Hockey East cooks with many potential Bakers

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Hockey East cooks with many potential Bakers

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

The Hockey East is one of the deepest talent pools in the nation. Six teams are currently peppered throughout US College Hockey Online's Top 20: No. 10 Boston College, No. 12 Maine, No. 15 New Hampshire, No. 17 Vermont, No. 18 Massachusetts and No. 20 UMass-Lowell. Boston University is also receiving votes.

But a better example of the caliber of athletes playing in the Hockey East is in the number of Hobey Baker Award candidates the league houses. To even be considered, the Hobey Baker site writes that a player must "exhibit strength of character both on and off the ice, contribute to the integrity of his team and display outstanding skills in all phases of the game.''

Lofty standards for any student athlete.

Which is exactly why it's so impressive that 20 of the 70 preliminary candidates were plucked from Hockey East teams. Each is special in his own way, but all possess a standard for excellence that has placed them in this elite group.

See who made first cut.

BOSTON COLLEGE: JUNIOR FORWARD BRIAN GIBBONS
Quick Hits: 26 games played, 10 goals, 25 assists, 35 points, 1.35 pointsgame, 2 game winners, 3 power-play goals, 1 short-handed goal
Coach knows best: "He's a very explosive hockey player for us," Jerry York said. "He has terrific quickness and plays at a high tempo. He has outstanding stick skills, which I like. He competes really hard. He can hit you pretty hard for a 170-pounder. Hes clearly one of the elite players in our conference."
Highlight reel: Named semifinalist for the 58th Annual Walter Brown Award. Earned Hockey East Co-Player of the Week Honors, Nov. 9. Is the 2009-10 recipient of the Schiller Family Scholarship.
Also flying high: Cam Atkinson - So - F - 26GP, 17G, 14A, 31Pts, 1.19PtsGm, 1GW, 7PP, 1SH
BOSTON UNIVERSITY: JUNIOR FORWARD NICK BONINO
Quick Hits: 21GP, 6G, 18A, 24Pts, 1.14PtsGm, 0GW, 2PP, 1SH
Coach knows best: "He's the key guy on our offensive end this year, no doubt about it," Jack Parker said. "Nick Bonino is a Hobey Baker candidate, he's an All-America candidate and he's an All-Hockey East candidate and nobody knows about him. He's as good a player as there will be in college hockey."
Highlight reel: Named semifinalist for the 58th Annual Walter Brown Award. Scored his 100th career point in a three-assist performance in a 6-2 victory over UMass on Jan. 29. Bonino ranks fourth in career points (103) among current Hockey East players. Bonino is currently riding a seven-game point streak (1g, 11a). He also has at least one point in 14 of his last 16 games.
Nipping at his heels: Kevin Shattenkirk - Jr - D - 26GP, 4G, 17A, 21Pts, 0.80PtsGm, 0GW, 1PP, 1SH

MAINE: SOPHOMORE FORWARD GUSTAV NYQUIST
Quick Hits: 26GP, 14G, 26A, 40Pts, 1.54PtsGm, 3GW, 5PP, 0SH
Coach knows best: "Gustav is our leading scorer and can change the course of a game in a moment. He is one of the premier players in the country," said Tim Whitehead. He is a dynamic offensive player who has improved tremendously on defense as well. He's fun to watch and can bring you out of your seat with his creativity. He is not only a skilled player, he is a gritty competitor who wins a ton of loose pucks.
Highlight reel: Named Athletic Republic Hockey East Player of the Month for December. He had scored at least one point in 10 straight games between Nov. 20 and Jan. 15. Over that span, Nyquist had eight goals and 10 assists for 18 points. Is currently tied for 4th in scoring and 4th in assists, nationally, as well as in Hockey East play.

MASSACHUSETTS: JUNIOR FORWARD JAMES MARCOU
Quick Hits: 27GP, 9G, 32A, 41Pts, 1.52PtsGm, 1GW, 3PP, 0SH
Coach knows best: "I think, clearly, James is one of the most creative players in all of college hockey. His ability to see the ice, create space and make plays is uncanny," Don "Toot" Cahoon said of Marcou. "He rises to the occasion and he does it in big moments. He stirs the drink. He finds guys in a variety of ways. People do all sorts of things to eliminate him, but he's savvy. He's found a way to get it done."
Highlight reel: Ranked 2nd overall in scoring, 1st in assists. Named semifinalist for the 58th Annual Walter Brown Award thanks to 119 points on 31 goals and 88 assists in 101 games. Oct. 12, Named Hockey East Player Of The Week, Nov. 3, Named Hockey East Player Of The Month, Nov. 10, Named HCA National Player Of The Month Runner-Up
Another sharp shooter: Justin Braun - Sr - D - 27GP, 3G, 19A, 22Pts, 0.81PtsGm, 0GW, 1PP, 0SH

UMASS LOWELL: JUNIOR FORWARD SCOTT CAMPBELL
Quick Hits: 28GP, 9G, 14A, 23Pts, 0.82PtsGm, 1GW, 5PP, 0SH
Coach knows best: "Scott just gets better and better," said Blaise MacDonald. "He's strong, sees the ice, has a high hockey IQ and can play in any situation and play well."
Highlight reel: Riverhawks scoring leader. Named Athletic Republic Co-Player of the Week, Jan. 11, after tallying five points on a goal and four assists in two tough Hockey East road games. Campbell assisted on both UMass Lowell goals in a 2-2 tie at New Hampshire and scored once and assisted on two other goals in a 6-5 overtime win at Northeastern.
Swooping in: David Vallorani - So - F - 28GP, 9G, 13A, 22Pts, 0.78PtsGm, 2GW, 1PP, 0SH
Nick Schaus - Sr - D - 26GP, 4G, 18A, 22Pts, 0.84PtsGm, 0GW, 3PP, 0SH

MERRIMACK: FRESHMAN FORWARD STEPHANE DA COSTA
Quick Hits: 23GP, 11G, 22A, 33Pts, 1.43PtsGm, 0GW, 4PP, 0SH
Coach knows best: Hes just got a great feel for the conceptual part of the game, for space, for time, his heads always on a swivel, Mark Dennehy said. The game is moving a lot slower for him than it is for the rest of the players. He has incredible awareness.
Highlight Reel: The only recipient of the Hockey East Rookie of the Month honor this season. Da Costa scored five goals in his second career game. He also had an 11-game scoring streak earlier this season. Currently, he continues to lead all rookies nationally with 1.38 points per game. Overall, he's ranked 5th in the conference and 8th nationally with 29 points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: SENIOR FORWARD BOBBY BUTLER
Quick Hits: 26GP, 14G, 26A, 40Pts, 1.54PtsGm, 3GW, 5PP, 0SH
Coach knows best: Hes one of our captains and hes leading by example," said Dick Umile. "Hes a goal scorer, we knew that coming in and hes got stronger and learned how to play at the defensive end."
Highlight reel: Named semifinalist for the 58th Annual Walter Brown Award. Hockey Humanitarian Nominee, Frozen Four Skills Challenge nominee. Named Hockey East Co-Player of the week, Nov. 16 and Jan. 11. Named Hockey East Player of the Month for November. Butler has scored a point in 21 of 27 games. In league play he ranks 1st in scoring, 1st in goals, and 4th in assists.
Clawing to the top: Brian Foster - Sr - G - 26GP, 12 Wins, 10 Losses, 4 Ties, 81 Goals Against, 1549 Minutes, 3.13 Goals against average, 0 Short handed, 758 Saves, .903 Save percentage; Blake Kessel - So - D - 26GP, 6G, 24A, 30Pts, 1.15PtsGm, 1GW, 2PP, 0SH

NORTHEASTERN: JUNIOR FORWARD WADE MACLEOD
Quick Hits: 25GP, 10G, 12A, 22Pts, 0.88PtsGm, 3GW, 4PP, 1SH
Coach knows best: "MacLeod's a special player," said Greg Cronin, "but also has to get more visible.
Highlight reel: MacLeod has notched five points in NU's last two contests. MacLeod had a six-game scoring streak between Jan. 2 and Jan. 16. Over those six games, he gathered eight points, including four goals and four assists. MacLeod recorded his 75th career point with a goal against UMass Lowell on Jan. 9. He takes 84 career points (35-49-84) into tonight's game versus Massachusetts.
Hot on his trail: David Strathman - Sr - D - 26GP, 3G, 7A, 10Pts, 0.38PtsGm, 1GW, 0PP, 1SH; Kyle Kraemer - Sr - F - 26GP, 10G, 10A, 20Pts, 0.76PtsGm, 2GW, 4PP, 0SH

PROVIDENCE COLLEGE: SOPHOMORE GOALIE ALEX BEAUDRY
Quick Hits: 24GP, 8W, 14L, 2T, 61GA, 1365Min, 2.68GAA, 0SH, 698SV, .920SV
Coach knows best: We had a number of goalies that we were evaluating, and we liked Alex the best his academic ability, his age, and his desire to get to school just kind of fit," Coach Tim Army said. We thought he was good. He was the guy we wanted."
Highlight reel: Ranked 1st in save percentage and 2nd in minutes in the league. Nationally, Beaudry is tied for 12th in save percentage. Named Hockey East Co-Defensive Player of the Week, Oct. 12, Nov. 2, and Jan. 18. When he earned the honor most recently, Beaudry averaged 35 saves and posted a 2-1 record, a 2.34 goals against average and a .938 save percentage in three games. He was named Hockey East Goaltender of the Month for October. Beaudry finished the month with a 4-2 record, a 2.01 goals against average and a .939 save percentage. On Oct. 21 he stopped a career-best 47 shots, including 20 in the third period, at No. 17 UMass.
Keeping in step: Matt Bergland - So - F - 27GP, 9G, 9A, 18Pts, 0.66PtsGm, 2GW, 0PP, 0SH; Mark Fayne - Sr - D - 27GP, 4G, 13A, 17Pts, 0.62PtsGm, 0GW, 2PP, 0SH

Mary Paoletti is on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Patriots make Floyd a healthy scratch for AFC title game

Patriots make Floyd a healthy scratch for AFC title game

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will go with four receivers against the Steelers as Michael Floyd has been listed as a healthy scratch for the AFC title game. 

PATRIOTS-STEELERS PREGAME

The Patriots had all five of their wideouts -- Floyd, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola -- available to them for Sunday's matchup, but they're opted to use the four who are most experienced in the team's offense. 

Hogan (thigh), Mitchell (knee) and Amendola (ankle) were all listed as questionable going into the weekend, but all have been deemed physically ready to play as their team vies for a Super Bowl berth. 

Floyd had his worst game as a member of the Patriots last week in the Divisional Round against the Texans. On two routes, both slants, Floyd ran the pattern in such a way that there appeared to be some miscommunication between him and quarterback Tom Brady. One was picked off and the other was almost picked. 

Floyd admitted as much last week, saying that there are still intricacies to the Patriots offense that he needs to pick up -- including exactly how Brady wants certain routes run.

Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans last week but felt optimistic soon thereafter that he'd be good to go for the conference championship. Mitchell hasn't played since suffering a knee injury against the Jets in Week 16. 

Other Patriots inactives for Sunday include quarterback Jacoby Brissett, running back DJ Foster, offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, safety Jordan Richards and corners Justin Coleman and Cyrus Jones.

Haggerty: For better or worse, Bruins need to make a call on Julien

Haggerty: For better or worse, Bruins need to make a call on Julien

The Bruins coach and leaders in their dressing room spoke out this weekend, and their words all basically spread the same supportive message.

Claude Julien and his longtime players aren’t ready for a change at the head coaching position for the Black and Gold and they hope the longtime bench boss is in Boston for as long as possible after 10 mostly successful years on the job.

Still, it may not go down that way this season with real pressure on B’s management, coaches and the players to end a two-year playoff drought. Things are currently going pretty badly with the Bruins in the middle of a three-game losing streak before facing the reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday afternoon.

The heat has been dialed up as high as it’s ever been on Julien in his 10 years of employment with Boston and everybody seems to know it.

“Right now we’re all confident in Claude, and we all want to be here and play for him. If [saving Julien’s job] is the extra motivation you need for the games then so be it,” said Patrice Bergeron. “But we’re all professionals and we’re here to win hockey games. I’ve said this before that I’ve been with Claude for 10 years, and he’s the guy that I believe in and that I want to play for.”

Similarly, the Bruins captain has been with Julien for the long haul in Boston and has worked closely with the coach keeping lines of communication open in good, Cup-winning times and bad, non-playoff times. Chara bestowed Julien with every bit the endorsement that Bergeron did, and it’s clear much of the core group wants to keep the longtime coach in place.

“We don’t pay attention [to the chatter]. Claude is our coach and Claude will be our coach. We have confidence in him,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “He’s proven to be a coach that does a lot of good things for this organization. We just have to come up with some wins, battle it and we’re all in this together.”

One thing that’s a legitimate question: Is the devotion of players like Chara and Bergeron toward Julien a defining reason to keep the longtime coach?

There isn’t a sense the Bruins have tuned out their coach, as can happen in dysfunctional NHL situations, but there is a feeling that longtime B’s players with status are pretty comfortable with iron-clad no-movement clauses in their contracts and a relationship with the coach where there’s a level they may not be getting pushed toward very often.

Comfort isn’t always a good thing in an NHL dressing room and it’s felt altogether too comfortable at times in some of those no-show performances from the Black and Gold over the past couple of failed seasons. 

For his part, Julien doesn't think that was the case and intends on continuing to work his way through the struggles with a mix of youth and veteran players who clearly have enough to be a playoff team.

“If we’re going with what we said we were going with and there’s going to be some growing pains along the way, so be it,” said Julien. “I think we put ourselves in a position earlier in the year where we could all of a sudden believe that we’re a playoff team...absolutely. I still think we’re a playoff team. Whether we can do it or not we’ll find out at the end of the year, but my job is to do everything I can to get us into the playoffs and that’s what I’m going to do.

“As far as the [firing] rumors are concerned, they’re out there and I know that. But I don’t worry about it because worrying is wasting a lot of my time. And my time is spent trying to fix things here.”

It would be ridiculous and pointless to compare this season’s Bruins roster to the groups that won Cups, made it to the Finals twice and even won a President’s Trophy in 2013-14. Clearly, this particular roster isn’t as deep, or as difficult to play against, as those talent-stuffed hockey clubs, but this team also has enough high-end talent that they should edge teams like Toronto, Ottawa and Philadelphia out of a playoff spot.

This is where the theoretical move to fire Julien comes into play.

The Bruins are at a critical stage of their season where things are slipping away from them and the team is showing some of the maddening characteristics of the past two seasons.

They are unprepared to play on too many nights. They take opponents lightly on too many nights particularly in the past couple of months. A tiring Tuukka Rask isn’t able to bail the team out as much as he was in the first couple of months. Because the Bruins are being strangled by a roster of immovable players with no-trade clauses and can’t even entertain trading their blue-chip prospects Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy, the trade options just aren’t there for Don Sweeney and Cam Neely right now.

It would take a brilliant, creative GM to swing a hockey deal that could pump life back into the reeling Bruins. The B’s front office hasn’t shown those qualities in the past few years running the team. Instead, they have GMs from other teams lining up and making one-sided offers to the desperate Bruins in hopes that Sweeney/Neely will buckle under the pressure to push into the playoffs this spring.

So, the only impactful card the Bruins can play is firing a coach in Julien who probably isn’t the coach of the future when the next generation of B’s prospects is ready to go. The hope is that move can light a fire under their meandering hockey club if it doesn't start reeling off some wins in a row. An argument can be made that a coach such as current assistant Bruce Cassidy could get more out of some of Boston’s younger players they’re relying heavily on this season. The former Providence Bruins coach might fit a little better into the overall philosophy that management is looking to instill.

It might just be that making a coaching change is the best midseason card that Bruins management has to play given all of the circumstances.

Still, the one thing that B’s management can’t do is keep Julien twisting in the wind and answering all the questions about his future with no clear vote of confidence from his bosses. Julien is the winningest coach in Bruins history and led them to their glorious Stanley Cup run in 2011. He’s earned a wealth of respect around the league for the professional, classy way he’s always conducted himself on and off the ice and he won’t be out of work long if/when he is relieved of his duties on Causeway Street.

So, if the Bruins intend to make the move with their coach then they need to do it sooner rather than later.

People around the NHL are watching the Bruins intently to see how they handle this situation with a world-class coach in Julien, and Neely and Sweeney continue to be radio/TV silent, despite the Bruins media requesting to speak with them on Friday morning in the throes of their losing streak.

It’s high time for Bruins management to step up and make a decision on Julien for better or for worse, and treat him the way they’d undoubtedly like to be treated if it were them suddenly in the danger zone should they miss the playoffs again this spring.