College hockey: A night to remember


College hockey: A night to remember

By Mary Paoletti

BOSTON -- The snow fell fast and even. Fans hopped off the Green Line, paused for a moment on Commonwealth Avenue, and tried to find their bearings. It was a hockey night--that much they knew--but it was already unlike any they had ever experienced.

On this frosty Friday in January there was to be a collision between historic college tradition and an event momentous enough to make history with it's first try.

Frozen Fenway.

Two NCAA hockey games played in a baseball stadium. And not just any stadium but in "America's most beloved ballpark." For one night in a city ruled by a hierarchy of professional sports, and where the MLB especially reigns supreme, four teams of student athletes were called into court.

Each squad was equally deserving. Representing the women of the Hockey East conference was ninth-ranked Northeastern and fourth-ranked UNH. From the men came number-seven Boston College and the defending national champion Boston University Terriers.

Both games highlighted hot blood. New Hampshire and Northeastern have clawed through the years as one of the longest-running rivalries in women's college hockey and Boston's men have duked it out for nearly a century. Every season these games add a new chapter for two very old stories. The characters have grown and changed throughout the years, but New England fans are familiar with the setting. Much as they feel at home on Comm. Ave. when the Sox are in town.

"Oh! We're here," two hockey watchers said upon surfacing from Kenmore Station.

It was the old CITGO sign that triggered immediate reassurance. Turning the corner by Sovereign Bank and walking up Brookline Avenue, past the Cask and Game On! was the next step. As soon as the gates opened, that distinctive two-tone dinging of the ticket scanners rang out along Yawkey Way. Such sights and sounds made going to Fenway on a Friday night in January feel oddly similar to spending a Saturday at the Park in July.

Except on this night there was snow.

As for those four particular Hockey East foes facing off after the holidays? The match ups only added another page to their combined 357-game history.

But Friday night, the puck dropped in front of nearly 40,000 people.

The juxtaposition between familiarity and novelty was stunning. And no one in attendance at the Frozen Fenway event had to reconcile those ideas more directly and completely than the players and coaches.

"It's something we'll all remember," said BU coach Jack Parker. "Everybody on the ice, all the coaches, referees. It was something we'll all remember for as long as we live."

For the spectators, the Winter Classic match up between the Bruins and Flyers on New Years day was one hell of an opener. The anticipation of seeing Fenway transformed into an outdoor hockey venue culminated when some of the best players in the NHL shredded up the rink toward a 2-1 overtime end.

For players on the collegiate level, like Boston University junior Nick Bonino, hockey at Fenway Park constituted a different reality; one that was sometimes hard to grasp.

"I had a moment in the third period," the forward said. "I just kind of looked at the whole stadium and I tapped Chris Connolly on the shoulder and I said, 'Take a look at this. It's just incredible.' "

As Bonino reflected on the experience, Jack Parker smiled from under his Red Sox hat. Though a seasoned coach with more than 800 wins, Parker did not for a second feel that he or his program was bigger than Fenway Park. The coach had his own "moment" during BU's 3-2 win over BC, confessing that he at one point stopped to remark to a referee, "Hey, how lucky are we?"

Variations of Parker's graciousness were threaded throughout the night. The female hockey players were especially thankful, feeling that their game housed an aspect that was separate from the men.

"It's just exciting," UNH senior standout Micaela Long said. "The men get a lot of attention . . . It's great to have the opportunity to stand out in a different way."

Her sentiment is understandable. The first time UNH and Northeastern met this season was on November 29. The attendance for that game was just 164 people. When the UNH men's team played on the road the night before, they netted a sold-out crowd of 2,990. The disparity between men's and women's college hockey fan followings is clear. In that light, Long also wished that the national attention of Frozen Fenway could enhance the future of women's college hockey.

"I hope this game promotes the sport more and show younger fans that the game has come a long way. Hopefully we'll get more respect and more of a fan base, she said.

The post-game reactions from Northeasterns side were understandably more subdued. Co-head coaches Lauren McAuliffe and Linda Lundrigan addressed the media alongside freshman forward Brittany Esposito following the Huskies 5-3 loss. Lundrigan echoed Long in her view of the bigger picture.

"We talked to the girls about not forgetting that they were given an opportunity that no one could every take away from them, regardless of the result," the Northeastern coach remarked. "What we hope for in this venue with it being on national television is that some people who don't watch women's hockey get their eyes on it and have an appreciation for it.

Esposito seemed unable to appreciate her own two-goal effort. Her right leg swung like the pendulum rod on a metronome the entire time she spoke. When asked about details of the game, her eyes flicked down to the floor as she'd knead her lips together. Even in light of the positives outlined by Lundrigan, Espositos reaction was honest, and understandable.

Because amid all the hype, the lights, the noise, and the press, there were still two points at stake in each game. None of the four teams wanted their story of Frozen Fenway to be written as a loss.

"We told our team prior to the game that its going to be a memorable experience for both teams, BC head coach Jerry York said. He then looked the crowd straight on with earnest eyes, "but its going to be a significant experience for the team that won.

An experience like no other: Frozen Fenway.

Report: Patriots RB Lewis expected to return to practice this week


Report: Patriots RB Lewis expected to return to practice this week

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will have a familiar face back on the practice field, it appears. 

According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, running back Dion Lewis is expected to begin practicing this week. Lewis has been on the physically unable to perform list since the start of the regular season. 

Lewis tore his ACL in a Week 9 win over the Redskins last season, landing him on season-ending injured reserve. He was able to participate on a limited basis during OTAs but then experienced a setback that required surgery before the start of the season. 

Once Lewis hits the practice field, the Patriots have a three-week window to place him on the active roster. The team currently has an open roster spot and could, in theory, activate him as early as this week. 

When healthy last season, Lewis as a dynamic all-purpose back whose quickness allowed him to make defenders miss both in tight spaces between the tackles and in the open field as a receiver. The Patriots have used James White as their primary sub back in Lewis' absence, and he's on pace for a career year, with 27 receptions for 244 yards and three touchdowns. 

Rozier's confidence, hard work earning him more minutes in Celtics rotation


Rozier's confidence, hard work earning him more minutes in Celtics rotation

BOSTON – You’ll have to pardon Terry Rozier if he doesn’t have that deer-in-the-headlights look about him when he takes to the floor tonight for what should be the first of many meaningful stretches of playing time.
You see, being harassed with the defensive pressure of Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart while trying to become a pest to Isaiah Thomas (which I’m told Rozier is frequently in practice), has instilled in Rozier the kind of confidence that’s not easily shaken.
That’s one of the main reasons why the Celtics aren’t freaking out about the departure of Evan Turner to Portland this offseason and more recently the sprained left ankle injury to Marcus Smart that’ll keep him out for a few games.
When it comes to filling those two voids, all eyes will be on Rozier.
“When somebody’s hurt, the next guy has to step up,” Thomas said. “Terry has shown he’s ready for that opportunity. He’s worked very hard this summer. I’m proud of him. I’ve been in that position before. He’s been waiting for that opportunity. He’s ready.”
Rozier had an impressive run during summer league as Boston’s best player. And in training camp, he hasn’t let up in being one of the standout performers.
It has led to the second-year guard being exactly where he thought his hard work in the offseason would take him to, and that’s a prominent spot in the Celtics’ rotation.
And in doing so, Rozier knows it’ll likely mean taking some minutes from his veteran teammates like Isaiah Thomas who he credits for always being there to help him grow as a player.
“I’m trying to get better, but I want to play too,” Rozier told “Getting his (Thomas’) minutes, anybody’s minutes, I’m going for it. But I know he’s not going to lighten up and make it easy for me. I know that. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
It certainly looks like it for Rozier who has shown growth in just about every phase of his game since he was selected by Boston with the 16th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft.
There were many who questioned Danny Ainge’s decision to draft a guard so high when he already had Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart in the fold.
But Rozier has shown the promise that Ainge saw in him coming out of Louisville.

Now it’s just a matter of Rozier getting the kind of minutes and producing, that will ultimately validate the trust and faith Ainge and his coaching staff showed in selecting Rozier.
For Rozier, not being looked upon all that favorably is just par for the course when it comes to his basketball career.
“I’ve been doubted all my life,” Rozier said. “It ain’t hurt me. I always tell myself, ‘they’re gonna fall in love with me because I play hard and they’re gonna fall in love with my intensity level. People didn’t know who I was when I came here; that’s fine. They’ll fall in love with me and my game sooner or later.”