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In Boston, Harvard plays in the other league.
Hockey East, entering its seventh season, claims the allegiance of most New England hockey fans. With the Maine Black Bears as the northern representative and the Providence Friars providing the southern limits, Hockey East is firmly centered in Boston.
The Crimson is allowed to schedule two non-ECAC, Beanpot games per year, and after last year's return to the scene of its national championship, Minnesota, it's back to basics--and Boston--this year. The Crimson's out-of-league are later this month against Hockey East and Beantown rivals Boston University (Nov. 20) and Boston College (Nov. 23).
The preseason poll of the league coaches left two of the league's Beantown representatives duking it out for numero uno, but surprises seem imminent when league play starts today, especially considering recent results.
Originally, the coaches ordered the teams this way: 1. B.U., 2. B.C., 3. Maine, 4. UNH, 5. Northeastern, 6. Providence, 7. Lowell, 8. Merrimack
And the Terriers were ranked first nationally in the preseason Albany Times-Union poll. But B.U. is already 1-1, including a 9-6 loss to Colgate Nov. 2. that dropped the squad to sixth place in the national poll.
The Terriers have heralded forwards in Shawn McEachern, David Sacco and Tony Amonte, and B.U. Coach Jack Parker thought his second line "played well," garnering 11 points in his squad's two games.
"We're not playing well on defense," said Parker, stating the obvious about a team that has surrendered 16 goals in six periods. Goalie Scott Cashman, a preseason all-league pick, got the win against, but allowed seven goals on 31 shots.
Sieve-like defense will not beat B.C., even if the Terriers continue to explode offensively. B.C., playing against ECAC cellar-dweller Vermont, rose to third nationally with an easy 5-1 victory.
But B.C. Coach Len Ceglarski, along with Northeastern Coach Don McKenney, still labels the Terriers the team to beat. The Eagles will be well equipped to try, though, since they return the H-E-M line and goalie Scott LaGrand from last year's Final Four team.
Ceglarski is hoping to disperse potent scoring threats Steve Heinze, Dave Emma and Marty McInnis among different lines to diversify his attack.
"Last year, the burden was on that line too much," Ceglarski said. "If our team plays well together, then I will continue to split them up. Last year, if they didn't have a big game, it made it tough for the rest of the team. I'd like to see more balanced scoring."
Right now, senior defender Mark Dennehy leads the team with three points.
Maine received two first-place votes from the league coaches, and the Black Bears haven't disappointed their backers. Led by Jean-Yves Roy, who is living up to all-league expectations with eight points in four games, the Black Bears have moved to fifth nationally.
The Friars, who face B.U. tonight in Providence, are 4-0, including a 6-5 win over Rensselaer in triple-overtime and a 7-3 rout of--you guessed it--Vermont. This evening's game should alert the league to Providence's status--contenders or pretenders.
New Hampshire, burdened by last week's death of Coach Bobby Kullen, have given Dick Umile--who will finish the year behind the bench--something to look forward to with a 3-0 start.
Northeastern has already fallen to three ECAC teams, Colgate, Clarkson and St. Lawrence. No wonder Ceglarski said, "It will be refreshing to return to league play."
Of course, with a realistic outlook, he added, "It won't be any easier."
Lowell and Merrimack each pulled off some upsets last year, but any win against the upper echelons this season will still be an upset.
"We have the strongest league in the nation," Parker said, with no hesitation.
But the ECAC is already 6-4 against Hockey East and, as Ceglarski said, "Sometimes we get more of the hype...I don't know if that's fair."
A few people here in Bright tonight would agree.
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