Odd Man Rush
In Bill Keenan's four years at Harvard he underwent five surgeries, played a grand total of six games, and scored one goal.
He clearly didn't get the total experience he'd hoped for, which might explain why, after picking up his Harvard diploma in 2009, he headed straight to Europe, playing pro hockey in Belgium, Germany, and Sweden. And not without injury either.
A Manhattan native, Keenan starts his story at the beginning, as a five-year-old New York Rangers -- and Adam Graves -- obsessive lacing on skates for the first time at Lasker Rink, in the northwest corner of New York's Central Park. The coach of that team informed his charges that winning didn't matter, which didn't set well with Keenan, who had already decided that, like Graves, he was actually a Canadian, not some kid going to private school in upper Manhattan. Since winning meant everything to Graves and the Rangers, Keenan wasn't thrilled to find that his right wing on the North Park Mighty Mites wore double runners, his left wing wore figure skates -- and neither one was a girl. Keenan notched 23 goals (only two on his own net) and two assists. The assists, he writes, were "purely accidental deflections off of teammates who were doing snow angels." The team finished 1-14.
No matter, Keenan was on his way. The next season he was playing with the New Jersey Rockets, a real team on which "everyone could skate forwards and backwards and do hockey stops in both directions." And his coach, ex-Princeton defenseman David Scowby, was a real Canadian. Keenan worked hard on honing his game, learning to backcheck and play defense. After all, he writes, "I didn't want to let down a fellow Canuck."
Keenan moved up the ladder...summer at Paul Vincent's Skating School, joining the Connecticut Yankees with top prospects like Robbie Schremp -- who was drinking beer and picking up waitresses at 16 -- and Jon Quick, playing in summer tournaments in Calgary and Nova Scotia. He moves on to the New York Bobcats before moving up to New York Apple Core, coached by Henry Lazar, "The Lizard", whose "first passion was moving players on to Div. I colleges and whose second passion was watching reruns of I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners."
Eventually, with no stops in the USHL or any other junior league, Keenan is recruited by Harvard.
In December of his sophomore year, though, Keenan finds himself unable to bend over and tie his skates.
"Like any well-informed hypochondirac, I went straight to the most reliable source to diagnose the problem myself," Keenan writes. "After typing in the symptoms to WebMD.com, it was clear: I either had herniated discs or syphilis."
An MRI the following week confirmed that Keenan had two herniated discs in his lower back. His college career was kaput, but he was still a member of the Harvard hockey team.
With all those hours watching from the stands, and working out with his teammates, and being part of the team but also slightly apart, Keenan soaked up what was going on around him and, in "Odd Man Rush" he spins story after story. There are anecdotes that anyone who has played college hockey -- or even wondered what it was all about -- will find hilarious. But there are also moments of sadness. Keenan's struggles with being a member of a team he cannot play for lends poignancy to his tale.
Perhaps that's why, after graduation, Keenan knew that, "If I turned out to be one of those old jacknobs who wears his hand-knit letterman sweater and rambles to anyone within earshot about how his college injuries prevented him from making it to the pros and eventually becoming a Hall of Famer, I would retroactively want to kick my face in."
He also knew he wasn't done with hockey.
So he jumps at the opportunity, suggested by an old Apple Core teammate, to play pro in Belgium. While the first half of the book was written as a series of flashbacks, when Keenan heads to Europe, he is writing everything as it happens. While this reader was initially drawn to reading about Keenan's days working his way up to Harvard -- and all the familiar names and places -- the European section was even livelier -- a hilarious travelogue through Belgium, German, and Sweden with a crazy, ever-changing multinational cast of players, girls, and various hangers-on and characters. Oh, yes, Keenan gets laid up with another injury, but he gets in a lot of hockey too. Finally, in a way he might not have imagined a few years earlier, he finds a kind of hockey redemption.
This reporter has read numerous hockey books over the years. Too many to even guess at the number. Very few are memorable enough to keep on my permanent bookshelf. Maybe a dozen make the cut. Keenan's "Odd Man Rush" joins that select group. Keenan is a writer, a storyteller with an eye for detail, an ear for dialogue, and a humorist's touch for the perfectly-placed punch line. The pages of this book just whiz by.
We're giving it five stars. Here's the link to the Amazon page:
Bill Keenan -- Odd Man Rush
2016 Prep Playoff Seedings
Note: These are all unofficial until NEPSIHA completes its calculations, and signs off on it.
6. Belmont Hill
7. St. Sebastian's
2. St. Mark's |
6. New Hampton
7. St. George's
Final RPI and JSPR Numbers
Here are the final RPI and JSPR numbers, along with the playoff schedule. It's an Excel doc with several tabs.
2015-16 RPI and JSPR
Mass Super 8 Seedings Announced
The Super 8 seedings were announced by the MIAA today. They are:
1. BC High (17-0-3, .925)
2. Pope Francis (15-3-2, .800)
3. Malden Catholic (14-3-3, .775)
4. St. John's Prep (14-2-4, .800)
5. Burlington (17-1-3, .881)
6. Austin Prep (13-4-3, .750)
7. Arlington (15-3-3, .786)
8. Reading (12-2-6, .750)
9. Central Catholic (14-7-1, .659)
10. Hingham (11-8-3, .568)
Play-in Games, Mon. Feb. 29th at the Chelmsford Forum
Hingham vs. Arlington, 6:00 pm
Central Catholic vs. Reading, 8:00 pm
Americans Top Leader Boards
Today is George Washington's 284th birthday. This was a birthdate that was actually nationally celebrated up until the 1980s when it was taken away from us, merged with Lincoln's birthday (Feb. 12th), and turned into the holiday we today call Presidents' Day -- a misnomer, as the date annually falls between Feb. 15th and 21st, thus guaranteed to never fall on any president's true birthdate. The impetus for scratching Washington's Birthday and turning it into the bland, non-specific 'Presidents' Day' came from a desire for a three-day weekend, perhaps mixed with a belief that John Tyler, Millard Fillmore deserve equal billing with the our first and 16th presidents. No matter, in short order the auto dealers hijacked the holiday. It was the '80s, nobody wanted to buy American cars, and the dealers were desperate. So they fiddled with the calendar, made it law, took away Washington's Birthday, and gave us week-long auto sales.
But we haven't forgotten Washington's Birthday here at USHR and, to celebrate, we're going to point out something that was brought to our attention over the weekend:
The leading scorer in the NHL, AHL, OHL, QMJHL, ECHL, USHL, and NCAA is an American.
The leading goaltender in the OHL, BCHL, ECHL, and NCAA is an American.
Here is the list:
NHL: Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks)
AHL: Chris Bourque (Hershey Bears)
OHL: Kevin Labanc (Barrie Colts)
QMJHL: Conor Garland (Moncton Wildcats)
ECHL: Chad Costello (Allen Americans)
USHL: Rem Pitlick (Muskegon Lumberjacks)
NCAA: Kyle Connor (University of Michigan)
OHL: Devin Williams (Erie Otters)
BCHL: Zachary Driscoll (Penticton Vees)
ECHL: Jack Campbell (Idaho Steeleheads)
NCAA: Alex Lyon (Yale)
And let us not forget the United States' 5-2 win over Canada in the gold medal game at the 2016 Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway. The US, coached by Scott Paluch, beat Finland, 4-1, lost to Canada 4-2, and beat Russia 4-2 in the round-robin portion. In the semis, the U.S. blanked Russia 3-0 before dispatching Canada, 5-2.
U.S. Youth Olympic Games Roster
And, finally, let's not forget that on this date in 1980, the U.S., despite being outshot 39-16, defeated the Soviet Union 4-3 in the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, NY. The 22nd fell on a Friday that year, thus allowing plenty of partying right through Sunday's gold medal game win over Finland.
Avon Tops Final USHR Prep Poll of Season
The final prep poll of the '15-16 season is up and, for the 7th consecutive week, Avon Old Farms (18-1-4) holds down the #1 spot. The Winged Beavers' lofty ranking is not unassailable, however, as they eked out two late ties over the last week.
There is movement at the bottom of the poll, as a few teams are playing musical chairs.
The two teams that just missed the Top 10 are Thayer and St. Mark's. Thayer has been on a roll for the past few weeks, going 7-1 and pulling themselves into contention, something that appeared unlikely in December when they went through a stretch of five games (0-4-1) without a win. Right now, though, the Tigers have it going. And they have another whack at a Top 8 team when they host Milton on Wednesday. Thayer beat Milton 4-3 last week.
St. Mark's, #10 in last week's poll, saw its 10-game win streak grind to a halt with a 6-0 blanking at the hands of Rivers on Wednesday.
As we mentioned, this is the last poll of the season. We have never done those end-of-the-season polls. Don't care much for them. By next Sunday night, the regular season will be over and neither what we think -- nor what anyone else thinks -- will matter. The final standings will tell the story.
USHR Prep Poll; Week of Feb. 22, 2016
Not like '09
It's tough to compete without a goalie and Wednesday's attempt by Northfield-Mt. Hermon to do just that fizzled, as visiting Exeter scored 47 seconds in, led 9-0 after the first, and won it 16-3.
This typist watched the first period before heading off to another game. It was pretty obvious that there would be no repeat of December 2009, when NMH, playing at the Lawrenceville Tournament, had three injured and/or sick goalies and was forced to play two games without one. They lost to Nichols 14-8, but came back and beat Lawrenceville the next day, 12-4.
But this NMH team is not the '09-10 Hoggers, which featured the Cangelosi brothers and goaltender Branden Komm, went 22-9-2, and reached the NEPSAC championship game in March, bowing to Avon, 4-1. And this year's Exeter team is, needless to say, vastly superior to the two teams the Hoggers played at Lawrenceville over six years ago.
Yesterday's game wasn't much to look at.
"I wasn't feeling overly optimistic going in," said NMH head coach Tom Pratt. "But our boys wanted to play and I wanted to give them the chance."
"We walked away from the game not feeling great about either our effort or the situation. We wanted to make things difficult for Exeter but we were unable to do so. It was a combination of their skill, and not being ready for the situation.
"The kids are disappointed with the effort they were able to put in, but not disappointed that they tried.
"They now know what it looks like to play without a goalie. And it doesn't look great."
As we mentioned before, NMH does have a third goalie on campus, a sophomore. Pratt has resisted any pressure to use him in a game. "I wouldn't put him in that situation," he said. "He has never practiced with us and no one thinks he would be in a position to protect himself. The health and well-being of students come first."
"Going forward, we're in a difficult spot. (Avery) Gobbo has not progressed. He's not even close. NEPSAC is looking at the situation and Loomis and Choate have said if we are unable to play them they will seek a forfeit. That's out of my hands. I feel bad for the kids -- it's a great group -- but there's not much to do about it."
This could be the end of NMH's season, and it would be an anticlimactic way for Pratt, now 50, to wind up his coaching career. Pratt, who has been behind the bench for nine years, is a 1987 graduate of Bowling Green, where he was a defenseman for Jerry York. After a brief minor pro career in the Calgary Flames organization, Pratt took over as head coach at New England College. He was there for five years before coming to NMH, where he is also the athletic director.
Next year, former NMH and UMass forward Kevin Czepiel, who has been an assistant on Pratt's staff this season, will take over as head coach.
"This situation we have now is an anomaly. It's certainly not an indicator of where NMH hockey will be in the future. It's just a freak situation that happened twice in seven years."
"Kevin Czepiel is doing a terrific job," Pratt added. "And the future of NMH hockey is looking very good."
NMH to Take On Exeter -- Without a Goaltender
At 2:00 pm on Wednesday, Exeter, on the road, will face off against a Northfield-Mt. Hermon squad that lacks a healthy goalie -- or any goalie, for that matter.
So the Hoggers will play without one, utilizing six skaters. Exeter will use a goaltender and five skaters. The game is an official game and will count in the NEPSIHA standings.
It will be NMH's first game in two weeks, since losing to KUA 7-0 on Feb. 3rd. In the second period of that game sophomore goaltender Eric Green took a shot to the head. The period ended with NMH trailing 1-0, but Green wasn't the same in the third period, giving up six goals. After the game, Green was diagnosed with a concussion. He has not been cleared to play since, and it is uncertain if he will be allowed to return to action this season.
On Jan. 27th, one week before Green's concussion, PG goalie Avery Gobbo was injured late in his terrific 43-save 2-1 win over Cushing. Gobbo, who has a high ankle sprain, skated yesterday, but was unable to move well enough laterally to go between the pipes.
So, no goalies.
NMH has already had to bow out of games vs. Williston and Nichols. The Hoggers' future schedule includes games vs. Loomis, Choate, Andover, and Tabor. At least two of those games have playoff implications. There's no telling how all of that will shake out.
Kids have volunteered to go between the pipes but, after seeing Green go down with a concussion, NMH head coach Tom Pratt has no stomach for suiting up a skater or non-roster goalie and putting him in a potentially dangerous situation.
Coincidentally, NMH, caught in a somewhat similar situation, played two games without a goaltender at the Lawrenceville Christmas Tournament in December 2009. They split the games, losing 14-8 to Nichols; then, after making some strategic adjustments, came back and beat Lawrenceville 12-4, and outshooting them 66-4.
Click here for the story from USHR News of Dec. 22, 2009:
The Hoggers Improbable Feat
"We're down to a skeleton crew but the kids want to play," Pratt said.
"I need to see how tomorrow goes, not just in terms of winning or losing, but in terms of being competitive and having it be a good experience."
"Win or lose," Pratt added, "it's a story."
Winged Beavers Soaring
For the sixth week in a row, Avon Old Farms (17-1-2, and undefeated since losing to Cushing in the second game of the season) holds the top spot in the USHR Weekly Prep Poll.
Teams in the Top 10 went a combined 19-5 last week. Five teams had one loss, with Salisbury, Milton, Gunnery, Brunswick and Tabor all losing one game.
Key games this week are: Avon at Salisbury (Sat.), KUA at Cushing (Sat.), and Brunswick at Gunnery (Sun.)
Keep an eye on the Founders' League. Choate is one game under .500, while Kent and Deerfield are each two games under .500. If any of these teams reach the .500 mark, there could be a significant ripple effect. Those three teams also have games against each other, so they could wind up blocking one another out.
If there were 11 teams in the poll, that final spot would have gone to Nobles. They're bubbling under, going 6-1-2 over their last nine games, capped off by Saturday's OT win over Keller Division leader Milton Academy.
USHR Prep Poll; Week of Feb. 15, 2016
Sat. 2/13/16- last update: Mon. 2/22
There are several tournaments of interest coming up over the next few weeks. Here are some noteworthy ones.
Sat.-Sun. Feb. 20-21
At the Gunnery School; Washington, Conn.
Sat. Feb. 20
1:00 pm -- Northwood 5, Brunswick 2
4:00 pm -- Gunnery 6, St. Andrew's College 0
Sun. Feb. 21
12:00 pm -- Northwood 4, St. Andrew's College 2
3:00 pm -- Gunnery 3, Brunswick 0
Fri.-Sat Feb. 26-27
At Trinity-Pawling (Pawling, NY) and Millbrook (Millbrook, NY)
Fri. Feb. 26
5:30 pm -- Game 1 -- Albany Academy vs. Millbrook (@ Millbrook)
7:00 pm -- Game 2 -- Brunswick vs. Trinity-Pawling (@ Trinity-Pawling)
Sat. Feb. 27
2:15 pm -- Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser (@ Trinity-Pawling)
4:30 pm -- Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner (@ Trinity-Pawling)
There are a couple of good high school tournaments coming up:
Cathedral Classic (completed)
Wed.-Thurs. Feb. 17-18
At the Olympia; West Springfield, Mass.
Wed. Feb. 17
6:00 pm -- St. Mary's-Lynn 8, Acton-Boxboro 1
8:00 pm -- Pope Francis 3, Malden Catholic 2
Thurs. Feb. 18
4:00 pm -- Consolation: Malden Catholic 9, Acton-Boxboro 0
6:00 pm -- Championship Game: Pope Francis 4, St. Mary's-Lynn 0
Buddy Ferreira Classic (completed)
Sat.-Thurs. Feb. 13-18
At the Falmouth Ice Arena; Falmouth, Mass.
Sat. Feb. 13
Game 1 -- Arlington Catholic 6, Duxbury 2
Game 2 -- Hingham 4, Archbishop Williams 1
Game 3 -- Austin Prep 2, Reading 1 (SO)
Game 4 -- BC High 10, Falmouth 0
Mon. Feb. 15
Game 5 -- 1:00 pm -- Archbishop Williams 2, Duxbury 1 (SO)
Game 6 -- 3:00 pm -- Reading 7, Falmouth 0
Game 7 -- 5:00 pm -- Arlington Catholic 3, Hingham 2 (SO)
Game 8 -- 7:00 pm -- BC High 4, Austin Prep 0
Wed. Feb. 17 (Losers' Bracket)
5:00 pm -- Loser Game 5 vs. Loser Game 6: Duxbury 4, Falmouth 1
7:00 pm -- Loser Game 7 vs. Loser Game 8: Austin Prep 4, Hingham 1
Thurs. Feb. 18 (Winners' Bracket)
5:00 pm -- Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6: Reading 2, Archbishop Williams 1
7:00 pm -- Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8: BC High 8, Arlington Catholic 0
G -- Sean Dynan, Reading
D -- Jayson Dobay, BC High
D -- Billy Roche, BC High
F -- Kayser Raei, BC High
F -- Kevin Tobin, Reading
F -- Matt Soluilletti, AC
Kayser Raei, BC High
The Holt Conference Tournament will start Sat. Feb. 20th. The seedings will be dependent on the final standings within the conference.
The Lakes Region Tournament will start Fri. Feb. 26th. It, too, will have matchups decided by final standings within the conference.
The NEPSIHA Playoffs start with quarterfinals on Wed. March 2nd at campus sites. Semifinals will be on Sat. March 5th, also at campus sites. And the three championship games will take place on Sun. March 6th at Sullivan Arena (cap. 2,700) on the campus of St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH. The small school title game is at 12:00 pm, the large schools face off at 2:30 pm, and the Elite 8 is at 5:00 pm.
Five Straight Weeks
Once again, for the fifth week in a row, Avon Old Farms (15-1-2, and undefeated since losing to Cushing in the second game of the season) holds the #1 spot in the USHR Weekly Prep Poll.
There is very little movement in this week's poll. The ten teams went a combined 17-1 in games played last week. Only #8 Brunswick lost, bowing 5-2 to Salisbury -- no shame in that.
One new team entered the Top 10 this week, as St. Mark's (13-4-1) grabbed the last spot. Meanwhile, Belmont Hill (10-5-6) lost to Rivers on Saturday -- and was KO'd from the poll.
As for Rivers (14-5-4), they are bubbling under the Top 10. Shawn McEachern's team hasn't lost since Jan. 16th -- to St. Mark's. It's been a good season for the Eberhart Division, as Brooks (13-5-2) and St. George's (12-6-0) are also having successful seasons.
Due to the long weekend, a number of teams played just one game last week. But, starting Wednesday, the stretch run begins -- and there will be no breaks. We expect to see a lot more movement going forward, as top teams will be facing off more frequently against each other.
USHR Prep Poll; Week of Feb. 8, 2016