The majority of Hockey East teams are currently on their holiday breaks, gearing to get back on the ice after Christmas. Often considered the mid-point of the season, this is when teams regroup, get some players healthy and plan out the rest of their season, filled mostly with in-conference match-ups. Let's say in the midst of this break some of our favorite New England hockey teams did a "Yankee Swap" to fill some of their needs? Who needs to ask Santa when you can beg, borrow and steal from each other?
Boston University would be interested in swapping for University of New Hampshire's senior Hockey East scoring leaders, Paul Thompson and Mike Sislo. Dynamic freshmen are great, but the Terriers are sorely lacking in the senior powerhouse department (skater Joe Periera is doing the best he can). An addition of seniors could help BU dig them out of some early game holes they have found them in this season.
UNH would turn back around to BU and ask for the reverse. With not one freshman having played all 16 Wildcat games thus far, and the highest scoring freshman, Jeff Selango, with only three points (2 goals, 1 assist), UNH needs some youngsters ready to step up and contribute.
National No. 1 ranked team Yale may have won six straight games, but they would love to swap the ECAC for a stronger conference or a stronger schedule, a la Boston College or Maine, to help them come NCAA championship time. They do have wins against an as-good-as-expected Union squad, a skyrocketing RPI and a nagging Brown team, but the remainder of their schedule leaves a bit to be desired. The Bulldogs could use match-ups like Maine's early season weekend series with North Dakota and their New Year's tilt with No. 6 Miami, or Boston College's No. 7 Denver and No. 12 Notre Dame games, to prove their worth to ECAC cynics and to help them in the Pairwise.
Maine would love to snag Boston College's goaltender John Muse, currently ranked seventh in the nation with a .939 save percentage and a 10-3 record. Maine freshman goalie Dan Sullivan is ranked 23rd in the nation, and while he has been steady so far, a team with high expectations like the Black Bears would love an experienced goaltender with postseason experience -- something the two-time national champion Muse has in spades.
For the Eagles turn to swap, they would love a bit of Merrimack College's hunger. Hockey East has been abuzz about Merrimack, who currently sit in a tight No. 5 in Hockey East and No. 17 nationally. Merrimack plays like they have nothing to lose -- because they literally do not. They were lucky to get sophomore Stephane Da Costa back for this season, have one of the league's most steady goaltenders in Joe Cannata, and have a corps of players stepping up when either have a rough night. All around contributions have been absent for Merrimack in the past, and now that all of the hockey-related cylinders are working, the team's hunger is what has pushed it to the next level. For BC, a team that lost their footing for a bit in October and November due to what head coach Jerry York called a lack of focus and drive, that passion on top of their boatloads of talent would catapult them through the remainder of the season.
And Merrimack, who are more relevant in college hockey now than they have been since they were Division II, they would love to swap with nearby neighbor UMass Lowell's Tsongas Arena. A tricked out arena and tons of seats for the Warrior diehard and any bandwagon jumpers? Just what Merrimack would need while their existing rink is brought up to snuff.
Comings and Goings
It is becoming disturbingly common during the holiday break for players to depart their college teams for greener grasses after disappointing semesters. This week, Providence College, a team right in the thick of things in Hockey East, found themselves the victim of this growing trend.
Friars' defenseman sophomore Alex Velischek left the school earlier this week after a season thus far plagued with an ankle injury. The Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick and son of former NHL-er and Providence alum Randy Velischek was the Friars' Most Valuable Freshman last season after a strong 34-game season. The exact reason's for Velischek's departure are unknown, but he will be joining the USHL's Sioux City Muskateers after the holidays.
Boston College also had a departure this past week, but it was before the player had actually taken the Conte Forum ice. Ex-BU forward Vinny Saponari's head coach with the USHL's Dubuque Fighting Saints spilled the beans to U.S. Hockey Report (subscription required) that his current charge had denied him transfer admission to Boston College
Saponari, who BU coach Jack Parker dismissed from the team over the summer after a number of infractions and attitude issues, infamously declared on the eve of this season that he would transfer to the Terriers' most hated rival for the 2011-12 season. Now Saponari, a draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers and one of the USHL's leading scorers this season, is left examining his options. According to Fighting Saints coach Jim Montgomery, trying for another college isn't out, but the BC denial now has him considering pro options as well.