time to roll out my preseason Hockey East poll, a ranking that has the possibility to be very off. This year, like most years, Hockey East is wide open. But this season seems to be a little more of a shot in the dark than previous ones. From top to bottom, teams have lost key components of their lineups.

10. University of Vermont
The offseason treated the Catamounts like a salmon trying to swim up river in Alaska. Prior to the summer kicking into full force, Sebastian Stalberg departed the university for the San Jose Sharks. As the NHL Draft approached, things were looking up, as Zemgus Girgensons was selected 8th overall by the Buffalo Sabres. Days after the draft, Girgensons decided against attending college and signed with the Sabres. Weeks later, Vermont lost their Assistant Head Coach John Micheletto to UMass. The lone bright spot for the Cats this summer was that they did sign BU decommit Robert Polesello. All and all, it looks like Vermont has way too much to overcome this season and I don't see them leaving the basement this season, much like last year.

9. Northeastern University 
Bypass the blatent cross check in front
and you will see Clay Witt attempting
to play goalie.
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
NU had almost as tumultuous an offseason as UVM. Decommit after decommit rocked the Huskies. Top goalie prospect John Gillis opted out of NU and instead headed south to Providence. Also, Northeastern lost stud defenseman Anthony Biteito and Steve Quailer to the pro ranks. NU was fortunate to claim Kevin Roy and his brother. Kevin was the USHL MVP posting 103 points with the Lincoln Stars. Kevin was who everyone wanted, but the team also had to sign his brother, an at best third string backup goalie. BU was, in fact, in the running for Kevin, but when both Kevin and his brother decommited Brown on the same day, it was sure to be a package deal. Anyway, NU ended up with both and now have a top notch player in Kevin and a fourth string goalie. NU already had three goalies coming back for 2013 as it was- Chris Rawlings, Clay Witt, Brian Mountain- and now have another. Rawlings was better as a freshman than his last two years, and it would not surprise me if Witt overtook him by the end of the year. That being said, Witt is not the second coming of Patrick Roy (No retaliation to Kevin). Not by a long shot. I think Witt could be a decent goalie in Hockey East. I don't think NU has enough to get into the playoffs.

8. The University of Massachusetts 
Some may say that UMass had the toughest offseason because of the seemingly never-ending search to replace "Toots" Cahoon, who abruptly stepped down as Head Coach after the season ended. After months of interviewing potential candidates (and there were quite a few), UMass finally announced that John Micheletto, former Vermont assistant coach was the new bench boss of The Minuteman. On the Ice, UMass returns a strong tandem of goalies in Kevin Boyle, Jeff Teglia, and Steve Mastalerz. Leading scorer T. J. Syner graduated, but besides that, most of the UMass offense is returning.  Because of the coaching struggle, I see UMass just sneaking into the playoffs. 
Sam Morotta will likely become the
new Merrimack starter
(Photo by Matt Dresens)

7. Merrimack College
Last season, Merrimack came back down to earth after making the Hockey East Championship Game in 2011, finishing 5th in the conference and failing to make The Garden. This year, I see the slide continuing. MC lost undoubtably their best player to graduation in goaltender Joe Cannata. Cannata had the ability to "steal" games. With him gone and the loss of Seniors Ryan Flanigan and Jesse Todd there are huge holes in the offense. Merrimack has a solid recruit class, so I still see them making the playoffs.

6. The University of Maine
Last year, Maine surprisingly (to me anyway) made it to the Hockey East Championship. They did that on the back of strong goaltending from Dan Sullivan and a killer power play. This year, two of the three key players on the power play won't be there, as Brian Flynn and Spencer Abbott both graduated. In addition to Abbott and Flynn leaving, defenseman, Matt Mangene left early and signed with the Flyers. I think Maine's recruit class is good enough, and with Sullivan between the pipes, the Black Bears easily make the playoffs. Without Abbott and Flynn, I don't see them hosting the first round in Orono.

5. The University of New Hampshire 
A season ago, UNH scraped together a second half charge that put them in 6th at the end of the year. The Wildcats were a very young team last year and with another year under their belts, the large amount of underclassmen UNH had, will make a big impact this year. The one big loss that stands out is goalie Matt Di Girolamo, who by the end of the year had been replaced by Casey DeSmith. So, all in all, the losses are very manageable. Some may see UNH a little higher, but I think there still could be some growing pains up in Durham.

4. Providence College
Stefan Demopoulos
will return for
his sophomore year
after posting 17pts
his freshman season
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
Providence is my big mover this year. Last year they finished 7th in the conference and upended second seeded Lowell in the quarterfinals. To the surprise of many, they hung around and at one point lead Boston College in the Hockey East Semis. On to this year. PC lost underachieving goalie Alex Beaudry to graduation. Besides that, there were no other big losses. Last year's leading scorer Ross Mauermann returns and so does basically everyone else who put up some kind of numbers last season. Providence will bring in top goalie recruit John Gillis, who was supposed to go to Northeastern. Under second year head coach Nate Leaman and a strong group of returning players, I see PC hosting the Hockey East Quarterfinals for the first time since 2003.

3. Boston University
Matt Nieto (17) and Garrett Noonan
celebrate a goal together.
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
BU, like a lot of other teams, lost their fair share of talent to graduation and the NHL, but in my opinion, BU has the strongest recruit class in the league. Losing Kieran Millan hurts, but Sean Maguire and Matt O'Conner (the two incoming goalies) were both highly ranked. Maguire was a fifth round draft pick by the Penguins. With the abundance of freshman on the team, there may be a lull in the middle of the year, but come the end of the year, BU should be a strong team contending for the regular season title. It will be interesting to see all that young talent come together. A lot of the offense will come from captain Wade Megan, Junior Matt Nieto and defenseman Garrett Noonan.

2. UMass Lowell
Last year, I pegged Lowell to finish dead last. Little did I know that the River Hawks would piece together one of the best season's in program history, making the NCAA's for the first time ever. They also picked up their first NCAA win, dropping Miami in overtime. This year, Lowell returns the foundation of last year's team in goalie Doug Carr and most of their offense. The key offseason losses are all to graduation. Matt Ferreira and David Vallorani were both in the top six in scoring on the team, with 32 and 29 points respectively. Lowell should be able to finish where they did last year, (tied for second) but I could see a slide.

1. Boston College
I'm taking this poll as if I was betting on a horse race. Put the favorite on top, and throw in a few long shots. BC would be the favorite simply because they won the National Championship. They, like all the other 9 teams in the league have holes to fill. Barry Almeida posted 40 points last year and graduated after four strong years as an Eagle. To most teams that would be the biggest loss. Not for BC. Chris Kreider, who weeks after winning the national championship, was skating for the New York Rangers in the NHL playoffs. Kreider notched 46 points last year. On defense, BC says goodbye to (in my mind) overrated Brian Dumoulin, who left after three years to sign with the Carolina Hurricanes. BC does return one of the league's craftiest players in Johnny Gaudreau, who accumulated 45 points in his Freshman campaign. Parker Milner will once again be the Eagle's goalie. He has made everyone but me forget how average a goalie he really is, by playing outstanding in the NCAA tournament. So for the lack of a better candidate, I pick Boston College to once again stand on top of Hockey East.

Monday, September 10, 2012

My Thoughts On the New Hockey East PLayoff Format

It Sucks

Today it was announced that starting next year, all eleven (yes eleven, remember Noter Dame is joining) teams will automatically qualify for the league playoffs. Currently, eight of the ten teams in Hockey East make the playoffs, and as I learned today, HE is the only league in which not every team makes the conference tournament.

That will all change starting in 2014. All eleven teams will make it. This make the regular season considerably less meaningful. The one thing worth playing for is a first round bye and home ice. The new format will be set up as follows: All teams qualify. The top five get a first round bye. The lower six play an extra weekend of playoffs. The remaining eight teams play the following weekend on the higher seed's campus location. Final four stays they same.

Also, there will be one less regular season weekend starting in 2014. So, the playoff will start one weekend earlier. Its has not been determined yet if the first weekend of playoffs will be best of three series or a one game playoff format.

Personally, I think it should be best two out of three. That way the best team really wins and if the 11 seed beats the six seed twice, they truly deserve to move on unlike if they just catch lightning in bottle for one game and top them once.

Anyway, even if they do have two out of three for both weekends, (like the ECAC does) I would still much rather see just the top eight make it and keep the current formant. Honestly, if you finish out of the top eight, you really don't deserve to make the playoffs.

Just to add, in 2015 when UConn joins Hockey East, the league will qualify all 12 teams having the top four receive a first round bye, and the lower eight playing on the first weekend.

"If each of the two rounds goes three games, you could have a team playing eight games over three weekends, which you would never see in the regular season," Bertagna said. "We need to examine how this will affect the athletes and the facilities. This is also the first time we'll be flying a team to a playoff round if Notre Dame is coming east or if we are sending a team out there, so there are cost ramifications to that as well. There are a lot of things still that have to be considered, but it's a direction we're moving in."- From College Hockey News

So, as long as BU make the playoffs this year (fingers crossed) they will have never missed the Hockey East Quarterfinals. And just because everyone is alway in a mood to shove things in the face of BC fans, The Eagles can't say the same. No, in 1995, 8th place BC lost to 9th place UMass in a play in game. UMass moved on to play Maine in the quarterfinals. Just for history's sake, UMass lost the lone quarterfinal game to Maine 7-4, while BU went on to beat Providence in the Championship game.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Outcome of the Task Force

"A six-month assessment by a special task force appointed to examine the culture and climate of the BU men’s ice hockey team has found significant deficiencies in the structures and processes that are designed to provide oversight of the program. These weaknesses, in turn, resulted in the supervision of student-athletes’ conduct falling disproportionately and inappropriately to the coaching staff, whose oversight was also lacking. The task force also found that a culture of sexual entitlement exists among some players, and that this, combined with the absence of sexual assault prevention training and education, led to risky behaviors.
“The task force has looked closely at a great deal of information and data relating to the men’s ice hockey program,” says task force cochair Jean Morrison, University provost and chief academic officer. “There are a number of serious issues that need to be addressed by the University leadership to ensure that we are providing effective oversight of the men’s hockey program.”
The task force was convened by President Robert A. Brown last March in response to criminal charges, including sexual assault, brought against two hockey players. Since then, prosecutors have dropped criminal charges against one of the hockey players and accepted a guilty plea to reduced charges of assault and battery from the other.
“The task force has conducted a thorough assessment, and I have already begun to implement a number of their recommendations,” said Brown, who sent a letter to the BU community about the findings. “We will implement the majority of the recommendations as quickly as possible.”
“One observation I would offer based on the work of the task force,” added Brown, “is that the University hasn’t done enough to establish expectations and support structures for our student-athletes who play elite-level hockey. Too much responsibility has fallen on the coaching staff. We will change that as we implement the recommendations of the task force.”
The 16-member task force comprised faculty and staff members, trustees, and overseers, and was headed by Jonathan Cole, chair of the Academic Affairs Committee of the BU Board of Trustees, and Morrison. Its efforts were complemented by those of Michael Glazier, chair of the collegiate sports practice group in the law firm Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC, who was commissioned by Brown to look into possible violations of National Collegiate Athletic Association(NCAA) rules and regulations. Glazier found no evidence of major NCAA infractions.
The task force gathered information in a variety of ways, including a general call for input from the BU community, open meetings, and comments submitted online and in letters to the task force cochairs. Task force members conducted 34 interviews and met with members of the BU Center for Gender, Sexuality & Activism and the Student-Athlete Advisory Council.
The task force report, as well as Glazier’s investigation, recommended changing the reporting lines in the men’s ice hockey program, so that head coach Jack Parker, who had also been executive director of athletics, would now serve only as head coach and report to athletic director Michael Lynch. According to the report, having the same person serve simultaneously as a head coach and as executive director of athletics has failed to provide clear lines of responsibility and accountability within the athletics department. Parker (SMG’68, Hon.’97) has already stepped down as executive director of athletics; he will now devote all of his time and attention to coaching the men’s hockey team. Other reporting changes have been made to ensure complete and transparent compliance with University and NCAA rules.
The task force also found that the hockey team had exploited a “culture of sexual entitlement,” as evidenced by “frequent sexual encounters with women absent an emotional involvement.” According to the report, “The absence of systematic processes for sexual assault prevention training for members of the men’s ice hockey team, and for BU students more broadly, contributes to behaviors that place many University students at risk.”
In response, the task force recommends the establishment of programs for sexual assault prevention training as well as of an office that provides care and counseling for victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Such an office, the Sexual Assault Response & Prevention Center (SARP), opened last week at 930 Commonwealth Ave. It will provide around-the-clock assistance and counseling to students who have undergone sexual assault or a traumatic incident of any kind, as well as educational programs for prevention of this behavior.
The report also recommends a review of the Student-Athlete Code of Conduct and of individual team rules to ensure that these reflect appropriate standards for behavior on and off the ice. It also suggests that the athletics department develop a plan to ensure that hockey players and all student-athletes are fully integrated into student life—with particular emphasis on housing assignments and participation in community life.
The report concludes that the hockey team’s disciplinary history does not show a pattern that is significantly different from the undergraduate population as a whole, and it finds no evidence that the problems identified are necessarily unique to Boston University.
The task force recommends 14 corrective actions. Among them:
  • Requiring annual sexual assault prevention training for the men’s hockey team.
  • Establishment of an office to develop alcohol and drug prevention programs.
  • Conducting a review of the Student-Athlete Code of Conduct.
  • Instituting a plan by the athletics department to better integrate student-athletes into student life, with particular attention to housing.
  • Conducting a review of admissions standards for hockey players.
  • Eliminating the option for student-athletes to enroll in Metropolitan College.
  • Requiring violations of University policies or local laws to be handled the same way as they are for nonathletes.
  • Making a sports psychologist available to hockey players for confidential emotional support and guidance.
  • Creating a peer and alumni mentoring program to encourage athletes to achieve academic excellence and meet career goals outside of hockey, and to develop healthy interpersonal and sexual relationships.
  • Creating collaborative partnerships with local bars and businesses to implement policies and programs that will help ensure the safety of all students."