The Hockey Flash: February 9, 2006

Feb. 9, 2006

By Elliot Olshansky



Elliot is's hockey editor and runs his Rink Rat hockey blog on
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It's a spectacular week to be a hockey fan.  "Spectacular" as in "spectacle," and lots of it.


On Saturday afternoon, the eyes of the college hockey world - and a good chunk of the sports world in general - will turn toward Green Bay, where Ohio State and Wisconsin will take the ice in front of well over 35,000 fans at Lambeau Field for the Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic. 


Meanwhile, just over 200 miles away in Houghton, Mich., Michigan Tech will host No. 1 Minnesota as part of its Winter Carnival, the centerpiece of a weekend that will also include snow sculptures, attempts to set three new Guinness World Records and a performance by the Alan Parsons Project. The Gophers took over the No. 1 spot while idle last weekend, and will have to defend that ranking against a fired-up squad of Huskies.


It's also Winter Carnival weekend in Hanover, N.H., where Dartmouth's ECACHL battle with Princeton will take center stage, as the first Dartmouth goal against the Tigers at Thompson Arena traditionally triggers a shower of tennis balls on the Princeton goalkeeper.  It might be a tough goal to get for the Big Green, though: the Tigers have swept Colgate, Cornell, St. Lawrence and Clarkson in their last two ECACHL weekends and have also emerged victorious in each of the last three meetings with Dartmouth, including a pair of shutouts.


The Big Green isn't the only ECACHL team looking to put on a show, either:  Rensselaer will host Brown on Saturday night in the Engineers' annual "Big Red Freakout!," described in a 1983 press release as "an orgy of school spirit with everyone wearing red and making as much noise as possible".


In addition to the usual festivities surrounding the BRF!, Saturday's game will also see the conclusion of a year-long effort to promote and raise money for cancer research inspired by team captain Kirk MacDonald's battle with the disease.  After each RPI home game this season, one or more of the Engineers has had his head shaved on the ice, after fans contributed over $100 per player to the Lance Armstrong Foundation. The last two heads will be shaved following Saturday's game: RPI senior Kevin Croxton, and MacDonald himself.  Washington Capitals forward Matt Pettinger, a friend of MacDonald and a former Denver Pioneer, is also contributing to the Engineers' efforts, as a jersey signed by Pettinger and several of his Capitals teammates - including Rookie of the Year candidate Alexander Ovechkin - will be raffled off following the game.


The "spectacular" weekend of college hockey even extends north of the border, as Brian Riley takes his Army team up to Kingston, Ontario for the first time as head coach, as the Black Knights will face Canada's Royal Military College in the "War on Ice." The Army seniors will be looking to complete a career sweep of the Paladins, as the Canadian academy has not won this game since an overtime decision in 2002.


Oh, and as if that weren't enough in the way of spectacle, Monday is the second day of the Beanpot, with Boston College and Boston University meeting in the finals.  Is it a good time to be a college hockey fan, or what?  Spectacular, even.


GETTING TO KNOW: Canisus Defenseman John Patera


Predicting that John Patera would find a place in the athletic world wouldn't have been too hard to predict.  That his place would be on the ice might have been just a bit harder.


Patera's grandfather, Jack Patera, was a fourth-round draft pick of the Baltimore Colts after a successful college career at Oregon, played in the NFL, and coached the Seattle Seahawks from 1976 to 1982.  A great-uncle, Dennis Patera, was a kicker for the San Francisco 49ers, and another great uncle, Ken Patera, was an Olympic weightlifter in the 1972 Games and later a professional wrestler in the World Wrestling Federation.


While John did follow family tradition on to the gridiron at The Blake School, his athletic pursuits are now focused on the ice, where he has chipped in three assists in 21 games as a freshman defenseman for Canisius.


Of course, as John Patera grew up in Edina, Minn., geography wound up having more of an influence than family history.


"My mom took us out skating when we were three," John recalled of his introduction to the ice.  "That's pretty much what you can do in the winter in Minnesota.


Size also played a role.  While Patera is a solid physical specimen at 6'0" and 200 pounds, "I'm also considerably smaller than all of the other guys on the Patera side, so football probably wasn't an option. I like [hockey] better than football, anyway."


That's not a traditionally popular opinion in the Patera family, which can sometimes make things tough to understand for John's relatives when it comes to his athletic pursuits. 


"They definitely think it's weird," John said of his family's understanding of hockey. "It's kind of a weird little sport to them."


Still, when John's father moved to Minnesota when Jack became an assistant coach of the Vikings, he began playing hockey, as did an uncle, so the family did have some introduction to hockey before John began his road to Division I.


Besides, with Jack Patera having left the football world far behind after being fired by Seattle four years before John was born, the NFL wasn't much of an influence. 


"My grandpa is pretty removed from the football world now," John said, "and he lives out in a place called Cle Elum in the middle of nowhere, so you hear more stories about hunting."


That might be wisdom that John can put to use with the Golden Griffins, as they hunt for more points down the home stretch of the Atlantic Hockey season.


QUOTE OF THE WEEK AND WHAT IT MEANS: "When I left [the New York Islanders] two years ago, you could rope a guy and put a saddle on him and not get a penalty.  Now...a kid like that has a chance, he really does, because he's quick, and he's got courage, too.  He's not shying away from traffic.  If I were a general manager, I'd certainly take a close look at him." - Northeastern coach Greg Cronin, evaluating the pro prospects of Boston College forward Chris Collins after Collins scored two goals in BC's 5-2 win over the Huskies in the first game of the Beanpot on Monday.


The Beanpot stands alongside the NCAA Tournament as one of college hockey's grandest stages, and Collins used that stage to turn in a virtuoso performance against the Huskies.  While the most impressive goal of the day belonged to Chris Higgins of Boston University, Collins became the national leader in goals scored with a power-play goal in the first period and his nation-leading fifth short-handed tally of the season to put the Huskies away in the third period. 


When Patrick Eaves left Chestnut Hill to sign with the Ottawa Senators, BC was apparently left without a dominant scorer, and Hockey East was left without a serious contender for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award.  With his Beanpot performance against Northeastern, Collins has served notice to the entire nation that he is both.  With 43 points this season, Collins has scored more points in 2005-06 than he did in his sophomore and junior seasons combined. 


THE LINE-UP:  Top Six Beanpot Paint Jobs


One of the most quoted lines out of last season's Beanpot press conferences was BU head coach Jack Parker's observation that "BC fans wear T-Shirts. BU fans wear jerseys."


A quick walk around the balcony of TD Banknorth Garden during Monday's Beanpot provided other evidence: while the BC "Super Fan" T-shirt was the most popular sartorial choice among Eagles fans, there certainly were a good number of maroon and gold jerseys in the crowd.  However, there is one more accurate difference that Parker is too far from the fans in the balcony to notice: BU fans paint their faces.  BC fans don't.  With that in mind, here are the top six paint jobs I captured with my camera while making my way around the balcony at the Beanpot.

No. 6: The checkered look is pretty basic, but simplicity can be very effective. Besides, people aren't going to be able to pick out the more intricate designs from more than a section or two away, anyhow.

No. 5: I'm not sure exactly what the influence is behind this design, but it's certainly worthy of the pro wrestling world, if nothing else.

No. 4: Perhaps this one is an homage to Terriers goaltender John Curry, who can certainly show "brick wall" tendencies at times. This is a tough design to pull off, and there was some serious effort involved here.

No. 3: The paint design here brings back childhood memories of the Ultimate Warrior, but I'm not exactly sure where the sparkly red cowboy hat fits into the equation.

No. 2: OK, it can't all be about BU. Contrary to popular belief, there were some Harvard fans at TD Banknorth Garden for this one, and this one attempted to make up for his fellow students' apathy by sheer force of will...and paint.

No. 1: Yet another reason why Parker's "jerseys/t-shirts" comment doesn't quite fit: it leaves out the BU fans who are crazy enough not to wear a shirt at all.


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