Entering the second full month of the Hockey East season, it seems that a team’s success — or lack thereof —can be determined by looking at its power play.
One of the league’s top teams on the power play in terms of goals scored is Boston College, which is tied with New Hampshire for the most at seven. Not surprisingly, the Eagles also took over first place last weekend at 5-0-1 (5-4-1 overall).
Hockey East teams struggling with wins and losses also seem to struggle on power plays. Northeastern is one of those teams, having dropped three of its last five games and falling unexpectedly to third place at 3-2 (7-4 overall). while encountering power-play trouble. The best example of the Huskies’ woes came last Saturday against Holy Cross, when they had six power plays — including two majors — and only converted one.
There is an outlier. Boston University has the best power-play percentage in the league (29.4 percent), as well as the second best penalty kill (89.5 percent), but is 1-2 (2-2-1).
Special teams seem to be important to a team’s success but are not the only key component. So how does a coach balance teaching and practicing the power play along with the other aspects of the game?
Had late infomercial host Ron Popeil been a hockey coach, he would not have liked power-play work. For coaches, it is not a “set-it-and-forget it” aspect of the game. After figuring out a squad’s power play strategy, the actual in-practice work on it ebbs and flows depending on execution and personnel.
“I’d say (the amount of work) depends on where a program is at,” said Northeastern associate head coach Nick Carpenito. “Sometimes it’s two times a week. Sometimes four times a week.”
New Hampshire works on its special teams “a lot”, per coach Hilary Witt. The Wildcats are in the midst of their best start in several years at 2-3-1 in the league (4-5-1) and Witt credits her players’ on-ice initiative for the improvement.
“I really believe our success has come from good decision making and taking advantage of what the opposing kill gives us instead of focusing on forcing plays,” said Witt. “As coaches, we guide the power play, but it’s the players making good decisions and executing that makes it successful.”
At BC, coach Katie Crowley said new assistant Kate Leary has been working on the power play. Crowley also points to better communication between her players helping the team perform better on special teams — and overall.
“The other important thing that helps a power play be successful is for all five players to be on the same page, working together,” said Crowley. “I feel that’s where we have improved this year with both of our units.”
Fully staffed at Harvard
New Harvard coach Laura Bellamy completed her staff this week with the addition of Venla Hovi as an assistant. Hovi’s résumé boasts some of the most impressive credentials of any recent coaching hire among the Beanpot schools.
A three-time Olympian for Finland, Hovi won bronze medals in Vancouver in 2010 and Pyeongchang in 2018. She played for the University of Manitoba, as well as for several pro teams in her native country and in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. She also was the first female development coach for the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets, and also coached the Metropolitan Riveters in the Premier Hockey Federation last season.
“Venla’s ability to communicate clearly with her players and develop them as individuals will serve us well,” said Bellamy in a press release.
Boston College’s Sammy Taber won her first Hockey East honor this week, Rookie of the Week, after scoring the game-winner against Merrimack. The Tewksbury native is familiar to those who have followed Massachusetts high school hockey: she was a heralded middle schooler on Austin Prep’s state semifinalist and runner-up squads from 2017-19. After contributing to the Cougars, she moved to Cushing Academy, and then to the Eagles … Hockey East also named its first players of the month. The Player of the Month for October was Maine graduate student Ida Kuoppala, while Boston College’s Julia Pellerin (7 points) earned Rookie of the Month honors. New Hampshire‘s Rae Breton earned Defender of the Month honors thanks to her 27 blocks. Gwyneth Phillips, Northeastern’s steady graduate student, won another Goaltender of the Month honor, thanks to her 0.82 goals-against average and .966 save percentage … In the New England Women’s Hockey Alliance, Stonehill rookie Pusle Dyring-Andersen earned league Defensive Player of the Month honors, after blocking 19 shots. Peabody native and former St. Mary’s star Jenna Chaplain (six points) was named Rookie of the Month … Jeff Kampersal, a Beverly native, won his 100th game as coach of Penn State Sunday in a 6-2 victory over College Hockey America foe Syracuse.
Kat Cornetta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.