Their teams may be struggling to make the Hockey East Tournament, but a pair of UMass players - one from Amherst, the other from Lowell - are redeeming their senior seasons as they close out their collegiate careers. Also, a look at the Women's Hockey East Tournament and how Vermont made things difficult last weekend for not just BU's hockey team.
With Hockey East ready to play their last games of regular season play this weekend, teams are getting ready to say goodbye to some influential members of the Class of 2011. What senior hockey players have made a mark that their teams will sorely miss? Here's a quick look at two who may not be from the league's best teams, but who have made a huge impact.
Despite losing two games last weekend to national powerhouse Boston College, UMass Amherst fans still had reason to cheer. Senior goaltender Paul Dainton became the team's all-time leader in saves with 3,097. Dainton's records are significant given that he now has more of a place in the record books than Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, who is now one of the most famous hockey alums of the Mullins Center.
Dainton's abilities in net aren't lost on hardy UMass fans, who haven't reached the NCAAs since 2007 and are near the bottom of the league this year. UMass fan site Fear The Triangle celebrates Dainton's career and says why they'll be standing tall for him in his last home games this weekend:
"Dainton will leave campus playing in the most games, accumulating the most minutes, registering the most saves, winning the second most (or most?) games, and being behind only Quick for save percentage and goals against average in UMass history. First or second in every major career goaltending record in UMass history. Why? Because he has gone out there every night, from his freshman year on, and been a damn solid and reliable goaltender. Every. Single. Night."
UMass Lowell offensively exploded last Saturday night against Providence College, winning 7-2, thanks to some of the excellent hockey IQ of Riverhawks senior defenseman Maury Edwards. Edwards had three assists Saturday evening, reaching his career high and contributing defensively and offensively like he has much of his carer. He has been a stalwart at the blue line for the Riverhawks, playing 145 games over four years in Lowell -- close to twenty more than any of his fellow seniors. Edwards currently leads the Riverhawks in defensive scoring with 15 points, sitting at 78 career points going into this weekend's two-game series at Vermont.
In 2009, Edwards was one of the stars on a UMass Lowell team that appeared in the Hockey East Championship game and finished with its strongest season in program history. He was named to the 2009 All-America Second Team, New England All-Star team, and Hockey East First Team All-Star as a sophomore, and led the league in defensive scoring. His effort on both sides of the puck will be sorely missed by a young UMass Lowell team trying to return to the upper echelons of Hockey East.
The women's Hockey East tournament holds it's semifinal and championship rounds this weekend at Boston University's Walter Brown Arena, and the No. 1 seeded Terriers hope to repeat as league champions. In order to do so, the No. 5 team in the nation will have to find a way through the team that last handed them a tie -- the Northeastern Huskies.
BU, an impressive overall 25-5-5 (a better record than any team in men's Hockey East), swept Northeastern in their regular season series. But at the Women's Beanpot tournament, Northeastern tied BU by scoring three goals in just over four minutes to negate the Terriers' lead. The difference between that Beanpot consolation game and Saturday's noon tilt? The return of rookie forward Marie-Philip Poulin, who has been out since Feb. 7 with a hand injury. Poulin's 44 career points -- even while only playing in 24 games -- are evidence that her return to the lineup should energize a Terrier squad that earned a bye to the semifinal round.
Boston College will face a strong Providence squad that has battled their way to the national top ten rankings as of late. The Friars were the number one seed going into last year's tournament, surprisingly losing to UConn in the semifinal round. Led by a well rounded and young team, Providence will be looking to shut down the No. 2 ranked Eagles, who are led by forward Kelly Stack. Stack will be looking to close out her Eagles career with a tournament win - something the Eagles haven't mustered in her record setting (204 points, making her the Eagles' all-time leader) tenure.
- Boston University had it's hands full this past Friday in their first of a televised weekend series with the University of Vermont. The Catamounts were clawing for their last chance at a playoff spot, doing their best to redeem their season after controversy and disappointing play. Between reviewed goals and non-goals, Vermont's late third period comeback to the tie the game, NESN's commerical breaks, and the eventual overtime frame, the Terrier's Pep Band -- one of Hockey East's largest -- nearly ran out of songs to play. According to band director Zach DeVries, they played 80 times, not including the requisite "Go BUs" after Vermont goals and the time they get to indulge in the infamous "The Song" after BU goals. The band had 84 songs ready to go for the evening. The only four they didn't get to? Twist and Shout, Vehicle, Green Onions and Birdland.
- According to the Newton based College Hockey Inc, 274 former college players have made the NHL in 2010-11. That's 10 more than appeared in the league in the 2009-10 season. There is still quite a few weeks left of NHL play, making it possible for that number to grow (especially as college season's come to an end and the flight of players to the pro ranks begin.)
- There seem to be several ways the Hockey East men's tournament field could shake down, and SBNation's own BC Interruption predicts some of the possibilities, while The College Hockey Blog calls on UNH to at least keep the regular season crown out of BC's hands. I agree with The College Hockey Blog, but could see UNH's stellar senior class with Paul Thompson, Mike Sislo and Blake Kessel breaking the streak of intensity-less playoff Wildcats and giving everyone a very hard time at the TD Garden in two weeks.