Boston College has extended the contract of head football coach Steve Addazio through 2020, the school announced Th

There are no more Hockey East conference games before winter break (several teams still have a non-conference game or two to go), so now seems like a good time to do some power rankings and see where everyone stands as the first half of the season comes to a close. As things stand right now, there are three pretty clear tiers in the conference, with three teams gaining some separation at the top, four teams in the middle trying to fight their way into that group, and five teams making a mess of things at the bottom.

TOP TIER
1. Boston University (10-3-2, 7-1-2 HEA)
After losing two of three non-conference games during Thanksgiving week, the Terriers bounced back by taking three of four points from Merrimack. BU’€™s top line, which had been held off the scoresheet in the previous two games, went off in Saturday’€™s 4-2 win, as Danny O’€™Regan had three goals and an assist and Jack Eichel had four assists. The Terriers are a very good team — probably even better than expected so far thanks to Eichel being the best player in the country and their four freshman defensemen being impact players from the start — and they can go pretty far without changing much, but they could be even better if they start to get some more depth scoring to help with those rare games when the Eichel line doesn’€™t score. The returns of Robbie Baillargeon and Nikolas Olsson over the next month or so should help, but until then, the Eichel line will be enough to win a lot of games. BU leads Hockey East with 33.93 shots on goal per game and Matt O’€™Connor is second in the league with a .938 save percentage.

2. UMass-Lowell (10-3-3, 7-0-2 HEA)
The River Hawks’€™ recent non-conference results haven’€™t been great (split with Penn State, loss to Harvard), but they continue to roll in Hockey East play, most recently beating UConn 6-4 on Wednesday and Maine 3-2 in overtime on Saturday. The River Hawks don’€™t have anyone averaging a point per game, but they still lead the league in scoring thanks to 13 players averaging half a point per game or more, more than anyone else in the conference. Their team shooting percentage has come down to 13.5 percent, but that still leads the country and is still probably unsustainable. The good news is that they’€™re getting more shots on goal — 33 or more in four of their last five games — which should help limit the effects of regression. Lowell continues to get just average goaltending (Kevin Boyle has a .914 save percentage, while Jeff Smith is at .901), which isn’€™t ideal for a team that expects to compete for titles.

3. Vermont (11-3-1, 7-3-1 HEA)
The Catamounts continue to be a really solid all-around team. They’€™re second in Hockey East in scoring, first in team defense, tied for first in power play, first in penalty kill, third in shots on goal and first in shots on goal against. They’€™re getting good goaltending from Brody Hoffman (.924 save percentage in 10 appearances) and Mike Santaguida (.953 in six). Like Lowell, Vermont is scoring with depth. Mario Puskarich and Mike Paliotta are averaging a point per game, with Paliotta leading all Hockey East defensemen in the category, and nine others are averaging half a point per game. The Catamounts have won four in a row and they haven’€™t allowed more than three goals in a game all season. All that said, they’€™re looking up at Lowell and BU in the standings. They’€™re just one point behind those two, but they’€™ve played one more conference game than BU and two more than Lowell.

MIDDLE TIER
4. Providence (8-6-1, 6-4-0 HEA)
After a 4-5-1 start, the Friars had to take advantage of their schedule easing up over the last five games, and they did. It wasn’€™t always pretty, and capping it with a home loss to Northeastern was less than ideal, but the Friars managed to go 4-1-0 to get above .500. Jon Gillies has posted a .967 save percentage over his last nine games to bring his season mark up to a league-leading .940. In large part because of Gillies, the Friars have given up two goals or fewer in each of their last 10 games. Offense remains a concern, though, despite scoring five against Northeastern on Wednesday. That was the first time since opening night they’€™ve scored more than three goals, and they’€™ve scored one or zero goals five times in their last eight games. Gillies gives the Friars a chance pretty much every night, but they’€™ll need the offense to really pick it up if they’€™re going to have any chance of making a run at BU, Lowell and Vermont.

5. Boston College (8-7-1, 4-4-1 HEA)
The Eagles have been a team of streaks so far this season. They followed a season-opening loss with a four-game winning streak, four-game losing streak, three-game winning streak, and then two straight losses. They got back on the right side this weekend, though, by taking three of four points from UNH. The Eagles are tied for fourth in Hockey East in scoring despite not having any forwards averaging more than Chris Calnan’€™s 0.67 points per game. Balanced scoring is nice, as are contributions from defensemen (Teddy Doherty actually leads the team with 11 points), but BC would really benefit from a couple of its five drafted forwards developing into legitimate top scorers. Bruins pick Ryan Fitzgerald looked like he may have been that earlier this season, but he now has no goals and just one assist in his last eight games. On the back end, the defensemen have continued to make mistakes you wouldn’€™t expect from players this talented. The return of Steve Santini will be big, but others need to improve.

6. Merrimack (10-5-2, 4-4-1 HEA)
The Warriors have probably been the biggest surprise (at least of the positive variety) this season. Yes, their schedule has been pretty soft, but by consistently beating weaker teams, they’€™ve proven that they’€™re not a weaker team themselves. They’€™ve also held their own against better teams, splitting series with Providence and Notre Dame and tying BU on Friday night before suffering a 4-2 loss at Agganis Arena the next night. Hampus Gustafsson (4 goals, 11 assists) and Brian Christie (7 goals, 7 assists) have stepped up to give the Warriors a viable first line, while Brett Seney (6 goals, 9 assists) anchors an impressive all-freshmen second line. The offensive improvement is one major reason for the turnaround from last year, and better goaltending is another. Rasmus Tirronen has gone from a .908 save percentage last season to .929 this year, and freshman Collin Delia has a .932 mark in seven appearances.

7. Notre Dame (8-8-2, 4-2-2 HEA)
Closing out the first half with a home series against UMass was exactly what the Irish needed to snap a 1-6-1 slide. They won a 7-5 shootout on Friday and then blanked the Minutemen 4-0 on Saturday. Senior defenseman Robbie Russo had two goals and three assists on the weekend and he continues to be an all-around force, as he leads the team in both points (0.94 per game) and shots on goal (3.22 per game). Mario Lucia scored twice in the series and is now tied with Danny O’€™Regan for the conference lead in goals, although O’€™Regan has three games in hand. The biggest problem for the Irish remains the goaltending, as Cal Petersen’€™s .910 save percentage and Chad Katunar’€™s .905 won’€™t be good enough to make any kind of serious run.

BOTTOM TIER
8. New Hampshire (4-9-1, 1-5-1 HEA)
The bottom of Hockey East is pretty bad this year, as evidenced by these next five teams’€™ records. The Wildcats are 11th in the conference standings but there are some signs that they might be the best team in this bottom tier, despite losing seven of their last 10. They have the best goal differential of this bottom group (minus-0.29 per game), and they actually have the best shot differential in the whole conference (plus-6.29 per game). Some of that shot differential can be chalked up to score effects, but not all of it. We’€™re far enough into the season that it’€™s safe to call the Wildcats a pretty good possession team. They need to cut down on the defensive mistakes and get better goaltending if they’€™re going to make any noise, but it’€™s not impossible to see that happening. It’€™s worth noting that Adam Clark, who has a .905 save percentage on the season, is at .928 over his last seven games.

9. Northeastern (4-10-1, 3-6-1 HEA)
After a miserable 0-8-1 start, the Huskies have started to turn things around by going 4-2-0 in their last six, a stretch that includes wins over Minnesota and Providence. One of the reasons for the mini-turnaround is that they’€™ve started to put up halfway decent possession numbers. They’€™re still being outshot on the season, but not by as wide a margin as last season, and they’€™ve actually outshot their opponent in four of their last seven games. Another reason is that Clay Witt has a .930 save percentage over his last six games after a slow, injury-plagued start to the season. And yet another is that their shooting percentage has started to come up a little — and it will probably come up even more considering they’€™re still at a league-low 6.4 percent on the season. The Huskies still have a long ways to go, but at least they’€™re not as bad as that 0-8-1 start.

10. UConn (3-8-4, 2-4-1 HEA)
The Huskies have some nice results (wins over Vermont, BC and Quinnipiac and a tie against BU), but they’€™re still a team with a lot of holes, especially on offense. They’€™re last in the league in scoring and last in shots on goal. They’€™ve scored more than two goals just three times all season, and they only have three players with more than five points so far. The Huskies also rank second-to-last in shots against and their minus-6.67 average shot differential is tied with UMass for the worst mark in the conference. Basically, they’€™re still a team that relies far too much on goalie Rob Nichols. The fact that he ranks fourth in Hockey East with a .928 save percentage is great, but if he dips to even a league-average .915 like he has over the last month, they win once in seven games.

11. Maine (3-12-1, 2-6-0 HEA)
The Black Bears have lost eight in a row and it’€™s hard to find any reason to be even a little bit optimistic. They haven’€™t scored more than three goals in any of those losses, they’€™ve allowed three or more in all of them, and they’€™ve been outshot in seven of the eight games. They have an .886 save percentage as a team, which is really bad, and Devin Shore and Ben Hutton, two first-team All-Stars last season, have just 13 points combined. The Black Bears are 0-6-0 on the road this season and are now 1-18-3 on the road since Red Gendron took over before last season.

12. UMass (4-11-0, 1-9-0 HEA)
The best you can say about the Minutemen is that they’€™re not terrible offensively. In fact, they actually rank in the top half of the league in scoring. Despite the decent offensive numbers, though, the Minutemen have the worst goal differential in the league (minus-1.80 per game) thanks to the fact that their defense and goaltending are terrible. They give up more shots on goal than anyone and their .862 team save percentage is the worst in the league by a lot. The result is a mind-boggling 4.47 goals against per game, the worst mark in the country and the worst in Hockey East by nearly a full goal (Maine is the next closest at 3.62).

Blog Author: 
Scott McLaughlin

Boston College is headed to New York for one final game.

Boston College is headed to New York for one final game.

The Eagles (7-5) will face Penn State in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 27 to close out the season. This will be the second consecutive bowl game for BC under coach Steve Addazio.

The coach said his team is more than revved up for the New York city atmosphere that the Yankee Stadium location will provide.

“Ninety percent of our team is New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio. They all understand the Penn State-BC thing,” Addazio said after of the game. “Where’€™s better to be at Christmas than New York City? It’€™s got it all. Our alums, our fans will be there to support the game, it’€™ll be a sold-out crowd. I’€™m just excited. I couldn’t be more happy about this matchup, this bowl game, and we’€™re honored.”

The rivalry between the two teams has been dormant in recent years, as the schools have not played since 2004. The Nittany Lions have dominated the all-time series with a 19-4 record, but the Eagles have won the last three matchups.

“Everyone was really excited,” said senior linebacker Sean Duggan. “The team room kind of went nuts when Coach Addazio came in and told us. We are just really excited to play a team with such a storied history. It’€™s a team that growing up, you know all about.”

This game will feature the return of Penn State to postseason competition after a two-year absence. The NCAA banned the school from bowl games for four years in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, but lifted that sanction earlier this season.

Senior graduate quarterback Tyler Murphy, who led the Eagles with 1,079 rushing yards this season, said playing against such a storied program puts more meaning on this bowl game.

“You have two teams that have had a lot of success in the Northeast,” Murphy said. “It’€™s two programs that are really trying to turn the tide. A bowl victory would be big, so there is a lot at stake.”

Blog Author: 
Andrew Battifarano

Thinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Rod Serling and the Twilight Zone. ‘Cuz I feel as if I’ve been in it.

— The good times in Friartown keep rolling. Men’s basketball, hockey and cross-country are (or have been) nationally ranked this year, and the soccer team is in the NCAA tournament quarterfinal round this weekend, playing at Michigan State — the team’s best run ever in the NCAAs. And PC alum, board of trustees member and former soccer player Karl Anderson (Class of ’88, along with his wife, Kerry) has announced a commitment of $1.5 million to begin construction of a new soccer and lacrosse stadium on campus. The Friars are learning, “If you build it, success will come.”

— Getting the chance to call Providence and No. 1 Kentucky from inside the hallowed halls of Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky, last weekend was a bit, well, anticlimactic. In the 20 years since I had the opportunity to be there previously (during PC’s 1994 NCAA tourney appearance), the building hasn’t changed much at all. But there are those banners hanging in the rafters, signifying the Wildcats’ place in the history of the sport. And the crowd of 24K sang “Happy Birthday” to legendary coach Joe B. Hall, as much beloved by the Wildcats faithful as Adolph Rupp himself. He sat right behind our broadcast position at courtside. Wonder what he thought of Joe Hassett’s referee rants?

— Had the chance to visit with former Friars assistant coach Fran Fraschilla, who of course has gone on to a great TV career with ESPN. He’s on the Ed Cooley love boat and loves the defensive intensity the Friars are bringing to the floor. And intensity is something, you might recall, Fraschilla brought to his own teams while at Manhattan and St. John’s — and something else, you might recall, that ended up costing him his job at SJU.

— Willie Cauley-Stein is a freak. I mean that in a good way, of course. But Kentucky’s 7-foot junior big man can run equally with and defend smartly against much smaller players, and he bottled up LaDontae Henton like no one else has before — or may ever again. If I’m in Philly, I’m thinking he might look good in a Sixers uniform — alongside of, or in place of, another former Cat in Nerlens Noel.

— And 6-11 freshman center Karl Anthony Towns? Two words: “Go pro.”

— My buddy Statbeast sez he’s getting into archaeology. It’s the best possible husband a woman can have — the older she gets, the more interested he is in her.

— The early returns on the Big East against out-of-conference opponents have been impressive. Other than Kentucky’s obvious glut of two-platoon talent and ability, the Big East has been THE story in college basketball to this point in the season. But don’t think for a minute the league can rest on whatever pre-conference laurels it can gather.  This is all about the postseason, which is something associate commissioner for men’s basketball Stu Jackson told us in September. Scheduling the tougher teams is one thing — you’ve also got to win your fair share, and then win in March. So far, the formula is working according to plan.

— Surprises in the league? Butler is better than advertised, as Roosevelt Jones — who missed all of last year with a wrist injury — has solidified the Bulldogs’ backcourt and created matchup difficulties for opponents. Just ask Georgetown, as the Hoyas were forced to play a non-league game against Butler in the Bahamas, and lost.

— On the negative side, Marquette has really struggled for Steve Wojciechowski out of the gate. In the Big East’s unheard-of 38-2 start to the season, the Golden Eagles had both early losses. There have been flashes of promise with fifth-year senior transfer Matt Carlino (38 points vs. Georgia Tech) and redshirt freshman Duane Wilson (30 points against Tennessee), and further promise for improvement will come as the second semester begins with the eligibility of 6-foot-10 Indiana transfer Luke Fischer.

— A prediction:  The Big East may get five teams every once in a while into the NCAAs, but to sustain (or better) that production, expansion will need to occur. Otherwise, the ACC, the Big Ten, the Pac-12 and even the football-first SEC will outfight the Big East for postseason spots. Playing in their own leagues, and playing non-conference games against each other, will only elevate the middle of those oversized packs. Two more teams, two more markets, two more schools with basketball-first traditions will help the Big East get closer to evening the score with the football-mad power conferences.

— The coaches love the round-robin in the Big East Conference scheduling. So it probably won’t happen soon, but as soon as Fox decides it would like more TV inventory, Saint Louis and Dayton still make the most sense as potential newcomers, for my money.

— Not for nuthin’, but can UConn drop its football program and rejoin the Big East? Talk about an albatross hanging around your neck. Can someone explain how a middling-to-poor UConn football program helps a four-time national champion men’s basketball program (or a nine-time national champ women’s team) remain relevant?

— I know coaches have to do what they have to do for the overall betterment of their team and program, but URI was hurt — again — when 6-10 center Jordan Hare left the team. This puts a lot of pressure on a young but talented backcourt, and there will be nights when there’s little to fall back upon, like against Kansas last week. But Dan Hurley hasn’t shied away from a challenging schedule.

— Rhode Island gets its slice of the rivalry pie this week with PC and URI meeting for the 125th time Wednesday night. With both teams looking toward the postseason this year, there’s more than just bragging rights at stake. The Friars have won four straight over the Rams and have won the last five played at the Dunk. Providence might have the momentum, but in this game — that doesn’t mean a thing.

— Congrats to the newest class of inductees for the URI Athletics Hall of Fame, which includes football players Mark Brockwell and Tom Cataldo, softball star Kellie Cookus, Michael LaBarbera from baseball, Stephanie Ulicny from cross-country, Andy Williams from soccer and former basketball standout Antonio Reynolds-Dean. Also honored at the ceremony next March will be retired longtime golf coach Tom Drennan.

— After a “wow” of a first half in their opener at defending national champ UConn, Bryant has slipped to a 1-4 start out of the gate. The Bulldogs lost the Battle of the Bulldogs to Yale Wednesday, and play at Brown Saturday night hoping to find some offense. Bryant is shooting just 36 percent from the floor for the year, and averages less than 60 points per game.

— Four friends in the local media — who I think the world of for their ability and for just being plain good people, are up for Rhode Island Sportscaster and Sportswriter of the Year, through their nominations from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. Ken Bell from WLNE-TV (ABC 6) and Steve McDonald from WHJY/WWBB (B 101) are finalists, as are Brendan McGair of the Pawtucket Times/Woonsocket Call and Bill Reynolds of the Providence Journal. Tough to pick a winner in this group. Just sayin’.

— It’s a championship, but even if they win the MLS Cup, the New England Revolution still will be just a “soccer team” around here. A good one, sure. But despite the popularity of the World Cup this summer, and more than 32,000 in attendance for the Eastern Conference finals match at Gillette, soccer still rates a poor fifth on the pantheon of popularity among pro sports fans in New England, despite surging numbers among young athletes, youth leagues and casual fans. Why? It’s a good question.

Opportunities to continue playing remain strong as kids grow into teens and young adults these days. But as we grow older, the urge to “mainstream” exists, whether with friends or family. Unless everyone you know has played the sport, still plays the sport or even just watches the sport, old habits and longtime sports loyalties to other teams, sports and leagues simply are hard to pass over. That, and the bottom line around here — everybody loves a winner. If the Revs lose to the LA Galaxy, they’ll be five-time championship losers. That’s Buffalo Bills territory, right there.

So, does Providence and/or Rhode Island really want to bring the Revs to the Ocean State? Or is this similar to the farcical attempt to lure the Patriots here (or to Hartford) in the late ’90s? The support for such a move has been made public, and city and state leaders all seem to be in lockstep on the possibility. However, the Kraft family has designs on a site off of I-93 in Boston, if a move is made at all from Gillette Stadium. And MLS, while having teams in markets both large and medium-sized, still will focus on bigger cities in upcoming expansion. Of course, this wouldn’t be expansion. It all boils down to one thing — that starts with ‘m’ and rhymes with “honey” — and if there will be enough to go around for all parties.

— Have you had the chance to check out the Providence Sky Chiefs basketball team, the state’s newest entry on the sports landscape? Playing their home games this season at Rhode Island College’s Murray Center, the Sky Chiefs have started the season 3-1 and head to San Diego this weekend to compete in the San Diego Surf Invitational at Miramar College. Don’t dismiss these guys just yet — playing in the 76-team American Basketball Association, the Sky Chiefs are 17th in the league power rankings.

— No need to sound the alarm, or jump off of the Patriots’ bandwagon yet. But after watching Aaron Rodgers find his third, fourth and even fifth receivers on some plays against the New England defense last week, I’ll say this: Rodgers is the best QB in the game right now. No one else is close. He will need to win a couple of rings, however, to enter TB12’s rarified air.

— Last weekend’s game featured two great quarterbacks. This weekend it’s two great tight ends, with 34-year-old Antonio Gates still proving he’s one of the best to ever play the position — and complimenting Rob Gronkowski‘s style of play along the way. Still, Gates pointed out this week the secret to his success has been an ability to “be physical, but smart at the same time.” In other words, he knows when to turn on the physicality, and turn it off — something Gronk still is learning.

Ninety-six career TD catches for Gates (nine this year) is a phenomenal number — 10th all-time among all players. A couple more this week could put the San Diego Chargers in position to contend, rather than pretend.

— This is a very big week for the Patriots. Aren’t they all? Sure. But a loss in San Diego brings the pace-setters back to the pack, potentially invalidates their chances for a first-round playoff bye, and should serve to reinvigorate the Miami Dolphins, lurking right behind in the AFC East. New England can make it easy on everyone around here by just winning, baby. Otherwise, expect a case of region-wide agita kicking in next week.

— Condolences to the family of former Red Sox PR chief Dick Bresciani, who passed away after battling leukemia. Bresh was 76 years old. A member of the Red Sox, Cape Cod League and UMass Halls of Fame, he also received MLB’s award for public relations excellence in 1997. His memory of all things Red Sox, past and present, had been described as encyclopedic. He’ll be missed.

— On the Red Sox‘ signing of Kung Fu Panda (aka Pablo Sandoval) — called it. A need at third base defensively, a need for another potential big bat in the lineup, a need for another potential personality to join with and eventually take over for David Ortiz — check, check and check again. Made too much sense, almost.

— Hey Jon Lester! Can a guy get a loan? I could use a little “stupid money” for Christmas at Fenway this year (Dec. 13) to pay for those tickets. Stupid is as stupid does, Part 1.

I’m not surprised the Red Sox have been in the hunt to retain his pitching services for next year and beyond. I am surprised the New York Yankees haven’t been — at least they haven’t been more vocal or public about it. Cue the “Star Wars” Death Star theme music.

— Talked a little about this last week, but it’s worth noting Red Sox management remains interested in buying the Pawtucket Red Sox. The Pawsox haven’t said anything publicly, other than saying they can’t comment — but since Ben Mondor’s passing in 2010, the ship has been steered by team president Mike Tamburro and GM Lou Schwechheimer. Eventually, someone has to cash in, or cash out.

— It didn’t move the needle much around here, but I can’t say I’m surprised with UAB’s decision to drop football, making it the first FBS (Division 1A) school to drop big-time football since Pacific in 1995. Rising costs and the inability to keep up — even in Conference USA — foreshadowed a blood bath of red ink over the next decade. This is football’s netherworld, the seemly underbelly to the sport no one wants to see or acknowledge its existence. With the exception of about a dozen big-time universities, programs like UAB are subsidized by the university because the athletic department can’t come close to actually paying for itself, especially with football costs involved. Facilities, equipment, buildings, salaries, insurance — it never ends. Schools like Bryant jumped to D1 from D2 primarily because of football, because the sport has a way of solidifying and unifying a campus — and, of course, because there seems to be so much money out there these days for the taking. But in reality, the real cash flow goes to the chosen few, dictated by TV wishes. The bottom line for schools like UAB, to play the game you’ve got to be IN the game — and Alabama-Birmingham struggled with that compared to its in-state brethren. UAB couldn’t get in the same game played in Tuscaloosa and Auburn. School administrators had to be spooked by the “power five” schools and talk of paying athletes the “full cost of attendance.” They simply could no longer keep up with the Joneses — or Crimson Tide or Tigers. This won’t be the last team to leave the gridiron behind.

And even with all of the improvements made on campus, and the surge in ability as well as popularity with sports at Providence College, this week’s football demise at UAB brought back memories of baseball’s painful death at PC in 1999. For different reasons, perhaps, but painful nevertheless because it simply didn’t have to happen the way it did.

— Something else that didn’t have to happen the way it did — the St. Louis Rams with their “Hands up, don’t shoot” gesture Sunday during pregame introductions. While I can appreciate the players’ willingness to let their feelings be known, and to ostensibly “support” the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, their gesture was classless, tasteless and just downright dumb. The St. Louis police wanted the NFL to fine them — even suspend them — for the incendiary move. That didn’t happen, and probably just as well that it didn’t. But the players — unapologetic for the move — don’t realize they represent more than just themselves. Supposedly, they represent the police and emergency workers and the hundreds (thousands) of citizens affected by the rioting, looting and burning of a town. Can’t imagine they’re all supportive of a move designed to draw attention to them, and not to the real problems their fellow citizens face. Stupid is as stupid does, Part 2.

— For all of the quips, jokes and tales about “The Twilight Zone,” in reality the former CBS television series lasted all of five years from 1959 to 1964. You can still find it today, however, in the vast universe of satellite and cable TV — somewhere. Rod Serling was the host, with a semi-serious, somewhat grave description of a paranormal or futuristic tale being told — usually with a surprise ending. The show’s stars were mostly up-and-coming actors who eventually made their way onto the big screen later in their careers (Burgess Meredith, William Shatner, Robert Duvall, Burt Reynolds and Robert Redford, to name a few), and the venerable TV Guide ranked it as the fifth greatest show of all time. “The Twilight Zone” also aptly describes the last four months between “Thinking Out Loud” columns for me, as I’ve been inexorably detained by unexplained circumstances beyond my control in this world of digital expression and enlightenment. Now that we’ve found shelter, we’ll be back again same time, next week. As you travel through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead. Your next stop, the Twilight Zone.

— Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (including the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to jrooke@weei.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster, and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke.

— Don’t forget to join Scott Cordischi and me on Providence’s 103.7-FM every Saturday from 7-9 a.m. Call in at 401-737-1287 or text us at 37937.

Blog Author: 
John Rooke

If you like college hockey, hopefully you were able to get out to one of the many appealing games in the area over the last week. From Tuesday through Saturday, there were five games within an hour of Boston between teams currently ranked in the top 20 in the national polls. Boston University hosted Harvard and Colgate, UMass-Lowell also hosted Harvard, Boston College hosted Minnesota, and then Providence hosted BC.

I was fortunate enough to get to four of those five games, with BC-Providence being the only one I missed. Here are some takeaways from the week:

Harvard is the real deal

The Crimson beat BU 3-2 in overtime on Tuesday and then beat Lowell 4-2 on Saturday. They’€™re now 7-1-2 on the season, and they have road wins over BC, BU and Lowell. This start isn’€™t a fluke. The Crimson have a lot of talent, and for once that talent is actually translating to a successful on-ice product, something that hasn’€™t always happened in the past at Harvard.

The Crimson’€™s top line of Predators draft pick Jimmy Vesey, Devils pick Alex Kerfoot and junior co-captain Kyle Criscuolo has to be considered the second-best line in the country right now, and they’€™re not all that far behind BU’€™s Ahti Oksanen-Jack Eichel-Danny O’€™Regan line. Harvard’€™s top trio is averaging 1.70 goals, 4.20 points and 9.30 shots on goal per game, compared to 1.91 goals, 3.93 points and 12.69 shots for the Eichel line. Vesey, Kerfoot and Criscuolo all rank in the top 10 nationally in points per game.

There’€™s more to Harvard than just the top line, though. Senior Patrick McNally (Canucks draft pick) is first nationally among defensemen with 1.30 points per game. Senior goalie Steve Michalek (Wild draft pick) is third in the country with a .947 save percentage. Brian Hart (Lightning draft pick) and Luke Esposito have chipped in four and three goals, respectively, from the second line, and third-line center Tyler Moy has four goals as well.

The Crimson are fast (probably the fastest team I’€™ve seen this season) and great on special teams (second nationally on the power play at 31.2 percent, fourth on the penalty kill at 91.7 percent) as well. They have more than enough to be a serious contender in the ECAC (I’€™d argue that right now they should be considered the favorite in that conference) and return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006.

If there’€™s one area that could be a concern, it’€™s that the Crimson are allowing 30.30 shots on goal per game. Saturday was a step in the right direction as far as that’€™s concerned, though, as the Crimson held Lowell to just 17 shots on goal.

BC is still not a top team

The Eagles bounced back from an earlier four-game losing streak to win three in a row, but those wins came against Michigan State, UMass and Maine, none of whom are very good. This weekend was the big test to see if they had actually turned the corner.

As it turns out, they haven’€™t. The Eagles lost 6-2 at home against Minnesota on Friday and 1-0 at Providence on Saturday. They had all kinds of problems in their own end on Friday, something that has been a troubling trend this season. Jerry York said that his team didn’€™t do a good enough job handling Minnesota’€™s aggressive forecheck, and that’€™s definitely true.

Not only did the Eagles make some bad decisions with the puck when they were under pressure, but they also cleanly lost several foot races to loose pucks. There was also bad gap control, most notably on Minnesota’€™s first goal when Justin Kloos split Michael Matheson and Noah Hanifin right up the middle of the ice.

As far as Saturday’€™s shutout loss at Providence, it’€™s worth mentioning that the Eagles did put 43 shots on goal, only to run into a red-hot Jon Gillies (more on him next). The Eagles also gave up 38 shots, though, and the one goal came off a failed clear. If you watch the game highlights below, you’€™ll see some other defensive mistakes that led to great chances, too (there’€™s another failed clear at 33 seconds, and a bad misplay by Teddy Doherty that led to a breakaway at 1:16).

It’€™s foolish to ever completely count out a Jerry York-coached team, but until/unless the Eagles clean things up in their own zone, it’€™s hard to see them winning anything meaningful this season.

Jon Gillies is rolling for Providence, but scoring is still a problem

Remember when Jon Gillies had a .902 save percentage after five games? Yeah, about that… Following Saturday’€™s 43-save shutout against BC, the Flames draft pick now has three shutouts in his last four games and a .973 save percentage over his last seven. He’€™s up to .940 on the season, good for sixth in the country.

The Friars have needed this kind of performance, too, because they are still struggling offensively. They haven’€™t scored more than three goals since opening night, and they’€™ve scored one or fewer in four of their last six games. Trevor Mingoia has been a pleasant surprise with 11 points in 13 games, but no one else has more than six points. Ross Mauermann, last year’€™s leading scorer, finally scored his first goal of the season on Saturday, but he still has just three points on the year. Mark Jankowski, a first-round pick of the Flames, has just seven shots on goal in nine games.

Gillies is great — arguably the best goalie in the country when he’€™s on his game — and he’€™ll give the Friars a chance to win most nights, but if they don’€™t start scoring more, it’€™s hard to see them contending for the Hockey East title, which was the expectation coming into the season.

BU, Minnesota remind us how weird college hockey is

One night after manhandling BC, Minnesota lost to lowly Northeastern 3-2. And this wasn’€™t even a case of a goalie standing on his head. Northeastern, who gets outshot more often than not, outshot the Gophers 40-27 in the game and outscored them 3-0 at even strength.

BU had a similarly surprising result on Sunday when it lost to Dartmouth 2-0 a day after posting a 5-2 win over a very good Colgate team that had been ranked in the top 10 nationally. Dartmouth is better than Northeastern, so this isn’€™t as surprising of a result on the surface, but the fact that Dartmouth outshot BU 36-23, including 29-10 over the first 40 minutes, is definitely surprising.

The Terriers have made a habit of getting off to slow starts this year, but they’€™ve been a very good possession team all season (they entered Sunday outshooting their opponents by more than six shots per game), so it’€™s weird to see them get so thoroughly dominated by anyone, never mind a middle-of-the-pack team. This is where it’€™s worth pointing out that even though they lost to Harvard on Tuesday, they had a pretty significant possession edge in that game and outshot the Crimson 42-24. And after a tough first period against Colgate, they outshot the Raiders 24-17 over the final 40 minutes.

So what do we make of these weird results? Not much. You throw them out the window and assume they’€™re anomalies because we know Minnesota and BU are much better than that based on what they’€™ve done all season. Weird results happen every week in college hockey, and two of them happened on back-to-back days in this region.

That all probably sounds dismissive of Northeastern and Dartmouth, and it kind of is, which isn’€™t totally fair to them. They should both be thrilled with the wins, and if they can build on them going forward, great. But if Northeastern played Minnesota 100 times and Dartmouth played BU 100 times, you wouldn’€™t get these results too often. You’€™d get some wins, but not dominance.

Blog Author: 
Scott McLaughlin

CHESTNUT HILL — Tyler Murphy made his final home game at Boston College a memorable one.

CHESTNUT HILL — Tyler Murphy made his final home game at Boston College a memorable one.

The grad transfer quarterback set the Atlantic Coast Conference single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback and threw a TD pass to lead Boston College to a 28-7 win over Syracuse in the Eagles’ 2014 home finale at Alumni Stadium.

Tyler Rouse scored on a 42-yard run while Jon Hilliman added a 7-yard score for the Eagles (7-5, 4-4 ACC), who are bowl-eligible for the second straight season under second-year coach Steve Addazio. Next up is a likely bowl bid for the Eagles. Syracuse (3-9, 1-7), meanwhile, finished the season with five straight losses.

Murphy carried 11 times for only 20 yards, but still enough for 1,079 on the season, breaking the previous mark of Clemson’s Woodrow Dantzler in 2001. Dantzler rushed for 1,061 yards that season. Murphy was very accurate in the passing game, completing 13 of 17 passes for 160 yards with no interceptions.

Syracuse quarterback AJ Long had 4-yard TD run for the Orange, but completed just 7 of 18 passes for 59 yards and an interception.

With the game tied, 7-7, the Eagles marched in for a go-ahead score late in the first half when Murphy hit Sherman Alston on a perfect 26-yard fade pass with 1:10 left before half. Murphy faked a handoff, took a step toward the line before dropping back and finding Alston wide open, giving BC a 14-7 halftime lead.

Mike Strizak’s interception of Long at Syracuse’s 30 on the Orange’s first possession of the second half led to BC’s third touchdown of the day. Just three plays after the pick, Hillman powered in from seven yards for a 21-7 lead. Murphy set up the score with a run to the Syracuse 10, a run that gave him the single-season ACC QB rushing record.

Rouse’s first run of the day was good for 42 yards and touchdown that put BC up, 28-7, with nine minutes left in the game.

Boston College sprinted out to a 7-0 lead when Myles Willis took the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.

There was an ugly scene late in the first quarter when a shoving match turned into a fight in front of the Syracuse bench. Three Orange players were hit with personal fouls, including the ejection of Syracuse defensive lineman Ryan Sloan. Several Eagles, including Tyler Murphy, began racing for the melee but were stopped by coaches.

At the end of the first quarter, Boston College celebrated the 30th anniversary of its 1984 team, most famous for the “Miracle in Miami” when Doug Flutie found Gerard Phelan on the game’s last play for a 47-45 win, a play that propelled Flutie to the Heisman Trophy. Flutie had held the school’s career rushing record, gaining 939 yards in four seasons.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

The Boston College football team came up just short from notching the upset of the college football season, allowing the third-ranked Florida State Seminoles to kick a 27-yard Roberto Aguayo field goal with three seconds left for a 20-17 victory.

A BC win would have marked the first time since 1993 that the Eagles beat a 10-0 team, having topped Notre Dame on its own field that year.

The final Florida State drive started at its own 26 yard-line, with 4:37 left. The Seminoles got the ball back for the decisive march after Boston College missed a potential go-ahead, 42-yard field goal.

For a complete box score, click here.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

Andrew Fischer caught at 35-yard pass from Conner Hempel with 55 seconds remaining, giving Harvard a 31-24 win over Yale along with the Ivy League title for the Crimson, Saturday at Harvard Stadium.

Harvard had held a 24-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but two touchdowns from Tyler Varga and a 33-yard field goal by Kyle Cazzetta with 3:44 left helped the visitors draw even heading into the final minutes.

Fischer had a huge day receiving for the Crimson, catching eight passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Paul Stanton Jr. led the hosts’€™ rushing attack, compiling 109 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.

The game-winning score was a culmination of an eight-play, 78-yard drive for Harvard. Yale’€™s last chance was thwarted with 44 seconds remaining after Scott Peters intercepted Morgan Roberts (25-for-38, 305 yards).

The win caps the undefeated season for Harvard head coach Tim Murphy, preventing Yale from clinching a share of their first Ivy League title since 2006.

It was the teams’€™ 131st meeting, handed Harvard it’€™s eighth straight win over Yale, who has also dropped 13 of their last 14 clashes with the Crimson.

Blog Author: 
WEEI